New African Writers
|A magazine of ideas and
literature from Africa
March 2005 -
THE NIGERIA OF MY DREAM
Joseph K.Olatunbosun, [An academic/journalist]
A dream simply put is something which one seems to
see or experience during sleep,a state of mind in which things going on
around one seem unreal, it can also be mental picture of the future
.Nigeria came into existence courtesy of the then colonial Governor :Sir
Lord Luggard in 1914 ;since then till today, the country has been in
series of civil and economic turmoils in superordinate dimension. No
patriotic and god-fearing citizen of Nigeria will be proud of epileptic
power and dry taps after four decades as an independent nation. No
right-thinking citizen will ever wish that public primary schools will
be plagues by now, secondary and tertiary-institutions are now breeding
grounds for teenage and matured cultists armed-robbers, enlightened and
democratic prostitutes and other social-miscreants. How can our
post-independence public-hospitals become absurd clinics and
mini-mortuaries? How come this nation is now a palatial mansion for
idlers, fraudsters and world-class economic terrorists and political
hijackers?Why would Nigeria become a place where civil, academic and
once immeasurably-embarrassing Police-threatening strikes are no longer
news? Our beloved giant of Africa is still a place where good and
comfortable privileges of modern-world belong to the very few class of
the super- rich. A nation where basic amenities of life such as food,
clothes and decent accommodation are for the very minimal wealthy-mogul
of the class of fraudulent contractors, opportunistic retired military
officers and coup-generals, pocket- induced militicians and 19th
Century politicians, satanic and sadistic capitalist exploiters,
materialistic religious leaders and their dubious acolytes.
People say there is no place like home, but I
strongly affirm that your home is where your heart is many Nigerians
hearts are really and unfortunately not in Nigeria. You go to Embassies
to challenge my above assertion. Nigerians have no business queueing for
Visas of emigration to anywhere on this globe. Social critics world-wide
are rebels and unpatriotic rabble-russers. In a critical letter I
wrote of Nigeria while a sojourner in one ECOWAS country; some
overzealous Nigerians in literary, verbal and physical assaults
victimized me. Frankly speaking,the Nigeria present structure is a
purified political and economic sickler, a sleeping giant that must be
up from dangerous slumber and misadventure.
A country of globally acclaimed statesmen,
world-class scholars, inventors and scientists, literary-giants of
several Nobel-laurretts, economic and business gurus, sports-superstars
,etc can not be a leper among comity of nations.
The Nigeria of my dream is not a place of daily
retrenchments, unpaid and delayed salaries, weekly galloping inflation,
vivid abject mass-poverty grounded railways and pot-holes death-traps
called roads. Very recently, on journalism assignment, I sadly witnessed
at Murtala Mohammed International Airport; the gory sights and gloomy
faces of Nigerian deportees from Libya, where most of them have no
business staying if all is well at home. The Nigeria of my dream is
where equity, justice, transparency and other virtues prevail. A nation
where power supply remains uninterrupted, where masses will not be on
monthly new-pricing of petroleum products. A nation where qualitative
and cult-free education is taken for granted. Where quality health
services is not for the opulence. A Nigeria of good roads ,abundant food
supply and exportation ,functioning industries and refineries producing
at full capacities.
I wish for a Nigeria of economic and technological
super-power, a nation where
etc ,shall become history .A nation of natural and human resources to
take her proper pre-eminent position in the world. I longed to have a
country where unity, faith, peace and progress will not only be a
national emblem .I dream of Nigeria among the [G-10: Industrialized,
lending nations by 2020].A nation of hope and tranquility free from
religious mayhems, economic retrogression ,political quaqmire and ethnic
pogrom.I strongly believe all right thinking Nigerians will wish for a
nation their progenitors will proudly call their own anytime ,anywhere.
May God answer our prayers for a BETTER NIGERIA!!!.
