Return of Nanna Living Museum

January 12, 2007

For Delta Nanna Living Museum is a healing balm

By Uduma Kalu
THERE, a bungalow hangs like a ragged beggar. That bush used to be a night-club, a guide interjects. This lonely road, deserted at nine p.m., used to bubble till dawn, another adds. Behind, a combined team of soldiers and mobile police team shoot in the air, and soldiers and police are in every corner.
This is Warri. Seeking warmth, this city by the sea wears its garb of destruction, and mocks its violators. Perhaps, she invokes in them a sense of nostalgia, a refrain from their happy past, when she was their beloved, fun city.
And yet, Warri is just like Koko, another Delta town by the sea. Both towns share similar stories. They bear testimonies to the life and times of one of Nigeria’s foremost nationalists, Nanna Olomu. He was born in the Jakpa area of Warri to an Itsekiri father and Urhobo mother. He later settled in Koko, after the British sacked him from his Ebrohimi home in Warri. Both towns also witnessed violent ethnic upsurges in the early part of this decade. Mournfully, they wear their faces of destruction to their visitors.
But then, like all nature, Warri and Koko are in a renewal. Their wounds are peeling, meeting with new skins to bring a new name. Out of this new name will bring, perhaps, rainbow cities, which will serve as homes for all the ethnic divisions, in the region, not minding their tribes and tongues.
Already, Koko has a name. New America! The visitors wondered. What does America got to do with it? Koko, is a sleeping town that came into national limelight in 1987 when an Italian ship dumped its toxic waste there, with the story that it was one of late Nanna sons that leased out his backyard to the Italians for this nefarious act.
For Deltans, however, Koko is more than a toxic town. And this what the state’s Culture and Tourism Commissioner, Mrs Orezi Osievo, tells the visitors. Koko is chosen as the state’s pilot project to mark this year’s World Tourism Day, which the state hosts. Koko was sacked between 2001- 2003 when the town was caught in ethnic clashes between the Itsekiri and the Ijaw. But Osievo tells the world press that gather in Warri that the term New America is used for Koko by the nationalist and merchant, Nanna Olomu as a place of freedom and commemorated it as Neville’s Day. In this respect, it is place for healing.
Healing is what Deltans desire most, today, she says. And perhaps, the life and times of the man whom the government chose as symbol of its unity tells very much of the complex lineage that weaves the ethnic groups in this coastal region of Delta. And Koko is the state’s totem for this healing and peace, Osievo said.
As the visitors burst into Koko, a standing large size statue of the late merchant welcomes them. The tarred road curves, then swings rightwards, like black python, into the home of Nanna, which today is a national monument. In the open place, canopies stand in a rectangle, as women wearing gorge cloths, with beads on their heads and arms sing and dance. They carry soft cotton sticks of red, yellow and white colours and white handkerchiefs, and swing to the traditional music in their two rows. Their men sing and dance behind them.
Then the siren blow. The heavy cars screech, and stop. The deputy governor, Chief Benjamin Elue, representing the governor, James Onanefe, representatives of Chief Femi Fani Kayode, Minister for Culture and Tourism, have arrived. Osievo and other dignitaries are with them. The Itsekiri chiefs-men and women- waiting patiently in the garden of opposite Nanna’s house file out in fours or so. They wear huge white lace shirts. Some tie red ribbons on their waists. They have hats, with feathers on them and beads on their necks and arms. There are about 16 of them, perhaps, representing the 16 houses that rule Koko.
Then Nanna’s Urhobo maternal family from Warri arrive, with a man, perhaps, in his late 50s or early 60s leading the others. They sing and clap. They have no musical instruments. They raise their walking sticks in the air and dance to the songs, down where the dignitaries sit. Here, they exchange greetings with the Itsekiri elders and the visitors.
There is a small ceremony inside the canopies, and then the reopening and tour of the Nanna house begin. An elder explains things about the visitors. Koko used to be a coco-yam farm, hence the name, Koko, he says. Nanna’s house was first made of brick and thatched roof but now it wears an old brownish roof and painted in green and white depicting the national colours of the country. Nanna, he says, had 106 children from 59 wives.
“Don’t ask me how he managed,” he jokes.
And almost immediately, they are faced by white medium sized pillars arranged to form a fence round the large bronze statue of Nanna sitting on marble base facing the Benin River along which he had traded with the British, Urhobo, Ijaw and Itsekiri.
These 16 or so pillars of different sizes painted white end in two inner circles. The first inner circle harbours the pillar on whom the bust of Nanna stands. In front of the bust, a red paint, like paint, like red rug, spreads to the entrance of the rows. On the bust is an inscription dating Nanna’s life from 1840-1916. He was a merchant prince of the Niger Delta, Governor of the Benin River, a great Itsekiri nationalist, first class Nigerian nationality, the statute is unveiled by the late General Sani Abacha in 1995, it says.
The statute displays a man perhaps in his late 50s, muscular in appearance, and with beads in his wrists and a circular one on his neck.
Behind the statue is the Nanna house. It is rectangular shaped and has two buildings of same size facing each other but they are joined at the ends. Conspicuously displayed on the side wall facing the statute is a plaque announcing National Commission for Museum and Monument, Nanna Living History Museum. It states that the house is designed by Nanna and his Accra trained children and built originally from local materials between 1907 and 1910. And that it is a historical monument in Koko and is protected under Section 8, 14 of the Antique Ordinance Act of No 17, 1953.
Entrance into the house covered by a roof held by two pillars. This entrance projects outwards. A blue water tank is on top of the roof. The two rows of building facing each have their doors
Inside this house is a big opening which serves as a gathering place. Each of the two buildings has about three rooms. But in all there are seven rooms.
The first room the visitors enter is on the extreme right. It has family pictures of Nanna. And writings on the place of Nanna in history.
It is the Bay One, Nanna and Family, as Mrs Utsaghan Ayomike (Nee Nanna) describes it in her pamphlet. It has a photographic gallery corroborated by genealogical diagrams and illustrations from the researchers of J.O.S. Ayomike, Chief Horrace Eruorigho and Emmanuel Omatsola. It tells why the town iss called New America by Nanna as his new home of freedom. It also has pictures of Ebrohimi and describes it as full of white sand. Passage to the town was only one. It gives sizes of the town and its military power as well its 1894 well built wall, in this town of five quarters. But Nanna’s house, is said to be the most beautiful of the house. Some of the names in the pictures are Japan, among others.
.Bay Two: Nanna as Generous Provider, has one of the two dining apartments of Nanna, his generosity towards his kinsmen and other folk after his return from exile is visually presented with the aid of the same 1907 giant pots and utensils with which food was daily cooked and served as a matter of routine and responsibility.
Bay Three: Nanna’s Dining Room reflects in the exclusiveness of his dining apartment, furniture and utensils. He entertained his great friends here.
Bay 4: Nanna as a merchant and Governor. Inside this room is another Nanna’s Glory Glamour and Greatness displays the late prince as a successful trader and leader. It is visually represented by a recognition of his personal canoe, which he had imported from England. Two padles and a lamp, anchor chains, Nanna’s original cushions, cushions and a gun are decorated round the canoe.
Nanna’s regalia as Governor of Itsekiri-Land as perceived by the British and the Itsekiri people are also, in this room represented by two oppositional symbols around his high throne. It is a brown wooden throne, its upper part is like carved pyramid whose top which narrows like a stick upwards, is an eagle. A broken half of the original staff of office presented by the British in 1885 and an imported silver version of a Benin Chiefly ceremonial sword adorn the back of the throne.
Bay Six: The Ebrohimi War 1894: The Ebrohimi war of 1894 climaxed the conflicts between Nanna and the British. Around two surviving artefacts from the expedition – Nanna’s canon and an 1892 Winchester gun the story of imperialism and the attendant resistance movements it generated in Nigeria have been told with the aid of photographs of nationalists such as Jaja opobo, Attahihru, King Ibari Chuka of Okirka who was deported by Ralh moor maps and graphics. Over 100 of such canon were seized by the British from Ebrohimi.
Bay Six: Nanna at Rest. This display room is the original sleeping apartment of Nanna Olomu himself. Within here he has been laid to rest. This has been given the relevant visual treatment amidst the background of Itsekiri funeral martial (Ukpukpe) song. His personal bed and funeral catafalque are on display beside his Bible acquired in Accra. Nanna held bible readings in his house. The room also howed wooden plates. The grave is about 6 feet by 8.. inside the raised cement is white sand.
Neville’s Hall: The original Reception Room of Nanna is being developed into a library and archives around J.O.S. Ayomike’s significant donations of archival collections from the Public Records Office, London. It houses treaties between Nanna and the British, his trial procedures and other exchanges between him and George Neville.
George W. Neville was so close to Nanna that the latter declared the 8th of August, the day he set foot on Koko from exile in 1906 as Neville’s Day. To this day Nanna’s family marks Neville’s Day with a church service, symposium and other rituals within the palace.
The tradition will be reasonably encouraged by the management of the “Nanna Living History Museum” in identification with a surviving heritage that will continue to give life to this community-based facility; the first of its kind in Nigeria.
Photographs of Itsekiri leaders after Nanna are in the library, part of which holds photographs and biographical notes of Itsekiri achievers in a revered Album of Fame.
Thewre are also household items in this place. It indicates that visitors such Lord frederick Lugard, Alan Burns, hads dinner with him. The showcaes harboured the domestic items. The first one had ceramic dish, green gin bottle a brown decanter on framed oak tantalulus stand for wine, satin and snuff, white glass flower vase with blue colour on its petal tops, an inkwell and ceramic water jug.
The second case has a lamp petrol table lamp, heavy iron with rod hanle for pressing, and another wooden pressing iron.p of the bight of biafra in 1870. The windows had fframed iron glass panes. After all this, Nanna is referred to as a man of good manners.

The beautiful commisser however used the reopening of the Nanna Living History museum to mark the symbol of that healing. The artfacts in the museaum were ferried out of the museum by concerned Koko individuals and deposited at the National Museum in Benin for safe keeping. However, with the return of peace in the sgate and in the town, the artfecats were retruned to the town.

Osievo explained that this year also marks a centennary of the return of nanna from exile in accra., for her, in celebrating nanna, the tourism day is also a lesson for the people to emulate their pasr heroes in defending the unity and integrity of the country above personal interest and immediate gains.
The reopning of the museum also symbols, as she put it, a new chaper in briningng about enduring peace and feconcilaition within the Nigerr Delta region.

Koko, once known for toxic watse dump is being transformed into an economic healing and reconcilaition. Sheb has also included Kok, with President Olusegun obasanjo’s approval, into the national Heritage conservation Master Plan as a pilot project foe eco-museum developmenmt in the region. The programme will include youth developmemht projects such as eco and cultural industry based programmess supoted with telemedcine, boating, sustainable fishinhg, cultural parks, food museums, festivals, filming. Hrbal medicnal thearapeutic centres, suenir industry, etc. a comprehensive, she went on, being worked out by her minstry and other experts in the national commissin for Museums and momuments. Inputs will also come from the state government, UNWESCO and other donor agencies, thuis adopting the new concept of heritage conversation for poverty alleviatioon. Local capacities and entrprenurship, for reduction of rural urbal migration.
The rapid scientific restoratin of the national momunent, she said, was finace by the state government. She ws however gratfeul to the Nanna family and the itsekiri community to embrace peace, reconciliation and cultural dialoge. She called on other local government areras in the state to identify at least one product to serve as the basis for job creation and poverty allevation as way to adress challenges of youth development, environmental degradation and rising urban crimes.

