Chole Richard

Reflecting on the poetry in my language, Madi.

Just the greetings alone, if only you knew Madi, are so endearing in their meaning, whereas greetings in English language have overtime evolved to be so formal and dead of depth.

Take “Goodnight” for instance. Unless the speaker forges some musicality in tone, it is just the flat words – “good night”.

But “Goodnight” which in Madi is “Ko wi” literary means “May the daybreak” or “May the new day come”.

Just listen to your self say that allowed: “May the new day come” as compared to: “Goodnight”.

And yet that is not the end translation to this beautiful utterance: “May the day come” is the literary meaning of “Ko wi”. Figuratively, “Ko wi” means, “May you be alive tomorrow” or “May you live to see tomorrow”. It is a greeting of hope for another day, not just a night.

How powerful!

What about “Good morning”? That, in Madi is “Owi ra a?” literarily meaning: “Has the day come for you?”. Now this may sound silly since, obviously the morning would have come! But the sense of it is in the figurative: “Has the day began well for you?” or better still, “Has the morning found you well and alive?” So, in Madi traditional understanding, your wellness is not just in seeing you awake and about but alive in body and spirit.


“Owi ra a?” – “Are you alive?”. Answer: “Oo” – “Yes” if you are ok indeed.

So, translated to English, the morning exchange would be something like this:

“Has the day come for you?”

“Yes. Has the day come for you too?”


And in English language, what do we normally say?

“Good morning, John”

“Good morning Susan”

That’s it! It does not see you through to the future. Just the good morning. So officiously tasteless!

Shakespeare beat us in one area of communication: Ability to read and write in his local language. He was able to capture the subtle nuance of the Elizabethan times and put it on paper for all to appreciate in reading and drama on stage. We generally lucked that advantage before the coming of colonialists. Not that we are doing any much better either today. Attempts to go local in language are blunt and englishised. To top it up with a Crown of the Absurd, often we are so proud that we are failing to speak our local language well!

We can no longer trust our brains to hold our heritage to be passed from one generation to another like our forefathers did. We desperately need to draw from the wealth and experiences of our elders who are now fast fading away. Let us get down to the business of recording all forms of oral literature on paper or better still, digitalize them.

Educational institutions at every level of learning are naturally fertile grounds for propagating this as integral lifetime learning experiences of students.

One needs to write in her or his local language to capture its richness so that those who do not know it can appreciate it in its fullness – just like we had to learn English language to appreciate the wealth of Shakespearean writing.

Only then, I believe, can we say that we leave up to the call of this year’s World Day of Poetry – appreciating the contribution of the diverse languages and dialects to human enlightenment and development.



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