The Name Etsako
How did the name “Etsako” come to be?
The Etsako people derived their name from chiseling of teeth. The word ETSAKO mean those who chisel teeth. The tradition of the people living in this present day three Etsako local government areas of Edo North, exalt brides who when married were found to be virgins.
In the past, when a man in the present day Etsako marries a girl and she is taken to bed and found to be a virgin, the husband will declare it to his family and that of the bride. Within Seven days a specialist teeth carver will be contacted to chisel the two down middle incisors of the woman’s teeth for a fee. The two teeth will be chiseled to a pointed shape which symbolizes she was a virgin when she got married. This is to identify women who were not defiled before marriage.
The exercise is painful for the woman because it is done crudely. The woman endures it anyway because it carries the symbol of pride. After the carving, hot boiled yam will be placed on the gum portion of the teeth to heat it for some days so that the teeth will not have problem or decay. In some cases, the teeth change colour after some time because its foundation has been shaken and there was no proper medical treatment. The process is crude and unscientific.
The carved teeth woman feels happy, because she carries a symbol that she was found to be a virgin. The man feels proud also that he was the one who made his wife a woman. Hence these people are known as the Etsako (Carved Teeth) people.
This tradition has been abandoned since the 1970s. How can it be sustained? when less than ten percent of girls nowadays go to their husband’s home without their hymen. Civilization does not preach sanctity. Modernization mock girls who remain virgin even at the age of 18. Virginity is no longer celebrated, so no more carving of teeth for virgin wives but the name Etsako has come to stay.
Dialects in Afemai
There are diverse dialects spoken in the six local government areas of Afemai, but the people had no central language before now. Four out of the six local government areas of the Edo North speak Etsako dialects, but there is no central Etsako language.
Etsako is one language fragmented into 15 dialects in the four local government areas of Edo North Senatorial district viz Etsako East, Etsako Central; Etsako West and Owan West. There is none of the 15 dialects that can claim to be the original because all are fragments of the main language. The Etsako language was spoken in Benin kingdom before the emigration to the present geographical area of the Etsako and Owan West local government area.
Egocentrism could make some people claim that their dialect is the original Etsako language. This is not true. We have lost the knowledge of the original Etsako language as the people migrated from Benin many years ago. Harnessing all the dialects of Afemai into one basket now creates a new Afemai language that would stand the test of time. It is therefore important that all hands from Etsako, Owan and Akoko Edo people be joined together in this development of the general Afemai language: no other persons would do it better than ourselves.
Etsako Language Research and Development Centre recently started the development of a central language from the dialects in the Senatorial District. The developed Etsako Language cuts across all the dialects of Afemai. You will notice this in the numeral and other books so far produced. This is to have a solid central Language for the people. There is need for it in this era as UNESCO is encouraging preservation of local languages.
Why Etsako and Not Afemai Language
Afemai is the North Senatorial District of Edo State. It is made up of six local governments areas viz:
Etsako East Etsako West Etsako Central
Akoko Edo Owan East Owan West
The senatorial district of Afemai does not have common language. The name Afemai connotes “our people” and not “our language”. And since there is no common language for the people of Afemai, it is out of place to call Afemai a language. The Akoko Edo and the Owan people do not understand the Agbelos and the Yekhees. The Yekhee people do not understand the Owans and there is none that is central. Each of the clans in the Afemai District speak their different dialects, so there is none accepted as the Afemai language. The word Kukuruku is a derogatory name given to the Afemai people by the Nupe slave invaders during the slave trade era. Just as the Afemai is not a language, so also the word Kukuruku. We therefore have to pick the popular dialects or language which is Etsako, now developed as Afemai central or general language.
Etsako dialects spoken in the four local government areas is developed by Etsako Language Research and Development Centre for the purpose of having a central language for the Afemai people. The development of Etsako language is a synthesis and fusion of all the dialect in the six-local government of Afemai people using Yekhee as the main. The development of a new numeral, “Etsako New Numeral and Words” gave credence to this concept of a unified language. It made the counting broad and advanced that it broke the barrier that had limited the numeral prowess of our land.
Some may criticize, attack or condemn the Centre for the bold step taken to reposition our mother tongue. We are not daunted by whatever attack against this patriotic idea but certainly we have left a legacy for generations to come.