Black Culture: 4-Year-Old Nigerian Child Genius Translates Over 200 Yoruba Proverbs

by Duke Magazine

A four-year-old old’s knowledge of Yoruba culture has been fascinating to the enthusiasm of people, especially with his age. Olamilekan Iyanuoluwa Adebayo can recite more than 200 proverbs in Yoruba, as well translate each one of them into English, a skill that sometimes takes decades to master.

Believed to be a special child, he uttered his first words at three months old to the surprise of his family. Thereafter, he seemed to have gone mute only to start speaking again shortly after his second birthday and he has since been branded the “encyclopedia of Yoruba proverbs.” He caught the attention of Nigerians after he recited some proverbs at the end of the SARS protests.

Proverbs form a part of oral African literature and applied to different scenarios, whether serious or fun. They are full of imagery and language styles that would leave many impressed and enthused. Most times, they also show the depth of cultural knowledge that the speaker possesses. The trick with proverbs is to know when and how to execute them so that they could have the most impact.

Ibadan resident Olamilekan is well vast in Yoruba proverbs to the point that literary minds in Yoruba cannot explain how he came to be so, neither can his parents.

Ben Tomoloju, a theatre scholar, told a local news outlet that he, with all his educational certifications, cannot explain how this phenomenon is happening.

Although the four-year-old sometimes needs prompts from his father, Adebayo Oladehimeji, who holds a sheet of paper with the proverbs written, the little genius just recites away off the head and quickly follows suit with the English translations.

According to Oladehimeji, his son’s knowledge of Yoruba elements, culture, and precisely proverbs can be likened to that of his late father who died 14 years ago. He adds that not only did his father end most of his conversations with Yoruba proverbs, but he also loved the culture as well. Olamilekan, who has a striking semblance to his grandfather, is exhibiting the same at this early age. A nursery one student of Tabitha Nursery and Primary School, Felele in Ibadan City, Olamilekan first started reciting Yoruba proverbs after hearing his father use one during a conversation with his mother. The young boy memorized what he heard to the shock of everyone, his father said.

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