The Nigerian writer and linguist Kọ́lá Túbọ̀sún has announced the publication date of his new book project: a bilingual collection of poetry, translated from English into Yorùbá. Titled Ìgbà Èwe, the book contains twenty-six translated Yorùbá poems originally published in 2014 in a collection titled Childhood by the American philosopher and professor Emily R. Grosholz. Ìgbà Èwe will be published under the Tevani imprint of Ouida Books on June 30, 2021.
Grosholz’ Childhood has been described as “a brilliant poetry book about the joys and challenges of adoption, childhood and motherhood.” The paperback print features illustrations on the cover and within the pages, done by the Nigerian writer Yemisi Aribisala.
Prof. Remi Raji of the University of Ibadan calls Ìgbà Èwe “the exemplary art of cultural dialogue across languages.” Prof. Karin Barber, Africanist anthropologist at the London School of Economics, wrote in the blurb: “This is translation in its fullest sense—managing to convey the spirit of a lived world of experience grounded in the landscape, seasons and culture of Pennsylvania while bringing it into rapport with the imaginative resources of the Yorùbá poetic repertoire.”
Ngugi wa Thiong’o said: “Translation is the common language of languages. [Túbọ̀sún] is among the young practical visionaries of New Africa.”
“As I’ve said in a few other spaces, literary translations with African languages have often been one-way, benefiting only the hegemonic (European) languages at the expense of the African ones,” Túbọ̀sún told Open Country Mag. “I mean, there’s nothing wrong with having many African stories and literatures translated into English, French, Portuguese, etc., so as to give them global appeal. But when that is the only direction of translation, those target languages benefit more than the source languages, which are then promptly get forgotten.”
He continued: “Making African languages the target of translation is important for many reasons. 1: It brings more global literature home to the local reader who may not speak English. 2: It allows experimentation where these languages get a chance to grow and expand because of the effort it takes to bring new ideas into them. And 3: for my work in language technology, it provides a usable corpus for future work in machine translation.
“So I am excited for this work because of the example it sets for more opportunities in literary translation into African languages. This is the first African language into which Grosholz’s work is being translated. (Although I am also working on a couple other fiction translations by Nigerian and African writers into Yorùbá). More importantly, Grosholz’s poetry is beautiful and sensitive. It is a pleasure to get to work on it.”
Kọ́lá Túbọ̀sún is also a teacher, poet, and lexicographer. He won the Premio Ostana Prize in 2016. He was, until recently, a Chevning Research Fellow at the British Library, and later Programme Director at Yorùbá Academy, Ìbàdàn. His lexicography project YorubaName.com is the first multimedia dictionary of Yorùbá names. His first collection of poetry Edwardsville by Heart was published in 2018.
Emily Rolfe Grosholz, born in 1950 in Philadelphia, is the Edwin Erle Sparks Professor of Philosophy, African American Studies and English at the Pennsylvania State University. Her last collection of poetry, The Stars of Earth: New and Selected Poems, was published in 2017.
This is Grozholz’s seventh collection of poetry and Túbọ̀sún’s second.
Launch dates, on zoom and physically, will be announced shortly.