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Re(-)Placing Theory in African Studies: Ifa Literary Corpus, rigins,

!ni"ersality and the Integration of #piste$ology


%y
&elson 'ashina, Ph(
(epart$ent of #nglish
!ni"ersity of I)adan, I)adan
&igeria
(PA&#L *+)
A#,IS C&'#R#&C# L#I-PI,, ,#R.A&/, 0une 1-2 3445)
Ifa literary divination is a verbal corpus of Yoruba pristine wisdom, knowledge, philosophy
and metaphysics which has been with and has been used by the Yoruba in Nigeria and the Diaspora
from the earliest times dating around 10,000 and 8,000 !
1
to present times" #ince the abolition of
official slave chattel in 180$ and the declaration of political independence of the coloni%ed &frican
states
'
, &fricana scholars have engaged the discipline in a radical discourse anchored on the
relativist and the assumptionist theory of (probability) of an &frican system of thought" *his
intellectual search for the nature of &frican knowledge would serve multiple ends and implications"
It would challenge the logic of +estern ,ustification for the coloni%ation of &frica
-
. a kind of
reasoning based on +estern claim that &fricans were cannibal animists
/
and pagans who could not
apprehend the depth and e0pansive continuum of knowledge about 1od, nature and the universe, a
people who were incapable of reasoning and logical thought, a race of (savages) whose bland minds
were but anti2luminous and void3 a people without memorable lines or records of history, whose
customs and traditions were vainly gothic and wild, whose method of social relation were
amorphously indescribable by the 4superior5 ethics of +estern sociology, philosophy and science"
6ngaged in polemics of deconstructive philosophy against these +estern paradigms, !laude 7evi2
#trauss, the then &merican based 8rench anthropologist had argued in radical defense of 4primitive5
societies
If progress is measured by the amount of energy available per capita,
+estern society is miles ahead" ut if the criterion were success in
overcoming inhospitable geographic conditions, the 6skimos or
edouins would rank first" &nd if progress were based on success in
founding harmonious family and social groups, the &ustralian
aborigines would be ,udges most advanced" +estern society is thus
not better than others, but simply more cumulative, because it has
been less isolated 9*he Anthropologist as Hero, 1:$0;1-<"
7evi2#trauss) long time devotion to the study of harmonious structures that underlie the social
behavior of the Indians in ra%il and North &merica encouraged his humanist refutal of the
traditional mistaken opinion of the +est that preliterate societies are barbaric, savage and less
rational than +estern societies" =ather he sees such so2 called primitive cultures as (merely
different), with the conclusion that (there are no superior societies)" 7evi2#trauss) philosophy is a
radical ob,ective typology of human science which in later years culminated in his conflation of
ethnographic ideology with 6mile Durkheim
>
, the 8rench sociologist" ?e however raised a polemic
against the theoretical assumptions of ronislaw @alinowski
A
in ritain that the rites, rituals and
myths of primitive peoples should be interpreted as a social function and that their thoughts have
inner coherence"
*hese disparate philosophical ideas about the phenomenon of preliterate cultures may
probably be less polemical if the e0otic cultures and customs were not mostly interpreted in language
and theoretical paradigm that was alien to the systematic thought of the people" *hus, what this paper
posits is that Ifa corpus of the Yoruba peoples in &frica and the Diaspora has an integrated
philosophy of social synthesis in its management of human behavior and the mastering of the
environment and the universe as a whole" *hat not withstanding, the 4nature of philosophy is not to
accept any belief system without Buestioning it5 9Cgungbemi, '00$; 1-< and since the 4fundamental
2
rationale behind any changes in a world outlook is principally a philosophical matter, it is plain that
the philosophical evaluation of traditional thought is of very considerable relevance to the process of
moderni%ation on our continent5 9Dwasi +iredu, 1:80; >-<" *he type of 4traditional thought5 system
I attempt to e0amine in this paper is the Ifa literary and divinatory corpus as a composite e0ample of
&frican wisdom and philosophical storehouse of knowledge" @y approach is not necessarily one of
critical indoctrination but of an ob,ective rational inBuiry that seeks to evaluate the veracity or
otherwise of the discourses of relativity, probability and of e0clusivity in relation to the 4power of
&frican cultures5 98alola, '00-< and ritual metaphysics to produce a valid epistemology" 8or e0ample
in his speculative philosophy, Eeter odunrin 91:8>; 0v< posits that 4F the influence of our
speculation will one day spill over the walls of our academic citadels to influence the lives of society
at large5" odunrin)s predictive speculation is that future scholars would find epistemic rationality
and valid philosophy that would emerge from the 4distinctive &frican philosophical tradition and
focusF5 in future 9underline mine<" odunrin)s paradigm of opinion was speculative in the sense
that his choice of pre2modifying ad,ective (philosophical) instead of the le0ical alternative, a noun,
(philosophy) is a deliberate logic of semantic caution" odunrin)s politics of semantics was
understandable within the conte0t of the academic age and culture of &fricana scholarship of the
decades preceding the publication of his work, Philosophy in Africa, a title which again carries a load
of relativist temper in its careful choice of the title as against the logico2semantic risks of an
alternative title such as (&frican Ehilosophy)" *his latter option would have been too affirmative and
dangerously audacious for a scholar of Ehilosophy of his repute to dare" If odunrin had titled his
book as (&frican Ehilosophy), that would have implied an audacious claim that a valid &frican
specific theory of knowledge e0isted" ?e would have generated more polemics and criticism,
because, at that time, &fricana scholars were still grappling with the politics of +estern recognition
of the e0istence of (&frican literature), rather than ,ust (literature in &frica)" ut, I have mentioned
3
elsewhere that #oyinka)s uniBue achievement as the first &frican in world history to win the Nobel
Eri%e in 7iterature in 1:8A has rendered such arguments redundant 9'00:<" &frican literature of the
post 2 Nobel era has gradually gained undeniable global recognition as a valid site of literary and
cultural creativity and a worthy field of academic inBuiry" &ltogether, I want to con,ecture that
perhaps the one essential distance between +estern philosophies which these &frican scholars know
too well and its &frican possible alternative was that &frican thought system and culture was
although studded with logic and rational values and knowledge, yet scholars had not yet, at that time,
discovered its 4basic principles5 from which they ought to derive its theories"
*he road to discovering the principles of &frican nature of knowledge was not only to
really understand the nitty gritty of the cultures, but also to understand their implications for arts and
verbal performance, social order, politics, healing, science, economy, life, death, birth, after2life,
marriage, reproduction and procreation, informal traditional learning method, memory, metaphysics,
magic, etc" *ruth is that most &fricana scholars who are privileged to analy%e and publish their
research opinions for academic consumption did not have enough knowledge of the depth of &frican
traditions, especially the comple0ly sacred and esoteric Ifa literary and divination corpus"
Gnfortunately, those who have groundings in this traditional knowledge do not have the intellectual
training and understanding of +estern methods of knowledge with which they could compare the
&frican alternatives that they know with +estern paradigms . *hey are mostly illiterate in +estern
education" *his parado0 of knowledge is one of the reasons responsible for the delay in generating
the principles and poetics of &frican epistemology" @ost &frican educated elite who are oral
researchers are always conditioned to cautious pursuit of their Buest owing to the myth of risks of
encounters with malevolent spirits and demons of the &frican ritual groves at the domain of the Ifa
Eriest 9abalawo<
$
" *hus, sometimes the abalawo would reBuest them to offer ritual sacrifices to
