ARTS AS A TOOL FOR SOCIAL CHANGE: REVIEW OF DUMEBI EZAR EHIGIATOR’S WRECKED

 

 

Title: WRECKED

Author: Dumebi Ezar Ehigiator

Publisher: Winepress Publishing

Number of pages: 201

Year of publication: 2016

Category: Fiction

 

 

 

“Indeed, the moment that an artist takes notice of what other people want, and tries to supply the demand, he ceases to be an artist, and becomes a dull or an amusing craftsman, an honest or dishonest tradesman. He has no further claim to be considered as an artist.”

Oscar Wilde, The Soul of Man under Socialism. Continue reading “ARTS AS A TOOL FOR SOCIAL CHANGE: REVIEW OF DUMEBI EZAR EHIGIATOR’S WRECKED”

DANTALA, THE CAT WITH NINE LIVES: A Review of Elnathan John’s Born on a Tuesday

Title: Born on a Tuesday
Author: Elnathan John
Publisher: Cassava Republic
Number of pages: 261
Year of publication: 2015
Category: Fiction

The problem with such books as Elnathan John’s Born on a Tuesday is that they set higher standards for debut works thereby making things a little bit difficult for aspiring and yet-to-be-published writers. Not a lot of writers can boast of the ability to write in English in a way that readers keep imagining they are dealing with a Hausa story. Continue reading “DANTALA, THE CAT WITH NINE LIVES: A Review of Elnathan John’s Born on a Tuesday”

WHEN THE GODS ARE SLOW TO ACT: A Review of Friday John Abba’s Alekwu Night Dance

Title: Alekwu Night Dance
Author: Friday John Abba
Publisher: Write Words Consulting
Number of pages: 115
Year of publication: 2013
Category: Play

A member of Council, a supposed pillar in the land, is driven by nothing short of envy and malice to the point of contracting a lunatic to deflower the belle of the land. But things go awry and the agent ends up killing her after taking her life. This sacrilege sets off the dark music that forces Alekwu, the deity of the land, to a macabre dance. Continue reading “WHEN THE GODS ARE SLOW TO ACT: A Review of Friday John Abba’s Alekwu Night Dance”

DEATH IN VARYING FORMS: A REVIEW OF OLUBUNMI FAMILONI’S SMITHEREENS OF DEATH

Title: Smithereens of Death

Author: Olubunmi Familoni
Genre: Short Story
Format: Paperback
Extent: 124 pages
ISBN: 978-978-52838-5-3
Publisher: WriteHouse Collective

 

BE WARNED: Olubunmi Familoni’s SMITHEREENS OF DEATH is a bouquet of roses with deathly thorns beneath their lurid gowns. It is a pack of woes and death told beautifully and sometimes humourously.

The book is a collection of twenty-five stories the longest of which (A Man of Himself) is around or just a little over 4, 000 words. Much of the stories are told by a third person, a voyeur, whose eyes pierce through concrete walls and human bodies to the minds of individuals and groups. Continue reading “DEATH IN VARYING FORMS: A REVIEW OF OLUBUNMI FAMILONI’S SMITHEREENS OF DEATH”

A PIERCED HEART: Tunji Olalere‘s Poetry Chapbook (VELVET- BLUE & OTHER UNCERTAINTIES)

If indeed love is that powerful to turn a person into a poet, then lovesickness can turn that person into a sick poet, which I wager is the more dangerous. The persona in this chapbook is lovesick. You should know what to expect. Continue reading “A PIERCED HEART: Tunji Olalere‘s Poetry Chapbook (VELVET- BLUE & OTHER UNCERTAINTIES)”

A Review of Nwachukwu Egbunike’s BLAZING MOON.

