Kola Tubosun

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Kola Tubosun
K tubosun.jpg
Born Kọ́láwọlé Olúgbémiró Ọlátúbọ̀sún (Ọ̀ládàpọ̀)
(1981-09-22)22 September 1981
Ibadan, Oyo State, Nigeria
Nationality Nigerian
Other names Kola Olatubosun
Alma mater University of Ibadan, Moi University, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville
Occupation Linguist, writer, teacher
Home town Ibadan
Partner(s) Temie Giwa
Parent(s) Olatubosun Oladapo
Website www.ktravula.com

Kọ́lá Túbọ̀sún is a Nigerian linguist, writer, scholar and cultural activist [1][2][3] whose work and influence span the fields of education, technology, literature, journalism, and linguistics. He is a Fulbright Fellow (Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, 2009) and recipient of the Premio Ostana "Special Prize" for Mother Tongue Literature 2016.[4][5][6] He writes in Yoruba and English.


Tubosun was born in Ibadan, Nigeria on 22 September 1981, and holds a Masters in Linguistics from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville (2012) and a BA from the University of Ibadan (2005). He also studied briefly at Moi University, Eldoret, Kenya, in April 2005, as part of a MacArthur Foundation-sponsored Socio-Cultural Exchange Programme.

He was granted a Fulbright scholarship in 2009 through which he taught Yoruba at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville in 2009–10. In 2010, he worked as a volunteer adult literacy tutor, with resettled immigrants, at the International Institute of St. Louis, Missouri, and later as a high school teacher of English language in Lagos, Nigeria.

Language advocacy[edit]

Twitter in Yoruba Campaign[edit]

Tubosun is known for his work in language advocacy. In 2012, he started an online campaign to demand that Twitter include Yoruba (his mother tongue) in the list of languages into which Twitter was being translated: 1 March 2012 was declared "the Tweet Yoruba Day" to call attention to the matter.[7] The campaign involved other speakers of Yoruba online tweeting only in the language and directing their comments to the Twitter translation platform, and it eventually yielded first an acknowledgment of the protest and then a promise to act in support of the idea.

The campaign continued on 1 March 2013 and again on 1 March 2014. In August 2014, Twitter announced through a tweet that they were now adding Yoruba (along with Esperanto) to the translation platform, ending the two years of advocacy.[8][9][10][11]

The Yoruba Names Project[edit]

Kola Tubosun as a Fulbright Scholar teaching Yoruba at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville in 2010.

Tubosun founded the "Yorùbá Names Project" at YorubaName.com in March 2015 after months of crowdfunding as[12][13] an effort to document all names in Yoruba in an accessible multimedia format while bringing together a community of interested linguists and other culture enthusiasts to document the African cultural and linguistic experience on the web. He is also involved in setting up a version for Igbo language at IgboName.com. On 8 August 2015, the project released a free Yorùbá Keyboard software for Mac and Windows to allow its users type in Yorùbá language on the internet[14] with an update to cater for Igbo in July 2016.[15][16]

In November 2017, the project released the first online speech synthesizer for Yoruba,[17] created after crowdfunding and months of research[18][19] In December 2017, in collaboration with the Orisha Image Blog, the project released a free Yoruba learning audio course.[20][21]

Work at Google[edit]

Between October 2015 and July 2016, Tubosun worked as a Linguist at Google with the Speech team as Project Manager.[22][23]

While at Google, he was also instrumental to changing the erstwhile inaccurate translation of Esu on Google Translate,[24] which had hitherto caused a lot of backlash in the Yoruba language community for a while.[25][26]

Writing career[edit]

Tubosun has contributed to the Nigerian writing community since 2005, through poetry, travel writing, essay, prose, and literary criticism. His work has appeared in the International Literary Quarterly, Sentinel Poetry, Brittle Paper, Ake Review and Enkare Review.


In September 2005, Tubosun released a chapbook of poems called Headfirst into the Meddle, to a limited audience. In 2015, he followed it with another one entitled Attempted Speech & Other Fatherhood Poems,[27] published by Saraba Magazine. It which contains poems written about the experience of raising a child.

