The sign greeting visitors at the entrance of Igbo-Ora in southwest Nigeria welcomes people to “TWINS CAPITAL OF THE WORLD”.
The town boasts of having the highest concentration of multiple births of any place on the globe.
To celebrate its self-proclaimed title the town hosts an annual festival, now in its second year, that draws hundreds of sets of twins from around the country.
Donning different traditional clothes and costumes, the twins – male and female, old, young and even newborns – sang and danced at the latest edition this weekend to the appreciation of an admiring audience.
“We feel elated that we are being honoured today,” Kehinde Durowoju, a 40-year-old twin, told AFP as he hugged his identical brother Taiwo.
“With this event, the whole world will better appreciate the importance of Ibeji (twins) as special children and gifts from God.”
Around them, twins moved in procession to show off their colourful outfits as magic displays and masquerades also entertained the crowds.
Population experts say the Yoruba-speaking southwest has one of the highest twinning rates in Nigeria.
Statistics are difficult to come by, but a study by British gynaecologist Patrick Nylander, between 1972 and 1982, recorded an average of 45 to 50 sets of twins per 1,000 live births in the region.
That compares to a twin birth rate of 33 per every 1,000 births in the United States, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.
Igbo-Ora is the epicentre of the phenomenon in the country.
Residents in the town say that almost every family has some twins.
Traditional leader Jimoh Olajide Titiloye knows all about this special quirk.
“I am a twin, my wife is a twin and I have twins as children,” he told AFP.
“There is hardly any household in this town which does not have at least a set of twins.”
He said the festival on Saturday was aimed at promoting Igbo-Ora as “the foremost twins’ tourism destination in the world” and that efforts were underway to get the town listed in the Guinness Book of Records.
Prominent Yoruba ruler, the Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi, said the festival “is a celebration of culture and recognition of Ibeji as special children in Yorubaland”.
He said the birth of twins usually “heralds peace, progress, prosperity and good luck to their parents,” adding that parents should always take good care of them.
But while twins are seen as a blessing by many today, that has not always the case in parts of southern Nigeria.
In pre-colonial times twins were often regarded as evil and were either banished to the “evil forest” or killed.
Scottish missionary Mary Slessor is widely credited with helping to curb the practice in the late 19th century.
Food or genes?
Scientists have not said definitively why Igbo-Ora has such a high number of twins.
Local residents have a theory that it is down to the diet of women in the town.
“Our people eat okra leaf or Ilasa soup with yam and amala.” community leader Samuel Adewuyi Adeleye told AFP.
Yams are believed to contain gonadotropins, a chemical substance that helps women to produce multiple eggs.
“The water we drink also contributes to the phenomenon,” Adeleye added.
Fertility experts are sceptical – and point to another explanation.
They say there is no proven link between diet and the high birth rate, with the same food being consumed across the region.
“It’s a genetic thing,” said Emmanuel Akinyemi, the medical director of Lagos-based Estate Clinic.
“I think the gene for multiple births is in the region and this has been passed on from generation to generation.”
Burna Boy: African giant didn’t get a Grammy, and that’s alright
We need to normalize loss. We can seek to console our champion for not coming out victorious in this fight. But we also have to be able to look ourselves in the face and say “yes, we lost, that sucks, and it’s alright.”
We need to normalise losing. It sucks, but it is the reality of life. When you lose, things go out of focus. You feel the crushing pain in your gut, and the fog of disappointment that hangs over you will draw you into spaces of mental despair. It’s worse when you had a clear shot at the prize, and you’ve done enough to deserve it. Not getting it is a punch, a kick in the balls, a shattering of your deepest hopes, and a reminder of life’s fickle nature. Nothing is sure, and tomorrow can begin without you in it.
Nigerians lost twice yesterday. We mourned with the world as news of Kobe Bryant’s death hit the internet. The basketball legend and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna, both passed away in a helicopter crash on Sunday morning, throwing the world into sadness. Bryant was a real-life superhero; the kind we looked up to as kids, the kind we hope to become with the advancement of age and the actualisation of our lives. The kind that made us want to raise our game, and pursue excellence as the only path to success. Kobe was larger than life, and to be cut short at 41 doesn’t only feel like a loss. It’s a robbery. Life took what it shouldn’t have. We didn’t give Kobe up. We got jumped.
