Irun Orí (Stiletto Coiffure)
I associate the beauty of my mother, who just transitioned, with intricately plaited hair, and her fine and soft skin.
I cannot imagine her otherwise.
In the sixties, women plaited their hair.
I grew up watching my sisters and mothers (meaning all the women in the community), sit still for hours—as their hairdressers built architectural complexes of hairstyles on their heads, including the Stilettos, like sharp long nails or antennas rising off their temples.
Iya Oyo was like that too.
She described the importance of keeping the head, Ori, gorgeously kept.
“Your Ori is the most important part of your body,” Iya Oyo explained. “There are hundreds of proverbs on Orí”
“Tell me some of them,” I asked Iya Oyo, as a hairdresser worked on her hair.
Ta ló mọ ibi tí orí ḿgbé ẹsẹ̀-ẹ́ rè (Who knows where the head is leading the legs).
Orí kì í burú nínú agbo (The head does not get bad in a group or community).
Gbọ-gbọ-gbọ lọwó ó yọ jorí (The arm rises tall above the head).
Aláàárù tó ń jẹ búrẹ́dì, awọ oríi rẹ̀ ló ń jẹ. (The head-porter eating bread is feeding off the skin on his scalp).
A kì í bínú orí ká fi fìlà dé ìbàdí (You don’t get so mad with the head that you place your cap on the buttocks).
A ò gbọdọ̀ fi orí wé orí (We don’t compare heads).
Kí lorí ṣe, téjìká ò le ṣe? (What can the head do that the shoulder cannot?)
Èèyàn ò fẹ́ni fọ́rọ̀ àfi orí ẹni (None wants us to prosper except our heads). To which Baba Oyo adds the adaptation (Kò sẹ́ni tó dùn mọ́, àfi orí eni—Nobody applauds one’s success like one’s head).
Orí awọ là á bá àgbàlagbà (The elderly is always found in the befitting seat on the hide).
After scores of more proverbs, as the hairdresser worked on her hair, Iya Oyo closed with a proverb that doubles as a prayer: Ibi orí ń gbé mi í rè, kẹ́sẹ̀ sin ni ká lọ́ (Wherever my head leads, may my legs follow).
Can you think of other proverbs and sayings about Ori? Submit them here, please.
All my paintings these day are proverbs about Orí. You will find hundreds of Orí on each of my paintings.
As I completed this painting in memory of my mother doing her hair in the sixties, I offer you Iya Oyo’s closing proverb as a prayer: Ibi orí ń gbé wa á rè, kẹ́sẹ̀ sin ni ká lọ́ (Wherever our heads lead, may our legs follow us along the journey).
I thank the hundreds upon hundreds of friends who consoled me on the passing of my mother, Ọmọlọlá.