Saturday, July 15, 2017



SONGSOPTOK QUARTERLY:  What does the phrase “Back to roots” mean to you?

SILAS OLA ABAYOMI : “Back to roots” means going back to one’s source of life, where one came from. Every human on this planet has a source, from a home of two individuals -father and mother - who have homes, probably from same locality, nearby, or far off, where every child is born. Our root is no doubt our source, by extension, place of conception, growth, and development. The phrase “back to roots” is so popular; books have been written on it, several plays cast about it, songs have been written to reflect on the phrase. In 1993, RuPaul released an album titled “Supermodel of the World”; one of the titles in the album is “Back to My Roots.”

SONGSOPTOK QUARTERLY: Where are your roots? Have you migrated far from your roots? Why?

SILAS OLA ABAYOMI : I am a Yoruba man from the western part of Nigeria, one of the largest nationalities on the continent of Africa. At different times, I had moved from immediate locality for schooling, work, and national assignments within Nigeria. Now, it is a total movement beyond Nigerian shores, as I live at present in United States.

SONGSOPTOK QUARTERLY: In today’s fast-changing world, is it important to feel “rooted” to something, some place or some culture – or is the feeling just an impediment to progress?

SILAS OLA ABAYOMI : It is absolutely necessary to feel connected to something, more important, be rooted in something. Regardless of the ever changing or fast paced world we live in, we must remember that root gives individual identity; identity, which is not biological, like the DNA inherited from parents to create a new life, but socio-cultural and political - orientations that mold and shape biological features in individual, which makes individual a unique person. These features are in our culture, the ways of life: society, which transfers to individual, by means of language, through religion, traditions, values, beliefs, and social institutions. Granted, a few of these features may be the antitheses to modern realities; however, there are still many good, captivating, desirable or even pleasant things in our “roots” that can’t be jettisoned because of new or modern age.

SONGSOPTOK QUARTERLY: Do you think the urge to go back to one’s roots is at the root of global political disturbance today? Can you please elaborate your views for us?

SILAS OLA ABAYOMI :  No, going back to root isn’t and won’t be the main cause of crises people always have. From time immemorial, people have lived with crises, and these are unresolved crises that are passed from one generation to the next. Although several new crises had been created lately, added to the existing ones; we must not forget that territorial control, geographical boundaries, ownership and control of scarce resources and religious extremism have lived with humans for centuries. They will continue to live, and perhaps, thrive with humankind insofar as hate, racial discrimination, fanaticism continue to exist.

Although, to a reasonable extent, fight-for-what-is-my-own from my root may sustain crisis, but not in all cases; the “back to roots” ambassadors cause political disturbance. Inequality, unfair treatment, suppression, repression, corruption and injustice have been major causes of political crises, and it will be so, inasmuch as these social issues remain unaddressed.

SONGSOPTOK QUARTERLY: Do you have any such yearning for going back anywhere? Is that your pleasure or pain? We will be happy if you can share it with our readers.

SILAS OLA ABAYOMI : As a human, there is always the tendency for adventure, urge to explore, and desire to try new things; these three scenarios require leaving one’s root to a known or unknown location. Even, as you enjoy these thrills, still, there are prices to pay. A major price is being removed from the root, which may cause homesickness or nostalgia. Many times, in course of duty, I had accepted offers that took me away from home; even though there were financial rewards and self-fulfillment, there was still a void in me; a vacuum that money, power, influence, position and even authority couldn’t fill.  

Notwithstanding the benefits my relocation and influence of office gave me, I was not fulfilled; I felt something was missing.

SONGSOPTOK QUARTERLY: The feeling of being rootless is often equivalent to nostalgia, which may be defined as a longing for a home that no longer exists or even one that has never existed. In your opinion, is it a longing for a particular place or a particular time? Can you please explain with some examples if possible?

SILAS OLA ABAYOMI : Relocating or moving from one place to another by humans will always be part of social and political engineering; however, this social behavior will never take away the innate, inborn, or the intrinsic feelings every human has in connection with his or her root, whenever movement occurs. The feelings of missing the loved ones at home; the emotional pains resulting from the activities of our five senses in relation to our roots may be too great to quantify. Old fond sights are now out-of-sight; touching that can elicit or evoke joy is no more there; sound or voice from known individuals, which can create happiness are now muted; taste by means of hug display with the loved ones is gone; odors of friends, family members, colleagues, and community in general temporarily comes to an end.

In fact, there could be a collateral damage to these senses and to the past fun, joy, and happiness, if homesickness or nostalgia sets in.

