Some Aroko, as the Yoruba symbolic method of communication was called, did not involve a messenger.

These would be placed by the initiator at a specific location relevant to the message.

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When a piece of land was thought to be  in dispute, palm fronds placed in the earth warned people that no activity was to  be carried out there until the dispute was resolved

 

Palm fronds tied to a tree at a junction or cross roads to indicate which way to go. Popular routes would have varying ages of fronds from completely dried out to freshly cut
Palm fronds tied to a tree at a junction or cross roads  were to indicate which way to go. Popular routes would have varying ages of fronds from completely dried out to freshly cut

 

 

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Stones were placed in a pile along a less travelled route to  inform others how many persons had passed that way. Each traveller or hunter would place one stone as they went by
A series of knots tied onto a tree indicates the time the preceding traveller left that spot
A series of knots tied onto a tree indicates the time the preceding traveller left that spot. This was usually between parties who had agreed the journey beforehand

 

So ………..in the picture below, what time did the last person leave for Ile-Ife, and how many went to Ile-Ife ? ?

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Aroko was also used of course,  in love and friendship . These types required a messenger or go-between

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An orange meant “I love you” or “I like you”

 

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6 cowries meant ” I miss you” because the word 6  ( efa) in Yoruba had the same letters as the phrase “to pull” (efa)  in other words the sender was asking to be pulled closer/visited/invited

 

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2 cowries parcelled to face each other  indicated agreement with a course of action/decision
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A chewing stick message was a romantic proposal

 

 

 

Family news was also shared by Aroko

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If your wife had a baby while you were away, a shred of the oja (swaddling cloth/baby sling) was sent to inform you that mother and baby were well.
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If baby didn’t make it through childbirth or died soon after, the husband was sent the bark of a specific tree which grows bigger after  it is stripped of its bark, in an encouraging message that  though baby was lost, mother was alive to have more babies in future
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A piece of raffia mat was sent to inform that a relative was gravely ill

 

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8 items sent meant prosperity or success

Persons of authority also sent aroko to members of their community

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A chief would send his hat to feuding parties as a request for peace

 

 

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Between kings, one would send his flywhisk to the other in a request for solidarity
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And finally, an empty calabash was sent as an ultimatum to the recipient.

 

 

 

 

 

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