In October 2006, his poem "Here, Moving" won the Sentinel Poetry Bar Challenge.[28]

Blogging and travel writing[edit]

Since 2009, at the start of his Fulbright Program, Tubosun has blogged at KTravula.com to document numerous travel, teaching, writing, and student experiences in the United States, Nigeria, and other places. Places visited and written about include Hannibal, Abeokuta, Springfield, Des Moines, Washington, D.C., Lagos, Nairobi, Ibadan, New York City, Joplin, Abuja, Kaduna, Nasarawa, Edwardsville, St. Louis, Glen Carbon, Eldoret, Minnesota, Wusasa, etc. Artistic personalities blogged include Maya Angelou, Ken Burns, Eugene B. Redmond, Neil DeGrasse Tyson, Tunde Kelani, Julian Henrique, Paula Varsavsky, Binyavanga Wainaina, among others.

In 2010, he contributed to 234Next as a travel writer.

In October 2015, he was nominated for the CNN African Journalists Award[29] for his travel piece Abeokuta's Living History, first published at KTravula.com. He was the first ever blogger on the award shortlist.


From 2012 to 2015, Tubosun worked as the pioneering editor of a Literary Magazine of new writing from Nigerian and Africa called NTLitMag.

In November 2015, he co-edited as well as Aké Review, the literary publication of the Aké Arts and Book Festival, with Kolade Arogundade.

From 2015–2016, while he taught as a schoolteacher, he edited two issues of The Sail, an anthology of creative works of high school students.[30][31][32][33][34][35]

Literary criticism[edit]

Kọ́lá Túbọ̀sún at a recent book panel. Photo courtesy Ake Arts and Book Festival 2016

His work of literary criticism has appeared in the NTLitMag, Aké Review, Brittle Paper, and Enkare Review.

In 2016, he wrote the entry on Nnedi Okorafor's science fiction novel Lagoon for "Imaginary Wonderlands" (October, 2016), a collection of essays about invented worlds in literature from around the globe, from Dante to Rushdie. The book was edited by Laura Miller (writer).


Tubosun's work in localizing the predictive text input product "T9" was detailed in a memoir/ essay for Farafina Magazine in 2007 titled "Speaking the Machine".[36]

In February 2014, he was part of the Cassava Republic Press Ankara Press Valentine Anthology, which had short stories about love by African writers translated into local languages.[37]

In November 2016, at the Aké Arts and Book Festival, he was instrumental in translating a short story by Kenyan writer Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o into Yoruba language,[38] part of which he read out at the festival.[39][40]


Tubosun was the president of the Union of Campus Journalists at University of Ibadan (2002-2004) during which time he helped institute two prizes for student journalists, as well as set up the first internship opportunities for student journalists with prominent media houses in the country. Some students from that program became full-time journalists upon graduation.

In September 2016, after the demolition of Ilojo Bar, a national monument on Lagos Island, he published a three-part investigative feature in the Nigerian Guardian about the causes, cost, and consequences of the demolition.[41][42][43]

Writing activism and advocacy[edit]

In 2003, during a nine-month strike of the Academic Staff Union of Universities, Tubosun created a petition online admonishing the president and minister of education in Nigeria and warning them of the dangers of a continued elongation of the industrial strike to students and the educational system.[44][45]

In November 2016, after the election of Donald Trump, he co-wrote a petition to restate "our respect for the dignity of people of all races, faiths, creeds, classes, abilities, ancestries, gender identities, and sexual orientations" and express support for the goals of the Fulbright Program "to bring a little more knowledge, a little more reason, and a little more compassion into world affairs and thereby increase the chance that nations will learn at last to live in peace and friendship" warning that cuts to the program will jeopardize its goals.[46] The petition was signed by about 2000 Fulbright Program grantees and alumni. The Fulbright Program has so far survived the proposed cut to the US government budget.[47]

Honours and awards[edit]

The Premio Ostana, a glass-art sculpture and a medal, created by Silvio Vigliaturo, a famous contemporary Italian artist and glass sculptor.

Tech Innovator[edit]

He has been listed in 2015 and 2016 in the YNaija list of Nigeria's innovators in technology [48][49]

In 2016, he was named in the Quartz African Innovator's List.[50] He was also listed in the "40 Under 40" Innovators for 2017 by Ventures Africa.

Premio Ostana[edit]

In January 2016, he was chosen as a recipient of a Premio Ostana "Special Prize" for Mother Tongue Literature (Il Premio Ostana Internazionale Scritture in Lingua Madre 2016), a prize given to any individual who has done writing and notable advocacy for the defence of an indigenous language.[4][5][51][52][53] The prize ceremony was held from 2 to 5 June 2016, in the town of Ostana (Cuneo, Italy).[6][54][55] Tubosun was the first African to be so honoured by the organisation.

