Rev. Khandi Konte-Bey (Paasewe)

Oral Presentation Essay Afrikan Literature

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Book: Tales of the Yoruba Gods and Heroes collected by Harold Courlander

Thesis of Presentation: Discussion the Afrikan genesis as the developmental seed of Afrikan culture;(the asili); how the stories are a part of the ideological core of the matrix of Afrikan culture; and how they "tales" are associated with the more than 200 odus (laws) of the Ifa (oracle).

I. Key terms

II. Author's Note

III. Definition of key terms

IV. Supportive information and analysis of "tales"

V. Conclusion

VI. Bibliography

Author's Note

All spellings of amerikkka, united states (lower case), whites, i in intentional lower case, We in capital, overstand vs. understand, european in lower case are totally intentional as a point of emphasis and to symbolize my non-participation in the racial psychopathology which is in opposition to the Afrikan centered ethos of which this author subscribes.


Afrikan genesis stories are a part of the Asili, Utamawazo and Utamaroho of Afrikan reality. The book, The Tales of the Yoruba Gods and Heroes, stories collected by Harold Courlander, reveals how Afrikan people observe the world around us and reflect upon it in a wholly scriptures form of "tales" (odus, the laws of the Ifa oracle) and how We interpret the creation and cosmic phenomena. Our discussion will ,address Courlander as the collector, define our tools for analysis: Asili, Utamawazo, and Utamaroho and how they are fundamental in Afrikan "tales" (the Afrikan genesis scriptures), the "tales" as a part of the ideological core and matrix of Afrikan culture, and the "tales' " association with the more than 200 odus (laws) of the Oracle of Ifa.

Courlander attempts to do an all too brief acknowledgment of those Afrikans who contributed to his efforts to collect the scriptures "tales" of the Yoruba speaking people. Without giving Afrikans full credit as co-authors of the collection, he does us a disservice. In The Yorubas section of the book, Courlander makes another failed attempt to give a too brief historical Blackground of the Yoruba speaking people. Actually, there are no people in Afrika known as the Yoruba. That is a european misnomer. europeans defined Afrikans, upon their invasion into Afrika, by the languages We spoke and not the nations that We were a part of. He introduces the portuguese in the SECOND paragraph. What an insult. The portuguese and any other colonizers are irrelevant and insignificant in the cosmogony and Asilic structure of Afrikan people.

Further insult is manifested in the title. Gender issues are not defined for Afrikans in the eurocentric construct. Afrikans do not define their pantheon of higher intities as "gods" and not inclusive of the feminine principle. europeans are the ones with the problem of thinking in cosmologically wholistic terms which reflect both the masculine and feminine principles. Afrikan women are the primogenial birds of paradise, the original guardian angels, the ethereal waters, the womb of the universe that brings forth creation. Thus no text written with an Afrikan centered perspective would be titled for only one gender. Courlander discusses the continuity of Afrikan genesis and ritual from Afrikans in Afrika to Afrikans in the Diaspora. What Courlander fails to do in this section is to define the importance of the Afrikan Asili "tales" and its components and thus the genesis' importance to the Afrikan development.

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Within the "tales" is the reflection of how We see the Asili (genesis, beginning) defined by Marimba Ani as the logos of a culture, within which its various aspects cohere; the developmental germ/seed of the culture; the cultural essence, the ideological core, the matrix of a cultural entity which must be identified in order to make sense of the collective creations of its members; the limits of man's powers and knowledge, the shortness of human life, experience and witness life processes, and agonies felt of the body and mind (Ani, XXV). Such experiences cause Afrikan people to reflect upon the cosmogony, life and the universe. Utamawazo is the cultural structure of thought, how cognition is determined by a cultural Asili, the way in which thought of Afrikans must be patterned if the Asili is to be fulfilled (Ani, XXV). Utamaroho is the vital force of the Afrikan culture, set in motion by the Asili. It is the thrust or energy source of a culture; that which gives it its emotional tone and motives, the collective Afrikan behavior. Both the Utamawazo and the Utamaroho are born out of the Asili and in turn, affirm it. They should not be thought of as distinct from the Asili but as its manifestations (Ani, XXV).

Afrikan "tales" are the verbal iconography of Afrikan spirit and intellect. The stories are the study and analysis in artist representation of the Asili. For example, the iconography which gives direction is reflected in various "tales." The iconography is developed in odu (law) reflected in the "tale" The Descent From the Sky. An artistic picture is drawn by the telling of this odu that demands the devotee/reader/listener to use their imagination which is where the seed/germ of the Asili is realized as a respect for all creation. The Afrikan genesis in this "tale" imagery shows Obatala (creation intity) descending from the sky on a golden chain with a chicken, bag of sand and a Black cat to create the earth and negotiate with Olokun, who dominated earth (the marsh, swamps, deepest depths of waters intity), for a portion of her domain. We are asked to visualize this divinity as drunk and creating ill-shaped humans for which he becomes their patron deity.