Journeying into the unknown,
Journeying into the deep soil,
Into a trunk, which has been
Uprooted and stripped off itâ€™s branches
Removed from its natural soil,
And thrust into a cold and bitter
Climate of an unknown land
Journeying into the unknown
Journeying to imagine the unimaginable
Journeying to confront my fears,
To recover my motherland,
The tired, colonized soul of
We have come,
We have journeyed home
We have come to embrace our motherland
Forgive me if I do not understand
Nor speak my mother tongue,
For we have been away for too long
Forgive me if I do not answer
When you hail my name,
The name that mista smith gave me has a
Different tone, an unfamiliar beat
To the name that you persistently call me with,
Like a frightened mother who screams for her lost child
And only to hear the echoes of her own voice
Journeying into the pit of my soul
Journeying to recover my stolen identity
Journeying to recover what humanity
Stripped off my flesh
We were stolen,
Captured like hunted antelopes
Only this hunter had no love,
Nor respect for the hunted
We were herded onto a boat
And shipped of to an unknown destination
A land that had no sunshine,
A climate that is so cold it cracked my
Soft skin and offered no shea butter
To grease my cracked wounds
We have come
We have survived
We have come to give thanks to those
Who lost their lives on the journey
And to those who were not captured
But whoâ€™s heart were forcibly pieced
With Kaigamaâ€™s arrow
Forgive as if we do not bear our tribal marks,
Forgive me if my hips do not move
Ceremoniously to the drumbeat,
For I am of mixed breed,
Part British part Spanish
I am the descendant of a slave girl
A property that mista smith could
Enjoy at his convenience
A property that he could explore the
Benefits of my hips, my upright breasts
And the rhythmic beats of my waistbeads
I heard you cry out
I cried back
I was your untouched child,
But I became mista smithâ€™s property
Part of his wealth and livestock
And a property cannot be RAPED
Hush, do not weep
We have survived we have journeyed HOME
Ah Obataan pa due, demirifa due
Due ne amanehunu!
Jennifer Maame Prempeh
Copyright Â© 2003
Date: 3rd Feb., 2003.
By Philip Njoku, from Nigeria
In celebration of African Literature
Africa, is a rich and colourful tapestry of ethnic groups-an intricate
mosaic of cultures, religious, and social rituals. However, it is also a
Tower of Babel of innumerable languages and dialects. If Africa is to
develop its unique identity through writing, understanding and respect for
its diversity, we must make African Literature the cynosure of all eyes.
Audiences of today focus upon the sensational action, the violence, the
loss, the terror. Individually our lives are redirected, our worlds
reshaped, and our images warped. While wary of the danger of change, we
human beings surrender daily to exploitation of values, opportunities, and
sensitivity. The evolution has brought us to the point that we believe
little of what is presented to us as good and valuable; instead, we opt for
suspicion and disbelief, demanding proof and something for nothing. There in
lies the danger lurking for the African writer seeking to break into the
market of today.
During the 1970â€™s not only was a great deal of good work being done on
African literature, but the work was being accepted as legitimate
scholarship by the profession of literature had become a celebration of
regional patriotism and local colour. Of significant mention in this
discourse are the torch-bearers of African writing in the persons of Chinua
Achebe, Wole Soyinka, Ngugi wa Thiong o, Leopold Senghor, Kofi Awoonor,
Gabriel Okara, John Pepper Clarke, Camara Laye, and numerous others. By the
next two decades, there evolved an expertise in critiquing the African
Writer that involved being able to se beyond the simplicity of language and
the scope of the area into the deep and passionate emotions, that are
typical in Africa. That means that the leading writers on the scene led the
profession into the great days of African Renascence, or Renaissance, which
lasted for about twelve years. These writers were in their forties and
fifties, and there seemed to be no one of significance coming along to take
their places. What had once set Africa and its literature apart from the
rest of the world, both for the good and the not so good, was now on the
verge of extinction, Literary imagination was fast loosing vitality. The
novel appeared to be a dead art from, and a new form, the nonfiction novel,
was being groomed to take its place.
This has not become the case, however. In fact during the past decade, there
occurred a veritable explosion of important and interesting young writers â€“
African novelists â€“ ranging in age from 40 to 30 and even to 20. Their books
were read and reviewed not only everywhere in African, but abroad as well.
And, to the surprise of all the so-called nonfiction novel, not the novel,
was about to die.
Not enough time has passed to estimate how long this â€œRenaissance of
Renaissanceâ€� will last; however, with the important writings coming out of
Africa in the 1990s, the reasoning is that the promise is as real today as
it was in those early years.