Nollywood: Full Story of Its Rise 2

January 11, 2007

The representation of the city is subsumed by a logic of acquisitive desire and magic because this same vast floating desperate mass of the population needs figures for the social processes of post oil boom Nigeria, which seem an occult because they have so little to do with work or productive social processes.
They are organized by cliques and cabals enriching themselves at the expense of others, following the slogan “chop make I chop”. Upward mobility is everything, and there are very few people in a position to demand, or even interested in, accountability or transparency from those who have made it.
Andy repeatedly replies, to questions about hid identity, “I am a businessman” – a supremely vague description in this situation where it means everything and nothing. There is little in the way of available political ideology that really makes sense of this mess. Popular consciousness, built on a disposition in traditional Igbo culture to favour individual dynamism and ambition, is fascinated with the art and strategy of getting ahead in this world, and of course admiring of the spectacle of luxury that accompanies it, even as it registers horror at the moral anarchy. It is therefore very easy for the video dramas aimed at this audience to mis-recognise the real social and political issues facing the urban masses, representing them in a way that falsifies the problems and makes solutions unimaginable.
In Hollywood and the Indian film industry, both under the control of a consolidated bourgeoisie, mass culture is certainly designed to have a politically soporific effect. In Nigeria, as they critics notes, the problems are rooted more in limitations inherent in popular consciousness, though it is possible that in so far as something like a culture industry is set up in Nigeria it will begin to resemble these other cases.
One recurring form through which this anarchy is expressed is the sacrifice of marital relations on the altar of greed, to support a glamorous urban lifestyle. This happens with allegorical clarity in Living in Bondage, but it also features in a number of the other most popular Igbo videos, such as True Confessions and Glamour Girls; it is given a mythological turn in Nneka 1 and 11.
These dramas all invest their female characters with immense frightening power – the nightmare projections of the males who control video production, but which resonate with everyone whose psychological relationships have been rendered insecure by the precarious struggle for existence.
While the urban scene is dominant in the Igbo productions, both critics do not mean to suggest that they are limited to any one location, physical, social or ideological – their openness is one of the most promising things about them.
Ikuku (Hurricane), written and directed by Nkem Owoh (Andy Best Productions, 1995), is sent in a village, and takes a village perspective on things; but it does some thing that is quite rare in the Igbo production, which is to present the village in historical fashion, as being in an uncompleted relation to the forces of modernization, rather than as being a pure repository of uncorrupted values or as the scene for essentially timeless stories of magical encounters.
The village is beset by a terrible wind because the priest of the Ikuku shrine has died without a successor. A diviner says the priesthood will fall on the Ezigbo family, and eliminates as a candidate one of its members, the town drunk Osuofia.
The only other known male is Dr. Raymond, a unclear physicist living in Lagos, recently recalled from abroad by the government. Nobody knows that a boy called Stephen is the illegitimate son of Osuofia – he’s obviously the right candidate as he suffers visions of the oracle and of his father, but the film never gets around to a discovery scene which would resolve this situation.
A delegation is sent to visit Dr. Raymond in Lagos. Found in his luxurious home, he treats the delegation rudely, with no respect for kinship, let alone the shrine to whose priesthood he has been called. Eventually, however, he is forced into returning to the village by a series of catastrophes that befall his life in Lagos: his chickens all die, somebody poisons his dog, his grant letter goes missing, and the engine of his Volvo car knocks.
Much comedy is made of his cultural alienation once he returns to the village. He speaks English to the oracle, puts on surgical gloves to handle kola nut, expects there to be files on the job as priest and a bank account to support sacrifices, and allows his foreign wife to commit various sacrileges, for which she suffers magical retribution.
In a parallel plot, the Igwe’s son and heir has also returned: Jeff has acquired a fake American accent in Lagos, along with the dress and manners of a street hustler, and he brings along a finance called Jenny who can’t cook and has no intention of learning how to. Jeff will clearly never be able to succeed his father. The theme of acculturation to the wider world is carried on throughout the film through many incidental jokes, not necessarily connected to Raymond or Jeff: about who does or doesn’t speak English – French and even Latin also come up. The village has been thoroughly penetrated by the languages of modernity.
The satire on modern, alienated sons of the soil is balanced by discredited village figures who insist on their traditional titles: the main one is the drunk Osuofia, who insists on his status as elder and relative as he gives a prurient lectures on sexual morality to his niece, and demands that the waitress in an Igbo restaurant in Lagos bend down as she serves him in difference to his rank, but really so he can see down her breasts.
When he is thrown down after provoking a fight in the village bar, he makes a big deal of how a titled man’s head should never touch the ground. Similarly, the diviner is also pushed to the ground (on the periphery of a fracas involving his fierce hen-pecking, adulterous wife); from this position he announces he won’t arise unless placated by the sacrifice of a cock. Nobody really notices.
The film, then, is made from the perspective of a real village, shot through with problems and in the midst of negotiating responses to the wider world that impinges on it. The Lagos scenes, let alone Dr. Raymond’s career, are less realistic, being the fragmentary impressions of bewildered outsiders. At every turn Igbos are found in Lagos (car mechanic, restaurant); really no one else is visible.
The notion that Raymond should abandon his career as unclear programmer/physicist in Nigeria’s space programme (1) in order to become the priest of the village oracle seems absurd even to the film, but it does endorse the community’s claim on its member- Raymond should negotiate, as his friend in Lagos tells him: go home, give gifts, and see what can be arranged. Raymond is much more ridiculous, and more clearly in the wrong, than the village ever is. But the village also has to negotiate, to keep channels of communication open.
There is an important sense, Okome and Haynes went on say in the plots the tradition can’t defend itself as it has broken down bringing suffering interruptions.
The Igwe looks and functions like an Igwe, but he has no plausible successor; the priesthood has devolved on a family whose male members are the alienated and absurd Raymond, the utterly corrupt and incompetent drunk Osuofia, and the illegitimate and unrecognized boy Stephen. Still, generally, one has a sense of life going on in a way that prevents any sense of an acute crisis. The supposed hurricane is forgotten – certainly it isn’t blowing at the end as the masks come out and everyone dances. Throughout the atmosphere is of resilience and humour, not tragic civilizational crisis as conceived of by an intellectual.
Nigerian ethnic movie production
The two critics also dealt gave some thoughts about ethnicity and Nigerian video production – pausing first to notice the emergence of video dramas in Hausa, dating from about the same period as the Igbo videos.
In their view, the degree to which video and film production is organised along ethnic lines in Nigeria is quite unusual in Africa as elsewhere films don’t carry their ethnicity on their sleeves because production is organized on a national and international basis.
The positive side of the Nigerian situation, they argue, is the immediate relation to a popular audience; the negative side is that in some ways at least it reflects a situation in which many dimensions of national life are being re-ethnicised as the national institutions deteriorate.
One needs to ask what the relation of the popular arts arising from each ethnic tradition is to a national culture, and perhaps these days one will answer with less assurance than did Biodun Jeyifo in 1984 when he placed the Yoruba Travelling Theatre “solidly within the pale of an emergent national popular culture,” though one that was not monolithic and had many ethno-national streams.
Okome and Haynes note that the Yoruba, Igbo and Hausa videos all emerge from specific circumstances which give them markedly different characters. This perhaps extends even to a certain non-equivalence of categories, to difference in the extent to which they are marked as ethnic.
The Yoruba videos seem more imbued with an ethnic spirit, for diverse reasons that have already been touched upon: their immediate artistic lineage goes back to a moment of cultural nationalism. They are seldom translated out of Yoruba, and the “deep” Yoruba verbal arts play a great role; the original structure of the acting companies is more closed. There are perhaps other cultural dispositions at play too.
While Igbo films also frequently involve magic, they are much less likely to invoke to a whole traditional cosmology and pantheon of deities. The Yoruba films are much more liable to be historical in the sense of appealing to a legendary Yoruba tradition, which is not easily seen to flow into a modern plural ethnic nation. Even dramas with modern urban settings very seldom hint at the existence of other ethnicities, whereas Igbo videos not infrequently do. All this is apt to make non-Yoruba viewers feel culturally excluded.
They critics may not mean to make invidious comparisons, or to slight the rich cultural meanings which are mobilized in the Yoruba videos. But the recent Igbo production, they argue seems perhaps even more promising as a basis for the future, in its cultural and commercial elasticity, which will cause it to pursue and develop a national market, adding, “in any case, the entrance of Igbo and Hausa videographers is a healthy development in Nigerian popular culture.”

Nollywood: Full Story on the Nigerian Movie Industry

January 11, 2007

Nollywood: Full Story on the Rise of the Nigerian film 1

By Uduma Kalu

After the rehearsals in 1926, the British government was ready to shoot its first film in Nigeria.
The camera was brought in. Sound, light, costume, make up and continuity were double checked, and every thing was set. Then the director yelled “Action!”
And the shooting began.
Some months later, Palaver, a major landmark in the chequered history of Nigeria film industry was ready.
Twenty-three years after, that film was premiered at the Glover Memorial Hall, Lagos.
The success story of Palaver and the enthusiasm it built among potential film makers put paid to the hitherto monopoly enjoyed by two film redistribution organisations of the Federal Film Unit – W. Hewston in 1961, shortly after independence.
By implication that move which provided training for three Nigerians- A.A. Fayemisin, J.A. Otiga and Yakubu Aura- at the Film Training School in Ghana, paved way for the emergence of a virile film industry in Nigeria. It also provided convenient playing field for some indigenous film makers , most of who moved from the then vibrant theatre tradition to the screen.
Those who built a passion for the big screen over time included Chief Eddie Ugbomah, late Chief Herbert Ogunde, Dr Ola Balogun among others.
However, the Federal Film Unit concentrated on the production of mostly documentary and newsreel films.
Soon after, few attempts were made at producing films. Between 1962 and 1977 films like Born in Lagos, Child Bride, Son of Africa, Golden women, , My Good Friends, Count Down at Kusini and ShehuUmar were produced. The independent film makers had emerged.
Works like Ajani Ogun and Ija Ominira by Ola Balogun, Aiye Jayesimi and Ayanmo by Ogunde, The Rise and Fall of Dr Oyenusi and Death of a Black President by Ugbomah, Kadara by Ade Love, Orun Mooru and Mosebolatan by Moses Olaiya, Efusetan Aniwuray by Ishola Ogunshola and Ireke Onibudo by Ayo Rasak, among others, including the much popular Bisi, Daughter of the River, Amadi, Kongi’s Harvest, Shehu Umar, Maitasine, Things Fall Apart, which joined the film stable.
Except for a few of the works like Imruh Ba Bakari’s Shehu Umar directed by Adamu Halilu, all the other films were did recorded no historical success, commercially.
In fact, most of the products found it difficult to recoup the enormous amount spent on producing the works. Indeed, most of them reportedly burnt their fingers.
The high cost of production, with the chunk of the producer’s budget going into hiring of equipment and crew from abroad. and post-production overseas, kept producers contemplating on whether it was worth it to produce big screen movies or not.
Film financing became the main issue. Next was lack of exhibition centres, an avenue which most of the filmmakers hoped would generate quick return on investment.
Nigeria’s political and economic quagmire worsened issues for the producers.
Not even the establishment of the Nigerian Film Corporation (NFC) which remains a major landmark, or the setting up of such infrastructure as the Colour Film Processing Laboratory, the Sound Dubbing Studio, the National Film Archives, the National Film Institute, or even launch of the National Film Policy in 1992 to guarantee growth and sustainability, could keep profitably engaged, the celluloid practitioners, most of whom were forced to abandon their passion for the less tasking endeavour -home video-” a life belt.”
Most of them who had at various forms decried the danger posed by video to the survival of a virile film industry successfully jumped on the bandwagon of the video craze as it became increasingly difficult to produce new films on celluloid.
Ugbomah, for instance, produced a record thirteen films but was forced to convert about six of his works including Death of a Black President, Omiran and lately, Aba Women Riot into video. The same thing late Ade Love did when he converted Ija Onimira to video.
With the growing screening of human video products in standard halls at the expense of the celluloid, and the new penchant of the viewing public for the video consumption, an attitude which some blamed on Nigeria’s political upheaval and the attendant insecurity on the street, the film industry shrank, in terms of output and investment.
Today, what Nigeria has as a film industry is buoyant home video sector largely controlled by non practitioners, mostly marketers.
For the celluloid in the past 18 years, only Ladi Ladebo seems to have produced films, with his Power and Baba Zak, both completed in 1998. They are both 35 mm gauge. The M-Net New Directions initiative for African Filmmakers have yielded two 15 mm short films-Twins of the Rain Forest and A Place Called Home.

Nigeria in African film production
For most film critics such as Jonathan Haynes and Onookome Okome in their essay, Evolving Popular Media: Nigerian Video Production, published in the reputable Okike Magazine, Nigeria, unlike most countries, film production has been absorbed into the realm of popular culture, adding that elsewhere, particularly in the francophone countries, film makers have been, for the most part, educated, self-conscious artists, often with political or social motivations, and the system for producing films had included a crucial role for European funding sources and international distribution to film festivals and other non-commercial outlets. In those venues at least, African films tend to be categorized as “art cinema.”
They allege that in Nigeria, what have proved successful are films, but since filmmaking has become prohibitively expensive, dramas are shot directly on video and sold as video cassettes, produced by artists from the Yoruba Travelling Theatre tradition. These artists work outside the international circuits, sustaining themselves, instead, as a form of popular culture in immediate relation with the working classes in Nigeria’s cities, particularly, those with a considerable Yoruba population.
Impact of the Yoruba Travelling Theatre. Both critics went on to say that scholars such as Biodun Jeyifo, Karin Barber and Christopher Waterman, elaborated that the Yoruba Travelling Theatre kind of production, was a popular culture with large audiences. The travelling embraced “the entire range of occupational and socio-economic groups and classes,” Jeyifo noted. The troupes “substantially played to the people as a whole,” rather than to exclusive, partial groupings or strata of the population, as is the case with the modern English language, literary theatre.”
The complexity in determining class differences in Africa made Jeyifo say, “The emergence and growth of the Travelling Theatre (are) bound up with the rise and phenomenal expansion of “certified” populations in modern Nigeria whose division into distinct groups and classes on the basis of education, status, wealth and political influence have so far been so fluid that no particular group or class has created a hegemonic culture, art form or life-style. In other words … no integral, dominant ruling class “high culture” has been definitely aspects and fragments of elite culture and life-style largely based on a composite mix of Western middle-class forms and neo-traditional approximations).”

