‘Why I am celebrating Yoruba culture in Canada’

Joel Olaniyi Oyatoye is the organiser of Asa Day, which showcases Yoruba culture in Canada. In this interview with Adewale Oshodi, he speaks on the annual Yoruba cultural day event and why he has taken it upon himself to project the Yoruba culture in the North American country. Excerpt:

How did you come about the idea for Asa Day in Canada?

The idea of Asa Day in Canada came as a result of the Yoruba summer class that I used to organise. I realised that most Yoruba in the diaspora don’t know much about language and culture. So I felt I should do something to promote the beauty in our culture for others to see, and to achieve this, I decided there should be an annual event that will showcase our culture and tradition in Canada. The main essence is, therefore, to project the Yoruba culture to the world. We should not forget that English is celebrated all over the world today because the world embraced the English culture, and the same thing can happen to the Yoruba culture if we join hands to project it.


The maiden edition of the cultural day was held last year, but would you say last year’s event met your expectations?

Definitely, the maiden edition met my expectations, especially with the level of support we got from the Canadian government. I am happy that the Canadian government embraced the project, and even sent delegates. We were able to display Yoruba attires, as well as our way of dancing. In fact, the two cities where we hosted the event last year are already looking forward to this year’s edition.


You are already planning for this year’s edition, how will it be different from the maiden edition?

This year’s edition will be different because we want more people to learn about the Yoruba culture. We want as many people as possible to feel the Yoruba culture, and without sounding immodest, the Yoruba culture is one of the most sophisticated in the world, not just in Africa.

There are different cultural day programmes across the world celebrating the Yoruba culture, how does yours differ from the rest?

This is a very good question. Yoruba bo ,won ni ile la tin ko eso lo so de, meaning charity begins at home. Celebration of Yoruba culture won’t be complete without giving people lectures about the Yoruba culture. Yoruba culture can only be celebrated with the presence of Yoruba kings who know more about culture, as they are those we refer to as the symbols of culture. So we focus mainly on giving lectures about the history of the Yoruba, as well as displaying certain aspects of the culture like in the area of dressing, dancing, among others. No one programme targeted at promoting culture can be described as the best, but we are trying our best to showcase the Yoruba culture to the world.


Organising such an event will gulp a lot of money, as well as time, but what is your driving force?

The answer is very simple, I have passion for the culture and I leave a mark in this area by building a platform that will continue to celebrate the glory of the Yoruba culture and the people.


Who really is Joel Olaniyi Oyatoye?

Well, many people call me Baba Asa, because of how I am promoting culture. I was born and raised in Nigeria, but moved to Canada eight years ago. I voluntarily chose to be a summer break Yoruba teacher. I spent all I was making to promote the Yoruba culture without expecting anything in return. The government of my province in Canada, Manitoba, knows me for what I am doing. In fact, I had been welcomed to the Legislature Building, which is a government building, with other cultural ambassadors I sponsored from Nigeria for a special recognition by the legislative members and the premier. I also want to use this opportunity to appreciate the Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi, for his fatherly roles all in an effort to project the Yoruba culture to the world.