Greetings from Julie Taiwo Quarles

Hello, everybody!

My name is Julie, and I am honored and excited to introduce myself as one of the new contributors to the CultureTree blog. I am based in Los Angeles, California, where I have lived for about twenty years. I moved here for college from my hometown of Bakersfield, a mid-sized town about two hours north of LA. I am the daughter of a Nigerian father and American mother, and I am also an identical twin, as many can guess from my middle name. I am somewhat recently married, and my husband and I have a two-year-old son named Isaiah.

I like to describe myself as a playwright-professor. Playwriting is my most prominent creative outlet, a passion I stumbled upon as an undergraduate at Pepperdine University some years ago. I am inspired by the process of crafting a performance blueprint then putting up a show, working with actors who bring my words to life, a director’s keen sense of visual narrative, and the genius of designers like my husband, my favorite soundscape artist.

My plays tend to place Africa in conversation with the West, often including characters from both spaces, and they frequently aim to tackle intercultural misunderstanding. In addition to my creative writing, I am a professor at Pepperdine, where I teach English as a second language to students from around the world as well as American pop culture, composition, and creative writing. This role as a university professor engages with my interest in academic research, the area in which my current focus is casting and representation.

I am interested in who gets cast to play which roles for performance, whether live or on screen. In particular, when race and culture enter the picture, I aim to uncover who gets the opportunity to breathe life into certain characters (as performers, storytellers, etc.), who does not, and what that means and why.

As a contributor for CultureTree, I hope to share some reflections on current diaspora topics such as art and media, and a bit of my life as a first-born Yoruba twin in the States!

I look forward to joining this community.

See you soon.


Artist Spotlight: Isimi Taiwo

Isimi Taiwo popularly known as ISIMISM is a native of Kogi state, Nigeria. As a forerunner of hyperrealism in Nigeria he focuses on the hyperrrealistic conceptualization and mind bending surrealistic approach of visually expressing his emotions, life experiences and important messages or stories using the element “water”, an important element in the sustainability of life on earth from which his inspiration is drawn from.

He is currently working on a body of works drawn from this inspiration which he themed “Interactions with the joker”. He works with different mediums but most especially oil and pencil.

Isimi Taiwo has had several joint exhibition in prestigious galleries like Terrakulture and Nike Art Gallery including the first Nigerian hyperrealism exhibition “INSANITY” at Omenka Gallery. He has executed several portrait commissions of notable people over the years and has a large portfolio of works covering other fields of art he delved into during the course of his career as a professional artist till date.

He studied Mechanical Engineering but along the course of the program realised his passion for the art and made a big decision to change to Creative Art in his final year in Mechanical Engineering by transferring to the Department of Creative Arts to pursue his dreams of becoming a career artist. Today, Isimi Taiwo is a graduate of the Department of Creative Art 2009 and also a Masters degree MA holder of Creative Art (painting) of the University of Lagos. He is a member of The Society of Nigerian Artists (SNA). He has been called up to many exhibitions and symposiums as guest speaker to encourage the youths on their journey to becoming hyperrealist artists. He has also won several competitions and awards like the 17th Quadrangular games, OYA awards and the CFA awards for best artist of the year 2016 and 2018 respectively, Fine Art America 2019 Billboard contest winner amongst others.

He is currently holding workshops to train and teach passionate artists at the beginner and intermediate levels how to draw and what it takes to be a hyperrealist. He intends to take his workshop program even further by turning it into a school in the nearest future. He currently lives and works in Abuja.

You can find him on social media:

Facebook: isimi taiwo.c
Instagram: isimi_taiwo
Twitter: isimitaiwo

Activities for children this summer holiday

The summer holidays are here, six or more loooooong weeks to negotiate child-care combined with thinking up various activities to keep the kids entertained! It’s not easy. However first off, one thing I am doing this summer is scheduling in lots of  “boredom time”, yes I am taking the pressure off myself, kids need to be bored, and therefore use their imaginations to entertain themselves!

