USA Africa Dialogue Series - Re: Professor Akintunde Akinyemi of Ile-Ife and Florida

Congratulations Professor Akinyunde. This is great news to begin the week. This is well deserved.
Aderibigbe 

Sent from my iPhone

On Mar 20, 2017, at 5:39 AM, Assensoh, Akwasi B. <aassenso@indiana.edu> wrote:

SIR Toyin:

 

What a beautiful and deserving tribute you have penned in honor of Professor Akintunde Akinyemi of University of Florida at Gainesville, where a Ghanaian intellectual brother was so tasked by family problems that, a few years ago, he ended up taking his own life; as I still recall,  he was also in African Languages!  We surely thank God and our Ancestors that our Nigerian compatriot (Brother Akintunde) has made it in such a big way that he has come to deserve "caliber and timber" words from your mighty pen!

 

SIR Toyin, your poetic genius is also transparently in vogue here; please, keep it up because one day, your history prowess and poetic contributions may combine to make you a winner of the Nobel Literature Prize in the age when a musician has also qualified for Scandinavia's coveted prize because of his musical prose!

 

Above all, thank you very much for referencing my idol and mentor, Baba 'Jebu of blessed memory!

 

A.B. Assensoh 


From: usaafricadialogue@googlegroups.com <usaafricadialogue@googlegroups.com> on behalf of Toyin Falola <toyinfalola@austin.utexas.edu>
Sent: Monday, March 20, 2017 4:48 AM
To: Yoruba Affairs; dialogue
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Subject: USA Africa Dialogue Series - Professor Akintunde Akinyemi of Ile-Ife and Florida
 

 Professor Akintunde Akinyemi of Ile-Ife and Florida:

Akin Omo Akin Tod'akin

[The Brave,

Son of the Brave,

Who Becomes the Bravest]


Let this be quick and short, limited to nine pages, as this is the season of drought, when words give way to gestures, with the tongue competing with the teeth that want to chew tough hide, and the mouth savoring Mama Aduke's great meal:

 

Ko s'ibi ta ee gbe ko'yan ale;

Obe ni oo dun ju'ra won lo!

Obe Aduke dun lete;

Enu eni jata alarinrin dan monranin!

Ajeji n beere boya o tun ku!

Ife, Ibi ojumo ti i mo kaye!

 

There is no place,

Where people do not prepare pounded yam;

However, the difference, in how their food tastes ,

Depends on the soup with which they eat the pounded yam!

Aduke's soup is far more delicious;

The mouth of the one who has eaten delicious soup retains the trace of its oil.

Those, who eat it once, keep asking for more like Oliver Twist!

Great Ife, the city that brightens everyday world-wide.

 

I wish to pause: You might have heard. Fine. You may not have heard. All well and good, as it is even better to hear it from my mouth. One of the humblest among us, Professor Akintunde Akinyemi, is now the Chairperosn of his Department at the University of Florida in Gainesville. The relationship between Akintunde and myself dates back to the 1970s, first as a colleague and PhD classmate of his late dad---his dad could be my father, of course!--; then as a friend to the family; also, a regular visitor to the pepper soup joint of Iya Oyo, the nickname we stamped on his mother, which he himself subsequently adopted as his mother's name. Iya Oyo's joint would enter into palatable passages in my memoir on the Ife University years as a space where jokes were shared with Professors Olabiyi Yai, Bade Ajuwon, Akinwumi Isola, and occasionally Wande Abimbola, the preeminent story teller without comparison. These were great tales, the fabu of great momentos. Yes, men and women came into those stories, more so about their shady deals, failed hunting expeditions of human heads. Enough!


I know Akin's wife, his son, his daughter, his in-laws at Modakeke. Stop there. Why say everything today when you will still ask me to talk tomorrow?


