June 24th, 2024

City teacher helps youth stay connected to culture

By Delon Shurtz - Lethbridge Herald on February 24, 2023.

Herald photo by Delon Shurtz Adedeji Bowoade helps twin brothers Cooper and Dixon Stout create clay tortoises during the Galt Museum's presentation of Yoruba Tales and its celebration of Black History Month.

LETHBRIDGE HERALDdshurtz@lethbridgeherald.com

Adedeji Bowoade recalls the times when, as a small child, he and other children would sit in a circle under the Nigerian moonlight and listen to their elders tell the story of how the tortoise got its cracked back.

The tale is an ancient one, and tells of a great famine in the land. The famine was so severe, food disappeared, trees died and rivers dried up, and the great savannas turned to dust.

Foreseeing the death awaiting them, the leaders of the animal kingdom called an emergency meeting to find a solution to the famine.

“We need an urgent solution to this greatest of events facing us. If we fail, we all die,” Lion declared.

The hyenas came up with a plan to eat all the old mothers, to save on food and water and stave off starvation a little longer. After hours of debate, all the animals but dog, agreed, and the mothers were rounded up, killed, then distributed among the animal kingdom.

Dog, however, hid his mother in the clouds among the spirits, and every day at dawn he would go to a secret place in the land and sing to his mother, asking her to drop a rope so he could climb to the clouds where there was plenty of food.

One day, desperately hungry Tortoise was foraging for food when he heard Dog’s song. Tortoise watched as Dog, with an empty stomach, climbed up the rope and disappeared into the clouds. A few hours later the rope appeared and Dog climbed down with his stomach bulging .

The next day Tortoise arrived at the location before Dog, sang the song and began climbing the rope. Dog, however, arrived just as tortoise was climbing, and warned his mother, who cut the rope.

Tortoise fell to earth with a mighty crash, his shell smashing into fragments that scattered across the land.

Tortoise laid there until Ant walked by and made a pot of glue and helped Tortoise put his shell back together, but it had fractured into a million large and small pieces and Ant could only glue some of it. When they were done, the shell was rough and had grooves and nooks from missing shell pieces, but it was the best they could do.

And Tortoise and his descendants have had to live with the uneven shell as punishment for his deceit of Dog’s mother.

Bowoade shared that tale with children who gathered at the Galt Museum Wednesday to help celebrate Black History Month, which is celebrated across Canada with events and festivities that honour the legacy of Black people in Canada and their communities.

Bowoade emigrated from Nigeria to England in 2007, then immigrated to Alberta in 2010. He is currently a learning support teacher at Winston Churchill High School, and an academic strategist at the University of Lethbridge.

Bowoade hasn’t been back to Nigeria, but the things he learned as child, as well as his culture and language, are deeply rooted. It’s that connection that has driven him to help children of immigrants in Lethbridge stay connected with their own culture.

As board member of the Southern Alberta Ethnic Association, Bowoade told the tale last year during Heritage Day celebrations at the Multicultural Centre, and he was later approached to share the story at the Galt Museum during Black History Month.

“I intend to do this all year round,” Bowoade said moments before sharing his Yoruba story with a group of children and adults. “My hope is to share more stories.”

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