The term popular art can be taken to mean the large class of new unofficial art forms which are concerned with social change, and associated with the masses. The centres of activity in this field, critics say are the cities, due to their pivotal position between the rural hinterland on the one hand and the metropolitan countries on the other.
Other film critics developed the common tripartite model for defining the popular arts, as being located in the shifting, indeterminate zone between the “traditional” and the Europeanized/elite, both of which work through more clearly defined conventions and institutions.
The popular art faces both ways at once – hence the vibrant eclecticism of the Yoruba Travelling Theatre, which draws at once on “deep” Yoruba verbal arts and the traditional cosmography evidence in the works of Chief Hubert Ogunde, and at the other extreme, the conventions of American situation comedies.
As they straddle cultural origins and genres, the Travelling Theatre practitioners also straddle several media. The critics point to how the Yoruba Travelling Theatre troupes might be simultaneously involved in stage productions, film, television records, and photoplay magazines, as a way of diversifying their resources in an intensely competitive, marginal economic niche.
Haynes and Okome argue that it is, of course, because the Travelling Theatre troupes had already established a relationship with their audience, outside the commercial cinema distribution system, that they survived as film and video makers while the collapsing economy drove nearly everyone else out of business.
While the formal characteristics of the popular theatre work have undergone rapid metamorphoses, Barber, another researcher sees their socio-economic origins notes the nascent petit bourgeoisie as the social layer most involved in producing this sort of art and their socio-economic organisation as the more or less constant elements.
The working of the Theatre

The Yoruba theatre companies, in the critics words, are small business enterprises operating like others in the Nigerian informal Sector. The conditions of their artistic production affect their relations to the mass media, their structure as organizations and, correspondingly, the structure as plays, and their relations to tradition and modernity.
The company retains its organisational integrity in relation to television, importing its personnel, its production methods, its style, and its subject matter more or less intact into the new medium.
Rather than imposing the uniform stamp of mass culture on these plays, the television seems to be invaded by chunks of the living popular culture that flourishes around it.
Jeyifo himself discovers that the Travelling Theatre practitioners have a strong artistic, guild consciousness – “extensive relationships of cooperation and competition between the companies (have led) to the very strong sense of corporate group identity and vocational distinctiveness that exists among them today” .
This has helped preserve their integrity, but it has also proved a limiting factor: their method of distributing their films “restricts them to an artisinal basis rather than an industrial and international one.
They seldom attempted to master cinematic technique on a fully professional basis, and tended to have rocky relationships with cinema professionals or those perceived as interlopers.
The boom in Igbo video production.
It has always been problematic simply to equate the work of the Travelling Theatre artists with “Yoruba” cinema or video production as such ethnic labels are always dangerous.
But for the two of Okome and Haynes, the social basis of Yoruba-language production seems to have blurred as the professional video production houses in Lagos entered the picture, along with actors and directors who came from television or elsewhere, and who have tended to produce dramas set in the glamorous urban environment that are characteristic of the new Igbo videos.
The structure of the Igbo home video
The two emphasis that the production of the Igbo videos is organised very differently. To begin with, Igbo video production can be much more highly capitalized instead of relying on the resources of a struggling small-scale entrepreneur, the actor/manager of a theatre troupe, these videos draw on the wealth of the Igbo business class. They may be backed by big merchants from Onitsha or Aba or elsewhere, and the properties used- to represent the lavish lifestyles which are a normal feature of these videos- come through business networks of fashion houses, real estate brokers, car dealers, and so on, who are often eager to provide sponsorship for its publicity value.
Directors and technicians are drawn from a pool of professionals, and there is a concerted effort to build a star system of actors with name recognition, whose presence, as in Hollywood, will guarantee the investment in the project.
Current stars have mostly made their reputations through television appearances, but vehicles such as the magazine Nigerian Videos are designed to create an arena of publicity based in the videos themselves. Drawn by the prospect of relatively huge salaries (stars can make N500,000 for an appearance in a video), would be actors are flocking to the new industry from modelling careers, State Arts Councils, and the universities.
The financial muscle behind these productions is also brought to bear on the distribution end. Large numbers of copies of the cassettes are made at once and distributed through numerous channels, to discourage pirates and maximize publicity.
There are large profits to be made: in an interview, the producer Okechukwu Ogunjiofor said that with the N1,500 he had on him and a loan of N3,000, he immediately embarked on the shooting of Circle of Doom, from which he was able to buy a Benz and secure a comfortable home (Nigerian Videos, vol. 2 No. 1, p.20).
Distinguishing between Yoruba and Igbo Films
The two researchers went to say that the Igbo videos reach an audience that is almost entirely different from that of the original Yoruba Travelling Theatres. The put the differences along axes of ethnicity, gender, age and class.
For the two the ethnic difference is the most obvious, saying that Yoruba films and videos are fairly seldom subtitled, and only a few have been made in Pidgin with Jagua being a conspicuous exception.
They allege that in general there seemed to be little interest in making the concessions necessary to attract a non-Yoruba speaking audience in the Yoraba film. The Igbo community, however, in their findings, has naturally offered exciting support to its new cultural expression, but the videos are normally subtitled or contain a fair amount of English and/or Pidgin, as if aiming at an audience beyond that of the Igbo ethnic group.
The Nigerian audience
The gender issue is perhaps less obvious but of deep significance. Everywhere in Nigeria cinema-going is predominantly a male activity, and for that matter, an activity for younger, poorer, and rowdier males; it is considered of more or less dubious respectability for girls and women. As Brain Larkin has pointed out in the context of Northern Nigeria, the advert of television and then video cassettes has opened up to women a media environment that was largely closed to them before.
The class character of the audience also needs to be investigated through empirical research. It would of course be a serious mistake to imagine that the luxury that appears in these videos corresponds at all to the life-style of its audience, in these days of economic hardship and the near annihilation of the Nigerian middle class.
The critics that for the sake of comparison, Hollywood consolidated its role as dream factory during the depths of the Great Depression, and that Dallas and Dynasty had their greatest following among the American lower middle and working classes.
One of the signs of the incomplete process of class formation in Nigeria is that – particularly in cultures like the Igbo and for that matter, the Yoruba where individual dynamics is much prized – nearly everyone aspires to rise socially and imagines there is some prospect of doing so, however slim the chances really are, so that the dream vision of a elite lifestyle is in some sense common property.
The ownership of a VCR and television set, while now a nearly universal aspiration, in the eyes of the critics, is in fact restricted to a large minority of the urban population. The younger and rougher cinema-going crowd may have access to these videos through video parlours, but in general one imagines this sort of production being consumed in a middle class sitting room, by small groups of people linked by family or close social ties.
The audience is in any case assembled in a privatized manner quite different from that of cinemas or the live audience of the Yoruba nation. Without entirely inscribing this process within a sentimental narrative of the breakdown of an original, traditional, unmediated community into modern alienation, the two recognized that video cassette production is a much more commodified form, a fact that has deep social as well as aesthetic consequences. Gone is the excitement generated by the presence of the actors at screenings of their films, and the general excitation of a popular neighbourhood by a sound track advertising the film or the performance.
The best studies of the Yoruba performance arts, or indeed of African arts in general, say the duo, have stressed how central are the immediate contact between performer and audience in the moment of performance, and the characteristic emphasis on social process rather than isolated aesthetic object. Only more or less dim echoes of this can be caught on video cassettes; once the videos stop being essentially records of performances in another medium it is natural for them to move towards an aesthetic formed on a different basis exploiting different values and potentials.
A Hostile environment
In the view of Okome and Haynes, the rise of the Igbo videos also corresponds to, among other things, a decline in public safety which makes going out at night a dubious proposition for the middle classes. The Igbo middle classes did not for the most part have the habit of going out in the evenings to things like theatre or cinema anyway, so that in their case the video cassettes do not displace an anterior indigenous cultural form as much as they claim a share of the market in televised and recorded video products, most of which are imported.
Hollywood in Lagos homes
It is no accident that the new Igbo videos have stirred up this depth and breadth of excitement, not least in the fairly broad layers of society that have grown up saturated by products of the international, chiefly American, culture industry. They were ready to make a response.
“Hollywood”, Okome and Haynes, an American argue, is constantly invoked as the model or inspiration. The video, they write, partly refer to the attempt to create a proper entertainment industry. Further, they give the differences between Hollywood and Igbo video-making, in scale of finance and in specialisation and intensity of labour processes, not to mention the aesthetic and cultural differences in the products, which are much more impressive than the similarities.
Nevertheless perhaps enough has been said to suggest that the emerging production structures represent an attempt on the part of dynamic and modern operators to set up audiovisual production on a full capitalist, industrial basis, aspiring to the technical capacity to copy the look of at least the minor Hollywood genres.
This will have to develop gradually with the market, and will have to contend with formidable difficulties – the general parlours state of the Nigerian economy, for one thing, and the fact that most of the sources of Hollywood’s revenue are currently unavailable (theatre release in cinemas, video rentals as opposed to sales, and sale of television broadcasting rights).
The new enthusiasm to many people is immensely promising and perhaps will provide the basis for a true film industry at some point in the future when circumstances again permit sustained production of celluloid. This is no small thing.
“Hollywood” is also the name of a cultural aspiration, to imitate the world’s most powerful cultural formation. This aspiration is ambivalent, as this sort of colonial/post-colonial imitation usually is. It is meant partly as an assertion of African cultural power and dignity within the world media environment; it is frequently said that the Igbo videos are meant to provide images of a modern and prosperous urban Africa for Nigerians abroad to show their white friends who imagine Africa as all bush, villages and wild animals. It seems unlikely that this scenario is actually enacted very often, but psychologically and symbolically it is important.
This imitation also contains within it an admission of distance and insufficiency. From a certain point of view – a point of view pretty well represented among Nigerian film critics – the invocation of Hollywood might seem like a betrayal of African culture in the face of the neo-colonial invasion of foreign media. The real object of imitation is certain American television genres (rather than block-buster films) – particularly melodramatic TV movies and evening soap operas. Generally this tends to exclude the sort of cultural spectacle patented by Chief Hubert Ogunde, created at an historical moment when it coincided with anti-colonial cultural assertion, providing an image of a “usable past” governed by a noble, colourful, and intact tradition.
This has remained one of the resources of the Yoruba filmmakers and videographers. The new Igbo work certainly encodes responses to modernity, urbanism and so on that are specifically African, Nigerian, and even Igbo, but it mostly does without overt, formal reference to a “deep” ethnic tradition and would view.Force behind the Igbo films
Critics are of the opinion that the main reason for this would seem to be historical. These works, they reason, are the expression of an aggressive commercial mentality, whose fields of activity is Nigeria’s cities – and not only the Igbo cities.
Attention is resolutely turned towards sources of wealth and change; the villages tend to figure only in more or less cursory backwards glances or, in the case of Ikuku for instance.
The village itself is fully caught up in the process of change. The nation, the state apparatus and the ethnic political claims are invisible, doubtless mostly for generic reasons, but probably also because they are being by-passed in despair.
Beyond Nigeria’s cities are international circuits in which Igbos are famously active as traders, from which a commerce cultural imagery is being imported. Nigerian video production itself has important material links with the Nigerian Diaspora: post-production may be done in London, videos are sold to the Nigerian community abroad, and, significantly, the magazine Nigerian Videos has a London edition.
In the “Post-colonial” theory being developed principally in the West, cultural hybridity and transitional networks are celebrated as positive values. The creative spirit of Africa is being looked for less in the form of an eternal, uncorrupted traditional cultural essence, and more as something realized through the historical process of interaction with other cultures, African and non-African.
The story of the tortured relations between colonized intellectuals and European and traditional African cultures is familiar enough; interest is shifting to the apparently much less conflicting way in which popular culture has absorbed foreign influences – Barber is summarizing this train of thought when she lists syncretism as an essential feature of the popular arts. There is a long history, all over Africa, of the influence of American (and Indian) film culture, particularly among youth groups, who may construct an alternative culture for themselves out of such materials (sporting the names of movie stars and so on).
This is a way of playing, more or less subversively, with Africa’s dependent position in the world system; it is also likely to be a strategy for escaping from the control of elders and other local authority figures. According to Jean-Francois Bayart, “extraversion” – pursuing resources from abroad – has been a game ruler and ruled have played competitively against one another throughout African history. It makes sense that the most extraverted of Nigeria’s ethnic groups should turn to this strategy with a vengeance at a moment when the national situation is so full of trials and frustrations.
This dynamic popular culture is doubtless in play in the imitation of American forms, but still the situation has to be evaluated as a specific historical instance, which may certainly have negative aspects. The producer Ogunjiofor himself sees the degree of imitation as a sign of immaturity.
It is Ogunjiofor’s belief that the video-film world in Nigeria has not started yet.
“We have a long way to go”, he opined, adding that “we are imitative; we produce in English and adopt western concepts which are lost on our people who buy our films.” (Nigerian Videos, 21).
This is perhaps the price paid for being insufficiently rooted, abandoning the cultural nationalist project so completely that one abandons one’s own culture and people. A model-turned-actor interviewed by Nigerian Videos expresses a dream of escape into a foreign fantasy world of individual advancement:
“I’d always wanted to be famous and had always looked to a career in acting or sports as a way of realising this dream which, at the same time, I had felt could only be possible in either Europe or American. But when I wasn’t making a headway in this direction I turned my sight inward and tried to see how I could achieve the same dream right here in Nigeria”.
There does seem to be something alienated here – not the subversive play of a subordinated social group, but a strategy for finding an individual loophole in the world system. The nation becomes the place where a second-best imitation of the real thing can be constructed, using, as the mise-en-scene, the life-style of an elite which is detaching himself more and more decisively from the life of the rest of the nation.
The conjunction of the representation of a luxurious elite life-style and an incipient organisation of video production might suggest that there is a serious tendency towards consolidation of a bourgeois art form that would detach itself from the category of the “popular arts.”
But this is probably misleading, or at most only partially true. The essential heterogeneity, fluidity, and unbounded social groups in Africa makes it difficult to talk of fully formed “classes” in the European sense at all.
The Sponsors of the video
Okome and Haynes in determining the specific class character of the Igbo video productions, also point to the elite from whom the money for these productions usually comes. It is not the older educated elite, tied to nationalist ideologies. It is also not the state institutions (including the universities), which had a deeper connection to the European elite culture which it also sought to displace.
This is rather a commercial elite, much less educated but now exercising a considerable ideological hegemony over a generation that would previously have looked to the universities as a path for advancement. They may well be directly connected to the global economy through import trading or emigration, but culturally their commerce is with American mass culture.
This social formation shades at one end into the culture of mushroom banks, 419, pirated American Videos, limitation car parts, fake electronics – all the products of the legendary Igbo wit for producing simulacra of the industrialized world.
Looking at the videos
As their worst the video dramas produced on this socio-economic basis, and with the plainest commercial motives, are thin and false, advertisements for unbridled acquisitiveness and an elite lifestyle which can hardly be attained honestly.
But this is of course not the whole story. The spectacle of luxury is normally accompanied by a moralizing commentary which appeals to more traditional values. In this they resemble Indian films, which have similarly vested forms of melodrama borrowed from the West with a conflict between a materially attractive modernity and a morally normative tradition, a conflict which is quite foreign to Hollywood.
Living in Bondage, which was the first Igbo video hit, exemplifies the characteristic handling of the urban scene. It takes place in Lagos. Andy, the main character, gets entangled with a group of upwardly mobile dubious Igbo business men. He is avaricious, gullible, and envious of them. He seeks to join their group, and is gradually let in to their secret world. Finally, the real price of membership is demanded of him: he must present his wife for sacrifice. Entered so far with them, he cannot opt out. He kills his wife in a bizarre ritual scene, and immediately begins to prosper.
The narrative brings us to this point very quickly. Now we watch Andy enjoying his wealth for a time, in the style of his upwardly mobile friends: philandering in bars, frequenting post hotels, and generally conspicuously consuming in the most crude and flagrant manner.
This is the sign of his “arrival”, as he accumulates the markers of his new social position.
But even as it records the lifestyle of this dubious and thieving elite, the story turns towards teaching a moral, as it must do. Andy’s problems start when he tries to marry a new wife. His first wife begins to haunt him as a nightmarish apparition. For a while he copes with this, but eventually goes mad, raving and picking morsels from rubbish heaps in downtown Lagos. The news gets to his village, where a family council is called and a delegation sent to bring back the mad son from the city. The rest is a story of rehabilitation. Andy is taken to one of the Pentecostal Churches, and when nothing else works he is removed to a dibia’s home for herbal cures and spiritual exorcism.
The threads of the story which are left unexplored are revealing. Many social issues are touched upon but then dropped immediately, such as the options open to Andy as he initially faces the problems of unemployment and coping with the city and its attractions, or the episode in which his wife is thrown out of her job because she will not sleep with the boss.
Her death does not lead to a criminal case, and the fortunes of the other members of the group of ritual killers are not investigated. When Andy goes mad he is not sent to a modern asylum for the mentally ill, but back to the village, the church, and traditional healing practices. Once Andy’s personality breaks down the scene and point of view become that of the village community, for whom the city and its attractions are of little importance. Personality and identity are thus presented as complex and layered, and it is the more modern and individualized part that falls prey to the devouring city, and has to find redemption from tradition.
Both critics are tempted to say that it is a traditional moral scheme and narrative imagination that figures the drama of city life as one of ritual murder – except that the urban vampire story is one propagated in the cities, by city dwellers, to make sense of their own condition. It has passed through various ethnic groups, forming part of the mixed, modern culture of the cities – many parallel instances can be found in Yoruba films and videos, or even those being produced in Ghana.
They argue that the video do not really dealing with a polarized opposition where modernity and the urban scene

