‘Òwe l’esin òrò, bí òrò bá sonù, òwe ni a fi ñwa a’, (‘A proverb is the horse of conversation; if the conversation goes astray, the proverb is used to bring it back’). Proverbs represent a coded logic that defines social order and articulates cultural laws. They contain thoughts that the community recognizes at once as something familiar to the individual and the collective members alike. When they are shared in the right way, proverbs bring groups of people into a shared vision, which supports collective action. So, we see that proverbial wisdom can be instrumental in building community.
Ogundijo Oluyemi Michael tells us that, traditionally, Yorùbá proverbs have evolved with the growth and development of each community. Consequently, the variety of proverbs that have been recited over the decades reflects diverse aspects of a Yorùbá culture, beliefs, institutions, ethics, commerce, health, and so on. In this way, proverbs encapsulate the worldview of Yorùbá people, and serve as means of arousing, defining, manifesting and establishing the expectations, aspirations and consciousness of the community. It is safe to say that proverbs serve as linguistic confirmation of Yorùbá worldviewin its totality. Ogundijo identifies at least five categories of proverbs to consider:
The proverbs that fall into these categories reveal the core values that are cherished by Yorùbá people around the world. As Orisa Lifestyle continues to expand and grow, it is increasingly important - an inevitable - for us to discover the experiences and values that unify us as practitioners. These experiences and values will become the building blocks of communities. This is why the elders will say, ‘A rí se l’a rí kà, a rí kà baba ìrègún’ (our deeds are what we can mention; what we can mention are the major credits we can gloat about). In other words, community is built upon collective action, not ideas. In order for Orisa Lifestyle to continue to grow without compromising the principles that have made it effective for countless generations, it is necessary for us to strategically organize our deeds and share them in our circles of influence. Proverbial wisdom is instrumental to our ability to express our values succinctly, but deeply.
According to the AGBOLE approach to community building, proverbs serve as charters of social and ethical norms in human interactions, extol what the society considers to be virtues, and condemn anti-social patterns of behavior:
In the simplest language, the AGBOLE is the extended family dwelling, where the young and old work and play together. Here, family songs and vocational traditions are passed from generation to generation. AGBOLE is also where the seeds of Orisa Lifestyle are sown. That is, the child who has learned to make an ancestral mask, or pounded yam has gained self-discipline and practical skills. The AGBOLE aspires to help practitioners of Orisa Lifestyle to cultivate the radical will necessary to change our world. Our approach represents the appropriate balance between "what" to practice and "how" to practice it. Balanced methodology is particularly important in the earliest stages of devotion, when the foundation for all further intellectual and social development is laid. Let us consider the proverb that says, ‘A kì í mò í wè kì a káyé já’ (No matter one’s expertise in swimming, no one can swim through the universe).
Obafemi Origunwa, MA | www.OrisaLifestyle.com
Ogundijo Oluyemi Michael. PROVERB AS AN INGREDIENT OF YORUBA CONSCIOUSNESS.
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Live the Medicine
Obafemi Origunwa, MA
Thought leader, Ifa priest and author of four definitive books, Obafemi Origunwa inspires metamorphosis through living the medicine that will heal your life and heal the lives of the people you're destined to serve.