However living in London/UK  there are lots of interesting things going on, many with an African cultural focus. Here is a list of some of the ones I think seem pretty exciting – I hope we can tick off most, if not all of these over the Summer:

(1) Somerset house “Get Up Stand Up Now” exhibition. This summer, Somerset House celebrates the past 50 years of Black creativity in Britain and beyond, in a major new exhibition spanning art, film, photography, music, literature, design and fashion. There is lots for the children to see and learn, and reviews have been great. Added to this, Somerset House has a wonderful wide open space for the children to run around, plus huge water fountains that can be great for splashing around in in the sunshine!

(2) Yinka Ilori at Dulwich Picture Gallery: Young British Nigerian architect Yinka Ilori has designed a “The Colour Palace”, a lively and celebratory fusion of European and African cultural traditions, which has been chosen as the Dulwich Pavilion for summer 2019 beating off fierce competition! It’s a beautiful and lively structure and would be an inspiring visit.

(3) The Horniman Museum: is a museum that has a strong selection of materials from a variety of world cultures and the African displays shows aspects of life in Nigeria and South Africa, as well as the Mbendjele people of the Congo basin and the Tuareg people of North Africa. They recreate a Nigerian village in one display, which is as close as my children are going to get to Nigeria this summer!

(4) 575 Wandsworth Road: Is probably one for older children and adults however it certainly is intriguing and I must book a tour (which I see are already sold out till September!). 575 Wandsworth Road was acquired by the National Trust in 2010, because of the rich and striking interiors created by Khadambi Asalache (1935-2006), a Kenyan-born poet, novelist, philosopher of mathematics and British civil servant. He bought the house in 1981 while working at the Treasury, and over a period of 20 years (from 1986) turned his home into a work of art. Looking online, the house is absolutely breathtaking.

(5) Frank Bowling at the Tate: Frank Bowling is Guyanese artist who has been accorded the honour of his very own retrospective at the Tate Britain after a 60 year career. His artworks are bright and inventive and will appeal to children’s imagination. His art isn’t just made with paint, but with Christmas glitter, jewellery, foam, oyster shells, and even toys! He has a wonderful painting called Barticaborn which paints the continent of Africa in the most special way I think I have ever seen.

(6) International Slavery Museum, Liverpool: I didn’t even know that the UK had a slavery museum until recently, and it is in Liverpool, which is fitting since so many of the slave ships, that eventually turned up on African shores, set off from Liverpool docks. It’s a powerful museum and well worth a day trip . When I went I felt the main slavery exhibition was suited to older children, but they do also put on activities suitable for younger children, so do check out the website. I think it is important that we black parents, not the schools teach our children about slavery and the legacies of slavery that impact us today, whether you are from an African or a Caribbean background. And this museum is a great help in that.

Hope this list is useful, I tried to think of different things other than the usual London Zoo, Science Museum etc, although those are great too. Please do share if you can think of any others!



Meet our online Yoruba course tutor: Dr. Tola Osunnuga

Dr. Tola Osunnuga holds a Ph.D. in Yoruba Literature. He has been teaching Yoruba language and literature since 1989. He has published scholarly articles on Yoruba language media. Dr Osunnuga’s research interests include African literature, folklore, stylistics, oral tradition, Yoruba popular music, Yoruba culture, translation and interpreting.

Authored Books

Osunnuga, Tola (2001) Tinú-Mi [My Thoughts]. Ile-Ife: Amat Publishing.


Osunnuga, Tola (2018) ‘Stylolinguistic perspective of syntactic techniques in the art of Yorùbá newspaper writing’. Studies in Yoruba Culture, Language and Literature, Festschrift in Honour of Professor Olugboyega Alaba., pp 901-916.

Osunnuga, Tola (2017) ‘A survey of the content and column of the contemporary Yoruba newspaper.Festschrift in Honour of Professor Philip Adedotun Ogundeji, University of Ibadan, Nigeria. [Forthcoming]

Osunnuga, Tola (2016) ‘Graphological foregrounding in contemporary Yorùbá newspapers’. Ihafa: A Journal of African Studies, (8) 1, pp 54-72.

Osunnuga, Tola (2014) Foregrounding and Lexical Deviation: A Case Study of Loan Words in Yorùbá Newspapers’. Ihafa: Journal of African Studies, (6) 1, pp 117-136.

Osunnuga, Tola (2013) ‘Investigating Ambiguity in Headlines of Contemporary Yorùbá Newspapers’.Journal of Linguistics and Literature, (1) 2, pp 61-65.

