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Taofeek reflects cultural sensibilities in Human and other beings

Mwaghavul cultural group on display at the 2016 Puust kaat yearly Mwaghavul kingdom cultural festival in Mangu town, Mangu Local Government Area, Plateau State… last Saturday


The hackneyed saying is that poetry, just as other genres of literature, reflects the society in which it is produced. As culture is part of the make-up of society, writers often exploit and explore their cultural heritage in their craft. Some do this more than others. However. Olatunbosun Taofeek, as demonstrated in his poetry collection, Human and Other Beings, shows himself as a writer who is very steeped in his culture.

Suffused with a preponderance of cultural tropes, the collection is a journey into the vast cultural world of the Yoruba, as the reader encounters their beliefs, folklore, myths, taboos, rites and other cultural significations while going through the collection.

Human and Other Beings is deftly worked into five, albeit uneven, parts, which include ‘Gospel of Mysticism,’ ‘Mother is a Spiritualist,’ ‘Messages from the Void,’ ‘Nature is Spiritual,’ and ‘My Grandfather is Dead but Alive.’ Each part significantly helps to herd the many poems into five different, but unified thematic folds.

In ‘Gospel of Mysticism,’ for instance, the overriding theme is that of the messages embedded in the belief system of the Yoruba as they relate to the panegyrics of the gods and other extra-terrestrial beings. In addition, such beliefs of the Yoruba in the powers of the crossroads and the aged, witchcraft, gnomes, and wizards are captured in this part of many poetic parts.

The part starts of on an invocative note at oritameta – three-crossroads, wherein, ‘A mission of resolution/Ought to be/For the revolving spirit/To be born/To be unborn/Or to be dead.’ Thereafter the lucky spirit of agbere – fortune bearer, is invoked, as that of agbako – harbinger of misfortune, is bounded with a supplication to eledaa – the creator, through the wisdom of divination of Ifa, who holds the dark bosom of tomorrow/To guide the guideless/To attend to all matters/To unveil (sic) the face of fate.”

Other poems in this part such as ‘Ala,’ ‘Call of Esu,’ ‘Sufficient Makers,’ ‘Sigidi,’ ‘Igbale,’ ‘Majiya,’ ‘Ebora’ and others clearly show the poet’s grasp of the complexity of his cultural mysticism and the esoteric messages trapped in it.

Caution and restraint are the dominant motifs of the collection’s second part. Signposted with the spirituality of the mother’s wisdom, the poems in this part variously touch on the dangers of being rash in decision making, the needlessness of war, the need to be appreciative and the like. This part is a mélange of many poetic preoccupations, which is, however, undergirded by the invaluable advice a mother normally gives.

Part three and four further demonstrate the poet’s hold on his overarching theme, culture, as he explores the messages from the void and the spirituality that nature offers. These parts also illuminate the pantheistic nature of the Yoruba traditional religion and also illustrate the Yoruba belief of plenitude in nothingness in their conceptualization of life’s meaning.

The last part, ‘My Grandfather is Dead but Alive,’ essentially captures the Yoruba belief in the continuum nature of life, that is, that there is a continuous relationship among the unborn, the living, and the dead. In poems like ‘Tell it to Afonja,’ ‘Ogunmola,’ ‘Sango,’ for example, the poet utilizes, the poetic device of apostrophe to address those legends of ancient Yoruba who, although, have been dead in the physical realm, are still much alive in the spiritual realm.A reader will definitely find Taofeek’s poetic offering a worthwhile reading as well as gain from the culture he espouses.

In this article:
Olatunbosun Taofeek
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