a picture showing moyo okedijis grand daughter

Ọwọ́ as Hand and Eye

Ọwọ́ as Hand and Eye

I showed Iya Oyo the drawing of her portrait I made one day. She said, “Ọ̣wọ́ rẹ gún,” (Your hands are straight), as she admired the portrait.

Baba Oyo responded with, “Ojú rẹ̀ gún” (His eyes are straight).

I was baffled. “What is straight, my eye or my hand?” I asked them.

Iya Oyo was in a mood to explain to me. She sat next to me, admiring the portrait, and said”

“Ọwọ́—from wọ, means to drag, pull or move. Ọwọ́ is, therefore, the implement provided on the human body for moving things from point a to b. For example, Mo wọ igi. I pulled, dragged, or moved a tree.”

“Wọ́, the active verb in Ọwó, has other hidden meanings,” Baba Oyo reminded her. “Ìfọwọ́sowọ́pò (the joining of hands) means cooperation. And wọ́ can also have negative meanings.”

“Thank you, Baba Oyo,” Iya Oyo said cynically. “It’s true. Wọ́ refers to something that is not straight, as in Ìlà náà wọ́: the line is bent.”

She continued: “It is from that sense of ‘wọ́’ as ‘bent’ that we find the proverb ‘Amúkǔn, ẹrù rẹ́ wọ́; ó ní òkè lẹ ń wò, ẹ kò wo ìsàlẹ̀’ (‘K-legged man, the load on your head is bent;’ he responds that you must acknowledge the bent leg to understand why the load on the head is bent).

“If there is no k-leg, one can easily use the hand (ọwọ́) to adjust the bent (wọ́) load. It is therefore significant that ọwọ́ is what we use to straighten what is not straight (Ọwọ́ ni a fi ń tún ǹkan tí ó wọ́ ṣ̣e).

Baba Oyo said, “When things are not straight, we can use the term ‘wọ’ (bend) as a way to say the times are hard, as in (Gbogbo ǹkan ti wọ́—everything is bent.)

“If someone is telling a lie” Iya Oyo proceeds, “and you want to call out the person’s lie in an ọmọlúwàbí (gentle) manner, you can say ‘Àlàyé náà wọ́, or Ọ̀rọ̀ náà wọ́ díẹ̀,’ meaning ‘The explanation is not straight’).

“The opposite of wọ́ (bent) is guń (straight),” Baba Oyo responded to her.

“Exactly,” Iya Oyo agreed. “The usage gets fascinating when you use wọ́ (bend) and Owo as opposites. For example, Ọwọ́ wọ́,’ meaning bent hand.”

Baba Oyo contradicts her with “But you can use ‘Wọ’ (bend) and gún (straight) together as meaning the same. For example when I say ‘Ọwọ́ ọmọ yìí gún;’ ‘This child’s hand is straight,’ I could also say “Ojú ọmọ yìí gún’ as I said when looking at your drawing.”

I was by now totally confused. I asked, “So you can use the eye (ojú) and ọwọ́ (hand) as meaning the same thing?”

“In some cases, the answer is yes,” Iya Oyo responded. I sighed to express my total bewilderment. “This language is too difficult.

They both laughed at the same time. Iya Oyo said, “You will see that it is very easy when you grow up.”

Now I know it is easy.

When my granddaughter began producing paintings and drawing, her mother nicknamed her Abike Picasso. When they sent me her pictures as she explained her paintings, I used Iya Oyo’s words: Ọwọ́ rẹ̀ gún; ojú rẹ̀ gún.”

Happy Fathers Day–and Grandfathers too!

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