“Greetings from…” Lucy Iwuala, an Igbo language digital activist from Nigeria

Rising Voices invites you to join us for the 2nd in the 5-episode “audio postcards” series “Greetings From…” series, featuring the voices of African language digital activists from South Africa, Nigeria, and Ghana.

In this second episode, we explore the personal narratives of Lucy Iwuala in her own words.

Special thanks to producer Malcolm Bamba, whose collaboration with each activist has brought forth these compelling stories. Through his work, listeners will embark on a journey, gaining insights into the origins of each activist's digital engagement with their language. Additionally, this series sheds light on the challenges they confront and their ongoing motivation for their work.

The spotlight of the second episode shines on Lucy, whose work revolves around the Igbo language of Nigeria. Rising Voices interviewed Lucy in this earlier blog post about her work, and you can follow along the audio with its transcript below.

Download the audio file here

Malcolm Bamba (MB): Hello everyone, I'm Malcolm Bamba and welcome to Rising Voices Presents “Greetings from..” A series which follows language activists from across the globe sharing their stories of preservation in a digital age. In this episode, editor and activist Lucy Iwuala shares her work with the Igbo language of Nigeria. Stay tuned to hear her story.

Lucy Iwuala (LI): Hello, I am Iwuala Lucy Chinyeaka. I am from Imo State and currently based in Owerri, Imo State, Nigeria. I am an Igbo language advocate. ‘Igbo Ndewonụ oooo,’ which means, ‘Igbos I greet you all’ There's always a first time to every event, and seeing is my journey into language activism.

My language activism started during my final year at the uni, having stumbled on an online publication that captures UNESCO's Igbo language extinction prediction by 2050. There was this nostalgic feeling of loss and loneliness, in the sense that the extinction of my language comes with loss of so many things: my identity, my culture, my belief, my voice, and my people to mention what I feel.

This prediction brought in an upsurge of unending questions, of what would I tell my children yet to be born, of how would I be able to identify with my kinsman outside the shores of my community? How far would I be able to recount these tales of my people? Of a black race and a community that had once been, but no longer is. These are the questions that prompted me to veer towards the path of revitalizing and digitizing my Indigenous language, Igbo.

LI: I signed up for different language localization webinars. I started volunteering with organizations in a project that revolves around language localization. Organizations like Audiopedia, Igbo Wikipedia user group, Translation Automation society, Ọmọ Yoòbaá, Rising Voices, Sound Your Gong Mentorship Network. All of them offered me their platform to actualize this cause and gave voice to my Indigenous language, Igbo, through these means.

There is a constant outreach to a wider audience, resulting in various groups of teeming individuals who are ready to contribute with their various skills ranging from translation, transcription, annotation, curation, chants, so many of them all. I joined a host of other indigenous language activists, both virtual and in-person, in spreading the good news of indigenous language revitalization.

When I look back to where I began, I am certain that even though I haven't arrived at the targeted destination. I am of good faith. I am not where I was prior to my first step of my journey, and my language is gaining space in the digital world. And just like in Amarachi Attama's voice, I ask this question, ‘E ji Igbo eme gịnị?’ and I affirm, ‘E ji m Igbo eme’ (a whole lot of things). I am Iwuala Lucy Chinyeaka. Thank you.

MB: Thank you for listening to Rising Voices audio postcard series. For more information on the language activists featured in this episode, visit rising.globalvoices.org or follow us at @DigiAfricanLang on X (formerly known as Twitter). I'm Malcolm Bamba and I will see you in the next episode.

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