Many Nigerians were pleasantly surprised recently to see the video clip of a British lady conversing fluently and effortlessly in Yoruba with His Imperial Majesty, the Ooni of Ile-Ife, Oba Enitan Ogunwusi, Ojaja II (Kabiyesi o!).
Watch here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BDfdeuwZW4U
The lady is however not a stranger. She is one of us. That’s the famous Oloye (Ojogbon) Karin Barber, the Iyamoye of Okuku, Osun State. You are surprised?
Though a British by nationality, Iyamoye is an African by nature. She was a member of the popular Oyin Adejobi Theatre Group in Oshogbo, of which Baba Wande (Kareem Adepoju) and Professor Kola Oyewo were members.
She did her Ph.D at the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife (then known as University of Ife). Her doctoral research was on the role of oral poetic performance in every day life. For purpose of the study, she spent 37 months in Okuku, Osun State. Her research was adjudged as one of the best works to have ever been conducted by a Ph.D student.
Oloye Karin later became a Lecturer in the Department of African Languages and Literature in the same University. Yoruba was used as her teaching language. Iyamoye was in Nigeria from 1977 until she returned to the UK in 1984.
Ojogbon Karin is the author of many prize-wining books on Yoruba Language and Yoruba Culture. These include:
Yoruba Dun un So: A Beginners’ Course in Yoruba
I Could Speak Until Tomorrow: Oriki, Women and the Past in a Yoruba Town
Print Culture and the First Yoruba Novel
The Generation of Plays: Yoruba Popular Life in Theatre
Her Majesty, the Queen also appointed her the Commander of the British Empire (CBE) for services to African Studies.
Iyamoye is not alone as Oyinbo Dudu (black soul in white skin). Of course you know Obotunde Ijimere? That’s Ulli Beier, the author of The Imprisonment of Obatala and Other Stories, and Thirty Years of Oshogbo Art, amongst others.
And you also know Sussane Wenger (Aduni Olorisha), the Chief Priestess of Osun Shrine. It was largely due to her efforts that the Osun Shrine became listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Our culture is our heritage. Our language is our pride.
We thank these illustrious souls for their contributions to the revival of our culture.
Oodua agbe yin o. Oranfe a gbe yin o.
Please do something today. Speak Igbo to your children. Address your children in Yoruba. Talk to them in Efik. Read Wakokin Hikima to them in Hausa. Trust me, it won’t kill them.