So many of the things we copy mindlessly from the whites are not well thought out. Let’s get this clear, I’m not trying to fan the embers of racial supremacy here. Please, be patient. I’ll get to the point in a minute. This realisation came back to me a few days ago when I had an interaction with a boy who had picked an interest in literature. He had seen pictures of Wole Soyinka when a representative of the Swiss Academy handed him the coveted Nobel Prize many years ago. So, when we met he couldn’t hide his disdain for the way Soyinka was dressed. ‘Why’, he began, ‘ he could have simply worn a suit or even a shirt and trousers instead of the native buba and sooro.’ I smiled. That boy is like many of us. He has yet to decolonise his mind.
I’d rather not bore you with unnecessary preachments. Professor Sophie Oluwole is one of the finest minds Africa has produced. As elementary as this seems, it took this fine woman to open our eyes to the idiocy contained in the popular rhyme: ‘Rain, rain go away/ Come again another day/ Little children want to play. That makes absolutely no sense. Suppose Mr. Rain decides to humour the children. So, he withdraws his slivery fingers and soothing salve and returns from whence he came, what’s going to happen to the crops? What’s going to be the lot of earth’s inhabitants? Let’s not forget that the children will always sing that song every time the rain is about fall.
Pitch that rhyme side by side with that much neglected Yoruba rhyme: ‘Ojo nro/ sere ninu ile/ ma wonu ojo/ ki aso re/ maba tutu/ ki otutu/ ma’ba mu o’. Let’s attempt a translation quickly: Rain is falling/ Play in the house/ Do not play in the rain/ If you do, you ‘ll get wet/ Once you get wet, you’ll catch a cold. Now ask yourself, which is better? One of life’s greatest ironies is the fact that we pay little attention to what we have. Instead, we covet our neighbour’s vineyard. It is the reason we’d rather speak English in informal contexts rather than hold healthy conversations in our native languages.
Decolonising the mind is the beginning of self discovery for Africans. Independence should have started with thought processes. Instead, the colonial masters withdrew leaving behind clones which constantly deferred to them. The educated lady who makes and sells moin-moin in plastic bags is perceived of as refined. She also puts it in a clean show glass for all to see. The illiterate who sells the same moin- moin but puts hers in leaves is termed crude and local. According to those who should know, the refined lady is ‘killing you softly’ to use Lauryn Hill’s words by injecting harmful chemicals into your system. The woman who wraps her moin- moin in leaves is the one you really should patronize. Unfortunately, we’re too civilized to buy from a road side illiterate.
I learnt a vital lesson when I was serving in the north. Right from the camp, we were warned against using perfumes and soaps with fragrance. The reason? The scent attracted bees and other such creatures and they would sting you. I saw guys bathing with local kongi soaps which they had brought primarily for the purpose of washing clothes. These days, I hear that many perfumes and roll-ons can cause cancer. Eventually, we would return to the ways of our fathers and take aspects of the Western culture that are relevant. Why do lawyers still wear wigs when in other climes this has been jettisoned? Why do we even still wear suits when our weather speaks differently? Why are we still keen on going to eateries even though we know pastries go down the wrong way? What is wrong with some of those neat Mama Put joints where amala is served steaming hot and you wipe your brow with one hand while doing justice to the plate with the other?
We must decolonise our minds. We are Africans and we have to stop thinking like White men. Let me leave you with this thought. Mode 9 was reputed to be the finest lyricist a few years ago. He, however, continued to rap like the Americans. When the likes of DaGrin came, the game changed. They rapped in their indigenous languages and the crowd loved them. The times are changing and we must return to the place where the rain started to beat us.