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THE CONCEPT OF ‘MAN’AMONG THE YORUBA OF SOUTH WEST OF NIGERIA WITH A PICTURESQUE ILLUSTRATION
OJO, JOHN OLAKUNLE ARP/11/12/H/3010
PROF. E.O.BABALOLA & Dr. Adeniyi
Department Of Religious Studies Obafemi Awolowo University Ile-Ife Osun State
Therefore. the African traditional religion also seeks to understand and explain the nature of man. ideas and intelligence. just as modern science seeks to understand and explain the nature of man. p. J.Introduction Man has often being referred to as higher animal and as such.A.’ Nordic Journal of African Studies 16(1): 116–130 (2007). Each tribe. The Concept of Man among the Yoruba The practice of African Traditional Religion has greatly influenced the Yoruba’s understanding of the concept of man. and practices similar cultures and subscribes to similar systems of thought. although in the present time. Ekiti. ‘Obinrin’. However. Unfortunately. The Yoruba and their Religion The Yoruba constitute one of the major ethnic groups of modern Nigeria and they effectively occupy the whole of Ogun. p. The Yoruba word for man is ‘Eniyan’. region. they we can also found them in other part of the world such as in Republic of Benin. and Ghana in West Africa. Okunrin is the masculine gender among the Yoruba while the feminine gender is called ‘Obinrin’. However.212 2 2 .1 Oladele Abiodun Balogun. There is also a thriving Yoruba culture in South America and the Caribbean. many Yoruba are now followers of Christianity and Islamic religion. belief.3 The Yoruba are traditionally followers of African Traditional Religion. So what then is the understanding of the concept of man among the Yoruba of South west of Nigeria? The goal of this write up is to examine the Yoruba concept of man in a picturesque manner.116 3 Babasehinde A. Nordic Journal of African Studies 16(2): 212–220 (2007). Oyo. philosophy.1Apart from Nigeria. The idea of understanding man is not new. there is no consensus about the understanding and nature of man. the West-India and South Africa. nature. The word ‘Eniyan’ or ‘man’ is a generic term for both male and female genders among the Yoruba. science and religion understands man differently. 1980. It is belief among the Yoruba that the male gender. p. but in his makeup.’ The Concept of Ori in the Traditional Yoruba Visual Representation of Human Figures’. An Introduction to Yoruba History. people group.2 This population speaks numerous dialects of the same generic language called Yoruba. Ademuleya. No wonder it is difficult if not impossible to understand man fully. we can limit ourselves to our close environment. it is belief that the physical structure of a male gender is made up of nine (9) bones while that of a woman is made up of seven (7) 1 Atanda. The complexity of man is seeing not only in his composition. he is a complex organism. it may be difficult if not impossible to examine various beliefs and understanding of the concept of man in all religions of the world or across various ethnic groups of the world. ‘The Concepts of Ori and Human Destiny in Traditional Yoruba Thought: A SoftDeterministic Interpretation. in a more specific way. especially Brazil and Cuba. ‘Okunrin’ is physically stronger and powerful than the female gender. Ibadan: Ibadan University Press. Hence. Lagos and a substantial part of Kwara State. Ondo. Togo.
‘These body parts. The Yoruba believes that since these physical 4 Although. it is belief that such medicine could lose their potency. p. together with the flesh and bones covered by the skin constitute an aspect of the human entity which is perceptible to our senses and described analytically in anatomical terms.44 6 Babasehinde A. which is women’s name. neck – orun.’ Women are also forbidden to do certain things at certain times. in some exceptional cases. in fact. ‘Apeke’. it cannot be dismissed with a wave of hand. ‘Akinola’. In addition. yet they are still regarded as women. He went on to say that ‘Man is one of these resultant living forces created.4 Because of this belief. any woman who sees oro. Lagos. ‘Ayinke’ are reserved for female because of their expected role in giving birth to babies. it is forbidden for anyone woman to be involved in ‘Oro’ cult. ‘Agbeke’. ‘Ayinla’. For example. while domestic works such as cooking.213 7 Ibid. washing. For example.bones. some activities are regarded as a taboo for any woman to engage in. sweeping and carrying of baby is reserved for women. his life. 3 . trunk . oro agbe lo’ meaning.6According to Ademuleya. Olodumare:God in Yoruba Belief. Pa Samuel Kukoyi on 25/05/2012 at Surulere. maintained and developed by the vital. hair – irun and nails eekanna’. such women are usually called ‘Obinrin bi Okunrin’ (women like men. it is only the cult of masquerade a woman can know. visible forces. especially since they are expected to be mothers ‘abiyamo’. In an interview conducted with a Yoruba Octogenarian man. Obinrin to ba foju kan oro. the material nature which is physical and visible. a man can still bear names meant for women. ‘Ajile’. there are some women who are physically strong like men. ‘awo egungun lobinrin le mo. it is belief that since women are not physically strong like their men counterpart. Furthermore. his fullness of being consist in his participation to a greater or less extent in the force of God. a man can bear ‘Aina’. such as ‘Asunle’. Bolaji Idowu. According to Idowu. The physical is called the ara (body) and consist of parts such as ‘the head– ori. this claim cannot be subjected to anatomical or physiological verification and at the same time. because of this belief. certain works.5Man is believed to have two nature. However. 5 E. Longmans 1962. women are not allow to do certain things like touching certain leaves or charms while menstruating. some Oriki (praise names) name. he confirmed the idea. will be dealt with by oro. some names are exclusively given or reserved for particular gender based on their expected function. ‘Akanni’. Women are not expected to urinate standing up or walking like men. p. Creation of Man The Yoruba believe that God created man (both male and female). there are certain activities that a female should not engage in. creative influence of God. Nevertheless. while it is males that bear such names as ‘Akinmolu’. Iron women). Ademuleya. Again. It is often said. activities and occupation are reserved exclusively for man who is regarded as stronger. in some Yoruba tribes. For example among the Ijebus. For example. For example. The outer covering of the body consist of the skin – awo.iyoku ara and extremities – apa and ese. they are generally more kind and gentle and less wicked than men. climbing of trees and tapping of palm wine is exclusively reserved for men. ‘Man is the dominant force among all created. and its necessary appurtenances.’7. His force.
