Our Mothers, Our Powers, Our Texts
Publication Year: 2005
"Washington writes supple and thoughtful prose and creatively integrates African and African-derived terminology, which never distract the reader. I consider Our Mothers, Our Powers, Our Texts not only a brilliant study, but also a model to be emulated." -- Ousseynou B. Traore, William Patterson University
Published by: Indiana University Press
Series: Blacks in the Diaspora
Title Page, Copyright Page, Dedication, Epigraph
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This work is the product of the wisdom, knowledge, and understanding of numerous artists, academics, spiritualists, and gentle mentors. Because the seeds for this book germinated long ago in the most ancient Earthen Pot, I give honor to Ìyánlá Odùduwà, the Womb of Origins; Èsù, who led me stumbling through the crossroads; and...
Note on Orthography
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All African words, with the exceptions of proper nouns and certain quoted passages, are italicized in the first usage only. The orthography used for Yoruba words in this work is that of modern Yoruba. Tone marks are consistent in each usage, with the exception of some quoted passages. Proper Yoruba names and places are neither tone-marked...
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Ishmael Reed anointed and appointed himself the high priest of Neo-Hoodoo during the height of the Civil Rights struggle and Black Power movement. Quincy Troupe, Ted Jones, Toni Cade Bambara, and a host of other Hosts joined Reed in the sacred circle and courageously continued the ancients’ holistic spiritual work. Literary critics,...
PART ONE / Àjé in African Orature
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1. Àjé in Yorubaland
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The Yoruba of Southwest Nigeria have many praisenames for the fertile, protective, and creative Mothers who people the earth, protect their children, and ensure evolution: Àwon Ìyá Wa (Our Mothers); Àwon Ìyàmi Òsòròngà (The Great and Mysterious Mother); Yewájobí (The Mother of All the Òrìsà and All Living Things);2 Àgbàláàgbà (Old...
2. Àjé across the Continent and in the Ìtànkálg
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In this chapter’s epigraph, Yai highlights the importance of physical migration and cross-cultural exchange to the Yoruba. These concepts also appear to be important to Yoruba Deities, for Edan’s praisename is She Is Well Placed Around the Earth.1 One might say that during her travels to protect her Mother’s dominion and spread...
PART TWO / Àjé in Africana Literature
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3. Word Becoming Flesh and Text in Gloria Naylor’s Mama Day and T. Obinkaram Echewa’s I Saw the Sky Catch Fire
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Gloria Naylor’s Mama Day and T. Obinkaram Echewa’s I Saw the Sky Catch Fire (Fire) examine the impacts of slavery and colonialism and the ways in which Àjé battles these forces in its attempts to reconsecrate the earth of origins. Both works demonstrate the curvilinear and intergenerational nature of Àjé, and both are structured...
4. Initiations into the Self, the Conjured Space of Creation,and Prophetic Utterance in Ama Ata Aidoo’s Anowa and Ntozake Shange’s Sassafrass, Cypress & Indigo
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Given the importance of Odù’s “oracular utterance” in consecrating the earth and creating humanity, it is not surprising that prophets of Àjé arise periodically in life and literature to impart holistic guidance. Their spiritual power often recognized in adolescence, these emissaries of Odù are community wisdom-keepers and -sharers whose...
5. Un/Complementary Complements: Gender, Power, and Àjé
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In The Gélédé Spectacle, Babatunde Lawal writes, “The Yoruba existential ethos is that all the creations in the universe will continue-in- being only when they remain in sociation (àsùwàdà) and at peace with one another.”1 The patriarchal shift threatened gender àsùwàdà and societal peace. However, Àjé have in their arsenal a plethora of...
6. The Relativity of Negativity
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This chapter is devoted to the most feared and reviled aspects of Àjé: Àjé dúdu and Àjé pupa, which are supposedly distinguished by their respective black and red colors and wanton killing and maiming. Under the Western color hierarchy, the Yoruba word for the color black, dúdu, is associated with evil; however, the word connotes “great...
7. The Womb of Life Is a Wicked Bag: Cycles of Power, Passion,and Pain in the Mother-Daughter Àjé Relationship
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Àwon Ìyá Wa control reproductive organs and are bonded through the power of menstrual blood and the lives it promises. Because the locus of Àjé is the womb, children can inherit the force as they inherit genes or particular traits. However, while a Yoruba proverb asserts, “Instead of the Àjé changing for the better, she continues...
8. Twinning across the Ocean: The Neo-Political Àjé of Ben Okri’s Madame Koto and Mary Monroe’s Mama Ruby
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One of Àjé’s most significant jobs is enforcement of the laws of the earth. Given the stunning, astounding, and daring works of historical women such as Olufunmilayo Ransome-Kuti, Madame Tinubu, and the Igbo women warriors, who battled patriarchal tyranny, slavery, and colonialism, it is logical that contemporary African literature...
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As a point around which many cultural realities and spiritual and historical forms and figures originate, swirl, and converge, Àjé stands at the center of the Africana worldview. Like the sixteen long livers, its binding ties are comprehensive and connect life to literature to culture to language across time and space. Even the praisenames of...
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Works Cited and Select Bibliography
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Page Count: 352
Illustrations: 1 figures, 1 bibliog., 1 index
Publication Year: 2005
Series Title: Blacks in the Diaspora