‘Neglecting one’s mother tongue is colonial mentality’

RECENTLY, two writers, Ugandan Lillian Akampurira Aujo and Nigerian Yinka Adeboye completed their six-week stay at the Ebedi International Writers Residency in Iseyin, Oyo State.

One remarkable thing about their literary visits to Ebedi is the fact that they both saw it as a privilege, which they took with both hands.

For Aujo, there is a long list of Ugandan writers waiting to travel down to Nigeria for the residency, “and for one to be selected, one should count himself or herself lucky.

“Ebedi is just so popular among Ugandan writers now, and it is really very competitive before one gets selected, therefore, I am so happy I was selected,” Aujo said.

For Adeboye, who writes both in English and the Yoruba language, moving away from her natural environment really gave her all she needed to focus on her writing.

“In fact, most times, I was indoor and just writing. I even had to switch-off my mobile phones so that I won’t be distracted because it would be difficult to get another opportunity like this,” Adeboye said.

However, within the six weeks, the Ibadan-based writer was able to complete two books, in addition to the seven which she had previously published.

On her works in Yoruba language, Adeboye lamented the fact that most Nigerian parents no longer want their children to speak in the mother tongue, and this is why she is not doing much writing in Yoruba.

“I think we all need to focus on the survival of our cultural heritage, of which the language is an important aspect of.

“When we neglect our language, we lose our values, and this is not the best. So I am encouraging Nigerian parents to teach their children the mother tongue.

“In fact, there are some Westerners coming down to Nigeria to learn about the Yoruba language. They come down to the University of Ibadan for some programmes in Yoruba language, and I hope it won’t get to a situation whereby these same people would now be teaching our children how to speak our local language in the future,” Adeboye said.

The same situation is also evident in Uganda, where parents are also relegating local languages in favour of English, with Aujo describing this situation as a colonial mentality.

“For some, it may be a status thing, but the truth is that when we neglect what is ours, we are only showcasing our colonial mentality.”

Another important aspect of the residency is for writers to work with students in Iseyin, but unfortunately, the writers had a little time with the students before they (students) went on holiday.

“However, I can say that the students are well-versed in developing story plots. I know previous writers had worked with them, and I saw this when I interacted with some of them,” Adeboye said.

While speaking on the residency, Adeboye admitted that the founder, Dr Wale Okediran, is doing a great work.

“For someone to be single-handedly financing such a huge project would not be possible if he did not have the love of literature at heart.

“I hope that corporate organisations, and even the government can assist him by funding the residency, which is now a draw for foreign writers,” Adeboye said.

Aujo also used the opportunity to salute Okediran’s commitment to the development of literature on the African continent.

“I can tell you that the majority of Ugandan writers still want to come to Ebedi, and that was why I said that I was lucky to have been selected.

“I really commend Dr Okediran, whom I had an interaction with when he came to Kampala, Uganda last year, for what he is doing in the field of literature. He is truly an inspiration to all writers in Africa,” Aujo said.