Hear more: I have been Akin's adviser and mentor for two decades. We have been great collaborators, with books on Akinwumi Isola, Esu, and Sango, Femi Osofisan, the first encyclopedia on the Yoruba, a forthcoming massive one on the handbook of the Yoruba, and yet another great work in preparation on folklore. Except an essay that he is yet to complete, I have read everything that he has, so far, published.


I have also been his critic. Indeed, I once asked Africa to decline an essay that he submitted to them without telling him: alas, our best friend can turn out to be our "enemy" as they protect us! I did so to protect his great intellectual image; I no longer can remember the essay or its final outcome. I actually love speaking with my critics, as the best way to kill anyone is, indeed, by excessive praise. Those who criticize us, in the end, do empower us. I actually seek out people, and I have landed in the houses of folks at short notice just to see how they look like. I will just appear outside of their doors, say hello, put the names to the face and take off! No time for pounded yam and egusi !!


And, yes, I was one of those whose advice he took seriously as he considered whether to accept the position of a Chairperson. Akin is a gentle river, whose wave cannot drown even a leaf. As I told him and others, I don't have the prolonged patience required to chair a department. Perhaps, the Sango that my ancestors worshipped has smuggled himself into my genes. Sango is given to quick temper and resentful of boredom. Call me when there are conflicts, chaos, and wars, for the Sango in me to spit fire, rain thunder on the guilty, bring rain to make the soil fertile, and I then disappear, looking for a place with tornados or earthquakes to do my next bidding. My sea comes with destructive waves! Sango best approximates my spirit. Call me to mediate a conflict, and I will never add to it, as Esu and Sango will ask me to be calm, collected, and rational during the irrationality of quarrels, and most stable as I resolve the complicated issues in a peaceful manner. Thus, like Sango, my drive for ruthless efficiency inevitably creates conflict, and I lack the diplomatic mien necessary to create the stable atmosphere that university administration requires both at the bottom and through to the top. Tunde Akinyemi is not like me: -he can sit in one spot for hours and not move his body! He can listen for hours without responding!! And he takes objections with grace. Is he an heiress (not a language error!) to a goddess in the skin of a man? What a patient brother, devoid of all forms of ego!

 

Who is Omo Iya Oyo?

 

            So, to those who don't know him, a little knowledge should be enough for you. Tunde received all his academic degrees from the then University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University) in Ile-Ife, Nigeria; and he was on the faculty of the Department of African Languages and Literatures of the same university until 2002 when he accepted a position at the University of Florida in Gainesville. Between 1999 and 2001, he was a postdoctoral research fellow of the German Alexander von Humboldt (AvH) Foundation at the Institute of African Studies, University of Bayreuth in Germany and also at the Center for West African Studies, University of Birmingham in the United Kingdom. As they would say in Nigeria, "he has become an international figure o !" Remember to add the "o" at the end, as this is correct English in 9aija.


At the University of Florida, where he is currently a professor in the Department of Languages, Literatures, and Cultures, he is also an affiliate faculty of the Center for African Studies and African American Studies Program. In addition to his teaching position, he is also the Director of the African Flagship Languages Initiative, a domestic intensive summer program funded by the US Department of Defense National Security Education Program (NSEP). Between 2005 and 2016, he served as the Director of the Fulbright-Hays summer intensive Yoruba Group Project Abroad (GPA) in Nigeria, funded by the US Department of Education. You can see that I am now writing about Oga Patapata! I actually like it better when, speaking with our Venerable A. B. Assensoh, he puts K in it as Oga Paktapakta! Where is Baba 'Jebu?


Akinyemi has been a key player in the expansion and growth of African languages programs in the United States. Yoruba has long been one of the core African languages in many American colleges and universities, and one with a particular historic – and diasporic – appeal in the Americas. Akinyemi has been remarkably successful in getting students interested in the study of Yoruba and expanding African languages program in his university. The sharp and steady increase in students' demand for the African languages program every year, indeed since his arrival at the University of Florida in Gainesville, must clearly be attributed to his unceasing efforts and his keen pedagogical skills. The professionalization and rationalization of instruction and testing, the marked rise in competence of students coming up into upper levels of language study, and the remarkably good retention, past the first year are accomplishments that are at the core of any good language program, and I have no doubt that Akinyemi deserves credit for these. His efforts towards internationalizing programs at his university earned twice for him the University of Florida International Center International Educator of the Year award, in 2002 and 2012.


