Archive | November, 2010

A Close Call/Flirting with Disaster

20 Nov

There is a Yoruba proverb that states, “Jàkùnmò kìí rìn dé òsan, eniabíire kìí rìn ní orú,” which means, “thugs don’t walk outside during the day and good people don’t walk outside late in the night.” This proverb describes not only the danger of going out at night in Nigeria, but also the traditional Yoruba belief in spirits, witches, and wizards among other hazards one can encounter by going out in the dark. Even though I live in a city of five million people, it is often pitch black at night out in the city. Due to almost constant loss of power and poor infrastructure (no streetlights, etc.), candles, kerosene lanterns, and lights on motorcycles (when they are working) are the only sources of light at night. It is pretty crazy and overwhelming walking around in complete congestion-body to body and car to car, at night in Ibadan as it is very difficult to see anything. It also gets dark around 7PM every night and has since my arrival two and a half months ago. (Interesting fact-daylight savings does not exist six degrees away from the equator). The culture of not going out at night has been odd for me to adjust to, as most college students in America are just starting to make plans for their Friday and Saturday nights when 8PM rolls around.

Last night, I had first hand experience with the dangers of being out at night. Yesterday, my family and I traveled to Ile-Ife, a town about an hour and a half to the east of Ibadan for a child naming ceremony. My older host sister gave birth to a baby girl a week ago, so following Yoruba tradition, all of her fiends and extended family came to her house to help name the child (I’ll explain this tradition in a later post). The road between Ile-Ife and Ibadan is horrendous to say the least, even during the day. There are frequent pot holes/obstructions int he road the come up without any warning whatsoever. These can range from three-foot deep holes to treacherously rough patches with no asphalt lasting for 20 yards or more. Extremely thick and tall foliage grows right up to and sometimes over the road, so it is impossible to see upcoming curves and dangers in the road. Furthermore, based on my observations for the last two and a half months, the rules of driving on Nigerian roads are as follows: 1.) Be as selfish as possible. 2.) You own the road and have the right away no matter what. 3.) Beep your horn all the time. 4.) Make a lot of close calls, dangerous moves, and flirt with the possibility of having an accident as much as possible. Therefore, it is impossible to relax while on a Nigerian expressway. Treacherous bumps, jostling from sudden hard breaking, painfully loud semi horns, and back-and-forth wobbling of the car from the lack of grade in the road make the experience far from peaceful.

Come nightfall, all of these difficulties are exponentiated. Last night on the way home, the beautiful sunset over the vast jungle of palm trees and other tropical foliage suddenly gave way to an ulcer-causing experience in the back seat of my family’s Nissan Pathfinder. My older brother Ibrahim was driving and my mom was in the front seat. I was in the back with Lauren (another American student) and a family friend who is also our age. The sky became pitch black. Although the expressway is a divided highway, a steady stream of cars was coming at us the wrong way due to dangerous conditions on the other side of the road. Therefore, the expressway had become a two lane highway. The implications of this diverted traffic pattern were less than calming, as rough patches in the road leave room for only a single file line of cars once every mile or so. Furthermore, many of the vehicles in the oncoming traffic were huge oil tankers. Many cars in Nigeria don’t have working lights, so it is extremely difficult to see them. Those that do have lights (especially the semis) have extremely bright high beams that are completely blinding.

Suddenly, there was a break in the oncoming traffic and the cars in front of us cut into the left lane, most likely to avoid an obstacle. Ibrahim, my older host brother slowed down suddenly, but not too much as he expected the cars in front to quickly speed up after passing the obstacle. Instead of continuing, the car in front of us swerved off the road to the left and stopped almost completely. We were now less than 30 feet behind, so my brother quickly swerved to the right to attempt to pass. As soon as we could see to the right, we realized that three massive logs were sitting the road making it impossible to overtake the car to the right. My mom screamed and my brother slammed on the brakes. Nonetheless, it was way too close of a call and we slammed into the car in front of us going about 35mph. Thankfully, the Pathfinder we were in has a huge metal ram bar on the front that prevented the airbags from going off, and also prevented too much damage to our car. The car in front of us, however, lost its trunk as it was completely smashed into the back seat.

Now I was really freaking out, as there was only a 6 foot window to pass between the bush growing over the left side of the road and the logs in the road. A huge oil tanker was quickly gaining behind us showing no signs of slowing down, its ear-piercing horn and painfully bright high beams blinding all of us. My brother pushed forward a little further and the truck whizzed passed us missing our car by less than six inches. The car shook as the truck brushed past us. Had that oil truck been where our car was, the truck and the car in front of us would have become one of the several burnt skeleton remnants that line Nigerian expressways.

