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BOOK REVIEW: Olayinka Oyegbile’s The Dirty Leap: Dramatizing Disillusionment And Dystopia

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A Tale Of Visions: A Tribute To Professor Akin Mabogunje (1931–2022)

By
Toyin Falola

No literary work is divorced from the society in which it is created. Whether covertly or overtly, literature is usually influenced by the society in which it is created. As Ngugi wa Thiong’o rightly noted, literature does not exist in a vacuum. In creating literary works, writers draw from their society; therefore, literature mirrors life in society. It reveals both the positive and the negative aspects of the society and presents it to the audience. Thus, writers in the Third World are not only fully aware of the appalling state of their society and its inhabitants, but they also attempt to reflect these unsavoury realities to the reader.

The Third World writer does not engage in arts for art’s sake. In the hands of the Third World writer, art becomes a means to lament, protest, convey, speak the minds of the people, and let the world know the existing state of affairs in the society and the dynamics of navigating through it by the commoner. Therefore, most of these writers use their works as a crusade against extortion and maltreatment of the underprivileged people in society.

One of these writers is Olayinka Oyegbile, a Nigerian writer who has written several news articles on Nigeria’s political, economic, and social conditions . However, this review will primarily focus on his latest play titled The Dirty Leap (published by Kraftsgriots in 2021), which explores and exposes the disillusionment at rural and national levels, with a view to elucidating on how as a socially committed dramatist, he engages with the circumstances that obtain in Nigeria, particularly the bane of development and modernization.

In The Dirty Leap, Oyegbile reflects and refracts on what has become of his nation’s political leaders and their promises of development and prosperity. What is fascinating about his presentation is the approach from the rural or local level. In the play, Oyegbile sets out on a journey of revelation in seven dramatic folds through the character of Yusuf’s disillusionment in a post-independent nation. In relation to this, the playwright puts this issue in a cyclical perspective through the character of Hadiza, who unknowingly gets stuck in a drug trafficking ring in the city. Also, through the character of Chief Arowolo, the enablers of this predicament unlock and highlight the bizarre attitude of corrupt African leaders and how they hinder significant development.

READ ALS: BOOK REVIEW: Adetanwa Odebiyi’s Twisted Love And The Dangers Of Favoritism In A Nuclear Family

Overall, hopelessness and disappointment pervade the play as the playwright adopts the modernist approach to express the growing disenchantment with the industrialized society, as it descends on modes of realism. In this play, Oyegbile’s embrace of the tenets of modernism was geared towards questioning the principles of realism and nationalism, as well as questioning the ideals of decolonization through the projection of a dystopian postcolonial society which ultimately creates and triggers the sensibilities of readers on a new definition of social objectives for political leaders and citizens.

Oyegbile’s subversion and metaphorization of the trajectory of movement in his play is noteworthy. He traverses the dynamics of post-migration experiences as a disillusioned one in the quest for a better life after being forced out of their own space or environment. This is evidenced by Yusuf’s movement from his rural community to the city due to persistent economic hardship and political incompetence by government authorities, which is also shown through the character of Chief Arowolo, the local government chairman who denies Yusuf’s family of their rightful compensation. The Dirty Leap opens the paradox of the city, the persistent contrariety between an individual’s intended success and the reality that ensues. Through the actions and inactions of the main character, the play exposes the consequences of this dilemma and how a “leap” to a big city from a rural community does not necessarily translate to success and development, which can be “dirty” sometimes, as suggested in the title.

Furthermore, the intense focus and close examination of pressing socio-political ills in the society by the playwright in the play is fascinating and worthy of mention. In other words, Oyegbile follows the school of thought that asserts that the writer is obligated to show his commitment by reflecting the socio-political vices that obtain in the society in which he lives and writes and, most importantly, adopts local or rural aesthetics in the literary work. This element is demonstrated in The Dirty Leap as the dramatist presents characters from the rural community, from the protagonist to the villain. Essentially, the creation of the problem in the play is not ascribed to a foreigner who is non-relatable to audiences and what is obtainable in the writer’s immediate environment.

