Monday, 4 April 2016

GirlHood Memories of a Yoruba Church

I was raised up by the loud, West African ‘hallelujahs’, in stone, cold Hackney Pentecostal  churches, attended mostly by Nigerian/Yoruba women,  who duly pledged  their 10% in crisp, white envelopes to be deposited into the pastor’s basket at the altar. The discreet, tokenistic passing of the collection plate usually followed, where everybody became your audience as you placed your money in the deep recess of the plate. You see, the pastor did not want to hear the jingling sharp echo of the coins when they fell into the plate, but the soft, fluttering sound of pound notes as they landed inside. The pastor’s facial   expressions truly defied gravity when this occurred. It was definitely a sight to see.

There these women were, getting down with the tribal beat and sensuous sounds of the talking drum;  the twanging of the rhythm guitar, that sounded so much like Sonny Ade, ‘back home’.

There these women were, singing in loud, and out of tune voices, but clapping and snapping gold ringed fingers in sanctified rhythms for Jesus.

There these women were, getting down and *‘owambe’ for Jesus, as though they were manically dancing in Fela’s shrine.

 There these women were, sweating and wiping dripping foundation stained melting faces. Helmets of Afros wigs awkwardly awry and flipped relaxed hair that had sizzled back into their au natural states.

 There, these women were fanning their cheap cardboard fans, brought from the local Woolworths, creating their own DIY air conditioning moment for Jesus.

 There these women were, throwing themselves on cold tiled floors for the love of the  Holy Spirit, and speaking in undetectable tongues, interspersed with their  mother’s tongue,

 There these women were, playing their roles of spirit filled women without their absent husbands by their holy sides .

 There these women were, showing off their sartorial  styling, as they smoothly undulated down the wide church aisles: using it as their own personal catwalk  with fresh, brightly coloured, patterned Dutch wax materials, fashioned into contemporary  **eros and bubas, accompanied by their stiff, obedient  ***gelees pointed towards a satisfied and receptive heaven.

These are some of  the memories that I dearly hold of attending church as a young girl. My Yoruba influenced church memories of my childhood.

* Partying
**Traditional top and wrapper 
***Stiff head wrap

****Disclaimer: All the Yoruba language purists, please forgive me if I have spelt some of the terms incorrectly. I do not have my people around me; I am just surrounded by the Caribbean Sea!****


  1. Great story.its Iron and bubas. My husband is Yoruba he told me the correction

    1. Thank ou so much. I was not too sure of the spellings. Iro and Buba, now I remember!