Achebe, an African Legacy

January 8, 2007

Achebe… The Eternal Echo

By Uduma Kalu

To many people of different times and places, Okonkwo, the hero of Achebes’s Things Fall apart is a character of diverse interpretations. During my first year in the Department of English, University of Nigeria, my lecturer in the course, Introduction to Nigerian Litrerature, Dr Nnadozie Inyama told us that Okonkwo as a character was revered by African school children in the Apartheid South Africa for his courage to confront a white man. This action, he said was a response to the deep seated hatred black South Africans had of the Apartheid regime and longed to dethrone it. Okonkwo in his fight against colonialism was thus an admired hero in that country. But Inyama described Okonkwo as a stock character who was predictable and could not adjust to new realities as round characters do. Hence, his inevitable downfall.
Eight years later, when Achebe visited home and gave a lecture at Owerri, he described Okonkwo as a simple minded fellow. But two years after Achebe made that declaration, a member of The Guardian editorial board, Paul Nwabuikwu expalined that James Balwin after reading TFA exclaimed in admiration of that character to Achebe:”That man was my gratherfather!”
Elsewhere, Dr Olu Oguibe, the critic, in an argument concerning Europhinism, was not happy with Achebe’s description of Okonkwo as simple minded saying that the author deliberately disowned him. To him, however, Okonkwo was resisting colonialism which was detrimental to African development.
Such have been the mutating portrayals of Okonkwo over the years. Some critics see him in the garb of feminism versus masculinism. Some see him as a role model who suceeded in times of want to become one of the leaders of the town. Still to some psychologists, he was a coward who though trying to run away from the weak traits of his father killed Ikemefuna because he did not want to be thought weak. Still he is regarded as a good emissary by some as one who made peace between Umuofia and Mbaino.
I wonder what other descriptions critics will today ascribe to Okonkowo these days, especially, now that America is leading an antiterrorism campaign. Ali Muzrui, in an essay recently wondered whether those who fought coloniasm in those days would not be described as terroists now. And I don’t know whether Okonkwo would soon be labelled as that.
It is difficult to describe Okonkwo in one sentence. His is an artistic portrayal of reality. He is like the mask carved by another Achebean character, Edogo, in Arrow of God, who would make a mask but would wander round the village square trying to get people’s reactions to that art work. In the end, there is no conclusive judgement by him.
Hate him, love him, Okonkwo remains the hero of Things fall apart; the man whose life story is the unfortunate burden of Africa and the colonial world in the late 19th and early 20th century. This the life of an individual which produced Things fall aprt, the book that shaped the future of modern African literature.
Things Fall apart, in a book by Heinamann, Celebrating 40 years of distinction in African publishing, the company said that “Things Fall apart has now sold over eight million copies and has been translated into 32 languages.” The sale figures do not include pirated copies which might outweigh or half the official figure.
When Chinua Achebe published Things Fall apart, he was only 28, and the novel, commentators remark, has done more for African literature than anything else since its publication. It produced a whole generation of younger writers who wanted to be like him and many who tried to write like him. But Achebe remains unique in the framing of those factors that distnguish his works.The novel is read in every continent; it is a compulsory choice for anyone seeking an introduction to African literature. It put the continent, Nigeria and the Igbo whom he writes about, in the world map. Former dean of the faculty of arts Professor Edith Ihekweazu of blessed memory after the international celebration of Achebe’s 60th titled Eagle on Iroko, wrote a piece called Celebrating Chinua Achebe in 1990 that” If we have taken advantage of Chinua Achebe as our flag-ship to attract the international participation we had, this just proves the point that artists are Nigeria’s most impressive ambassadors in the world and do serve all support and recognition at home.”
Another international birthday for Achebe in faraway United States brought together statements who either sent in their representatives, words, or were physically present. Nobel laureate, Prof Wole Soyinka summed up the awe that the literary world had for Achebe at the Bard College-organised 70th birthday anniversary which held between November 2-4, 2000, said in an anecdote-laced, review of the Images of Africa that he was seeing for the first time such an array of men of letters gathered under one roof to celebrate an icon.
Artists-black and whites and coloured-from all continents, Nobel laureates, up-coming writers crossed the seas to pay homage in gratitude and repect to Achebe.
Some of the guests included the ex-UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan. Kofi “personally and on behalf of the UN” praised Achebe’s “pioneering role in bringing African literature before a wider international readership”.
His terse statement presented by Ibrahim Gambrai, UN Under-Secretary General and special adviser on Africa to the UN also saluted Achebe’s “courageous public stand against many of the ills that afflict Africa today, and their first introduction to the continent.”
Former US president, Jimmy Carter was to symbolise Achebe’s influence beyond the black world. In a morning birthday letter read on his behalf, Carter testified to the inspiration which he and his family had drawn from Achebe’s books. While regretting his inability to attend the event, he described Achebe as “a personal hero to him as he is “to many around the world.”
Former South African president, Nelson Mandela, in the opening ceremony, revealed , via video greetings which was shown on a lifesized screen, how while in prison, he read Achebe’s TFA, No Longer at Ease, “and whatever of his works I could get.”
He stated further :” I found that Achebe’s fearless honesty in picturing the life of his countrymen and women under colonial rule met the perhaps just as dangerous test as uncompromising in a post-colonial regime, and even through the harzards of a tragic civil war that, earlier on, marred freedom”.
Mandela also praised Achebe’s visionary power, noting that his 1966 novel, A Man of the People, “foresaw thirty years ahead, the examples of things that threaten some of Africa’s heroically-won democraries of today…The people of South Africa celebrate, as I do with everyone present, the 70th birthday of the brilliant writer and man of Africa who has found those new ways, freed us, with his great gifts, from the past.”
He continued:” Chinua Achebe is a world renowned writer of great achievement, a founder of modern African literature. He has lived in many countries of the world. He comes from the more than 10 million Igbo people of Nigeria, one pf the major peoples of Africa. He has written of them that in any assembly ‘each speaks his own mouth’ as they phrase it. Chinua Achebe ‘speaks with the mouth of Africa and enriches all humanlty, free at last of those stock situations and characters that have dominated European writing about Africa for hundred years.”
Nigerian president, Olusegun Obasanjo, through his then culture minister, Chief Ojo Maduekwe, noted that “the story of Achebe is the story of the unfathomable possibilities of africa, the cradle of human civilisation, and more specifically, Nigeria, the land of the birth of the author of TFA. It is a story that offers hints of of extraordinary excellence in a continent of profound unhappy memories. It is a story of hope, of redemption and or restoration “tying that hope” to “what the new democratic experience in Nigeria is all about.”
Mandela’s statement was folowed by Nadine Gordimer, Nobel Laureate from South Africa, Nadine Gordimer, who could not be there because of her husband was indisposed. Toni Morrison, the African American Nobel Laureate was to add that pioneering efforts of Achebe was the tonic that pushed those in the diaspora to do that which could be significant, yet very universal. While Nurudeen Farah celebrated Achebe’s humility and humanity. Soyinka recalled Achebe who being an unencumbered master of the word, the pacesetter of another kind, wrote “the watershed of of African literature-TFA.” He went on to recall Achebe’s sense of humour, one of which was when Achebe would ask his students who was the greatest African writer? The answer, “Soyinka”. “And which was his greatest work?” to which the students would answer”TFA”.
There were other goodwill messages from Ali Mazrui, Anthony Appiah, Chinweizu, Obiechina, Niyi Osundare, Isidore Okpewho, Tess Onwueme and so many others.
But Achebe’s contribution did not start and end with TFA. Forty years ago, writing from Africa was unheard of outside of the continent. Alan Hill, managing director of Heinamann Eduacational Books in his autobiography, In Pursuit of Publishing, explains that in 1959, British publishers operating within West Africa sold mainly textbooks and regarded the territory as a place you sold books, not a source for new writers.
The books sold were almost written by British authors and produced in Great Britain. It was unusual at that time that an educational publisher could publish fiction. Every publisher wanted to know the direction of the education in the region. They wanted to keep to standards. Sales followed the prescriptions for examinations and class adoptions.
But something was happening on the continent which made it important for Africans to tell their own story. The late fifties marked an important era in Africa and its preoccupation with the struggle for idependence from colonial rule. Ghana was the first African country to gain independence in 1957. Nigeria soon followed. these newly independent countries depended entirely on European modes and systems of Education. The curricula were fashioned on European models and tradition.
Yet Africa, after independence, wanted to replace European educational literature with liiterature about Africans by Africans. The newly established universities in Ibadan, Legon and Makerere became the source from which ripples were spread out across the whole of Africa.
This was the period which saw the development of and advancement of the publication of African literature. This made Hill, after publishing Achebe’s TFA visit Nigeria in 1959 with expectations that he would be praised for publishing the classic novel which was written in long hand under lamplight. Hill noted that “Everywhere I was greeted by total scepticism that a recent student of the University of Ibadan should have written a novel of any significance at all.”
There was that feeling that an African could not have reached the standards of a renowed London publishing house.
With this independence feeling in the air, Heinamann decided to float an African series, called African Writers Series. It has been argued that it was this nationalistic feeling that brought the series into international acclaim. But the heart of the matter was the pioneering role Achebe played in the series that saw the books becoming international texts.
In November 1962, Achebe accepted an invitation to become the first editorial adviser to the series. His role was crucial, Heinamann noted, as “his own work was of unquestionable exellence. He was endlessly generous to new writers. Above all he was determined that the series published the very best writing from Africa. His name,was, as Alan Hill has said, ‘A magnet which attracted people to the Series’.
It continued; “Three factors played a major role in alerting western readers to the quality of contemporary African writing. Firstly, there was the practical contribution of Chinua Achebe as the Founding Editor and suceedinmg African Editors of the series attracted African writers and thirdly, the generation of dedicated and passionate publishers or as, James Currey prefers to call them, ‘loyalists’ who have kept the series going against all odds.”
James Currey recalled Achebe’s role at the Series thus:”I was struck by the quiet confidence of both Achebe and Keith Sambrook. They knew what they wanted. They were setting new standards. They did not know what the standards were, but they would emerge out of the manuscripts they were offered.’
But Achebe knew what he wanted . He wanted the series to reflect all the richness and variety of an emrginging independent Africa. He was concerned with the widest literary criteria. All these had to be supported by sales of comparable titles and reports by readers.
The central challeges for Achebe was to find a place for African writers in an education company publishing texts for an educational place for African writers.
At the historic Makerere meeting of 1963 a Kenyan student knocked on Chinua Achebe’s door to show him two manuscripts of novels.
Achebe was impressed and accepted the novels. The name of the young man was Ngugi. The crucial decision had been taken. New titles were to be first given publication in the AWS. New titles by new authors were to be published, and the AWS was born.
The exam boards were still based in Oxford, Cambridge, London, Durham. However, in the years following independence, examination boards were set up: The West Africa Examinations Council for Nigeria, Ghana, Gambia and Sierra Leone and the East African Examinations Council for Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania.
The newly established examination boards delighted in the raiding the AWS to prescribe texts. In this regard, they were far more adventurous than the English boards who considered Gerald Manley Hopkins a modern poet. The examiners even came to use texts in translation for English.
From 1962 till date, the series, though highly shrunk, has become the largest publishing house that publishes African litertature in the world, expanding even to the Carribean, just as other publishing houses such as Penguin have borrowed AWS classical style for the publication of its own African classics.