Osunnuga, Tola (2012) Bílíkísù Sùǹgbọ́n, Akọni Obìnrin Mánigbàgbé [Bilikisu Sungbon, an unforgettable heroine]’. Langbaasa: Journal of Yoruba Studies, (13) 1, pp 37-49.

Osunnuga, Tola (2006) ‘Linguistics Strategies Employed in Yoruba Newspaper Reporting’. Journal of Man and Society, (8) 2, pp 45-61.

Osunnuga, Tola (2003) ‘Communicative Techniques of Yoruba Newspapers’. EDUCERE: Journal of Educational research, (1) 1, pp 36-48.

Osunnuga, Tola (2000) ‘Issues in Yoruba Oral Performance’. Journal of Vocational Arts and Social Studies, (3) 1, pp 14-23.

Book Chapters

Osunnuga, Tola and Yusuf, Ayo (2018) ‘Issues and challenges of adopting digital technologies by African language media: the Yoruba example’. In: Salawu, Abiodun, (ed.), African Language Digital Media and Communication. Oxfordshire: Routledge, pp 209-215.

Conference Items

Osunnuga, Tola (2017) ‘A Phraseo-stylistic analysis of the idiom of the Yorùbá newspaper writers’ In: The Yoruba Nation and Politics Since the Nineteenth Century: A Conference in Honor of Professor J.A Atanda. [Forthcoming]

Meet our online Yoruba course tutor: Olayemi Olajide

Olayemi Olajide is a passionate Yoruba teacher. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Yoruba from the University of Ibadan, with a focus on a broad survey of Yoruba culture and language from the ancient time to the present, with special reference to such topics as religion, family, custom, history, literature, arts and sociopolitical organization. 

He tutors students to actively participate in class discussions, dialogues and debates, as well as prepare them for oral presentations and compositions. He is amiable and easy to approach. He has invaluable experience in teaching second language learners with a high degree of authenticity that can only be achieved by a native speaker and scholar. 

He is at the forefront of promoting Yoruba speaking, reading and writing via an online Yoruba Skype Class from Nigeria to students in United States of America, Australia and United Kingdom. 

He is a translator and consulting Research Assistant for Department of African Studies and Anthropology, University of Birmingham, UK.  

Professor Karin Barber

Professor Karin Barber did her first degree in English at Cambridge. She then went on to study social anthropology at University College London before doing a PhD at the University of Ifẹ, Nigeria (now Ọbafẹmi Awolọwọ University). Her doctoral research was based on 37 months’ field work in Okuku, a Yoruba town, where she studied the role of oral poetic performance in everyday life. She then became a lecturer in the Department of African Languages and Literatures, University of Ifẹ, where Yoruba was used as the teaching medium.

While working at Ife, she did research on Yoruba popular theatre, joining the Oyin Adejọbi Theatre Company, travelling extensively with them and performing in their improvised Yoruba-language plays, both on stage and on television. After eleven years in Nigeria, Karin returned to the UK and was appointed to a lectureship at the Department of African Studies and Anthropology, where she went on to become Professor, and now Emeritus Professor, of African Cultural Anthropology. In 2018 she took up a three-year position as Centennial Professor in the Anthropology Department, LSE.

Several of her books have won prestigious prizes. Her first monograph,  I Could Speak Until Tomorrow: Oriki, Women and the Past in a Yoruba Town (1991) won the Amaury Talbot Prize for African Anthropology. The Generation of Plays: Yoruba Popular Life in Theatre (2000) won the Herskovits Award, and Print Culture and the First Yoruba Novel (2012) won the Paul Hair Prize.

In 2019 Karin received the President’s Life-time Achievement Award of the Royal Anthropological Institute. In 2018 she received the Distinguished Africanist Award of the African Studies Association of the UK. She was appointed a CBE for services to African Studies in 2012. She was elected a Fellow of the British Academy in 2003 and served as the British Academy’s Vice-President (Humanities) 2008-10. She was editor of Africa, the journal of the International African Institute, 2006-14. She was President of the African Studies Association of the UK (2000-2002).  She has been given the Yoruba chieftaincy title Iyamoye of Okuku, as well as being made an Honorary Citizen of Ọṣun State.

