It might suprise African Americans to know that some Africans don't have love for African Americans. Indeed, some Africans-I'm looking at you Nigerians-use an informal referent for African Americans that I think is quite mean spirited. That referent is "Ataka".
I think "ataka" is pronounced ah-TAH-kah. But I'm not sure. Actually, although I've met a number of Nigerians (mostly Yorubas and Igbos) in my adopted city of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, I've never heard the word "ataka" spoken. And I've never been directly referred to by that word-or at least I don't think I have.
My knowledge of the word "ataka" is very new. I found out about that referent last week when I happened upon on this 2006 discussion thread http://www.nairaland.com/nigeria/topic-12835.0.html "Re: Akata?". (By the way "Nairaland" and "Naija" are hip, modern ways of saying "Nigeria" and "Nigerian"). From that discussion thread, I learned that there are various theories about the origin & meanings of the word "ataka". Most commenters on that thread thought that ataka was a word of Yoruba origin. While a few commenters on that discussion thread took the position that "ataka" wasn't necessarily negative, most commenters agreed that that word had a meaning similar to what Americans call "the n word". Some commenters gave the source meaning of "ataka" as "wild cat", "wild fox", or "goat". But those source meanings seemed speculative to me. The word "ataka" gained some publicity in the USA by its inclusion in the 1994 Wesley Snipes movie Sugar Hill. Brotha Wesley played a drug dealer who beat on some Naijas who called him "ataka" after he learned that (according to them) "ataka" meant "cotton picker". However, one commenter discounted that "cotton picker" was what ataka really meant because there is no word in Yoruba for "cotton".
Here are several excerpts from that lengthy nairaland.com discussion thread:
Join me in the middle of ecstasy; [tag name] 2008
...well when I was in Nigeria, people often referred to black americans as "akatas" which is a very stubborn animal kinda like a goat. I know I wouldn't appreciate being called that. But many people back home thought many black americans lacked manners and home training and are very stubborn which is why they nicknamed them "akata". Even till today here in the states, many Nigerians still call black americans "akata" even if its not supposed to mean something negative. It just became a name that stuck.
Also when someone acts in defiance or is very stubborn, Nigeriians say "why are you beiing such an akata?" clearly this is a stereotype as not every black american is "akata"-ish.
Drusilla (f) June 13, 2006
...Any African American who hears somebody calling them an Akata, should have the exact reaction [African American commenter] Hero did and cuss the person out.
Better yet, pull out a roll of toilet paper and offer to send it to Nigeria for their mama to learn of this new toilet paper technology.
It's an insult. Why play?
food4tot ; June 14, 2006
The use of the word can be banned but I don't see that happening in Nigeria for instance. Even Americans born to Nigerian parents are called "akata" by their uncles, aunties, cousins (when the go back to Nigeria).
Its a nickname, and sometimes it is used to tease "akatas" about their foreign outlook. I know Nigerians like teasing people just to get them wound up.
You can ban it in US but you will need to do a lot to ban the use of such words in Nigeria. They will just keep on teasing you just to see your colour go red(if you have a very pale skin). That redness would be an amusement to them and they wont stop taunting you until you grow a thick skin to it. That is when they might stop.
Drusilla (f); June 14, 2006
It's not about banning. It's not about not calling names. African Americans love to play the dozens as well.
You know and I know, that there are things about Nigeria and Nigerians that if said in public company would make every Nigerian want to crawl in a hole and die. (Unless they are Black people. )
So African Americans are not unarmed if someone wants to play the name calling game.
It is the pretense that this is not what is being said, that bothers me.
Don't piss on me and pretend you are giving me water.
I'm just loving the last line of that last excerpted comment. I think I'll borrow it. It sounds so African.
Here's my bottom line. I'm African American and I believe that "ataka" is a mean spirited word. As we Black Americans say "Come on, son (or daughter). For those not in the know, that means "You can do better than that". So my Naija peeps, when I chastise you, know that I do it out of love.
To show that I still love all my Naija family, here are two Nigerian videos that I really like:
Fela Kuti in Concert 1 "MOP"- Movement of the People
Posted by idamawatu; July 11, 2007
Darey - "Ba Ni Kidi"
Uploaded by DareyOnline on Apr 27, 2011
"A really fun song with plenty of energy, rhythm and non stop action! The vibe is addictive and sure to get you moving something!!!'Ba Ni Kidi' means 'Give MeThe Beat'. Directed &Produced by Mark Hofmeyr and Soul Muzik."
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