O tun ku nibon i ro!

Ehinkule owo la a ti m'obe to lepo loju.

 

A well-charged gun will continue to boom!

The palm of a person's hand

indicates if the soup has enough cooking oil.

 

Akinyemi is the author of Orature and Yoruba Riddles (Palgave Macmillan, 2015) and Yoruba Royal Poetry: A Socio-historical Exposition and Annotated Translation (Bayreuth African Studies Series (BASS), 71, 2004); and the co-author of a French-Yoruba dictionary, Dictionnaire usual Yoruba-français (Karthala-IFRA, 1997). He co-edited Encyclopedia of the Yoruba (Indiana University Press, 2016), Emerging Perspectives on Femi Osofisan (Africa World Press, 2010), Sango in Africa and the African Diaspora (Indiana University Press, 2009), Emerging Perspectives on Akinwumi Isola (Africa World Press, 2008), and he also edited African Creative Expressions: Mother Tongue and Other Tongues (Bayreuth African Studies Series (BASS), 89, 2011). Above all, he is a co-editor of the refereed journal, Yoruba Studies Review.

 

A ki i lahun a niyi.

Kan an sonso;

Nnkan ni n be lawo la n kan an sonso.

Beeyan o bu'be sawo, Ko le kan an sonso.

 

A miser is never appreciated.

Dip your morsel in the soup in a moderate way;

This expression is applicable to only those who have soup in their plates.

If a person does not have any soup, he/she will eat without soup.

 

Akinyemi is deeply invested in Yoruba scholarship as a mode of indigenous knowledge production, and he sees Yoruba Studies as an arena for the exchange of ideas and their translation into action, making a difference in the world in a variety of ways. The highlight of his contribution to scholarship is in the domain of oral literature. His first sole-authored book focuses on Yoruba royal poetry. He received two post-doctoral research grants/fellowships on the subject and published refereed journal articles and one full-length monograph. This aspect of his research has contributed significantly to our understanding of court (praise) poetry, and his 2004 book on the topic has received positive reviews in peer-reviewed academic journals—in English, French, and German.


Akinyemi's second book, Orature and Yoruba Riddles, takes readers yet into the hitherto unexplored undercurrents of Yoruba enigmas. Because of their oral—and all too often ephemeral—nature, riddles have escaped close-scrutiny from African scholars. Akinyemi argues in the book that the genre represents at once a direct transition from orality to literacy, continuity in change, and a site of resistance to colonial and post-colonial cultural imperialism, as well as global market forces. The book also examines the creative ingenuity of contemporary writers as they incorporate different forms of riddles into their works, while simultaneously using this folkloric material to deal with socio-political, economic, and cultural issues. The greater aspects of the traditional symbols are then encoded to articulate a modern meaning, thereby freeing the indigenous symbols from the encumbrances of a fixed cultural perspective.


In sum, Akinyemi has more than earned his place in the halls of the learned and the distinguished, as first among equals, as a leader in ideas and articulation.


Omo Ajanaku Ki i Ya Ra.

Omo t'ekun ba bi, ekun ni o jo.

 

The child of an elephant always exhibits the traits of an elephant.

Likewise, the child of a tiger follows the footstep of a tiger.


Hearty congratulations are in place for our humble leader, the child of an elephant, who is manifesting his full glory!



Toyin Falola
Department of History
The University of Texas at Austin
104 Inner Campus Drive
Austin, TX 78712-0220
USA
512 475 7224
512 475 7222 (fax)

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