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Arts/Literary

Odum Egege: Allegory Of N’Delta Question (I)

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Being a paper presented by Adagogo Brown of the Humanties Department Rivers State College of Arts and Science, Port Harcourt at a seminar organised by the department, recently.

Literature, in the main, is fictive and includes poems, narratives and dramas. These forms are imitations or fictive representations of some types of “natural discourse”. This explains why literature is seen as a reflection of society. It is from this point that Miesoinuma Minima’s Odum Egege  can be appreciated as a work of art that tries to capture political, social and economic activities and relationship between the Azumini (Ndoki) and the Opobo (Ibani) peoples of the Oil Rivers in the 19th century. Conflict eventually arose from the relationship when the economic survival of the trading nations was threatened. Minima puts it clearly:

King Jaja has persuaded his alapu (chiefs) that military actions against rebellious countries and the condemnation of Odum Egege to death were informed by a sense of duty and the desire to check the menace of the white man and make the state survive.

Odum Egege and his people, it must be noted, also asked for survival by trying to assert and protect what they felt was their inalienable rights. Survival, a fundamental human issue, is often the raison d’etre for various human actions even though there can be no unanimity of opinion as to the extent, in given situations, to which those actions are just and justifiable or morally acceptable.

Ordinarily, one would not have bothered to go beyond.

Miesoinuma Minima’s play in the search. However, this has to be done in order to show the importance of the question of the vulgar Marxist: Does it or doesn’t it contribute to the reality and the cause· of the present social truth among contemporary Africans by insisting (vulgar Marxit style) that literature, as part of ideological superstructure, must divorce itself from the luxury of art for art’s sake and ally itself with the Marxist dictum that art, as an instrument in the class struggle, must be a reflection of the basic economic struggle?

In order to reflect this basic economic struggle by the Niger Delta people in contemporary Nigeria, Miesoinuma Minima carefully explores the literary technique of allegory, ‘An allegory’ according to M. H. Abrams, “is a narrative in which the agents and actions, and sometimes the settings as well, are contrived both to make coherent sense on the ‘literal’, or primary level of signification, and also to signify a second, correlated order of agents, concepts and events.”

To achieve this meaning, Miesoinuma Minima selects agents, actions and settings that are able to convey and make both literal and figurative senses. Beyond this, Odum Egege is also an historical and political allegory, “in which the characters and actions that are signified literally, in turn signify, or “allegorise” historical personages and events. These historical events revolve around King Jaja of Opobo and Odum Egege of Azumini. In all of these, most important, is my perception and summary of Odum Egege as an allegory of ideas, in which the literal characters represent abstract concepts and the plot serves to communicate a doctrine or thesis. These literary concepts and plot are seen in the events surrounding the relationship between the contemporary people of the Niger Delta and the Nigerian State. From all perspectives of allegory, Odum Egege is a statement on the political, economic and social relationship between the people of Niger Delta and the Nigerian State. It is a statement which has economy, derivation, resource control and survival as themes. For me, Odum Egege is all about, struggle for survival which is also a reflection of the Niger Delta question.

From the Marxist stand point, Odum Egege can be seen as a work that does not only advance some social revolution in Nigeria but also reflects the reality and present social truth of the Nigerian State, What Odum Egege tries to do, as can be seen from the point of view of Terry Eagleton, … is to deliver the story of the struggles of men nd woomen to the free themselves from certain forms of exploitation and oppression.

The play opens with a protest scene in front of Nna Odum Egege’s house. The people of Azumini, whose livelihood is dependent on farming, complain of how they are exploited in produce trade by the Opobo people. The awareness and agony of deprivation is felt in the voice of Chijioke:

Imagine! Today my household went to the market with loads of goods: pots and pots of oil; baskets of kernel; eggs; two fat rams; ten cock; five hens; heaps of plantain and bananas. (Demonstrating) only these panga full of oporo, these akasa sunju, some quantity of salt, two packets of biscuit that I received in exchange …. (pi).

The complaint of Chijioke is only one out of several others including an old woman who receives unfair and raw deal in the hands of Opobo traders. This unfair deal is an understatement of exploitation and disposession of the Azumini people by Opobo people.

To be continued.

 