It has published hundreds of best of literature for forty yerars. It has works translated from Arabic, like Tayeb Salih’s The Wedding of Zein, French, such as Mongo Beti, Oyono and Sembene among others who had already published several novels. Between 1972 and 1984, the series published 270 titles feeding Africans with new writings of its people and giving them hope of publication. It led to flowering of women writing as well. It is the only series that has three times produced African winners of the Nobel Prize for Literature. They are the late Naguib Mahfouz from Egypt, Nadine Gordimer from South Africa and Wole Soyinka from Nigeria. It has gone on to win other prestigeous awards including the Commonwealth Wrters Prize, The NOMA Award for African Writing, The Caine Prize for African Writing and The Guardian Fiction Prize. It introduced readers to a new aspect of publishing-Prison Writing, as the disillusionment of the new independent states brought along it sad accounts of the undemocratic regimes. Some of them included Jack Mapanje, Dennis Brutus, Nelson Mandela and of course, Steve Biko. The series, in the words of Heinamann management, “is now established as the cannonical series of African literature, an internationally recognised classic series for African study.”
Alan Hill notes that”probably, the most significant achievement of the series was to alter the perception of Africa and its people.” The world owes that literary growth, honour and awards and scholarship to Achebe.
Achebe, in the eyes of critics, such as Charles Nnolim in Trends in the Nigerian Novel published in Matatu, Vol. 2, No.1 (January, 1987), assert also that Achebe is the inaugurated the African novel-”that tradition which is concerned with cultural assertion or cultural nationalism which stresses and promotes the innate dignity of the black man and makes creative use of our myth, legends, ritual, festivals, ceremonies and foklore.
Achebe is the pioner of what is authentic and indigenoeus in the african novel. His novels that are set in traditional igbo land-TFA and Arrow of God- are referred by Charles Larson as both “the archeytypal” African novel and the “situational” novel. He described the archetypal novel as one descrbes the impact of of the coming of the Europeans on African societies and the disintegration of such societies as a consequence, while the situational novel presents a group-felt experience, so that whatever happens to the major representative character, the final result is felt by all the people involved in the story. The individual thus becomes identified with the community and acts as that society’s consciousness.
What is therefore considered great and enduring in the African novel-for he established that tradition which promotes awareness of what is really great and dignified in our culture, salted with the lilt of our proverbs and local expressive mannerisms, imbued with the charm of our folkways, the respect for our ancerstors and the beauty of our traditions and culture, plus the rehabitation of the black man whose dignity has been bruised and damamged by the white man, Nnolim continued.
Achebe’s vision, wrote Chairman of The Guardian Editiorial Board, Dr Reuben Abati in The Guardian opinion page of Friday, November 17, 2000, entitiled Chinua Achebe, is essentially tragic, created out of the misery of the environment. His characters are remembered for their roundedness, their sheer theatricality and psychological strenght. For example, Okonkwo in TFA is already an established international along with Ezeulu and Nanga of A man of the people .
Their individual struggles, Abati went on, find correspondence in every man’s encounter with imps and history at the crossroads of survival. Achebe’s writings, others argue, are not tied to quotidian reality, for he had always considred creative writing of a higher grade than journalism, rather he is interested in deeper causes, the underlying variables of the African experience including the class between the old and the new, the need to validate the dignity of the African cultrure, fate and circumstances resulting in a psychological exploration of man as social and religous as well as a cultural self- expression.
“Achebe is unique in his sensitivity to language and the strivings of man. He is at once a teacher, sculptor and master craftman, carving the stories of our lives. In his hands, the craft of narration becomes a ritaul, a spiritual encounter, a journey into the outer limits of human imagination. His characters leap off the pages as they respond to the ritual of being, they draw our lives into theirs in a prolonged moment of empathy, signposting the very scope of human possiblities,” Abati maintained.
History is important to Achebe as much as culture, society and traditions. He conceives of history as an interconnected chain, with man of action at the centre of a whirlpool. His ideal writer is both a teacher and a man of action, and in his own career, Achebe has live up to that description. In his famous essay, The Novelist as Teacher, published in 1965, Achebe writes: “The writer cannot expect to be excused from the task of re-education and regeneration that must be done. In fact, he should march right in front…I for one would not wish to be excused. I would be quite satisfied if my novels (especiually those set in the past) did no more than teach my readers that their past-with all its imperfections-was not one long night of savagery from which the first Europeans acting on God’s behalf delivered them. Perhaps what I write is applied art as distinct from pure art. But who cares? Art is important and so is education of the kind I have in mind.”
A similar sentiment is in the work by Bill Ashcroft, Gareth Griffits, Helen Tiffin, The Empire Writes Back. In another Achebe’s early essay, Africa and her writers where he stressed that the principal feature which differentiated African artist from their European counterparts was that they privileged the social function of writing over the function as a tool of individual expression. They created myths and legends, and told their stories for ‘a human purpose (including, no doubt, the excitation of wonder and pure delight)’, and they made their sculptures to serve the needs of their times. They ‘moved and had their being in soceity, created their works for the good of that society’.
Achebe’s sentiments at this time were also endorsed by other writers such as Soyika.
In a way, this attidude, Ashcroft etal argued, shaped the work of most of African writers in the sixties and the seventies. Its influence can be seen in nearly all the general accounts of the period, despite their ideological differences. Critics of that time such as Awoonor, Palmer, Nazareth, Obiechina, Ogungbesan, Gakwandi, all stressed the need to see African literature in relationship to the society which produced it, and to understand the unique characters and function of art in Africa.
The impulse to recover African cultural context for the new texts generated a vigorous and persistent debate in African literature between the demand for a recognition of the Africanness of literature and the rejection of universal readings. This was provoked by the praise of European and American critics such as Larson and Mahood for those African works which addressed ‘universal audience’ by avoiding what they called barriers to intelligebility. But African critics pointed out that such universality refuses a non-local readership to come to terms with the need to understand the work from within its own cultural context. Achebe summed up the feeling of the time in his seminal essay on ‘Colonialist Criticism: ‘I should like to see the word universal banned altogether from discussions of African literature untill such a time as people cease to use it as a synonym for the narrow, self-serving parochialism of Europe.’
This cultural resistance has continued in such projects aimed at the ‘decolonization’ of African culture, and the desire to return to pre-colonial languages and cultural modes as championed by Chinwizu, Jemie and Madubuike, the trioka of critics who called themselves bolekaja critics and the subsequent literary debate that ensued between Soyinka, the trioka and others.
Achebe has continued to have a tremendous influence among new African writers. In a review in Wasafiri, Okey Ndibe’s novel, Arrows of rain, a recent publication by a new Nigerian writer is described as ‘… continues with courage and expertise the story masterfully begun by his elders Tutuola, Achebe and Soyinka more than fifty years ago. This new engagement is characterised by questions about responsibility and transparency and the need to bear witness; to be the custodian of stories which must be told by the younger generation of writers.
Achebe, reputed to have made the largest contributrion to African literature till date founded Okike based at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. That journal which aims at promoting new creative writing from Africa and elsewhere is presently edited by Prof Ossie Enekwe, and it still survives even when similar ventures have become victims of Africa’s harsh economic condition. Achebe also edited African Commentary
In 1981, Achebe founded the Association of Nigerian Authors, a platform he felt Nigerian writers needed for their welfare and their craft. Outside the continent, he co-founded the New York State Writers’ Institute. Achebe’s latest novel, Anthills of the Savannah, was published in 1987, more than twenty years after A man of the People (1966). Altogether, he has written five novels. He has written essays, the latest being Home and Exile. He has written poetry and children’s stories. He has won several Nigerian and internatioinal literary awards including Nigerian highest intellectual prize, the National Merit Award, Creative Art Prize worth a million naira, Margaret Wrong Memorial Prize, the Nigerian National Trophy for Literature, the Commonwealth prize, the New Statesman Hock Campbell Award, German Peace Prize, fellowships, scholarships, grants, over 40 honourary doctorates from unversities all over the world.
Achebe is not just an artist. He used to be a statesmen. For instance, during the Nigerian civil war, he sided with Biafra and was actively involved at the information section that his exploits are still remembered till date. During that war, he said he would apply his ink to fight for humanity and to exclusively entertain. His confrontation with military rule led to his long self- exile. His political contribution was to blossom in the words of Banji Ojewale, a journalist, in his piece, The Trouble with Chinua Achebe, on the June 12 presidential election annulled, and the subsequent regime of late miltary dictator, General Sanni Abacha. He hurled devastating salvos at Babangida for the nullification of the elections and called for the installation of Moshood Abiola, winner of that election as president. He would not bulge when Abacha came in, denouncing the new setting, asked for the Abiola mandate to be validated.
So much was Achebe’s influence and impact that Abacha prevented him from coming home. Shortly after returning home Achebe spoke of the perils which this political stance had exposed him to: “If the military were in power, I shouldn’t have expected my life to be easy.”
He was to team up with fellow writers like Wole Soyinka and John Pepper Clark to plead for the life of soldier-poet, Mamman Vasta who was sentenced to death over alleged coup attempt.
In the second republic, Achebe was politically active. He joined Aminu Kano’s radical PRP along with soyinka. Their intervention added muscule to the discourse of the day.
Later in 1993, Achebe was to write his first major political treatise, The Trouble with Nigeria. A slim work but quite explosive, with scathing remark on the successive leadership of the country. He located Nigeria’s history of devilry in her cycle of leaders. He spoke of a “golden era” that awaited Nigeria once “we can free our minds from their(our old political leaders’) unwholesome spell…”
His contribution to the welfare of the Africa continues. At a meeting of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and development (OECD) in Paris in 1989, he told the financial experts that they were discussing Africa’s problem in terms of theories, such as the structural adjustment programme even though the experiment was a monumental failure in Africa. He told the conference that “Africa is not fiction. Africa is people, real people.”
He told the distinguished Merit award panel that development is people which invloves an interaction of both science and the arts, and not at the expense of the other as the Nigerian government was and is still is giving priority attention to the sciences at the neglect of the arts.
It is no wonder that Achebe is currently ambassador to the United Nations Fund for Population Activities(UNFPA). German Booksellers’ Association, in recognition of his role to humanity, announced him winner of its annual Peace Prize. Worth €15,000, Achebe received the prize at a ceremony on October 13 during the annual book fair in Frankfurt.
The citation said that Achebe’s central concern was “the restoration of peace in regions exposed to a permanent cultural conflict.”
The statement described him also as the “father of post colonial Africa literature”.
Later, he was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences as a Foreign Fellow. He is also a foreign fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and Fellow of the Nigerian Academy of Letters.
Described as the “the most prominent writer in Africa today”, Achebe whose Anthills… was shortlisted for the Booker Prize was listed among world’s greatest 100 artists, in a statement entitled Centurions, the only black African in the list by The British Broadcasting Corporation.
That was not the first time Achebe was named one of the most significant artists in the world.
in 1999, some foreign media named him one of the greatest writers of the 20th century. His name has been featured by other organisations as a great author of the century and several web sites have been created on his life and works.
The Zimbabwe International Book Fair also named him one of the top twelve authors of the century. Achebe was voted one of the 100 writers of all time by the Norwegian Book Clubs. He is the Charles O. Stevenson Professor of Literature at Bard College, New York, US.
Born in Anambra state in November 16, 1930, in Ogidi, Nigeria, to Igbo Christian parents, he started his education at a church missionary society school. But as a young boy, he had ample opportunity to observe a traditional village life that” hadn’t been completely disorganised by British rule. He graduated from the University College, Ibadan, in 1953. Then, he worked for ten years for the Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation.
Achebe left it in 1966 partly as a result of the political conflicts which would lead to civil war in 1967 and eventlly for a career in writing and teaching . In 1954 -59, Achebe was Regional Controller, Enugu Broadcasting Service and between 1959 and 1961 was Director, Voice of Nigeria , Lagos 1966. He was appointed Senior Research Fellow, University of Nigeria, Nsukka ( UNN) between 1967- 72; Professor of English, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, USA, Professor, University of Connecticut, Storrs, Connecticut, USA, Professor of English, Nsukka since 1985.

