Discovering my Fulani Identity

One year after starting school, my father was sent to work in a village without a school.  Therefore, I was forced to leave my parents’ side to continue my studies.  I found myself staying with a family friend in a village where almost nobody spoke Fulfuldé.  No longer speaking my mother tongue, I forgot Fulfuldé in favor of Bariba.

Five years later, I rejoined my parents’ household, where the phrase “good morning” in Fulfuldé was Chinese to me.  Because my father’s second wife was Bariba, and we were living in a Bariba village, my family now only spoke Bariba.  Playing with young Bariba kids, they called me Fulani boy, and playing with young Fulanis they called me Bariba.  What ethnicity was I?  What to do?

One evening during vacation, my uncle came to visit my father. I followed him back to his camp. It was a new world for me. The next morning my father came to get me, but my uncle convinced him to let me stay. Thereafter, I went to pasture with my cousins, who teased me about my bad pronunciation of certain Fulfuldé words. This irritated me, and sometimes led to fights. In the evenings, back from pasture, kids flocked from nearby camps to come hear me speak ridiculous Fulfuldé. My uncle’s camp became the fun place for kids to hang out and laugh. For three months, I became a student of my mother tongue. By the time I returned to school, I spoke fluent Fulfuldé and I had rediscovered my Fulani identity!

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One Response to “Discovering my Fulani Identity”

  1. Musa says:

    what an amazing story.