The source or initiating principle of development of Afrikan culture is reflected in the genesis "tales" (giving direction). The odu are a reflection of the cultural asili in that they both are determined by the collective, fundamental nature of Afrikans. Asili, then, will enable us to overstand and explain the behavior, thought and creations of Afrikans in terms of the origin and logic of our culture (Ani, 13). Such is the case with our odu (laws reflected in the "tales"). The Utamawazo is the culturally structured thought. It is the way in which cognition is determined by the cultural Asili. It is the way in which the thought of members of a culture must be patterned if the Asili is to be fulfilled (Ani, XXV). The Utamawazo is reflected in all of the odu as the odu are the laws which give structure and order to the lives of Afrikans.

The Utamaroho (emotional tones, motives, collective behavior born out of the Asili) of Afrikans is reflected in the odu "tale" The Orisa Acquire their Powers. The Orisa (divinities/deities/spirits) are motivated to gain more responsibility to provide for the humans that were created by Obatala when they descend to live with those he created. The Odu states that humans did not depend on the Orisa as much as they would have liked. In the Orisa's desire to serve humans and thus have their devotion in return, the Orisa sought more abilities "powers" from Olodumare/Olorun (the Almighty Divinity). The Orisa collectively decide they wish to acquire more ability to serve humans. This is symbolic of the communal, collective, oneness of all, non-individualistic cultural matrix of Afrikan people.

The ethos of Afrikan people is the tone, character and quality of our lives, our moral and aesthetic style and mode (Ani, 15). Such ethos is identified in the testaments based on spiritual laws (odu) which explain the creation of earth and human/woman beings and the cultural matrix of Afrikan and the cultural other. Our ethos foretells the coming of the cultural other. The cultural other is defined as the conceptual/existential construct which allows europeans to act out their most extreme aggression and destructiveness while simultaneously limiting their collective self destruction on a conscious level (Ani, XXV). The Odu that warns of the coming of the cultural other is The Stone People of Esie.

In the Stone People of Esie, the ancient city of Esie was very prosperous, with productive markets, plentiful fields and food in abundance. Esie was a thriving center. One day the Afrikan centered cultural matrix which defines time was confronted by the cultural other's eurocentric construct of time. The people of Esie worked long hours into the night to produce such profitable fields, markets and food abundance. Their concept of time stated that day light and day dark belonged to one day and darkness was a time of rest that belonged to the day light that preceded it. Among them the day was considered to begin with the rising of the sun and ended with the setting of the sun.

The cultural other (white folk) arrived in Esie. The whites sent word that the day of arrival would be a sacred and holy day and no work was to be done in Esie. The Esie agreed but also realized that they could not let their fields go unattended. So during the night preceding the arrival of the white strangers the Esie went into the fields to work by torchlight, forge their iron and gold in the ironworks and farmers tended their fields. Since it was dark, the people of Esie felt that the time of the arrival of the whites had not come and their work would not insult their sacred day.

The people of Esie waited for the sun to show in the sky and left the fields to go and meet the whites. But the whites were already in the village. The Esie greeted the whites. The whites were angry because for them, work had been done in Esie on the day that was held sacred. The people of Esie said that they had not worked on the whites holy day as they worked the night before their holy day. The white disagreed and angrily explained that their day begins and ends in the middle of darkness. The people of Esie were perplexed. The people of Esie said that their day began with the rising of the sun and ended with setting of the sun and darkness was a time of rest that belonged to the day light that preceded it. Whites said that days do not begin with the dawn.

The cultural other whites were angry that their instructions were not honored. They began to turn the people to stone (which is symbolic of killing the people and putting head stones on their graves). The cultural other asilic arrogance is displayed in this odu where Afrikans are warned that the eurocentric constructs about all things including time are thought of as dominant and not to be trusted. Through aggression, the cultural other punishes Afrikans who do not conform to their cultural constructs.

The Tails of the Yoruba Gods and Heroes is a collection of the laws (odu) reflecting the Afrikan Asili and its components the Utamawazo and the Utamaroho. The ideological core of the Afirkan cultural entity is reflected again and again in our laws. They are the collective creations of Afrikans. This is the definition of the Asili. Our thoughts are structured with these laws. Our laws expressed in "tales" define how our cultural thought is structured which is the Utamawazo. The "tales" set the emotional tone, give forewarning of the cultural other's cultural constructs of aggression and violence, and discuss motives and define collective behavior which is the Utamaroho. The Afrikan phenomenal experience is the law (tales).

Works Cited

Ani, Marimba. Yurugu An Afrikan-Centered Critique of european Cultural Thought and Behavior. Trenton: Afrika World Press, 1994.

Courlander, Harold. Tales of the Yoruba Gods and Heroes. New York: Crown Publishers, Inc., 1972. (pages VII, 1-3, 15-23, 25-28, 143-146)