Why I translated fifteen Shakespeare’s books into Pidgin – Ogini Bernard

If you’re familiar with William Shakespeare’s books, then you’re probably familiar with the orientation that his works are difficult to comprehend. Hence, Ogini Bernard embarked on this translation project. He has written fifteen of Shakespeare’s works of arts in Pidgin. In this interview, Ogini, who is a Pidgin Playwright spoke with Newsafresh’s Gbemisola Soyemi on his translation vogage.

This interview would have been in Pidgin because that is Ogini’s preferred language, but for Newsafresh, he bent his rules.

What made you start to translate works of art into Pidgin?

The reason I translate works of art into pidgin is because I realized that we need to appreciate our own way of life more than any other man’s way of life. I found out that people shy away from the Pidgin language that is widely spoken across the country with more than 75 million speakers and still counting. Pidgin is our own kind of English and has to be developed in all areas most especially in speaking. Since it originated from English and our own language, we must respect and see the value of the language instead of discriminating against it.

Why Shakespeare?

Shakespeare, who was a British Playwright has the most widely read literature all over the world. Even science can attest to that. And since Nigeria got her independence from Britain, although Pidgin has been in existence before then and it came from English language, I decided to bring our own kind of English which is Pidgin into Shakespearean works, since the colonizer had given us rules of how Literature is written and the language chosen. My research and the experiment was carried out to see if it would work and still retain its original meaning in terms of plot, themes and even the dialogue. So I came up with the name NAIJA SHAKESPEARE.

How many of his books have you written in Pidgin so far?

So far, I have written Fifteen of his books and still counting as my intention is to translate and adapt all his works to Pidgin. Some of them are: Hamlet which I titled “Oga Pikin”, Romeo and Juliet – “Rukevwe and Julie”, Macbeth – “Mac-Wey-Go-Bet” and Julius Ceasar – “Julius my Guy”. The link to Hamlets is https://www.academia.edu/39768066/HAMLET_FOR_PIDGIN_OGA_PIKIN_Written_by_Ogini_Bernard

How long have you been doing this?

Well, I have spent six years on this project. I started in 2014.

Have there been times when people looked down on you because you speak Pidgin?

Yes, times without number. I can proudly say I was brought up with the language, I mean I’ve been speaking Pidgin since I was a child.  I hardly speak English because English limits me when it comes to expression, but pidgin for me is limitless. Pidgin gives me the room to express myself to the maximum; Pidgin breaks down things for me to understand. What is the essence of using a language you can’t express yourself with, when we have our local languages and our own kind of English which is Pidgin?  I don’t care if people look down on me because I owe nobody a Queen’s English. Pidgin and my local language are enough for me. Our problems in this country will be half solved when we begin to appreciate what we have and not look at what other people have. English is not a yardstick to test if one is brilliant or intelligent.  You can speak Queen’s English and have an empty head, and you can speak your pidgin and be sound in all areas.

What other books are you planning to translate in the future?

At present, I don’t have any on board, but soon I would research into some other Literature texts that are difficult to comprehend.

Do you think you’ll still be doing this, 10 years from now?

Well, it depends. I planned 10 years for this project, but I haven’t even done half of it.  So I might be adding more years to it, and again Nigeria with all its problems has slowed down my work. So I may still have to add more time.

You also write stage plays in Pidgin. Do people appreciate this? How will you rate the attendance each time these plays are staged?

There is a saying that goes thus “A Prophet is not appreciated in his own town”. I think that’s what the case is with me. The funny thing is that the whites are the ones that appreciate my art the most, as my works have gone international, and this is quite sad. There are many Nigerians making waves abroad because we Nigerians don’t value what we have. I don’t really get accolades but because of the love I have for my art, I keep doing it. Even the teachers who teach you don’t appreciate what their students are doing, they hardly help or support. Teaching is more than standing in front of the classroom and pouring out what you have crammed. Teaching is you putting your students through, helping them achieve their dreams, giving them opportunities, recommending them and so on. That is what the whites will do. In fact, the whites have helped me in their own little way, which I am very grateful for. Every time I stage any of my pidgin plays, the attendance is not usually encouraging but I must do it to register that I have done it and to fulfil part of my dreams.

Who do you look up to as a mentor in this field?

I think generally, mentorship has made a lot of youths become slaves to their mentors in that they no longer know what they really stand for. Instead of them following their own heart, they follow the way of their mentor. Everybody can’t be the same and everybody can’t write the same. I only study people’s works critically and I make sure I don’t become a slave to their works. I break the rules to get a new rule. The one person’s work I study most is Femi Osofisan. This is because he’s also a translator and also adapts works to English and Yoruba.

What other things do you do apart from translation?

I am into visual arts too. I am a thread artist. I do silk thread art, which is a labour intensive weaving and laying of silk on a board to create a scene or image. It takes days or sometimes months to be completed depending on the size and complexity of the piece. I chose this art because it makes me feel traditionally inclined and it gives me the opportunity to express whatever idea I have in my head. My concepts centre on the past, present and future of socio political issues in the Nigerian society; the solutions; the need for change; the beauty of what we have and what we don’t value; the voice of the masses; our identity as humans, and language art (writing short Pidgin and Yoruba proverbs crested with thread).

I also intend to inspire young artists to be creative through their works and to take that bold step in making a difference in the art industry.



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