Deeper encounters with language as a diaspora kid.
The worst part about it is that I’m great with languages. I’ve got Spanish, Irish and English under my belt, am dabbling successfully(ish) in Arabic and German, and understand enough Romanian from neighbours and friends to eavesdrop on conversations. Heck, I’ve even gathered some competence in Turkish and Portuguese out of casual interest.
Yet, when it comes to Yoruba, the language of my place of origin, the story changes.
I’ll admit here that this piece isn’t exactly about languages, as, truth be told, I can hold my own in Yoruba. I can…
Laughing at the world, and the invisible line between humour and reality.
Most of us can recognise when a joke is poorly-planned, when a play on words crosses the line, or when a witty remark is tasteless. We know good comedy. We are the crowd who boos the first-time stand-up comedian. We are the ones who decide what celebrities keep their late-night shows and which are unbearable enough to be booted off the air. Collectively, there is an average sense of humour that can appeal to 7 out of 10 in a room.
Why pretend though, that comedy is detached…
It’s been over eighteen years since then. The story my mother tells me still fascinates me:
A child, not even yet a year old, at that wonderful stage in life where children greet the world with big, gulping blinks. Lying on my back in a cot, somewhere in South Dublin, Rialto, I am told.
My mother is in the bathroom with my older brother, juggling her two young children, and I, a usually fussy child, am perfectly content to blink and stare, making the task easy for her that day, in my cot wriggling and being content in my infant…
Re-affirmed and resolute. Some repetition of eternal truth.
These days, I’m learning a lot of lessons at once. About consistency, dedication and resilience. The kind that doesn’t let you just fall out of routine or let a good habit slowly dwindle away. The kind that is intentional and honest, the proof for really wanting what you say you do. The kind that is planned and purposeful, what they would say separates the men from the boys.
So that combined with stress, and exhaustion and days where tasks and obligations are a carousel constantly revolving in a mental playground, in the…
Heart-swelling love and positive reality checks from friendship.
She tags me in a video on her story of a beautiful black child speaking some simple wisdom and truth. She tells me that she couldn’t help but think of my future son. She loves to hear my opinions, she thinks I’m full of them.
She sends me a message, linking to a post saying ‘I have no ugly friends’. (She is the jewel in the crown of our dazzling friend group, in fact.)
She loves my poetry so much, she reads it to all the girls at dinner. She thinks it’s…
Their power, unintentional writing advice, and renewed intentions.
Have a pretty voice
And tell me pretty things
And I will listen to you forever.
I am unbelievably enamoured by sound and marvel at the waves of noise that come from the things and people we love. I love beautiful voices, and every one is unique. A voice saying something thoughtful or clever or wholesome is infinitely better than a pretty voice on the radio that has nothing in particular to say. The voice of affection has many different sounds. It sounds like a caress as you fall asleep as a…
Outspoken takes on interracial romance from a teenager reading Americanah and too much slam poetry.
While I have been brought to love
Up to the skies and back down again
And to believe in hidden roots of compassion
Even in the darkest of minds
I can’t help but think
That maybe it is your disease,
Your predisposition to see the world this way
As your playground
I never liked blue eyes
Or tight-lipped smiles anyway
Your people’s hair hangs like spaghetti
And I laugh at your synthetic structures
I don’t want your phonetics and numbers Or to learn your past…
Is titled ‘Black and Beautiful’, or ‘Adúmáadán’, as it is originally written in the Yoruba language. It is by a poet called Taiwo Olunlade, and I read the translation by Tola Osunnuga. It is my favourite poem at the moment because before reading it, I never realised that I could be the subject of description in the context of beauty.
I love it because black feminine beauty is not described as wildly political and dramatic. It is not essentially about sexuality and dominance. It is not platonicised or masculinised to celebrate ‘strong’ women. In the poem, his ‘black and beautiful…