deterioration. The blood is also the principle of life. 14 T. a man dies. it reveals man’s nature or character. This heart is invisible. which makes a man a member or citizen of his society and determines his right of inheritance.9 13 Ibid. A courageous man is said to be eni to ni okan (he who has heart). which every man breathes in and out. sickness and diseases. they help in recognizing and identifying each individual person.O.13 Quarcoopome also shares this view when he maintained that Ori is the essence of being. They accompany man in life and unlike the body which decays in the ground.O. spirit and breath leave the body at death. 14 Ori guides. N. T. the Yoruba society is patrilineal. According to Awolalu. guards. controlling and guiding the life and activities of man. and it leaves the body at death and goes back to the Creator. wards off evil and brings fortune. Quarcoopome. protects.parts are visible. Emi is the breath. heart and soul) are the spiritual part of man. the inner person that guides man’s activities in life. emi (breath). Omosade Awolalu. the soul. African Universities Press: Ibadan. However. they hold the belief that the physical parts are mortal. emi (soul or spirit) and ori (inner head). However. Quarcoopome.99 This is not the same with the heart that pumps blood. Quarcoopome argued that it can reincarnate in offspring and that it is an impersonal principle of descent and heredity. 10 .N.99 4 .’8 The Spiritual Nature of Man The second nature of man is immaterial. it does not die.99 11 Ibid. The physical body can be cared for by eating good food. hence. They are referring to the personality-soul. breath. ‘The blood provides the link between one generation and another and between a man and his lineage. West African Traditional Religion. The blood is transmitted through the male during copulation. The Yoruba also believe that man is composed of blood and water. p. When man dies. they remain with man permanently while on the earth. The Ori is also called inner head ‘Ori inu’ or the alter ego or guardian spirit. and hence a man can be described as courageous o lokan.’10 The aforementioned parts are thus the immortal part of man. 1987. Okan describes a man’s nature or character. when the breath ceases. p. Emi (spirit) is the life force. Quarcoopome observed that they are the vital principle. West African Traditional Religion. p.12 He went further to affirm that ‘when Yoruba speak of Ori they mean something more than the physical head. it is not visible to the human eyes.11 Ori on the other hand is a complex concept. wearing good cloth and the use of medication. clan and tribe. According to Quarcoopome. they are susceptible to decay. It is the blood. which is visible. A fortunate person is often called ‘Olori rere’(good head) while an unfortunate person is called Olori buruku (bad head). 1979. Longman: London. Hence.O. pain. N. which is believed to be capable of ruling. empowers. The inner head 8 9 T. It is the physical head as well as that force that is responsible for controlling one’s being. the physical parts decay and turn to dust. 12 J. This immaterial part includes okan (heart)9. Moreover. Quarcoopome. the life force that makes a person a living being. man can die physically.Eleda to give an account of how individuals person have lived his or her life. Yoruba Beliefs and Sacrificial Rites. p. the physical parts should be properly taken care because they believe that ‘ba serin lase ko ni’ You are noticed the way you appears. These parts (spirit. thus. therefore.
Quarcoopome.N. Bolaji Idowu. West African Traditional Religion.Yoruba view of man is quite different from Science or Western view of man. The spiritual part is immortal and connected with the destiny of man. For example. to them there is clear distinction between man and animal. 1962 Idowu E.98 5 . whilst the spiritual part links him to God. Babasehinde. London: Longman. it should be worship and not the gods (Ori la ba bo ki a fi Orisa si le) it is head we should sacrificed and not the gods.O. J. An Introduction to Yoruba History. Conclusion It can be said that the Yoruba has a holistic view of man.16This shows that the Yoruba fully understand man and its essence. the Yoruba did not hold such a view. Yoruba Beliefs and Sacrificial Rites. Bolaji. Ibadan: African Universities Press.O. (2007) Awolalu J. 1979 Balogun O Abiodun.. Bolaji. Olodumare:God in Yoruba Belief.15 The Yoruba believe that because of the enormous important Ori. And according to Quarcoopome. Olodumare:God in Yoruba Belief. ‘The Concept of Ori in the Traditional Yoruba Visual Representation of Human Figures’.170 T. London: SCM Press. 1973 Quarcoopome T.’ Nordic Journal of African Studies 16(1).. African Tradional Religion: A definition. BIBLIOGRAPHY Atanda. 1987 15 16 E. Nordic Journal of African Studies 16(2). The Yoruba has a good understanding of man.A.is also believed to be that element in man. while Science sees man as higher animal. Man is made up of both material and immaterial. ‘The Concepts of Ori and Human Destiny in Traditional Yoruba Thought: A Soft-Deterministic Interpretation. This full understanding also helps in assigning roles to each gender. p. ‘The physical part determines his ancestry and right of inheritance. The Yoruba sees man as both a physical as well as a spiritual being. 1980 Ademuleya A. which receives destiny from God. Omosade.(2007) Idowu E. According to Idowu. London: Longman. p. which is quite revealing and commendable. Ibadan: Ibadan University Press. N. ‘The choice of Orimade by an individual determines what sort of life he/she would lead and it is believed that the ultimate meaning of important events in the individual’s life are to be understood in terms of Ori’s choice’.