Press Statement – #Yorubaisnotforsale
UPDATE: Please sign our petition calling for the UK government to review and reform the rules for the registration of trademarks, and to protect the names of ethnic groups, geographical locations, languages and cultures from being trademarked in their singular form: https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/587954…
Background to CultureTree
My name is Gbemisola Isimi and I am the founder of CultureTree. I was born in Lagos, Nigeria but moved to the UK at 11 years old. Up until then I spoke Yoruba fluently as I grew up with my maternal grandmother. However, when I moved to the UK, I stopped speaking Yoruba. This is likely due to a combination of forces, such as our parents speaking to us mostly in English or perhaps it was a subconscious effort to assimilate into my new environment. There was nearly a decade of spoken dormancy, and it was not until I went to college and made friends with other Yoruba speakers that I suddenly started speaking Yoruba again. I discovered that the language had never left and I was very fluent, I just needed an environment that could nurture the confidence to re-energise this.
The idea for CultureTree was birthed when I had my first daughter who is now 8 years old. I wanted to teach her Yoruba but I couldn’t find resources online. I noticed she loved watching nursery rhymes on YouTube and could sit for hours watching it, even the ones in foreign languages. So I searched for Yoruba nursery rhymes but there was only one at that time and it wasn’t an animated cartoon but someone singing. That was when I thought of creating them myself. I put out my first animated Yoruba nursery rhyme video in 2015 and that video now has over 300k views.
Our Business as a Social Venture
As Africans, our language is a very important part of our identity. Yet as I witnessed growing up, a lot of Africans in the diaspora tried to assimilate to the culture of the country they were in and in essence neglected to teach their children their mother tongue. This is happening even in Africa, and I am familiar with the sad story in Nigeria especially with Yoruba people where the children are expensively educated in so many forms, but do not speak, understand or encourage the use of Yoruba language.
Our mission is to correct the misguided apprehension that the ability to speak fluently in Yoruba equates to an inferiority of abilities either with the English language or any other parts of their education. Most of these parents are starting to realise that this old attitude has insidiously remained invisibly in the psyche in an unacknowledged form, as the last vestiges or legacy of wrong parts of the colonial adventure. Our mission is firmly cultural and not political.
Now the tide is turning and more people are embracing their multicultural roots that skipped a generation — whether in Nigeria, the UK, or anywhere else. They are now keen to express their culture in a personal and authentic way, regardless of where they live.
Due to this re-aligned way of thinking, CultureTree has been instrumental in facilitating for an audience of people of Yoruba heritage, not just in London (where there are estimated to be at least a million Nigerians, and much more with the growing numbers of people of an inter-racial heritage) but globally, including in Nigeria itself. CultureTree runs an Academy where we currently specialise in Yoruba language classes for children of the Nigerian diaspora, both in person and online, creating a safe fun space to try to learn the new language, without feeling intimidated.
We regularly partner with the likes of the Mayor of London, Westminster City Council, British Library etc. to run successful cultural events and workshops. We create African-focussed TV productions and have produced children’s TV programmes for BBC, Vox Africa and YANGA TV. We also have a growing YouTube channel where we provide free content to teach children Yoruba.
It has been very encouraging to see our clients who are third generation descendants of Yoruba migrants pick up confidence in a language of their grandparents, which their parents have missed out on, and knowing the amount of support we have received from the global diaspora of Yoruba speakers in places as far away as Brazil and Singapore. This re-affirms our belief that our mission to bring back the connection to generations of Yoruba people through the power of their language, its sounds and meanings has hope and a guarantee for the survival of the language.
Yoruba: Our Collective Heritage
I would like to thank all of our supporters who have campaigned to support our #Yorubaisnotforsale movement, and I am pleased to report that we have now been informed that the company behind the registration has agreed to relinquish the registration opposition to trademarking ‘Yoruba Stars’. It is a reminder to all the Yoruba families across the world that the effort taken to protect against this encroachment must also be diverted towards ensuring that the generations behind us can partake fully of the entire tapestry of the culture by making sure that we speak, encourage or facilitate the learning of the language.
I should also make it clear that we were only seeking to register the word “Yoruba Stars”, which is a name our business has used for over 5 years, given that in our classes all our students are addressed by the same name. The issue in this instance arose because the core name “Yoruba”, which goes further beyond a language or culture, but includes people, customs and most importantly an identity, had been exclusively registered, in circumstances where I am now told was improper with the IPO, given that it was too all encompassing for any single commercial outfit to seek to restrain for their own benefit.
Further, after the supposedly preposterous registration, they opted to oppose anyone else who sought to use an offshoot of the same name; without first making a payment.
They were effectively seeking to confiscate the entire tree, the roots, or any sub-derivatives, and opposed to anyone else who sought an interest in a branch of any commercial registration insofar as it was linked to the commonwealth name “Yoruba”, that they deemed to be theirs exclusively.
I stand by my assertion that no one, regardless of race, ethnicity or background should have sole ownership of the word ‘Yoruba’ or any other language or group of people. It is helpful that this is now in the process of being resolved, and we hope that more Yoruba people will adopt an assertive awareness towards embracing all aspects of their cultural heritage.
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YouTube channel: CultureTree TV
Founder of CultureTree