READ ALSO: BOOK REVIEW: The Aesthetics Of Performance And Orality In Na’Allah’s Dadakuada

Also, Oyegbile, in his play, creates a node of using the particular to talk about the universal by using the binaries of rural/modernization; citizen/government official; education/employment; and hope/greed, which aptly represents the Nigerian environment. As a committed writer and employer of modernist tenets, Oyegbile could be said to have offered a threshold for experimentation with narratorial perspective, the representation of interiority, and the relation between such interiorized consciousnesses and their surrounding social milieus. The Dirty Leap is a modernist drama that exhibits quite a number of modernist features. The play conveys an overwhelming sense of pessimism, hopelessness, and despair through the use of vulgar language, symbols, and scatological imagery. The author’s disillusionment and anger at the state of the society are also reflected and well explored in the play.

This drama text examines representations of post-independence disillusionment as it explores a range of nodes whose features are failures of political leaders and the plight of the masses in Nigeria. It depicts how the average person is oppressed in the society by the supposed upholders of the law. This is shown through the character of Chief Arowolo, a former local government chairman at a rural community, who moves into the city to run an organized drug trafficking ring. This is in comparison with Yusuf, a commoner who moves into the city to make a decent livelihood but gets entangled in the disillusioned world of Chief Arowolo. Through this, Oyegbile presents Nigeria’s dysfunctional socio-political clime. The exploration of this part of the play draws readers’ attention to the apparent disillusionment that pervades the political and social space, coupled with the obsession with power and corruption that is the bane of development in the country.

The dystopia feasts on in the play as it aptly mimics the current situations in the country’s public space, particularly the judiciary arm of the government, which by and large is an extension of what happens in every arm of government in the country. Even though literature is fiction, it is like a mirror, and it is close to the real happenings in the society, which people can relate to. Through the dramatic presentation of the prison scenes, Oyegbile creates a semblance of the truth of the dystopia in the nation and how the three organs of government—executive, judiciary, and legislative—abuse power and corrupt public life to the detriment of the masses. To combat this, the average man will have to fight for himself, which is what Yusuf tries to do as he takes on the mighty Chief Arowolo.

READ ALSO: BOOK REVIEW: Abdul-Rasheed Na’Allah’s Seriya And The Aesthetics Of Socialist Realism

Oyegbile’s physical leap may be short, but he landed us in the mud where we all become pigs. You and I are confronted with dirt and despair as we try to understand our conditions and navigate the ocean of hopelessness. I am stuck in this mud, and I doubt that Oyegbile can rescue me. I had no idea that leaping with him would land me in this mess!

Falola is a Nigerian historian and professor of African Studies. He is currently the Jacob and Frances Sanger Mossiker Chair in the Humanities at the University of Texas at Austin.

 

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Author Of Satanic Verses, Salman Rushdie, Stabbed In New York

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Author Of Satanic Verses, Salman Rushdie, Stabbed In New York

Author Salman Rushdie has been airlifted to hospital after being stabbed up to 15 times, including once in the neck, as he prepared to give a speech in upstate New York.

The writer, 75, was attacked as he was being introduced to the stage for the CHQ 2022 event in Chautauqua, near Buffalo, on Friday morning.

Witnesses claim that Rushdie was stabbed ten to fifteen times, as a man approached him from behind before rushing the stage.

He was attending for a discussion of the United States as asylum for writers and other artists in exile and as a home for freedom of creative expression.

Witnesses claimed that his attacker managed to walk off the stage after the stabbing, before being restrained, as people rushed to assist Rushdie – who had been seated when he was assaulted.

Blood was spattered on the wall behind where Rushdie had been attacked, with some also seen on a chair that he had been sitting on.

His current condition is not known, and a man has been arrested by New York state troopers. The interviewer speaking to Rushdie also suffered a minor head injury.

Governor Kathy Hochul called the attack on Rushdie ‘heartbreaking’ before confirming that he is ‘alive’, during and unrelated press conference.

She added that he is ‘getting the care he needs at a local hospital’, and that a state police trooper ‘stood up and saved his life’ after the attack.

One witness told the New York Times that Rushdie had been stabbed ‘multiple times’ and had been lying in a pool of his own blood.