appease the 4witches5 or the sacred mothers 9awon iya aye< and 6su 9 the trickster deity of vengeance
4
and ,ustice< in order to avert their anger and punishment before the commencement of the field
interview" In fact, in many university campuses, the !hristian communities are often skeptical of the
!hristian status of scholars and students who are committed to more than armchair investigation of
&frican ritual traditions, culture and metaphysics especially 6gungun
8
, Ifa divination, witchcraft and
sorcery 9Ckpewho, 1::'< +hile the average +estern scholar researcher is committed to their
research in spite any accompanying risks, for which any ultimate death or incarceration may, of
course, be a road to martyrdom and immortali%ation, the average modern &frican scholar does not
find it an act of heroism to take risks in Buest of knowledge" Yet, we en,oy stories about our
ancestors) audacity of epic heroic missions to dangerous %ones of their world" +e en,oy reading the
history of the +hite man)s courage in daring the risk of crossing the &tlantic Ccean and the fiery #ea
to &frica to cart away our relations as slaves and to coloni%e our parentland
:
" +e are ama%ed at the
(miracles) of +estern space ,ets that shuttle the outer planets" ut, the average post2colonial &frican
researcher would not engage in such risks of knowledge" *hus, in a seeming ironic mockery of
&frican research, some scholars rush to over to 6urope and &merica in search of &frican
epistemology on the pages of +estern cultural and philosophical ,ournals and books" *hese are
factual studs in the way of meaningful research outputs that can make the intellectual world to
understand the real nature and meaning of the &frican cosmos for the purpose of systemati%ing its
epistemology" No wonder Dwesi Dwaa Erah 91::8; 1< laments that 4&frica appears to have accepted
neocolonialism and come to terms with material and socio2psychological humiliations of the
condition5" &lthough Erah)s observation appears resignatory and sensationalist in the face of other
combative struggles of liberation by a radical minority of &fricana scholars including !hinua &chebe
91:88<, Glli eier &biola Irele 9'001<, iodun Heyifo91:8$<, ernth 7indfors, ?enry 7ouis 1ates,
Hr"91:88<, +illiam ascom 91::1<,9Isidore Ckpewho,1::'<,*oyin 8alola9'00-<, Dwasi
+iredu91:80<, Niyi Csundare91::-<and a host of others, it is however a ,ustifiable worry"
5
8or these reasons, I believe that, perhaps, the business of anyone in our &frican #tudies
situation in the '1
st
century should primarily be to focus on how to evolve &frican specific research,
reading and analytical methods" 8or, in the last century, &frican #tudies had anchored its methods
on 8rench and other 6uropean methods in the #ocial #ciences which were 4designed5 specifically
for the study of &sian, &frican and other oriental (colonies) 9Hean !opans, I8=& 7ectures,
91:::<
10
"+e should imagine that the problem area of &frican cultural scholarship is that we do not
have grasp of a mega *heory and Ehilosophy which is of comparative epistemological significance
9or standardI< to the +estern forms" &nd even though the +estern forms have been used as
templates for our own &frican cultural readings and meaningsJhermeneutics, &fricana scholars have
in the last >0 years engaged in passive complaints about the unsuitability of +estern episteme
for the processing of &frican history, culture, literature, data and collectanea" ut, in the early
eighties, this otherwise passive approach transformed into an active research drive towards
interpretative research rather than the mere reportorial research of the si0ties and seventies" &nd, in
the late eighties, clear attempts began to be made towards initiali%ing the plea for the evolution of an
&frican specific theory and hermeneutics of reading and interpretation" Eeter odunrin)s
Philosophy in Africa 91:8>< provided a much more philosophical speculation than the con,ectures of
earlier &fricana scholars like ola,i Idowu 91:A'<, +ande &bimbola 91:$>< and Cmosade &wolalu
91:$:< who maintained relativist positions on the possibility of Ifa corpus as a valid evidence of an
&frican epistemology" &lthough ?enry 7ouis 1ates, Hr in The Signifying Monkey 91:88< provided a
radical and generic semiology of cultural signification that is ensconced in the ritual and artistic
imagination of the (lacks), his depth of analysis are yet to be appropriated as an alternative theory
to +estern paradigms" 1ates provides a great epistemic archetype of a (lack) and (&frican)
(@onkey) that is ironically capable of generating a battery of cultural and philosophical meanings
that transcend the bounds of +estern rational knowledge" *here has probably not been a
6
consciousness to follow up to this pioneering work in the construction of a truly e0clusive &frican
theory, without looking in the direction of +estern theories" =ather, the plethora of theories
generated by the +estern literary capital were invoked and foisted on the emergent discipline of
&frican studies, thereby (westing) the creative endeavors of &frican writers in such a way that
dwarfs &fricana scholarship in the politics of global knowledge" &s a pioneering work of black
prototype theori%ing, the genetic (code) of &frican nature of knowledge that is resident in the
signifying archetypes of Ifa, Cri, 6su, 6gungun, Cgun, #ango Cya, and other &frican folkloric
archetypes like the tortoise, monkey, eagle, lion, elephant, owl, bats, etc, as human personifications
provide an intricate system of philosophical knowledge and understanding of not only the &frican
environment but of the universe9auman, 1:8/<" 7evi2#trauss in his structural study totemism
11
among primitive societies posits that the use of animals and ob,ects as totemistic symbol was not a
ridiculous superstition, but part of a larger system of classification, a highly sophisticated mythical
universe which he e0plores in the The Savage Mind 91:A'<"
ut, unfortunately till date, &frica is still searching for their own epistemology" +hile in
1ates 91:88<, the (@onkey) is a generic code for the entire body of &frican theory, knowledge and
philosophy, in 8alola and &desanya)s recent volume of poetry, Etches on Fresh Waters 9'008<, the
(@onkey) archetype, as a (vehicle) of polysemic communication, 4becomes an ideological
procreation of scholars) ironic attitude of seeking knowledge of &frican philosophy in the +estern
alternative5 98ashina, '00:<" *hus, 8alola)s irony of &frican epistemology as logically symboli%ed
in the seeming #ocratic dialogism over the (killing) and (hiding) of the (@onkey) is an indictment of
&frican scholars Buest for the e0istentialist (truth) about &frican nature of knowledge twenty years
after the publication of 1ates) pioneer model of 4signifying knowledge5 via the ironic (@onkey)
archetype 98ashina, '00:<" &nd even though, arguably, scholars like ola,i Idowu 91:A'<, +ande
&bimbola 91:$><, Cmosade &wolalu 91:$:<, Eeter odunrin 91:8><, and ?enry 7ouis 1ates,Hr"
7
9 1:88< have fore grounded the possibility and apparent latency of valid epistemology in the Ifa
corpus, there is yet no Buality breakthrough in the search for fi0ed and systematic canons of
reading and theori%ing in &frican #tudies" +hat has been done so effectively however, is the
ambiguous (grafting) of +estern ideological, te0tual and artistic theories that emanate from their
e0clusive nature of the universe, nature of knowledge and (being) on the &frican body of arts and
literature" Cne Buestion therefore arises 2 how do we reconcile the +estern concepts such as KheroK,
villainK, KachieverK, KleaderK, KfactsK, KtruthK, KhonestyK , (fidelity) KvirginK,K womanK, KmanK, (marriage)
(husband), (wife), (son), (daughter), (prostitute), (concubine), (mistress), (courtesan), (lesbian),
(abortion), (birth, (death), (life), KwealthyK, (rich), (poor), etc to &frican cultural worldview of the
same paradigm of concepts and (knowledges) of our own culture, universe and cosmosI 6ven
though this paper does not pretend to have final answers or (the answers) to these array of
perple0ing philosophical problems in &frican studies, it however hopes to initiali%e certain
paradigms that may provide template for an &frican indigenous theori%ing, using sample poetic
te0ts from 6,i Cgbe literary episteme"
Cf a fact, everyone agrees, perhaps, that there is a wide gulf of hermeneutic knowledge
between the +est and &frica" *here is however a collective error in that concert of opinion" &nd
where this error is deliberate, it emanates from racial politics of knowledge" If we agree that unlike
