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‘We spoke English to set ourselves apart’: how I rediscovered my mother tongue (The Guardian, By Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani)

Mis à jour : 30 Mar 2019

Photograph: David Lyons/Alamy

While I was growing up in Nigeria, my parents deliberately never spoke their native Igbo language to us. But later it became an essential part of me.
hen I was a child, my great-grandmother, whom we called Daa, came to live with my family in Umuahia in south-eastern Nigeria. My father had spent most of his infancy in her care, mostly during a period when his mother was preoccupied with her role as one of the founders of a local Assemblies of God church. As Daa grew older and weaker, he felt it was his turn to take care of her. After much persuasion, he finally convinced her to leave her humble dwellings in a village far from where we lived and come spend her last days in the comfort of our modern home.
Each time I watched her shuffle one foot in front of the other, her back bent almost double until her head nearly touched the top of her walking stick, it was hard to imagine my father’s descriptions of a Daa who was once one of the tallest and most stunning women around. The story went that the colonial-era arbitrator who presided over the dissolution of her first marriage found her so beautiful that he decided on the spot to take her as one of his wives. “How can you maltreat such a beautiful woman?” he was said to have asked the errant husband.
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