top of page
< Back
4.3j Interviews by Suleiman Ajao with Madam Nafisatu, Ile Eleke, Okelele, Ilorin; Mr. Anagi, Ile Eleke yan gan, Okelele; and Alhaji Saka, Ile Alawo, Okelele, Ilorin, late 1988 to early 1989: Background information and text (proverbs)

I gave Suleiman Ajao a list of proverbs in Yoruba referring to slaves and iwọfa (debt pawns) and asked him to show them to people in Ilorin. I asked him, if these proverbs were known in Ilorin, to try to provide an English translation of both the literal and the figurative meanings. I also asked him to see if his informants could provide other proverbs dealing with slaves and iwọfa.

Here are some of the results (the Yoruba version is given without diacritical marks):

Afotele ko je ki a pe iwofa ni eru

Once you bring somebody as iwofa you can’t turn him or her to slave.

Agreement did not allow us to call iwofa as slave. Once you present somebody as iwofa you have no right to treat him or her as a slave.

Ibi ko ya to si ibi: baa ti bi eru la bi omo.

Umbilical cord is not different from each other. Both child and slave were born the same way.

We should treat a slave the same way we treat our child, it is condition that changed one into slave.

Bi aba logun eru, bi aba logbon iwofa, omo eni lere eni.

When you have many slaves or iwofa, when you die your property belongs to your child.

Ojo joo n se iwofa, won ni o ko iseere de: bo ba somonwon, won a maa nonwo, won a maa nonra.

The way you spend money when your child is sick you can’t spend when iwofa is sick.

Iwofa is fallen sick, they still believe he has done nothing, if it were to be their own child they will spend much more to see him survive.

No matter how you treat somebodys child, you will give your own child a special treatment.

Imado iba se bi elede, aba ilu je: eru iba joba, enion ki ba ti ku kon.

If bush pig were home pig, it would have destroyed the town. If slaves were to be made a king, no one should have [been] left behind/nobody should have stayed alive. If a slave comes to the throne, he would want to retaliate more than the way he was maltreated as a slave.

Bi eru ba pe loko ama j’oye.

When a slave stays longer in the village he could become a chief. Whoever that tries to endure his suffer[ing] he or she will one day overcome it.

Bi eru ba ti pe ni ile Alajobi ni bu.

When a slave stays longer in the house he abuses the compound. It is used for somebody below your age, [when] you are very familiar to each other. When it occurs that the person is making mess of you, then you use that proverb. Because when a slave stays longer in a house he know the history of the compound so that when there is a little quarrel he may abuse [them] by telling [the] history of their great grandfather.

For further work on proverbs relating to slaves and iwọfa, see 5.2 Text of O’Hear/Bolaji Interview Transcripts and Notes, Series I, 1988-1989: 5.2f Vocabulary definitions; Proverbs with translations, in this collection.

bottom of page