the breakthroughs in the natural sciences, the +est and the rest of us still has a lot of (ignorance) to
grapple with in terms of discoveries and accomplishments in the human sciences devoted to study of
comparative cultures and ethnographies of the (subaltern) civili%ations of &frica, &sia and some
other subaltern %ones of the +est" *hough the problem is not possibly due to lack of epistemology
in &frica, there has been mere lip2service paid to its systemati%ation" &nd even though we know that
within &frica, we may not safely lay claim to a uniform continental KdishK of cultural homogeneity
like the rest of the world, most researchers agree, however, that there is an KunbrokenK thread2link of
8
relative cultural homogeneity within homeland &frica and their stocks in Diaspora across the globe 9
7ouis 1ates, Hr" 1:88<" *hus, we can talk of an K&frican Gniverse of DnowledgeK, and from this we
can distil a poetics of an &frican epistemology which could be engaged in the service of researches,
readings, analyses and interpretations of the &frican world . archaeology, history, literature, culture,
sociology, philosophy, gender, etc" Eerhaps, one of the greatest &frican universal cultural codes and
source of epistemology derives from the Ifa literary and divination corpus, which would sound
contradictory to assign as e0clusive property of any mono2culture within &frica" &lthough there)s
both historical and contemporary evidence that Ifa originates from the great traditions of the Yoruba
of +est &frica, the divination ritual process, method and application are found compositely in
varying measures across &frica and the Diaspora" &nd, within this relative 9&frica< homogeneity of
cultural symbology and signification, we can locate a battery of theories, philosophy and
epistemology in (re92<placement) of +estern alternatives" Yes, in 4re92<placement of +estern
system of thought, we need to search for, locate and re2locate &frican brand of knowledge and
repackage them for &frican and global consumption that the world may be a better place, that &frica
may have a legacy of meaningful contribution to world development in humanities, science and
technology" @y concept of re92<placement differs slightly from (replacement)" +hile by
4re92<placement5 I mean to put back in a previous position, and to re2locate the (place) of &frican
indigenous mode of reasoning and philosophical thought, (replacement) by the Oxford English
ictionary9'00>;$A8< means 4to provide a substitute for5 and 4to take the place of5" +hile my
working definition of &frican studies research should not get stuck at the bus stop of reportorial
research . a cultural produce level of tangential retailer role in the whole gigantic industry of
knowledge" &fricana scholars should rather be involved in generating fundamental theories of
e0istence, meaning of life and nature all of which are embedded in our great literary and divinatory
systems" +e should not be found feasting at the garbage heap of +estern science, technology and
9
philosophy" Ifa !orpus offers enough system of knowledge from which we can distil a poetics of
universal truths" *his is my attempted mission in this paper"
Describing 4Ifa as an indigenous &frican philosophy and thought system, +ande &bimbola
91:$>;-'< confirms that
& close e0amination of the themes of Ifa divination poems
reveals that they represent the traditional Yoruba world2view" Ifa
literary corpus is therefore the store2house of Yoruba culture
inside which the comprehension of their historical e0periences
and understanding of their environment can always be found"
6ven until today Ifa is recognised by the Yoruba as a repository
for their traditional body of knowledge embracing history,
philosophy, medicine and folklore"
+hile &bimbola)s pioneering effort in e0pounding the hitherto much dreaded corpus that was seen
as e0clusive (secrets) only to be decoded by select initiates or (father of secrets)
1'
9babalawo or omo
awo< is commendable" &nd till date this scholar and celebrated Ifa Eriest is one rare e0ample of
those who know the lines of the divination poetry by heart and memory and can speak confidently
about any aspects of the 1A ma,or Cdus and the '/0 minor Cdus that add up to make the entire '>A
Cdus in Ifa literary and divinatory corpus" ?e was one of the first &frican scholars whose Doctoral
thesis 91:A8I< attempted a lucid outline and enumeration of the poetic and literary Bualities of Ifa
divination corpus"
&lthough, the stylistic genius of Yoruba poetics of oral verbali%ation as well as
dialogical and rhetorical forms had always been there, the benefit of e0posure to +estern forms of
literature had undeniably provided a comparative method of processing the critical reading of the
literary forms in the corpus" ?owever, the training in +estern literary criticism played an
ambiguous role in the marginali%ation of &frican indigenous system of critical interpretation which
was logically integrated into the verbal arts and folklore stories, unlike the +estern critical
10
strategies which are e0ternal to the primary te0t" &nd the chiefest of this (conBuest) of the latent
&frican critical devices came by way of collapse of &frican languages in the face of 6nglish and
8rench 2 the two dominant colonial languages which 4F has e0erted such pressure upon our
e0perience and our awareness that it is no e0aggeration to say that all forms of modern &frican
e0pression have been massively conditioned by it5 9Irele, 1::1;>8<" In The Sixteen !reat Poe"s of
#fa 91:$><, +ande &bimbola states that 46,i Cgbe is believed to be the first and most important Cdu
in the whole system5 in the 4order of seniority among the first si0teen ma,or or great Cdu of the Ifa
literary corpus 991:$>;':<" Gnder each of the 1A ma,or Cdu of which 6,i2Cgbe is number one, there
could be as much as 100 poems of long narrative segments" ?owever, in this paper, the principal
concern is to demonstrate reading methods by which 6,i Cgbe reveals some categories of logical
knowledge and mastery of the &frican environment and the universe in relation to nature, human
and social interactions, pristine healing, and the symbology of ritual ideology, aesthetics, arts and
cosmic transcendence . in short, an &frican epistemology"
/oru)a - the language of Ifa literary and esoteric co$$unication
It is probably apposite to briefly shed some light on the cultural history and language spread of the
Yoruba whose genius of pre2colonial knowledge of the universe has produced the profound
philosophy of human e0istence that this paper is about" Yoruba ethnic dialects include Cyo, Ife,
I,esha, I,ebu, 6gba, Cndo, Cwo, &koko, 6kiti, &wori, 6gun, Dabba" *he language of Ifa corpus is
Yoruba, one of the largest ethno2linguistic and most influential tribal nationalities in +est &frica"
*he Yoruba are also probably the most cohesive and homogeneous cultural group in +est &frica" In
terms of language spread, there is for now no accurate statistics or agreeable figure on the
population of 6de Yoruba speakers in #outhwest Nigeria, &frica and the &frican Diaspora around
the world" 60isting statistics have been based on assumptions and inaccurate surveys" +hile some
11
claim that about /0 to >0 million people speak Yoruba at home and the Diaspora, others claim that
about '> million people speak it" &nd the Nigerian population census has not helped matters
because it is often influenced by ethnic, tribal and political biases" ?owever, we like to suggest that
at least '8 million Yoruba people live and speak the language in Nigeria, while the spread of the
language to other &frican countries . enin, *ogo, 1hana, #ierra 7eone, 7iberia, Dahomey, ra%il,
!uba, may be one Buarter of this figure" Yoruba dialects in Nigeria have been classified into ma,or
dialect areas; 9a"< North2+est Yoruba 9N+Y< . &beokuta, Ibadan, Cyo, Cgun and 7agos areas 9b"<
!entral Yoruba 9!Y< . Ife, 6kiti, Igbomina, &kure, 6fon and I,ebu areas 9c"< #outh26ast Yoruba
9#6Y< . Ckitipupa, Cndo , Cwo, Ikare, #agamu, and parts of I,ebu" &lthough this classification is
based on linguistic criteria of tonal structure, it is nonetheless inadeBuate" @any other ma,or and
peripheral Yoruba dialect communities to the #outhwest, #outheast and @iddle2belt %ones are left
out in these categories" 7oko,a, Dabba, Ilorin2&fon,a, Cffa, and parts of &koko 6do are usually
mistakenly e0cluded in this model of classification" #tandard Yoruba is also called literary or
written Yoruba" #tandard Yoruba is the official Yoruba language used for school learning,
