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Ìwà l'ẹ̀sìn (Character is worship)

Ilara, Nigeria, ca. 1950 by Pierre Verger

Àṣà Yorùbá ní ọ̀pọ̀lọpọ̀ òwe tó sọ̀rọ̀ nípa ìwà. Ẹ jẹ́ ká wo ọ̀kan nínú òwe wọ̀nyí. Àwọn Yorùbá máa ń sọ pé "Ìwà l'ẹ̀sìn".


Yorùbá culture has many proverbs that speak about character. Let's look at one of these proverbs. As the Yorùbá say, "Character is worship".


Kí ni ìtumọ̀ òwe yìí? Àwọn èèyàn máa ń gbàdúrà sí Òrìṣà fún ire. Wọn sì máa ń gbàdúrà pé kí wọ́n ṣàṣeyọrí ní ayé, ṣùgbọ́n ìwà ló máa sọ bí ayé èèyàn ṣe máa rí.


What is the meaning of this proverb? People pray to Òrìṣà for blessings and to be successful in life, but character is what really tells how someone's life will be.


Ìwà burúkú máa bà gbogbo ire tó bá gbà lọ́wọ́ Òrìṣà jẹ́. Ìwà rere lè ṣí ọ̀pọ̀lọpọ̀ ìlẹ̀kùn fún ení l'ayé.


Bad character will spoil all of the blessings you receive from Òrìṣà. Good character can open many doors for you in life.


Kó tó gbàdúrà sí òrìṣà fún ire, rí pé ó ń hu ìwà rere.


Before you pray to Òrìṣà for blessings, ensure that you are acting with good character.


Vocabulary:

ọ̀pọ̀lọpọ̀ = many/a lot

ìwà = character

òwe = proverb

ọ̀kan nínú wọn = one of them

gbàdúrà = to pray

ṣàṣeyọrí = to be successful

ìwà rere = good character

ìwà burúkú = bad character

bà jẹ́ = to spoil

gbà lọ́wọ́ = to receive something from someone

ìlẹ̀kùn = door

ṣí ìlẹ̀kùn = to open a door

hùwà = to behave


About the author:

I am a black person from the diaspora who is learning the Yorùbá language to reconnect with my ancestors and decolonize my mind. This is the first of many such writings.


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