Adagogo Brown

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Social/Kiddies

How To Keep Kids Safe

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Raising a child in this digital era is not easy.  Children can easily hurt themselves as it is part of growing up.  This means that parents should do their best to keep them from preventable accidents.
A lot has to be done for parents to achieve that.  Parents must set up basic safety rules and regulations for their children to abide by.
We are aware that parenting can be stressful but abiding by experts advice can help achieve that.
It is necessary to take photographs of  children before they get to a  place with large number of persons.
A place like Pleasure Park, or any other tourist centre which might be crowded   can be an example.  Children from many homes can look alike and may want to leave with others as soon as they become friendly in such places that have large-volume attendance.
If you are not careful, some may also walk across the roads and walk into moving vehicles.  In as much as parents do not wish that happens to their children, it is better to be prepared in case it happens.
According to experts, a parent can take a picture of her child before visiting an amusement park or attending a birthday party.
When a parent does that, you can have a picture of how children are and the kind of attire put on that very day in case the children get lost.
If it is a tourist centre for instance, the parent will show the childrens’ picture to the authorities concerned and it will make it easier and more effective.
During parties and outdoor visits, watch what your children consume because they will like to taste every delicacy prepared.
Allow them take only the quantity they can consume.  Some may not be used to a lot of dishes and drinks especially in-house prepared drinks and juice.
The effect of excess consumption might be when you finally return home for a rest and the children begin to react to food poison.
Domestic accidents are easily noticed among kids.  Keeping inflammable substances away from children is important.
An incident occurred where a four-year-old boy stroke a stick of matches into a jerry can that contains petrol at the corridor of his house.  This got their entire residential building into flames.
However, the kid had minor burn as his elder siblings together with him escaped through the back door from the kitchen.
Children should be discouraged from using candle light.
Gas cylinders must be tightly closed when not in use as they can turn it on when not in use.
Washing detergents like bleach, hypo and others must be out of reach of children because they may take them as water.

By: Eunice Choko-Kayode

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Arts/Literary

Exploits Of Nigerian Writers On Global Stage …As Other African Countries Dominate Literary Prizes In 2021

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In spite of all the numerous problems bedevilling the Nigerian literary scene, it could be said that Nigerian literature has come a long way, considering the teeming number of writers that have emerged and the giant achievements of writers China Achebe and Sole Soyinka.
Achebe’s legendary Things Fall Apart has been translated into about 50 languages globally. Soyinka, on the other hand, has done Africa proud by winning the Nobel Prize in 1986. Nigerian writers of the new generation have equally pushed Nigerian literature to the pinnacle by winning some of the most prestigious literary prizes.
Ben Okri won the Booker prize for his The Famished Road in 1991, Helon Habila, Segun Afolabi and E.C Osondu, won the Caine Prize for their Prison story, Monday Morning and Waiting, respectively.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie has, like Habila, won the Commonwealth Prize for Literature. She has well won the Orange Prize with her novel, Half of a Yellow Sun.
Beyond setting international literary standards, Nigerian writers have also succeeded more than any group in the country in exporting our culture and tradition to other part of the world. This fact was eloquently stressed by the renowned literary critic, Professor Charles E. Nnolim.
According to him, “Nigeria today stands tall before the international community because of the collective endeavours of her writers that some of the world’s biggest literary awards, including the Nobel, Booker and Goncourt have gone to Africans this year is a sign of the continent’s emergence as a major force in publishing and a region with a direct line to the pressing questions of our time.
“We are witnessing a reawakening of interest in Africa among the European literary world”, said Xavier Garnier, who teaches African literature at Sorbonne in Paris. He described the string of awards for Africans as “Striking”.
They include Tanzania’s Abdulrazak Gurnah becoming a Nobel laureate, South Africa’s Damon Galgut winning Britain’s Booker Prize and 31-year-old Senegalese Mohamed Mbougar Sarr becoming the first writer from sub-Saharan Africa to win France’s top literary award, the Prix Goncourt.
That’s not all, Senegalese writers won this year’s International Booker (David Diop) and Prix Neustadt (Boubacar Boris Diop) while Portugal’s Prix Canoes went to Paulina Chiziane of Mozambique.
These are not token gestures by prize committees to look relevant, experts say. Rather, as Garnier put it, they reflect the Western industry finally recognising a booming literary scene that “no longer really needs recognition”.
Publishing houses have sprouted across Africa in recent years, along with literary reviews, festivals and regional prizes.
“There’s a huge reading public for African writers, and that’s been underlined during the pandemic when we’ve seen the scale of the community as it shifted online”, said Madhu Krishnan, who teaches African literature at Britain’s Bristol University.
“People don’t come out of nowhere. We just don’t always see these smaller worlds from Europe”.
African literature had a previous heyday in the 1950s and 1960s, though it was tied up with politics and decolonisation, embodied by figures like Senegal’s poet/President Leopold Sedar Senghor.
Today, the themes are much broader and writers less concerned with how they are viewed by outsiders.
We’re seeing more experimentation, ecologically engaged texts, African futurism, There’s a lot more variety – a lot more that isn’t concerned with explaining itself to Western audience.

