It is customary in the Yoruba culture to curtsey or prostrate when greeting one’s elders. This practice is conducted in day to day living as well as celebrations such as weddings. Kneeling for the older generations is part and parcel of the Yoruba tradition, and as with most tradition, is beginning to lose its meaning and value with time. So why do the Yoruba kneel?
Those outside of the culture might consider kneeling for another to be embarrassing at best and demeaning at worst. In the past, women were also expected to kneel for their husbands. Many would argue it is a practice that should have been stopped when we ceased living in huts and answering to chiefs.
If you are a female, you are expected to go on your knees when greeting one who is older than you; and if you are a male you are expected to ko mo le, in other words, prostrate. Because of the great physical commitment of prostrating, most males place their left arm behind their back and bend to touch the floor with their right hand, instead.
If you have any doubt about how important greeting properly is to the Yoruba culture, all you have to do is listen to Lagbaja’s hit Mummy Hi. In the song, he describes a lady who instead of greeting his mother by kneeling, waves her hand and says hi.
There was an occasion when I was younger and living in England, my grandpa was in the country and I went to see him. He met me at the train station and I did a little curtsey when I approached him. As I was rising from said curtsey, he placed his palm upon my crown and gently assisted me on getting to my knees and told me that was how I greeted my grandpa.
I blushed a little, looked around, but all in all, I found the incident vaguely amusing. And it is one of my favourite memories of him. But it does beg the question, why is it so important?
Greeting is a way of showing respect. It is also vital to communication and community life among the Yoruba because it acts as a catalyst. The absence of an appropriate greeting, whenever it is required can be the beginning of an age-long hostility.
The Yoruba culture is not the only culture, however, that has used the practice of kneeling. The British for example, though not obligated to, still practise curtseying and bowing when addressing a member of though royal family. In the Indian culture, there is the practice of briefly touching the feet of those who are superior to you in age and position.
These practices are a way to remind those who are young and inexperienced that the one they are kneeling to has seen life and has wisdom that can be passed on. It is not a tool to create a form of subservience or servitude. Nonetheless, it may very well be losing its worth with time.
Meanwhile, check out Twitter reactions below:
It is fine that some couples are rejecting symbolic gestures such as a wife kneeling for her husband during the Yoruba traditional wedding. Everyone is entitled to their choices. I just find it amusing we are quicker to find holes in gestures than those of our colonial masters
— Babanla (@biolakazeem) August 24, 2018
Why do Yoruba people go full stupid whenever kneeling is being discussed? What is your dysfunction?
— Big Daddy Gersh (@__gershom) August 24, 2018
I'm going to kneel for my Groom on my Wedding day and every other day when the need arises, I'm going to call him Olowoorimi.
All these fake woke Aunties should take a bow & STFU.
I'm a thoroughbred Yoruba Lady and my Grandma Raised me right.
It's My Culture and I love it.
— Olajoke Akinkuolie (@lajokejcc) August 24, 2018
I knelt to propose to my girlfriend, she's now my wife… According to Nigerian Twitter that means she's superior to me.
Everybody finding ways to be relevant in their own corner. Oh well.
PS: My own Yoruba background taught me prostrating/kneeling is a way to honor people.
— J. Taiwo Orilogbon (@logbon72) August 24, 2018
I'm a full-blooded Yoruba man and my mother raised me right. I will prostrate for my wife & her family on my wedding day & I expect her to kneel before me as well.
This doesn’t make her inferior in my eyes.
This is my CULTURE, I love it & will never deviate from it.
— PEREZ (@__perez94) August 24, 2018
I fear that our kids wont speak our local language
The only languages that might survive this would be
Cos we even barely speak it
— Cinderella Man (@Osi_Suave) August 24, 2018
Yoruba people are having problems with kneeling / not kneeling for their husbands..
We Igbos, e no concern us.
— E B U K A ??? (@Mcberth_Playkul) August 24, 2018
I remember when my Igbo friend got married to his Yoruba bride.
His dad got pissed when he was asked to prostrate with his friends
His elder bro just told the father. This is the their tradition. Respect it
— 'Seun Daniels (@sheunshaggz) August 24, 2018
I'm Yoruba married to a Deltan, they don't kneel.. My husband's siblings call him by name, doesn't take away the fact that respect and honour is given…
Yes, Culture is important but if she has chosen not to kneel and she and her husband are fine, what is your own?
— Nwanyi'Oma (@Inzaghi1) August 24, 2018
imagine telling a Yoruba man you won't kneel down during traditional marriage and his mother happens to hear you ??????
— King Overdose (@iam__kellyjoe) August 24, 2018