Younger scholars have begun to realize the importance of African Literature
and are selecting parts of it for their these, dissertations, essays, and
even books. New writers continue to emerge. One of the virtues of African
literary study during the past forty years has been its involvement in
contemporary writing and contemporary writers, and its merging of criticism
with historical scholarship. The writing while anchored in reality is free
of never-never land. There is a recognition and a need to explore both the
continuity and the change. Tradition is not dead; it is alive and well in
MASTER OF THE
pride in his wake,
laughter hued in his fiery
gyrates in a tippling dance
dexterity of a champion
wings on his heels, he
people, says the drum.
round; thank the gods and
Let go of
that which breaks your heart.
waves on raging waters,
Aso-Oke blankets him whole,
woven locks; sango-styled.
Characteristically, he beats the drum
as one possessed with new wine,
tumultuously like a typhoon,
rhythms only the gods could know:
His name is
known abroad: ONIGANGA,
MASTER OF THE
beater and custodian of the age-old
instrument of cultural lineageâ€¦
women, come listen to the sound
plays; cluster round
And listen to
the words of the drummer:
thruâ€™ the thickness of all hearts.
your feelers that you may taste
for itâ€™s as fresh palm wine
On the tongue
of one sore thirsty.
your drum be your tongue:
master of the talking drum,
will dance with little restraint and
run with the rhythm your beating.
surround him, chanting high.
parents, too, are not left out. The trees
the soul of the music
And the winds
beat against the rocksâ€¦
is caught in the throb of the moment.
summons us all to a feast,
A feast where
bliss may no boundary
Or race knowâ€¦
Idowu Otorishe Addison
Copyright Â© 2003
The Voice of the Gods
The gods call...
their voices drenched in blood
echo from the dept of the River
in the Delta
whence the dislocation
was initiated in the blood of our kinsmen
The blood soaked voice sailed
across three hundred years
to where our lost tribes men
now pitch their tents
But our brothers have lost their flat nose
the clay of their making
mixed with everything but clay
blood mixed with everything but blood
Now the gods call
their voices fall on strange ears
Ears dislocated from the mysticism
of being African...the gods call.
Copyright Â© 2003
Outstanding amidst others in the beautiful garden,
the tree of love is imposing and alluring.
With such strong magnetic pull as no one can resist,
all is attracted to eat of its enticing fruit.
My son, to my counsel take heed and you shall live.
Indeed great and small, young and old,
the religious and the infidel,
from every tribe and tongue,
creed and race;
none seemed able to resist its awesome power.
None was spared its spell.
A tree of love there really is ---
And so societyâ€™s magazines, movies and music
manifested this madness,
and fashion and friends found flair
in forcing a fruit on one,
with every culture craving a bite,
tradition totally ignored.
--- in a faraway land called Matrimony.
Then she came along like a fair fairy
with large light brown eyes
and long, full, fluttering lashes
like a birdâ€™s wings;
flaunting her body, beauty and brains.
I fell like a pack of cards.
you waited so long.
The curious seed of desire
long has germinated;
its roots reaching down
to the depth of my soul,
inflaming me with its essence
even before â€œfair fairyâ€� came along.
Lie they do, the agents of the tree!
For mute they kept
About the sudden, lingering sourness
Of the fruit
After a sweetness brief.
The fruit is bad!
The tree not of love
But an evil imposter.
It flourishes on the sorrow of men,
And feeds on the life of their
My soul is bound
to one to whom I have made no vow
and to everyone else she is bound
and to everyone they are bound.
Now I realize, to my utter despair,
My most precious possession is lost
Forever --- my chastity.
Copyright Â© Sammy Onyegbuna
ESSAYS AND IDEAS - September -
OVERCOMING WHAT DIVIDE:
LITERATURE AND BORDER ISSUES
of English, University of Lagos
conceptualizes situations that make for deeper understanding of people and
societies. African Literature, drawing upon this quality, creates, recreates and
adapts situations that identify and discuss lines and borders in Africa. African
Literature, in this paper, lays claim to all literary works, oral and written,
natural and adapted, types and archetypes, realistic and romantic, mythic and
time bound stories including documentaries, which are of Africa, by Africans and
non-Africans alike, and have emerged from Africa and from Africans in Diaspora.
