Rants & Epiphanies
“Wisdom that will bless I, who live in the spiral joy born at the utter end of a black prayer.” • — Keiji Haino
“The subject of human creativity is not an ethnic-centric, but a composite subject.” • — Anthony Braxton
“… It is not my mode of thought that has caused my misfortunes, but the mode of thought of others.” • — The Marquis de Sade

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Wole Soyinka || Of Africa

Wole Soyinka - Of Africa

On arriving in the land of the mortals, all the deities, like our well-endowed tourists, went their different ways, each encountering a different adventure. Ogun ended up at the town of Ire, where the people adopted him as theirs and, intuitively, crowned him king. Then came war. Yielding to the people’s importuning, he led them into battle. At the very height of victory, his sight clouded by an overindulgence in palm wine, he slew foe and friend alike. When his vision cleared he grieved, abandoned his throne, and retreated into the hills where he continued to mourn his day of tragic error, cultivating a farm patch and converting his terrible discovery to peaceful use.Do we see here why the Yoruba would in no way be overexcited by the moral lessons of the horrors of, followed by the peaceful conversion of, atomic energy? Today Ogun is guardian deity of all workers in metal—the truck driver, the engineer, the airplane pilot or astronaut. All human adventure is prefigured—symbolically, not as textual dictation—in the history of the Yoruba deities. Thus, there is no surprise, no inhibition created from scientific encounters, no impurity in their digestive system. Some new phenomenon, friendly or hostile, is encountered, and from within the armory of Ifa and the accommodative narratives of the gods, an understanding is extracted. Even more crucial for the harmonization of mortal society, an ethical principle has been inserted here—and this applies to nearly all the deities: even the gods must express remorse for infractions, and make restitution. Only then can they be rehabilitated and society undergo healing. The annual festival of Ogun features this fatal dereliction of Ogun in a procession of remorse. Perfection is denied the deities, including Obatala, the paradigm of saintly virtues.

Ifa is tolerance. Ifa takes issue with any religion or faith that denies tolerance a place in its worship. Ifa embodies the principle of the constant, spiritual quest, one to which the notion of apostasy is unthinkable. How could it be otherwise when the source of knowledge, Orunmila, the mouthpiece of the supreme deity who directs the feet of the seeker toward a spiritual mentor or guardian deity, is not granted the status of infallibility even within Ifa, the very source of his wisdom. The Supreme Orisa, or ultimate godhead—Orisa-nla, also known as Olodumare—is nothing like the Christians’ “jealous god,” but the Orisa are nonetheless the true embodiment of that Christian dictum: Seek and ye shall find.”

We need to remove the veil over these invisible religions and ask again: Why is it that the Orisa has never, in all these centuries, spawned an irredentist strain? Orisa separates the regulation of community from spirit communion even while maintaining a mythological structure that weaves together both the living community and the unseen world. But that world of the spirit does not assume any competitive posture whatsoever over the pragmatic claims of the real world. B’enia ko si, imale ko le e wa. If humanity were not, the deities would not be. And very much in the same frame of apportionment is the seeming paradox that, while every mortal is believed to have brought his own ori, or portion, destiny, into the world, that same view of existence declares: Owo ara eni l’a fi ntun t’ara eni se (With our own hands do we redirect our destiny). Volition, not submission, sums it up. Humanity, not deity, is the begetter of metaphysics.”

The Yoruba logos, Ase, in its variants among African belief systems, unites Nature, as both nurturer and healer, with the human psyche for the body’s and community’s well-being. Thus it is appropriate to wind up this section with a verse of Ase, a word that is so difficult to translate out of the Yoruba language but perhaps is best rendered as the vital or animating pronouncement—one that invokes the full authority of whichever is the presiding Orisa at an event, the cosmos, and the forces and energies that are represented in Nature:”

“Aase, ko ni s’aise; Nitori awise ni t’Ifa,
Afose ni t’Orunmila
Ase egunmo nii se l’awujo efo
Ase ijimere nii se l’awujo eranko
Terekese naa nii se l’awujo owu
Gbogbo igi ti legbede ba f’owo ba nii dun
Ko se, k’o se ni t’ilakose”
“Yee a ba wi han ogbo ni ogbo i gbo
Yee a ba wi han igba ni igba i gba
Oro okete ba le so ni ile i gbo
A ba alagemo ba da l’Orisa i gba
Aro oun abuke ki i p’ohun Orisa da
Sango ki i ko ohun orogbo
Orisa ki i ko ohun obi
Obatala ki i ko ohun seseefun”

So shall it be, it shall not fail to be / For fulfilment of the word is Ifa / Fulfilment of the voice is Orunmila / Egunmo holds sway at the harvest of vegetables / The baboon holds sway at the gathering of the beasts of the forest / The frosted cotton holds sway at the gathering place of cotton / All trees resound at the mere touch of the orang-outang / So shall it be, that it shall be is the portion of the river mussel / It is what we whisper to the keen-edged grass to which the grass listens / It is what we say to the tapper’s cradle that the cradle receives / What the bush rodent tells the earth is what the earth undoubtedly hears / The mutations of the chameleon find approval among the deities / The lame and the hunchbacks do not neglect the voice of the deities/Sango never rejects the bitter ritual nut / No deity ever rejects the voice of the kola nut / Obatala will never reject the voice of the white coral bead. A-a-se. So shall it be.”

Excerpt From: Wole Soyinka, “Of Africa

No comments:

Post a Comment

Blog Archive

About Me