iya mi

“Yemoja, ‘Mother of the Children of Fishes,’ is the ultimate symbol, and the personification of motherhood.  She represents the place of origin and the maternal source of divine, human, animal and plant life.  The ocean is the most common symbol of this all encompassing maternity.” ~Baba John Mason

the true Big Mama, she has blessed me in ways i will never be able to put into words.  she teaches me the magic of motherhood and warriorhood (and so much more *smiles*).  and if you are ever in doubt that she is a warrior, go stand at the mouth of any beach and watch her in action…

we inhabit a planet comprised of mostly water and are creatures whose bodies follow suit.  for this, and so much more, i salute Yemoja.  the mother of all mothers.  the queen of all queens.  Maferefun Yemoja.

Thoughts on Lemonade and Osetura

I don’t usually post my writing, however being where I am in the world  and at the suggestion of a friend I wanted to express my thoughts on Beyonce’s Visual album “Lemonade” and my perspective on the poignant references to Yoruba, religion and philosophy encoded within it. This perspective is my own and I do not claim to be an expert or intend dismiss or devalue other perspectives, I am simply drawn to comment due to the nature of my work and the fact that I have been living in Nigeria (Yorubaland to be more specific) for the last seven months.  I want to start off by saying that Beyonce is not the first artist to incorporate these themes sonically and visually into their work.  Angelique Kidjo, Ibeyi ,Oshun NYC and Azaelia Banks are but a few others who have delved into this realm, Beyonce is simply the latest and arguably most well known, (within the realm of pop music) to do so. Throughout the video there are numerous references to the many facets of Oshun, one of the most prominent Orishas in the Yoruba Pantheon.  Oshun like the other female Orishas is representative of Yoruba concepts of womanhood and the feminine powers of the universe, She is the embodiment of fertility, love, coolness, patience and wealth. She is the spirit of the Oshun river and the sacred mother Of Osogbo a town built  along its banks.  As recorded in Osetura one of  the 256 Odu of the Ifa literary corpus (the sacred corpus of Yoruba poetry used in divination to reveal one’s destiny) , she was among the first Orisha (Irunmole) to descend from Orun (Sky, Heaven, abode of Olorun the creator and sustainer of all things)  into the universe to create the physical realm and the only female among them. It is in this Ese (poem within the Odu) that both the creative and destructive powers of Oshun are demonstrated. When the Orisha attempted to form the world they excluded her, devaluing the awesome and essential power that she contained. Their heads fell into chaos, and life on earth failed to prosper. When they returned to Olorun they asked why they had failed and Olorun (who is far beyond gender) responded by asking “ What of Oshun? What of the Woman that I sent with you? They responded by saying that she was but a woman. Olorun then told them that they are knowing what that did not know before. The other Orishas returned to her and begged her forgiveness and only then could creation resume unabated, the male and female forces were then in equilibrium. It is said by some Babalawo/Iyanifa (ifa priests and priestesses) That the failure of the first attempt at creation was due to Oshun forming the Iyami (the witches or more accurately our powerful mothers) The Iyami (Iya=mother Mi=my) are the powerful unseen feminine forces that can work both for and against mankind. They demand recognition, inclusion and respect and wreak havoc on societies, families and individuals that ignore their relevance, their importance and their essential function of balancing creation. The Iyami are addressed and respected each time a babalawo/Iyanifa casts the divination chain and in the numerous prayers and blessings associated with Ifa.  The Orisha all possess contradictory aspects to their nature, Oshun is love, beauty, fertility, coolness and abundance, but when pushed to extremes, when ignored, when disrespected, she can be wrathful, her anger and  her sadness can bring  chaos and destruction. In Yoruba lore the Orisha are the manifestation of nature, art, creative and destructive forces as well as the deified ancestors who came to embody these forces on earth. They are the manifestation of the Yoruba perception of the visible  and unseen energies personified in human forms, Black forms. Throughout Lemonade there are numerous references to not only Oshun but the Iyami.  In the visual album Beyonce emerges in a rush of water dressed in Yellow (Oshun’s color representative of the sweetness of honey and the glimmer and luxury of brass) smiling as she smashes windows, pipes and signs. She has been betrayed, excluded, devalued and disrespected by her husband. The family and by extension the world reams in the chaos that ensues.  The film also included Sybrina Fulton, Gwen Carr and Lezley McSpadden, the mothers of Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner and Mike Brown, three women, Three mothers, who have faced unimaginable loss, pain and sadness. Their pain, their narrative as well as the narratives of the countless other Black mothers, our mothers, have been ignored, disregarded and dismissed. They have been told through the injustices of our legal system that the lives of their children as well as their pain as mothers don’t matter.  Such is the dilemma of the Black woman. As stated by Malcolm X whose famous quote is used in the film, there is no one in America today as disrespected as the Black woman. This is an unfortunate reality faced by Black women in the Americas, both within and outside of the Black community. Their beauty, strength, intelligence and essential value to our society is constantly disregarded. They face continuous disrespect not only from society as a whole, but even from some Black men who unabashedly spit some of the most vile and hateful vitriol at women, who are our own sisters and our own mothers. Oshun as well as Oya, Yemoja, Obba, Iya Mapo and the countless other female Orisha represent the power of the feminine forces of the universe as embodied in women, as embodied in Black women. To me this is a visual ode to the Black Woman, Her power, her pain and society’s need to respect and to include her. It is about about the chaos that ensues when she has been denigrated and the prosperity that comes only from her inclusion, reconciliation and healing. I am not a Beyonce fanatic, however I can appreciate the symbolism artfully used in this work. She is not the first artist  to explore these issues of Blackness and womanhood, by any means. However I hope at this very crucial time history we begin the question and explore this issues of identity, history and social activism, giving attention to all artists using them creatively, while pondering these issues ourselves.

