Owanbe! Yoruba Celebrations of Life is a delightful resource about Yoruba cultural celebrations; a cross between a how-to manual and a coffee table book.
Ó wà ń’bẹ̀! good music, mouth-watering dishes, fine colorful fabrics, skyscraping gèlès, beautiful bodies in motion, drama, oríṣiríṣí and definitely, cash! Yorubas love to celebrate life in all its dimensions - birth, childhood and youth, weddings, milestones, and even death. Parties not only mark important life events, they are also opportunities for recreation, representation, and relaxation. With a population of about thirty million, the homeland of Yoruba culture is Southwest Nigeria but there are vibrant Yoruba communities in Benin Republic, Togo, Sierra Leone, Brazil, Cuba, Haiti, United States, the Caribbean, and Europe.
Yorubas love to celebrate - life, death, and everything in between! Occasions to celebrate are never lacking. In fact, a true friend will pray, - “Ire lá a ma b’ára wa ṣe o” – that we may always have good things to celebrate with one another. And when there is nothing major to celebrate, we declare ‘surplus’ just because it’s great to be alive. Ówàńbẹ̀s not only mark important life events, they are also opportunities for recreation, representation, and relaxation with the celebrant or ‘other’ friends aka “Ṣ’abọ́ jọs. ”
Take for instance, you have nothing to do on a good weekend, do you sit at home and be bored? No, might as well, ‘take in’ a party. And if you are going to show up, you might as well show out. Dress to the nines, elevate your nose to the proper angle, wear your ‘don’t mess with me’ look, and step out in style. Of course, you don’t want to be like that Ṣ’abọ́ jọ who elevated her nose too high in the sky that she tripped and fell in the middle of the hall! Eh em, the drama continues.
And if you show up, show out. Greet people properly! Greetings are an important part of Yoruba culture and we greet enthusiastically. It is said that “àwọn Yòrùbá l’àpọ́nlé,” in that we know how to respect people. A Yoruba person greets you and you walk away with a sense of self-worth and belonging. Yorubas value elders thus younger women kneel (kúnlẹ̀) and men prostrate (dọ̀bálẹ̀) to greet older people. We also change the pronoun ‘o’ to ‘ẹ’ to connote respect in greeting elders. In response, the older person will shower praise on a respectful youngster. So when you either kúnlẹ̀ or dọ̀bálẹ̀ in front of an older person, s/he responds by praising you using your oríkì or praying for you. Either way, it’s all good.