Omo Agbó máàtí,
Omo agbérekete f’Óba!
Gbígbé lèyín ngbé,
Omolómo ní nru igi oko.
Among the Yorùbá of Òyó, oríkì are poetic utterances recited to honor a person. It is an affirmation of a person’s essence, their history, and their connection to their roots, past, present and future. It is a salutation, a prayer, and a prophecy all in one. It is a person’s personal anthem and theme song.
Oríkì usually begin with names which reflect peculiar characteristics of the person and will often include epithets and praise poems. A mother will often chant oríkì over her child with pride and deep affection. The occasion could be when she’s celebrating the child’s achievements, when the child is sad or upset, or even when the child is embarking on a journey or venture.
Some oríkì are given at birth and reflect the circumstances surrounding the birth, peculiar characteristics, or even family’s expectations for the child. As the child grows and carves out her own path, the oríkì grows and evolves with her, whether it be to narrate virtuous deeds and accomplishments or characteristic foibles.
Àbèbí Agbó, the one I begged to birth,
The one I will parade with plomb before the King!
You who are destined to rule,
While others serve and wait upon you!