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Archive for the ‘Speaking Yoruba’ Category

I just returned from an incredible weekend in New York City seeing old friends, taking the never-ending subway and speaking Yorùbá with Nigerians! My purpose in the visit was first and foremost an interview with Sahara Reporters for their new TV channel that streams live from their Web site. Omoyele Sowore, the founder and editor-in-chief at the grass roots news organization invited me to New York along with Kevin ‘Kayode’, one of the other students on my program. Moses Mabayoje, the resident director for our program came too.
Here are three videos: the first is a little sketch we filmed at a Nigerian restaurant in Brooklyn, called Buka.

The second is my interview with Adeola, the producer at Sahara Reporters; and the third is Kayode’s interview. Hopefully some of you saw it live, but if not you have a chance to watch it here. WARNING: The videos are entirely in Yoruba with no subtitles.

My interview: http://cdn.livestream.com/embed/saharareporters?layout=4&clip=pla_7006f6b4-ba56-45b9-92b2-182e1a2cff27&height=340&width=560&autoplay=false

Kayode’s interview: http://cdn.livestream.com/embed/saharareporters?layout=4&clip=pla_4dc91c50-9e69-49c5-8983-1cf0c5d21ae1&height=340&width=560&autoplay=false

Watch live streaming video from saharareporters at livestream.com
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North of Lagos has been a powerful communication tool connecting me to interesting Nigerians world wide. Ijeoma Emenanjo is one of those people. Working towards his masters at Harvard, he also is the founder of a media organization called Verity Africa. He found me on my blog and told me about his interest in working with me as part of it. The purpose of Verity Africa is to tell deep, investigative stories about interesting, news-making Africans. He tells them in the form of 30-minute documentary videos. He picks people who are unique, challenging and different. I guess I fit those characteristics as a white girl speaking Yoruba. He met me in Nigeria and we went to a market in Lekki, then a small town not too far from Ibadan. Check out the page on Facebook and watch the latest video of me in Igbo Ora famous for the highest twin birth rate in the world.

Click to see me on Verity Africa

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Dear Readers,

I apologize for not blogging recently. The reason I have vanished is I am in Lagos and have been running around getting muddy at markets, attending art auctions (I went to the Art House auction at the Civic Center last night) and sitting in traffic. I threw this video together from some of the short clips I’ve taken here. When I get back to Ibadan I will sit down and write some long, thoughtful posts.

Yours truly,

Titi

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I love this song. It’s by Asa (pronounced Asha), a popular Nigerian artist who lives in France now. I love the beat and decided to translate it to Yoruba for non-Yoruba speaker listeners who like it also. Enjoy!

Bimpé n ba mi wi Bimpe is mocking me
O f’owó sinu business mi She’s meddling in my business
Èmí re kò lè gbe She can’t handle me
O kan saájú mi bímo ni She just had a baby first

Mo gbó pé o mo mi loju I heard you glared at me
O n nla gboa nipa business ni You’re gossiping about my business
Òrò èmí rè kò le ni You can’t take me
Ègbón rè fé mi ni It’s your older brother who wants me
Ègbón rè tó n fé mi lowo ni o Your older brother is the one who loves me
Mo tí ya fún I’ve chosen
Ègbón rè, ègbón rè haa Your brother

E ba mi so fun baby yen Tell this babe for me
Fún baby yen For that babe
Tó n wole yen Who is coming in
E ba mi kílò fún Warn her for me
E kílò fún ya Warn her

E ba mi so fún sisi yen Tell this chick for me
Fún sisi yen For this chick
Tó kun atike Who wears talcum powder
E ba mi kílò fún Warn her for me
E kílò fún ya Warn her

Bimpé rí mi fín Bimpe disrespects me
O n huwá omo laisimoyé She’s behaving like a child without wisdom
Mo ronú pìwàdà I’m thinking deep about this
Omo inu mi lo n ba mi wi That a younger person is talking to me this way
Ilé ana mo re l’Oyó
Wa kúkú yen si mi
Irè ò l’aponle You don’t have appreciation
O de fé ki ènìyàn fe e silé And you hope someone will marry you

Ègbón rè tó n fé mi lowo ni o Your older brother is the one who loves me
Mo tí ya fún I’ve chosen
Ègbón rè, ègbón rè haa Your brother