newspapers, radio, *L, video2films and religious testaments like the ible and to some e0tent Crisa
worship and Ifa Cracular divination corpus" It is the general Yoruba language form which became
more formali%ed and official in the 18>0,s 4when #amuel &,ayi !rowther, a native Yoruba and first
&frican ishop, published a Yoruba grammar and started his translation of the ible into Yoruba as
4ibeli @imo5 9?oly ible<"
*here has been an opinion conflict over what variety of the dialects constitutes (genuine
Yoruba) language" #ome writers claim that the Cyo dialect variety is the most pure form while
others argue that there is no such thing as genuine Yoruba at all" Despite this controversies however,
the linguistic situation of 6de Yoruba is no more delicate than the problem of diversities associated
12
with growing civili%ation and social comple0ity" &sking what is the genuine Yoruba language is
much like asking what genuine 6nglish is" *his is a rather perple0ing Buestion for which there can
be no absolutely accurate answer but relative preferences derived by individual or group culture
cleavages" 8or now, however, whether we like it or nor, the Cyo Yoruba has persistently achieved
irretrievable status of being the most powerful and most consolidating standard Yoruba for
education, publishing media and foreign religion like !hristianity, Islam and for the communication
of the 1A ma,or Cdu Ifa poetic chants" Gnarguably, the Cyo Yoruba language variety is believed to
be the specific media for the communication of the esoteric poetic chants especially in the 1A ma,or
Cdu Ifa known as Ifa Nla 9*he 1reat Ifa<" *his central place in religion has been largely due to the
fact that it is probably the variety used by he ancestors before the dispersion from Ile2Ife, the
mythical cradle of Yoruba peoples in the world" #econd reason is that it is the variety spoken by
&,ayi !rowther himself, as a native of Cgbomoso, and the one he invariably used for the pioneering
Yoruba grammar book and translation of the ible into Yoruba in the 18>0)s" ut, ironically, in
modern times, the Cyo Yoruba is not the most widely spoken variety for daily conversation among
the Yoruba in &frica and the Diaspora" =ather, it appears that the 6de Yoruba variety for general
conversation in Nigeria and among Yoruba Diaspora is unconsciously the variety of 6de Yoruba
spoken in 7agos" *his is due, perhaps, to the historical significance of 7agos as the ritish
protectorate anne0ed colony in 18A1 which later became the capital of the ritish Erotectorate of
Nigeria in 1:1/, when 7ord 7ugard amalgamated the Northern and #outhern ritish protectorates
and renamed it Nigeria with 7agos as capital from 1:1/ to 1:$A when the capital was moved to
&bu,a" *he significance of 7agos as the largest capital market on the +est &frican !oast, which till
today has maintained that status, may have accounted for the ine0tricable predominance of the
7agos variety of 6de Yoruba in daily commercial and conversational activities" Despite the wide
13
range of dialect varieties in Yoruba, nearly all are mutually intelligible" *his language harmony also
underscores the notable cultural and social harmony among the Yoruba in &frica and the Diaspora"
*alking about Yoruba writing system, a source claims that the Yoruba writing system
began in the 1$
th
! with the &,ami, &rabic2based orthographies of &frican languages, the script used
in writing several languages of &frica and &sia" *he &rabic is the second most widely used alphabet
around the world" +hile there)s no strong basis to contest the influence of &rabic and #emitic
orthographies on writing in 6de Yoruba, we however have a point of caution because, even though
Ifa divination corpus which dates back to 10! was essentially orate, there were obvious latent
forms of partial writing marks used to indicate numbers, weight measures, land mass, etc" I have
fully discussed this in 8ashina9'008<; 6Yoruba Numerals #ystem, Crigins in Ifa Divination and the
!hallenges of #cience and *echnology57 #tudies have even proved that some chunk of computer
data language method was derived from the Yoruba Ifa divination corpus" *his in not a forum for
discussing the details"
/oru)a language arith$etic: origin fro$ Ifa corpus
If Ifa is apparently the oldest corpus of knowledge in Yoruba cosmogony, it stands to reason that
the Yoruba knowledge of counting and measurement may have derived from the ancient corpus
through the prescription of rituals and sacrifices in measures of cowries, life2stock, farm produce,
flora and other items in nature" *hus, in 8ashina 9'008<, I have presented the following episteme of
Yoruba knowledge of numeric counting system as derived from Ifa corpus;
9i< formulaic alternation of additive and subtractive counting system, which invariably
underscores early Yoruba knowledge and e0istence of a proto2arithmetic and mathematical science"
14
9ii< seBuential use of two types of numeric counting codes, namely the five digit count numeric
node and the ten digit count numeric node"
9iii< Yoruba distance and weight measurement system
9iv< Ifa numerical figures as integrated in modern Yoruba counting system3 and this
manifests in two ways, namely the Yoruba cosmic symbolsJ signs of the Cdu Ifa, and the proto
numeric bonded pairs as seen in Cyeku me,i verse of Ifa divination verse" 8ashina 9'008< sets to
present the picture, nature, properties and characteristic features of Yoruba counting system and its
origin in Ifa literary and divination wisdom, and how these (numeric) resources provide template of
structure for frameworks of science and technology"
/oru)a culture and religious philosophy
*he Yoruba are one of the most homogeneous ethnic nationalities in +est &frica with ancient
enduring legacies, culture, religion and traditions which compare favorably with those of the 1reek,
=omans, and the ?ebrews in world ancient civili%ation" *hey carried their culture and tradition to
wherever they went" *hus, apart from the notable survival of Yoruba customs and religion among
the early Yoruba diaspora of the slave era, we notice the accompanying practice of community and
culture coe0istence among the Yoruba of the 4New Diaspora5 of which most of us in the Gnited
#tates are one" *oyin 8alola and &nn 1enova 9'00>;1< comment that
*he Yoruba have played a ma,or role in shaping the history and
culture of +est &frica and the wider world" &s prominent players in
the precolonial trade and regional politics, the Yoruba established a
lasting presence" *oday, Yoruba culture represents a leading e0ample
of the &frican influence in the New +orld" Hust like the 1reek
cosmogonic world, the Yoruba cultural world in intricately patterned
and ordered based in belief system (between the power of the Crisas
and sociopolitical structures)"
15
*he typical Yoruba person is homo2religosus" *raditional Yoruba worship Clodumare, the 9*he
@ost #upreme 1od<, but employs the energies of deities as veritable media of spiritual
communication"
Yoruba culture has been described as patrilineal, but thee is a seeming ironic idoli%ation of
matrilineal energy in the sense of superstitiously sacred respect for (motherhood)" 8or e0ample, the
Yoruba proverb #ya ni $%ra & mother is gold, similar to 'neka, meaning (mother is supreme in Igbo
language of Nigeria () #ya "i osoronga 9 my dreaded mother, the fiery witchM<3 #ya ile 9mother in
the homestead, usually for the eldest wife in a polygamous home<3 Iyalode 9 mother in town . a
powerful chieftaincy title reserved for powerful and influential women in Yoruba land<" +ithin the
conte0t of Cdi . @e,i, which is the /
th
in rank among the si0teen ma,or Cdus, the earth is a living
(being) and a mother in Yoruba tradition" In terms of moral customs, there is the ethics of respect
for elders, one evidence of which is kneeling by women, and prostrating by men, to greet elders" Ifa
notion of (father) and (mother) is not strictly biological as in +estern culture" &ll male elders of
one)s father and mother)s age grade are given honorary respect status as father and motherM ut,
there are nouns for father 9baba<, mother 9iya<, grandfather 9baba iya<, grandmother 9iya baba<, half2
brother or half2sister 9oba kan<, brother or sister 9iye kan eni<" @arriage custom is ritualistic,
performative, artistic and superstitious" *here are puberty rites, social laws of no se0 before
marriage, because female virginity was the ultimate mark of female discipline and moral
compliance" No strict sense of monogamy, marriage ceremonies and processes are delicate and