Achebe has held editorial and directorship positions in several publishing houses, journals and magazine, including Heinemann Educational Books, Nsukkascape and Okike of which he was founding editor. He was between 1981-84 president, Association of Nigeria Authors (ANA) and belongs to many literary, art and culture organisations. He was Chairman, Board of FRCN in 1988; Governor, Jews Concern International Foundation. Achebe is fellow of several literary organisations, winner of many literary awards and national honours, including Officer of the Order of the Federal Republic of Nigeria National Merit Award. He was to reject the second national honour to him by the federal government for what he described as the deterioration in Nigeria under President olusegun Obasanjo’s watch. He is in Jamaica, talking, as usual, for all Africans to unite.

Anyanwu (Sun) Image in Igbo World

January 8, 2007

Day Onitsha counts its creative wealth
For four hours, the Obi of Onitsha, Igwe Nnaemeka Achebe (Agbogidi) was in Lagos for a vital traditional function. The event was the maiden art exhibition of a group of Onitsha, Anambra State, born professional artists. Art collectors and Lagos based practitioners, including the chairman of the Society of Nigeria Artists, (SNA) Lagos State, Olu Ajayi attended. Nkiru Uwechia Nzegwu, an artist, art critic and associate professor at the Department of African Studies and Graduate Programme on Philosophy, Interpretation and Culture (PIC), Binghamton University, New York, USA in a speech at the event explores the importance of the fiesta held at the Pendulum Art Gallery, Lagos.
[Excerpts]

What does Olokoto: Songs of Chima mean? {Olokoto} means plenitude, abundance and fullness. In addition to these primary meanings, the word represents ideas that suggest luxuriance and bounteousness. {Olokoto} connotes abundance of riches, wealth, and rich harvest. To describe any year as {Olokoto} is to inform a listener or a reader that it was a year of bountiful harvest. The idea of abundance describes not only agricultural produce, but the wealth generated by people as well. As this exhibition makes clear, this wealth could include works of art some of which are on display as well as the artists who produced them, and who are part of the community’s highly trained human capital. The expression “Songs of Chima” directs our attention both to the nature of the art object under consideration and to the specific people and community that {Olokoto} is used to characterise. “Songs” metaphorically stand for creative products, works of imagination, and individualised artistic expressions that are perceived as harmonious. “Chima” refers to indigenes of Onitsha who trace the founding of their city of Eze Chima.
The exhibition, {Olokoto: Songs of Chima}, is a celebration of the abundance and luxuriant riches that belongs to Onitsha. In a certain sense, it is a clarion call to both friends and foes to take stock of all that the city has achieved both in the arts and its human resources. Reflection on the riches of the city is necessary given the contemporary condition of Onitsha, today. The city is marked by a catalogue of ills: garbage-strewn streets, unsanitary clogged and overflowing drains, squalid high rises, filthy premises, violent crimes, armed robberies and killings, inhospitable living conditions, lack of city planning, lack of solid waste management, impassable roads, and most important of all, total breakdown of law and order.
Transforming and gentrifying the city of Onitsha would require enormous effort. Seeing the city as a place with impressive human and material wealth is crucial since such a perspective provides the critical lens from which to envision plans for transformation. Thus, while this art exhibition purports to be about beauty, aesthetics and art appreciation, it also has a very powerful underlying message. Its speaks simultaneously about the plenitude of artistic resources in Onitsha, and it calls on indigenes and residents to renew their pride in this city and to spearhead it physical and moral transformation. In short, in calling for the renaissance of Onitsha, {Olokoto}: Songs of Chima is issuing a call for the urban renewal of the city.
From the end of the Biafran War in 1970, phenomenal transformations have occurred in Onitsha both at the level of infrastructure (roads, industries, and buildings) and in the building of the city’s social capital (the development of people’s potential). The rapid pace of growth has brought about a lowering of people’s moral scheme as the old moral order and its related political structures gave way to new political structures and new moral schemes.
Crime, corruption, mismanagement of public funds, robbery and cheating have become the part of the normative order of post-Biafran life. The nature of societal ills that occurred in this period has been exacerbated at the local level by the grand economic restructuring going on at the global level.
At the intermediate level of nation states, these economic changes have unleashed a season of poverty and decay of Nigeria and numerous other African countries. The conditionalities these countries accepted in negotiations with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) have proved destructive. The situation in Nigeria is particularly irksome because those at the helm of power continue to use their leadership positions to derail the country’s prospects of economic growth. They did this by turning the nation’s Central Bank into their piggy banks and by expropriating the country’s wealth.
In the last four years, in particular, the attack on Onitsha and the well being of the community has come from the Anambra State House in Awka. With the breakdown of the rule of law and of law and order, the moral restraints on people correspondingly broke down as a segment of Onitsha residents and indigenes engaged in all kinds of nefarious practices – armed robbery, killings, swindling – that eroded the moral fibre of the community. The question we now face is: how do we regain our moral compass and undertake the rebuilding of the city?
As history reveals, possibilities for change exist. The survival of Onitsha depends on the strategic decisions that we make now for the development and growth of the city. These decisions must come from imagining and subsequently reinventing the city into the clean bustling city it once was. But men alone must not do this planning as has been the case in the past seven decades when men arrogated to themselves the exclusive right to make decisions for the community.
In those decades, a male dominant way of doing things was fallaciously justified on the basis of tradition. Yet, historical evidence does show that as far back as 1857 and 1872 the Omu and Ikporo Onitsha were critical participants in the determination of matters of national importance. It was only with the advent of colonialism and its male-privileging ideology that Onitsha men gained educational advantage. Since then, they used their advantage in gender discriminatory ways to advance their own cross-cutting interests.
Against this background of male-privileging ideology, it is not surprising that only one woman artist is participating in this exhibition even though numerous Onitsha women are trained artists. The issue should not be “But there are no women artists?” The question should be, what is militating against their practising of their craft? Future deliberations about the new model of Onitsha must replace retrograde sexist ideas and questions with a generative view of life that affirms Onitsha women.
It makes sense to ask: why is it that artists rather than economic planners or development theorists are initiating this dialogue? The simple answer is that artists are visionaries. The late internationally renowned artist Ben Enwonwu contends that it is “(t)hrough his or her work the artist warns against what can disturb or destroy the interest of the community and society.”
Evidently, the day-to-day matters of earning a living tend to distract people who then become afflicted by existential blindness. Artists provide the way out of this blindness because the artistic process is a process of apprehension and metamorphosis. It is a process of grasping and translating forms of thought and awareness into reality, forcing audiences to think about and contend with new issues.
Enwonwu provides a model of this during his Negritude phase when “art is tied with…. political motivations …phrased in political terms. He states that to free [one]self from the ties of foreign domination… Negritude meant…. the revitalisation of African force, both in art and in all forms of creativity.”
He demonstrates negritude by “painting with definite aims in mind and… visions [that] were… characteristic of Black expression.”
Although publicly Enwonwu appears “wedded” to the Western view of art, one needs to pierce the façade to get at the meaning of his cryptic comments about art, and to see that his works are about things he hardly discusses. Installed on the façade on the Nigerian Museum, Anyanwu has incorrectly been translated as {The Awakening}, created as it was just before the independence of Ghana and Nigeria. Many interpreters have correctly hypothesised that it is a prophetic prognostication of the impending wave of independence that swept the continent in the decade of the 1960s. However, there is a missing metaphysical dimension that explains the relationship of the sculpture, Anyanwu, to the divine force, Anyanwu.
In everyday colloquial terms the word ‘anyanwu’ refers to the sun. In standard lexicon, the word is made up of two conjuncts ‘anya’ (eye) and ‘anwu’ light. This literal translations “the eye of light” construes the sun as the eye of light. The questions this raises are, Whose eye is the sun? And to whom does it belong? The logical direction of these questions alerts us: a) that more is being asked than can be answered by our everyday framework; and b) that the meaning of the standard lexicon must derive its intelligibility from elsewhere.
In {After God is Dibia}, John Anenechukwu Umeh discusses how the everyday meaning of ‘anyanwu’ (the sun) is parasitic on the underlying esoteric framework of Igbo metaphysics. On this framework, ‘Anya Anwu’ is the “Eye of the Lord or Divinity of Light,” which is also the Supreme Force of Chu Ukwu (the great being/God) of anwu or light.
Umeh describes Anwu (Light) as another name for Agwu, the Holy Spirit that is a part of Chi Ukwu. According to him “[a]s Ose Obala, Agwu is God of Light (Anwu) whose Eye is the Sun (Anyanwu). At times Agwu is also regarded as Anyanwu, the Sun God.”
On this metaphysical scheme, Agwu, the Holy Spirit, is a female force “Nne Nwanyi (the Old Lady of God, i.e., the Divine Lady Mother Spirit)” as well as the Supreme Force of eternity and the ruler of everlastingness.
When this information is brought to bear on Enwonwu’s sculpture, Anyanwu, we find the artist speaking in two modes: at the superficial level for the general public, and at the deeper esoteric level, for those who understand the symbolism and forms of esoteric language. While the public level dwells on history and political transformation, the esoteric level addresses some truths about the structure of reality. The series of paintings and sculptures on this theme function as divine truths. The sculpture, Anyanwu, correctly identifies as female the divinity Anyanwu, the “Spirit of Light and of the Rising Sun,” who is both Agwu and the Divine Old Lady of God.
Enwonwu is clear about the esoteric meaning of his work as his following comment reveals. He scribed his sculpture, Anyanwu, as the “genetic forces embodied in womanhood….. flowering into the fullest stature of a nation, a people.”
This description both recognises the female character of his work, and of Anyanwu, the Divinity. Through his work, Enwonwu is telling us that emanations of the God of Light are embodied in women.
The sculpture, Anyanwu, not only marks the “compelling idea of the spirit to be found in Africa” it proclaims the centrality of women in the regeneration of the future Africa. He seems to be suggesting that the dynamism of life, of wisdom and of truth do not totally reside in men, as most nationalist male activists and postcolonial African males assume.
For him, a significant dimension of the future of Africa rests on women because of the presence of this God of Light residing in women folk.
In a compelling way, Enwonwu’s sculpture resists and undercuts the current fashionable attempt to reconstruct societies in Africa as traditionally male dominant and patriarchal. It is for this reason that his work asserts that there is little historical validity to this masculinist view as well as to the constructed histories being peddled by those with limited knowledge of Igbo conceptual scheme. Anyanwu asserts in deep metaphysical language that bringing women into the political process augurs well for the future of the continent. Recognition of the mystical basis of his forms and of the visionary character of his creativity establishes Enwonwu’s linkage to an older artistic universe in which the search for deeper spiritual fulfilment is of paramount concern.
For him, the concept of art for art’s sake is hardly an intelligible option for political actors, which is what every social being in a society is. In fact, for him to opt for a non-political position is really to make a political choice, one that is steeped in irresponsibility, because it amounts to an abdication of one’s social and political rights.
It is fitting to end this essay with Enwonwu’s evaluation of the works of younger artists, if only to raise the metric bar and critically engage the artists who are participating in this exhibition. Reflecting on the state of art two years before he died, Enwonwu stated: ” Recent contemporary Nigerian art of today is largely experimental. My general is that it is based more on techniques that true lasting values. It will survive only if it expresses that aspirations of African people, which in essence is their yearnings for a better way of life. It must represent the intrinsic value and the significance of life that is at the core of our political and social being.
“And it is not true that there is nothing for them to say.… There is a vacuum. There are techniques, but it is not sufficiently anchored to the aspirations of people in Africa. If Africa art is to evolve these issues that must be addressed, the younger generation of artists must realise the power of images, and what it can achieve within a political context. “
In concluding, {Olokoto}: Songs of Chima is much more than a mindless displaying of objects and colored canvases. At a serious level, it calls on Onitsha Ado indigenes and residents to reflect on the material, and spiritual richness of their community. Although, very much unacknowledged, these riches are the vital resources that must become the engine of social transformation. As citizens, we must imagine a better future for Onitsha and deeploy enabling myths to pull us out of the morass of decay.