4 Perempuan Panutan dalam Islam

Setelah shalat Isya tadi, entah kenapa tiba tiba terbesit membuat tulisan tentang perempuan-perempuan yang menjadi suri teladan dalam agama ini. Aku langsung menghampiri Ummi dan terjadilah dialog seperti ini

Aku: Mi, A Idho tiba-tiba kepikiran tulisan baru nih

Ummi: Tentang apa, A?

Aku: Tentang 4 perempuan mulia dalam agama ini

Ummi: Oh… Fathimah Az Zahra, Khadijah istri Rasul, Maryam ibunda Nabi Isa sama Asiyah, istrinya Firaun kan?

Hal ini berdasarkan hadits yang diriwayatkan oleh Ahmad dan Tirmidzi: “Cukuplah wanita-wanita ini sebagai panutan kalian. Yaitu Maryam binti Imran, Khadijah binti khuwailid, Fatimah binti Muhammad dan Asiyah binti muzahim, istri fir’aun.” 

Aku: Iya, mi. (aku mengangguk tanda setuju). Tapi A Idho mau membahasnya berdasarkan sejarah dan karakteristik yang menonjol dari masing masing mereka.

Ummi: Coba, A. Gimana?

Aku melihat senyuman di wajah Ummi yang menunjukkan raut penasaran. Langsung saja ku ambil kertas dan pulpen. Ku gambar 4 buah lingkaran kecil yang terpisah dengan jarak tertentu. Di antara titik titik itu ku gambar arah panah yang menunjukkan adanya suatu perubahan dari satu titik ke titik lainnya. Selanjutnya, ku tuliskan di atas lingkaran itu secara berurutan dari kiri ke kanan: Asiyah, Maryam, Khadijah, dan Fatimah

Aku: Kita mulai dari yang paling dekat dengan kita. Fatimah. Menurut A Idho, Fatimah memperlihatkan bagaimana cinta itu tumbuh, mi. Bagaimana cinta itu selalu dihadirkan secara terus menerus. Bagaimana kebahagiaan itu berusaha – dijaga selalu ada. terasa. 

