Monday, May 22, 2006

A Life Elsewhere

There was a review of Segun Afolabi's collection of short stories in Saturday's Guardian. Nigerian literature coming on strong...

8 comments:

aihammed delot said...

Sounds promising. However I must ask; where are the champions of comedic Nigerian literature? Why is most of the stuff that has ever triumphed from our shores so dark and cynical? Even if its dark satirical comedy which is necessarily critical of our social and political systems that’ll be fine – but I just don’t get why we seem to be focused on the ubiquitous dreariness of; life, the universe and everything in it.
On a slight side step – even though this dude isn’t Nigerian, please read Tibor Fischer’s “Don’t read this if you’re stupid.” It’s sort of what I’m talking about dark satirical comedy which focuses wholly on London and all its short comings.
If anyone’s got any examples of what I’m talking about though I’d be very grateful.

the flying monkeys said...

@Nkem. Nice post. The theme across Segun's collection is generic; the characters are "lost in an emotional desert".

@aihammed delot. Greetings!
On champions of comedic Nigerian literature and your question as to "...Why is most of the stuff that has ever triumphed from our shores so dark and cynical?..."

Can you imagine falling in love and forming family units, then experiencing the pain of seeing members of your family torn apart and sold off to distant plantations, with little hope of ever meeting again?

The problem may have stemmed from that and what happened so long ago during slavery as it continues to affect how we relate to each other and our perception of the world.

If you are told something about yourself many times over a lengthy period of time, you inevitably take in that message about, who you are and what you're worth.

That’s how we were brainwashed. For hundreds of years, we were told by the dominant society that we were not fully human.

We internalized various degrading views of ourselves as less than human and came to view ourselves as inferior. We absorbed that destructive view of ourselves as individuals and as a race, and our behavior came to reflect that perception. This could be preventing people from getting along!

Low self esteem keeps us in emotional shackles because we are still repeating the same negative behaviors we evolved in order to cope with that self-image problem.

I do not know whether you would consider either the laureate, Wole Soyinka, or Cyprian Ekwensi (Jagua Nana) or Chinue Achebe (things fall apart) as champion of comedic Nigerian literature?

But Jagua Nana, portrays the African woman as a prostitute, about a call girl - a female prostitute - who can be hired by telephone.

Chinue Achebe's things fall apart dives into the world of the Ibo tribe, vividly describing various aspects of the tribe, including food, rituals, dress, customs, gods, and ceremonies.

But all too many Africans in Achebe’s time were ready to accept the European judgment that Africa had no history or culture worth considering. His portrayal of the African woman is negative: Okonkwos wives are unable to look into his eyes, as though they are inferior to the African man.

All in all, I think Wole Soyinka may be doing some excellent stuff, considering the positive light he shed on Yoruba religion etc, which other religions had deemed as bad/corrupted/evil.

That said, I would say change is ubiquitous. It will happen in spite of the problems associated with it. We can only control its direction.

Finally here is a notable blog
on Nigerian literature/arts

ps: Tibor Fischer is funny but mad, I have read his under the frog.

tori said...

can people refrain from having conversations with other commenters on peoples blogs? Im sure this will end the spam problem.


And of course, I just did exactly what I asked them not to do...

Im going to look out for the collection. Im on a huge Nigeria Art/Music/Literature tip right now.

Anonymous said...

Nkem if you fail to delete Tori's post, then you would be just as guilty as encouraging this kind of negative/childish attitude; exactly what you were talking about in an earlier post about people changing the point of the post.

Anon

ai'jammed delot said...

@ Obokun: I agree with you to a point. When referring to black people suffering from a sense of low self-esteem or just generally having an inferiority complex then I agree that it’s a problem which might occur with blacks in diaspora. However in reference to Africans or Nigerians in specific then I beg to differ.
I for one don’t think Nigerians suffer from low self-esteem or generally feel inferior to the colonialist scum or any other “dominant” race/group. In stark contrast, I think we have a disturbing (but I must say refreshing) sense of pride (some might say misplaced) in ourselves and our abilities.
I’ve witnessed “other black people” display the traits you’ve described above in abundance – and yes I will fully put it down to the reasons you’ve stated, but I just don’t think it’s in the Nigerian psyche to feel inferior to anything.
I think we really do see the sky as the limit and if anything, the negativity that comes out in our poetry and literature stems from the actual tragedy that befell our people in the past and the tragic circumstances we create for ourselves and happily(?) wallow in. In other words; the negativity stems from experiencing particular occurrences as opposed to an adopted mindset.
With regards to your question, I don’t regard; Wole Soyinka, or Chinue Achebe as champion of comedic Nigerian literature. I’ve been to a half a dozen Soyinka plays and haven’t cracked a smile. Things fall apart and The Gods are not to blame just aren’t funny books at all; in fact I think they are both classic pieces of pure tragedy. I’m ashamed to say I haven’t read any of Cyprian Ekwensi’s books.
If you think Under the frog is funny please read The thought gang. Yes, I agree he is mad.

Nkem said...

@Anon. I have not ecouraged any negative/childish atitude by not deleting Tori's comment. I believe most people who post comments in most Nigerian blogs are adults and one would hope they have faculty to discern good and bad blog etiquette.

I don't believe in censoring people's comments by deleting them. This obviously leads to a problem of how to deter bad behaviour, and censuring those who misbehave. I'm not deleting their comments is the answer, as what is offensive and/or diversionary can be very subjective.

Besides, Tori's post is hardly the most sinful comment posted on this blog recently.

aihammed delot said...

oh dear!

Kush said...

You right dude. Following the success of one genre two many artiste just follow along blindly. We need more variety. Why not a Nigerian Sci-Fi writer or isn't there a market for that?