Ẹyẹ: Bird

Ẹyẹ: Bird

I told Iya Oyo that I was scared when a couple of birds perched on top of the large tree in front of the house and were making loud sounds, one calling and the other responding.

“You are afraid of birds?” Iya Oyo asked me.

“Yes,” I said. “My playmates told me they are witches, àjẹ́.”

Iya Oyo laughed.

“These birds singing right now are just two beautiful lovers having a good time in the mating season,” Iya Oyo assured me.

“But what about other birds? Are they not witches, ẹlẹyẹ?” I asked.

“You have nothing to worry about from them,” I ya Oyo said. “Do you know the meaning of ẹyẹ?”

I shook my head, saying, “No.”

“When something fits you, for example, your shoes, cap, or attire, how do you describe it?” Iya Oyo asked.

“I say Ó yẹ mí: it fits me,” I responded.

“Good,” Iya Oyo said. “And when you are celebrating a special event, like a graduation or promotion, what do you say?”

“I say, ‘A ń ṣe ǹkan ẹ̀yẹ.’ We are celebrating something special.”

“Good,” Iya Oyo repeated. “Maybe you are beginning to understand ẹyẹ now. Think of Ayẹyẹ. What does ayẹyẹ mean?”

“It means a celebration; a festive event,” I responded.

“Good,” Iya Oyo said. “Now try to figure out the yẹ of ẹyẹ.”

“It seems to suggest something good,” I said with a smile.

“Excellent!” Iya Oyo exclaimed. “If it is good for you to do something, what do you say?”

“Ó yẹ kí n ṣe ǹkan: it is good to do something” I answered.

“Now you see that ẹyẹ, because it is from yẹ really means something that is beautiful, pretty, fit, suitable, appropriate. That is why if the cap fits your head, I will say Fìlà yẹ orí ẹ. In that sense, what does Ẹyẹlé mean?”

“You mean the dove? A bird commonly found around the house that makes the cooing sounds?”

“Yes, but from the understanding of yẹ as I just described, what does ẹyẹlé mean?”

“Yẹ ilé: something that is beautiful, pretty, fit, suitable, appropriate around the house?”

“Perfect,” Iya Oyo said. “What about Ẹyẹ oko?”

“Well, something beautiful, pretty, appropriate, fit, suitable, appropriate around the forests and farmlands?” I asked.

“Now you see that eye, from yẹ, is beautiful, pretty, fit, suitable, appropriate?” Iya Oyo responded. “Should such a thing frighten you?”

“No,” I concluded. “But what about Ẹlẹyẹ? Doesn’t it refer to witches or Àjẹ́?

“Now use your head,” Iya Oyo said. “From what I just taught you, what does ẹlẹyẹ mean, if yẹ means something beautiful, pretty, fit, suitable, and appropriate?”

“Ẹlẹyẹ means beautiful people or things,” I concluded.

“You are becoming a learned young man,” Iya Oyo taught me.

Professor Adeleke Adeeko asked me to do a painting of Wole Soyinka’s mythic bird (Ẹye). Soyinka named the ẹyẹ as the “Not I Bird” in the play, DEATH AND THE KING’S HORSEMAN.

I knew it must be the painting of something beautiful.

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