Ummi: Fatimah itu kan dilamar oleh Abu Bakar sampai Ustman, A. Tapi Rasul tidak mau. Ali yang mengetahui hal itu sempat merasa minder. Orang kaya dan terkenal aja ditolak apalagi dirinya. Namun, siapa yang sangka kalau sedari kecil mereka berdua ternyata memendam rasa kan?

Aku: Tepat, mi. Sekarang kita mundur sejenak ke belakang. Khadijah. Perempuan ini bagi A Idho adalah simbol dari kedewasaan. Ia adalah perempuan yang mandiri dengan kecerdasan yang tinggi. Dan karena itulah, dia tidak larut dalam panik saat Rasul berteriak ‘zammiluni, zammiluni’ (selimuti aku, selimuti aku). Dia tetap menjaga akal sehatnya. Rasionalitasnya untuk mempercayai sang al Amin.

Ummi terdiam.

Aku: Kalau Maryam, jelas yang terlihat dari dia adalah penjagaan dirinya. Bagaimana dia menjaga tubuh dan hatinya dari laki-laki. Sampai akhirnya, nabi Isa lahir dan menghirup udara dunia. Dan terakhir adalah Asiyah. Bagi A Idho, Asiyah adalah lambang dari penjagaan keimanan. Bagaimana dia harus disiksa karena menentang orang yang telah menjadi pasangan hidupnya, Firaun

Mi, bagi A Idho. Lintasan sejarah ini ada hal yang diwariskan terkait penjagaan. Dan sebagaimana warisan pada umumnya, kita akan melihat makin ke sini akan semakin sedikit mereka yang menerima warisan itu. Zaman sekarang, mungkin banyak muda mudi yang seperti Fatimah, mereka menjaga kebahagiaan mereka atas nama ‘cinta’ bahkan dari kecil, umur SD sudah bermain perasaan ini. Lalu selanjutnya, kita akan makin sulit menjumpai perempuan yang benar benar dewasa, bak khadijah. Yang tidak mudah galau dan akan tenang dalam menghadapi permasalahan. Mereka yang menjaga rasionalitasnya.

Dan kita pula akan menyebut langka bagi mereka yang mampu menjaga dirinya seperti Maryam. Bahkan banyak perempuan yang udah tidak perawan lagi kan di zaman sekarang? Dan yang paling sulit kita temukan adalah mereka yang benar benar terjaga imannya. Mereka yang benar benar menjadi obyek kecemburuan para bidadari surga. Banyak orang yang terbutakan cinta akhirnya menukarkan imannya, Mi. Mereka melupakan beratnya siksaan akhirat demi mencegah siksaan dunia, tidak seperti Asiyah.

Pada akhirnya, A Idho mencoba menarik benang merah, Mi. Mereka yang menjaga imannya, akan berusaha menjaga dirinya, lalu menjaga rasionalnya, dan akhirnya menjaga pula rasa bahagianya. Logikanya tidak bisa dibalik. Jangan sampai karena kebahagiaan (yang sifatnya sementara), kita rela menghilangkan akal sehat kita, mengorbankan diri kita, sampai menjual keimanan kita. Dan itulah yang hikmah dari refleksi diri A Idho habis shalat tadi

Aku terdiam. Ummi memejamkan matanya sambil tersenyum

Ummi: Jadi, kapan ditulisnya, A?

Lagi-lagi, Ummi tersenyum penuh makna – seperti biasanya. Entah apa yang dipikirkannya. Sedangkan aku segera mengambil laptop. Selagi aku masih mengingatnya. Selagi aku masih mempunyai umur untuk menyebarkan kebermanfaatan ini. Sebuah pemikiran yang begitu saja terlintas saat mengingat para perempuan mulia. Semoga Allah menempatkan mereka dalam derajat yang tinggi. Amin.

– – –

Wahai kaum hawa, jika kau masih takut tidak bisa menjaga kebahagiaanmu, akal sehatmu, ataupun dirimu, maka cukuplah kau menjaga imanmu. Karena yakinlah, dengan kau menjaga imanmu, Allah akan menjagamu atas yang lainnya.