Throughout her career Karin has created and delivered courses on aspects of African culture. She pioneered a Yoruba language course for beginners which took language learning as a point of entry into the culture of the Yoruba, and was built around her own course text, later revised in collaboration with Dr Akin Oyetade and re-published as Yoruba Wuyi (1999). A memorable feature of this course was the annual play in Yoruba, created and performed by the students. 

Africa Writes Festival 2019

Hi Kemi here…

Okay, so in my blog introduction I promised you I would keep you in the loop as to what is happening in London and beyond on the African cultural scene, and I am pleased to say there is a great event coming up, suitable for both children and adults, at the British Library in London.

The annual Africa Writes festival is on the weekend of the 5th to the 7th of July 2019 and it promises to be a packed weekend full of the very best in African Literature. Some really interesting books will be launched including Afropean by Jonny Pitt. In Afropean, the author has travelled all over Europe to meet with their diverse African communities. It’s meant to be packed full of interesting stories of black people residing all over, from Lisbon to Stockholm. I feel I have a real obligation to read this book as recently, when a new black work colleague introduced themselves as from Amsterdam, I literally was like “really there are black people from Amsterdam?”!  I am now so embarrassed with myself, especially as there are probably people thinking the same thing about me as a “Black British” person!

For the kids, there are family workshops on the Saturday, including a listening of an audio book anthology Story Story, Story Come “ Re-Imagined Folktales from Africa which features original music compositions by legendary Afro-Electro musician Franck Biyong and his team of over twenty musicians. This audiobook sounds great, as I have checked it out on their website . It is a result of a global online contest to invite Africans to write a folktale, either based on an old one or newly imagined. The winners featured on the audio book criss-cross from South Sudan, Nigeria, Ghana, South Africa and beyond. I will be purchasing this audiobook as I am always on the look out of listening material for the long family car journeys. Capital FM gets brain-numbing after a while, Classical FM is good but only keeps our attention for a limited time, the kids pop playlists get sooo repetitive, so we are always looking for good audiobooks! I will let you know how we get on.

Meet our new blog contributor, Kemi

Meet our amazing blog contributor, Kemi

Kemi will be sharing a post every week on this blog. Her posts will inspire and enlighten you on all things African!

Here’s an intro from Kemi….

Hi there I’m Kemi – I’m a full time working mum brought up between Lagos and London of Nigerian / Jamaican parentage. I have two sparky daughters aged 7 and 5 and live in the suburbs of North London (from which I undertake a marathon commute to work in Canary Wharf every day). 

One of my major parenting goals is making my daughters rightfully proud of their African history, culture and looks and also impart in them some of the African language skills I never had. It’s not easy – as they are the minority at school, in the media they consume and of course in UK society. So I am always on the hunt for books, films, art work, hair products, exhibitions, language resources, affirmations, music, everything and anything that will help me, together with their dad, shape my girls into being the most confident, knowledgeable and interesting version of themselves they can possibly be. I aim to be a black “tiger mom” – actually no, better, a black panther mum! 

I intend, in this blog, to share with my dear readers all the information and products I discover as I go along (often sourced during that lengthy commute) and hopefully you will share ideas with me too! 

Catch me also on instagram @kemide

Open letter to MTN Nigeria

Dear MTN Nigeria,

Today I was sent a link to the ad you placed on the popular Instagram page #Instablog9ja! The one with Scientific Ayomide and Intelligent Tope.

For the sake of those who might not have seen the ad, allow me to explain what you were advertising.

It was a video advertising your new partnership with Disney. In the ad, Tope is shown looking over Ayomide’s shoulders as she’s watching a Disney cartoon on her phone. Tope then quizzes Ayomide, “Ayomide, yesterday you were watching Moana but today you’re watching Lion King, show me the way now”. 

Ayomide doesn’t intend to show her brother the way but instead makes him carry out chores. Their older brother walks into the room as Tope is jumping up and down calling Ayomide ‘Aunty Ayomide’. Turns out their brother had subscribed for both of them to watch the cartoons and Tope didn’t need to be shown any way.

According to the ad, the new web service provided by MTN Nigeria will allow users to access Disney trailers, recipes, movies, series, wallpapers and so much more! A whole new world in the palm of your hands.

I have to commend you and the young stars for producing a simple yet effective advert. The last time I checked, your ad had clocked over 158,858 views on the page.