Culture Summit[edit]

In April 2017, Tubosun joined "nearly 300 participants from over 80 countries around the world, including key players involved in the fields of government, arts, philanthropy, heritage preservation, education, media, science and technology" at Saadiyat Island in Abu Dhabi, to "explore... a wide range of topics all focused on answering how cultural tools can be used to help address significant international challenges and seize emerging opportunities." It was the first edition of the Culture Summit, sponsored by Foreign Policy Magazine.[56]

Pyeongchang Humanities Forum[edit]

Tubosun was one of the 160 writers and artists countries invited from eighteen countries around the world to participate in the "Cultural Olympics" in Seoul and Pyeongchang, preceding the 2018 Winter Olympics. The event aimed "to bring the world together through sport, writers at the event are sharing their ideas on how to tackle some of the difficulties around the world[57][58]

Selected works[edit]

Poetry chapbooks
  • Attempted Speech and Other Fatherhood Poems (2015).[59]
Books Edited
  • Edo North: Field Studies of the Languages and Lands of the Northern Edo (2011). Essays in Honour of Professor Ben O. Elugbe. Zenith Book House.[60]
  • The Sail: Issue 1 (March 2015), Whitesands School, Lekki[30][31][61][62]
  • The Sail: Issue 2 (May 2016), Whitesands School, Lekki[32]
  • "Arábìnrin Inú Asọ Ọlọsàn. Short Story by Sarah Ladipo Manyika" (February 2015), Ankara Press Anthology
  • "Sátidé Létí Òkun – Saturday by the Sea" (2014). Three Poems by Fred D’Aguiar. Ake Review
  • "Ọkùnrín tó n dágbé àti ìkookò – The Hermit and the Fox" (2010). Short story by Klemen Pisk
  • "Volta. Poem by Richard Berengarten" (November 2009), International Literary Quarterly, Issue #9

