Today’s Sunday Snippet is from children’s book Yetunde: An Ode To My Mother by Segilola Salami. Segilola reads a chapter from the book this coming Tuesday on the Segilol Salami Show.
About Yetunde: An Ode To My Mother
Death is wicked . . .
Follow baby Yetunde as she narrates her mother’s ode to her grandmother. It is the Yoruba praise poetry for a mother known as Oriki Iya
This is a short story dedicated to past, present and future mothers.
A perfect mother’s day present
The book is mostly in English and any Yoruba words are translated, so everyone can enjoy the book fully.
Later on that evening, after dinner – and a most delicious one at that – it was bath time, then story time before bed. Mama made jollof rice for dinner, with turkey stew and dodo! I sure felt lucky to have such a most wonderful Mama.
Anyhoos, Mama sat on her bed. She rested against all of her pillows, piled up sky high, and held me close to her. My head on her chest, rising and falling in tune with her heartbeat. Mama said that her arms couldn’t always cope with carrying me for a long time. As she switched off the lights, she started talking . . .
“Eh hen Yetunde, mo ti ranti alo kan. I just remembered a story. As I talked about Yemoja this afternoon, I think I should finish off with a story about her that my mother told me.”
She gently stroked my back, more whispering than talking, really.
“Okay, so before I start, I should probably explain a few things. I know you’re sleepy, but don’t worry I’ll explain this all over again when you’re bigger.
For instance, Baalẹ is the leader of a village. You can think of him as the mayor. And ori literally means head. However, the Yorubas believe…how do I explain this, now?”
Mama paused, humming as she thought.
“Okay, your body is your physical self, your Ori is your spiritual self. Everyone has their own Ori, or like the Igbos say, their Chi. Your Ori is like…your instincts, your intuition, your guardian angel. It also knows your destiny, and that is why it is looked at as an Oriṣa in its own right. When you know your Ori, you know yourself. When you and your Ori are aligned, you find inner peace and satisfaction.
“So, to start my story,” this was Mama still talking, “story story!” “Story!” I replied.
Mama had told me that back in Nigeria, to start a story, a storyteller would say “story story” and the listener would reply “story”. The storyteller would then go on to say “once upon a time” and the listener would also reply “time, time!”
Now I am going to tell you the story exactly the way Mama told it to me. Imagine that you are listening to the story as if you are hearing it directly from my Mama OK!
“Once upon a time, pause. A very very long time ago, in the old Oyo Empire… The Yorubas once had a mighty and powerful empire. Well, that’s a story for another day.
Well, in one of the small villages in the old Oyo Empire lived a woman and her daughter. The woman’s husband had died a few years before, from a mysterious illness. The villagers accused the woman of being a witch. This was also because she had given birth to eleven children, and all but one had died.
Her only child was called Ọmọlabakẹ or Labakẹ for short. The woman was called Iya Labakẹ, meaning Labakẹ’s mother. Labakẹ was a very beautiful young lady, and all the young men in the village wanted to marry her.
One day, Labakẹ and her friends went to the market in a neighbouring village. On their way back, they passed by the Balogun of that village on the road.
A Balogun is a warrior chief who leads a village’s warriors out to battle in times of war.
The Balogun stopped them and called out to Labakẹ. He asked her if she was from his village, because he had never seen her before. She greeted him with the respect deserved by a man of his position and told him that she was a visitor to their village, but was on her way back home now.
The Balogun then said to her:
“You are a most beautiful young lady. I will make you my tenth wife.” To his guards, he asked:
“Have I spoken well, or have I not spoken well?” His guards all chorused “Ẹ wi rẹ, you have spoken very well.”
The Balogun smiled, then his facial expression went very serious. He turned to his next-in-command, and said, “Ogunjimi, bring her with us”. Then he started walking away. Ogunjimi tossed Labakẹ on his shoulder screaming and followed the Balogun.
Labakẹ’s friends all ran away to their village. As they approached Labakẹ’s house, they screamed ‘“Iya wa Iya wa, our mother, our mother.”
Iya Labakẹ rushed out of the house, she cried: “Kilode? What is it? Why are you screaming? Ni bo ni ọmọ mi wa? Where is my daughter?”
Labakẹ’s friends all replied in unison:
“Won ti mu Labakẹ ọrẹ wa lo, they’ve taken Labakẹ our friend away!”
“Mi o gbo e daada, I didn’t hear you very well. Aṣabi my child, please tell me what happened exactly.” Iya Labakẹ said Aṣabi.
So Aṣabi narrated everything that happened, how Labakẹ was abducted. Iya Labakẹ sighed heavily…
“Ọmọ mi, mo gbọ e oh, sugbon mi o gba. Bo ya, o gbo nti Balogun so. Oya je ka lo ri wan. My children, I’ve heard what you said, but I don’t accept it. Maybe you didn’t hear what the Balogun said properly. Okay, let’s go see him.”