Rita Landman offered her assistance after the incident, adding that he appeared to be alive and did not receive CPR.

Salman Rushdie, 75, was attacked by a man who approached him from behind before stabbing him multiple times. The suspect, pictured with Sheriff's deputies, was quickly pinned to the floor before being arrested

Salman Rushdie, 75, was attacked by a man who approached him from behind before stabbing him multiple times. The suspect, pictured with Sheriff’s deputies, was quickly pinned to the floor before being arrested

People rushed to assist the author after the attack, with the attacker being restrained by witnesses.  The motive for the stabbing is currently unknown

People rushed to assist the author after the attack, with the attacker being restrained by witnesses.  The motive for the stabbing is currently unknown

Rushdie was airlifted to hospital after receiving medical assistance from those at the event near Buffalo, in Upstate New York

Rushdie was airlifted to hospital after receiving medical assistance from those at the event near Buffalo, in Upstate New York

Medics rushed to the scene to take the author to hospital to treat his injuries. A Chautauqua Institution spokesperson, where the event was taking place, said: 'We are dealing with an emergency situation. I can share no further details at this time.'

Medics rushed to the scene to take the author to hospital to treat his injuries. A Chautauqua Institution spokesperson, where the event was taking place, said: ‘We are dealing with an emergency situation. I can share no further details at this time.’

The authors suspected attacker was pinned down by witnesses and security staff moments after the attack. Rushdie's son Zafar, 42, is aware of the incident

The author’s suspected attacker was pinned down by witnesses and security staff moments after the attack. Rushdie’s son Zafar, 42, is aware of the incident

Landman said: ‘People were saying, ‘He has a pulse, he has a pulse he has a pulse.’

Roger Warner of Cleveland, Ohio, was sitting on the front row when the attack took place, adding: ‘He was covered with blood and there was blood running down onto the floor.

‘I just saw blood all around his eyes and running down his cheek.’

Rushdie’s London-based son Zafar, 42, is aware of the incident and his father has been seen being transported by air ambulance after the attack.

Rushdie has previously received death threats for his writing, with his book the Satanic Verses sparking protests in 1988

British-born Booker Prize winning author Sir Salman Rushdie (pictured in 2019) got death threats and was issued a fatwah by Iran for his 1988 novel, the Satanic Verses. He has lived in the U.S. since 2000 and was today preparing to give a lecture about America being a haven for writers in exile

Thousands of people in the audience gasped at the sight of the attack and were then evacuated as his alleged attacker was taken into custody.

John Bulette, 85, who witnessed the attack said: ‘There was a huge security lapse. That somebody could get that close without any intervention was frightening.’

An usher at the amphitheater claims that the security at the Institution was ‘lax’ and that no additional measures were in place for Mr Rushdie’s visit.

Kyle Doershuk, 20, said: ‘It’s very open, it’s very accessible, it’s a very relaxed environment, in my opinion something like this was just waiting to happen.’

A Chautauqua Institution spokesperson added: ‘We are dealing with an emergency situation. I can share no further details at this time.’

Rabbi Charles Savenor claims that the entire attack lasted around 20 seconds.

He said: ‘This guy ran on to platform and started pounding on Mr. Rushdie. At first you’re like, “What’s going on?’”

And then it became abundantly clear in a few seconds that he was being beaten.’

A representative for the Iranian interests section at the embassy of Pakistan in Washington D.C. declined to comment on the attack.

The embassy diplomatically represents the government of Iran in the United States.

They told the New York Times ‘we are not getting involved in this’, before hanging up and refusing to give a name.

New York State Police said in a statement: ‘On August 12, 2022, at about 11 am, a male suspect ran up onto the stage and attacked Rushdie and an interviewer.

‘Rushdie suffered an apparent stab wound to the neck and was transported by helicopter to an area hospital.

‘His condition is not yet known. The interviewer suffered a minor head injury.

‘A State Trooper assigned to the event immediately took the suspect into custody. The Chautauqua County Sheriff’s Office assisted at the scene.’

