Some of us already know that greeting is an important characteristic of Yoruba culture. Why? Well, it took a recent experience for me to delve into the reason behind its importance.
Sitting in a lecture room with students of diverse background and culture, we eagerly awaited the new lecturer who would be filling in for Dr. Chisom who had to take a medical leave. Within minutes, he walked in and began with complaints about the need for extra hours to complete the curriculum. “What an introduction!” I thought to myself. Though formally dressed, I did not need a soothsayer to discern that he was Yoruba; his accent gave him away.
Still agitated, he eventually began his lecture. In the course of this, Olubukola, a popular female student walked in and hurriedly bypassed him without greeting. She was still searching for a seat when he beckoned to her to come forward. In my mind, I knew she was in trouble and something told me it was because she did not acknowledge him. Personally, I felt she probably did not see greeting him as necessary since she was already late and needed to settle in for his ongoing lecture. The lecturer apparently did not see it from my point of view. “Ta ni o?” meaning ‘who are you?’ he asked irritatingly. Most of the students couldn’t help chuckling at the combination of his accent and mood. ‘Olubukola sir’, she responded in a humbling tone. “O-l-u-b-u-k-o-l-a! Omo Yooba! Ah!” he continued, emphasising the fact that she was Yoruba. He went on to express his disappointment at Olubukola’s actions saying it was even more disappointing as she obviously had Yoruba roots and still could not take it upon herself to greet him before taking her seat.
I began pondering from where I sat about this. Why do Yoruba people seem overly particular about greeting? Could it be that, it’s their most emphasised virtue and if so, why is that?
I wanted answers and wanted them fast so I began my research which led to the following:
In Yoruba Culture, Respect is the core value and Greeting is associated with Respect
In Yoruba land, respect is highly associated with greeting. It is vital for children to show respect to everyone around them especially their elders because they believe it shows good moral backgrounds and brings the admiration and respect of society to their family. Right from their childhood, children are taught to greet their parents, grandparents, uncles, aunties, older siblings and other relatives. The girls would kneel while greeting and the boys would lie down flat while greeting. When responding to calls, they would reply “beeni ma” or “beeni sir” which means “yes ma” or “yes sir”.
Yoruba people believe this manner of greeting would soften the hearts of elders who in turn would want to shower good gifts as well as accepting the requests of the young ones. To elders in Yoruba communities, greeting appropriately opens doors for the young ones. To an extent, the latter has proven to be true from my experience.
WHAT HAPPENS OUTSIDE YORUBA LAND?
Even Yoruba people in diaspora do not overlook this key aspect of respect, as first generation adults tend to take the greeting culture as seriously as their own parents took it. It may be a little harder for Yoruba’s in diaspora to teach their own children appropriate greetings in Yoruba land as the society in which they live in has different attributions to respect other than greeting. The effect of this can be confusion on the part of the children as they wonder why their mode of greeting has to be different from their non-Yoruba peers or worst still, why they are rebuked for non-conformance to Yoruba way of greeting. They may not properly understand until they have reached a certain age and are able to properly understand their roots and the importance it places on being respectful to elders and members of society. That can be avoided or hastened by helping them understand the context of greeting in Yoruba land.
BASIC GREETINGS IN YORUBA
- Good morning – ekaro
- Good afternoon – ekasan
- Good evening – ekurole
- Good night – ekale
- Welcome – ekabo
- Farewell - odabo
The foregoing are a few available greeting in Yoruba culture. A popular joke about Yoruba people is that they have a greeting for every situation and person. It is funny but true to a great extent.
In light of the importance of greeting in Yoruba culture, we are working on a new app that is specially dedicated to greeting in Yoruba culture. It promises to be more in-depth than the greeting lesson in our current Yoruba101 app . Sign up for updates by clicking this link.