E ba mi so fun baby yen Tell this babe for me
Fún baby yen For that babe
Tó n wole yen Who is coming in
E ba mi kílò fún Warn her for me
E kílò fún ya Warn her

E ba mi so fún sisi yen Tell this chick for me
Fún sisi yen For this chick
Tó kun atike Who wears talcum powder
E ba mi kílò fún Warn her for me
E kílò fún ya Warn her

Ègbón rè tó n fé mi lowo ni o Your older brother is the one who loves me
Mo tí ya fún I’ve chosen
Ègbón rè, ègbón rè haa Your brother
E ba mi so fun baby yen Tell that babe
Fun baby yen to n wole ye That babe who is coming in
E ba mi kílò fun Warn her
E kílò fun yeah Warn her

E ba mi so fun baby yen tó gbomo pon, tó ku atike Tell the girl who backs a baby and wears makeup
E ba mi kílò fun, e sòrò fun yeah Warn her, tell her

E ba mi so fun baby yen Tell the babe
Kó fo sòké, kó fi mi le She might as well just jump up and down, and leave me alone
Ti kò ba wo, kó la rí mo lé She can smash her head against the floor [go to hell]
E ba mi kílò fún Warn her
E kílò fún yea Warn her

E ba mi so fún baby yen Tell the babe
Kó fo sòké, kó fi mi le She might as well just jump up and down, and leave me alone
Kó rin lòfá She should walk away
E ba mi kílò fun Warn her
E sòrò fun yea Tell her

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I just found this blog, Method is Madness written by a Nigerian named Saratu. I read this post titled “Not Speaking Yoruba” and loved the witty, colorful writing. The detailed description of the difference between English and Yoruba is insightful and echoes a lot of the difficulty I had with learning it. I think it also depicts the sentiments thousands of Yoruba people all over the world have who cannot speak their native language like they want to.
Here is an excerpt from the post. Read the full thing here.

I should be more clear: speaking Yoruba, speaking it well, is not the same as speaking English well. You can do quite well without speaking English idiomatically, each word an island that reveals itself through practice of conjugations and direct meaning, like a street increasingly familiar with returning visits. Words in English take their place like soldiers. Subject, verb, direct object. You can get more complex than that if you wanted to, of course, but it really is enough to convey your meaning the majority of the time.

Yoruba, however, doesn’t work that way. True, you can learn Yoruba in a classroom, like I did in my primary school days, with paperback textbooks the exact thickness as freshly-ironed adire. You could, but why would you, when you could listen to your grandparents talk, read the Yoruba daily newspaper Alaroyin, watch Yoruba movies and laugh at the grammatically-incorrect English captions? No. Yoruba is to be experienced, lived, not – in the academic sense of the word – learned.

And, anyway, the kind of Yoruba you learn is not the kind of Yoruba you want to speak. Where English lines up, Yoruba is a contortionist. I am going to the market. The market, I am going. Both correct. And as you get to more complex situations, this ability to shape and reshape itself gets even thornier, expecting the speaker to move into a thicket of idioms, metaphor. In English, this will only serve to embellish, soften the stark nakedness of one’s words. Not quite so in Yoruba. Individual words in this language can take on so many meanings, depending on where one places emphasis. Ife could be a small, university town some hour or so outside of Ibadan, or it can be love. Oko can mean husband, or perhaps forest, and, maybe, if you really butcher it, penis. This nuance is true not just of Yoruba pronunciation, but of Yoruba itself.

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The assignment was about community mobilization- encouraging a community of people to address an issue and see that they worked together towards the solution. Professor Ojebode told the fifty of us in the Communication Development class that we were to choose a primary school within the University of Ibadan campus or outside in the city to do a mobilization project about hand washing. Why it is important for kids to wash their hands, when they should wash and what they can wash with if there is no water. My group decided to take another route. We chose St. Matthews Primary School in Ajibode, a neighborhood just on the other side of a very threatening bridge far out in the UI campus. Our topic was wearing shoes, why it’s important and what can happen if you do not wear shoes. Many school children in Nigeria walk barefoot outside regularly.

Women carrying loads, starting the journey over the bridge that connects UI campus at the botanical gardens and Ajibode.

The hot sand can burn their feet, the vast assortment of sharp trash on the ground can cut them, walking through puddles of stagnant water after the rains can give them terrible parasites.

If you step too close to the sides, this is what you could fall into. During the rainy season, the water level reaches the bridge.

