Cynthia Asiegeme, by interrogating the whole idea of poverty and creativity, had presented a great paper on the shifting paradigms of feminity in Ibadan. By locating the story of Sade, a (female) tricycle rider in Ibadan, within the changing dynamics in certain workplaces, Cynthia’s work investigates how women, in determined ways, are exploring and delving into gendered jobs to make ends meet. Her claim was that Sade’s story isn’t necessarily some kind of particular exceptionalism or strategic essentialism, but that her narrative captures a definite shift in how women are taking over spaces erstwhile seen as gender exclusive. The Ibadan context is even more telling at a highly cultural level. That could be a subject of debate another time.
So I took the intervention further by asking that, if we consider the shifting paradigms, looking at the gendered layers of these cultural realities within the society, we could interrogate how language is deployed to express shock, perhaps to equally mock, the perceived, maybe real than imagined, over invasion of such masculine spaces. I was also thinking of football fandom. For example, our choice of language, often sexist, offensive and mocking, when female football teams are playing is quite ancillary to our language usage if it were the men. Such was the intervention I felt could enhance the idea she was communicating. Her response was classic.
In engaging the co-tricycle commercial drivers’ reactions to her self-assertion, Cynthia was going to capture their initial dispositions in these words: “she was yimued at.”
What Cynthia had done was to locate an experience within a cultural epistemology unaccounted for within western linguistic repertoire. What she had done, perhaps unknown to her, was to subtly remind me of the theories surrounding language discourse, on the subject of hermeneutics and what truly qualifies as effective communication. There was also an obvious takeaway for me from her response.
What I had sought was language “spoken” in the conventional sense. What Cynthia had presented was a word that unpacks the idea I needed through a sign, a sign that captures not just their reaction but the wider contextual and cultural signification of their attitude. Yinmu is a playful attempt at expressing, and at other times capturing, disgust, disbelief, shock, disapproval, unfavourability, disapprobation, dislike… When I am unimpressed, I can Yinmu. When I want to poke, I can Yinmu. I love using it best behind someone’s back, especially to someone who feels (s)he has fooled me with patronising words and love narratives. I can easily deploy Yinmu. The abundant range of emotional expressions available to Yinmu is endless within Yoruba cultural imagination. At other times, it assumes serious trope of human expression too. For Sade’s detractors, it was a poke; an extension, expression and elevation of the biases that limit a woman within patriarchal lines. Yinmu is that elastic.
Yinmu is bae.
And till now, I am yet to find the English word that carries, if only in equal translated implication, not necessarily in depth or weight of impact, the effect that Yinmu brings to our cultural definition and expectation(s). Have you?