comedicJ theatrical through symbolic codes of ritual prayers, such as ek%n iya$o 9bridal song< and
er% iya$o 9bridal wealth<" *he materials for marriage are symbolic codes e0pressed in bridal wealth
like culturally valued clothes, shoes, yam, palm oil, assortments of drinksJ wine, etc" Nowadays,
!hristianity and ritish tradition has influenced original Yoruba tradition of marriage" In terms of
16
naming, Yoruba names are very symbolic and culturally loaded, rooted in the type of Crisa or deity
that the child destined by (Cri) to worship as revealed through Ifa divination" #uch names include,
Cgunbiyi, #angodele, Cyawale, 8agbamila, 8ashina, Csundare, 6sugbayi, 2 all of which are
conflated with deity names" &debayo 8aleti 91:::;--< has classified Yoruba names into / categories
. 91"< =oyalty; names borne by royalty and monarchy are prefi0ed or suffi0ed by &de . &debayo,
&denle, #i,uwade, 1badegesin, etc"9'"< Nobility; names borne by ?igh !hiefs who are not kings or
monarchs like ashorun of Cyo, C,umu of Cwo and others which are suffi0ed by Cla, Ike, 2
Clakunle, Cmobonike, Cmonike, Demisola" 9-"< Lassalage; names borne by vassal chiefs who are
lesser in rank than the ?igh !hiefs are prefi0ed or suffi0ed by 4Cye5 names . the Cloyede,
Cyedele, Cyeniyi, Cyemakinde, Cmolo,a, &bioye, 9/"< Eeasantry; names depend on family history
and type of vocation 9drummers and musicians 9&yan prefi0ed or suffi0ed names like &yanniyi,
&yandele, &layande, &yansola, &,ibulu, etc< wood carvers 9 Cnayemi, &,ibona< farmers, hunters,
blacksmiths 9 &,ibowu, &binusawa, Durosaro<, physicians 96webiyi 6we,e, 6weniyi, #ewe,e<, etc<"
&debayo 8aleti claims that since Yoruba names are historical, symbolic, and metonymic of social
status, some parents hide their peasant pauper identities under such names as Cgun, Csun, Cya,
#ango, 6su prefi0ed or suffi0ed names" &ccording to 8aleti 4*he others who cannot use their names
to parade their calling in public as professionals or religious people do bear names which hide their
inadeBuacies under the umbrella of religion5 9-/<"
*he researcher lists such 4pauper5 names as &gbebiyi, &gbediran, 9for farmers< and
Cfiwumi, &sihihunniyi 9for weavers<, Cmolewuyi, Cmole 9 for 9builders or masons< which he
claims people in that category vocational affiliation shy away from" &lthough &debayo 8aleti is a
legendary scholar, researcher and practitioner of Yoruba cultural civili%ation, it is yet necessary to
interrogate his assumption in a later discourse in order to fully know which stage of Yoruba
17
development produced such a social2psychology of (subaltern) order in Yoruba artisans" &lthough I
am aware that the post2colonial procapitalist economy has generated so much of changing lifestyles
and redefinitions of concepts of social value, whereby the drummerJmusicians are being inferiori%ed
as 4alagbe5 9beggars< in Yoruba urban capitals, this is a seeming recent reading of social value in
the history and sociology of Yoruba people" ut, altogether, the Yoruba philosophy of (naming) a
human being, flora, fauna, situation or any phenomenon is informed by the ritual ideology that
everything in nature and the universe has a history and a (soul) which are codes of deferring
meanings that are waiting to flicker outM *he indigenous Yoruba, even elites, !hristians, @uslims
and traditional worshippers do directly or indirectly, as the case may be, consult Ifa oracles for
telling the future, for protection, cure from diseases and progress in life" *hose who have
fundamental discretion of religious apathy to traditional mode of worship still consult Ifa by pro0y
or through their parents or friends at critical moments of life problems"
the type of divination forecast about the origin and life path of the child and of the
parentsJancestors" No wonder the Yoruba say this proverb about naming ceremony 2 Ile laa wo ka to
somo loruko 9one names a child in the conte0t of its lineage history<" 8rom antiBuity, Ifa oracle is
consulted to know the Crisa bond and destiny of the child in order to name the child" Yoruba
sociology of the society is e0tensive" Gnlike the +estern form that is dyad, and nuclear family
system, Yoruba family social relation is on family, e0tended family, communityJ village head, kingM
Yoruba culture is orate, perfomative and creative, using language to e0press deep philosophical
ideas through name calling, oriki and panegyrics, proverbs in formal discourse and informal
conversation to reinforce philosophical ideas; Cwe lesin oro, oro lesin owe, bi oro ba sonu, owe la
fii waM 9Eroverb is the horses of discourse, if a word is lost, we use proverb to find itM<"
Iru)o8 #)o Riru (Sacrifice) as Polyse$y of .oral Categories and Philosophical Thought
18
Irubo 9sacrifice< or ebu riru 9the offering of sacrifice< among the Yoruba is a rational practice and a
social as well as ritual ideology" It)s depth of meanings are multivalent as a sociology of human
behavior in the continuum of interaction with the physical and the supersensible energies of the
universe from which man tries to wrest his livelihood and being" Ifa)s prescriptive rituals and
sacrifices, as observed, are governed by certain internal laws of reason and logic that shape
understanding of the science of human behavior and nature" *hus in Ifa we have a logical canon of
reasoning which is immanent in the prescriptive, yet liberal management of human behavior and
fate" Ifa is in concert of opinion with the idea of purity as contained in the holy books 2 ible and
Doran" &nd this interlace with the poetics of cultural pragmatics in other world religious philosphies
is an aspect of it universality and global relevance as an episteme of human knowledge" *he corpus
has a holy doctrinal testament which outlaws the shedding of human blood" ut, as in Cld
*estament ible about sin and peace offerings and sacrifices in 7eviticus, and as it is in Islamic
sacrifice at =amadan, so it is with Ifa as a philosophy of (being) as contained in the logic of the
following Ifa verse from 6,i2Cgbe;
*ir% e+o nii g+eni #acrifice averts much problem
A i r% e+o kii g+e,yan 7ack of it invites problem
A difa f%n Oke Okeniyi It divined for one praise2named Cke, that is Ckeniyi
A ki f%n #g+o #g+oleti It warned one praise2named Igbo, that is Igboleti
-o.o ti $on ni ko ree lo r% Ase Cn the day he was asked to sacrifice &se
O g+o rir% e+o, o r% ?e heard and was compliant to the sacrifice
Og+o at% kanse, o t% ?e heard warning of appeasement and he complied
Won t%n ni ko r% Okete *hen he was asked to sacrifice Ckete 9passover animal<
/i a$on A.og%n +%r%k% a +aa le ree kete #o evil affliction will passover him
Oke r% Okete tan Cke sacrificed Ckete
19
/o pe ko .ina Not long afterwards
Oke n,seg%n ik% lot%n, Cke defeated death on the one hand
Oke g+on $erepe ar%n dan% losi Cke overcame chronic diseases on the other hand
'i #k% +a n,re kete ar%n n,re kete, ofo n,re kete Death and sickness passed over himM
Ehilosophically, the Yoruba episteme of compliance to (sacrifice) compares to the knowledge of the
1reek, ?ebrew and =omans in the sense that sacrifice is a ritual metaphor, an underlying lesson in
hardship and endurance which are necessary to survive in the turbulent sea of life" #acrifice is a
token of obedience to ClodumareJ&llahJYahwehJ!hukwuJNyame 2 the all powerful and mighty
creator of heaven and earth" In this, Ifa recogni%es the @osaicJ @usaic *en !ommandments in both
Cld *estament ible and the Doran as true, and it acknowledges !hrist, known as 6la in Cdu Ifa
verse of Cyeku2@e,i, as savior of the world who was to be born by Cyigi, a virgin woman of
inestimable virtue" &nd this Ifa divination source has influenced modern !hristian Eentecostals who
sing to praise2name 1od as Oyigi yigi, Olor%n kikida ag+ara &Oyigi, 1od all powerfulM<" *his is
another evidence of the universality of Ifa literary corpus as a philosophy of being" In the conte0t of
the 6,iNCgbe verse rendered above, there are layers of signifying systems both within the conte0t of
creative aesthetics of linguistic sound and pleasure and the ethnographic canons of logical relations
of linear thought structure;
9 : Category ; Predicati"e <uantu$: =(>P>C>&>R?
D O identification of a problem . potential, latent, Buasi2manifest, manifest
E O prescriptive proposition of ritual solution . rational, logical, totemistic, tokenistic, mandatory,
optional, liberal, conseBuential, committal, neutral
! O !ompliance 2 activation, participation, completeness, correctness
N O Non2compliance O %ero90<
= O =esult ; EP ! . D O =
20
/ : Category ; &o$inal <uantu$:=.>S>L?