We inched forward a little more following the car we had just hit, and conveniently placed about ten feet in front of the logs were four Nigerian policeman on foot with AK-47s dressed in the typical garb of a helmet and an all black uniform. They were talking to the car in front of us and directed us off the road down a gravel path cut into the median between the bush. My brother and mom were yelling in Yoruba “Why were they in front of the obstacle, what good does that do!?” As they were directing us off the road, the seeming coincidence of the placement of the gravel path, the policeman on foot, and the logs seemed all too fishy to me. My mind flashed back to meetings with State Department security officials both in Washington and the Lagos Consulate about how Nigerian police (many times robbers dressed as police) put obstructions in the road at night to get cars to stop, then harass them for money and steal things. There was no way of knowing whether these police were real or not. They ordered my mom and brother out of the car. A fifteen minute yelling match insured where the four cops, my mom, my brother, and the husband and wife in the car we hit were all screaming and flailing arms at each other and the damaged cars. The three of us in the back seat were in the car hoping the police couldn’t see our white skin through the tinted backseat windows and that we would all make it home okay. My brother then stepped to one side of the car and called my dad. I heard him say in Yoruba, “The poise caused it wasn’t my fault! They put the logs in the road to take advantage of us!” The girl in the car yelled, “Is he crazy!?” My mom also started yelling at him. After about twenty-five minutes of arguing, the other car finally agreed to leave, as there is a general consensus to avoid police at all costs in Nigeria-especially considering it was pitch black out and we were in a fishy situation. The police let us drive away, but all parties involved had to agree not to file any report and not to let the insurance companies know. This is a way for the police to ensure they were “punishing” us for not using their services. Had we filed a report, they would have asked for a large sum of bribe money. Since both parties involved were Muslim (this provided a sense of brotherhood/sisterhood) and it was strikingly obvious that the police had put the logs in the road to cause problems, we agreed to go and settle it the next day amongst ourselves. We exchanged numbers and drove away.

For the rest of the drive home, I was freaking out as this was the closest to a near-death experience I’ve ever had in my life. Images of that oil tanker just scraping by our car, and the angry police yelling at my mom and brother with their AK-47s were burned into my retinas. After several more scares with sketchy road conditions and other erratic drivers on the way home, I made a vow to myself to avoid highways at night at all costs from now on. I also kept thinking about how unfortunate it was that my family, and more so the car we hit got completely screwed over when we fell victim to the corrupt police officers’ scheme to collect bribe money. My brother kept muttering, “Had I only been able to see his number. The officers covered up their ID numbers so we couldn’t see. Had I seen it, I would have put it in my phone and immediately reported them to the Osun state police commission.” I asked, “Why can’t you just ask for their number?” My mom and brother immediately and authoritatively answered, “Hey-ah! They would have instantly shot all of us and made it look like an accident!” I could’ believe what I was hearing. I couldn’t help but feel sympathy for Nigerian citizens, as they are subject to this type of harassment every day. Due to the fact that we all agreed not to get insurance companies involved, we took on the cost of the accident ourselves, in order to avoid further police harassment and excessive bribe collection. This whole experience is such an injustice but it is a good experience to highlight how distant the theory and practice of government are so distant in Nigeria. Roadways, TV’s and radios are filled with propaganda and praise for various politicians about how they will fix this and that, do this and that, and how they have accomplished this and that. When traveling on the road and having first hand experience with corrupt Nigerian police officers, however, it is not hard to see that while many of these politicians and government officials have their hearts in the right places, a large majority of this is complete bullshit as the practice is so out of line with the theory.

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Recent adventures in drumming

16 Nov

One of my biggest personal goals in coming to Nigeria, especially as a percussionist, is to immerse myself in traditional music and drumming.

My teacher Musibau and his wife at their home in Yemetu

Thankfully, I’m off to a pretty good start. Since the first month I’ve arrived, I’ve been learning the talking drum from my friend Emmanuel. Recently, I’ve also begun learning bata drums from a teacher I met at the Oyo State Cultural Center named Taiwo Musiaubata. Musibata (his shortened name) has travelled all over the world (Cuba, Brazil, Venezuela, Spain, England, France, and India) to teach bata drumming. His father and grandfather were both bata drummers. Traditionally, in Yoruba culture, children inherit work from their parents and start an apprenticeship with them when they are in their early teen years.

