The Philosophy of Upgradeable Cosmos: The Essences of "Omo" (Children) in Yoruba Ethno-Cosmology

Article excerpt


The concept of reality among the Yoruba has its genesis in myths, folklore, proverbs and syllogisms as manifested in "Odu IFA". This is demonstrated in the place of "OMO" (child) in the Yoruba broad cultural and ontological systems. Yoruba people are not only relentless with the perpetuation of the cultural system but also of the lineage, hence the emphasis on procreation. Again the emphasis is not just any child at all cost as indicated in Eurocentric literature but on "quality" children who would uphold the legacy of tradition. This is attested to in a myriad of Yoruba proverbs and axioms which portray quality children to be the most desirable while the bad ones are resented. No doubt the Yoruba remain uncompromising in their wishes to perpetuate tradition and protect family legacy.


The Yoruba concept of reality has its genesis in the traditional beliefs of the people. The themes of these beliefs are in most part articulated through myths, folklore, proverbs, and syllogisms which are embedded in "ODU IFA" (Abimbola, 1971). These form the basis of Yoruba reflections on life. A number of scholars have either implicitly or explicitly written on the African concept of human imagination (Beattie, 1964). There is no doubt that these works have contributed in no small measure in bringing to light many important facts regarding the African perception of reality. Moreover, the centerpiece of these scholarly writings in many instances, is totally out of harmony with the African reality as it has been subjected to Eurocentric interpretations of reality (Gbadegesin, 1992). At the end, the impression created by these writings is that of a society in harmony with Euro-American imagination that is totally different from the African world as perceived and lived by them (Hallen, 1976).

It is the contention of this essay that in order to attain a serious understanding of the African world-view, attempts must be made to accord serious regard to certain indigenous beliefs and practices since they may have no analog in Euro-American culture because of its quintessential Africanness. For a thorough understanding, therefore, there is the need to consider carefully the sociocultural environment, the religious beliefs and practices, the language of the people in their own right as they may likely carry hidden meanings of some cultural realities. The present essay contends that any serious scholarly writing regarding the sociological reality of a non-western people need not necessarily be subjected to the thought pattern of Western societies as its import may be lost in such an attempt.

The objective of this essay therefore is an exploration of the essence of "OMO" (child) in Yoruba cosmology as mediated through proverbs, myths and folk sayings. From our exposition, it would be clear that the Yoruba concept of "OMO" is generally meaningful within their lived experience. It is part of a coherent intellectual system which portrays a pragmatic moral perspective according to which the ultimate meaning of human existence is to be found. The Yoruba concept of "OMO" as articulated through their language, does not signify obsession with a large number of children as is constantly depicted in the ethnographic literature, which claims that "a large progeny was the key determinant of a man's social prestige" (Henn, 1991), but rather with a high quality children that are capable of maintaining family tradition--a point hidden in proverbs and names given to infants but often missed in ethnographic literature because of the subjection of the African reality to Euro-American interpretation.

In the discussion on marital organization in nonwestern societies, the importance of a wife to the economic prosperity of her husband was considered the most important factor "because the alliances created by marriage ties were important to the political and the military strength of households and their heads" (Rubin, 1975). …