Main Article Content


This article argues that Yoruba proverbs are an essential source of popular wisdom on socio-environmental practices accessible through creative reconstruction and interpretation of their historical contexts. Learning from the everyday knowledge and accumulated wisdom of ordinary people holds significant promise at a time of unprecedented socio-environmental crisis and widespread calls for transformative change across scales. Drawing on the collection of Yoruba proverbs by Oyekan Owomoyela, broader Yoruba oral literature, Yoruba popular culture and a cross-disciplinary selection of academic literature, this article curates and reimagines nine Yoruba proverbs on the theme of fire, using these as an entry point to interrogate aspects of ecology and local understanding and practices of living with fires among the Yoruba people. 

Article Details

Yoruba, fire, history, proverbs, environment
How to Cite
Asiyanbi, A. “EXPLORING YORUBA FIRE CULTURES THROUGH PROVERBS”. Proverbium - Yearbook, vol. 40, no. 1, July 2023, pp. 25-46, doi:10.29162/pv.40.1.358.


Adesoji, Abimbola. “Yoruba Proverbs as a Veritable Source of History”. Proverbium vol. 23, 2006, pp. 1–15.

Adamo, David. “The Burning Bush (Ex 3: 1–6): A study of natural phenomena as manifestation of divine presence in the Old Testament and in African context”. HTS: Theological Studies, vol. 73, no. 3, 2017, pp. 1–8.

Albrecht, Rachel I., et al. "Where Are the Lightning Hotspots on Earth?" Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, vol. 97, no. 11, Nov. 2016, pp. 2051–68. doi.org/10.1175/BAMS-D-14-00193.1, retrieved on 15 January, 2023.

Asiyanbi, Adeniyi, and Conny Davidsen. "Governing Wildfire Risk in Canada: The Rise of an Apparatus of Security." Annals of the American Association of Geographers, vol. 113, no. 5 Feb. 2023, pp. 1207-1223.

Ayinuola, Fortress Isaiah, and Onwuka Edwin. "Yoruba Eco-Proverbs in English: An Eco-Critical Study of Niyi Osundare's Midlife and Horses of Memory". Journal of Literary Society of Nigeria, vol. 6, 2014, pp. 29–40.

Bẹwaji, John Ayotunde Isola. “Yorùbá Values and the Environment”. Yoruba Studies Review, vol. 3, no. 1, 2018, pp. 1–21.

Biobaku, Saburi. "The problem of traditional history with special reference to Yoruba traditions". Journal of the Historical Society of Nigeria, vol. 1 no. 1, 1956, pp. 43–47.

Darling, Patrick. "Sungbo's Eredo, Southern Nigeria". Nyame Akuma, vol. 49, 1998, pp. 55–61.

Delano, Isaac. Òwe l'ẹşin ọrọ: Yoruba proverbs, their meaning and usage. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1972.

Delano, Isaac. Proverbs, Songs and Poems. Sources of Yoruba History, edited by Saburi Biobaku, Oxford: Clarendon Press, pp, 76-86, 1973.

Egboh, Edmund Onyemeke. Forestry Policy in Nigeria, 1897-1960. Nsukka: University of Nigeria Press, 1985.

Escobar, Arturo. Pluriversal Politics: The Real and the Possible. North Carolina: Duke University Press, 2020.

Fayemi, Ademola Kazeem. "The Logic in Yoruba Proverbs". Logic and African Philosophy: Seminal Essays on African Systems of Thought, 2010, pp. 123–39.

Fokwang, Jude. “14 ‘Drinking from the Cosmic Gourd’ and the Fallacy of Completeness by Way of African Proverbs”. Being and Becoming African as a Permanent Work in Progress: Inspiration from Chinua Achebe’s Proverbs. Edited by Francis Nyamnjoh, Patrick Nwosu and Hassan Yosimbom. Cameroon: Langaa RPCIG, 2021, pp. 327–333.

Grove, Richard, & Falola, Toyin. “Chiefs, Boundaries, and Sacred Woodlands: Early Nationalism and the Defeat of Colonial Conservationism in the Gold Coast and Nigeria, 1870-1916”. African Economic history, vol. 24, 1996, pp. 1–23. https://doi.org/10.2307/3601843 retrieved on 15 January 2023.

Ignatov, Anatoli. “African Orature as Ecophilosophy: Tuning in to the voices of the Land”. GeoHumanities, vol. 2, no. 1, 2016, pp. 76-91.

Iliffe, John. "Poverty in Nineteenth-Century Yorubaland”. The Journal of African History, vol. 25, no. 1, 1984, pp. 43–57.

Jasanoff, Sheila. "Science and Citizenship: A New Synergy". Science and Public Policy, vol. 31, no. 2, Beech Tree Publishing, 2004, pp. 90–94.

Jeffreys, Mervyn David Waldegrave. "This Burning Question". Farm and Forest, vol. 6, no. 3, 1945, pp. 115–24.

Komarek, Edwin "Lightning and Fire Ecology in Africa". Tall Timbers Fire Ecology Conference, vol. 11, 1972, pp. 473–509.

Kull, Christian. Isle of Fire: The Political Ecology of Landscape Burning in Madagascar. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2004.

Laris, Paul, and David Andrew Wardell. "Good, Bad or 'Necessary Evil'? Reinterpreting the Colonial Burning Experiments in the Savanna Landscapes of West Africa". The Geographical Journal, vol. 172, no. 4, 2006, pp. 271–90. Wiley Online Library, https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1475-4959.2006.00215.x, retrieved on 15 January 2023.

Nyamnjoh, Francis. Drinking from the Cosmic Gourd: How Amos Tutuola Can Change Our Minds. Cameroon: Langaa RPCIG, 2017.

Olorunnisola, Abel. "The Past, Present and Future Outlook of the Wood Industry in Nigeria." Wood Industry-Past, Present and Future Outlook. IntechOpen, 2023.

Osundare, Niyi. Midlife. Ibadan: Heinemann Educational Books, 1993.

Owomoyela, Oyekan. Yorùbá Kì Í Proverbs: A Class of Proscriptive and Prescriptive Sayings. Lanham, Maryland: University Press of America, 1988.

Owomoyela, Oyekan. “Proverbs: exploration of an African philosophy of social communication”. Ba Shiru, vol. 12, no. 1, 1981, pp. 3-16.

Owomoyela, Oyekan. Yoruba Proverbs. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2005.

Raji-Oyelade, Aderemi. Playful blasphemies: postproverbials as archetypes of modernity in Yoruba culture. Trier: WVT, Wissenschaftlicher Verlag Trier, 2012.

Smith, Robert. "Ijaiye, the Western Palatinate of the Yoruba". Journal of the Historical Society of Nigeria, vol. 2, no. 3, 1962, pp. 329–49. http://www.jstor.org/stable/41856736. retrieved on 5 February, 2023.

Tedim, Fantina, et al. "Defining extreme wildfire events: Difficulties, challenges, and impacts". Fire vol. 1, no. 1, 2018, pp 9–37.

NASA, Earth Observatory. Building a Long-Term Record of Fire, https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/images/145421/building-a-long-term-record-of-fire?src=ve, retrieved on 6 February, 2023.