By Apioth Mayom Apioth, USA
There has never been a better time than now to return to our African linguistic roots. The 1884’s Scramble for Africa (also called Partition of Africa) brought us unforeseen divisions and rivalries whereby we are explicitly known as Francophone, Lusophone, Anglophone, and Italophone, respectively. At any given moment, whether it is a conflicting issue that needs resolution, African states leaning toward the axis of Anglophone orientation gang up against the Francophone, or it could be Afrolusophone versus Afroitalophone, muddling it up over matters of economic interests.
It is not a question of whether we are enriching the European languages with our ingenuity, rather it is a call to put our authenticity in perspective that we will never discover our true genius by continuing to use other people’s languages. We could still enrich foreign languages by way of translation; a true literary work of genius could get noticed at any instance the word is out. Literary works, such as Camara Laye’s The Dark Child, Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart, Wole Soyinka’s Death and the King’s horseman, and Ngugi wa Thiong’o’s Weep Not, Child, are exceptionally rare works of intelligence.
Indeed, those are true gems of literature, but could they have done more, or how come they stopped from there? To put it another way: Was their ingenuity complete, or was it in fragments? What if there are still some undiscovered geniuses lingering in the hades of the unfamiliarity with these foreign languages?
When Europe was mired in a debacle of the dark ages, they didn’t have the enlightening period called the Renaissance, until they discarded Latin. For an African Renaissance to take off, going back to our native languages is the first step towards launching a dawn of a new era. Our native languages are rich with a burgeoning tradition of progress; for no matter how tempest the foreign languages they maybe, we do not have a deep understanding of their sly ways. We have an exuberant attachment to our native languages, almost spiritual.
That connection makes it easy for us to wade through impossibilities, and, in the midst of this scuffle, our languages and us, have fused into one thing, becoming inseparable over time. It is not just our genius that we are trying to unearth from our native languages, myths, fables, and even, knowledge of ecosystems and species of both plants and animals, and their interactions with our domiciling environments, could all be lost if we do not come up with a swift answer to this nagging hurdle. Every once in a while, a scientist would appear and state, I have discovered this species of plant, and I have discovered that species. What these scientists always avoid to take into account before rushing to publications of their discoveries, is failing to ask the indigenous communities if they knew anything about the species in question.
It turns out that most of the time, the names of the species of plants and animals, they are belatedly discovering were already commonplace in the local languages of the said communities. Not only that, many of today indigenous communities have the ability to derive certain medicines and medicinal herbs from the varied wild species of plants and animals, they have been interacting with for centuries in their ecosystem milieu.
In the foreseeable future, it is predicted that global cultures and languages that encompass national borders are going to take center stage. As times goes on, more and more languages, are going to bow to pressures of the most influential languages. Many more languages are going to disappear altogether from the face of the earth. Language as a medium to carry one culture from one pocket of the globe to another cultural hub, is going to be more prominent than ever. And since we have no idea of where the next hegemonic, all conquering languages, are going to hail from, shouldn’t we put our house in order right now, before the sun calls it a day?
This is where our return to our native languages comes shouting hard on our necks. Our native languages were taken only for a ride by the imperial capitalist West. They were only taken for a nightmarish ride up to the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, but they were eventually returned to us, changed, and needing a new system of mothering. The reservoirs of our native languages are still wet, they haven’t entirely been laid to waste by the poisonous fangs of the European languages. All they yearn for is the constant nourishment by the beloved sons and daughters of the continent.
Our world is increasingly becoming smaller, and all we have to do is to return to something so familiar, something we have all known along, but have neglected for far too long, our mother tongues; be it a Dinka of South Sudan, Shona of Zimbabwe, or Yoruba of Nigeria; We call for something that has our authenticity written all over it; something that will carry our unique experience to the world stage. It is time to wake up our hibernating and graying native languages from the chambers of our granaries, where the termites have been eating their way into their hearts for quite some time now.
Once the world finally succumbs to the common phrase called the “global village,” it would not be our interest to gloat over how much we have achieved as a race, rather, our humble preoccupation would be to contribute our unique experience to the global plate; where it would be intended to improve the futuristic aspirations of mankind. Our world is always ever-changing, and we are always in need of ingenuity to rescue us from moments of frustration, even experiences of life and death. It is time to invest more of our effort and resources into our native languages, entities that hold sacred followings, in a sense, analogous to the spiritual attachment of the land of Africa itself.
In case, we fail to pay heed to this urgent call, we won’t have much to contribute to the betterment of mankind since we will only be playing on unfamiliar grounds of the European languages, which are bound to produce second-rated ingenuity, if there is a boon at all.