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  • Desola Olaleye

Oríkì Omo Tápà


Photo by Samuel Alabi

The oríkì is not simply a praise poem but historical data as claimed by the historian Bolanle Awe. It offers a map for tracing one's lineage but is also a rich resource for learning about the making of identity and nuances of Yorùbá culture. The oríkì is both a portrait of an individual and celebration of community. Below is my paternal grandfather's oríkì, first printed in 2008 to mark his 80th birthday. The references to Tápà, a Yorùbá word for Nupe people, confirm my family's Nupe ancestry and underline the complexity of Yorùbá identity.




Babátúndé Àkànde, the child of ọ̀tẹ̀tẹ̀

Who chooses the morning to start kuli kuli fires (for roasting).

Olúbísí the son of Aláro the horseman

The dead Tápà man, hard to hassle, the Tápà youth, hard to accept.


When he’s idle, he says ‘help me bring fresh cotton’

My fresh cotton has become a lot, my fresh honey has become very expensive

The owner of rivers, I hop before I enter into Ọya

I hide to swim into the country rivers.


When the Tápà in front rides his horses on the upriver

They will hit the horses with punches to the mouth

I am related to the Tápà from the earliest times

I am not related to the latter ones.


The children of Ìrẹ̀sì obi from Ìlódò

It is in your father’s house where they use ègbodò to set the date of the masquerade outing.

Child of Tápà, Tápà, rain, follow me back home.



Notes and Acknowledgements: This oríkì, like all, was originally composed and recited in Yorùbá. A few words in this oríkì are proper nouns in Yorùbá that could not be translated into English and others left untranslated bear a meaning that seems ambiguous. My sincere gratitude to Kọ́lá Túbọ̀sún for his help with the translation.


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