Oríkì, or praise poetry, is a cultural phenomenon amongst Yorubas of West Africa .
Oríkì varies in length depending on whether it is the name given to a child to describe the future portents of the life or a recital of the accomplishments of a person’s clan. It is invoked to praise a child for bringing pride to the parents or to attempt to evoke virtuous character traits of bravery, fortitude and perseverance that are believed to be innate in a person by pedigree.*
The Zulus of South Africa also have this concept of praise name referred to as ‘Isibongo’. For about two or more decades, most yorubas have forsaken the use of these names for newborns. I myself can’t remember being given one. This action is a result of the overtly westernized society we live in. These names were abhorred and demonized by some sects in Christianity. Some educated folks on the other hand see the names as unrefined and fallacious.
In the good old days, these were names that gave pedigree, bravery, pride and feelings for humanity.
Parents use these names to endear their kids to their values, encourage them to take life head-on and uphold the family name.
Wives use the names to appease their husbands in time of need or misunderstanding. Husbands woo their women to do their wish just by using these names.
Examples of oríkì names and their meanings
(m and f denote the gender thereof):
Àjoké – meant to be taken care of by all. – f
Àlàké – to take care of her as a result of victory over circumstance. – f
Ànìké – own’s property to be taken care of. – f
Àshàké – selected to be spoiled (with good things) – f
Àbèní – begged for (from God) – f
Àríké – meant to be spoiled on sight – f
Àdùké – people will fight over the privilege to spoil her – f
Àbèbí – begged for to be birthed (probably a difficult birth) – f
Àjàní – fought to have this child – m
Àkànní – met only once to have this child – m
Àjàgbé – fought to carry this child – m
Àkànde – favourite of the prince – m
Akanni – first male child – m
Adigun – Name of God – m
Apeke – Called to be cared for – f
Adunni – One sweet to have -f
Amoke – Known about and cared for
Ajadi – the end of conflict
Ariyo – One that brings joy on sight – m
Ayoka – One who causes joy – f
Atunke – One who would continually be taken care of -f
Nowadays, we have inummerable foreign names being given to newborns; Steph, Kleo, Sean, Clinton, Michelle, Monalisa, Jewel, Justin, Angel, Charm, Montaza, Princess, Gold, Blossom, Romeo, etc (apologies to those named thus).
These names carry in no means the import and essence of our Yoruba core value of ‘OMOLUABI’. This also applies to other Nigerian and Afican tribes.
The meaning of these imported names carry little or no analytical value that will make the bearer whelm in the cultural richness of the name because the names do not have cultural roots.
Life was orderly when Oriki names were given to newborns but now -with the imported ones- it is chaos (just my thinking).
Kayode Gideon Balogun