By: Jacob Obinna

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Arts/Literary

Demystifying Perception Of Africa Through Return Of Artefacts

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A popular Latinate aphorism goes thus: “Lies have short life span”. Interestingly, this aphorism is traceable to a Biblical foundation of truth written in the book of Proverbs 12 verse 19 which says “The truthful lip shall be established forever, a lying tongue is but for a moment”.
This is where the avalanche of a negative appellations and indeed erroneous perceptions of Africans postulated by Eurocentric Scholars readily comes to mind.
For instance, more than 150 years ago, German Scholar George Hegal argued that “Africans were sub humans and the only way they could come to the lower rung on the ladder of humanity was for them to undergo slavery in Europe”.
Apparently, a renowned academic as George Hegal supported and justified slavery.
At this juncture, one may wish to ask, are Africans truly sub human?
Worse still, professor Hugh Trevor Roper in his inaugural lecture in 1963 asserted: “African past is darkness and darkness cannot be subject for historical investigation”.
Professor Hugh Trevor Roper did not mince words when he described African past as “unedifying gyration of barbarous tribes in picturesque but irrelevant comers of the globe”.
As if that was not enough, another Eurocentric writer, David Hume also said “Africa has no ingenious manufacture, no arts, no science”.
David Hume continued to transmit his Vernon when he said again”I am apt to suspect the Negros to be naturally inferior to the white”.
Infact, the film entitled The Birth of a Nation also known as Clansman in 1915 directed by D. W. Griffith made mockery of the backrace by painting Afro-Americans as stupid and further eulogized white supremacy.
There is no gain saying that these negative perceptions of African by eurocentric writers were geared towards justifying slavery and other forms of humiliation of the African race and glory in free labour.
In other words, those eurocentric impressions were and still are deliberate attempts to undermind the invaluable contributions of Africans to humanity.
For instance, the Al-Qarawiyin University, Moroccois reputed to be the oldest University in the world as well as University of Timbuktu, Mali, West Africa which began in the first instance as centres for Islamic Studies.
Today, the return of artefacts to Benin,Edo State and Nigeria at large is an eloquent testimony to the creative ingenuity of Nigerian and Africans at large.
It would be recalled that recently Cambridge University handed over Benin Bronze Cockerel to Nigeria, stolen about 124 years by British Colonial Forces in 1897.
This was followed by the return of Sculpture of Oba of Benin by University of Aberdeen, Scotland.
It is common knowledge that the return of artefacts particularly to Benin,Edo State has been on going but not limited to the examples of Cambridge University and University of Aberdeen.
Records show that on June 20, 2014 at a ceremony held at the palace ground Benin, Edo State, two looted Benin bronzes namely ‘Oro’ described as bird of disaster and gong bell were returned to the Oba of Benin by two Britons Doctor Adrians Mark Walker and Chief Steve Dunstone.
One thing is clear; artefacts are evidences of ancient culture and civilization of a people.
It is an evidence that there was a generation who lived with archaeological evidence of their implement and relics and technology.
In the words of the erudite arts historian and specialist in Nigeria antiquities, Barbara Winston Blackmun (1928-2018), Bronze bell have been cast South-Eastern Nigeria for over 1000 years.
Barbara Blackmun disclosed that the oldest bells have been excavated at Igbo Ukwu East of Benin and dated to the 9th century.
The revelation of no less a scholar Barbara Winston Blackmun predates the ranting and evil postulations of eurocentric writers of 18th and 19th centuries.
It is, therefore, not true of David Hume and his cohort to say that Africa has no ingenuous manufacture, no arts, and no science.
The question agitating the mind of Nigerians and indeed Africans now is, after the return of artefacts,what next?
The Professor of Film Studies University of Port Harcourt, Professor Femi Shaka in an interview posits “The thing about the return of artefacts is that it goes to disprove that Africans have no culture”.
“Most of these looted items are thousands of years in carbon-dating which goes to tell us that Africa had flourishing culture much more advance than that of Europe”.
Another Scholar, a Professor of Textiles and Fashion Design University of Port Harcourt, Professor Pamela Cyril Egbare insists that museum should not be seen as a dumping ground for useless materials. The lesson is that slavery is a bad thing and ignorance is not a good thing”.
According to Mark Olaitan, Curator National Museum and Monument: “One will count it as ignorance on the side of the White who came to our country to loot our property”.
According to him, “By the time, this looted materials got to the outside world, they came to understand that Africa has culture even superior to their own culture”.
As recorded in the Bible book of Romans 10:12 “For there is no distinction between the Jew and Greek for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call on Him.
God created all human beings equal and in His own image.
This is where it becomes pertinent to suggest that Nigerians and indeed African leaders must resist the penchant to playing second fiddle by begging their counterparts in America and Europe for aid.
Nigeria must rise up and take advantage of the returned artefactesto reconstruct a new national pride and entrench its big brother role in Africa Diplomacy.
Nigeria must rise up and articulate a new world order and march Europe and America, science for science and culture for culture.
Professor Femi Shaka cited above, advised the Federal Government to put in place institutional infrastructure for the maintenance of these artefacts” such as world standard museum and training of man power.
According to Mr. Mark Olaitan, Curator, National Museum and Monument, Port Harcourt: “The return of artefacts will heal many a wound inflicted by the expedition by British colonial forces and further build the broken walls of relations between Africa and the West”.
In the words of Professor Pamela Cyril Egbare, “The National Museum and Monument should learn to open up to the public; let people know that tourism is good while government must create the needed awareness on the returned artefacts, advertise on national radio, Tv, because artefacts are revenue earner and promoter of tourism”.
The time to act is now.

By: Baridorn Sika
Baridorn Sika is a broadcast Journalist and Public Affairs Analyst
Email: bscommunication@yahoo.com.
Tel: 08033409667.

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