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822518337_839b806a79_zIf you’re looking to express your passion for African literature by supporting an African literary project, here is something to consider.

Last week, Nigerian linguist Kola Tubosun, who is also a fellow literary blogger, informed me of his plans to put together a Yoruba name dictionary of sorts—“an online multimedia database of all Yoruba names.”

He had set up a crowd funding site on Indiegogo {HERE} and wanted me to get the word out.

I was intrigued by the project. My wanting to know more led to an email conversation in which he shared with me what inspired the project.

Here is what he says.

Many things contributed to this current drive (after all, my undergraduate project from 2005 was titled The Multimedia Dictionary of Yoruba Names, so the idea has always been there. But that project was on a way smaller scale). So many things have gone wrong with African identity issues in the 21st century. People are no longer proud to bear names from their culture (or, if they do, choose to modify them in ways most obsequious to a “globalized” culture.) Maybe there is a point to some of it (after all, Jon Stewart was born Jonathan Stuart Liebowitz, and Larry King was born Larry Zieglar), so than when someone named “Chiwetalu” decides to rename himself “Chiwetel”, we just move on as if no major mangling of identity has happened. It occurred to me that, perhaps, what we needed was a common database of meaning, sound, and etymology of our own names—not just Yoruba, by the way, but of all African names. I wrote more about it here too. I’m trying to create something that (1) satisfies the linguist/phonologist in me to create a dictionary, (2) provides a resource for Nigerians/Africans interested in more about their own selves, and (3) removes the excuse for foreigners to call our names according to their own rules (as that video of David Oyelowo illustrates). I’m having a lot of fun so far.

I love the idea of a digital archive of names. It is a way of documenting an aspect of African languages in our contemporary moment. But this project is not just about names.

It is, more broadly, about language itself, how we record, preserve, and put it into circulation. It’s about making language accessible and therefore ensure that it does not die.

I recommend that you give it a look. Check out the crowd funding page HERE to learn more. Help in any way you can— by donating or by spreading word, sharing the page on Facebook, and inviting your friends to check it out.

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Image by Bethany King via Flickr.

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Ainehi Edoro is an Assistant Professor of English at the University of Wisconsin-Madison where she teaches African literature. She received her doctorate at Duke University. She is the founder and editor of Brittle Paper and series editor of Ohio University Press’s Modern African Writer’s imprint.

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