You may then be wondering why I am writing this open letter to you!

Well, it’s simple, I took some time to go through your social media handles and the dedicated website for this new partnership and true enough, our children can step into ‘a whole new world, a new fantastic point of view’. Basically all the Disney favourites dey there jaburata! 

Excuse my vernacular!

MTN NIGERIA! MTN NIGERIA! MTN NIGERIA! How many times did I call you? Three times abi! 

I will get upset with you!! Is like I need to go foreen!! (sic) #MrForeen

Oh, wait! You beat me to it! You have already gone foreign! You are using Nigerian stars to promote American productions.

This is not a rant or a ploy to get unwanted attention. It is an appeal.

I am appealing to you, don’t go foreign! 

Empower the amazingly talented animators, illustrators, filmmakers, producers etc that we have in Nigeria. Have you seen the brilliant productions by home-grown talents such as Turtle Taido, Akin Alabi Films, Anthill Studios, Bino and Fino etc etc? 

What is the difference between Thor and our Sango or Zena the Warrior Princess and our Queen Amina? I’ll leave you to try to answer that question!

Why do you need to partner with a giant like Disney in Nigeria! Why not create opportunities for young talented Nigerians to produce cartoons and movies that Nigerian children would be happy to watch both home and abroad? Cartoons where they see characters that look like them. The world has clocked on that #RepresentationMatters but it seems you didn’t get this memo. 

Why are you watering someone else’s rainforest and not the grass in your own garden?

Let’s build Nigeria together. The grass is greener where we water it! 

I’m playing my part with CultureTree. We are making sure our children will be proud to call themselves Nigerians and are learning our language and culture. Perhaps you might want to partner with us, perhaps not but las las we go dey alright.

I hope you do take what I’ve said onboard, not just you but also those in our government who are always trying to go ‘foreign’!

Monolingual Parents: Can I raise my child bilingually?

I get a lot of messages from monolingual parents asking for advice and tips on how to teach their child a language they don’t speak themselves. ⁣

⁣The key objective is for your child to find the need to speak the language. You need to find opportunities for him/her to speak the language as naturally as possible.

Sharing some advice/tips of how to do that below:⁣

⁣# 1. Have your child spend time with a native speaker⁣

Research shows that by exposing your child to social interactions, they can have the same level of phonetic recognition as a child who is surrounded by the language their entire lives. ⁣

⁣Interactions with a live person provides your children with social cues that can hold their attention in a way that less dynamic formats, such as audio recordings and DVDs, can.⁣

⁣Contact a bilingual family member or friend who can spend time with your child. You can set up playdates or excursions in which this person can speak to your child in the target language, thus creating a truly immersive experience.⁣

# 2. Find media in your target language⁣

While using audio or video media to learn a language may be less effective than in-person interactions, it is a more feasible option that can allow your child to gain exposure to language acquisition. I would highly recommend finding music in the language that both you and your child can enjoy together.⁣

# 3. Use child-friendly language-learning software⁣

There are dozens of programs and apps out there that help young learners immerse themselves in another language. ⁣

⁣For Yoruba, I highly recommend apps by Geniigames

⁣If you know of any others for African languages, please feel free to share in the comments section.⁣

# 4. Find extracurricular activities in target language⁣

If you are having difficulty finding native speakers in your community, you can consider enrolling your child in an extracurricular activity in which he/she can be exposed to your target language. This may take the shape of formalised lessons with a tutor, or of activities that just happen to take place in that language. ⁣

⁣For those who follow any particular faith, you may even consider attending a place of worship where that language is spoken predominantly.⁣

⁣Shameless plug 😁: We offer private tuition and Yoruba classes at CultureTree Centre and will soon be adding more African languages to our offerings.⁣

# 5. Learn the language together⁣

While this may be the most time-consuming option of all, if you have the time and are interested in learning the language, you can make this a team effort. A child will be willing and interested in learning a new language if he/she sees that his/her parents show an interest and passion for this language.

Through adult courses or language-learning programs, you can master the language and slowly teach your child what you learn. It may be the longest route, but it is one that will have you and your child bonding through your mutual learning.⁣

⁣Once you incorporate language-learning into yours and your child’s routine, you are likely to see new linguistic and cognitive development.