Where am I headed?
You know sometimes, that question becomes so intense for me that I practically feel ill. I dread asking myself that question. I came across a writer recently at our monthly literary gatherings and what might pass for open mic sessions. I am usually the moderator for this literary stampede and it is an experience I enjoy very much. I still do. I always feel a sense of awe meeting these authors and poets. Over time I had observed a pattern. Most of the guest authors also like me write poetry. It is not a general thing but in recent weeks, I had come across such . Our very recent gathering gave me nightmares. No.. don’t get me wrong, the experience was exciting, felt humble to meet such quiet great authors and poets, but it left me with the urgent question I asked as the title of the piece.
It is an irony of authors to think they possess the original thought. You know assumed that idea came to them first. Is there an original thought? Can an Author claim originality? These questions tend to keep me tossing and it generally ends up in some really artistic nightmares I can tell you. I remember asking my chief editor if he wants to have second thoughts when I learned from the site that they were into sci-fi, and such stuff that had no relation to my everyday experience. I am very indifferent to technology and am intrigued by science. I never really grasped it . I could therefore never think of writing in the past about osmosis not to even think of present day atomic/nuclear science and my friends write about esoteric science.
Okay, I heard you groan asking yourself what you were doing here reading this. But I am not apologizing you know, you wandered in here and now I have you by the throat, I am going to moan all I want. So there!. Hey!, where are you headed? I have not finished moaning. So where am I headed? Everybody writes beautifully about sci-fi, and I can at best talk about my tradition and culture. I feel frustrated that I can’t talk about African Sci-fi.
I don’t feel like writing about magic, because we really do not call it magic but asimple way of existence that even our professors are sometimes hard pressed explaining. See?
A friend of mine from the other side of the pond yawned , gave a supercilious smile and in his most condescending manner, said I was quite exotic. Very interesting I thought, and wondered which part of his anatomy will bear the brunt of my anger. Exotic eh? Which part of sci-fi will explain the brand of technology that helps you call back a son from the farm by simply holding your palm to the air and ask the son to fetch an item from the farm to bring it home because you had forgotten it at the farm? Magic? No.
Those were the things I had fun talking about in my book Numen Yeye. The things we do with the ease of a yawn and is translated as some ritual. But where am I headed was the question right? So okay at the monthly open Mic, I listened enraptured to pieces of poetry in my local language that defended womanhood. The lesitners were quiet after one reading and a young man asked a timid question, asking the lady poet why she wrote the poems in own language.
Her answers were poetry in motion. She asked nay challenged us to render our thoughts in our native tongue and show pride in who we are. I groaned inwardly as the words came to me..”Another one comes to the surface again”. Blast, I complained inwardly, “I am as black as I can be and happy to be one, I make no apology for who and what I am but I am darned if I am going to allow someone tell me the colour of my hopes”. My face must have been expressive of my inner turmoil, because my chairman asked me if I wanted to make a comment. It was like walking on eggshells as I cleared my voice, told an angry Numen to let me speak. She was angrier than me by the way. I never told you that she has developed this irritating habit of going everywhere with me, since her story came out in Numen Yeye. Anyway…. ahem .. I gave a slow look and in what I hoped was a calm voice opened my mouth.
“what you have said ma’am is very beautiful sentiment, we all should speak only in our language. I have followed the experiment that we should teach our children all the subjects in our language but let us remember a few things while we are about it, we asked for independence from our Masters in the political sense and must earn the independence in other aspects from the rest of the world. It is not going to be easy but do take a look around, our children no longer even speak English but a language that is not recognizable by any country because the English do not speak it either. At best they may call it Nigerian English, (my editor had problem with my English for heaven’s sake I groaned inwardly) but is best understood as the “now Englis” (no it is not a typo).”
I still had an audience and took courage by stating that, the average Nigerian wants an identity of being part of civilization and it is thus difficult for him to resist the need to be more American than the the American or British. We have lost an understanding of our roots, our culture, our tradition and are trying to put a shamed distance from where we came from but do not really know where we are headed. I think that was when those awful nightmares started. I have been asking myself plaintively since…Where am I headed?
Posts tagged ‘American’
I don’t know how I feel really. My new book is finally out in print and suddenly I have problem sleeping. I am so knotted up that I am beginning to have sensations I can’t really identify. I think about it and suddenly I am nervous, my hands go clammy and my heart races. I am presenting at a writers conference in a matter of days too.
You know that feeling when you look at the new baby and you dream. You hold the book in your hand and you are hard put to put a name to the emotion that assails you. You mention casually to your friends that the book is finally out in print and you hold your breath waiting for the reaction.
I had one yesterday. He is the editor of the local newspaper. A respected editor because unlike the usual pack of journalists who will want to find out what is it personally in a story, you can be very sure he is on the level. Very disciplined, untainted by the endemic corruption.
I wanted to hear his own opinion and it was important for me. If he thinks your book is rubbish, he would courteously simply refuse to review it and would say very little. I waited and watched. He took the book, read the blurb at the back, as well as the first few pages while standing and suddenly gave a wide smile. He looked up and asked if he could read it first as he would like to own a personal copy of the book. I blinked. “What do you mean”? I asked him.
“I think it is going to be a very interesting read” he answers and asked me what was the cover prize. I tentatively mentioned it and he nodded in agreement as he added, “only the very deep can understand what is in inside the book. I think it is going to be very interesting book indeed”.
Now I have a sleepless night as I ask myself a thousand nervous questions. I have gone over the book again.. Lord I.. I caught myself suddenly praying. It is like waiting for your boyfriend to pop the question or something else, having a baby and suddenly being anxious that it was very important that this particular baby do well.
You sense the significance of this particular baby and deep in your bones, you realize it is vitally important that this baby is acceptable. To serious readers. It is an indication of where you want to be now. What you want to say to the rest of the world I am a Yoruba woman who is learning to see my tribe as the rationale for this present incarnation. I have asked questions, like every growing young girl I have had dreams. My traditional religion had posed questions for me and I have searched for faith for years, tried to understand the risk of living without a faith and understood the fears of those who embraced other religions.
I am not into the practice of traditional religion, but I had learnt gradually from my grandmother, my husband the value of having a root, a base to search for the meaning of my tradition and what it offers me. I have always wanted to know what it is and as I learned more, I understood and gradually a love, and understanding of the rationale for the basic faith has dawned.
I may not necessarily engage in it but I can understand it and I can relate with the rationale behind it. It has made me want to portray myself “as is” I mean, what you see is what you get. It removes the strain of longing to be American, I never wished to be, but I love them and do not mind visiting them, learning about their cultures, but I could never be part of that culture. I would wish they have the charity to accept mine too.
I feel the same way about all other cultures and accept the togetherness on our diversity. My book Numen Yeye has been a voyage of a sort for me personally. It has been a learning period too as I groped and searched for the meaning of my present incarnation and the rationale of my being.
I first came across Numen Yeye on a warm night when my grandma started the story as the usual tales by moonlight ended and I still had urgent questions. I have listened to my grandmother since then as she continued with the story even after she got a seat with the ancestors.
I hope you will like to read it, I would not mind to share it with you. I am proud of the depth we can reach if we only stretch forth our hand to each other in love.
Talk soon again.