Water in Yoruba Belief and Imperative for Environmental Sustainability

Adewale O. Owoseni


The observation by scholars that the typical African people are often overtly religious in matters of interpreting reality demands a critical outlook with allusion to apt consideration of phenomena in relevant locale within the African space. The phenomenon of water has received copious attention worldwide and the need to consider this within an African nay Yoruba worldview is timely. The Yoruba of Southwestern Nigeria are wont to express that ‘water is the converge of good health, no one can despise it’ – omi labuwe, omi labumi, eni kan kii ba omi s’oota. This expression among other narratives convey a symbolic and paradoxical representation of water, which depicts the metaphysical dialectics of water in Yoruba belief. Basically, it renders the phenomenon of water as an entity that has the potency to vitalize and disrupt life-forms, given the beliefs regarding its place in relationship with certain animals like buffalo, fish and some endangered species, plants, trees as well as humans. Resultant impediments that fraught environmental order such as flood, draught and water borne diseases or outbreak in this regard are often linked to these beliefs. This is believed to be due to negating demands of the essential place of water by aberrant practices/acts, abuse, negligence of venerating ancestral grooves, goddesses or spirit. In lieu of this, this discourse adopts a hermeneutic analysis of the phenomenon and argues that the understanding of water in indigenous Yoruba belief is underscored by the dialectics of positive and negative causes that also impact the course of environmental sustainability.

Keywords: Water, Yoruba Belief, Metaphysical Dialectics, Environmental Sustainability.

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