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A review of 'Abiku' by Wole Soyinka

By Regina Alabere on Fri, 20/05/2016 - 13:56

According to Yoruba mythology, Abiku refers to a child who dies repeatedly before puberty. It means ‘predestined to death’. Influenced by some spiritual deities a child dies prematurely leaving the mother miserable. Once the mother gives birth again and the child has the same physical features as the previous one, she puts a mark on the chest, back or face of the child. The parents then consult the oracle and appeases the spirit family of the child, if it is confirmed that it is from there.


Abiku’s are spirits who may have families in the spiritual world. The myth is that those spirits are hungry as no one offers sacrifices to them. In anger, they come to the physical world to eat and provide food for their spiritual family and at the peak of happiness in the home, they die. Such happiness may include marriage ceremony, coronation and wealth. This is a pure act of revenge as the cry of a mother excites the Abiku spirit.


The poem's persona, Abiku mocks the object used to confine him to earth. The bangles and charmed circles cannot refrain him from dying. He asserts proudly ‘I am Abiku calling for the first and repeated time’. From the tone of Abiku we know that he is addressing his parents.


He tells them that they are wasting their time by trying to make him stay. This poem vividly portrays the futility of life, meaning that man’s effort to avoid death is futile and man is a vain person. The  dominant mood of the poem is pride. The language is simple with complex meaning. Its complexity is achieved by the use of metaphor and imagery.


What is your opinion about this poem? Are there other places in Nigeria, where the myth of Abiku is believed? What is it called? Please give a brief explanation below.

 Sources: wikipedia.org

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