@ : @edia 2 historical, ahistorical, narratological, evidential,
# . #tyle 2 communicative, linear, progressive, enumerative, anecdotal, didactic
7 2 7anguage . poetic, rhetorical, alliterative, symphonic, symbolic, codifying
- : Category ; #piste$ic <uantu$: = R8:P>C-(? i"e"4*irr% e+o nii g+eni0 Ai r% e+o kii g+e yan1
*he structures above provide three categories of logical thought . 9, which is the Eredicative
Quantum 9EQ< is the main stem of logical thought in this Ifa verse" /, is the Nominal Quantum
9NQ< which is not the main thought or message but a significant (vehicle) that helps define the
aesthetic character of the mythic discourse" It is the capital headBuarters of verbali%ation and
articulation, not necessarily of epistemic fulfillment, but of orate gymnastics via sound, dialogical
narratology and communicative tellability" -, is the 6pistemic Quantum 96Q< which is the nucleus
of social and ritual ideology of (being) within the conte0t of 6,i2Cgbe as a category of &frican
philosophy of life" +hile the structure above is a 1rammar of the logic of divinatory physics in 6,i2
Cgbe, the structural framework is generic to any average verse in Ifa corpus" @ost of the poems will
fit into this 1rammar" ?owever, the lessons of humanism and sociological evidence of rational
systems of family and group relations are not e0plained in this structural paradigmM +e would
reBuire the service of another model of theory to e0plain that"
#piste$e of Collecti"e Responsi)ility and Anti-Indi"idualis$
Gnarguably, the kind of society that produced this divination and literary philosophy is evidently
very sophisticated in terms of the intricate design of social structures within which members (work
to the rule) of social behavior in order to get favorable results" #uch a society has not
metamorphosed from the (stage) of collective responsibility to individuality" #uch a society can
21
produce the type of #ophoclean tragedy of the ancient 1reek cosmos, whereby any alteration of the
cycle of order through (individualism) and liberal ideology will cause a cosmic rift as a precipitate
of Cedipal magnitude of tragedy" If sacrifice is an evidence of primal civili%ation and social
sophistication, then Ifa wisdom is a systematic evidence of human capacity for rational thought by
the Yoruba" *his kind of rationalism derived from the principles of loss 9sacrifice< and gain 9get
cosmic or ancestral benefit<"It is a ritual metaphor for self2denial, discipline, restraint and
responsibility" #acrifice is a moral didactic lesson that the way up the ladder of progress and success
is down wardM
*he 6,i2Cgbe verse above reveals the creative imagination of the Yoruba wisdom corpus to
hypothesi%e and figure out the possibilities of social problem, between the human and his
environment, human and nature, flora and fauna as well as the recognition of the comple0 design of
social and economic ecology" =itual sacrifices provide means of feeding for the abalawo 9Ifa
Eriest< and his dependents" It also ensures the demystification of a person)s individuality and
independence, to show that man in society must aspire to obey certain social laws and ethics, all of
which psychologically humbles him and ensures that he aspires to high spiritual hierarchies or the
Deity of religion for favor and protection" +ande &bimbola 91:$>; -'< describes sacrifice as 4Fthe
element of reparation for one)s inherent defects5 91:$>;-'<" I believe that these 4defects5 could be
biological, psychological, economic or social, for as along as one is in need of what he lacks, there
is always a price tag that measures what heJshe must lose in order to get what is needed" *hus,
sacrifice becomes a price tag of ine0tricable social demand on the individual within a group and of
group within the customs and tradition of any society whether primitive or urban" 6ven in urban
settings where ritual sacrifices are e0tinct, it has been replaced by other economic and social forces
that straight2,acket the urban person into certain paradigms of behavior, either traffic rules or
22
sanitary laws . they are modern variants of (sacrifices)" *he difference between the urban +est and
pre2urban societies is that tokens and symbols of (sacrifice) in the latter are re2invented in another
social language and form in the former" It is therefore unlikely that the +est is more sophisticated
within the paradigm of epistemological property than the more natural societies" In this parlance,
Irubo/Ebo riru 9sacrifice< becomes a reading theory from the poetics of Ifa literary and divination
corpus"
Ifa Corpus and the #piste$e of the &arrati"e Copula
In e0amining what I term the (episteme of narrative copula) in the following 6,i2Cgbe Buasi2poetic
chant, I mean to unravel the systematic thought of Yoruba concept of (duality) and (copula
binarism) that underlies the universal laws of co2e0istentiality" Cne of the Cgbe 6yonu or Cgbe
isoriire verse goes thus, as abridged by this researcher;
Og+e kan ni2in Providence favor here
Og+e kan lo2%n Erovidence favor thereM
E.i g+ede g+ig+e ni o g+e"i !opula twins of providence, come favor me
A difa f%n ore "e.ee.i It divined for two mutual friends
'i.o to $on n2 tisal% Or%n *he day they descend from the heaven
3o $a si isal% aye *hey ,ourneyed to the earth plane
Won ni +a+a "i lo "% "i "o iya "i *hey sang a song; @y father made me know my mother
#ya "i lo "% "i "o ode aye @y mother was my life2boat to the world"
Ase ti o +a s2igi s2ope If there had been no herbs and herbal solution
A$o i +a ti k% de sin &wo would have since been dead
E+o ki l2a$o "a n se45 +hat sacrifices prescribedI
E+o aik% l2a$o "a nse46 #acrifices are for healing and well beingM
E+o ki l2a$o "a n se45 +hy do Ifa Eriests prescribe sacrificeI
E+o aik% l2a$o "a nse46 #acrifices are for longevityF
23
A$on e.i7ore "e.e.i $a n2korin $ipe8 *he copula twins burst out in lyrics;
3a o k% l2od%n ni, o$o n+e If we live, we)re harbingers of wealth
Eehen, o$o n+e4 Yes, harbingers of wealthF
3a o k% lod%n ni o ayo n+e 4 If we survive, we)re harbingers of ,oyF
Eehen, ayo n+e4 Yes, harbingers of ,oyF
3a o k% lod%n ni o ile n+e4 +e live to build habitations
Eehen, ile n+e Yes, indeed, we)re habitationsF
3a o k% l2od%n ni o, ire g+og+o n+e If we live, we bring abundant favor F
Eehen, ire g+og+o n +ee4 Yes F we)re favor abundant F9translation mine<
*he episteme of 6,i2 Cgbe is the first of the 1A ma,or Cdu Ifa" &nd thus by ranking, it is one of the
most significant Cdu that underlies the Yoruba philosophy of the (copula or (duality) of nature and
of the universe" *his is a primal human science that reveals the binarism of human nature, and of
ob,ect relations in connection with the knowledge of certain unscripted laws that govern operations
of the universe" +hen a client consults an Ifa diviner and 6,i2Cgbe appears on the Cpon Ifa, the
client)s inBuisition and problem can be decoded in either of 8 or more prototype historical
archetypes of past narratives of life as programmed in Ifa folk lores" In each narrative there are
prescribed principles of symbolic and meta2referential 4sacrifices5 that foreground the
communication of choice between 4providence5 and lack of it, between life and death, between
wealth and poverty, between barrenness and fecund procreation of children, between gain and loss .
in a word, between success and failure" +ithin the conte0t of the 6,i2Cgbe poetic narrative provided
above, the client has a favorable 4Cri5
1-
which has provisionally predestined him for success in life"
ut, the &,ogun powers, under the suprasensible commando of 6su the trickster god of liminality
plane of e0istence must the appeased or propitiated in a ritual sacrifice to usher in the divine favor"
*hus, 6,i2Cgbe teaches that this client and his wife have been barren for long, and that Crunmila
says the emissaries of Clodumare are promising them through the divination (readings) that they
24
will deliver twins, if they comply to the prescribed rituals" &nd the twins will be harbingers of
tremendous blessings, wealth, fame, and long life for the family" Cne of the underlying philosophies
in this literary divination te0t is that human life is a parado0 of binary energies of causative and
negative agents which tinker with human conditions on the dotted lines of e0istential history"
Nothing comes easy" *hus, the twins as copula are latent meta2poetic foregroundings of the
possibilities of choice between good luck and ill luck, success and failure, wealth and poverty,
longevity and premature death . all of which are also ensconced in the lyrics sang by the twins" *he
twins represent the hope and possibilities which are concealed in cosmic %ones of (in2betweeness) .
