Quote

We should all be Storytellers

Depending on the mindset or interest of the reader, the idea presented by the bulk of this article could be considered already so archaic that there hardly could be anything done to effect any change about it. However, I don’t by any means buy that.
There is a perennial debate on the use of language in the Nigerian classrooms. I do not want to dwell too much on this but i will quickly like to ask both sides of the divide a few questions. Since we don’t have basic texts translated into our own languages, how do we compete globally if we decide to relegate the English language? Also, what is the hope of our core cultures and traditions if children are only proficient in English language?
There are writers who write in their native language, a good example being the prominent Kenyan writer—Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o. I remember reading a comment of Achebe in one of his interviews. He made a submission that the difference between himself and Ngugi as writers was the fact that while Ngugi believes it has to be writing in English or one’s native language, He (Achebe) believed one could decide to write in both. Achebe mixed both English and his native language, Igbo in a very fascinating manner. He appropriated the use of English language so well that the reader could sometimes be lost in between the lines with a feel of reading in the Igbo language.
For Achebe, I think English language is a weapon he had to master so as to achieve his dreams of telling African stories in his own unique way. There was no other way.
I am with Achebe on this one. It doesn’t have to be one or the other, but a fine balance between the languages as one so desires. The children can learn both.
We find ourselves in an age in which globalization is driven by Science and Technology. English language is the fuel that drives this vehicle. This is a reality we must face.
In the past, there was the emergence of a crop of literary icons from Africa; such as Cyprian Ekwensi, Chinua Achebe, Amos Tutuola, Wole Soyinka, Jomo Kenyatta and some others, who decided to challenge a certain tradition of the British writers writing about a mythical Africa. These African writers rose up to tell their own stories with the aim of creating a balance, at the very least or going head to head with the European writers for our right to write our own stories. Achebe spoke extensively about this in his apt and engaging book titled “Home and Exile”. To draw some excerpts from the book;

This was said about Africans by Elspeth Huxley in his book white man’s country; Perhaps it may be, as some doctors have suggested, that his brain is different: that it has a shorter growing period and possesses less well formed, less cunningly arranged cells than that of the Europeans-in other words, that there is a fundamental disparity between the capabilities of his brain and ours.

As mentioned by Achebe in his book, a British writer, Mr. Pedler wrote, “When Europeans talk of Africans buying a wife”. This particular one by Pedler lacks veracity and is also misleading. We don’t buy wives and the hypocrisy in that statement is loud and clear.
The aforementioned excerpts are statements made decades ago, so you can imagine my amusement when I got to America less than 3 yrs ago and found that certain condescending questions about Africa still thrived.
To mention a few examples; my Chinese friend said he thought Africa was just a country in a bush with no roads. A Caucasian asked me where I learned how to use computers or the one who was stupefied on hearing there are “African writers”. A black American once asked me if I learned how to speak good English in America.
In the eyes of some of those who ask these questions, one can see the spectacular naivety masquerading as innocence. In some others, one can see the feigned innocence laced with bigotry so thick. It seems to me that this singular stories written of Africa by the old British griots built a mansion of false and misguided impressions in the minds of people outside Africa and these impressions are being passed to subsequent generations.
Some would argue that my claims are banal or obsolete or I am being too sensitive, but we need to ask ourselves if these issues have become really obsolete. Should we really not bother about these “banal” topics? Is it that the Achebes and the Tutuolas didn’t do enough? Why am I still being asked such condescending questions Achebe was asked in 1967? These men could only do so much, what about us?
Should we continue to blame the iniquitous British colony and western media for painting Africa in any light they see fit?
This is the 21st century, the age of a beast called the internet. The beast that allows one to go on a trip to anywhere in the world without moving an inch physically. Why are we not telling our own stories to the world? This is our job and we can’t leave it to “the others”. Writing is not the only weapon that can be used to achieve the results I/we desire. The African musical industry and the Nollywood have also done incredible jobs in telling African stories but their efforts alone are clearly insufficient to propagate the accuracy of our stories to all parts of the world.
While I quite agree you can only do so much, people will believe what they want to believe. Yet, I believe playing a part by telling these stories will go a long way in sowing a seed of truth even in the most obstinate of outsiders.
If I, in all the glory of my demureness, with but a few years in the west under my belt often come face to face with these experiences, I wonder how many times Africans abroad are being asked laughable questions about Africa on a daily basis.
A friend of mine, a fellow Yoruba man, the other day told an American that the Yoruba language is a dialect, I had to stop him right there, scowled at him and quickly corrected him, that Yoruba is a language and not a dialect. Many a time, this is how we create false impressions in the minds of highly impressionable people. How can you properly and accurately tell a story you know nothing about?
One of my favorite African proverbs goes thus; “until Lions learn to speak, the story of the hunt will always glorify the hunters”. In this article-‘the secret to a promising future’, I talked about the importance of having an identity, of knowing who you are and where you are coming from, the importance of telling your own story.
Shame tries to keep us mum, but we need to rise above shame and tell our stories. We can’t afford to leave it to “the others”, else, we should be ready to embrace the damaging distortions to our stories as well as the labels we face every day.
Continue to Rest in Peace Chinua Achebe – The master storyteller
Advertisements