After taking drum lessons for close to ten years in America, the differences in the music, learning, and teaching styles have been really intriguing to me.

Plaing Iyalu for the king of old Oyo empire

Days when culture shock is getting the better of me and I’m feeling down, practicing my drum makes me feel completely rejuvenated. The fact that music is truly a universal language that the entire world understands (some more so and in different ways than others) has been extremely powerful and uplifting since my arrival.

I’ll quickly explain the two main families of Yoruba drums: the talking drums and bata drums. Each family is comprised of a set of three drums. My goal is to have a good understanding of all six before I leave, and be able to play somewhat competently. Talking drums are made out of a special type of tree (I only know the Yoruba word, sorry). The skin is made from cow or horse skin.

me playing an "iyalu" talking drum outside the King of Oyo's palace

Cow skin is also used to make the strings that run up and down the side. The drum is played with a stick/beater called an “òpá” and the pitch of the drum is constantly changed by squeezing the strings on the side of the drum, thus tightening the tension of the head. The talking drum and Yoruba language are inseparable. Due to the fact that Yoruba is a tonal language, the drum is literally used to speak. Prayers and proverbs are so well-known that whenever I play for a Yoruba person, they repeat the sentence I’m using the drum to say using words, even though the drum uses tones instead of words. The talking drum is a whole other medium of communication. It is impossible to learn the talking drum without an extensive background in Yoruba language The talking drum is made up of three distinct drums: the omele, the gángan, ati the ìyálù (translation-mother drum), in order from smallest to largest.

the various talking drums

The omele drum usually plays a repetitive pattern to keep time (similar to a cascara pattern in Cuban Rumba music). The gángan and ìyálu drums are used to literally speak over the omele pattern in a traditional ensemble. The gángan is played by squeezing your entire arm around the drum. The ìyálu, which is very large, is only played with your hands. One hand beats the drum and the other grabs usually four strings to change the tension. Ìyálu drums also traditionally have sets of bells on the front and back. The bata family resembles the talking drum family in the sense that there are three drums: omele bàtá, omelet LOOK UP, and the ìyálu (sometimes called bàbálu, or father drum), in order from smallest to largest. Omele bata drums (the smallest, group of three) are usually beat with flimsy sticks made of dried cow skin. The larger drums are beat with one stick on the small head and beat with a hand on the larger head. The video below explains in more details.

So far I’ve had the opportunity to buy an omelet bata drum and a gangan drum.

Jiroma, who made my talking drum

Both drums were custom-made by hand.They sound great and I’m really happy with them so far. I also have been fortunate enough to have two great teachers. Hopefully within due time I’ll become a true “àyàn” (drummer). I taped my first bata lesson and made a video (see below). Hope you enjoy!

STEEEEERRRRRIIIIKE #2!

10 Nov

Although today is a Wednesday, it is more like a Saturday for much of Nigeria. Tomorrow and Friday will also resemble Saturdays. Starting today, every employee of the Federal Government of Nigeria will go on strike for at least three days, possibly more. The demonstration has to do with immense frustrations over a promise the government made early in the year to institute a new minimum wage. They said it would begin in July. After seeing no change in salaries, workers threatened to strike, but the government promised a salary increase to the new minimum wage by October. Surprise, surprise, the workers have yet to see the increase. Workers are prepared to strike for longer than three days should they not see the intended result they are hoping for. In a country that is incurably religious (mostly Christian and Muslim, scary to me at times how intense people are about religion here), this has severe implications for the upcoming Muslim Festival (Eleya). Last night on the news, a prominent mosque leader from Abuja, the nation’s capital, warned that this strike has implications to ruin the entire holiday, as many Muslims around the country are preparing to leave for Mecca (the pinnacle of the Islamic religion). With a nation-wide strike in place, these people’s plans could be destroyed. Other Muslims making preparations for the upcoming festival could also be severely hindered.

This is the first time federal government employees have gone on strike this year. Teachers working under the state government of Oyo (the state I am living in), however, have already gone on strike this year from June to July, also over minimum wage and salary disputes for teachers of the state. My mom falls under this category, as she is a teacher at a public school here in Ibadan. This morning, we had a long talk about the labor strikes as she was making me breakfast (normally I make breakfast for myself on weekdays because she is at school). When I initially asked her how many times she has been on strike this year, she just started laughing.