fulfillment and disappointmentM 6very human condition is hanging in this %one of interlocking
balance like a pendulum in a state of restiveness, which may swing left or right depending on certain
predetermined conditions and vibrations of the mind" &nother epistemic theory of this Cdu Ifa is the
derived philosophy of reciprocity or reciprocal ,ustice, which is symboli%ed in the prescribed
(sacrifice) the client is reBuired to offer; &n offering of all kinds of grains food to children and
infants on every C,o &bameta 9#aturday<" 6ach day of the week is ritually symbolic" It has
implication for a person)s luck or otherwise, in any endeavor like business, love decision,
friendship, a particular kind of prayer, securing of employment, house warming, naming, political
or ,ackpot fortune, etc" +ithin this social and ideological belief framework, #aturday is the luckiest
day for ritual sacrifice for wealth and blessing of children" #aturday is regarded as C,o &bameta ;
aba owo, aba omo, aba alafia . day of three positive affirmations . affirmations of wealth, child2
bearing, and long life" *hese logicalities are evidences of advanced powers of philosophical
reasoning and of the sociology of narrative copula in relation to human condition" If the prescribed
offering of sacrifices of grains meal to children at C,o &bameta was meant to usher in the divine
favor of child2bearing, then, there is ingrained psycho2symbolic rheme of meaning in the act . a
tokenistic foregrounding of the principles of (sowing and reaping), a figurative distillation of the
25
client)s weakness of apathy to children)s welfare takes him to the %one of propitiation as a
(purgatory) whereby he attends a preparatory (school) of wisdom, knowledge, e0perience and
vocational training in child2care in preparation for the long awaited child that will come as double2
barreled blessings" *he idea that the twins to be born would bring wealth to the otherwise poverty2
stricken family is again another episteme which should be theori%edM It is a meta2communicative
device of foregrounding the many favors that neighbors show to couples that deliver twin babies"
*he Yoruba Criki 9praise2name < for ibe,i 9twins< goes thus; 46,ire ara isokunJ o so alakisa di onigba
aso 9*wins, mutual friends that turn their parents) poverty into wealth<" *his episteme emanates
from the Yoruba sociology of family economy" 6very one is aware that when a family gives birth to
twins, triplets or Buadruplets as the case may be, they invoke the natural sympathy and favor of
neighbors, philanthropists, social groups and governments who usually bestow lavish gifts on the
family and offer child support careM Invariably, the status and fame of the family rise on the
economic graph" &ll these analyses show that in spite of the inferiori%ation of myth as a valid site
for locating modern pliable theories of e0istentialist human condition, this branch of knowledge, in
this case Ifa literary divination corpus, embeds comparable epistemology that is relevant to modern
societies" #cience may have surpassed the humanities, it may have triumphed over myth and magic
because of the fi0ed nature of its data, but it sounds contradictory to re,ect their profound
contributions to the knowledge of (man) 9and woman< and of this comple0 universe with its
constantly mutating possibilities" *his validates my reconstruction of Ifa, elsewhere, as an academy
of history, memory, rhetorical philosophy of communication whereby all poetic verses as well as
prosaic and lyrical discourses are narrated in history formula, committed to memory, delivered with
oratorical power and constructed in powerful logic of intellectual rigor" In terms of informality,
depth of knowledge and philosophical vigor, it would be obtuse to claim any difference other than
time and space between Ifa as a school of philosophy and 47yceum5, the school of philosophy that
26
&ristotle founded in -->! to the 6 city walls of &thens and which rivaled the 4&cademy5 of Elato
as a center of philosophical research in the ancient 1reek world" No wonder Darin arber 9'00A<
has (discovered) new 4hidden histories5 and 4everyday literacy5 in the community lives of rural
societies in +est &frica dating hundreds of years back"
Conclusion
Ifa literary corpus is comparable in the conte0t primeval and contemporary scienceJtechnology as a
sub,ect of globali%ation" *he sub,ect of Ifa corpus raises a lot of fundamental Buestions bordering on
available data on its history, myth and science" &nd if, I think, the entire gamut of +estern theories
and epistemology derives from the interactive interpretations of these tripod stand of philosophical
knowledge 9history, myth, science<, then we of the humanities research in &frica need to know more
about the potential wisdom and relative science encapsulated in Ifa divination, and how this may be
appropriated to the postmodern life of &frica" ?istorically, Ifa was not a product of traditional
religious fundamentalism" =ather, it was a composite corpus of human e0istence whose ine0tricable
religious resorts are found in those prescribed ritual sacrifices which are not to be viewed or read as
literal scripts, but as symbolic codes" &nd as symbolic codes, they are Buasi2scientific formulas
delineating by every atomic and molecular sense, the gravity, trigonometric and numeric range of
6arth magnetic force energies and potential energies in measures and degrees of solution to human
problems" *hus, there is need to re92<place the theory of Ifa corpus in the conte0t of primeval and
contemporary contributions to human knowledge in science and technology rather than using Ifa
like the raw palm2oil we used to eat roasted yam in my fatherKs farm in the early si0tiesM ?ere lies a
great task for contemporary researchers in &frican studiesM
27

NC*6#
28
1
*his account is based on the archaeological e0cavation of one the oldest human remains, skeleton, at Iwo 6leru
near &kure, present day capital of Cndo #tate, Nigeria" #ee 'igeria Maga9ine 1:$'3 &"C" Clubunmi, The *ise
and Fall of the :or%+a *ace ;<,<<< 3= > ;?@< A, Ile Ife; 1:: publishers, '00$3 8" +illet, #fe in the History of
West African Art, 7ondon, 1:A$<"
2
*he erlin conference of 188>, proposed by ismarck granted official rights for 6uropean occupation of &frica as
colonies within a (New Imperial) order, until the 1:>0s and A0s when &frican #tates began to regain indepence"
3
?istory has accounted for layers of overt reasons used to mask the covert motives of 6uropean imperialism in &frica
9 1880 . 1:1/<" #ee Eeter Duignam and 7"?" 1ann eds" =olonialis" in Africa, ;AB< > ;?@<C 7ondon, !ambridge Gniversity
Eress, 1:$/"
4
#ee !laude 7evi2#trauss)s defense of primitive cultures in *he &nthropologist as ?ero ed" 6 "Nelson ?ayes and *anya
?ayes" !ambridge, @assachusetts, @"I"* Eress, 1:$0" =elevant sources include 7evi2#trauss) famous book, The savage
Mind" !hicago, Gniversity of !hicago Eress, 1:A'3 #ee also #egun Cgungbemi, Ehilosophy and Development" Ibadan,
?ope Eublishers, '00$"
5
6mile Durkheim)s sociological theories provide landmarks in the theory of society" #ee &nthony 1iddens ed" 6mile
Durkheim #elected +ritings" New York, !ambridge Gniversity Eress, 18$'"
6
ronislaw @alinowski did e0tensive work on the ethnography of family and social organi%ation among the aborigines of
&ustralia and the primitive cultures" #ee, ronislaw @alinowski, *he #e0ual 7ife of #avages, eacon Eress, 1:8$"