The list goes on. On the day of the presentation, we met laughs, lyrical songs, and loud voices of the small school children. Poverty was apparent there. Some kids didn’t have shoes or the money to fix their torn blue and white striped school uniforms. Pictures alone could not capture the mood of that morning, so I made this video to share with everyone.

My group members walking back towards campus after a very successful morning at the school.

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We weren’t exactly sure why we were there. The five of us sat with straight faces and glassy eyes around the shiny conference table, listening to the voice of the CNN reporter discuss the implications the natural disaster in Japan will have on the electronics market. We were tired–Oyinbos dislike waking up at 5:30 a.m. All we knew was we had arrived at the girls’ college in Ikeja, Lagos to do some sort of speech that required us to wear Yoruba outfits. Finally a Madame entered, wearing a lovely collared shirt, black skirt and high-waisted belt-a stark contrast to our brightly colored long ankara outfits. She hugged each of us, told me she loved my latest video on YouTube and passed out the programs for the day. This woman turned out to be the director of Vivian Fowler, Mrs. Funke Amba. After that day, I now refer to her as Aunty Funke.

Yoruba Day sign

Yoruba Day at Vivian Fowler and we are the special guests.


Thursday, March 17, 2011 was deemed Yoruba Day at Vivian Fowler Memorial College for Girls–a day for us, the Yoruba speaking Oyinbos, to plant a little seed of shame, amazement and most of all motivation in the hearts of ajebota secondary school children who don’t care to speak their native language. Yoruba Day started with giving us a tour of campus. Once you enter through the main gate, just past the hedge trimmed to spell V-i-v-i-a-n-F-o-w-l-e-r, you cast your eyes upon a impeccably kept courtyard with more impressive bush shapes–a horse, a man and woman are among the bush figures. The tour, led all in Yoruba on Yoruba Day of course, brought us to the fully stocked chemistry labs, home economics rooms, art gallery full of works of students’ art, a full court basketball court, and the peaceful, sparkling library with an impressive collection of worldly books. I was impressed. Students in tidy, well ironed light orange and blue uniforms greeted us politely in English as we roamed the campus. Any child would be lucky to go to a school like Vivian Fowler.

The program started like all Yoruba events, introducing the important guests. Among them were very important people in education in Lagos State, the King of Lagos’ chiefs, and us! We sat on couches on either side of the stage-boys on one side, girls on the other-covered in adire cloth and stood up to wave to the audience when they introduced each of us. We heard speeches from University of Ife Professor Wale Omole, one of the king’s chiefs and Mrs. F.O. Erogbogbo, the Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of Education in Lagos state. After a few interludes of Yoruba entertainment we heard speeches from students from each of the secondary schools present. When it was our turn to speak I was nervous, as usual. I wanted to make a comprehensive speech that not only impressed people, but also conveyed a serious message to the students about reviving their native language. I started by going down on my knees to greet everyone, a proper Yoruba greeting. I spoke about our experience in University of Ibadan and how we really shock people when they hear Yoruba come out of our mouths, but they still speak English back to us. I told them that they should use us Yoruba speaking white people as an ipenija, challenge. N ko fe ki oju ti won, mo fe fun won ni imisi lati ko Yoruba sii. I told them to watch Mainframe movies, listen to singers like Asa where they can hear ijinle Yoruba. They can also read books, but sometimes Yoruba books can be very difficult to get through (I’m reading ‘Alo Ijapa’ right now and it can be hard for me to fully understand at moments.) I think I spoke well for not having any time to prepare or practice. I left the stage feeling pleased, like I said something that might actually ignite a fire in some of the students’ hearts for the Yoruba language.

The event went smoothly, as to be expected from such a fine school like Vivian Fowler. Mrs. Funke Amba, the director of the school, organized event after seeing us in the Punch newspaper and saw that it did not fall victim to too much Africa time. They gave us beautiful cloth as gifts (adire for the girls and guinea for the boys). After the program we moved outside where we stood in one spot smiling for almost an hour while groups of students and adults filtered through and clicked obscene amounts of pictures. All the while, journalists and camera crews stood by desperately trying to interview us. I felt a little like an animal in a zoo, but it was all for a good cause. Right before we got in the car to leave, a young girl, she must have been no older than 12 ran up to me and asked, “can I hug you?” She wrapped her hands around my waist, pressed her head into my chest and gave me the tightest hug. Hopefully that’s a sign we got through to them.

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