Essays and Reviews

  • In The Shadow of Context. Essay on Enkare Review[63]
  • Art Chasing Life Blatantly: A review of Chibundu Onuzo's "Welcome to Lagos"[64] (February 2017) on Brittle Paper
  • A Book for the Tasting: A review of Yemisi Aribisala's debut book "Longthroat Memoirs"[65] (January 2017) on The Village Factor
  • Never Look an American In the Eye: A review of Okey Ndibe's memoirs.[66] (September, 2016) on KTravula.com
  • A Diligent Retelling: Reading Teju Cole’s Essay Collection.[67] (August, 2016) on KTravula.com
  • Growing Up Utahn: a review of Tope Folarin's Caine Prize shortlisted story[68] (June, 2016) on Brittle Paper
Other works in print
  • "For Subsideen the Gnome" (2014). Poem in The Moth, Issue 17: Summer, 2014
  • "Two Poems" (2014) in Footmarks: Poems on One Hundred Years of Nigeria's Nationhood, edited by Ezeigbo & Okoli.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Olofinlua, Temitayo (25 May 2015). "Nigerian Scholar Creates an Online Home for Yoruba Names". Global Press Journal. Global Press. With the help of volunteers and crowdsourcing contributors, he is creating an online compendium of Yoruba names with meanings and aural pronunciations. 
  2. ^ "A Stroll with Kola Tubosun, Teacher, Writer, Linguist and Founder, YorubaName.com"
  3. ^ "Writing a New Nigeria: Ideas of Identity", BBC Radio 4,
  4. ^ a b Florence Utor (31 January 2016). "Tobosun Receives International Award For Mother Tongue Literature 2016". The Guardian. Nigeria. 
  5. ^ a b Uhakheme, Ozolua (25 January 2016). "Nigerian author wins Premio Ostana award for scriptures". The Nation. 
  6. ^ a b "Giunge a conclusione l'ottava edizione del Premio Ostana". Retrieved 2016-06-06. 
  7. ^ Egbunike, Nwachukwu (2013). "Nigerians Shake Up Twitter with Yoruba-Language Tweets". Global Voices. 
  8. ^ Oluwafemi, Bankole (2 March 2012). "Twitter Promises Support For Yoruba in Coming Months". TechLoy. 
  9. ^ "Twitter Can Now be Translated into Yoruba". Encomium. 4 December 2014. 
  10. ^ Bankole, Oluwafemi (14 November 2014). "It Took Only Two Years, But Twitter Is Finally Getting Translated into Yoruba". TechCabal. As we speak, Kola and others are working to translate the Twitter's standard glossary of terms. 
  11. ^ Elusoji, Solomon (21 April 2015). "Cultural Export". This Day Live/AllAfrica. An online Yoruba dictionary has been launched to help the Yoruba race in Nigeria go beyond borders. 
  12. ^ "Online Dictionary Helps Nigerians Decode Their Names", Voice of America.
  13. ^ "YorubaName.com Hits Crowdfunding Benchmark", TechCabal.
  14. ^ "Yoruba keyboard layouts for Windows and Mac". Radar from TechCabal. Retrieved 2017-10-20. 
  15. ^ "Yorubaname Team Launch Yoruba and Igbo keyboards - Gadget Reviews Nigeria". 2016-07-20. Retrieved 2016-08-07. 
  16. ^ "Combined Igbo, Yoruba keyboard made available on Yorubaname.com". 2016-07-18. Retrieved 2016-08-07. 
  17. ^ "The Yorùbá Speech Synthesizer". Orisha Image. Retrieved 2018-01-11. 
  18. ^ "What We're Building Next". Medium. 2017-03-14. Retrieved 2017-03-16. 
  19. ^ "A Yoruba Text-to-Speech App Is Being Brought to Life Through This New Tech Initiative". OkayAfrica. 2017-03-23. Retrieved 2017-03-23. 
  20. ^ "This Multilingual Audio Course Is a Free Guide to Yoruba for Olorishas Around the World". OkayAfrica. 2018-01-11. Retrieved 2018-01-11. 
  21. ^ "Yorùbá Melody Audio Course". Orisha Image. Retrieved 2018-01-11. 
  22. ^ ""Èṣù" isn't "the Devil"; But You Knew That Already". Yoruba Name. 2016-12-16. Retrieved 2017-01-09. 
  23. ^ "Interview with Yoruba writer Kola Tubosun". Orisha Image. Retrieved 2017-01-09. 
  24. ^ ""Èṣù" isn't "the Devil"; But You Knew That Already". Yoruba Name. 2016-12-16. Retrieved 2017-03-16. 
  25. ^ "Esu Is Not Satan 2016 Awareness". Ọmọ Oòduà. Retrieved 2017-03-23. 
  26. ^ "Esu is not Satan". Orisha Image. Retrieved 2017-03-23. 
  27. ^ Achieng, Emily (30 September 2015). "A Father's Apprehensions and Fascinations—Interview with Kola Tubosun". Saraba Magazine. Saraba. 
  28. ^ "4th Anniversary Issue: Sentinel Poetry Online #49 -kola tubosun". www.sentinelpoetry.org.uk. Retrieved 2017-03-16. 
  29. ^ Adaokoye, Ukamaka (September 14, 2015). "Kola Tubosun and four other Nigerians among finalists in the 2015 CNN Multichoice African Journalist". Olisa.TV. Retrieved March 16, 2017. 
  30. ^ a b "Review of The Sail | An Anthology of Writings by Students in a Lagos Secondary School", Brittle Paper, 24 August 2015.
