Thursday 18 April, 2013
Cultural lessons from North America
Monilola Tenabe has lived in the US for about 30 years. But her manner of speaking shows that Yoruba culture still flows in her blood. She has, understandably, gained a distinct measure of American accent and does not need to stammer between English words whenever she is speaking.
Listening to her as she speaks Yoruba, however, you would think you are listening to a woman who has lived in a ‘traditional’ town like Ibadan, Osogbo or Abeokuta. She cannot speak the language for two minutes without throwing a strong proverb into it.
She was at such her cultural best on Thursday when she spoke in Lagos on the mission of her and some other members of the National Association of Yoruba Descendants in North America. Established some 22 years ago, the group otherwise called Egbe Omo Yoruba is the umbrella body of all Yoruba groups in the Diaspora.
According to Tenabe, they are in Nigeria to explore ways in which they can contribute to the development of the South West.
“We are on this trip to see what we can do with government and other stakeholders to move the Yoruba nation forward,” she says. “We want to continue the progressive ideas championed by the sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo. We have carried on with the legacy he left and we want to do all we can to move the Yoruba nation forward.”
Also on the trip are Dr. Ayo Famuyide and Mrs. Modupe Adeyanju. They have been visiting governments of the states in the region, with Tenabe, a university administrator, saying they are offering themselves for service in whatever areas they are called to intervene. But part of their crusade is also that whenever government is asking for foreign investment, it should not focus on foreigners alone.
Says Famuyide, who is the group’s public affairs secretary, “We have enough talent to turn this country around if government will give us the same concessions it gives foreign investors.”
On how Tenabe and her colleagues have been preserving their Yoruba legacies abroad, she notes that they regularly organise programmes where they discuss home and design projects that keep them in tune. During holidays and the association’s conventions, they organise Yoruba lessons for their children, while they invite experts to lecture people on the region’s heritage. Adeyanju, a teacher, is often in charge of grooming the kids culturally.
“I also speak Yoruba to my children,” Tenabe adds. “We must take our culture seriously. And this is one of the messages we have brought home.”