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D. A. Ọbasa (1879–1945): a Yoruba poet, culture activist and local intellectual in colonial Nigeria


This article examines the works of one of the earliest Yoruba poets, Denrele Adetimikan Ọbasa (1879–1945), a member of the local intelligentsia in colonial Nigeria. In my assessment of the poet as a culture activist and local intellectual, I draw on biographical information, extensive archival research and relevant textual illustration. The central argument of the article is that Ọbasa exploits Yoruba communal oral resources for ideas, themes and other linguistic influences in his poetry. Therefore, the essay explores the creative ability of Ọbasa to preserve different forms of oral literary material in his poetic composition and how he uses the folkloric materials as instruments for raising the social consciousness of his readers. At this level, the article argues, Ọbasa transforms oral traditions into metaphorical and symbolic language that best articulates his political or philosophical positions. Thus, orality is not static, but dynamic, flexible and adaptable to change. The main article offers translations of excerpts from Ọbasa's poetry, while the online supplementary material offers more complete samples of Ọbasa's poems.


Cet article examine l’œuvre de l'un des tout premiers poètes yoruba, Denrele Adetimikan Ọbasa (1879–1945), membre de l'intelligentsia locale du Nigeria colonial. Dans son évaluation de ce poète en tant qu'activiste de la culture et intellectuel local, l'auteur s'appuie sur des données biographiques, de nombreux travaux d'archives et des illustrations de texte pertinentes. L'argument central de l'article est le fait qu’Ọbasa exploite les ressources orales communales yoruba pour inspirer les idées, les thèmes et autres influences linguistiques de sa poésie. L'essai explore donc la capacité créatrice d’Ọbasa à préserver différentes formes de matériel littéraire oral dans sa composition poétique et la manière dont il instrumentalise le matériel folklorique pour éveiller la conscience sociale de ses lecteurs. L'article soutient qu’à ce niveau, Ọbasa transforme les traditions orales en langage métaphorique et symbolique qui exprime au mieux ses positions politiques ou philosophiques. L'oralité n'est donc pas statique mais dynamique, flexible et adaptable au changement. L'article principal propose des traductions d'extraits de la poésie d’Ọbasa, tandis que le matériel supplémentaire en ligne offre des exemples plus complets des poèmes d’Ọbasa.

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R. Nnodim (2006) ‘Audiences in Yoruba novel, print and media poetry’, Research in African Literatures 37 (3): 154–75.

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  • ISSN: 0001-9720
  • EISSN: 1750-0184
  • URL: /core/journals/africa
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Type Description Title
Supplementary Materials

Akinyẹmi supplementary material
Akinyẹmi supplementary material 1

 PDF (193 KB)
193 KB
Supplementary Materials

Akinyẹmi supplementary material
Akinyẹmi supplementary material 2

 PDF (122 KB)
122 KB


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