In a world where very few are increasingly being looked upon to set the pace for the rest to follow, Blazing Moon jumps onto the stage with the intention of doing the very opposite. From the moment the curtains part and light comes up on stage, we are ushered into a strange world altogether. In this surreal world, imagination is unfettered. Nothing is impossible.
One could rightly guess that the poet deliberately placed MY WORLD as the first poem in this collection in order to clear any misconception that the reader might be tempted to entertain. And as such, one only has oneself to blame if one comes out of Blazing Moon feeling disappointed in any way. The first two lines make that point as clear as day: “Let me take you to my world/ My own creation.” It is important to get one thing clear from the very beginning. At best it is paradisiacal, at worse it is fantastical. But either way, Blazing Moon is worth the time.
A discerning mind wouldn’t miss the politeness in the first line, a politeness which is by no means patronizing nor persuasive. Suffice it to say that this first poem, MY WORLD, is the border at which the reader must pause and decide whether or not he or she really wishes to take that dive into the poet’s world:
“Where the sea washes the streets
And little ones swim in the sands
Where mothers wash on sand banks
and fathers till the seas…”

Moreover, the warning comes early enough as the poet reminds us it is his “own creation”. Perhaps sensing that a few would still be disappointed with this book in one way or another, the poet forewarns us to not expect something of the extraordinary. Simply put, this world of his is one where:

“… so much is unknown, unsaid
where there are no mysteries
no boring into the skies
no flight into the earth.”

And to buttress that fact, the poem, Paint Yours, reminds us that the creator is at liberty to use paint on his canvas according to his discretion. If you are dissatisfied with the end product, instead of “staring and moping” and loving neither “the brush nor canvas”, there is only one thing you can do:
“Paint yours.” (Pp 14)

MY WEAPON is a plot to do mischief; a deliberate scheme to undo certain persons by simply drowning them in their vanities. This poem reminds me of Decius, one of the murderers of Julius Ceaser. At the peak of their plot, the schemers begin to fear that their target might not show up at the Capitol on the ‘D’ day. Decius steps in claiming to know just how to lure Ceaser to the Capitol, assuring his colleagues that he can

“… o’ersway him; for he loves to hear
That unicorns may be betray’d with trees,
And bears with glasses, elephants with holes;
But when I tell him he hates flatterers,
He says he does, being the most flattered.
Let me work;
For I can give his humour the true bent,
And I will bring him to the Capitol…”

The schemer in MY WEAPON is as much a gamesman as Decius. He will
“make them think:
They do better
They say better
They are the best

I’ll make them:
Want their way
Seek their way
Get their way…

Argue when they’re wrong
Argue when they’re right
Argue when they’re neither right nor wrong…”

He intends to fly them too close to the sun until their wings of wax melts and send them crashing down on hard rocks after which he will

“…make news of their failure
I’ll be the megaphone of their defects…
I’ll enslave them with my lies.” (Pp 41)

SMOTHERED TO ASHES is a requiem specifically for Baga but also for all the other war ravaged towns that don’t make it to the news as would Boston or Paris or London. The poem shines light on human (and media) hypocrisy of treating “third world” tragedies differently from that of the “first world”.

“When news broke in Boston
Theirs was an instant reprisal
No speeches made…
Justice was served with no appetizer

Yours was otherwise
Lost in the Savannah of Borno
None to sing of you…”

And while both government and rebel forces keep trading blames and claiming victimhood, Baga is “…Tossed in the middle/ as the sacrifice to the gory god of blood.” We learn that even when it makes the news, it is only for a day before some other news upturns it. But it is the resignation to fate, the learned helplessness in the last stanza that shatters the heart:

“One more
Who cares?
Numbers only create numbness.”

As Joseph Stalin would say: the death of one man is a tragedy, the death of millions is a statistic.

THE TWEET OVERLORD is a beautiful poem. It is a mockery of blind worship and followership; the deification of the 1% by the 99%. The poem mirrors the asymmetrical relationship between idols of the social realm and their fanatical worshipers. This poem makes you wonder: what makes one a god? Is it the ability to stand apart out of the sea of humans? Is it the ability to acquire certain degree of notoriety irrespective of whether it is in a good or a bad way? Otherwise, why would these blind followers be

Amplifying my uncommon sense
Applauding my gaffes
Admiring my imprudence”? (Pp 99)

That has become the trend in this age of hero-worship. I am reminded of Edgar Allan Poe who holds that “No hero-worshiper can possess anything within himself; that man is no man who stands in awe of his fellow-man… In general, the very smallest of mankind are the class of men worshipers. Not one out of this class has ever accomplished anything beyond a very contemptible mediocrity.”
In another way, THE TWEET OVERLORD touches the core of human nature. The unanimous majority who lacks the courage to differ cannot help but notice and even revere whichever individual that has the effrontery to upset the norm. But why admire someone else’s imprudence if not that we are implicitly imprudent despite society’s continuous efforts to ensure we don’t fall out of line? Understand this, and you will no longer wonder why good girls fall for bad guys. Might it be more prudent if “followers” took up their own voice rather than wanting to hop on their idols’ wings even to the irritation of the latter? Maybe, maybe not.

