In the Yoruba worldview, the individual’s identity is closely tied to the community. It might be said of a person that ‘the community is, therefore, I am.’ Out of this context emerges the Oriki. It is a praise poem celebrating the individual as a member of his family or clan. And it summarily recounts the exploits of his ancestors and forebears.
Becoming a Christian is a momentous change; it involves the adoption of an entirely new community – the community of faith. And the believer boasts of a new lineage, with Jesus Christ himself as the ‘firstborn’ (Col 1:18). His identity is now based on his membership in God’s family, the Church. He has God as Father and Christ as brother, with a multitude of siblings united by faith in the same redeemer. Hence, he gets a new Oriki.
Child of grace,
Born of love
Through the blood of Christ, the King,
Forever sealed with his blessed Spirit.
Made of dust, indwelt by breath –
Breath of God Most High.
Child of God,
Brother to the saints.
Shall I tell of my fathers,
Or recount the deeds of my brothers?
Of the faith of Abraham,
Not a little has been heard.
Who left his home for an unknown land,
In obedience to the word of the King.
Of Jacob the brave;
Wrestling with an angel till break of dawn,
He earned himself the name of Israel.
Of Joseph the slave,
Who became a prince over the Mightiest of the world.
Of Moses, the man of God,
Who led Israel out of the hell of Egypt,
Through the Sea of Reeds,
Across the fiery desert.
Of Joshua, the courageous,
Who broke the pride of Canaan,
And made it the homeland of the Jews.
Of Rahab, the penitent,
Who, through faith, became a mother of the Messiah.
Of Samson, the strong,
Though impulsive and reckless,
He routed the enemies of God.
Of Gideon, the timid,
Who received strength at the edge of a river.
Of Deborah, the Judge;
Fearless and bold,
Men took cover under her.
Tell me of David, the great king;
Mild and gentle, adroit and bold.
A lad slays a giant and becomes a father of kings.
Emblem of Christ himself.
Shall I speak of Elijah and Elisha,
Prophets of renown,
Commanding fire and oil in the name of the King.
Shall I tell of Daniel,
Astute and fearless;
The wisdom of kings and the fear of men.
Tell of Mary, the favoured virgin;
Humble maiden, mother of Christ.
Oh, Sing of the sweetness of John,
Apostle of love, Herald of grace!
Tell of the acts of Peter,
Apostle to the Jews;
Faithful steward, tender shepherd.
Recount the labours of Paul:
Eminent writer, tireless preacher;
Planter of churches; lover of gentiles.
Sing of the One whom they all served –
Mighty Saviour, Great Redeemer;
Yeshua the Lamb,
Jesus the King,
Christ the Lord.
Dayo is a Christian writer based in Lagos, Nigeria. He has a vision of seeing Africa transformed through the Christian worldview and he pursues this through a teaching and publishing website, The Christian Mind. Dayo is married to Omolade and they have one son.