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Existentialist Concerns in Africa: The Yorùbá Perspectives of Death and Suicide
Language, Literature and Culture
Vol.2 , No. 2, Publication Date: Apr. 18, 2019, Page: 41-48
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Authors
 
[1]    

Solomon Kolawole Awe, Department of Philosophy, University of Ibadan, Ibadan, Nigeria.

 
Abstract
 

Existentialist framework is a discourse which centres on the concrete existence of human being and his relations to others in the world. Meanwhile, African existentialist framework attempts to domesticate the recurring thematic issues of existentialism as it occurs within the space of Africa. Hence, this study attempts a critical examination of death and suicide in Yoruba perspectives. Death has been considered by some scholars as evil which renders life meaningless and hopeless. As such, death is seen not only as limitations to the struggles, strivings, and existence of human, but also as a phenomenon which closes the door of all possibilities. Consequently, death is finality. Against this background is the Yorùbá belief that death is a transition to a world beyond the physical. Hence, this study will examines the Yorùbá conception of death and contrast it to the Western thought. The examination of death in Yorùbá traditional thought shows that death is not finality and as a result celebrates the death of the aged. This however has an implication on the construct of human existence and morality in Africa. This study further interrogates the idea of suicide in Yorùbá traditional thought. It underscores issues such as the quality of life, the meaningfulness or meaninglessness of life and finally instances in which suicide is permissible. The Yorùbá adage of Iku ya j’esin is a construct which points out that even though life is precious and irreplaceable, nevertheless, considers death as a better alternative to shame. The value of life is therefore re-examined through the Yorùbá understanding of the quality of life.


Keywords
 

Existentialism, Death, Suicide, Meaningfulness, Meaninglessness, Shame


Reference
 
[01]    

Sartre, J.-P. 1994. “Existentialism Is a Humanism.” Fifty Readings Philosophy, Donald C. Abel. USA: McGraw-Hill, Inc., p. 388.

[02]    

See Sartre, J.-P. 1947. Existentialism. Trans. by Bernard Frechtman. New York: Philosophical Library.

[03]    

Igbafen, M. L. 2017. “Human Life and the Question of Meaning in African Existentialism.” Themes, Issues and Problems in African Philosophy, Isaac E. Ukpokolo (ed.). Palgrave Macmillan: Switzerland., p. 238.

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See Barrett, W. 1947. What is Existentialism? New York: Grove Press.

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Omoregbe, J. I. 1991. A Simplified History of Western Philosophy: Contemporary Philosophy, vol. 3. Lagos: Joja Educational Research and Publishers, p. 38.

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Igbafen, M. L. 2017. “Human Life and the Question of Meaning in African Existentialism,” p. 240.

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Gbadegesin, S. 1984. “Destiny, Personality and the Ultimate Reality of Human Existence: A Yorùbá Perspective.” Ultimate Reality and Meaning, Vol. 7, No. 3. Canada: University of Toronto, p. 174.

[08]    

Cf. Gbadegesin, S. 1984. “Destiny, Personality and the Ultimate Reality of Human Existence: A Yorùbá Perspective.”

[09]    

Cf. Lange, D., 1995. “Ifè and the Origin of the Yorùbá: Historiographical Considerations.” Ifè: Annals of the Institute of Cultural Studies, (ed.) BíódúnAdèdìran, Ile-Ife: Institute of Cultural Studies, ObafemiAwolowo University, Ile-Ife, p. 310.

[10]    

Cf. Gbadegesin, S. 1984. “Destiny, Personality and the Ultimate Reality of Human Existence: A Yorùbá Perspective.” p. 175. For the original text, see Johnson, S., 1921. The History of the Yorùbás, London: Lowe and Biydore.

[11]    

Cf. Olasunkanmi, A., 2015. “Suicide in Yoruba Ontology.” International Journal of History and Philosophical Research. Vol 3. No. 1. www.eajournals.org. Accessed on 6th December, 2018. p. 30.

[12]    

Olasunkanmi, A., 2015. “Suicide in Yoruba Ontology.”

[13]    

This passage is cited from King James Version of the Holy Bible, Job 14:1. For further reading on the inevitability of death in the Bible, see the book of Ecclesiastes.

[14]    

Camus, A., 1975. Myth of Sisyphus. Justin O’Brien (trans.). New York: Penguin Books Ltd., p. 51.

