Lotanna Igwe-Odunze is a software engineer, artist and writer who developed a new system for Igbo writing called the Ńdébé script. Her book, Ńdébé: A Modern Igbo Writing System, is finally available for purchase after 10 years in the making!
The Ńdébé script is a syllabic writing system designed to accommodate the tonal variations of Igbo.
♥️Ndebe syllabary makes it clear what the sound parts/phonemes are
— with Latin script, non-speaker might think [onyinye] syllables are ”on•yin•ye”
— #NdebeScript makes it clear that the syllables are “o•nyi•nye” (gift) pic.twitter.com/5VmjQ9pHoX
— scribbleDNA (@CalliScribbles) July 14, 2020
Linguist, writer and scholar, Kọ́lá Túbọ̀sún, speaks to Ńdébé’s functionality and potential to accommodate several Nigerian languages in his thought-provoking essay, “Writing Africa’s Future in New Characters.”
Túbọ̀sún’s essay details his own difficulties with writing Yorùbá using the Latin alphabet. The process is tedious and time consuming. With only a small portion of modern fonts programmed with the necessary diacritics, Nigerian languages are hindered from the possibilities of full creative expression in the digital space.
What does Ńdébé script bring to the table? It is logical, visual, attractive, and for Túbọ̀sún, unequivocally hip. He writes:
I want to see Ńdébé on signboards, computer decals, book covers, art installations, comics, scriptures, and yes, computer fonts (no excuses now, Unicode), textbooks, government documents, Nollywood films and literature. I want to see it adapted and refined. As a native invention with the possibility of embodying the pride and possibility of a people, the script is a triumph. As a new vehicle for Igbo literacy, calligraphy, with an element of cool, even more so.
Lotanna Igwe-Odunze is already on Túbọ̀sún’s wavelength. As a software engineer with skills in digital dissemination, Igwe-Odunze wastes no time waiting for institutions or governments to endorse her work. She hands her invention directly to Igbo speakers and learners with confidence that it will benefit them in everyday life.
The Ńdébé Project book, YouTube channel, t-shirts and bi-monthly writing contest on Twitter gives learners a sense of pride and shared ownership in Igwe-Odunze’s mission to expand Igbo usage in the digital and global space.
Lotanna Igwe-Odunze is also the creator of the SexyIgbo, the easiest way to learn Igbo online, and was named in YNaija’s 2020 Power List as one of the most powerful young Nigerians in Culture for inventing the Ńdébé Script.
Follow Igwe-Odunze on Twitter (@sugabelly) for updates on all of her projects and linguistic humor:
Congratulations to Lotanna Igwe-Odunze!