Odò ti ó bá gbàgbé orisun gbi gbẹ ló ngbẹ.
― Yoruba Proverb
Welcome to my October To Remember! It is an absolute pleasure to be Open Book’s October 2021 writer-in-residence. If you missed my introductory interview, here is the link: "Stories Find Those Who Believe in Them" Welcoming Our October Writer-in-Residence, Acclaimed Novelist Yejide Kilanko | Open Book (open-book.ca)
For the purists, I know the famous saying is September to Remember. But who says September gets to have all the fun?
Over the next four weeks, I will be sharing seven more posts. Their titles are Birthday Girl (Yes, I’m an October baby), Peculiar Times, Muse on The Lam, Musical Magic, Riding The Waves, We Move, and Solitary Fantasies. We will be talking about the personal, the professional, and other things in-between.
Intrigued? Then make sure you join me starting from October 4. I promise to infuse the articles with my kind of humour. These uncertain times call for a copious amount of laughter.
In English, the Yoruba proverb quoted at the beginning of the post says that a river that forgets its source will eventually dry up. This Yoruba woman born in Nigeria always celebrates her source.
Since today is Nigeria’s Independence Day, I thought to share some interesting tidbits about the land and its peoples. For those unfamiliar with Nigeria, it is Africa’s most populous country. Situated on its western coast, Nigeria is full of intelligent, resilient, and resourceful humans.
My Nigerian identity, a cornerstone of my writing, is shaped by twenty-four years of living in a vibrant multicultural and multilingual society. If you didn’t know, Nigeria has over 250 ethnic groups who speak over 500 languages. You read that right. English is the only official language. Given its wide usage, the Nigerian Pidgin English would be the unofficial national language. The waffi version brings sweetness to the ears.
Because almost all Nigerian languages are tonal, inflection matters as it changes the meaning. While words may have the same letters, the tone marks determine the pronunciation and meaning. In Yoruba, the word “ogun” has at least eight different definitions. Depending on the tone mark placement, it could be medicine which is ògùn, number twenty which is ogún, or the god of iron, Ògún.
Thinking of quirks, yes, we do tend to answer questions with questions. You will ask someone, where are you going? Often the response is, why do you want to know? We can be pretty blunt.
If we had an official national dish, it would be jollof rice. The spicy one-pot tomato-based meal, which originated from Senegal, another West African country, completes every occasion. At parties, hearing the words, the jollof has finished, is the ultimate letdown.
When made right, I mean the Nigerian way (sorry, my Ghana people) jollof is an experience. If you are interested in making yourself some, check out this recipe:
Another thing Nigeria is famous for is its prolific film industry, Nollywood. Our music industry is also phenomenal. For the movie aficionado, you can watch as many movies as you want on YouTube. Over the years, the movies and music are part of how I have kept in touch with my Nigerian side and how my children who were born in North America learn about that part of their identity.
The arts genuinely keep us connected.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this mini-introduction to my first home. Here is to a lovely month.
The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book.
Yejide Kilanko was born in Ibadan, Nigeria, and lives in Ontario, Canada, where she practices as a social worker. Kilanko’s debut novel, Daughters Who Walk This Path, is a Canadian national bestseller. The novel was longlisted for the 2016 Nigeria Literature Prize. Kilanko’s work includes a novella, Chasing Butterflies (2015), and two children’s picture books, There Is An Elephant in My Wardrobe (2019) and Juba and the Fireball (2020). You can find Kilanko’s short fiction on Brittle Paper, Joyland, New Orleans Review Issue 43, 2017: The African Literary Hustle, and Agbowó. Her latest novel, A Good Name, is out now. When she’s not busy with life, you’ll find Kilanko online playing simultaneous games of Scrabble.