When they got to the Balogun’s house, he wasn’t in, and the guards would not let Iya Labakẹ see her daughter, so Iya Labakẹ and Labakẹ’s friends went to the Baalẹ’s palace.
The Balogun was there.
After greeting the Baalẹ and his chiefs, Iya Labakẹ said that she was told that the Balogun had taken her daughter to help him run some errands.
She added that, as she had no one else to help her in her village, she would like to know when the Balogun would send her daughter back to her.
The Balogun jumped up and began to brag:
“Emi Balogun ma ni, conqueror of villages. I’ve killed tigers with my bare hands. I’ve journeyed to the land of the spirits and returned unharmed. I am a mighty man of valour. In fact, I am a hundred men in one. I did not send your daughter on an errand. I have made her my wife. Woman, you are now the mother-in-law to a great man. Go inform the men in your family, we shall see them soon.”
Iya Labakẹ clapped her hands “pekele pekele arugbo je gbese, tani o san? An old man has gotten into debt, who will save him? Iya Labakẹ said to mock the Balogun. “Balogun, that was exactly what I was told that you did but I wanted to honour you. I didn’t know you were an old senseless fool. In this your stupid-stinking-God-forsaken-never-do-well village, is that how you marry a wife? Or is it because the women in your village look like the poo from a corpse that you decided to capture my daughter? Look here, save yourself from disgrace and release my daughter to me immediately.”
“Guards!” bellowed the Baalẹ. “Tie this woman to that tree and flog her mercilessly. How dare she come to our village and throw such abuse our way. She should be grateful that our noble and mighty Balogun found her daughter worthy enough to be his wife. Once you’ve finished flogging her, send her on her miserable way.”
Labakẹ’s friends all ran away for fear of being beaten too.
Iya Labakẹ made her way back to her village in tears when the palace guards finally released her. As she was walking she cried out to her ancestors.
“Iya mi, ṣe en sun ni?
Eleda mi, ṣe en sun ni?
Ori mi, ṣe en sun ni?
Eyin Iya s’aye, ṣe en sun ni?
Eyin Iya to bẹ l’orun, ṣe en sun ni?
Iya Iya mi, ṣe en sun ni?
Mo n jiya o.
Iya yi ti pọ ju.
My mother are you asleep?
My creator, are you asleep?
My head, are you asleep?
Earthly mothers, are you asleep?
Heavenly mothers, are you asleep?
I am suffering
This suffering is too much.
I was blessed with many children, Iku mu wan le kan kan. Death took them one by one. I said nothing. The last one that was spared for me, the last one to be my companion until Death eventually comes for me, now they want to take her away from me. Ko ṣe ṣe, impossible. My mothers, you have to do something about it because I will not let you have peace otherwise.
Ori mi, ejọ, Ẹlẹda mi ejọ, ẹ ma jẹ kin jiya
Please my Head, please my Creator, please don’t let me suffer.
My Ori, my Creator, are you just going to watch me suffer? Please have mercy on me. I have nobody but you. The villagers call me names, but you know I’m not a witch. Please help me, please come to my rescue.
At this point, Iya Labakẹ was by her village’s stream. Exhaustion took over, and she sat down on the ground. She was crying profusely, still calling on her Ori, her Head, her Creator, and all the mothers of the world both in Heaven and on Earth.
Suddenly she heard, “Arabirin, woman!”
Iya Labakẹ scrambled up, looking around to see where the voice came from. She spotted a young, beautiful lady sitting on a big rock right alongside the river. Iya Labakẹ walked closer to her, wondering who she was.
The young lady said, “Iya Labakẹ, why are you making so much noise by my river?”
Iya Labakẹ looked at her in shock. She said, “I have not seen this face before. Who are you and how do you know my name? What kind of nonsense are you talking about? What do you mean, ‘your river’?”
The young lady replied, “I know you very well, Iya Labakẹ. Don’t worry, I will tell you a little about me very soon. But first, what troubles you?”
This made Iya Labakẹ remember her troubles, which she had temporarily forgotten due to her curiosity about the young lady. She started crying again.
“Ah ọmọ mi, my child, if I could do more than cry I would. My last surviving child has been taken away from me and I am powerless to do anything about it. As if that were not enough, I was beaten like a dog and chased away.”
“Iya Labakẹ, all the mothers in Heaven and on Earth heard your tears and your call for help. In fact, it was even your Ori that went to plead with them for help on your behalf. Olodumare commanded them to help you out,” the young lady said earnestly.
To enjoy the rest of the story, please get your copy on Amazon today