The exodus and identity formation in view of the origin and migration narratives of the Yoruba
Olojede, Funlola O.
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This study examines the exodus event and its impact on identity formation in the light of the origin and migration narratives of the Yoruba people. On the one hand, it is observed that migration is not only an ancient but a universal phenomenon. Its rootedness in Africa and its profound influence on identity formation are therefore brought to the fore by comparing the origin and migration narratives of the Yoruba with those of the Tiv and the amaZulu. The findings show that certain elements of the origin and migration narratives such as a common ancestor, a common ancestral home, a common belief in Supreme Deity etc., provide a basis for identity formation and recognition among these Africans, in particular, the Yoruba. On the other hand, the study focuses on the Sea event in Exodus 14-15:18 which is composed of both a narrative and a poetic rendition of the sea-crossing by the children of Israel. In the Sea event, Israel acknowledged in story and song that it was Yahweh who as a warrior, delivered its people from the hand of Pharaoh and took them safely to the other side of the Sea. This research shows that a literary consideration of the text and especially of the interplay between prose and poetry points to Yahweh as the main character in the Sea event. Consequently, Israel’s identity is defined in Yahweh whose own identity as warrior and deliverer brought Israel victory over the Egyptians and paved the way for a new nation in a new land. In this sense, Israel’s identity is assumed to be a theological one. It is argued that the Yoruba origin and migration narratives help to bring to light the memories of exodus and Israel’s recollection of Yahweh as the root of its identity. The narratives help to appreciate more clearly Yahweh’s role in the midst of his people and the his centrality to Israel’s self-understanding even as they show that these can provide valuable resources in today’s world where migration and the struggle for identity are features that are not likely to fade away. Besides, the juxtaposition of cosmogonic myths and migration theories in attesting to the elements of Yoruba identity formation, have a parallel in the blending of both cosmic and migration elements in Exodus 14-15:18. This blending also foregrounds the role of Yahweh in the Sea event. In addition, the study suggests that the interaction between prose and poetry in the Sea event is an instance of a separate genre which further research may confirm in Yoruba, especially in folk-tales and in oríkì-oríle (praise names/epithet).