Olutayo Irantiola, the initiator of cultural advocacy programme, Yoruba Lakotun, appraises the impact of the initiative a year after its inception.
ONE year after the commencement of Yoruba Lakotun, how has the going been?
The journey of one year seems like forever. The episodes come in quick successions and we have been moving from one level of strength to another. It is an unpopular journey in an age when everyone thinks Westernization is ‘civilization’ whereas; we are civilized people in our way. It is unfortunate that we are the ones that have relegated ourselves when the attention of the world is on our culture and literature.
Has the feedback you’ve been receiving justified holding the program?
The feedback has been great from those who have been a part of the programme and those who have seen the video online and through the media. We are being encouraged by the number of people who have a different orientation now based on our advocacy. Parents are starting to trace their steps to their roots while children are picking words in Yoruba language.
What was the initial goal of Yoruba Lakotun and would you say they are being realised?
The initial goals of Yoruba Lakotun are to be an avenue for cultural renaissance; to celebrate Yoruba writers and literature; create a platform for creative people in other genres of cultural performances. We ensure that all these goals are achieved at each edition.
Who have been your supporters?
There are a lot of people who have thrown their weight behind Yoruba Lakotun. We are grateful for all the support that we have enjoyed from our principal partner, Ethnic Heritage Centre, Ikoyi; a centre where people are taught the three major languages of Nigeria; Shobam Palm Wine, the official drink of the event; our matron, Madam Iyabode Aboaba; everyone who have attended and performed at the event.
Given the preference for Western culture, clothes, food and even names, don’t you think people will see Yoruba Lakotun as just your own personal fancy?
This preference for Western culture happened in the last 30 to 35 years when the elites chose to prepare their children for the Western world while the middle class tried to imitate them.
However, in order to communicate effectively in your second language; one must be grounded in the mother tongue. People like Professors Wole Soyinka, Chinua Achebe, Niyi Osundare, Remi Raji are all versed in their mother tongue and this has set their writings apart. These are some of the numerous examples that have stood out because they are grounded in their mother tongue.
Yoruba Lakotun has many parts; our activities will soon be felt in other areas too. We would reward children who excel in the language through different competitions and provide content in the language too. We cannot afford to abandon our culture despite her richness for the second coming of the Americans to teach us our language.
You are an author and you initiated Yoruba Lakotun to revive and promote Yoruba language but your published work is in English. Can you write Yoruba and when are you publishing in the language?
My first work is in English language which is a biography titled ‘Life and Times of Revd J.A. Okesiji, JP’ while my second work is titled ‘Thought Patterns’ written in English and Yoruba languages. We have an anthology of poetry written by different poets in Yoruba language co-edited by Oyeleke Odoje and I. However, we are still searching for a publisher who is willing to embark on this journey of renaissance with us.
Now that the program is one, what are your plans for the celebration?
The celebration of the anniversary has started. We are appreciating all our partners for the journey so far till date and we would converge at Ethnic Heritage Center, Ikoyi for the grand finale today (September 4). We would have a Yoruba writer and other guests from corporate and social Nigeria as we learn from the sage.
Apart from Yoruba Lakotun, you also have a literary program for children in correctional institutions, how is that going?
That is the beauty of bilingualism which the children of today are being denied off. I read with these children to take them out of the confines of where they are kept and also engage their minds. I have discovered that they are very intelligent and all they need is someone who cares enough to engage them outside of their routine.