Benaebi Oguoko takes participants through session on Ijaw history, culture, language and identity
It was a sunny, warm day in London, Saturday, June 22, 2019 when Ijaws in the London area gathered to reconnect with their language and culture. Venue for the event was The Resource for London, located on Holloway Road. Enthusiasm among participants as they came into the hall was palpable. Youngsters, some as young as 8 and 10 chattered in excitement as they came in shepherded by a parent or sibling. Some older, greeted familiar faces and others. All were Ijaw people in the UK who live in the London area, but all linked by kinship ties that stretch thousands of years and space spanning the United Kingdom and Nigeria. They gathered to learn Izon, to mingle, and reconnect with their roots at an Izon language taster class event organised by the Izon Peoples Association Charity. The Izon Charity draws its membership from Ijaw people of different professions based in the London area as well as the Uk and Ireland.
The event organised by the Izon Charity originally billed to begin about 1pm did not start until about 2pm. A release by the group explains the motivations for the language class,’Many of the young Ijaw people growing up in London hear their parents speak Izon at home, but have not been formally taught how to speak, read and write in Izon language. The Izon Charity in partnership with these young people decided that a taster class be organised to explore the feasibility of teaching Ijaw language, history and culture to young Ijaw people living in London as part of their identity’.
The taster class was anchored by three volunteers, Mr. Benaebi Oguoko, Annah Tonbrah Buseri, currently a PhD Student at University of Leicester and Clever Mirin.
Oguoko kicked off the session with an overview that took participants through a brief history of Ijaw and the issue of identity and language. He explored the ethnic nationality’s roots in antiquity linked to the Egyptian and Nubian civilisations of the Nile valley, strands of migration southwards and the eventual settlement in the Niger Delta in West Africa thousands of years ago. The class was an interestingly mixed class of young men , women and kids who visibly enjoyed the fun, easy to follow sessions.
Following Oguoko’s introductory segment, Buseri took the class through an introductory session of numbers in Ijaw language that was ably rounded up by Mirin’s session of Ijaw greetings, words and phrases. He also explored some dialectical differences among the various clans of Ijaw speaking people.
The training ended with a quiz in Ijaw language which was won by Master Taremi Ogoko and Miss Okpokpo.
Journalist and Niger Delta development advocate Ibiba DonPedro, who was in London on a brief visit, spoke in commendation of the organisers and participants, noting the central role of culture, language and identity in the life of the individual and society.
Bouyed by the enthusiastic response to the first language class, more sustained classes are planned to commence fully September and October, 2019.