[15]    

Cf. Igbafen, M. L. 2017. “Human Life and the Question of Meaning in African Existentialism.” p. 242.

[16]    

Dopamu, A. P. 2006. “Change and Continuity: The Yoruba Belief in Life after Death.” Continuity and Change: Perspectives on Science and Religion. p. 8.

[17]    

Igbafen, M. L. 2017. “Human Life and the Question of Meaning in African Existentialism.” p. 247.

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Mbiti, J. S. 1992. Introduction to African Religion. Kenyan: Nairobi East African Educational Publishers Ltd, p 125.

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Adesanya, O. I., 2018. Ancestral Veneration as a Metaphysical Issue in Yoruba Culture. A paper presented at FelaKuti International Conference, University of Ibadan, Nigeria.

[20]    

Dopamu, A. P. 2006. “Change and Continuity: The Yoruba Belief in Life after Death.” Continuity and Change: Perspectives on Science and Religion. p. 11.

[21]    

For further reading on Ancestorship in Yoruba traditional religion system, see Olawole, F. 2005. “Art and Spirituality: The IjumuNortheatern-Yoruba Egungun”, A Dissertation Submitted to the Faculty of Art, in partial fulfillment of the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy, The University of Arizona. (Unpublished work).

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Balogun, O. A. 2009. “The Nature of Evil and Human Wickedness in Traditional African Thought: Further Reflections on the Philosophical Problem of Evil.” LUMINA, Vol. 2 No. 1. http://lumina.hnu.edu.ph, p. 15.

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Cf. Igbafen, M. L. 2017. “Human Life and the Question of Meaning in African Existentialism,” p. 246. For original text, see Hook, S. 1986. “Pragmatism and the Tragic Sense of Life,” in American Philosophy in the Twentieth Century A Sourcebook from Pragmatism to Philosophical Analysis. Paul Kurtz (Ed.). London: Macmillan.

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Obasola, K. E. & Omomia O. A. 2014. “Philosophical Perspectives of Suicide and Implications for the Sanctity of Life.” Global Journal of Arts Humanities and Social Sciences. Vol. 2, No. 10, p. 47.

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Obasola, K. E. & Omomia O. A. 2014.“Philosophical Perspectives of Suicide and Implications for the Sanctity of Life.”

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For further reading, see Adeboye, O. “Death is Preferable to Ignominy’: Politically Motivated Suicide, Social Honor and Chieftaincy Politics in Early Colonial Ibadan.”

[27]    

Adeboye, O. “Death is Preferable to Ignominy’: Politically Motivated Suicide, Social Honor and Chieftaincy Politics in Early Colonial Ibadan.” p. 1.

[28]    

Adeboye, O. “Death is Preferable to Ignominy’: Politically Motivated Suicide, Social Honor and Chieftaincy Politics in Early Colonial Ibadan.”

[29]    

Adeboye, O. “Death is Preferable to Ignominy’: Politically Motivated Suicide, Social Honor and Chieftaincy Politics in Early Colonial Ibadan.” p. 14.

[30]    

Menkiti, I. A. 1984. “Person and Community in African Traditional Thought.” African Philosophy: An Introduction, Richard A. Wright (ed.), 3rdEd. New York: University of AmericaPress., p. 180.

[31]    

Cf. Kaphagawani, D. N. 2004. “African Conceptions of a Person: A Critical Survey.” A Companion to African Philosophy. KwasiWiredu (ed.). UK: Blackwell Publishing Ltd., p. 337.

[32]    

Olasunkanmi, A. 2015. “Suicide in Yoruba Ontology.” p. 32.

[33]    

Lanre-Abass, B. A. 2010. “Suicide and Human Dignity: An African Perspective.” Humanity & Social Sciences Journal, 5 (1), p. 58.

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Lanre-Abass, B. A. 2010. “Suicide and Human Dignity: An African Perspective.”

[35]    

Mazrui, A. 1965. “Sacred Suicide,” Transition, 21, p. 11.

[36]    

Lanre-Abass, B. A. 2010. “Suicide and Human Dignity: An African Perspective.” p. 50.

[37]    

Lanre-Abass, B. A. 2010. “Suicide and Human Dignity: An African Perspective.” p. 59.





 
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