Saturday 21 October 2023

Code-Switching and Linguistic Plurality in Art

By Adetayo Adetokun

At the Abuja Literary and Arts Festival, a panel  was convened to explore a compelling question that has long intrigued enthusiasts and scholars of Nigerian culture: 'How significant is the role of code-switching and linguistic plurality in shaping the vibrancy of modern Nigerian music and storytelling?'. Guided by the moderation of Eddie Madaki, a marketing communications specialist, this discussion brought together a diverse group of luminaries.

Among the panelists was Jumoke Verrisimo, an Assistant Professor at Toronto Metropolitan University, who brought an academic perspective that shed light on the cultural implications of code-switching. Tonton Raymond, a performance poet and rapper, infused the discourse with his artistic insights, emphasizing the potential for code-switching to elevate both literature and music. Finally, Brymo, the Nigerian singer, songwriter, and author, provided a compelling perspective, demonstrating how code-switching serves as a bridge between tradition and modernity in the context of music.

Let us delve into the insights shared by the panelists, revealing the ways in which code-switching and linguistic plurality have breathed life into the modern Nigerian arts scene and the global stage.

Jumoke Verrisimo: Code Switching's Academic Significance

Jumoke Verrisimo’s  extensive discourse focused on the importance of code-switching not only in literature and music but also in academia.

In Academics:

Verrisimo emphasized that code-switching plays a pivotal role in academia, particularly in multicultural and multilingual societies like Nigeria. She argued that the ability to seamlessly switch between languages enhances communication and fosters inclusivity in educational settings. This linguistic flexibility allows students and scholars to engage deeply with their subjects, drawing from a rich linguistic palette.

Furthermore, Verrisimo underscored how code-switching can empower scholars to explore complex ideas effectively. It allows them to draw upon multiple languages to express nuanced concepts, bridging the gap between diverse linguistic communities within the academic sphere. In this way, code-switching not only preserves the authenticity of languages but also promotes a more inclusive and robust academic discourse.

Regarding Literature:

Verrisimo cautioned against the idea that code-switching erases viability in literature. Instead, she contended that when employed with precision, code-switching can enhance the literary experience. It can create narratives that resonate with a broader audience while preserving the cultural integrity of the story. Literature, she argued, should adapt to the evolving linguistic landscape to remain relevant.

She examined  the broader implications of code-switching. Her perspective challenged the notion that code-switching diminishes the viability of literature, highlighting its potential to enrich narratives while maintaining their cultural authenticity.

Tonton Raymond: Advocating for the Transformative Power of Code Switching

Tonton Raymond articulated his perspective on the significance of code-switching, emphasizing its potential to enhance both literature and music. In his view, code-switching is a versatile tool that fuels creativity in artistic expression.

In Literature:

Tonton argued that code-switching isn't confined to music alone but can breathe new life into literature as well. He contended that, when employed judiciously, code-switching enriches literary works by infusing them with cultural depth and authenticity. Multilingual narratives can engage readers on a profound level, providing insight into the complex tapestry of Nigerian society.

In Music:

Raymond highlighted that code-switching is equally vital in music in creating dynamic and rhythmically diverse compositions that captivate listeners. Raymond believed that code-switching in music is not just about unity but also about artistic innovation. It allows musicians to experiment with language, adding layers of meaning and emotion to their songs.

Tonton's perspective challenged the notion that code-switching has contrasting effects on literature and music. He saw it as a versatile tool that can enhance both forms of artistic expression, emphasizing its potential to enrich narratives and elevate musical compositions. 

Brymo: Code Switching's Impact on Literature and Music

Brymo brought a distinctive perspective to the panel, emphasizing how code-switching's influence differs between literature and music.

In Literature:

Brymo posited that, in literature, code-switching can sometimes diminish its appeal and value to readers. He argued that frequent language shifts within a literary work can be distracting and disrupt the immersive experience. Readers may find it challenging to fully engage with a story when they must constantly navigate multiple languages.

In Music:

Brymo championed the significance of code-switching in music. He asserted that, in this context, code-switching acts as a powerful unifying force. By incorporating various languages, musicians can create a universal appeal that resonates with listeners from diverse parts of the world. The fusion of languages in music transcends borders and cultural barriers, inviting people to connect with the rhythm and emotion, regardless of their linguistic background.

In essence, Brymo illuminated the contrasting effects of code-switching on literature and music. While it might pose challenges in the literary world, it serves as a potent catalyst for unity and global resonance in music. 

As partners attending this panel, we enjoyed the insights shared.

Linguistic dynamism is the lifeblood of modern Nigerian music and storytelling. Code-switching, we learned, is a bridge that connects the echoes of tradition with the pulsating rhythms of innovation. It acts as a dynamic tool for cultural expression, drawing from the rich mosaic of Nigerian languages to craft narratives that captivate both local and global audiences.

In the hands of skilled artists and storytellers, code-switching is a potent tool for conveying emotional depth, preserving cultural heritage, and nurturing artistic innovation. It possesses the unique power to unite audiences worldwide, ensuring that the vibrant narratives of Nigeria continue to resonate authentically while celebrating its cultural diversity.

No comments:

Post a Comment