Culture: A fading Identity


My baby's thin wail snapped me back to life. It’s his third wake up crying, and God knows, I’m fagged out. I checked the time on the by-stand and annoyingly kicked my husband in the leg. He grunted, rolled on his back and slept on. As I sluggishly dragged myself out of bed before he takes it a notch higher and wakes the neighbors.

I staggered down the hallway and tried not to make any noise so as not to wake my mother-in-law who, unknown to me, was already in the nursery. Immediately I spotted her holding my baby in the cradle of her arm, I dodged and tiptoed to the doorway so she won’t see me. I know she will rock him back to sleep and I’d intended running back.

I was about turning when I noticed her lips moving in a funny way. Is she chanting something? I wondered and peered closely to listen. Thanks to the dim light that hid my frame.

I have heard of Yoruba Eulogy from my mum who is a bit too modern for those things but she never elaborates. “Who cares for those things these days,” she said in her high pitched voice that faithful day when grandmother visited and called me "Àbèké Omo Arówóná". I remember grandmother complaining bitterly about me not being able to speak our native language fluently. My mother simply laughed it off and explained what she meant to me.

Hearing and watching my mother-in-law chant those words to my baby was not only beautiful, but magical. But this is nothing compared to the expression on my baby’s face as the sadness etched on his face became still at first as he watches her lips. And then, the beautiful smiles, spreading like the rising of early morning sun. Then he started chuckling. It was a beautiful sight and I felt a pang of jealousy which I quickly pushed away. I said to myself as I quietly slip away. I wish I could comfort my baby with those same words.

I was about drifting off when grandmother's words floated back again. I wonder what those words meant. I understand Yoruba to an extent but these seems deep. My curious mind kicked in and I felt a bit annoyed not knowing what is being communicated to my son. How did our cultures and traditions became so dead and buried? I understand that modernization was birthed with colonization. But is that enough reason to throw away the dignity of our ancestors, and the pride of mothers. Yet, no one seems to care. The world is evolving, things have changed and many will still change. But where is the archive of ancient knowledge? Who has the portfolio of those wisdoms? If I have just a vague idea, will my grandchildren ever smell a glimpse of it? I kept brooding but my tired body is beginning to float again.

My last thought was: culture and traditions can wait till tomorrow before falling into a deep exhausted sleep.

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