Rushdie was attacked on stage ahead of his speech in Chautauqua, near Buffalo, with witnesses claiming that he was 'punched and stabbed'

Rushdie was attacked on stage ahead of his speech in Chautauqua, near Buffalo, with witnesses claiming that he was ‘punched and stabbed’

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: ‘Appalled that Sir Salman Rushdie has been stabbed while exercising a right we should never cease to defend.

‘Right now my thoughts are with his loved ones. We are all hoping he is okay.’

The author was knighted in 2007 in Britain ‘for services to literature’ by his friend, then Prime Minister Tony Blair.

His last piece of writing was about an assassination attempt, serializing a novella called The Seventh Wave on Sub Stack, which appeared to focus on spies and assassinations.

Rushdie has previously received death threats for his writing, with his book the Satanic Verses which supposedly insulted the Prophet Mohammed and The Koran.

He wrote the Satanic Verses, which resulted in a culture war being sparked in 1988 in Britain – with protests taking place in the UK along with book burnings.

Pakistan banned the book, and he was issued a fatwa – a death sentence – by Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini in February 1989.

Khomeini called for the death of Rushdie and his publishers, and also called for Muslims to point him out to those who could kill him if they could not themselves.

The fatwa, or ‘spiritual opinion’, followed a wave of book burnings in Britain and rioting across the Muslim world which lead to the deaths of 60 people and hundreds being injured.

Rushdie was put under round-the-clock security from 1989 to 2002, at the expense of the British taxpayer, when a $3million bounty was put on his head.

He was forced to go into hiding for a decade with police protection, and previously said he received a ‘sort of Valentines card’ from Iran each year letting him know the country has not forgotten the vow to kill him.

In 2012, a semi-official Iranian religious foundation raised the bounty for Rushdie from $2.8 million to $3.3 million.

After the attack Rushdie, who moved to the US in 2000, was quickly surrounded by a small group of people who held up his legs, presumably to send more blood to his chest.

The author previously complained about having ‘too much’ security while attending other events.

He told reporters a the Prague Writer’s Festival: ‘To be here and to find a large security operation around me has actually felt a little embarrassing.

‘I thought it was really unnecessary and kind of excessive and was certainly not arranged on my request.

‘I spent a great deal of time before I came here saying that I really didn’t want that.

‘So I was very surprised to arrive here and discover a really quite substantial operation, because it felt like being in a time warp, that I had gone back in time several years.’

Rushdie is a former president of PEN America, with their current CEO Suzanne Nossel issuing a statement which said: ‘PEN America is reeling from shock and horror at word of a brutal, premeditated attack on our former President and stalwart ally, Salman Rushdie, who was reportedly stabbed multiple times while on stage speaking at the Chautauqua Institute in upstate New York.

‘We can think of no comparable incident of a public violent attack on a literary writer on American soil.

‘Just hours before the attack, on Friday morning Salman had emailed me to help with placements for Ukrainian writers in need of safe refuge from the grave perils they face.

Police remain on the scene outside of the Chautauqua Institution after Rushdie was flown to hospital via air ambulance on Friday afternoon

Police remain on the scene outside of the Chautauqua Institution after Rushdie was flown to hospital via air ambulance on Friday afternoon

Dozens of onlookers quickly rushed to the stage to try to apprehend the suspect, and help Rushdie after he was attacked in front of hundreds

Dozens of onlookers quickly rushed to the stage to try to apprehend the suspect, and help Rushdie after he was attacked in front of hundreds

He was urgently taken to hospital via air ambulance, with his current condition unknown. Rushdie was reportedly stabbed ten to fifteen times, suffering knife wounds in the neck

He was urgently taken to hospital via air ambulance, with his current condition unknown. Rushdie was reportedly stabbed ten to fifteen times, suffering knife wounds in the neck

His agent, Andrew Wylie, said that the author was currently in surgery for his injuries, but did not have an update on his condition

His agent, Andrew Wylie, said that the author was currently in surgery for his injuries, but did not have an update on his condition

Salman Rushdie has been targeted for his words for decades but has never flinched nor faltered. He has devoted tireless energy to assisting others who are vulnerable and menaced.

‘While we do not know the origins or motives of this savage attack, all those around the world who have met words with violence or called for the same are culpable for legitimizing this an assault on a writer while he was engaged in his essential work of connecting to readers.

