In Conjunction with
Theatre Royal Stratford East London and Bank Of Industry
My name, My identity
An Award Winning Project (30 Nigeria House), 2012
Oruko mi ni Olorunfemijuwonlo Amogunla
Watch the video “My Name My Identity” here.
My name is a song;
I can sing it as I want;
in Soprano High or Bass deep.
Oh! It jars your ears.
(beat) I should shorten it?
I won’t. I will not reduce my name to F
A letter. And call it a nickname.
Or funkify it as P-h-e-m-m-y spelt P-h-e-m-m-y
Or change it to Famozo
…or its other version Famoshi
So that you might feel it?
My name is my identity.
My name is history.
History of valiant Yoruba men and women in battle.
Moremi, Ogunmola Afonja Kunrunmi
My name is their victory.
Amogunla, son of that famous warrior who killed an elephant with his cap
Kindred of Uthman Dan Fodio
Yes, that’s me!
I am every African who fought
And who still fights to keep his names
My name is history of a generation.
I lose it; we lose a story.
It becomes distorted.
My name is a symbol.
A symbol that rises early in the morning when my mother screams: Fe-mi.
It’s a sign of control, of power.
My name tells where I am from
That I am a Yoruba
That I am a Nigerian
That I love being both at once
Like an identity card
I don’t need to show it. It shows me.
I don’t have to shout it. It shouts me.
Shouts Yoruba, proclaims Nigerian.
My name has meanings.
It is freedom.
It is power.
It is love.
Love for myself.
For every part of me
My name is like my dansiki;
I wear it as I want
In the sun or in the rain; it does not smell.
I wear it in the cold or in the harmattan,
I stay warm
I can wriggle it as it pleases me
As I do bata dance
Bata drum with voice:
Iwo nko? Iwo nko?3x
Let me sing as I want,
Let me wear it as I want.
Let me dance as it suits me
But never will I change it
Oruko mi ni Olorunfemijuwonlo Amogunla.
Ki ni oruko tire?
What is your own name?
Some Words on My Name, My Identity
This thematic focus of this poem is the beauty of Yoruba/African culture as captured in the significance of a name, of my name. An African traditional name is more than just a name; it is more than just something we are called by or something that differentiates us from another. In fact, in the Yoruba belief system, what you are called, and how you are called goes a long way to affect what you turn out to be. In essence, African names define our cultural identity, lineage and on several occasions, the circumstances in which we lived and currently live.
In this award winning project by Femi Amogunla, he insists that he should be called by his name, the way it should be; not as an abbreviation or as a nickname because, it is believed that “whatever” you are called has a meaning.
The poet draws on personal examples of the challenges that he has faced when it comes to his name, and draws on how he has been able to keep bearing his name despite these.
The poem also goes ahead to show the challenges of holding on to this culture of naming in a fast changing world that seems to impose its change on one. The narrator refuses any other version of his name, and takes pride in what he’s called.
Rendered in English, this poem has a universal appeal, yet it is sprinkled with local Yoruba language, the poet calls the audience to a different language, to a different culture. It also makes use of accepted codes of culture like music.
Finally, it educates others about African lives, African pride and the struggle of the African past.
Check out our previous post on Femi Amogunla here.