“I tweet
They retweet

I tweet
They follow…

I tweet
They hashtag…

I tweet
They tweetfight

I eat
They starve”

Perhaps it is necessary to make it clear that the persona in Blazing Moon is not a total sadist who is only bent on shaming and ridiculing others. As a matter of fact, it might be more accurate to speak of “personas” rather than a “persona” since the voice in Blazing Moon switches between that of a male and a female’s and between the first person and second person. These personas are also interested in the environment, the society, geopolitics, ethics and religion.
Blazing Moon looks like a mural with motifs drawn from the ordinary to the extraordinary; from the natural to the supernatural. With hardly any room for frivolity, the world it intends to depict is so orderly it seems dangerous. And that, for me, is a cause for concern.

FAITH vs. FATE: A REVIEW OF SU’EDDIE VERSHIMA AGEMA’S THE BOTTOM OF ANOTHER TALE

 

 

Title:The Bottom of Another Tale
Author:Su’eddie Vershima Agema
Genre:Short Stories
Format: Paperback
Extent: 142 pages
ISBN: 978-978-525-95-6-8
Publisher:SEVHAGE Publishers

 

 

THE BOTTOM OF ANOTHER TALE is a collection of short stories over 98% of which is told in the past tense. They are about disillusionment. They are about loss: loss of hope, loss of life and loss of the mind.

In this book, life is lived in retrospect. Many of the characters yearn for the lives long lost. Not that the past is paradisiacal, but it somehow has something the present hasn’t. Perhaps, it is sheer nostalgia. Besides, time has a way of romanticizing the past.

The most striking, for me, of the themes in this collection is that of faith. In The River’s Testament, we meet the educated Tombo who has become so westernized to the extent that he no longer considers himself the “sort of African who believed in such nonsense” as traditions. To him, “Traditions were old pieces of caution and action that had been created for specific events. Ignorant people continued them even when the importance had long faded.”

Tombo will easily represent all the National Youth Service Corps members who don’t pay attention at the Orientation Camp when they are being told to respect the cultures and traditions of the host community they are deployed to. Being a teacher of English Language and Literature, it is most probable he has read Chinua Achebe’s Arrow of God and has been impressed by the colonialist who pulls over by the highway to pick out British currency from a pot of sacrifice.

From the very beginning, Tombo doesn’t plan to stoop low to the lesser civilization he has been involuntarily thrust into. We learn that he “exchanged the hell he found for a bit of bliss provided in the opportunity to learn more of the language and traditions of the people- more for literary material to aid his writing than for acculturation.”

Even though Bantaje is “a peaceful village with good people”, Tombo cannot stop reminiscing about South Africa where he had spent his formative years; a place he likes to think of as “the lands of better thinking people”.

“You don’t believe in our traditions?” Rekia, the local beauty that has charmed his heart asks him one night.

“Not at all,” our enlightened Tombo grins. “I think they make for good humour, great laughter and all but that is it…”

The local belief he finds most amusing is that the river has the power to kill on nights of full moon. Of course, Tombo doesn’t doubt that someone can drown and die in the river. That is natural enough and has scientific explanation. But the problem arises when the villagers try to ascribe supernatural tendencies to the river. And to prove them wrong, Tombo runs to the river for a swim in one of the nights of full moon.

Humans have rebelled against God and laws. Humans have always wanted to be master of both their lives and universe. Adam and Eve ate the fruit they were forbidden to touch. Drunken with success, Odyssey declared his autonomy from Posidon the god of the sea who reminds him that “man is nothing without the gods.”

Barely twenty four hours after his challenge to the gods and rites of the land, Tombo is revisits the riverside once more this time around to search for the lump of money he is sure he must have dropped the previous night. Only, he ends up running mad. And by the end of the story, he has become a convert.