The Books I read in 2015

One of my New Year’s resolution at the beginning of the year 2015 was to read 5 books before the end but I ended up reading more than 20 books. I would like to share the list of all the books I read in 2015 with you guys, with the hope of inspiring someone.

 

  • I was able to read 13 out of 16 books written by James Allen. In retrospect, I think James Allen’s books taught me out to think; they opened up my mind and they were all very inspiring. I couldn’t have read this books without the help of Gbenga Onaderu. Somehow, Gbenga is one of those who inspired me to read more. Here is the list of all 13 books.

 

 

As a man thinketh

From poverty to power

All these things added

Out from the heart

Through the gates of good

By ways to blessedness

The life triumphant

Above life’s turmoil

The mastery of destiny

From passion to peace

8 pillars of prosperity 

The way of peace

The heavenly life 

 

t

  • Books written by the Father of African literature himself- Chinua Achebe. Generations to come will still thank Achebe for his books. Our children’s children will read his books and thank him for telling our stories. In years to come, these stories will only exist in our minds as our cultures continue to evolve. Here are the ones I’ve read so far.

 

Things fall apart

There was a country

Man of the people

The trouble with Nigeria

No longer at ease

Arrow of God

rrr

 

 

  • I read Half of a yellow sun and Americanah written by Adichie Chimamanda and I thoroughly enjoyed them. You can find my brief review (here)

 

  • Financial Peace by Dave Ramsey. This book was given to me as a graduation gift by a friend. It is a good book for anyone who lives in America.

 

  • Dreams of a Father by Barack Obama. I despised myself for not having read this one all these years. From the first day i picked it up, i just couldn’t stop.  It piqued my interest in the life the father of POTUS lived and that took me to the next book I read.

 

ju

 

  • The other Barack by Sally Jacobs. An extensive research on Barack Snr. Well done to the gutsy sally Jacobs. I would post a brief review soon.

 

  • No excuses by Brian Tracy. I struggled with this book but I still completed it. Nothing much about the book after all the fuss. It was recommended by 2 of my friends and I thought I had to read it.

 

  • Ghana must go by Taiye Selasi. I couldn’t finish it, the book was just too subtle for me. I will try again in 2016.

 

  • Here is the last one, and I’m not done reading it yet. The Grand master’s insight on China, United States and the world by Lee Yuan Kuan. Lee was the first prime minister of Singapore and he ruled them for 31 years. He marshaled Singapore from a third world country to a first world country so trust me, his opinion is gold.

 

I also read a lot of articles and I read a lot of people on daily basis. Here are some links;

Pa Ikhide,

Demola,

Feyishope

feyi fawehinmi,

 

Vincent Ajise,

@demiladee,

@geezone007,

@Tolu Ogunlesi.

 

That’s it folks. These books and people have added inestimable values to my life and I certainly paid some prices. The ride was wonky but we go again.

 

 

Happy New Year