who am i?

"I write for the unlearned about things in which I am unlearned myself." - CS Lewis, Reflections on the Psalms

Monday, September 1, 2008

finding my culture...finding myself!



i know we've all seen this video one too many times. but i had to put it up here.
i'm embarrassed that shes trying so desperately to hold on to her culture, while we are desperate to let go of this culture that is a definition of who we are, what we're about.

slowly we're been drawn away from our mother tongue/culture by the borrowed culture of the west, it don't matter that we dwell in our motherland...we still stretch out as far as we can to grasp that culture, the language,, the food, the dressing, the songs, the attitude....thus becoming Different people with different beliefs and values(as held by our fathers), different yearnings and hopes and dreams(dont get me wrong, sometimes this is a good thing)

but seriously, what do we teach our children? would our culture be extinct in their generation? would they suffer what i suffered as a child, not being able to communicate with my grandma, seating and staring at her, wanting to say so much, but limited by the barricade built by my lost culture, the inability to speak my mother tongue.

i enjoy her tastefully cooked meals, but how do i get the recipes from her, those details that make it different from the rest? how do i tell her how her food gives me this euphoria even chocolates have failed to achieve? when i can only so much as speak brokenly to her in words as simple as 'come, go, me, you, goodnight, thankyou, good morning' i understand her to an extent...brokenly too as i pick out words 'how are you, food, come, go, no, thankyou'

what are the stories dwelling in her? waiting to be passed into my ready ears, stories of life lessons that'd save me from situations where i'm left wondering? lessons that a mother cant break down properly, only a grandmother can tell it right? stories of her mother my great-grandma and how she raised her to become a strong beautiful woman that she is....
all these stumbles when we've never been permanently removed from her grasp by the big iron bird....as it always brings us back to her whenever and wherever it takes us to, or have we been removed from her grasp by the foreign tongue we tsk at her? is she just satisfied to have our hugs, at least its a mutual language of 'i love you'
how frustrated does she feel when she speaks and her great-grand kids just hug her, give her a peak and run off to play, having no idea that she's asking them how they're doing?

yes, my kids would have it good, because my mother would sing them lullabies, she'll whisper stories in their ears as their eyes fall asleep...all in the foreign mans tongue(that's if they havent adopted french or chinese as the new IT language of their time, and thus be at a loss with their granma like i was)
would our children ever experience the moonlight stories narrated in the folk tongue and all those folk songs(well,maybe most of us didn't, but then that's just how much we've missed)

with inter-tribal marriages reigning. me being a product of one of such mix, you'd imagine that the richness of culture i posses would be so refined i'd be a posh multi lingual cultured girl. how shameful that the opposite is the case for me and loads of others like me. i'm not disputing the western culture..no, its wonderful, its given us bacon, and chocolates,and burgers and cashmere and those beautiful gadgets and jimmy choos and Louis vuitton and vogue and french kiss and.........but like Magaret mead the American anthropologist pointed ...
As the traveler who has once been from home is wiser than he who has never left his own doorstep, so a knowledge of one other culture should sharpen our ability to scrutinize more steadily, to appreciate lovingly, our own
so true, we should experience other cultures, but be careful not to loose ourselves in its deepness, stay shallow enough so we can easily drift back to the culture that defines our beings.

bassey ikpi despict's a lost child craving for the culture of her fatherland. hopefully someday soon enough, we'd realize how special our culture is, and run back to hug it close....

23 comments :

  1. watched the video. its a case of he who has the hat doesnt have a head.

    we, Nigerians, are desperate to be westernized. If u speak ur language, u're considered razz. African-americans who have no such culture struggle to hold on to anything african.

    my dad once said he regrets bringing us up with english and forced us to learn our language. once I got to America, I became extremely grateful that he did. especially when I listen to Asa and 9ice.

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  2. We are desperate to be western in Nigeria...but in a way we have also held on to our believes...in a way..

    I am lucky to have both parents from the same place so I speak fluently with them...but what happens to my kids cos it will most certainly be an inter tribal union???

