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My father never spoke our native dialect to us while we were growing up.

In fact, it was a taboo punishable by at least a bad eye, most likely a slap or an ear pulling and a lecture in my father’s bedroom on why we must speak only Quinn’s English.

The kind of English that made my grandmother put more pieces of stockfish in  the meals of I and my siblings,  thereby  instigating strife amongst her grandchildren.

One time, Amarachi my cousin in a bid to impress us and climb up the ladder of favoritism, took a hen from the pen and stuck her finger in it’s butt hole while calling out to my siblings and I saying “I shook my hand in the fawo yansh” while smiling with her rotten teeth. Her teeth was not actually rotten but I like to think it was, because of the rotten English she spoke. It was the kind my father described as “animal language”. “Atulu-Hausa!” my younger brother shouted back as we walked away from her and the hen she had defiled. 

My father loved to show off; reminiscing about it now, I think he actually had the price tag of everything he had ever bought in the front of his mind. Some people may argue that he wanted others to be envious of his accomplishments at every slightest chance he got, that’s up for debate but what I would not do is blame a man for wanting the best for his children.

No, I wouldn’t blame a man for wanting so much for his children, so much as wanting to place us in the realms of Demi gods. Neither will I blame a man for stripping his children off their inheritance; their mother tongue and wrapping them with the pieces of colonialism’s rag. 

 He wanted us to speak English with the kind of eloquence that made members of my Ummuna see and treat us a certain way, as if we were born of the Head of State himself and not Ozobia their brother.

My father would smile till it reached his ears and his shoulders would puff with pride. This was most certainly the kind of things he liked – the feeling that he was somewhat better than his Kingsmen and his Ancestors before him.

My father stepped on poison in the midst of his Ummuna in the December of 2002, it wasn’t a shock. Neither was it a shock when he eventually died-in March of 2003 and his people refused to burry him like one of their own. It was a known fact that though he was with his family, his family had never been with him.

“He brought it upon himself”, I overheard a distant relative of mine tell my uncle the day before my father’s burial and he replied; “Nwoke gidiri anu n’ihu agu aguuna gu ga niye ya anu ma obu oga niye owe ya is anu”.

There, from my room window, I knew who my father’s killers were without the aid of a dibia.

The Riri Gist O’clock

This story  is purely fiction and it didn’t happen to anyone I know and I don’t think anybody has been killed because he did not want to associate with being African or being with his tribesmen. Maybe it has happened, or it’s yet to happen in an alternate universe but I guess we’ll never know.

Backtrack some weeks ago when I wrote this piece and posted it on the gram, I think it was on my IG story I got a lot of feedback. A friend of mine called me and asked if it actually happens to me because according to him it sounded very real (allow me brag about my writing skills) then he went further to explain to me that something similar happened to his dad. (well I guess we’ll never fully know the extent to which “village people” could be diabolic)

When I posted this on the gram I carried out a poll afterwards where I asked people if they grew up speaking their native language and if they were interested in learning their native language if they didn’t learn it while while growing up.  From the poll, a whole lot of people say 65% of people did not grow up speaking their native language and  only about 20% we’re actually making efforts to learn. This is not me trying to throw shade on anybody because I myself grew up without any native language, given that both my parents are from different tribes and I grew up in a totally different State. (Add this to the perks of an intertribal marriage).

It was not until I schooled in the East that I started making a conscious effort to learn Igbo. The whole story is that I schooled in my village apparently my community houses Abia  State University and my father made sure his children, all two before me and me not only schooled but lived in our Family house. 

Did it yield results? Yes it did! I can identify my extended family members and I can hear Igbo to a great extent unlike before. I know the books and crannies of my land very well and I’m still learning the history. 

The point of this post is to fan into flame the fire of  tribal consciousness in everyone that reads this blog. I mean, 90’s kids are really “kids” anymore and soon we would all start having kids of our own (except you don’t want children and that is totally fine too) and we’ll have to pass something down to them. Something more tangible than pidgin English, something that gives them a sense of identity- their history and language.

The poems I wrote below are from 2018, please do enjoy and I’ll love for you to tell me in the comment section how you think we can learn our languages and history better.

 Till I come your way next Tuesday, I remain your one and only!

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17 Replies to “CULTURAL IDENTITY”

  1. I can’t wait for you to become the star that you’re meant to be… every piece is lovely .. the story was so real and captivating , we could see things through your eyes and your mind and could easily relate. The proms are powerful and I commend you for your cultural value and appreciation.

