Review by Paul I. Adujie
Professors Abi Adegboye and Ibiyemi Dare have written a most fascinating account on how life is lived in Western Nigeria in the book, Owanbe! Yoruba Celebrations of Life. This superb “How-To” Manual details many aspects of Yoruba culture in a conversational, user-friendly manner. It is timely, prescient, and profound. It comes at a time when more and more Nigerians live in the Diaspora.
This well written, appealing, and well-documented cultural masterpiece is profound for many reasons, but two immediate reasons will suffice. The first reason is the dearth and paucity of similar writings, documentations, and recordation of how life is lived in Nigeria, and in fact, all of Africa. As a consequence, some non-Africans have in the past engaged in the blissful ignorance of asserting erroneously, that Africans have no contributions to poetries and songs, and so, poets are John Keats and John Donne and song writers and composers are Beethoven, Chopin and Mozart - all because Nigerians and other Africans did not engage in the good business of documenting and recording our poetries and songs.
The second immediate reason for the timeliness of Owanbe! is that, it will facilitate and enhance aspects of Nigerian culture for Nigerians at home and abroad. Owanbe! will be a great wonderful tool in the protection and preservation in the age of globalization and the consequent one way street one way traffic flow of cultural and entertainment information from America-Europe to Nigeria-Africa, without a corresponding bombardment of cultural and entertainment information from Nigeria-Africa to America-Europe. Globalization should be mutually beneficial. Globalization should be crystallizing the ways of lives of the human race, in effect, all the races.
In these days when more and more Nigerians and other Africans are increasingly emigrating and settling outside of the African continent, it is crucial to have a Guide Book and a “How-To book, such as Owanbe! Professors Adegboye and Dare’s thoroughly researched cultural precepts are a wonderful read and of immense value, benefit and help for everyone, in fact whether Nigerian, African or not! All that is required is an open mind, all Nigerians, all continental Africans and all peoples of African descent, and all global and universal citizens who are desirous of rich cultural experience which is based on superb presentation and chronology, the ebb and flow of births, celebrations of life from cradle to grave.
Owanbe! is highly recommended in today’s world of a shrinking global village, in which Americans imbibe Eastern culture of yoga and meditation and Buddhism. Owanbe! offers scintillating details of cultural charts, which follows the call and response, the push and pull of everyday life and the impact of culture which serves to add color and verve at various stages of life of the individuals in the community.
In this wonderful book, Nigerian culture is presented chapter and verse in sequential order. Births, naming ceremonies, and the important matter of name choices are amply discussed. Special and unique name choices are explained. Religious influences of African traditional religion, to Christianity and Islam are all explained in moving details. Childhood life celebrations specified, including birthdays, stepping out ceremonies, the place of music, songs and dances and friendships and the best things in life. You even get a guide on how to plan an Owanbe party!
As life is lived through the cultural lenses, detailed in this very ebullient work suffused with empirical data and real life experiences closely observed by the authors of Owanbe, it comes to a point, when “boy meets girl” and marriage is in the air. Marriage of course, like every aspect of life, is lived through cultural norms such as Ifihan, Idana. Etc. and the additions to these African practices being the Christian and Islamic modes of marriage from engagement, weddings to Yigi respectively.
Other important cultural milestones which are rigorously chronicled and presented in easy to understand and assimilate, are the importance of celebrations of birthdays, beginnings, pilgrimages, Parapo and community festivals and their importance and profound meanings.
There are also the matters of traditional chieftaincies, community festivals such as Osun Osogbo, inaugurations, and funeral ceremonies. Kings, who are referred to as Oba, are delineated by ranks and hierarchical importance and clout in the various communities and locale, and to cap all these cultural plenteousness and bounties, is the “How-To” plan a community festival! This book also contains exhaustive references and sources, and is a well thought out encyclopedia of our wonderful culture, including recipes for culturally derived Nigerian-African cuisine which will delight the most discerning palate!
Owanbe! Earned my two thumbs up! It is a prodigious effort to chronicle, preserve and protect our culture and how life is lived in our part of the world. Owanbe! will rekindle and reinforce these aspects of our culture, just as it provides a window of opportunity for all global and universal citizens worldwide to partake in our vibrant, colorful and very rich and meaningful cultural practices