Life cycle

Yeye: I thought mother in Yoruba is ‘iya,’ is it also ‘mama’?

Me: Yes, it is. There are a few words that means the same thing.

Mama = mother

Yeye = mother

Iya = mother.

There you have it. Very likely that there are other variations of Yoruba words that means mother.

Calling someone ‘mother’ in Yoruba does not strictly mean biological mother, oftentimes we use mother loosely to refer to someone we admire usually within extended family.

In my family, I have an aunt that I call Yeye mi (my mother) she is a bit older than my father, they get along very well. When I was younger, her house was a stopover for my sister and I when we were out hawking something. She will always insist we come in from cold water and to rest our legs.

There is also Iya mi (my mother). Iya mi is my great-aunt. She was ccommodating and caring. Iya mi was known for her delicious stew. During school holidays, her house is the place to be in the evening as she cooked the best ìkẹ̀tẹ́ (thick palm oil stew) to go with yam.
Also, she was one of the very few people who retained their old open plan home style in the village which means there is plenty of room to spread mat to accommodate many children especially for ààlọ́ (traditional story)

In my case, I call my mother Moomi (a version of Mama mi) as common in my area while ‘Maami’ is used in cities.
With English infusion into the language, ‘mummy’ ‘mom’ is commonly used now for many.

“Is that why I am named Yeye?” Yeye asked.

Yes, after your grandmother. It’s usually patrilineal, if a mother of a father passes on, the next girl to be born in the family is named Yeye – this is the practice if the said grandmother was well loved. You could have been given her real name but grandma didn’t like her name ( I don’t blame her), luckily we have Yoruba generic one to the rescue.

Full name is Yeyewande – mother has come back to me

And two other names to honour grandmother:

Iyabo – Mother has returned

Yetunde – Mother has come back

As the saying goes, ‘when you are in Rome…’ Today is the UK Mother’s Day. Here is Prince Nico Mbarga, the well loved musicians whose Sweet Mother song has brought tears of joy to many people because it rings true of many mothers.

Happy Mother’s Day to all mothers be it biological or otherwise.