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  3. Nice post. I understand my language not to the extent that I fully understand all the lyrics of Asa and 9ice and I don't really speak it because I'm more used to and comfortable with english.

    Lately I've been wishing I could speak and understand very well as I feel I've missed out on what I should easily know especially when listening to said songs of asa and 9ice and have been making more of an effort to try and speak it. My younger sister thinks I should stop cuz it's razz ....
    The next generation are really gonna miss out on their culture... we're so westernized in our way of doing everything and I am very guilty of this as I am the "oyinbo" of my house but through it all I still yearn for the connection and familiarity of my culture...so I guess its time to start appreciating my culture while also enjoying the benefits from exposure to the western culture a la chocolate, internet and one day Louis Vuiton..lol

    Nice quote from magaret mead... n sorry for the epistle :)

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  4. True talk. I'm so thankful that i can speak my language, and fluently too. In fact i'm comfortable conversing in my language, too comfortable sometimes.

    Unfortunately, more & more Nigerians are trying to deny their roots, you find parents who don't let their children learn any Nigerian language, cuz they have the misguided notion that this makes them seem more "tush"
    How very sad.

    Nice video BTW, never seen it before.

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  5. well that's why my kids will have a yoruba teacher! to be fair tho, nigeria has held on to it's culture for the most part. it is one of the reasons there is so much hypocrisy in our governance and policies and treatment of women- both by other women and by men.
    @afrobabe: wait first, are you getting married?? this one that you already know the guy's tribe! spill!!

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  6. lmao @ geisha.song: Didn't you read my last post where I was chasing and collecting men all over the place...my tribe is small...I am almost related to everyone I have come across from there...wont be trying any incest thx u....

    so I know for certain it will be inter tribal...

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  7. deep...... this definitely jolts me back to reality. we r all so engrossed in what the western culture imbibes in us....

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  8. I watched that video over and over again, and each time i had goose bumps. How sad but true. I grew up in naija and wasn't taught how to speak any language. So i have vowed good or bad, my kids are learning how to speak pidgin english. I don't care what pple think or say. It's better than nothing. Hopefully, their father whoever he is would know how to speak a nigherian language and can teach them.

    My 12 and 10 yr old nephew and niece that have only being to Nigeria once when they were really little totally understand pidgin english. Lately they have started putting sentences together. Of course they sound funny, but i think it's better than nothing. It was something i set out to do on purpose and i keep telling them by the time they r grown everyone is going to think they are cool cos even though they haven't spent time in naija, their pidgin would be on point, at least their understanding of it.

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  9. This is really an issue that we can only talk about... I see us getting so westernized that one day, our cultures will be folktales...only that everyone will be too westernized to tell the stories.

    But then, we can't eat our cake and have it. We can't expect to be wearing jean trousers to blow the firewood and dance atilogwu dance? : -)

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  10. bumtight...i can only imagine cool it is to actually listen to asa sing and understand what she says beyond the beats of her music. i always wait for someone to interpret for me. granted i'm not yoruba, but still

    afrobabe...some have held on to their believes, but not a majority.

    tiwalade...its up to us to make sure the next generation doesnt completely loose their identity. so we've gots to start holding on, so we've got something to pass on.

    mizchif...ow you make me feel so ashamed. i love it when i see people converse in their languagge freely, cos on the contrary it makes them look so tush to me. and it gets me thinking...if only i could, then i'd be more than tush.lol

    geisha song...nigeria in general has held on to is culture, but when you break it down, the majority completely hypnotized by the west.

    lol' afrobabe has already seen her husband in a vision, so she knows what shes talking about, hes her jamaican assistant.

    city girl...we are engrossed cos its so endearing.

    sting...i love to speak pidgin, but i sound hopeless when i do. i read your previous post on it.
    funny enough, pidgin is also sort of western. we tried to speak english and pidgin was the end result. so its quite borrowed innit?
    as for your niece and nephew...let their grandad hear them, you'll be in trouble. lol

    rita...lol' havent you watched nigerian movies lately? the girls are wearing jeans and hot minis to blow firewood.

    gosh, the mention of atilogwu dance has thrown me back to secondary school.