7
*he concept of abalawo has been interpreted by scholar of different research interests, sometimes ridiculously to validate
their claims" #ome people say it means 4father of secrets5" *his meaning simply derives from the interpreters imagination of
the so much orchestrated 4secrecy5 associated with the cult and operations of the babalawos" Cthers like *"8" Hemiriye says
it derives from the suffi0 (awo) meaning plate, in which case the researcher claims that the word abalawo means (father)
who keeps the (plate) in which opele 2 the stringed ob,ects of divination is kept" ?owever, perhaps the most natural and
sensible meaning of the word is its derivation from the sentence (aba to nsise awo) . the elderly man who (cures)2 that is a
local physician or herbalist" No wonder the Yoruba say (Cri l n gbe ni ko alawo rereM . It is one)s inner (head) . the avatar
of predestination, that leads a one to a good one who cures . a physician"
8
@ask of ancestral spirit that performs seasonally" *his underlies the Yoruba theory of reincarnation"
9
*his is a non2se0ist choice of word" It is common to find phrases like (fatherland) and motherland) in critical discourses"
y using the co2gender word (parentland, we)re careful to avoid such gender language controversy"
10
Hean !opans paper, 4&frican #tudies on the 6ve of the '1
st
century was delivered as part of the I8=& 7ecture #eries at
the Drappers ?all, Institute of &frican #tudies, Gniversity of Ibadan, Ibadan, Nigeria on &pril 1', 1:::" #ee Nelson
8ashina, 4Eost2!olonial =eading #trategies and the Eroblem of !ultural @eaning5"In; *he Hournal of Ean &frican St%dies,
vol ', no" >,9 Huly '008<, pp"A02$$"" *his paper addresses the roots of the &frican philosophical problem"
11
!opious references were made to this book in =la%de -evis7Stra%ss The Anthropologist as Hero eds" 6" Nelson ?ayes
and *anya ?ayes, !ambridge @"I"* Eress, 1:$0"
12
#ee note $ where I disagreed to this misleading meaning of the term, (abalawo)"
13
&ccording to &bimbola, in The Sixteen !reat Poe"s of #fa GN6#!C 1:$> 4Cri is the most important element
of each individual)s personality5 and as such the 4concept of Cri is F basic to Yoruba philosophy of life" *he
concept helps the Yoruba to e0plain such otherwise incomprehensible happenings as sudden death, human
suffering and goodluck5"
I7IC1=&E?Y
&bimbola, +ande" The Sixteen !reat Poe"s of #faC GN6#!C, Niamey,1:$>"
777777777777777777777 C #fa8 An Exposition of #fa -iterary =orp%s, C0ford Gniversity Eress, Ibadan,
1:$$"
&folabi, Niyi 4*he Eoetry of Double #ense; *oyin 8alola and &deronke &desanya)s Etches on
FreshWaters1C In8 Etches on Fresh Waters, !arolina &cademic Eress, '008, A2'$"
&wolalu, H" Cmosade" :or%+a 3eliefs and Sacrificial *itesC 6sse0, GD, 7ongman, 1:$:"
&no%ie, #unday" Str%ct%ral Models and African Poetics8 To$ards a Prag"atic Theory of
-iterat%re, 7ondon, =outledge and Degan Eaul, 1:81"
Aristotle Poetics trans" 1eorge +halley, ed" Hohn a0ter and Eatrick &therton, 7ondon; uffalo,
@c1ill2Queen)s Gniversity Eress, @ontreal R Dingston 9p"0v<"
7777777777777777777 C Hidden Histories8 Everyday -iteracy and Making the Self # loomington,
Indiana Gniversity Eress, '00A"
akari, =" #entwali, 46pistemology from an afrocentric Eerspective; 6nhancing lack #tudents)
!onsciousness through an &frocentric +ay of *hinking5
4 http;JJdigitalcommons"unl"eduJpoccwi'J'0
auman, =ichard" Lerbal &rt &s Eerformance +aveland Eress, 1:8/"
ascom, +illiam" #fa ivination8 =o""%nication +et$een !ods and Men in West Africa"
@idland ooks, 1::1"
loom, ?arold" ed" Sa"%el Taylor =oleridge2s *i"e of the Ancient Mariner 1$:$, New York;
!helsea Eublishers,1:8A"
odunrin, Eeter" Philosophy in Africa, Ile Ife, Gniversity of Ife Eress, 1:8>"
!ornford, 8rancis @acDonald" Elato)s *heory of Dnowledge; *he *heatatus and the #ophist of
Elato" New York; 7iberal &rts Eress, 1:>$"
!uller, Honathan ed" Str%ct%ralist Poetics8 Str%ct%ralis", ling%istics and -iterat%re Ithaca; !ornell
Gniversity Eress,1:$>"
8alola, *oyin" 'ationalis" and African #ntellect%als Gniversity of =ochester Eress, '001"
22222222222222222 " A Mo%th S$eeter than Salt &nn &rbor8 *he Gniversity of @ichigan Eress, '00/"
22222222222222222 " The Po$er of African =%lt%res, New York, Gniversity of =ochester Eress, '00-"
22222222222 *oyin, and &deronke &" &desanya" Etches on Fresh Waters Durham, North !arolina,
!arolina &cademic Eress, '008"
8ashina, Nelson C" 4Eost2!olonial =eading #trategies and the Eroblem of !ultural @eaning5"In;
The Do%rnal of Pan African St%dies, vol ', no" >, 9Huly '008<" pp"A02$$"
8ashina, Nelson C" =reativity and the Poetics of *adical Episte"ology in Toyin Falola,
8orthcoming"
-------------------- 7 47it2Crature , Development, +orld Eeace and the !hallenges of 7iterary
*heoryJ!riticism5 Do%rnal of the 'igeria English St%dies Association 9HN6#&<, '00>"
2222222222222222222 " 4Cgun, #ango, Cya; Iron and @etallurgy, +orld *echnology and the
@odern#upernatural5=onte"poraryisco%rse,'00',App"
ShttpJJnigeriaworld"comJcolumnistJfashinaJbio"htmlT"
1ates, Hr", ?enry 7ouis" The Signifying Monkey8 A Theory of African7A"erican -iterary
=riticis"" New York, C0ford Gniversity Eress, 1:88"
?ughes, ?" #tuart" The O+str%cted Path" New York, ?arper and =ow, 1:A8"
Idowu, ola,i 6" Olod%"are8 !od in :or%+a 3eliefC 7ondon, 7ongman,1:A' reprinted , New
York,&R ooks, 1::/"
Irele, &biola" 4Introduction5 in Eaulin ?ounton,i, African Philosophy8 Myth and *eality,
loomington; Indiana Gniversity Eress, 1:$A"
2222222222222222 " The African #"agination8 -iterat%re in African and the 3lack iaspora, New
York, C0ford GE, '001"
22222222222222222 " 4*he &frican #cholar; Is lack &frica 6ntering the Dark &ges of #cholarshipI5"
Transition, >1, 1::1"
Heyifo, iodun" The Tr%thf%l -ie8 Essays in a *adical Sociology of African ra"a, 7ondon,
New eacon ooks, 1:8>"
7evi2#trauss, !laude" Str%ct%ral Anthropology, &llen 7ane, Eenguin Eress, 1:A8"
2222222222222222222222222 " The Savage Mind, C0ford; C0ford Gniversity Eress, 1::A"
222222222222222222222222 " Tote"is" 9trans" Needham< oston, eacon Eress, 1:A-"
7indfors, ernth" Folklore in 'igerian -iterat%re Ibadan; !altop publications, '00'"
Cgungbemi, #egun" Philosphy and evelop"ent" Ibadan; ?ope Eublishers, '00$"
Ckpewho, Isidore" African Oral -iterat%re8 3ackgro%nds, =haracter and =ontin%ity"
loomington, Indiana Gniversity Eress, 1::'"
Cluwole, #ophie" Philosophy and Oral Tradition, 7agos; &=D, 1::$, etc"
Csundare, Niyi" 4&frican literature and the !risis of Eost2#tructuralist *heorising"5 ialog%e in
African Philosophy @onograph #eries, Ibadan, Cptions ooks, 1::-"
2222222222222222 " 4 &spects of the #ocio2#tylistic =epercussions of *ransition from Cral into
+ritten5 In Do%rnal of =o"parative -iterat%re nos" -, 1:8-"
Erah, Dwesi Dwaa" 4eyond the !olor 7ine; Ean2&frican Disputations5" In; Selected Sketches,
Paper and *evie$s" *renton, &frica +orld Eress, 1::8"
#hand, Hohn" Ehilosophy and Ehilosophers; &n Introduction to +estern Ehilosophy" 7ondon;
Gniversity !ollege 7ondon, 1::-"
#ekoni, Folk Poetics 8 A Socio7se"iotic St%dy of :or%+a Trickster Tales +estport, !*, 1reen
Eress, 1::/"
Gdefi, &maechi" 4=orty)s Neopragmatism and the Imperative of the Discourse of &frican
6pistemology5" In; H%"an Affairs" Issue 19'00:<, pp" $828A"
+iredu, Dwasi" Philosophy and African =%lt%re !ambridge; !ambridge Gniversity Eress,
1:80"