While The River’s Testament is about an enlightened soul being converted into a believer of superstitions, Luashie’s Doctrine is of a believer becoming disillusioned. Lushie has seen it all, from the bizarre miracles in Pentecostal churches to the calmness and serenity of mass and communion in the Roman Catholic Church. Attending early morning mass becomes his escape from the harsh realities of (family) life and a bullying wife. He feels so fulfilled in this faith that “there was no way he was ever going to even think about changing his faith.” But he returns home that same day and engages in a fight with his wife, an incidence that leaves him hospitalized and shakes his faith to the point that he becomes sure he’s not going to stay with the church much longer.

In A Lust Intervention, Amina fails to entrap Tarlumun with food and sex in order to steal his prosperity and his luck. She first makes his acquaintance at a construction site which he is supervising, where she approaches him ostensibly to “inquire if she could get a contract to supply some building materials”. Eventually, she sets a perfect scene and mood for seduction and only fails because Tarlumun’s fiancé, Nnenna, is busy that same night in intercessory prayers on behalf of her man.

The Gaping Void takes it a notch higher. It proves faith can reverse fate and that all things are possible if only one believes. I have hardly read through the first two paragraphs when these lines from J. P. Clark’s Abiku ran through my mind:

“Coming and going these several seasons

Do stay out on the baobab tree

Follow where you please your kindred spirits

If indoors is not enough for you…”

 

You cannot but feel sorry for the family of Ebuka and Adaora who keeps having Ogbanje babies that die only to be reborn eventually. The sestet embedded in the story says it all:

“Ogbanjes die

They will delight you with a cry

Then, in early childhood die

Locate your tear bank, prepare your cry

They might deceive you a few years but by and by

Ogbanjes die”

 

Like Tombo in The River’s Testament, Ebuka has little or no regard for customs and tradition. We are told that he views “custom as simply a course to which people willed that which would befall them.”

According to Cacious in Julius Ceaser, neither “stony tower, nor walls of beaten brass/ nor airless dungeon, nor strong links of iron/ can be retentive to the strength of spirit…”

Ebuka goes on to name the baby Victor, insisting that the child will live despite that the others are clamouring to scar the baby in order to identify him in his next coming. By the time the boy Victor is old enough to go play football in the street, his father is unexplainably absent. Adaora has given birth to another repeater child, a baby girl. Adaora proves to be the antithesis of her husband. Rather than replicate what Ebuka did in the past, she resigns to fate and says to Victor: “Your sister has decided to leave us. There is nothing we can do.”

But Victor, the redeemed Ogbanje, refuses to give up without a fight. He picks up the baby and does to her what his father had done to him in his own time.

While a mere phrase can hardly be said to be devoid of message in whatever way, some of the stories in this collection doesn’t seem to merit their place. You either find them too short for a quickie, or quite fleshy but tasteless. The reader comes out from them suspecting that they were just used to make up the pages. The Pen and Sword, which is approximately 223 words, is still vague even as a facebook status update.

Su’eddie Vershima Agema does something remarkable in THE BOTTOM OF ANOTHER TALE. Faith and fate are ascribed equal powers, the only determining factor being the individual for whom it is left to either let the former overrule the latter or vice versa. Things aren’t necessarily what we think they are. Everything is what we make of them.

A REVIEW OF TADE IPADEOLA’S THE SAHARA TESTAMENT

Title: The Sahara Testament
Author:Tade Ipadeola
Genre: Poetry
Format: Paperback
Extent: 184 pages
ISBN: 978-978-51826-6-8
Publisher:Hornbill House of the Arts, Lagos

 

 

The natural man would rather appreciate objects such as the snake from a reasonable distance. Only when assured of his safety does he then begin to adulate the object’s grace and charm.It is the same with the privileged class who would collect Van Gogh and revere Mother Teresa and St. Francis of Assisi even though they themselves would rather not relinquish their comforts and experience 1/10th of the life their ‘heroes’ lived. THE SAHARA TESTAMENT bridges that chasm between us and the desert life.At first we recoil from its horror and harshness. And then we begin to understand it and to draw nearer until we begin to experience it with the poet persona. What the book does is throw you beside your self. It knocks you out of your mind. Reading through it, you become born again. “There is no birth of consciousness without pain”, Says Carl Jung.