  31. ^ a b "First Breath From Whitesands: A review by Tade Ipadeola", Sabi News, 3 July 2015.
  32. ^ a b "The Sail: Whitesands Schools Launch 2nd Edition of Students' Creativity Compendium". Retrieved 2016-05-24. 
  33. ^ "Whitesands students bring magic in the second edition of 'The Sail'". Sabi News. 25 May 2016. Retrieved 2016-05-25. 
  34. ^ "Our students literary works yielding results". National Mirror. Retrieved 2016-06-06. 
  35. ^ "Whitesands School Celebrates the Next Generation of African Writers". Brittle Paper. 2016-06-01. Retrieved 2016-06-06. 
  36. ^ "Farafina 12". issuu. Retrieved 2016-11-27. 
  37. ^ "African Love Stories Ankara Press", Brittle Paper, February 2016.
  38. ^ Jalada (2016-03-22). "Jalada Translation Issue 01: Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o". Jalada. Retrieved 2017-04-27. 
  39. ^ "Ngugi wa Thiong'o: Ake Arts and Book Festival's Worthy Headliner". The NEWS. 2016-11-25. Retrieved 2016-11-27. 
  40. ^ "Abeokuta… a feast of books, arts on the rock". Retrieved 2016-11-27. 
  41. ^ "Demolishing history". Retrieved 2017-03-08. 
  42. ^ "A tragedy of confusing interests". Retrieved 2017-03-08. 
  43. ^ "A failure all around". Retrieved 2017-03-08. 
  44. ^ "Nigeria: Hi-Tech: Students Fight ASUU Strike @ Petitiononline". Vanguard (Lagos). 2003-04-16. Retrieved 2017-03-08. 
  45. ^ "Nigeria: Students, Other Stakeholders Seek End to ASUU Strike". Vanguard (Lagos). 2003-05-04. Retrieved 2017-03-08. 
  46. ^ Tubosun, Kola; Dinh, Claire; Downs, Benjamin (2016-11-15). "An Open Letter From 1,500+ Fulbrighters Regarding The Election Of Trump". Huffington Post. Retrieved 2017-03-21. 
  47. ^ Parlapiano, Alicia; Aisch, Gregor (2017-03-15). "Who Wins and Loses in Trump's Proposed Budget". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2017-03-21. 
  48. ^ Stephen, Jewel (2015). "The class of 2015: Nigeria's 100 most innovative persons in Technology". YNaija. Retrieved 16 March 2015. 
  49. ^ Oyetimein, Oluwapelumi (2016). "YNaija presents the class of 2016: Nigeria's 100 most innovative persons in Technology". YNaija. Retrieved 26 February 2016. 
  50. ^ "Quartz Africa Innovators 2016 list". Retrieved 2016-07-07. 
  51. ^ "KỌ́LÁ TÚBỌ̀SÚN becomes first African to win Premio Ostana international language award". Sabi News. 26 January 2016. 
  52. ^ NG, Mirror (26 January 2016). "Nigerian Man becomes first African to win the Premio Ostana International Award for Mother Tongue Literature". 
  53. ^ Okuyeme, Tony (29 January 2016). "Tubosun wins Premio Ostana International Award". New Telegraph. 
  54. ^ "Dalla lingua Yoruba allo shar-chicham, nel borgo occitano di Ostana un festival per salvare le lingue minori". L'Huffington Post. Retrieved 2016-06-06. 
  55. ^ "Scritture in lingua madre Un patrimonio da salvare". LaStampa.it. Retrieved 2016-06-06. 
  56. ^ "gulftoday.ae | Summit to bring creative leaders". www.gulftoday.ae. Retrieved 2017-05-05. 
  57. ^ "Writers focus on humanities : Forum brings together literature professionals from around the world". Korea JoongAng Daily. Retrieved 2018-02-15. 
  58. ^ administrator. "Young Writers from 18 Countries to Discuss Peace at PyeongChang Forum". Retrieved 2018-02-15. 
  59. ^ "Attempted Speech and Other Fatherhood Poems". Saraba Magazine. 30 September 2015. Retrieved 30 September 2015. 
  60. ^ "Edo North: Field Studies of the Languages and Lands of the Northern Edo: Essays in Honour of Professor Ben O. Elugbe". SOAS. 
  61. ^ Belo-Osagie, Kofoworola, "Whitesands Boys Write Book", The Nation, 2 July 2015.
  62. ^ "Whitesands School Grooms Creative Students", National Mirror, 2 July 2015.
  63. ^ "In The Shadow of Context | Enkare Review". Enkare Review. 2017-03-20. Retrieved 2017-03-20. 
  64. ^ "Art Chasing Life Blatantly | Review of Chibundu Onuzo's Welcome to Lagos | by Kola Tubosun". Brittle Paper. 2017-02-20. Retrieved 2017-02-26. 
  65. ^ "A Book for the Tasting". Village Factor. 2017-01-21. Retrieved 2017-02-26. 
  66. ^ ""Never Look An American In the Eye"". ktravula - a travelogue!. 2016-09-24. Retrieved 2017-02-26. 
  67. ^ "A Diligent Retelling: Reading Teju Cole's Essay Collection". ktravula - a travelogue!. 2016-08-22. Retrieved 2017-02-26. 
  68. ^ "#CainePrize2016 | Review of Tope Folarin's Genesis | By Kola Tubosun". Brittle Paper. 2016-06-06. Retrieved 2017-02-26. 

External links[edit]