I am the child of Nigerian parents but in reality most people I meet think that I am Jamaican, and are very surprised when I inform them that I am Nigerian. I have never yet been able to extract from people what they think the difference is between the two ‘groups’
I have only been to Nigeria twice. So I generally find it a little fraudulent to call myself a ‘true’ native. But it is my country of origin nevertheless – and there I will find my roots/heritage/family.
Our native tongue is Yoruba, however I do not speak Yoruba – only a few badly pronounced phrases here and there “Ẹ ku aarọ”. I do understand Yoruba, as a small child I was able to listen to all the conversations in Yoruba that my parents (I presume) did not want us to hear!
Last summer I went to the Globe theatre to see the Nigerian take on Shakespeare’s ‘A Winter’s Tale’ (Itan Oginintin) it would have been excellent if I could understand the dialogue and had any knowledge of Yoruba culture and mythology! After discussion with some other people it transpires that the Yoruba dialect used in the play was a ‘pure’ form of the type one might find in the Bible, explaining why I did not understand a word. In addition to that I went home that evening and really listened to my parents. I discovered that my parents use a lot of English words in addition to Yoruba, added to the fact that I was picking up on all the non-verbal gestures – hence making me believe that I understand more Yoruba than I did in reality. Eye-opening…
Now of course I am trying to ‘learn’ Yoruba. I became aware of a great Facebook page that promotes this. And yes I have purchased the e-book Kemi ati Yemi.
It’s a great little book – I understand all of it – littered with phrases and terminology that I have heard all my life. I guess at some point I will need to learn the rules of the language.
And then I wonder – for what purpose? To connect with my family overseas? The official language in Nigeria is English. To feel more Nigerian? I wonder if I am just a Londoner having lived in North London for 36 years.
In the end – I cannot explain it – all I know is that it feels like home.