“The Yoruba of West Africa are responsible for some of the finest artistic traditions in Africa”

(Drewal, Pemberton & Abiodun, 1989).

Wood, fabric and stories form important cultural elements of art, craft and everyday living in Yorubaland. For ages, the Yorubas have been passing down historical messages and events of the past to the younger generation using components of culture such as folktales, wood sculpture, textile art, etc. These elements serve as platforms for transferring knowledge and form a core part of Yorubaland’s indigenous education system.

ProjectiYoruba is a labour of love that celebrates Yoruba art using wood, fabric and stories. The introductory offering is tagged; The Akobi (The first born) which consists of 5 fabrics, 5 proverbs, 13 pillows, 7 ottomans and 7 frames. Each set of the furniture pieces share important life lessons using Yoruba proverbs and the patterns of each fabric.

Isé (hardwork), Ajẹnifẹ́ni (housemouse), Ìretí (hope), Aiye (life) and Wúrà (gold) make up the ProjectiYoruba quintuplet collection. The lessons from each piece are intended to motivate and guide us in our everyday living. Please follow me through their meanings.

1.) Isé (hardwork)

The accompanying Yoruba proverb Ise ni ogun isefor this set of 2 pillows, 1 ottoman and a frame is: Isé ni òògun isé, which literally translates to hardwork is the medicine for poverty.

The Yoruba people do not condone laziness. They believe that to make a honest living, you must work hard. In Yorubaland, there is a clear distinction between working smart and directionless labour. Hence, the Yoruba saying: the path to riches is through hardwork, not through purposeless labour (owo nini o kan agbara). Therefore, choose to work smart to surmount poverty.

A classic Yoruba poem by Joseph Folahanmi Odunjo has been translated below. It emphasizes the virtues and importance of hardwork.

Ise ni ogun ise (Hardwork is the medicine for poverty)

Mura si ise ore mi (Be committed, careful and honest with your work)

Ise ni a fi n di eni giga (We become outstanding through hardwork)

Ti a ko ba ri eni feyintin, bi ole lan ri (When there is no one to render assistance to us, we are perceived as being lazy)

Ti a ko ba ri eni gbekele, atera mo ise eni. ( When there is no one to depend on, we must work harder in our chosen field)

Iya re le l’owo. Baba re le l’esin le kan (Your mother may be rich. Your father may have many horses)

T’oba gbo’ju le won, o te tan ni mo so fun o. (If you put your trust in your parent’s wealth, you will be disappointed – I tell you)

Ohun aho j’iya fun kii t’ojo (That which we have not laboured for, does not last)

Ohun ta ba s’ise fun nii pe l’owo eni (Only that which we have laboured for, shall last)

…ekun mbe fomo ti nsa kiri (weeping awaits the vagabond child)

Ma fowuro sere ore mi (Do not play with the days of your youth, my friend)

Mura si ise, ojo nlo. (Be committed to your work; time is ticking).


2.) Ìretí (hope)

The accompanying Yoruba proverb for this set of 2 pillows, 1 ottoman and a frame is: Ile oba tojo, ewa lo busi. This translates to: when a king’s palace burns down, the re-built palace is more beautiful.

According to Abimbola Shaba, “current challenges and future values” are drivers of hope among the Yoruba people. The theme of hope is prevalent throughout the cycle of life. Hence, the saying: Baa o ku ise o tan, which means: when there is life, there is hope.

Proverb: Ojú tó rí ibi tí ò fõ, ire ló ńdúró de. (The eyes that did not go blind upon seeing evil are waiting to see good).

The message here is that whatever doesnt kill you makes you stronger and that the best is yet to come. Keep your hope alive.


3.) Ajẹnifẹ́ni (house mouse)

The accompanying Yoruba proverb for this set of 2 pillows, 1 ottoman and a frame is: Ajẹnifẹ́ni, èkúté ilé.
This translates to: House mouse, one that bites and blows on the wound.

The message here is that we should be wary of enemies who pose as friends. There will always be people who fake loyalty. Be careful of the people you choose to keep as friends.


4.) Wura (Gold)

WuraThe accompanying Yoruba proverb for this set of 2 pillows, 1 ottoman and a frame is: Orúkọ rere sàn ju wúrà àti fàdákà lọ. This translates to: a good name is better than gold and silver.

Proverb: Iwa lewa omo eniyan. (The beauty of humans is in their character).

The lesson for us is not to chase money and/or material things. We should rather be more concerned about earning a good reputation and integrity.


5.) Obiripo l’aiye (Life is in cycles).

The accompanying Yoruba proverb Obiripol'aiye for this set of 2 pillows, 1 ottoman and a frame is: Obiripo l’aiye. This translates to: life goes in cycles.

This set reminds us of the dynamism of life. Nothing in life is static. Everything and everyone experience change. Our timing and deeds are important in every stage of our cycle of life. There is a time to be young and a time to be old.

The belief of the Yoruba people is that everything we do today will form part of our tomorrow. So, let us begin today to write better stories for tomorrow.

Reward yourself with a piece or two of storytelling, Yoruba-inspired, handcrafted art that is made from the finest wood and fabric. The Akobi Collection has 13 pillows, 7 ottomans and 7 frames that you can choose from. We also welcome custom orders, send us a message or call us on +27722960215 and we will contact you back.