A PROFESSOR of Yoruba, Oluyemisi Adebowale of the Department of Linguistics and Languages, Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba-Akoko, Ondo State, has said that for Nigeria to be relevant in the globalised world, it must place emphasis on rejuvenating and sustenance of its indigenous languages.
Adebowale who gave the submission while delivering the fifth Inaugural Lecture of the Adekunle Ajasin University titled: ‘Writing and Reacting: The Experience in Indigenous Yorùbá Literary Art’ averred: “For Nigeria to be relevant in the globalised world, its indigenous languages must not die.
There is need for creative writers to write in the indigenous African languages. Since literature serves as cultural repository, it is worthless trying to use a totally strange and foreign language to preserve African culture.”
She emphasized the need for African writers to employ indigenous languages to present their literary creations, noting that English, French or Portuguese languages in which some of them write are languages of the few in Africa. The Professor wonders, “Although many African writers choose to write in foreign languages, they still make use of rudiments of African culture in their imaginative creations.”
She particularly mentioned Ngugi Wa Thiong’o, a Kenyan writer, as an exemplary African writer that abandoned English Language for his indigenous language, Kikuyu, in his literary works and drew international critical attention to writing in indigenous African languages.
Defining Literature as the artistic representation of people’s experience of the world around them, she noted that literary works could be best interpreted, analysed, and evaluated in indigenous languages. She explained that most theories used in the analysis of literary works are foreign with no law decreeing their use, thus maintaining that no matter how attractive and appealing a theory might be, it could not determine a correct way of interpretation.
The University Don specifically remarked that the younger generation lacked Yoruba literary tradition that gives insight about the Yoruba people, their language, literature and culture which have played significant roles in moulding the character of complete indigenous language users. She, however, called for attitudinal change among parents who do not speak or study Yorùbá or other indigenous languages, and prevent potential students from showing interest in Yorùbá or any other Nigerian language in the university.
She said,“In order not to jettison literature in the mother tongue, urgent attention must be paid to the issue of speaking, reading and writing in the mother tongue. All categories of the populace must be encouraged to read literature in the indigenous languages. By so doing, they learn a lot about the people, their culture and language.”
While urging upcoming writers to be resourceful in the indigenous languages, she advised that government should rethink its position on the use of indigenous language, enforce its teaching and make it a compulsory subject in the primary and secondary schools, stressing that the need to promote children’s literature so as to catch them young and create awareness about such literature in the indigenous language became a necessity.