Furthermore, all university employees at every single university in Nigeria have begun a strike today that could potentially last for over two weeks. Since May, universities in the eastern part of Nigeria have been on strike over salary grievances, particularly a minimum wage adjustment. Due to the fact that state governments in the east and the federal government have yet to do ANYTHING about their dispute, universities all over Nigeria are joining them in their strike beginning today, to help support their argument and to show that all universities are in this together. How does this effect me? It’s too early to tell, but it’s possible that I won’t be starting classes until January. Although I am supposed to start classes on November 29th, registration for non-freshman doesn’t begin until December 7th. Classes begin anytime from around December 9th-14th. Therefore, with the Christmas and New Years holidays, it is very feasible that I won’t be taking any classes until January. Welcome to Nigeria!

Customer-business relationships

8 Nov

One aspect of Yoruba culture that always impresses me is the relationships between customers and those that they regularly do business with. My family, in particular, has truly exemplified traditional Yoruba roles in interacting with nearly everyone they call on to purchase a product or perform a service. I’ll now give you a few examples of my observations that have led me to this conclusion.

Two weekends ago, I dragged myself into our family room after waking up and saw a stranger sitting on our couch. His face had several dark red lacerations, each oozing some sort of appalling puss substance. I quietly greeted him and continued into the kitchen to boil water for my coffee (always my first priority after waking up). Ten minutes later, my dad and the man left. When I asked my mom who he was, she explained that he was a driver that my family occasionally uses when they don’t want to drive themselves places (for far trips, etc). She explained that he was driving a car the day before, and started it via hot-wiring (many cars here don’t have working ignitions) after filling the car with fuel. A residual spark caught a drop of oil that had spilled on his hands, and the entire car was soon in flames after water-bottles full of extra fuel in the backseat quickly ignited. As a result, the driver had horrible burns all over his body. My dad immediately called him to our house when he heard what had happened so he could take the driver to the doctor.

The same weekend, on the way back from a birthday party, my dad accidentally drover over a sharp metal object and popped a tire. Within ten minutes, three different mechanics*, our family tailor, and a leader from my family’s mosque had ridden okadas from all over the city to come to the rescue (it seemed a bit excessive to me). Even though most of them ended up being of no help (there are only so many people that can help change a tire), I was impressed by the fact that all of these people immediately dropped whatever they were doing to come and help us.

Recently, I accidentally ripped a pair of pants while getting in a danfo and although it brought a nice breeze between my legs, I needed to have out tailor fix it. When I asked my mom how much it would cost she said, “nothing, our tailor always fixes stuff like that for free for us,” as though it was out of the question for me to even assume that I had to pay anything.

One day last week, I went to go by bread from our usual “bread lady” at the market, and when I returned I greeted my mom for her as she told me to. My mom was washing dishes, scooping water out of a bucket on the floor, and said, “Oh, that reminds me, the bread lady gave us this bucket last year as a gift!” I think it’s pretty novel to exchange gifts with people you casually buy bread from.

Another example is the “peanut lady.” There is a lady that always stands outside my mom’s school selling peanuts. My mom buys a big bottle of roasted peanuts (usually in a used gin or whiskey bottle) every few days so we can have snacks at home. Last week, the peanut lady had taken a trip to visit her family in their village. Due to the fact that the peanut lady was gone, instead of going to one of the other million or so peanut ladies in Ibadan, we didn’t have any peanuts at home. Now that’s customer loyalty!

One final example occurred two Saturdays ago, while on my usual early morning coffee mission, I noticed another stranger sitting in our family room. My mom explained that it was the wife of one of our mechanics*. My dad was mediating a fight between the husband and wife. I left shortly thereafter to run some errands out in the city, and when I returned three hours later, the husband was there and my dad was playing the role of the mediator. My dad spent an entire Saturday morning to help out our mechanic and his wife get over their fight!

“Yorubaland,” or the southwest region of Nigeria is very much a communal society, and the implications and ways in which this societal structure manifests itself is very apparent. I have a hard time envisioning a mechanic from the local Midas coming over to my house in America with his wife on a Saturday morning so my dad can spend three hours helping them mediate a fight.

*You may have noticed I made a lot of references to mechanics. I was also initially perplexed by the fact that my family has several mechanics. In America, when you bring your car to a shop, one mechanic can usually take care of any problem. In Nigeria, however, I have observed that different mechanics specialize in different types of repairs and different brands of cars. My family has three automobiles, so depending on what sort of difficulty may arise, they have a different mechanic to handle any possible situation.

