Monday, November 27, 2006

The beauty of heritage

For those of you that dont know, i am half Igbo and half Yoruba. My father is from Abia State while my mom is from Ondo State.

On my father's side, i have lost both grandparents and i dont really know too much about them except for the fact that my grandfather was a proud man and my grandmother was absolutely besotted with her only child - My dad.

This post revolves around my mother's end of the family. My grandfather is a lawyer from Ondo State while my feisty grandmother is Ijesha.

Over the weekend, my grandmother paid us a visit specifically to see me. After her usual preamble, she made me sit in front of her and proceeded to tell me that her father (my great grand father) was a great, legendary drummer. His fame spread far and wide. She told me that the talking drum is a powerful powerful instrument. One that young people cannot appreciate.

This i believe - Has anyone seen Lagbaja perform live with his band? The man that plays the talking drum plays it perfectly. I saw them perform with Earl Klugh at the Muson Jazz festival and it was amazing. The bass guitarist would play a riff and the guy with the talking drum would reproduce the sound. On and on they went till my head felt light and i thought i would weep at the sheer beauty of the sounds surrounding me.

My grandmother proceeded to present me with a talking drum. The stick that came with the drum had its handle wrapped in Aso-Oke. Not the new stuff but the real old Aso-Oke. She said she thought i was old enough to understand what having the drum meant. That all of us "oyibo" children were forgetting things. That i should keep the drum and remember where she came from.

I felt so many things. Regret that i dont understand Yoruba or Igbo as well as i should. Regret that i have never taken the time to ask relevant questions from my grandparents. Pride in my family. For being a mish mash of flavors. A longing to share my history and heritage with everone.

I havent beaten the drum at all. I dont feel worthy. But i have wrapped the drum and stick in Aso-Oke that my grandmother gave me years ago and have placed it in a suitcase. When the time comes, i will unwrap it and let it take its place for display in my home.

I have never felt as much pride to be a Nigerian woman. So here's to our culture and heritage. In our bid to run from Nigeria and her issues,as we become more westernized, let us try not to forget where we come from and what we stand for. A people richer than our surroundings for we have what money cannot buy: Our Heritage.

16 comments:

Vickii said...

This is a beautiful story! One of the things I love most about being Nigerian is that most of us have amazing stories in our backgrounds. Like you, I never ask enough questions or dig enough into my heritage but I will make an effort to. I might ask my dad to tell us a story about his family this christmas when we're all gathered together.

Chxta said...

Uzo, you had me crying there. Really.

Bella Naija said...

Wow...tht was really touching...
I totally feel you on not being on point with my culture...
My igbo is a C at best and lets not even start with my mum's side...i am totally clueless...
keep the drum well, one day when u have the courage just pick it up and try it out...
kudos to your grannie for keeping the culture alive!

azuka said...

That's so cute...

You know, I actually told my Dad that when I go back home next year, we're going to sit down and he's going to tell me everything about my family.

Pathetic that I understand my Dad's language [Ukwuani] but cannot speak, and do not understand my mom's language [Yoruba] at all -- well, except for the curse words and a few other mumbo-jumbo.

Biodun said...

I love this post! I am so clueless about my heritage too, somethin I need to work on!

Overwhelmed Naija Babe said...

Oh fantastic story and write-up>... I know a few things about my heritage... but obviously not enough... grandparents dead on my fathers side and I don't really know the ones on my moms side... going home next xmas anD I can't wait to see the masquerades, drink palmwine and just gist about old times... but me I'm more Nigerian than most people I know sha... cos i'd rather see Lagbaja in concert than Usher and I wanna be a chief by the time i'me 25 forreal. lol...

NaijaBloke said...

WOW!!! This is deep.. ur grandmum actually sounds like my Paternal grandmum before she died,cos I was really close to her that a lot of my cousins were getting jealous ..the funniest thing is shez from Ilesha as well.

Thatz a nice piece of ur heritage that am sure cannot be bought with any amount of money right there.

U have a nice week

Anonymous said...

I think you should beat that drum on your wedding day ...something 2 show ur yoruba side...it will be lovely

Naija Vixen said...

aww, did is my 1st timeon ur blog n that was beautiful. 'm so in2 my heritage, n 'm actually frm ondo state as well. but that was rily touchin!

East of Oregon said...

Hi. I really enjoyed reading your blog. I shall visit again. take care:)

Uzo said...

I think we should all make the effort to learn a little bit about who we are and where we are from. What will we pass onto our children at this rate?

Chxta said...

Azuka, Ukwuani is a dialect of Igbo...

LondonBuki said...

Nice... I am not too good with my family history. I just found out a couple of years ago that I am Ijebu-Ikorodu... I thought I was plain Ikorodu...

Lovely post!

Soul said...

Uzo, I've been reading this over and over.

Both my parents are extremely liberal people who came from extremely traditional backgrounds. I'm talking steeped in culture. proper proper. (you feel me?)

My mother would sit us down and tell us the history of us. In the 90's my mother started quizzing her own mother and started writing down our history, because as you know most of our history is in song.
I remember in the early 90's I learnt my father's Oriki (ask your father about this, it's like an ode to the family).

My family history is amazing, their are good parts and bad, my grandfather sacrificed certain things in order to establish his community and it is part of the folk lore of his town.

I learnt about the fulani side of me and the school of thought that the Yoruba's originate from Sudan.
I learnt about the Yoruba's closeness to the Hausa's and how we are thought to all be one tribe which splintered over time.

Play the drum.

Your story is living history. Play the drum. And you will feel even more connected to your family and your history than ever before.

Play the drum, Uzo. touch the skin... run your hands over it. feel it.
Hand it up on your wall so you can see it. put it in clear view.

play the drum so that you may experience the sounds of your people.

Uzo said...

@LB: You thought you were a Lagos girl through and through huh!

@Soul: You always have a different spin on things. I love that. Oh yes i know about Orikis. Its really amazing when i hear orikis being recited. So beautiful and in the unadulterated yoruba. The fulanis are a beautiful race of people with fascinating roots. I have a few friends that are fulani and i cant emphasize enuff how beautiful they are. Pity you dont live in nigeria. This month's edition of True Love (a monthly for women) has some beautiful pictures of Fulani girls and women complete with tribal markings.

I will unwrap my drum someday. Maybe sooner than i thought. Its really overwhelming and now i am on a mission to find out more about my family.

Those of you that have Ondo roots..ask about Alari. Fascinating stuff

Nomad said...

Awww, I'm piling in late. I'm so fascinated with my heritage, maybe coz I have a brother who's really into the quest of finding out more of our roots. He's retraced our steps to where our great great grandfather came from and got such a warm welcome. Dig deep, if you love stories, it's sure to captivate you. Can you believe I stumbled on a story of how one of our forebearers was taken away as a slave! Now that's a blog for another time. Thanks for stopping by my blog, I have exams coming up and I'm so swamped; will try to post more, I shall overcome.