The specific direction to which the literatures of Africa can make meaningful
contributions to actualizing a truly united Africa (without boundaries) is
conceived to be in as much as they project and consolidate â€˜what uniteâ€™ and
help Africans overcome â€˜what divideâ€™.
in this paper, are issues of common interest to the people of Africa, especially
those that are capable of cementing African unity. These are mostly integral to
interpersonal and group relationships, practices, belief systems, behaviors,
etc. On the other hand, â€˜what divideâ€™ also consist of issues related to
those that unite but in varying degrees of disparities and non-agreement,
undermine common interest and unity in Africa. In addition to these are also
natural phenomena and land marks. They generally form lines and divides commonly
acknowledged as boundaries.
borders and lines (of demarcation) exist at two major levels of human
interaction, namely; the visible and the invisible. The visible is the physical
or geographical boundary, which literature captures through the artistic
technique of setting, and then the invisible is the non-physical boundary,
depicted in themes, attitudes of characters and atmosphere (as setting). Both
levels of projection of boundaries have functional ways of highlighting â€˜the
othernessâ€™ or differences. At the physical level, this shows in landscapes,
locales, persons and groups of persons, while at the non-physical level,
â€˜othernessâ€™ manifests in actions, attitudes and manners of characters, among
other issues. The physical and non-physical are basically different in
appearance. While the former is concrete, like brick walls, mountains, hills,
seas, lakes rivers valleys etc, and can thus appeal directly to human senses
with which the human being interacts with external world; the later is more or
less abstract like thought, imagination, race, language color, (to a lesser
extent) belief systems, culture etc and appeals more to deep feeling of the
human being. While the former can be rationally discerned, the later is more
emotionally discerned. Also the former can be erected or demolished at times and
within terms agreed upon by persons or parties concerned, the later, like all
emotional issues, is much more difficult to grapple with because elements of
â€˜the othernessâ€™ are buried deep inside the consciousness and psyche of the
persons or parties concerned.
As the world
moves towards greater co-operation and tolerance, new options are opening up in
relation to boundary management, whether at the visible or invisible level.
Creative African literature is capable of making significant positive
contributions to boundary issues in Africa. By highlighting: â€˜Consolidating
what unite and overcoming what divideâ€™ (1).
Africa has passed
through some peculiar experiences beginning from a supposed savage and barbarian
culture, through the first contacts with aliens that resulted in both trans
Saharan and trans Atlantic slave trades, colonialism, struggles for independence
and the subsequent political independence of African states to the
post-independent dependence of African states on Europe and America. At every
point of these unique African experiences, a number of issues have generated
lines and divides, in form of boundaries, at two main levels already noted above
(physical and non-physical).
It is no longer a
matter for debate or proof that Africa had a past and according to Chinua Achebe
(1975), the past is not one long night of savagery, neither is it like what
Negritude writers (2) projected to the world, a long stretch of Edenic bliss,
where everything was perfect. Whether or not the past was blissful, non-existent
or barbaric may not constitute an issue of debate now, but one thing is clear;
this past paraded a folk tradition. Like all folk cultures, the typical African
society was a folk community and was characterized by native simplicity, more or
less enclosed, lacking in modern sophistication and with minimal external
contacts. (Chimdi Maduagwu, 1997) This might send out a signal that Africa was a
monolithic society or on the other hand that Africa consisted of communities
that were distinct and independent from one another, with â€˜minimal
contactsâ€™. That is not the case. The traditional Africa communities were made
up of people who knew themselves and accepted each other as part of single,
unified large families, who in turn interacted with other similar units.
In the folk
tradition, all human endeavors and activities are marked by native simplicity.
These also include thoughts and impressions of boundaries both at the physical
and non-physical levels. There has always been the natural tendency in the
African, as in all men, to identify and guide what belongs to him, thus there
were, in the remote past, â€˜lines and dividesâ€™, but these lines and divides
were very thin and friendly. For instance, families, kindred, clans, tribes were
identified with special physical and non-physical traits from stature,
complexion (physical), manners, occupations, (non-physical) to residential
portions they occupy and farm lands they till etc. Quite often, different folks
appropriated natural phenomena as authentic landmarks, which provided reasonable
boundaries at the physical level. The most prominent natural occurrences that
enhanced boundary erections were rivers and seas, hills and mountains,
remarkable forests and trees, valleys and caves etc.
â€˜natural boundariesâ€™ appear integral to human existence, they however
predate human life in areas where they are found. Virtually, all myths of
creation attest to this. The Judeo-Christian myth posits that the Hebrew God,
Elohim, created the heaven and earth; imposed order on the earth, separated
water from dry land and causing to come into existence level lands and
highlands, valleys and caves, rivers lakes and seas etc (The Bible, Gen:
1). It was after all these that life was founded. This popular myth underscores
the fact that neither God nor nature and super nature erected boundaries per se.
