Yinka Olatunbosun

The Nigerian-German photographer and CEO, Camara Studios, Yetunde Ayeni-Babaeko is expanding her portfolio with the new web-based series, titled Nalingo Naija. The series has been created for the digital media to teach Yoruba language and culture, using drama skits, humour and subtitles. Though a non-fluent speaker of Yoruba, Ayeni-Babaeko finds it very fascinating that many Nigerians in diaspora struggle to speak the indigenous language. And the search for platforms for learning the language has led many into unwholesome content online.

Walking into her studios last week, she gave an insight into the videography project in a serene atmosphere of hospitality. Ayeni-Babaeko revealed that the Nalingo Naija is a project under CS Production, a subsidiary of Camara Studios. Before veering into this educational and entertainment series, she had been shooting music videos alongside her work in advertising photography for which she is famed. However, the need to consolidate her skills led her into a four-week course at the New York Film Academy where she learnt more about video making, editing and scriptwriting.

Panning her large desktop computer further to the right, she went on the YouTube channel, Nalingo Naija to show some samples of the series which are funny and educative at the same time.
“We want the videos to be entertaining and simple,” she explained. “You have to break it down into sentences with vocabulary that can easily be understood. We created the soundtrack ourselves. You can pause the video and repeat it. You can learn at your own pace.”

Showing on the screen was the episode titled, “Ipe Pataki” which means “Important Call”. This episode features a guest artist, the public relations guru, Adekunle Ayeni who is the CEO, Black House Media.
“We have guest actors, because we want to make speaking Yoruba cool again,” she said. “We have a volunteer in Adekunle Ayeni who said he supports this cause so much and that he will be available to act for us anytime. He took it very seriously. I wanted to do a drama skit that is related to him and what he does.”

In the said skit, Ayeni is seen receiving a call from “Beyonce” in Yoruba and the call is interrupted by another one just a few seconds into it. Ayeni tells “Beyonce” to end her call so that he can pick “Davido’s”. It is simply hilarious. Of course, working with guest artists may present new challenges as Ayeni-Babaeko recalled.

“He speaks really fast,” she observes. “That’s the slowest he could do. Even if it feels unnaturally slow, this is the way that people like me can learn. That is why it is essential that I am the director because I know exactly when it is too fast. Imagine if it was a team of Yoruba speakers that did this, it may not work.”

Every Wednesday, a new episode will be broadcast on the YouTube channel. Ayeni-Babaeko is a beginner who is also benefiting from the series. She has downloaded some on her mobile phone and watches it on the go repeatedly. Though some may argue that audio series may be as effective, she certainly believes that the visual element plays a key role in making a lasting impression.

“There is a connection between the eyes and memory. We need to have visual connection. If you can see, it will be easier to remember. That’s why we had to make it entertaining. The subconscious mind works miraculously,” she explained.
“Each video is about two to three minutes long and is divided into two sections. The first one lets you listen to the vocabulary you need to know for the video. The second part of the video is the play between mostly two to three actors.”

“The actors speak slowly for the viewer to be able to follow the plot and for easy comprehension. And also, to be able to read the subtitles which are very essential in the learning process. The subtitles in Nalingo Naija are 100% accurate and you do not just have the English subtitles but the Yorùbá subtitles with intonation marks as well,” she said adding that the writer, Kola Tunbosun is a consultant on the project.

Though Ayeni-Babaeko writes the scripts in English, a Yoruba teacher, Mrs Ajose translates and works with the cast on location to ensure a good use of Yoruba language. Another important aspect of the production is the sound which she has outsourced for quality assurance.

Next to be screened was another episode, titled, “Ago Melo Lolu” meaning “What time is it?”. It features in the second part a scenario of examination malpractice. A young boy reports to the invigilator that the man sitting beside him is copying his work. The dramatic denial inspires laughter. The whole idea is to keep the production as simple as possible. Actors do not use professional make-up while the natural locale for the skit is used or staged. Various locations such as the classroom, marketplace and offices had been featured in the drama skits.

“Nalingo Naija is useful to everyone. Even Yoruba speakers can improve on their spelling and pronunciation with the Nalingo Videos. This is targeted at Nigerians in diaspora. I don’t expect Germans to sit down and learn Yoruba but I will be happy if they do,” she said with a smile.