To Restore The Dignity of To Restore the Dignity of Man: Towards a Human Century 1(My IABA Paper)

January 8, 2007

By Uduma Kalu

Stories make people; people make stories.
African proverb
Until the Lion learns to tell his story, the hunt will always favour the hunter.
African proverb.
Instead the thinker will die in war, let the warrior die; if the warrior dies, the thinker will think out what to do!
Igbo Dogma

INTRODUCTION

For Africans, Germany is a very interesting place. Was it not here that Anton Wilhelm Rudolph Amo Afer of Axim (1703-c.1759) the most important African philosopher in Europe in the 18th century, by his own example, broke racial prejudices and promoted the values of the Enlightenment?
Was it not here that European powers, in 1885, gathered and divided Africa according to their whims and caprices?
That I am here today, more than 250 years after Amo, continuing the message he began, shows that there is a failure somewhere. For me, the failure rests squarely on writers of non-fiction.
They have not raised the human condition beyond the limited visions of their societies but have colluded with their amoral scientists and philosophers to lie and disgrace humanity. Worse still, they have failed to put a face, a human face we can point at as our guiding star, for any of the past centuries. Their works have promoted falsity, misery and barbarity on our Earth.
I say this, bearing in mind, Ralph Waldo Emerson? statement in Henry Miller’s Tropics of Cancer that novels, will give way to diaries and autobiographies, which he described as captivating books, if only man knew how to choose among what he calls his experiences that which is really his experience, and how to record truth truly.
We can forgive Emerson for thinking that dairies and autobiographies record truth truthfully. Has Joseph T. Brown S.J. in A Book of Non Fiction not argued of the link between non fiction and fiction?
Brown however insists that that the writer of non-fiction does not make up his stories from imagination but from facts which can be cross checked from the records. Non fiction writer, he goes on, writes to instruct, inform, entertain, amuse and persuade the reader either to believe in something or to do something.
Did writers of European non-fiction present the facts in their works? If they did, I wouldn’t be here, selecting works from personal narratives, biographies and autobiographies, serious and light essays, accounts, editorials, sermons, scientific, cultural and media reports, history, speeches and many others to put a human face for the 21st Century.
We must bear in mind what Jean-Paul Sartre said about writers: that irrespective of social demands of a writer, in terms of public taste and use of language, the mark of a great writer is he that transcends these limitations.
This statement is best captured by Chinua Achebe’s who writes that the task of a writer is to lead his people out of the mistakes of the past onto new paths and in new directions for the future.
A Nigerian scholar, E.C. Nwanze, in his book, Africa in French and German Fiction, argues also that though the writer and his society share a cultural universe, the greatest writers are those who succeed in breaking through their socio-linguistic bondage and attain a meta-language which expresses human freedom.
Sadly, in spite of the many mission statements declaring objectivity and realism, most European non fictions on Africa were nothing more than a reflection of the European prejudices against black race in general and Africa in particular. There were, in Sartre’s thinking, alienated from truth, being submissive to an ideology.
This brings me to the proverb above-stories make people. People make stories. Stories are not static. They grow, and they do so in the hands of man. Man must review his stories. In this revision is a search, also for a balance of stories, as Chinua Achebe seeks in his seminal essay, Home and Exile. This balance is what brings the truth in the narrative between the lion and the hunter. It is, however, the thinker who makes this balance possible. He mediates, between the narratives, and finds a way, unlike the warrior. Hence, the Igbo wills say, instead the thinker to die, even in times of war, let the warrior die, for he will think out a solution.

What Do African Thinkers Think?

The role of the thinker is what Amo performed here in Germany, over 250 years ago. It is a role most of us black people have donned through the years.
For example, Professor Wole Soyinka in his new book, You Must Set Forth at Dawn, gives an account of how he fought, across continents, races and oceans, to recapture, Ori Olokun, the bust of the Yoruba water deity. A white man teaching at Ife, was said to have stolen the work. He had the man detained by the police and interrogated. The teacher confessed that the bust was sold to a Brazilian. Soyinka and a friend went to that country and was able to locate the buyer, and brought the bust back to back to Africa. The bust was carbon dated and was discovered to be fake. Soyinka later learnt that the original version was at the British Museum.
Meanwhile, the British Museum had heard of the search for the Ori Olokun. The officials therefore removed it from where it was earlier kept for public viewing to an inner chamber. Till today, the museum has not returned the bust to its owners in Nigeria.
This piece from Soyinka encapsulates our struggle with the west, not only to assert our humanity but also to teach the west about Africa and humanity. Humanity is the subject of most of our non-fictions. From their first encounter with what is today modern Europe, Africans, in their non-fictions, have taken it up themselves to teach the white man some basic truths about Africa and humanity. They rile against racism and at the same time provide hope to those Africans defeated by the weapons of oppression.
I was reading, the other day, a short profile on Trevor Rhone, the Jamaican playwright, who will perform here this Sunday. The reason Rhone writes, it is said, is to “show us our true selves so that we may become better people.”
It was this same spirit that made King Afonso, the Congo King, in 1526, before the world rose up against that inhuman warfare, write to John 111 of Portugal that he no longer wanted slavery in his kingdoms.
As far back as 1789, the former Igbo slave, Olaudah Equaino, in his autobiography, The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano or Gustavus Vassa, the African, in his fight against slavery and racism, asked Europeans “O, ye nominal Christians! might not an African ask you, |learned you this from your God, who says unto you, Do unto all men as you would men should do unto you?”
Equiano in Britain sounded just like Amo 50 years ago in Germany. Both of them, in their times, fought against slavery.
Edward Blyden in his Presidential Address at the Liberia College, in 1881, condemned racial narratives about Africa and Africans, showing, also ways our people can overcome their pitiable positions, as did J. Africanus B. Horton in Africa as the Nursery of Science and Literature.
In his best known sermon, Dr. James Emmanuel Kwegyir Aggrey, (1875-1927) told about an eagle caught and trained like chicken. The owner tamed it and wanted it to be a chicken. But the day the eagle saw the sun, higher above the land, it stretched forth its wings and flew, as an eagle. Never to return. Aggrey then told Africans that we are created in the image of God but men have made us chickens. Africans, he wrote, should reject that image as they are eagles. They should stretch further their wings and fly.
Pixley Isaka ka Seme, a South African, at a prize giving ceremony, at the Columbia University, in 1906, told his audience that identity is not measured by equality. Rather nature has bestowed on each of us, a peculiar individuality.
Marcus Garvey at the Liberty Hall, New York City, during the Second International Convention of Negroes, in August 1921 said, “… the new Negro desires a freedom that has no boundary, no limit.”
Emperor Haile Selassie, the First, in his eternal peace speech in 1963 at the UN, while reviewing the 1936 League of Nations said, “The stake of each one of us is identical – life or death. We all wish to live. We all seek a world in which men are freed of the burdens of ignorance, poverty, hunger and disease. And we shall all be hard-pressed to escape the deadly rain of nuclear fall-out should catastrophe overtake us.”
From a speech delivered at a mass meeting, which was held in the Glover Memorial Hall, Lagos, on March 5, 1947, Nnamdi Azikwe said, “The problem, which is agitating our minds today is the colour bar. We are resolved to exterminate it, in all its forms, in this country.”
Kwame Nkrumah, on the need for a united Africa said such a bloc brings forth a great power, built not on fear, envy and suspicion, nor won at the expense of others, but founded on hope, trust, friendship and directed to the good of all mankind.” And Africans because of their heritage, he said, should translate this into reality.
In his famous speech, I have a Dream, Martin Luther King longed for the day his country, America, “will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.”
Before his death, Steve Biko preached that racial division of society into hostile camps was a preliminary to race conflict and a strategy for change. To avoid this, Biko was convinced of the need for a continuous agitation.
Bob Marley in his highly evocative song, War, sang: “Until the philosophy which hold one race/ Superior and another inferior/ Is finally and permanently discredited and abandoned/ Everywhere is war, me say war.”
Michael Jackson continues his refrain, singing in Black or white that ” It Don? Matter If You?e /Black Or White.”
We must not forget the beautiful statement from Nelson Mandela to the Nobel Committee on December 10, 1993 on winning the Nobel Peace Prize. Mandela said he joined millions of those that fought against the ” inhuman system and sued for a speedy end to the apartheid crime against humanity.”
According him, “an injury to one is an injury to all, ” and so many people came “together in defence of justice and a common human decency.”
Mandela was therefore optimistic that one day, “all humanity will join together to celebrate one of the outstanding human victories of our century. “
Emeka Anyaoku, in his days at the Commonwealth, rallied the body against Apartheid, for global peace and economic welfare for poorer nation. Neither should we forget the effort of Kofi Annan to ensure peace, justice and democracy in the world through the UN.
Chinweizu’s concern in The West and Rest of Us is a plea that we may achieve a just, non-imperialist and enduring peace, with prosperity for all humankind. Cardinal Francis Arinze, in various definitions of dialogues, seeks a mutual understanding and enrichment, in obedience to truth and respect for freedom.
Chinua Achebe in his Home and Exile writes that he seeks a balance of narratives so that no race will think that it is superior to the other.
What about the poets, L?opold S?dar Senghor, Aim? C?saire, and the critic, Franz Fanon? I can go on and on. But what links the speeches and writings of lost of Africans everywhere is that they echo their ancient philosophy on the interdependence of man, his universe and destiny, and the need to fight injustice collectively.
Africans fight injustice because in their worldview it is believed that you are human because another person is human. And if you deny any person his humanity, you lose yours too.
This is the root of African philosophy. Placide Tempel’s Bantu Philosophy provides an excellent reading of our worldview when he summarises that the African “World of forces is held like a spider’s web of which no single thread can be caused to vibrate without shaking the whole network.”
Have I not heard Salman Rushdie repeat this last year when in the essay, The Power of the Pen: Does Writing Change Anything? He explains that “A butterfly flaps its wings in India and we feel the breeze on our cheeks in New York. A throat is cleared somewhere in Africa and in California there? an answering cough.
Everything that happens affects something else?”
Among the Igbo of Nigeria, the same saying is expressed this way: when something stands, another thing stands beside it; meaning that we all depend on one another for existence. You find this expression said differently in books, mathematics, geometry, philosophies, songs etc of all Africans. As the Igbo say, Unity is Strength, which is of course is the motto of Haiti. You see it also expresses as the Izu sign on their flag as in Brazil, Ghaddafi’s tents etc. It was based on reclaiming their humanity that South Africans held the Truth Commission in 1998.
What do Western Thinkers Think?
Enough of Africans and their worldview for now. Let us look at how Western thinkers and writers see the world, beginning with their depiction of Africans in their non-fictions.
I start with Aristotle as architect of African downfall. How did he do this? Aristotle studied under Plato. Plato studied in Egypt, with Homer, who declared Egyptians as the world? first scientists. Aristotle later became teacher to Alexander, prince of Macedonia, in Greece. He had a vision that knowledge is power and that if his nation, Greece/Macedonia had to become powerful, it had to acquire scientific knowledge, like powerful nations, as Egypt. This vision was enshrined in Alexander? head, his pupil. Aristotle knew that Egypt was offering its foreign students limited knowledge to its core sciences. Worse for Egypt, Persia’s acquisition of knowledge had abolished the limited access. Aristotle therefore convinced Alexander that if he could conquer Egypt and capture its science, conquer Persia and capture its science, and that if he brought all that science together Greece, their country would become the most powerful on earth. Alexander bought the idea. He set out to Egypt, captured it, and crowned himself pharaoh, which gave him the power to command Egyptian priest-kings to bring to him the great books of Egyptian science, which he quickly shipped off to Aristotle, in Greece. Persia was to follow suit.
Dorothy Hammond and Alta Jablow published a study in their book, The Africa That Never Was, in 1992, about British writing about Sub Saharan Africa over 400 year-period, from the 16th Century to the 20th. Over 500 volumes of fiction and non- fiction were studied. Their book shows how a body of fantasy and myth with a vast storehouse of lurid images was written and handed down through the years.
In 1561, an English captain, John Lok, in his account, which helped to set the early stage of the tradition, says about Negroes thus:
A people of beastly living, without a God, lawe, religionwhose women are common for they contract no matrimonie, neither have respect to chastite?whose inhabitants dwell in caves and dennes: for these are their houses, and the flesh of serpents their meat as writeth Plinie and Diodorus and Siculus. They have no speech, but rather a grinning and chattering. They are also people without heads, having their eyes and mouth in their breasts.