    1. All thanks to you, I’m close to tears. Thank you so much dear, I’m glad you could relate to it. And the blow is coming really soon too!

  2. But personal opinion,who language help? I’ve got a story to tell about (language Racism)so It happened one Christmas we all travelled back home,and as a Child that didn’t grow up in the east it was quite difficult speaking out native dialect,and you know how Uncle’s and aunts and grandparents are,always wanting you to reply them back in IGBO and when you can’t they raise their voices at you in disappointment and tell you how you ought to be ashamed of yourself and then they turn to your parents too and give them the “don’t you people speak IGBO to them at home” line, but then we had these cousins who also came for Christmas from the States and I’m not talking Delta state this time but the United States,and these same “uncles and Aunts” who were disappointed in me for not knowing how to speak Igbo spoke Igbo to my cousins and they replied with pure American English, I remember my “Aunt” saying “chai, lekwa ka Oyibo fitiri Nwa” translation- “see how English fits this child” I’ve never felt so hurt and racially abused my entire life.

    1. I hated traveling to the Village as a child because of the exact thing you said. I didn’t want to “disappoint” my dad and have family members say “Oga Law, you nor try for these children”.

      And, lol your aunt should be ashamed of herself. Her actions came from the mentality that anything foreign is better. If it helps, like your Nigerian English just as it is.

    2. Haha…I guess most of us who did not grow up speaking Igbo fluently have gone through this experience. Igbo man and ‘going back home during Christmas’ is a tradition that can never be erased.I have encountered some of my cousins and relations who made fun of my siblings and I for not knowing how to speak our dialect,funny enough Tricia,I had this same conversation with my dad yesterday about learning Igbo.As hard as it is right now,anywhere you find yourself in this life the moment you are asked what your name is or where you come from and the person finds out you are Igbo,they start speaking the language to you immediately. It is our ‘birthright’ they say I personally think we have to try and learn this language no matter how small we can understand it will help us alot.Whenever you need help or favour from your ‘brother’ he will be more willing to helping knowing that you both have something beautiful in common, ‘The Igbo language ‘.
      Thank you Tricia for this beautiful piece.

      1. We’ve all had our fair share of mockingbird relatives LOL… I totally agree with you that the right time to start learning is now because I am tried of explaining why I’m Igbo and I can’t understand the language. Thank you very much Victoria.

  3. Woah!!!! This is amazing!!! I was almost close to tears when I read that story! I felt the whole thing! This is really a great piece and I can’t wait to read the next one. Ps I’m the “stranger” on Instagram

    1. Thank you so much “stranger” from instagram. And Yes, I was slicing onions when I wrote it LOL… I’m really glad you enjoyed the story.

  4. This piece is wholesome and easy to relate with.
    I had a friend whose Dad met the same tragic end due to jealousy of Kinsmen. Only this time around, the root of the jealousy wasn’t necessarily the language but more so better standard of living. Words of my friend, “Na why I been no like to go my hometown because my papa people look ‘kpians’ (wicked people). Fast forward by a year and they proved him right by killing his father. A healthy Man came home just minutes after seeing them and slumps to the ground whilst mouth foaming. Sigh

    Wholesome piece indeed, dear
    Onto the next one

  5. My siblings and I can all hear and understand the dialect pretty well but we didn’t really speak a lot, until (I don’t know what happened) my dad was angry that we spoke ‘too much English’ in the house and he practically banned conversations that weren’t in my dialect. That period was harddd, the house was quiet, and we had to go into our rooms to discuss freely. Language is great yeah, but I think identifying with a tribe is not restricted to that.

    1. LOL your dad is the man! I agree with you, there are a lot of things on the “identifying with a tribe” list and Language is just one of it. We have history of the tribe and individual family history as well.

  6. Woahhh. This is amazing. The piece was so real, 100% natural. Beautiful ideas, captivating words. I’m still yet to buy pen for you to keep writing cos those pens can never run dry. But as they say, learning our dialect at this age might be quite hard but if we put our mind to it, we cam learn it. I also grew up in a house where they dont speak my dialect but with time, I had to tell my mum to be speaking to me and I can say my understanding is better than my speaking. GREAT PIECE..

  7. Your writing skills second to none… Able to create mixed emotions and also leave one with something to remember…

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