What’s this fiery Nigerian journalist offering as ‘a tapestry of love and colour on a personal journey of discovery’, as she turns 70

She tells whoever cares to listen that she was ‘born in the Age of the Dinosaur’, but one thing you can say of this woman, fondly known and called Tola Adenle, is that she’s not stuck in the past.

That past included being a teacher (in elementary and secondary schools); a secretary or, in her words, a “go-fer (at the World Bank) who worked for food and my college tuition while spouse attended grad school” and nursing two children; a journalist at a regional newspaper, while on a one- year mandatory national service for fresh graduates of institutions of higher learning in Nigeria; a publisher of a bi-monthly woman’s magazine, and, for about nine years, a columnist or, as she prefers it, essayist on a Sunday newspaper which morphed into another newspaper where she continued to have her weekly essays published till 26 December 2010.

In her last essay that Boxing Day of 2010, she had written: If you’ll excuse me, dear friends, I have some things — though not necessarily any more challenging or interesting than these essays — that beckon, and must say farewell! (Never mind her bluntness, she is a lady).

Nigeria’s first female Permanent Secretary Late Mrs. Fola Akintunde-Ighodalo presenting emotan magazine to the public, in July 1977, as Adenle (middle) and her late brother and University of Ibadan’s first Registrar, J. K. Adamolekun, show approval. Partially covered by Mrs Akintunde-Ighodalo is Titi Mabogunje, a retired judge. Source: emotanafricana.com

Yet, it was in retreating to the past that she rediscovered herself.

It started as a “leisurely hobby” to digitally archive her old articles. Then one of her four lovely daughters, ‘dragged’ her to the blogosphere and there came emotanafricana.com which became for her — someone who does not sit on the fence on issues — where to “not just to keep the brain busy but to continue to have a ready outlet to share my thoughts, and commentaries by others on my favourite subjects.”

One of those subjects is the Aṣọ Òkè, the textiles common to the folk in Western Nigeria. I love Yoruba’s Aṣọ Òkè, and I particularly love the very old ones of which I’m a lucky owner of a few, she admits not vaingloriously.

So, on her blog, she gave ample coverage to these textiles, and as her followers loved them all, she decided to develop a book therefrom. After working on it for about three years, it is ready.

It’s a 144-page book fit for the coffee-table in homes and offices where culture is valued, as well as in good reference libraries. According to her: AṢỌ ÒKÈ YORUBA starts where books and publications that I have seen on our beloved textiles stopped. It’s not only generously illustrated with photographs — a very few of which have been on the blog under various Yoruba History & Culture categories — but have the stories of clothes told.

There is a whole chapter, A CRASH COURSE ON YORUBA ALPHABETS, PRONUNCIATIONS, ACCENTS to help readers who are non-Yorubas with simple understanding of the various words.

There are also some magnificent photographs, from a visit to a sales gallery in the UK, the Adire African Gallery last December. It is of a silk SANYAN from Yorubas’ sericulture past.

Pardon my being the one saying so, I believe AṢỌ ÒKÈ YORUBA will one day achieve the goal and hope I have for it: a reference and guide book that will be counted among the go-to books on Yoruba textiles and textile history and technology.

You’d find in this book pictures of magnificent agbada such as this, which is a throwback to Yorubas’ sericulture

Hype or not, you would find out when you pick up your copy of the book, available only online. Limited copies will be released in Nigeria, on 2 April, when she celebrates her 70th birthday, in a city she and her hydro-geologist husband, Depo Adenle, call one of their favourite cities: Ibadancity of ancient warriors and history-making scholars/ bestriding the altars of the living and the dead (Onyeka Dike, Ibadan Revamped, 2011). Happens to be my own favourite city too.

OBE, Fellow of the Nigerian Guild of Editors and Commonwealth Professional Fellow is the Founder/Director, The Journalism Clinic.

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