Language as both an opportunity and a barrier to development.

1 Nov

Prior to departing for Nigeria, I distinctly remember people not understanding when I told them I was coming here. “Why?” “Why would you ever want to go there?” and “Huh?” were typical questions among other signs of shock. Many of these people I told were Nigerians, and they didn’t seem to understand any better. Furthermore, when I explained that my principal goal here was to learn Yoruba language and culture to the highest level of proficiency, their surprise and confusion only escalated. Although I have always been sure of my goals and my reasons for coming, from time to time I question what exactly it is I am doing here, what I hope to do with a full understanding and competency in Yoruba in the future, and the underlying reasons I care about this program. I know that everyone engages in this type of interpersonal exploration from time to time. On Wednesday of this past week, I had several profound revelations that completely solidified answers to each of the questions I have asked myself.

I met a man named Dr. Adegbola who owns a company working to develop technology related to African languages. He is perhaps one of the most interesting people I have met since I arrived and had a lot of knowledge and insight relating to the importance of indigenous languages. One of the biggest reasons to support indigenous languages is that people learn and comprehend best in their mother tongue. For example, rapidly growing and developing countries such as China, Japan, and Taiwan all teach science and technology related classes in their indigenous languages. Nigeria, on the contrary, teaches these courses in English, as it is the official language of the country (an attempt by the British to unify several very different tribes all with distinct languages). If you refer to the United Nations’ Human Development Index, countries that use mother tongues to teach science/technology based courses score significantly higher than countries that use a second language. Due to the fact that Nigeria falls under the latter, it regarded “behind” China, Japan, etc. in development, despite the fact that Nigeria’s economy has a lot of potential (it is the 17th fastest growing in the world).

Nigeria’s educational system actively tries to devalue indigenous languages-after primary school, students are not allowed to speak “vernacular,” or their indigenous languages at school. Mother tongues are considered as “poor grammar” and “slang.” Nigeria’s university system operates in English only. The fact that Nigeria’s educational system (especially higher education) doesn’t highly regard languages has profound implications, as it sets the stage for an astronomical paradox in Nigerian society: the theory and application of technology are completely separate. Nigeria has a large number of highly educated individuals in nearly every discipline under the sun (the theory side). The paradox however, lies in the application. For technology to be effective, theory and application must be one. In Nigeria, most of society still speaks indigenous languages, or at least indigenous tongues are what people understand, learn, and think in best. An example of this paradox is ATM machines. All ATM machines only operate in English here. Many men and women who make a living selling goods at markets aren’t always well-versed in the English language or computers, as many of us Westerners are and take for granted. Therefore, if they want to make a bank transaction, they either have to bring someone to the ATM with them (and compromise their pin number, an especially risky activity in Nigeria), or go to the bank and wait in notoriously long lines. Dr. Adegbola’s company is working with Microsoft (who has a monopoly on ATM software in Nigeria) to develop interfaces in Yoruba, Hausa and Igbo, Nigeria’s three most common tribal languages. This development brings the application to the same playing field as the theory, as all of these native speakers making a living at the market will now be able to use ATM machines, alleviating the horrendously long wait times at Nigerian banks.

Another paradox lies in the academic and societal branches of language. Unfortunately, Nigeria has relatively low literacy rates today (68% according to the CIA World Fact Book), in part due to lack of infrastructure/funding for a solid country-wide educational system, as well as the fact that many indigenous languages here have strong roots in oral tradition. Therefore, an individual may be highly educated in an indigenous language, but if they cannot write it down they are considered illiterate, even though oral tradition is as highly regarded here as the western world regards written literature. Due to the level of literacy rates as well as what I mentioned above about learning pace with indigenous languages, the English language really only has a strong academic branch here. The societal branch is convoluted and blurred by both the youth, who are more focused on the latest European and American fashions and mobile phones than real aspects of intelligence relating to the language (many disillusioned by the misconception that everyone in America runs around like 50-cent and Snoop Dogg), and the elders who still interpret and understand everything best in their mother tongues. How is a language supposed to be 100% effective without being firmly rooted in society? Yes, english is the official language of Nigeria, and most Nigerians I have met are bi or trilingual, however it is not difficult to see that English is considered superior to the other languages. Language is a dynamic entity, as it has every characteristic that a living organism has. If language is so capable of adapting and changing, and indigenous languages are clearly better mediums of learning, then why is it compulsory in Nigeria to turn away from indigenous languages? Other countries that have embraced indigenous languages have obviously experienced more rapid growth and development, so why doesn’t Nigeria fall into this category?