Rest in peace, Kobe, Gianna and the seven others who also lost their lives. No family deserves to go through this pain. Death is final, without do-overs and a second chance at existence. Its arrival is absolute. One minute you’re here, the next takes you out. Nothing is assured. We were never set up to last forever.
Nigerians are mourning again for different reasons entirely. Burna Boy’s African Giant did not win the anticipated Grammy Awards. At the Staples Center in Los Angeles, California on January 26, Burna Boy carried the hopes of Nigeria and all who wished the country’s music well. A pop album—the most successful pop album since the commencement of the ‘Afrobeats to the world’ movement—had a fair chance at winning music’s most prestigious trophy. It gets grander when you realize that this was a continentally-accepted and supported project. African Giant wasn’t a simple musical work. It carried extra life. It repped the best of our music, from the heart of our creative hub in Lagos. It had the right major-label funding and sufficient structural support from Atlantic Records. The marketing campaign crossed continents, and the numbers carried the story of increased acceptance.
Nigeria hoped. Nigeria dreamed. And let’s be frank with each other, Nigeria lost.
Something died in my chest when the announcement was made to give the Grammys’ Best World Album to Angelique Kidjo’s Celia. Why? What is this curveball? This U-turn? This misalignment of the universe to hand Nigeria a loss? Who rewrote this script to move us from the center of the story, to the brunt of its climax? Was it even our story to begin with? This isn’t the ending our movie needed. This was the wack director’s cut. We don’t want it.
But the signs showed early. Kidjo, the Benininoise 5-time Grammy winner had made music for the Grammy’s just as she had done in previous outings. Her latest winning entry is a beautiful salsa album dedicated to Cuban singer Celia Cruz. Released on April 19, 2019, It is produced by David Donatien and featured Tony Allen, Meshell Ndegeocello and the Gangbe Brass Band.
The Guardian has called the album “magnificent” and The Financial Times gave it 5 stars. The album includes songs spanning all of Celia’s Cruz career reinvented with an Afrobeat feel. Of the song ‘Quimbara’, New York Times critic Jon Pareles says: “Backed by Michelle Ndegeocello on bass, the Afrobeat pioneer Tony Allen on drums, Dominic James on guitars and the Gangbe Brass Band, Kidjo reconnects the salsa original to West Africa, layering the song with a tumbling six-beat rhythm, a brass-band undertow and a tangle of scurrying guitar lines while she belts with enough grit to rival Cruz herself.”
The Grammy employs a peer-to-peer voting system, comprised of technical music people. It’s political correctness for predominantly White people, who are the people who vote at the Grammy’s. Celia was engineered for them, with them in mind. That’s the type of album the Grammy celebrates. Not only because it was beautiful music, but it had all the traditional elements that the Grammy loves to celebrate. Is it a system that we’re comfortable with? No. But that’s immaterial. The award is a local show organized by locals for their local music. If they invite us into their spaces, do you think they wouldn’t be given to their bias and understanding of what ‘African’ music should sound like?
Burna Boy made crossover music, but Kidjo also made foreign crossover music. One embraced pop and asked us ‘wetin man go do.’ The other hugged salsa while screaming ‘Yemoja’ in ‘Baila Yamaya’. The Grammy made their choice. Was it a bad choice? No. But it does evoke that feeling because I’m Nigerian, and I deeply desired Burna Boy to bring the success home. But Kidjo’s album slaps too. She’s not my winner, but she is the winner. Congratulations to her.
The African Giant album did not win the Grammy, but that doesn’t define its legacy and the enormous work that it has done. Burna Boy showed us that it is possible. With each release, each marketing move, each performance in foreign spaces, he assured us all that this height can be attained by a pop artist. That hasn’t changed, neither will there be an attempt to rewrite fact. For those looking for a string of positivity to hang on to, that’s it. Grab it with both hands and console yourself. Burna Boy is a winner at life. Your winner, our winner.
I’ve never been one to romanticize loss. It’s a reality of our shared existence as humans. People lose, people win. Sometimes the lines fall in your favour. Other times it doesn’t, and that’s alright. Loss is woven in the inevitability of our final departure of life. A loss is a loss, and no matter how much pep talks we give ourselves, and the consolation we conjure to make acceptance easier, it doesn’t change what has happened. Burna Boy has not won a Grammy.