Rather, the human intellect, acting on behalf of Godâ€™s wisdom restructures
creation and recreates a parallel order to the divine order. The new human order
admits boundaries and while it does so, it utilizes the natural landmarks.
writer, Ngugi Wa Thiongâ€™O, in his novel, The River Between (1965), draws
upon oral tradition (myth), to demonstrate how physical structures, of course
natural phenomena, existed before they eventually become strong boundaries which
transcend physical structures to initiate a deep emotional divide:
two ridges lay side by side. One was
Kameno, the other was Makuyu. Between
them was a valley. It was called the valley
of life. Behind Kameno and Makuyu were many
more valleys and ridges, lying without any
discernible plan. They were like many sleeping
lions which never woke. They just slept the deep
sleep of their creator.
artistic consciousness, the valley between Kameno and Makuyu (physical) has been
appropriated by the indigenes to serve as a boundary. Being separated therefore,
by this valley, the two ridges mark out two distinct communities who develop
disparate socio-cultural qualities at the non-physical level. The major element
of divide, in the socio-cultural lives of these communities in Ngugiâ€™s Kenya
is belief system, drawn upon different religions â€“ Christianity and
traditional African worship.
Religion is a
major element, which creates boundaries (at the non-physical level) in Africa.
While Ngugiâ€™s artistic impulse reveals how Christianity, a foreign religion,
clashes with traditional belief system to create a gulf in communities that
hitherto existed in co operation and tolerance, other writers broach the issue
of religion in border determination from some other perspectives. The mythic
consciousness of the Nigeria writer, Wole Soyinka (1965, 1967) establishes a
functional relationship between deities (gods) and human beings but maintains a
â€˜boundaryâ€™. This is another approach to boundary issues. Soyinka is a mythic
symbolist and uses deities to symbolize a class of human beings who wield power
and authority over others. The deities live in â€˜Idanre hillsâ€™ (3), a unique
natural landscape akin to the classical Greek mount Olympus, the abode of gods.
Like their ancient Greek counterparts, Soyinkaâ€™s Yoruba deities also appear to
have been created by human beings. The
different environments in which they dwell suggest there is a boundary between
them and human beings. However, if Soyinkaâ€™s symbolism is stretched out,
Idanre creatures (deities) represent the all powerful and domineering human
beings, who occupy the upper echelon of the societies (the powers that be).
Thus, while at the symbolic level we are faced with a case of a boundary between
deities and human beings, the literal reality is a functional boundary between
human beings (of a kind) and human beings (of another kind) in the same society.
In other words, strong beliefs, supported by some perceived supernatural forces
who consciously or unconsciously engage Literature in addressing boundary
issues, speak of the validity of their own experiences (culture) thus they write
with a high flavor of Anthropology and Social History. According to Boehmer
(1995), â€˜they cast their meaning across a wide textual spectrum, producing
anthropological studies, social history and journalism as well as poetry and
fiction to promote their causeâ€™ (p.100). A general look at their works reveal
that they have common experiences and thus seem to project the same messages,
all of which are deeply anthropological and historical or one may say, cultural.
So African writers explore and adapt their unique experiences in broaching
unique boundary issues. This initiative unravels essential parts of â€˜what
uniteâ€™ and â€˜what divideâ€™. Writers engage subjects and themes, which reveal
different African experiences, for instance, experiences of common history of
slavery, colonization, independence and post-independent dependence (on Europe
200years, Africa has been under various forms of exploitation by Europe and
later, other developed nations of the world. Particularly, European activities
in African have left deep and painful â€˜marksâ€™ on the entire continent and
her people. The most gruesome and traumatic experience is the obnoxious
trans-Atlantic slave trade. All Africa came under this irreverent human ordeal.
Although, Africa had earlier battled with the incursion of Arabs who were
equally slave dealers, but the magnitude of trans-Atlantic experience made a
mockery of the Arabsâ€™ Tran Saharan adventure. Africa is still nursing the
wounds of slavery. Consider this:
IN THE EVERLASTING
MEMORY OF OUR ANGUISHED ANCESTORS
May those who died rest in peace