Kętęnfę! [keh-ten-feh] Yoruba verb, depicting attitude, swag attitude!
I am willing to bet that you won’t find this word in your everyday dictionary.
To tell you the truth, the one and only time I have heard this word was about twenty nine years ago. I haven’t heard it since then… but every time I remember the word, and the circumstances surrounding my hearing of it, I smile.
It was March 1987, and the site was Fakunle Comprehensive High School, in my native Osogbo, that sprawling center of cultural arts and entertainment in Yoruba land. I had gone on this fateful Saturday to sit for the compulsory Common Entrance Examination to secondary schools in the then Oyo State. Hundreds of other candidates were there, and as usual, they were in varying degrees of confusion when I arrived. Confusion as to which classroom they were to seat in, in spite of the classes being labelled properly, and some confusion still even after you have located the classroom allocated to you. It still took some searching to find your chair and desk. Confusion was still inevitable, in spite of the fact that the desks (and chairs) had been labelled for the thousands of 10-12 year olds coming to sit for the exams.
On this Saturday, I had gone there with my Dad and I was glad that my best friend in Primary six – Tee A- had also been allocated the same class as I. I marched into my class (with my Dad in tow – even though I was sure I could manage to locate my chair by myself) and within a few minutes I located my assigned desk and chair, with my exam number written clearly on them. My friend Tee-A was assigned the one two places behind me, but to his horror, he found that another candidate had already sat there. As expected, an argument ensued over who was the right owner of that particular desk…and of course, this drew everyone’s attention to them. Keep in mind, my Dad followed me in to be sure I found my seat and was properly settled in, but Tee A had come alone. As the argument went on, it dawned on us that Tee A had the right seat assignment but the young chap that had gotten there earlier must have decided that the whole seat assignment thingy did not matter. He had found a seat he liked, and he was not going to get up. Eventually, the supervisors came over to sort this out, but the fellow in front of him had looked back and come to his own conclusions.
I had noticed that he had been looking back at me and smiling approvingly. Before I could venture to ask what was amusing, [Okay, I wasn’t really going to ask, seeing he actually looked like someone from “the other side of the tracks” and I couldn’t trust myself to match him with words or with punches should they be needed], he said the word I had never heard.
He looked at me with some envy in his eyes, and in the slickest Osogbo accent I had ever heard – and with an approval in his voice, said “Iwọ Kętęnfę ntie, Baba rę ti ba ọ gbaaye!” loosely translated “You, seat there majestically, your Dad has gotten a space for you!” I didn’t quite understand the word “Kętęnfę!” until I related the story later to my Dad, who himself was from “the other side of the tracks”.
He roared with laughter, and explained what it meant.
‘Sit Majestically’ doesn’t quite do justice to
the word “Kętęnfę!”,
but it comes close.
And what does all this mean for Christians? For me, or for you?
It was Paul that first started to tell Christians what it means to belong to Christ. It was him that related it to sitting in a majestic place. He started to tell them in Ephesus that “Look, being Christians means that spiritually, we are seated with Christ, in God, far above principalities and powers” (Ephesians 2:6). We are seated majestically, in majesty. Not only seated, we are also blessed seated (Ephesians 1:3).
What is also true is that even though you and I are seated in Christ, we do get tempted to get up and away from our seat. If truth be told, that is all that the devil wants to accomplish. Lure you away from the height he could not reach – that seat with God. Lure you away with worry, the subtlest of all the sins.
Even when we do not stand up, we find ourselves fretting on the chair, wondering if it will hold; wondering if we’ll make it through the test. We find ourselves looking around, trying our very best to ensure that our efforts are enough to keep us seated. We get really worked up as if we raised ourselves up. Paul made it so clear “He hath raised us up…and made us sit...” (Ephesians 2 vs 6).
Sometimes, all we need do is to remain seated.
David the King had said this some centuries earlier “The Lord said unto my Lord, seat at my right hand until I make your enemies your footstool” (Psalms 110:1). Simply put, He is the one that raised us up; He is the one that made us sit. And He is the one that puts the enemies under our feet. Of course we are active participants in that act of “putting the enemy under our feet” but from what vantage point? Still in the seated position, my friend – you realise that judges don’t need to stand up to pronounce a sentence. They don’t even need to raise their voices.
So, that’s my reminder for us all today – “Kętęnfę!”
The closest I can come to translating that word is:
“Look, forget about anyone or anything threatening your position. Seat assured of your place in this place. Someone bigger than all of us got you where you are now.”
Don’t get worried about your seat being taken.
written by chukwudi adepoju.
He is @adechuks on twitter.