Saturday, 26 December 2015

Akweya must start translating other languages

Chief Akpallah Okenyodo propagated Akweya language, history, art and culture.
A language is known to grow by the number of people who speak it regularly. They have to be made to speak it, or just speak because they like the language. Or both. This does not seem to be happening to Akweya as a language. It has to start.

When Akweya people sing in church, they do so in English or in Idoma. And they do it poorly. How this came to being is a miracle of sociology, or linguistics! How do a people speak one language during one activity and within the same activity, a sub-activity has to be performed in another language? The only recent experience of that in living memory might be the Holy Mass in the Catholic Church, which used to be said partly in English and in Latin. But Akweya has to 'decolonise' itself of this duality.

Where to start could be
with translations of modern cultural artefacts of entertainment and religion. Young Akweya Christians and laypersons may start by translating music and texts of the Bible. One can begin with translating just Chapter One of the Book of Genesis, and put it out there using social media and blogs.
Popular gospel songs can be rendered in Akweya and marketed for wide consumption. This approach isn't new. Igbo and Yoruba artists have engaged in this practice routinely, with a lot of fans and money go to show for it.

Historically, the great art traditions have been honoured by serving as mentors for others in this way. For instance, British or English literature mentored what became known as American literature, bringing the James Baldwins and Robert Frosts who were brought up on Charles Dickens and Shakespeare. American movies were, in turn, worshipped by the Indians and they birthed Bollywood, which copulated with Hollywood to give birth to Nollywood. Akweya should learn from these examples.

As Frantz Fanon said in his essay titled On National Culture, "A national culture is the whole body of efforts made by a people in the sphere of thought to describe, justify,and praise the action through which that people has created itself andkeeps itself in existence." What is being advocated here is the development process for an Akweya national culture. Akweya need to start speaking to their people, but before Akweya do that, they have to learn to speak. Learn to speak the language of those who dominate them, so the dominating group can hear first-hand how the Akweya feel. Then.... Then Akweya can start being Akweya. Again. For Akweya was once very self aware and culturally proud. Akweya had the palm trees from which its distinct-scenting palm oil was distilled. This palm oil is widely known in Idoma land and beyond as 'Ano-Akpa' ('Akpa or Akweya palm oil'). There was the palm wine and abundance of yam, cocoyam, and all manners of food. The masquerades and dances were elegant. Akweya people were known for unity, hospitality and industry. Elements of these remain in the community but the embers need to be blown into life.

What can this do for the Akweya? Economics is an immediate beneficiary of Akweya arts and artists waking from their slumber. These are the values the Okenyodo Foundation promises to promote. According to Johnpaul Okenyodo, who represented the Foundation at the just concluded Akweya Children's Carnival held in Otobi on the 26th of December 2015, "The young of Akweya stand to become self employed if they begin to promote their culture in the same way the founder and organiser of Carnival, Ms Ochanya Erukpe, has done. Akweya land is full of tourism opportunities, and any regular even such as this can easily attract followership every year."

A second benefit of this revival of a national culture for Akweya is the enhancement of social cohesion. Storytelling and music, which part of daily lives have long given way to music from other cultures and pervasive intrusions of satellite TV and digital movies. Akweya stories told from the eyes of Akweya people can make great hits globally, just like the highly successful Inale movie by the legendary musician-turned moviemaker Bongos Ikwue. The movie, set Akweya land and shot in Ejor, brought in world renowned entertainment personalities like Jeta Amata, Hakeem Kae-Kazim, Keppy Ekpenyong, Dede Mabiaku, and more. The late Chief Akpallah Okenyodo, in whose memory the Okenyodo Foundation was established, was instrumental in mobilising the Akweya to support this great musical movie, selecting locations, and encouraging the old and young villagers to serve as extras and dancers.

This will lead to a third and important benefit, which is political. From inception of Nigeria and Benue State, the Akweya have remained disadvantaged. The situation is largely compounded by perennial discord along clans and other insignificant divides. A united and proud Akweya would less likely fall to the guiles of crafty politicians, and perhaps now more prosperous, are more able to put money into political campaigns in order to demand more positive treatment from other political players.

So, see where just your little effort to translate a chapter in the Bible can ripple to! Give it a try now. And if you need support, send an email to Okenyodo Foundation via okenyodo@gmail.com.

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