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Yoruba Day Festival, Thinking Yoruba First: The importance of Ethnic Identity

A woman was coming out of a store, she needs not introduce herself to me, by her dressing I immediately recognized where she likely hailed…

Ooni of Ife by Samuel Alabi on Unsplash
Photo of the Ooni of Ife by Samuel Alabi on Unsplash

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash
Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

A woman was coming out of a store, she needs not introduce herself to me, by her dressing I immediately recognized where she likely hailed from and what her faith would be. Such is the power of Identity and cultural values. The ijab on this woman’s head, and the rest of her ensembles all put together gave her away as an Arabian or Pakistani woman. I do not need to name three countries before I can identified her. I then questioned myself, the identity of my many friends who dressed similarly yet they are not from Arabia, nor from Pakistan or other majority Islamic country. How is it that a person’s identity is destroyed by the ideology that they have come to embrace.

For a Yoruba, the beautiful ensembles of our ancestors is unmatched. From the decent and colorful wrappers made of Sanyan, Alaari and Aso Oke to the short sleeved or long sleeved Buba, matched with beautiful beads that were manufactured in our land. We truly consumed that which we made during the time of Yoruba independence. It was a time when women rule the trade of Aso Oke and they change the lives of many from the trade. Mojisola alaso Oke, these were the stories our father Alawiye taught us in his evergreen textbook of Yoruba language.

Today, I can no longer recognize my Yoruba sisters, they are donned in the attire of the Arabs, their ways of eating, talking, and relating to the world has been completely reprogrammed to that of an Arab. They are Yoruba by name but their inner engine has been reprogrammed as that of an Arab. The Arabic language is now considered to be sacred yet it’s just a language for the typical Arab native. Despite their proudness they are still not Arabs when it’s time for the Arabian to get called to the stage. Humans are malleable and we take different shapes.

The same goes for my sisters in the 3 piece suits and the hat, I see a woman that is replaced in her Psyche. They will rather call on the name of others ancestors rather than their ancestors. In fact they curse the spirit of their ancestors. Can we actually blame the subsequent generations? The children learn from watching their parents.

Having lived in the west for decades, I observed that the west never abandoned their identity. Their food has not changed for centuries, their clothing has not changed neither did their God nor their Mythology changed. They experienced others but always ensured that their core values are preserved. There are those who wants to argue that colonialism and slavery created identity shifting in the colonized and enslaved, while this is a great explanation, it’s still insufficient reasons for us to completely abandon 95% of our rich culture and traditions and Identity.

As Yoruba is gradually shifting in consciousness from the age of shame to re-emergence, resurgence of our true identity should be in the fore front. It’s time for us to abandon foreign outfits and make our Yoruba clothing industry re-emerge, it’s time for us to let people see the Yoruba identity once they look at us. Find a Segi, get yourself an Iyun, wear Aso Oke, Sanyan, Adiire, Alaari. Wear your name with pride and be comfortable with the names of your ancestors. It’s alright to practice other religion but there is problem when all your reference point for explanation is only from the holy books of others and you know nothing about the holy book of your ancestors. Something tells me, when a book you are reading tells you that your ancestors are evil and should be destroyed, the intentions of such books should be questioned.

Half talk fills the wise. Let’s be Yoruba conscientiously.

Yoruba Day Festival, Thinking Yoruba First

Dr. Bukola 3/18/2022

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