Even as I write this review, I still have not been able read the book from front page to back page not minding that I have had it for over two years now. I mean, how does one read The Sahara Testament from its first page to the last? Who can claim to have done so? Possibly, not even the author.

The Sahara Testament is not the type of book that is come by every day. Blot the poet’s name from the book cover and the book would easily pass for a multi-authored inter-generational collection on the geography and anthropology of the Sahara.

“And in the beginning…”

Thus begins the very first verse of the very first chapter of The Sahara Testament. And it does start at the very beginning of existence when it was yet vegetation and reptiles; to the very beginning when “Atlantic winds carried echoes from the Amazon Rainforest”; the very beginning when “Flora breathed the nascent Levant air free from Mediterranean speech”. So typical of the griot that Tade Ipadeola is.

What distinguishes the poet from the ordinary man is the eye. The former’s eye is gifted, or rather accursed, with a special lens that enables it spot the extraordinary in scenes that the ordinary man’s would miss. The poem in pp4 proves just that. I am astonished at how a random encounter in a public place can be captured so elaborately.

“The fishwife in her wooden market stall

Tucks in a franc into her black brassiere,

Smiles as she hands over the fish…”

 

The persona becomes fascinated by her teeth which

 

“glisten whiter than the sassier

 

Neighbours, whiter than any woman’s, so white

I wondered if God knew she’d make it

Into a magnet for custom and light…”

 

When I think why the persona would refrain from pitting his “halting French against her effortless river/ Of Bambara and market French”, the only likely reason that comes to mind is that he anticipates subsequent encounters and therefore would rather not do anything that would diminish his prospects. He must have become so enraptured that he eventually forgets:

 

“What the fish tasted like, but not the fever

Of curiosity, flaring as it did from the nugget

 

Of ivory that blinded my wandering eyes…”

 

But in spite of all these,

 

“The desert was ever present, its idiolect

Suffusing the streets with a certain ease…”

 

One of the things about desert life is that it makes you become more alive. You learn to appreciate the environment. It affords you time and space to notice hitherto insignificant things like the sand and the scorpions and the night sky and all other such things. Page 44 draws our attention to:

“The swagger of young eagles soaring in the sun

Oblivious to the weight of light resting

On outstretched wings, their trajectory of fun

Wide as the Sahara…”

 

I am touched by the anticlimax that befalls this “lords of flight” which slice “clean as swords/ through morning air”:

 

“Soon they age compared to mountains, soar alone

For decades soaring, outliving the condors

Coming to rest in a ball of feathers on a stone.”

 

 

Just like the persona, you would also pity

 

“…their hyperactive femininity

Their perennial regicide, their shrinking kingdom

Embering out to ash with sex and DDT.”

 

We are not spared the violence and grimness of the desert world where

“… The dead lay in throngs, Arabs and Black

From smoke and steel, clubs and poisoned pike.” (Pp 48)

 

And again

“… All night the final battle raged

men dying in thousands like fish with oiled gills

gasping for air amid the ruins…” (Pp 49)

 

This same desert which “nibbles at asphalt like black chocolate” is still home to millions who have grown to understand its language. It is only the migrant who sees the desert as the

 

“…face

Of that hidden museum of hellish inquisition,

Lacking all kindness, compassion and grace

Impervious to the merits of calm disquisition.”(Pp 116)

 

However, against all odds, there is hope in the horizon. The harshness and violence that mark out the desert are nothing but harbingers that announce the coming of better things.We get to learn (in Page 151) that

“The colours of freedom are the same colours

As those of the newly born, blood precedes

The narrative and pangs of pain, it pours

With the crowning, it multiples, it recedes

 

For a spell before the joy is born.

Fragile baby joy- arriving in a slender frame…”

 

 

Tade Ipadeola has proven to be one of the last flag bearers of the old guard who still insist on keeping poetry as an art/for only the strong-hearted. Those are the very few who knows what it is to wait upon the Muse to drop on their souls words that merge into phrases and grow into lines and stanzas until they read like chants by the oracles of Delphi. With The Sahara Testaments (and works like it),Tade Ipadeola (and others like him) has in no small way renewed the faith of many who had contemplated giving up on poetry since after the band of cavaliers broke through the gates and hijacked the stage.