Archive for: May 2017

Yoruba Day: A Celebration of Culture and Language

Video by Ceci Gonzales, Karla Benitez and Ashika Sethi

Words by Grant Gordon

Photos by Ashika Sethi



The University of Texas at Austin’s 12th Yoruba Day celebration was held on April 21st, spreading awareness about a culture that is unknown to many but has become very important to a group of UT students.

Professor Omoniyi Afolabi’s Intermediate Yoruba class teaches students from various backgrounds the Yoruba culture and language, which is spoken by over 30 million people in the world, predominantly in Western Africa and Nigeria. At the Yoruba Day celebration, Afolabi’s class performed a 20-minute play speaking solely the Yoruba language in a performance that served as the class’s final exam.

“The best way to teach a language is to have opportunities to apply it,” Afolabi said. The class’s memorized performance in front of an audience of about 50 people supplied this opportunity.

“There is a lot that is lost when all you’re doing is grammar and homework and exercises,” Afolabi said. “But when students are in a situation where they actually have to apply the language, they feel freer. They feel… that the language is alive.”

The approximately 15 students in Afolabi’s class have a variety of different reasons for choosing to learn Yoruba. Christianah Ogunleye, a senior biochemistry major, was born in Nigeria, and while she has been exposed to the language from her family for her whole life, she lost the ability to speak it when she moved to America at two years old.

“I figured now that I’m in college this was the time,” Ogunleye said. “It was kind of a decision to come back to my roots and learn about myself as a person and be able to communicate with my family members that I hadn’t seen in years.”

Ogunleye said that the Yoruba Day celebration is a fun and exciting way to introduce the culture to people who have never experienced it before.

“My favorite part of the culture is the dancing and the singing,” she said. “I think that the artistic culture of dancing and singing is very deeply embedded in the culture, and I love it so much.”

Ogunleye has noticed a significant emergence of Yoruba culture in American pop culture in the past two years. Artists like Beyoncé and Drake have used aspects of the culture in their recent work.

“Globally, hip hop is becoming very influenced by African beats, and Nigeria as a whole is… for African music, it’s a big hub for it,” Ogunleye said.

Rebecca Williams, a freshman Radio Television and Film major taking the Intermediate Yoruba class, has also noticed Yoruba’s recent prevalence in pop culture. Because of her experience learning about the culture, she was able to explain to her friends that Beyoncé was depicting the Yoruba deity Oshun in her recent Grammy Awards performance.

Williams said that performances such as Beyoncé’s could lead to more young people digging deeper and learning about the Yoruba culture, spreading the culture to a wide audience across the world.

While Ogunleye took the Intermediate Yoruba course to get back to her roots, Williams made the decision to take the class with an eye toward the future. She said that she plans to learn other African languages in her time at UT to aid her potential career as a documentary film maker with an African focus.

“For my career, I plan to travel abroad,” Williams said. “I know the language already, so I can use that. It won’t be a language barrier.”

Whatever reason the students have for learning Yoruba, their actions have already helped increase awareness to the culture and draw more people to the UT Yoruba community.

Since he arrived in 2009, professor Afolabi said that he has seen the Yoruba Day celebration change a great deal. He said that it is now much more of a communal experience, with several elders from the Yoruba culture attending last month’s celebration.

“It’s a generational thing,” Afolabi said.

As his students use what they have learned about the culture to enhance their careers or develop their own spirituality, perhaps they will prove their professor right by returning to Yoruba Day celebrations decades down the road.

Bee Friendly

by Mackenzie Palmer, Kathryn Miles, Peyton Yager and Taylor Gantt

It’s a passion for their protection and a bravery of one’s will that has left the Reburn’s able to work near an ever-growing sworn of bees.

Tanya and Chuck Reburn began Bee Friendly Austin five years ago to do their part in saving the world. They agreed their mission began as a combination of a hobby and an eco friendly initiative they took upon themselves to improve agriculture in the Austin area and around the United States.

They started after Tanya had decided to do some research on the pros of bee keeping. After going to an informational meet and great with other beekeepers, the Reburn’s decided to get started on their own.

They began ordering bees simply from the Internet. Starting out with five colonies, it quickly turned into 20 by the end of the first year.

“The next year 40, and then 80,” Chuck said. “Now we manage over a 100, 200 colonies typically in a year.”

The spring is their busiest time of year. On a typical day they are either making equipment or working in the bee yard 12 hours a day.

Chuck stated how Austin is a good place for bee farming. Austin doesn’t have major crops that can cause problems such as pesticides making it a perfect condition for bees.

“Other areas of the country have more problems than Austin does,” Reburn said

Bee Friendly Austin extends classroom teachings to educate the public and offer beginning and more advance beekeeping lessons. They also breed and take care of their own bees, which in returns provides them with honey that they sell.

Each box has a queen and about 10,000 worker bees. Bees reproduce in the spring where the current colony basically promotes a new bee to become queen, starting a new colony. The Reburns are able to have some control over this process, which allows them to keep producing new colonies and breed more queen bees to keep hives productive.

With our nation in a bee epidemic, the Reburn’s are aiding in agricultural production and are encouraging others to do so as well. Chuck described the issue as having two calves every year and having one of them die.

He said it’s not exactly as much of an epidemic as everyone thinks it is.

“We’ll make about, say a 50% increase and then lose 40% so we come out ahead every year but the problem is from someone producing something it’s expensive” Reburn said.

He also explained that one of the biggest areas that are struggling with the dwindling numbers of bees is the almond production, specifically in California. He said that a couple million beehives need to go into almonds and there are just only so many available. They’re planting more and more almonds every year so the demand for bees going to almonds to do pollination is increasing faster than the number of bee’s available to do it.

Chuck deals with the hives daily upkeep and honey production. He states that one can learn much about the world by working with bees.

“What we can learn from the bees is that it’s by helping each other and sharing everything they have equally that they actually lift themselves up and further their creation, further themselves into the future,” Chuck said.

Working in this business comes with a risk, and Chuck said he has taken many stings’ to the body, but now it hardly fazes him.

“Getting stung a couple times a day is fairly normal,” Chuck said. “When it’s hot out I work with less protective gear on and if I get stung it’s not a big deal.”

The couple now sells their honey in the Austin downtown Whole Foods as well as several gift shops in the area but they maintain their stance on the bee endeavor as mainly enjoyment purposes. They are proud to no longer use any sugar at their house and rely solely on honey for their cooking and lip waxes.

Apiary tours and Texas raw honey are available at their house in southwest Austin, which they leave open to visitors, tours and customers daily during business hours.


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