The Igbo Academy and the The Ndebe Project
There have been so many things that I have wanted to write about this week, but I think that there is one thing that matters the most to me, so I’ll start with that.
Ever since I turned twenty, I’ve been thinking seriously about what I can do that will seriously impact some aspect of Nigerian experience. I’ve considered many things, and God willing, I’ll do them all, but being a college sophomore with shitloads of homework to do at the best of times, I have to proceed with caution.
Ever since I first learned to write Igbo in school, I have been infuriated with Samuel Ajayi Crowther. He made my life difficult, and I can’t understand why. I also learned to write Yoruba and Hausa, and by the time I was done with all the Abubuwan nake tunanis in the world, I was ready to jump out my classroom window. The Roman system of writing was obviously never designed to accommodate African languages, but Mr. Crowther nevertheless proceeded to use it to write down all three major Nigerian languages, thereby bringing untold agony and exasperation on all future generations of young Nigerians. Admittedly, it was an admirable effort, and he did do it with the very best of intentions: to proselytize the “pagan” tribes scattered about the Niger, but I do not think that the Roman script is representative of our languages, tribes or culture, and I believe that it is incapable of capturing effectively the essence of our languages, particularly, the Igbo language.I’m very sorry to say that Mr. Crowther’s efforts are sadly inadequate. What we need are writing systems developed by us, for us, and that work tirelessly for us.
I am founding an organisation called The Igbo Academy, to develop a completely new writing system for the Igbo language, based entirely on Igbo itself instead of the adaptation or translation from English (Think the Ethiopic Amharic script, or Tifinagh, Shu-Mom, or Somali script), to derive and formulate new Igbo words for all the new things in the world today, and to research, develop, and expand all aspects of the Igbo Grammar and Vocabulary to make Igbo relevant to the twenty-first century.
The Igbo Academy will be a collective of Nigerians and other interested parties, Artists, Writers, Academics, Afropolitans, and other Creatives located all over the world collaborating over the Internet on various projects related to the Igbo language. Participation holds no obligations and is completely free. I ask everyone to involve themselves in as much or as little as they like, and in whatever aspect of the project interests them.
My goal is for the Igbo Academy to expand Igbo vastly by developing additions and modifications to the Igbo language that will greatly encourage its use in everyday life by Igbos and non-Igbos alike, and that will make Igbo relevant and expansive enough to be regularly used in business, politics, fashion, news, literature, dialogue, and in every other sphere of life. Eventually, we will collaborate with other Igbo-interest organisations, and the hope is that The Igbo Academy will become the go-to resource and definitive body for all things Igbo.
Again, participation is completely free and there are no obligations on anyone except for the understanding that all work created within and for the project is the intellectual property of the project that will be disseminated by the Igbo Academy for the education and cultural enrichment of all, and the expansion and growth of the Igbo language. I know I’ll have to look into some of the Creative Commons stuff and get back to you on that.
The first project that I plan to undertake and invite you all to participate in is The Ndebe Project. Ndebe is a word I have derived from the Igbo verb ‘Ide’ – to write. This project is to develop the new writing system for the Igbo language. We need artists, writers, language gurus, anybody, and EVERYBODY. 🙂 This is a very serious project, but it will also be very serious fun.
I am going to set up a Wiki or website where everyone can meet and contribute and work as little or as much as they like. If you are interested, please leave a comment letting me know or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line: The Ndebe Project and any comments or suggestions or ideas you’d like to pass across to me.
I think this will be one of the greatest cultural undertakings of this century, and I cannot wait until our efforts are rewarded, and we, and our children and grandchildren after us have thousands of books that we read in Igbo and write in a beautiful, eastern script.