I have heard many people in Nigeria talk about how they are sick of hearing Africa and Nigeria constantly referred to as underdeveloped, lagging behind, sub-par, etc. These derogatory terms, unfortunately and paradoxically, just push people away from their own cultures, traditions, and languages. They simply cause embarrassment and resentment towards people’s’ own cultures. Language, culture, and identity cannot be separated from one another. If one is lost (whether it be intentionally or accidentally), you inadvertently lose all three. For example, I have observed that most of the youth here are extremely preoccupied with learning English language and culture. They think that if they are well versed in western culture, it will improve their chances of being able to move to America or Great Britain (the life dream of many people here). Learning English is also the only option for Nigerians who want to study at a university or learn anything about science and technology. The paradox here is that although those learning English think they are bettering themselves and their country (they are to some extent), they are actually digging themselves into a deeper hole as there is no firm societal root in the language here. I do not wish to say that it is bad for Nigerians to learn English, but when it is ultimately sought after to replace indigenous languages and cultures (often the case here), Nigerians have then shortchanged themselves of their best portal to learn in-their indigenous language, while simultaneously sacrificing part of their identity.

Consequentially, there is a small group of scholars in Nigeria who consider themselves “language activists”-advocates for indigenous language acquisition and support. One of these language activists is Professor Kolawole Owolabi, one of the directors of my program. Language activism is a bottom-up approach for international development. I completely agree with the notion that in underdeveloped and developing countries (I reluctantly use these words here), change needs to come from within: from the bottom-up. Outside sources coming in and taking control of a conflict, corruption, or poverty-stricken area rarely prove completely effective or worth it in the long run (unless someone in the equation gets completely cheated or short-changed). Essentially, top-down transformation is colonialism and I think that Nigeria is a prime example of this-only 50 years ago did it gain its independence from the British. Today, it is still ruled by a British-style, top-down government that is essentially completely ineffective and notoriously corrupt. I’m not trying got sound like an over-privileged white college student from a liberal university in America who goes to Africa and think he can easily solve all of the problems, because I certainly am not trying to be. What I do claim is my opinion, and that is that indigenous languages and cultures should be regarded highly and respected, especially by those whom it is their heritage. Indigenous languages are the most effective ways of communicating and learning, as they are deeply ingrained in people’s blood and hearts, and have been so for generations. In a situation like Nigeria, the decreasing regard for indigenous languages and cultures is obviously holding the country back from its massive potential (economy, population, investment potential, abundant natural resources, etc.).

So where do I fit in all of this? How does this help me answer the question, “What am I doing here?” If you followed me around for a day here, it would not be hard to figure out. I have now become completely desensitized to the complete shock, awe, and amazement experienced by nearly every Yoruba speaker I have met here when they hear me speak for the first time. It is extremely rare for a white American to come to Nigeria for the sole purpose of learning Yoruba language and culture.

Typical swarming scenario

Every time I get in a danfo, buy something at the market, say hello to someone on the street, or interact with students at school, people want to converse with me at length about what I am doing here (and to see if I can actually speak their language). My group of five students from America has been in newspapers and on several TV interviews in Ibadan, and this has made us quite popular. It seems that everywhere I go in this city of five million people, someone is shouting “Kayode! Kayode!” because they saw me on TV or in the paper. Two weeks ago, I got in a danfo in a neighborhood called Moniya, about 20 minutes away from where I live. Every single one of the nine people inside the van knew who I was and had seem the TV interview. I thought it was very strange when we first arrived that everyone was so excited to publicize us, put us on TV, put us in the papers, etc.

The TV interview that made us famous

Now, however, it makes sense to me. The fact that foreigners are taking an active and serious interest in a traditional language and culture here is a huge source of inspiration, in addition to shock and awe. It helps to show people that their native languages are important, and it is not as if the entire world completely disregards them. In conclusion, after hearing Dr. Adegbola’s lecture last week, something clicked and everything seemed to fall into place. I did my best to describe this epiphany above. Perhaps a more concise way to put it is that I have become a language activist, fighting for the importance of an indigenous language in a country where I am a complete minority in every sense of the word.

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