SONGSOPTOK QUARTERLY: Are your roots in the country or the society you live in? If not, then why? Is it because of political, religious or cultural reasons? Or is it related to your own value system? Please take some time to answer this question and illustrate with examples whenever relevant.

SILAS OLA ABAYOMI : Classical and modern or (contemporary) sociologists will differ on the exact definition and / or location of “roots”. Classical sociologists-of 1800s and early 1900s, who derived their work from the culture of the period that featured great thinkers like Auguste Comte, Karl Max, Herbert Spencer, Emily Durkheim, Max Weber, Georg Simmel, and Vilfredo Pareto will locate and define “roots” within immediate community or communities one is born. They saw the social situation or condition of 19th and 20th centuries, which include, but are not limited to political, economic, religious, cultural activities from “chaos and social disorder that resulted from the series of political revolutions ushered in by French revolution in 1789.”  In fact, this group will see “roots” nowhere other than place of birth within a known geopolitical confine that is non-transferable.

On the other hand, modern or contemporary theories which include Anomie, Feminism, Dramaturgy, Antipositivism, Game Theory, Social Theory, Ethnomethod, and Structural Functionalism schools of thought, may see “roots” differently. To these thinkers, roots may be transferable; more so, roots can be created in several other ways, through dissolution, amalgamation, by means of technology, migration, border adjustments, etc.

In fact, some individuals can have multiple “roots”; through birth, a person of multiple ancestries may have “roots” across borders; a person of dual nationality, whose place of birth is different from where she is raised or nurtured, will have several “roots.”

Whatever is one’s root, either from country of birth to country where one is raised, “roots” will oscillate within several dynamics; and people of multiple “roots” will be different from people of single “roots” because their orientations will be different.

For instance, people raised in a monogamous society will be different from those raised in a polygamous one. Those raised in a democratic culture will be different from those raised in non-democratic settings. In the same way that their beliefs and values may be different.

SONGSOPTOK QUARTERLY: In the country or the society you live in, have you witnessed the ‘Diaspora’ phenomenon? If yes, then in what form? What, according to you, are the main values and concepts shared by a particular Diaspora?

SILAS OLA ABAYOMI : Yes, as millions migrate from south to north, east to west every year; but several questions remain un-answered:
Why do people leave home in droves or in millions?
What happens to these millions who leave for foreign lands?
Are they readily welcome, or treated badly?
What new life do immigrants live in their country of residence?
What are the legal, social, cultural, and political difficulties immigrants face?
Why do immigrants demote themselves going abroad?
One may say that the “Diaspora Phenomenon” is traceable to several political and economic crises in different nations around the world.

One wonders, why would professionals leave home to foreign land to work as “care givers, entertainers, security guards, fork-lift operators, nannies, bar tenders, waiters and waitresses, sailors, nurses” wasting those years of training at home? In the article titled “The Diaspora: Why Filipinos Demote Themselves by Going Abroad,” Nonoy said, it is for economic survival - immigrants want to provide for families at home, and perhaps, give a better future to children…

Even though, the author isn’t happy about mass movement, he believes that governments should do more to encourage the young professionals to stay at home to develop Philippine.

SONGSOPTOK QUARTERLY: In your opinion, is this nostalgia of going back to roots a direct consequence of globalization and technological progress? What are the specific reasons for your opinion?

SILAS OLA ABAYOMI : To me, it is necessary to maintain a link with one’s source, notwithstanding globalization, regardless of technological progress. Identity and individuality matter. Uniqueness and distinction, no doubt, are imperative. Look at the manufacturers or producers of goods and services; even though they produce same products for same use, still, each maker or manufacture gives its product or service a distinct personality. Through trademark and service mark, each item is known in the market place.

SONGSOPTOK QUARTERLY: Finally, do you think that the concept of ‘back to roots’ is ultimately derogatory to progress and unity in any given country or society? Why?

SILAS OLA ABAYOMI :   The concept is not derogatory; at times, it may be wrongly used for political, social, religious, and economic reasons, regardless, “back to roots” is a reminder to every living soul-we all have roots.

More important, as many nations have now replaced good neighborliness with fanatical nationalism, welcoming spirit with xenophobia, love with hate… we must remember: We All Have Roots.

SILAS OLA ABAYOMI is a poet, historian, teacher, and cultural anthropologist. For about a decade, he was Assistant Professor of Mass Communication at Department of Mass Communication, University of Lagos, Nigeria. Abayomi is an author and a blogger with over six hundred poems to his credits. 

We sincerely thank you for your time and hope we shall have your continued support.
Aparajita Sen


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