Wednesday 6 July 2022

The Niger and the West Sudan : or the West African's note book

The Yorubas and Others

" The Filani and the Hausas have been dealt with first because they are found, at any rate in small numbers, in all of the British West African colonies. It is now time to glance at the others....

The peoples speaking the Yoruba tongues are the Egba or Ikba of the Abeokuta country, the Nagos of Porto Novo, and the Ikelu and the Jebu of Lagos. Sultan Bello says of the Yorubas : They originated from the remnants of the children of Canaan ( Phรฆnicians ), who were of the tribe of Nimrod, son of Cush ( Gen. x. ). The cause of their establishment in the West of Africa was, as it is stated, in consequence of their being driven by Yaa-Rooba, son of Kahtan, out of Arabia, to the western coast between Egypt and Abyssinia. From that spot they advanced into the interior of Africa till they reached Yarba, where they fixed their residence.

If the Yorubas really came from the Phรฆnicians there seems to be a very much simpler explanation, viz., that they are sprung from colonists left by the great expedition of 612 B.C., and colour is given to this view by the fact that there were and are many inferior [?] tribes inland between the east and them, whereas it has nearly always happened that the higher races pushed the lower to the west or south, and only came west themselves after having annihilated or absorbed them, or on being in turn driven out by even stronger peoples.

The legend given here is taken from Crowther's “ Grammar and Vocabulary of the Yoruba Language. “ The kingdom of Yoruba formerly extended from Katanga to Ijebbu, a district on the bank of the Lagos, a few miles distant from the sea. One language is still spoken by the inhabitants of this large country, though it is distinguished by several dialects. The Kakanda language, on the bank of the Niger, may safely be called a daughter of the Yoruba. The name Katanga is called by the Yoruba, Oyo. It is said by the Yorubans that fifteen persons were sent from a certain region, and that a sixteenth, whose name was Okambi ( an only child ), and who was afterwards made King of Yoruba, volunteered to accompany them. The personage who sent them out presented Okambi with a small piece of black cloth, with something tied up in it, besides a fowl, a servant, and a trumpeter. 

On opening the gate of this unknown region they observed a large expanse of water before them, through which they were obliged to wade. As they went on, Okinkin, the trumpeter, reminded Okambi of the small piece of cloth by sounding the trumpet, according to the instructions he had previously received from the personage above - mentioned. The cloth being opened, a palm-nut, which was deposited in it with some earth, fell into the water. The nut grew immediately into a tree, which had sixteen branches. As the travellers were all fatigued from their long march in the water they were very glad of this unexpected means of relief, and soon climbed up and rested themselves on the branches. 

When they had recruited their strength they prepared again for the journey, yet not without great perplexity, not knowing in what direction they should proceed. In this situation a certain personage, Okikisi, saw them from the region whence they set out, and reminded Okinkin, the trumpeter, of his duty, on which he sounded again, and thus reminded Okambi of the small piece of black cloth, as before. On opening it some earth dropped into the water and became a small bank, when the fowl which was given to Okambi flew upon it and scattered it, and wherever the earth touched the water it immediately dried up. Okambi then descended from the palm-tree, allowing only his servant, Tetu, and his trumpeter to come with him. 

The other persons begged that they might be allowed to come down, but he did not comply with their request until they had promised to pay him, at certain times, a tax of 200 cowries each person. Thus originated the Kingdom of Yoruba, which was afterwards called Ife, from whence three brothers set out for a further discovery of better countries.

I have related this tradition with a view to show the confused idea of the Yorubans respecting both the Creation and the Flood. The Yorubans, like other nations, have always considered themselves the first people in the world, especially as the Kingdom of Yoruba, in former time, extended to Benin, as well as to Dahomey.

Is it possible that the legend of the water referred really to the sea, and that the ships were the islands ? If so, it would support the origin from Necho's Phรฆnician sailors. But it must be admitted that there is not much to support such a theory. On the contrary, the Yorubas, not being a Mohammedan nation, would not be so anxious to claim an Eastern origin as, say, the Hausas and others who pretend to look down upon the surrounding unbelievers, forgetting that they themselves were Moslems only by compulsion.

Bishop Vidal says ( vide Crowther's Grammar ) that there is no modification of the verb as in Semitic languages, that verbs and adjectives have special adverbs ( like Nupe ? ), but that the form of poetry resembles the Hebrew."

By A. J. N. Tremearne (1910)

* Epa Helmet Mask - via pinterest


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