A critic once noted that a detailed study of several of European philosophers who expounded universal theories of human nature reveals that these scholars also provided the theoretical bases for claiming that some people, in fact millions of them, were less than human because their skins had more colour than that of Europeans. Hegel and David Hume two of them.
In Hegel’s words, “Africa proper, as far as History goes back, has remained-for all purposes of connection with the rest of the World-shut up; it is the Gold-land compressed within itself-the land of childhood, which lying beyond the day of history, is enveloped in the dark mantle of Night. Its isolated character originates, not merely in its tropical nature, but essentially in its geographical condition? “
The Negro,” Hegel wrote, “exhibits the natural man in his completely wild and untamed state.”
In 1753, Hume finished writing an essay, “Of National Characters,” by adding the following footnote:
I am apt to suspect the negroes and in general all the other species of men (for there are four or five different kinds) to be naturally inferior to the whites. There never was a civilised nation of any other complexion than white, nor even any individual eminent either in action or speculation. No ingenious manufactures amongst them, no arts, no sciences. On the other hand, the most rude and barbarous of the whites, such as the ancient Germans, the present Tartars, have still something eminent about them, in their valour, form of government, or some other particular. Such a uniform and constant difference could not happen, in so many countries and ages, if nature had not made an original distinction betwixt these breeds of men. Not to mention our colonies, there are Negroe slaves dispersed all over Europe, of which none ever discovered any symptoms of ingenuity; tho?low people, without education, will start up amongst us, and distinguish themselves in every profession. In Jamaica indeed they talk of one negroe as a man of parts and learning; but ?is likely he is admired for very slender accomplishments, like a parrot, who speaks a few words plainly.”
Hear Immanuel Kant: “At the risk of arousing the resentment of my brothers of colour, I shall say that the Black is not a human… The human is not just a possibility of reprise, of negation… The Black is a black man; that is to say that as the result of a series of aberrations of affect, [the black man] is established at the core of a universe from which he must be extricated… We propose nothing less than the liberation of the man of colour from himself. We shall go very slowly, because there are two camps: the white and the black. Tenaciously, we shall interrogate the two metaphysics, and we shall see that they are frequently extremely solvent.”
John Locke was one of the greatest philosophers of Europe. He wrote that all people are born free, and the attempt to enslave any person creates a state of war (as opposed to the state of nature). Yet Locke himself invested in slavery and wrote laws for Carolina in 1669, which granted absolute power over slaves. This conflict is not Locke’s alone; it represents the national conflict of theory and practice, of espousing freedom while profiting from the slave traffic. Thomas Jefferson who wrote the American constitution saying all men are created equal, also kept slaves and had children by them whom he denied, and went ahead to make laws against freedom for slaves ,even against any white woman who had a child by a negro. He later wrote in his book “Notes on Virginia” that Africans are intellectually inferior and cannot understand mathematics.
In 1862, as found in several speeches and autobiographies, Abraham Lincoln said, “I can conceive of no greater calamity than the assimilation of the Negro into our social and political life as our equal?
Walter Russell in his book on the Congo called Africans ‘savage’.
Dalzel, the writer, prefaced his work with an apologia for slavery: ” Whatever evils the slave trade may be attended withit is mercyto the poor wretches, whowould otherwise suffer from the butcher? knife.”
The dehumanised manner in which people began to see Africans began when Lok by way of force and other means brought 20 Africans to England. Since then, as Dorothy Hammond and Alta Jablow write, Europeans got used to seeing Africans as inferior and fit only for the chains. It is no wonder that in 1814 Sara Baartmen was taken to France, and became the object of exhibition, scientific and medical research that formed the bedrock of European ideas about black female sexuality. She died the next year. But even after her death, Sara Baartman remained an object of imperialist scientific investigation. In the name of science, her sexual organs and brain were displayed in the Musee de l’Homme in Paris until as recently as 1985.
It was the same fate that befell Ota Benga who was taken to the United States in 1906 as object of curiosity and placed in a zoo among monkeys, chimpanzees and other wild animals. The exhibition was attractive to the whites. New York Times of September 18, 1906, in a piece entitled, “Ota Benga: The Pygmy in the Zoo, said, “There were 40,000 visitors to the park on Sunday. Nearly every man, woman and child of this crowd made for the monkey house to see the star attraction in the park – the wild man from Africa. They chased him about the grounds all day, howling, jeering, and yelling. Some of them poked him in the ribs, others tripped him up, all laughed at him.”
As I am talking today animated cartoons of Ota Benga are still a star attraction in the US.
Exhibition of Africans in European cities as animals was common in the 19th century. Even to this day it persists. About this time last year in Ausburg Zoo in Bavara the world rose up against exhibition of Africans. And a court in that state upheld the decision to do that. In the United Kingdom, similar exhibits were planned in London and Seattle. Germany, in late 19th and early 20th centuries, exhibited Africans in its country as wild animals and put them in unfriendly conditions and fed them poorly. Most of them died.

Effects of Western Science and Worldview on the World

European prejudices against Africa were based on a number of false theories and myths. Especially, the sciences chief of whom was Darwinism, the theory established by Charles Darwin who in his famous work, On the Origin of species?states, among other things, the law of natural selection and survival of the fittest.
For the writers of this period thus used the theory to look at Africa as a land of monkeys, apes and immobility.
Another doctrine of the age which influenced their writing was Gobinism. This propounds the theory of the inequality of races as proclaimed by the Comte Gobineay. According to him, only the white race is capable of creating culture and that there is a grading among races, which can be easily proved by history, anthropology and philology. Of course, the white race is again at the top of this grade. But this time, the Aryans are innately superior; but the Germanic race, not the so-called Germans, are the pure race. Again, other races are under the white race.
Next is Levy-Brhul? ideas which divided the world, that Europeanised are civilised, without telling us how and why he went ahead to study what he called the thought process of savage and primitive. The primitive thought is not intellectual. He is an animal, along with his religion.
Quoting the missionary, W. H. Bentley? Pioneering in the Congo, he writes, “The African, Negro or Bantu, does not think, does not reflect, does not reason, if he can avoid itdrawing up a plan seriously of using inductive reasoning-that is beyond him.”
Western countries have a reason for seeing people of colour as inferior. It is based on certain factors found in their world view. The European worldview is best revealed in the Papal Bull of Alexander VI, which granted by right the lands of the “new world” to Spain and Portugal for the “spread of the Catholic faith.” This document reveals both Church and State? belief in the legal and divine right of the powerful to take the lands of the less powerful. Europeans saw themselves as the superior culture bringing civilisation to an inferior culture… For the Europeans the beliefs of the native peoples were pagan. As noted by Renny Golden in Dangerous Memories and Cultural Resistance, the impetus which drove the invading wars was the desire to expand empire; accumulate treasure, land and cheap labour. According to him, the worldview which converted bare economic self interest into noble, even moral, motives was a notion of Christianity as the one redemptive religion which demands fealty from all cultures. It for this reason that over 10 millions Africans were killed in the Congo by King Leopold of Belgium. For this over 20 million African slaves were sold for over 351 years, of which up to 20% of those chained in the holds of the slave ships died before they even destination. In Europe, slavery was often justified by the state on philanthropic grounds. They argued that Africans taken into captivity could then be “saved” by conversion to Christianity.
However, Europe did not have a monopoly on slavery. Muslim traders also exported as many as 17 million slaves to the coast of the Indian Ocean, the Middle East, and North Africa.
Some historians say that between the years 1500 and 1900, five million African slaves were transported via the Red Sea, the Sahara and East Africa to other parts of the world.
In Africa, unknown numbers of people – according to some estimates at least four million – died in wars and forced marches before ever being shipped to another continent.
It is this worldview that led to the extermination of six million Jews in Germany. The aborigines in Australia, Native Americans, among others. This worldview shaped apartheid, and the colonial policies of Europe on their colonies, even when they wanted to grant independence. For example, through the eyes and experiences of a British citizen and former colonial officer (1955-1960) familiar with the creation of Nigeria and the surrounding politics, we learn finally what went wrong with Nigeria at least from the British side. Treachery is one compelling theme throughout Mr. Harold Smith’s writings–the treachery of the British government at the time, demonstrated by helping rig the first elections in Nigeria in 1959, in the favour of Northern Nigeria , among other evils,
That led to the war against Biafra, resulting in the starvation of two million Biafrans; continuing meddling in the affairs of the failing country of Nigeria.
Does this remind us of Rwanda? As the United Nations agreed, the war in Rwanda was neglected while attention was focused on European war in Yugoslavia. Before Rwanda could be remembered, over 800,000 lives had been lost. And to think that it was the German and Belgian colonisers who through their policies with the ethnic groups triggered this genocide.

Image of Africa before Slavery
I am not saying that all western writers and thinker saw africans objects to oppress or humour. For example, Mark Twain, objecting to the wat blacks were treated, said, “In many countries we have chained the savage and starved him to deathin many countries we have burned the savage at the stakewe have hunted the savage and his little children and their mother with dogs and gunsin many countries we have taken the savage? land from him, and made him our slave, and lashed him everyday, and broken his pride and made death his only friend, and overworked him till he dropped in his tracks?
Again, he writes:

Whenever remember Hitler? six millions and the gas chambers at Dachau, we should in fairness remember the most Christian King Leopold11? 10 million Congolese of a half century earlier, and his pyramids of choffed-off hands and feet

There are many humorous things in the world, among them the white man? notion that he is less savage than other savages.
Another writer, Chaumel, explains why te writers chjose to write about africa negatively thus:

If you tell them simply that over there you eat and skinny haunch of a kid, you are called imbecile and you fail to arouse their interest?If we tell the truth, no one wants to believe us.

Poor European perception of Africa was not in vogue in the ancient days. Because as noted by Apuleius, in his book, The Golden Ass, through poem, A Vision of Isis, the Africans developed the clearest concept of science based on laws of nature, alone. Homer supports this in his Odyssey that the world? first scientists were Africans. Europeans claim that their science came through the Greeks, from Egypt, which is undoubtable a part of Africa nearest to them. But the ancient Egyptians, in turn claim that the origin of their civilisation is from the deep, inside of Africa.
Horton, in his West African Countries and Peoples and A Vindication of the African Race, published in 1868, says ancient Africa was nursery of science and literature, a teaching popular in Greece and Rome, such that it is said ancient Greeks modelled their goddess of wisdom-Minerva, as an African princess. Pilgrimages were made to Africa in search of knowledge by such eminent men as Solon, Plato, Pythogoras. Several others came to listen to the African Euclid, then head of the then most mathematical school in the world and who flourished 300 years before the birth of Christ. The Great African conqueror, Hannibal, made his closest friend and confidant, the African poet, Terence, who was taken to Rome and educated there. It is written that the “the young African soon acquired reputation for talent he displayed in his comedies.”
Many people today deny that Origen, Tertullian, Augustine, Clemens Alexandrinus, and Cyril, fathers and writers of the ancient church, were twany African bishops of apostolic renown. But many eminent writers and historians agree that these ancient Ethiopians were Negroes.
Herodotus, who travelled in Egypt, as well other writers, settled the question that they were Africans. Herodutus describes them as woolly-haired blacks, with projecting lips. The people of Colchis, he says, were ?lack in complexion and wooly haired. “
Even the sphinx, excavated by M. Vagila has its face ?f the Negro cast.” The statement adds that “If it be not admitted that these nations were black, they were undoubtedly of very dark complexion, having much of the Negro physiognomy, as depicted in ancient Egyptian sculpture and painting, and from them the Negro population and indeed Africa, have sprung. Say not, then, I repeat it, that Africa is without her heraldry science and fame?” . Africans once governed Egypt attacked the most famous and flourishing city, Rome, had universities, churches and centres of learning and science.
Further confirmation of these statements is illustrated in the word, chemistry. The modern chemist is not aware that the word “chemistry” meant “black man’s science.” According to Philip Emeagwali, the computer wizard and one of the fathers of the Internet, the word chemistry was derived from the word “Kemet”. Kemet is the ancient name for the land of Egypt. Kemet translates as “land of the blacks.”
Isaac Asimov, in one his books called “Biographical Encyclopedia of Science,” confirms that mathematics, science and technology are the gift of ancient Africans to the modern world. The book confirms that an African named Imhotep is the Father of Medicine; that an African is the Father of Architecture, first scientist in recorded history, that the earliest Greek scientists were educated in Africa by Africans. That they lived and worked in Africa. That they were even born in Africa. Emeagwali tells of the oldest mathematics textbooks called the Rhind, Moscow and Berlin papyri. The ancient papyri are our primary source of information about the mathematics of Nile Valley civilisation. A page from Ahmes papyrus which is about one foot tall and 18 feet long. This book was renamed

Hello world!

January 8, 2007

Biographical detail

Rightly regarded as one of the new Nigeria’s most visible literary voices, Uduma Kalu is highly a anthologised writer and multiple award winner. Born in Isiugwu Ohafia, Abia State of Nigeria in 1968, Kalu worked as Assistant Plant Clerk and freelance journalist before studying English at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, where he won some literary prizes including the University’s First Prize for Poetry in 1995. He founded the Writers’ Forum at the University and served the University in various capacities as Public Relation’s Officer and Editorial Member both at the Department of English and the Undergraduates’ Press Club, publishers of Panda Magazine, the most influential general interest magazine in that University . He served The Muse, described as the oldest student journal in Africa by Professor Bernth Lindfors, as Editorial Member. He was at various times Features, Arts and Sports Editor of a private newspaper, The Key Newspaper, based in Akure, Ondo State, Nigeria after which he became a prolific and insightful literary contributor to Daily Champion, Vanguard, The Guardian, The Sun, Nigeria Today, The Source Magazine among others where he established his voice as one of the most reputable and pioneer critics of the new Nigerian literature.
Kalu was to strengthen this position after obtaining his Master Degree at the University of Ibadan and when he worked at the Champion Newspaper and later joining The Guardian, in 1999 to edit this Nigeria’s most authoritative newspaper’s Literature and Book Page. So far Kalu, through his writing and other contributions is known as a cultural activist. An advocate of a better deal for the arts and culture in Nigeria, in 2002, he was the only Nigerian delegate to the 25th Anniversary of the late Steve Biko where the eminent novelist , Professor Chinua Achebe, delivered lectures in Cape Town and Johannesburg. A public intellectual and speaker, Kalu has been invited to similar engagements in the USA and Germany, the latest being as keynote
speaker at the International Autobiographical
Association (IABA) Conference, 2006 in Mainz, Germany. He has continued to win other prizes such as the 2000 MUSON Prize for Poetry, Nigerian Merit Media Award, Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA), May Ayim International Black Literature Prize, Germany, among others.
As a journalist, Kalu has covered events at the Nigerian government’s State House, Aso Rock, Abuja, and others on former Presidents Nelson Mandela, and his wife, Graca from their Cape Town home in South Africa; Shehu Shagari; former Commonwealth Secretary General, Chief Emeka Anyaoku, the famous novelist, Chinua Achebe, the Nobel Laureates, Wole Soyinka and Nadine Gordimer, the black activist, Steve Biko, politics, arts, etc. His scoop on the return of Achebe to Nigeria after nine years in exile in 1999 brought to international limelight.
Kalu is a highly anthologised poet. He is among
those published in Camouflage: Best Contemporary
Nigerian Writers, 25 New Nigerian Poets, edited by Ishmael Reed and Toyin Adewale, May Ayim
Anthology, Omabe, Okike, Voices in the Volcano, among others.
Some References: http://www.africadatabase.org
http://www.nigeria-arts.net/Literature/Poetry/Uduma_Kalu/
http://www.zoominfo.com/people/
http://www.nigeriansinamerica.com/authors/22/Uduma-Kalu
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Nigerian_writers


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.