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  11. @ Fantasy Queen: You are kidding me...(LOL) jeans and hot minis to blow firewood? oh pleeeez!!! I don't watch movies often so please don't blame me for my ignorance.

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  12. @ fantasy queen...u no lie about that assistant oh...he just got back from holiday all bronzed up....

    Helllllllllllllllllpppppppppppppp...

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  13. hmmmm so true..im afraid im guilty of not being very fluent in my language, im makin attempts to change that tho..

    i also wonder if our culture wud be extinct by the time the next generation comes..

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  14. hmmmmmmmm

    extinction should not be an option

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  15. I so agree with this post. We're all losing it. Instead we struggle hard to learn French so we can run away from Nigeria and work in the UN or...
    How you dey?
    Long time. Takia!

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  16. so true mahn, so true! i can't speak my dads language, i don't know the winsh momsi used, but i can speak her own..it's sad how some young people think its a bush thing to speak your language..in one way sha, i'm very happy with Nigerians, and the way we are embracing who we are, look at all the naija songs out now, they aren't complete without verses in Nigerian languages..it's a start mehn, at least we aren't trying to sound like anyone anymore...

    lol@ givin us bacon and lousi vuitton...ha!

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  17. im feeling u men!me i speak yoruba wella n i intend 2 teach my kids 2

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  18. u raise serious valid points right here mehn...and am scared for ma kids...seriously scared...

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  19. as embarrassing as it is to say, i cant speak my language. really wish i can.

    I liked d video. Havent seen it b4.

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  20. Culture is dynamic. Your parents may be Protestants or Catholics; you became Pentecostal. They spoke your native dialect; you are proud to at least speak the language. They listened to highlife; you rock to hip pop. But there is no point in beating up your self. After all, highlife was not from Nigeria, same Christianity. But nothing can be more part of Nigerian ness now. Recently, I learnt that cassava came to Africa from South America as part of slave trade. I wonder what they ate before cassava. So maybe your kids will be more comfortable with English, French or Spanish.And they will be alright. And maybe, you will need to be a scholar to speak Yoruba, Igbo or Hausa, just like only experts speak Latin or Aramaic. So my pitch is, our times determine our culture. It is not something cast in stone. It is dynamic.

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  21. During an intervie, Prof Niyi osundare once told me how many african americans he meet, want to know about our culture because they never experienced it.

    said they heard that children are named according to circumstances surrounding their birth, and asked if it was true.
    so they will tell him the circumstances surrounding their birth and ask him to give them Yoruba names. He said there are lots of them with Igbo and Yoruba names like that, and some even make an effort to learn the language.

    back home, we take too many things for granted.
    we just want to do away with the old, failing to realise that without that old, we wouldn't be. a lot has been lost, but still, a lot can still be retained for the future generation. we all have a role to play.

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  22. Margaret Mead is very right.

    I never appreciated yoruba so much as when I was in Germany. i saw and met people who were very content with their own tongue, they were even curious about mine and i felt ashamed!

    imagine my joy when i went the Nigerian High Commission and found people i could finally speak yoruba with!

    i've been having this discussion a lot with my landlady,and the truth is, if we dont do anything to protect them now, our naija languages will go extinct.

    most people will say "my kids understand", but can they speak? if thye cant speak, how will they teach their kids?

    food for thought!

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  23. i love this piece queenie

    wow, no johnny bravo or images of you being naked in pink heels with a cleopatra hat on

    just deepness lol

    its double harder for afrikan americans but there are many afrikan americans who know a lot about ancient afrikan cultures

    i know about ghana, mali, sanghai, kuba, benin, kemet (egypt) ta seti (nubia) which was the first nation ever

    we need to keep in touch with our history because your history is your power

    you cannot fool a person who has a thorough knowledge of their history because history repeats itself

    therefore you can see the game coming a mile away

    you should come to the states one day

    i bet i could show you a real good time :)

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