ÈDÈ as Who We Are.
Iya Oyo says language, èdè, is everything.
“Do you know the meaning of language, èdè?” Iya Oyo asked me.
“It’s what we speak, isn’t it, Iya Oyo?” I replied.
“Yes, and no,” Iya Oyo instructed me. “Èdè is what holds us together. What is the meaning of dè?”
“Dè means to tie, bind, join, connect, secure, link, fasten and so on. You can “de” two things together.”
“Now you are beginning to understand the importance of èdè,” Iya Oyo revealed. “Èdè is what holds a people together. Two people cannot communicate or live together without something that connects or ‘de’ both of them. That is the meaning of èdè. It is the basis of human society, friendship, relationships, and any form of association. That is why èdè is so very important. If there is no èdè, a wife and the husband cannot live together in harmony, because one does not understand what the other wants.”
“Èdè is the most important thing in human life,” Baba Oyo confirms. “This is why I am troubled when I see these people who are not learning the èdè of their mothers and fathers but enjoy using the èdè of other people. What they are doing is breaking the relationships with their people and tying themselves with other people who have no interest in their people.”
“It is worse than that,” Iya Oyo says. “They are creating confusion among themselves. The èdè of every people is built on and tied around the physical and spiritual situation of the people. You build an èdè that will tie you or ‘dè’ you to the land. You love the people to which you are dè or tied. You cannot trust those to whom you have no èdè or bond.”
“Yes, Iya Oyo,” I said. “It is easy for us to bond because we are using the same èdè that is tying us together.”
“Isn’t it a problem that people are now teaching their children èdè-àìyedè, that is a language that does not tie us together, a foreign language? “We are now learning a language that has no tie or relationship with our environment. What can we do so that we don’t fall apart as a people if we continue this way?”
It began to make sense to me. My teachers since primary school days had always spoken of “As white as snow.” Apparently, that èdè is tied to an environment that has snow. Because I grew up in Yorubaland without snow, I was learning an èdè that was not tied to my environment, and it is confusing.
I vividly remember the first time I saw snow in Madison, Wisconsin, at age 36. That was the first time I recollected the conversation about èdè and its connection with the environment.
A week ago, my daughter sent me a picture of my granddaughter on her first visit to the museum. The picture shows my daughter, not yet three years old, conversing with strangers she encountered in the museum.
From the picture, I could see the role of èdè very clearly: they are using èdè to bond, and break down barriers of race, gender and other forms of difference and distance.
My granddaughter can speak the language of the strangers, and she is fortunate that she is also taught the èdè Yoruba, the things that dè or tie and bond her to her Yoruba ancestry and to the roots of her origin in Africa, though she is American by birth.
I recall Iya Oyo’s question several decades ago. She asked, “What can we do so that we don’t fall apart as a people if we continue this way?”