iyanu is yoruba for wonder

and i am yoruba

and ‘yoruba is a tribe in nigeria

and nigeria is a country in west africa’

that is what i was told.


in primary six

my citizenship teacher

who was my class teacher

told us



or is it he she me?

why does my friend’s name come before

‘and i’

and why can’t i say ‘me’ then add my friend’s name



she told us to memorize

thirty six states and capitals

it had become our passports into class

so everyday we will recite all

thirty six

and when we got to jigawa

we will stammer

but we will stammer even more

when we guessed that kaduna’s

capital was in fact kaduna

how was that possible?

a capital’s namesake is its own state?



the osuns and oyos and oguns were familiar

and that familiarity with my mother tongue

grew on me

it was an odd familiarity

because i did not know it

well enough to speak it

or understand it when

it was spoken

but i was familiar

with the culture

the food

the people


and how come grandpa

and grandma can mould

their eba so perfectly?

i tried not to stare when they ate

eba with okra and stew

but when i stared

my eyes were transfixed in wonder

grandma and grandpa knew

my citizenship teacher knew.

she knew

they knew

i knew




9 thoughts on “iyanu

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