We need to normalize loss. We can seek to console our champion for not coming out victorious in this fight. But we also have to be able to look ourselves in the face and say “yes, we lost, that sucks, and it’s alright.” There’s a sense of feeling that this isn’t the end of this story. This is simply that part of the novel that the hero suffers a blip in form or performance. The resolution and climax are delayed, but we will hold out hope that it just around the corner, in the near future. ‘Afrobeats to the world’ isn’t done. We still have time to mount another campaign. But for now, we don’t have a Grammy yet, and that’s alright.
The views expressed in this piece are the author’s own and do not reflect News Central’s editorial stance.
A Nation Making Huge Strides in Rebuilding
Rwanda is making significant progress in moving on from its ugly past
In April 1994, ethnic tensions between the Hutu majority and the Tutsi minority boiled over, and what had been decades of mutual distrust ultimately escalated into a full-blown catastrophe. Over 800,000 Tutsi were murdered by Hutu militant groups, with many women raped, and hundreds of thousands of children rendered homeless.
The genocide, which stretched for three months, was met with a slow response from the international community, and many people were forced to flee into neighbouring countries like the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The events of that dark period in Rwandan history illustrated in movies like “Hotel Rwanda” and “Sometimes in April”, left a trail of effects, some of which included post-violence trauma, increased distrust, hate and proliferation of pregnancies as a result of rape.
Twenty-five years have passed, and it has been a long, tortuous road to healing for all Rwandans, but commendable efforts have been made. Reconciliation and rehabilitation centres abound in various parts of the country, and there has been significant investment in technology, making Rwanda one of the few shining lights in a continent plagued by poverty and corruption. It is also worthy of note that there is significant female representation in Rwanda’s legislative houses: for context, Rwanda has one of the world’s highest proportions of women in power as 61% of members of parliament and 50% of the cabinet are female.
One aspect of the reconciliation process that needs elaboration, though, is the social work profession. Established after the genocide, social work has been integral to Rwanda’s healing process, through homegrown solutions or indigenous models of development that address the many layers of social wounds. Social workers in Rwanda have been heavily involved in programmes such as community work, local collective action and the indigenous practice of girinka, which makes for the provision of one cow for every poor family. There are also initiatives, such as the Hope and Homes for Children, which cater to children who may have been abandoned as a result of parental trauma resulting from rape, family isolation, drug abuse, vulnerability and stigma towards children with disabilities.
Rwanda’s success story is one that many African nations can take a cue from. Who is to say that countries like Sierra Leone would not be a lot better off if there were more women in positions of power? What if there had been more concrete efforts to ensure reconciliation between the Igbo and the rest of Nigeria after the civil war? These are the unanswered questions, but it is beautiful watching Rwanda thrive after the horror show of 1994.
How young people are changing the African narrative
For non-Africans who have never visited the continent, the perception of the second largest continent in the world has always been that of a place of impoverishment and raw savagery; a place ravaged by horrible epidemic and war.
This is largely attributable to an agenda-driven western media which sell these bogus tales about Africa to their global audience viewing the world through their reportage. Sadly, some of our local media are also guilty of this disservice to the mother continent.
As much as Africa, like other continents have its challenges, the positive stories to tell about the continent far outweighs the negativity found therein.
The good news, however, is that young Africans – the new generation, are striving to change the negative narrative of Africa through their excellence in different fields within and outside the continent.
These young Africans are pushing the frontiers of knowledge in their respective fields of interests, discovering new things and making landmark achievements. Whether in Technology, Fashion, Literature, Music and more, they are forging paths necessary for the sustenance of development in Africa. These crop of individuals are passing the message that Africa has a lot to offer the world through its rich human resources. What better way to be true ambassadors of the continent?
Let us take a look at some of the young individuals championing the change of an age-long African perception in their different fields.
Technology & Innovation
Over the years, we have seen some of the most innovative minds in technology come from Africa. Notable figures like Philip Emeagwali who invented the world’s fastest computer and who also won the 1989 Gordon Bell Prize for an application of the CM-2 massively-parallel computer, Jelani Aliyu who designed the Chevrolet Volt, Elon Musk, the founder of SpaceX, among very many others make this list.
One young African that is gradually making waves in technology is 35-year-old Jamila Abbas. Abbas is a Kenyan computer scientist and software engineer who is the co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of MFarm Kenya Limited. MFarm is an android application that Abbas developed to solve the challenge of lack of pricing transparency Kenyan farmers faced.