‘Our thoughts and passions now lie with our dauntless Salman, wishing him a full and speedy recovery.

‘We hope and believe fervently that his essential voice cannot and will not be silenced.’

Hitoshi Igarashi, who translated The Satanic Verses into Japanese for Rushdie, was stabbed to death on the campus where he taught literature.

Ettore Capriolo, the Italian translator of the book, was knifed in his apartment in Milan.

The novel’s Norwegian publisher William Nygaard, was shot three times outside his home and left for dead in October 1993,  but survived the attack.

In Turkey, the book’s translator, Aziz Nesin, was the target of an arson attack on a hotel that killed 37.

Rushdie previously wrote a 655-page fatwa memoir, which was nominated for the UK’s top non- fiction award, the Samuel Johnson prize.

During the fatwa he lived in permanent terror and at one point thought his ex-wife Clarissa Luard and their son Zafar, who was nine at the time, had been killed by assassins or kidnapped.

In 1998 Iran’s reformist president relaxed the fatwa and said it had no intention of tracking Rushdie down and killing him.

Technically it still stands but is unlikely to be enforced.

The Index on Censorship, an organization promoting free expression, said money was raised to boost the reward for his killing as recently as 2016, underscoring that the fatwa for his death still stands.

He has has two children from his four marriages – his other son is called Milan – but has been linked with many other women including Indian model Riya Sen.

Prince Charles also reportedly refused to support the author during his fatwa because he thought the book was offensive to Muslims.

In an article for Vanity Fair magazine, Martin Amis claimed that the Prince’s views caused a row at a dinner party after Rushdie was issued with the death sentence by Islamic clerics in 1989.

Amis claims that Charles told him that he would not offer support ‘if someone insults someone else’s deepest convictions’.

Amis remonstrated with him but all Charles did was ‘take it on board’, even though Rushdie is a British-Indian citizen.

Fellow author Stephen King also refused to let stores in America sell his books if they refused to carry The Satanic Verses.

Rushdie has spoken at the Chautauqua Institution before, which is based about 55 miles southwest of Buffalo in a rural corner of New York.

It is known for its summertime lecture series.

Rushdie has been married four times and had a string of high-profile romances that included Padma Lakshmi, Olivia Wide, and models decades younger than him.

He met his first wife, Clarissa Luard, at a pop concert in the UK in 1969, with the couple marrying in 1976 and having their son Zafar three years later.

Although they divorced in 1987, they remained close friends, and Rushdie reportedly stayed by her side when she died from breast cancer at age 50 in 1999.

Rushdie has been married four times, including to Elizabeth West Salman, pictured. The couple married in 1994 and two had a son, Milan, in 1999

Rushdie has been married four times, including to Elizabeth West Salman, pictured. The couple married in 1994 and two had a son, Milan, in 1999

Rushdie attributed his intellect and 'good looks' for his successful love life, which included dates with Oliva Wilde (left). The two were pictured together at the Washington Correspondents Dinner in 2008

Rushdie attributed his intellect and ‘good looks’ for his successful love life, which included dates with Oliva Wilde (left). The two were pictured together at the Washington Correspondents Dinner in 2008

Salman Rushdie (right) together with his fourth wife, model and Top Chef host Padma Lakshimi attending the Cannes Film Festival in 2004

Salman Rushdie (right) together with his fourth wife, model and Top Chef host Padma Lakshimi attending the Cannes Film Festival in 2004

By the time Luard passed, Rushdie had already been married twice. He tied the knot Pulitzer Prize finalist Marianne Wiggins, an American, in 1988 and then to editor Elizabeth West in 1997.

Rushdie was with Wiggins when he faced backlash over The Satanic Verses, with Rushdie saying that he heard criticisms that his ‘Jewish wife’ made him write it.

‘At its most unpleasant it was levelled at me from the Islamic side that the Jews made me do it,’ Rushdie said. ‘They said my [second] wife was Jewish. She wasn’t, she was American.’

Wiggins spent some time in hiding even after the couple divorced in 1993, and the following year, Rushdie married Elizabeth West, and the two had a son, Milan, in 1999.

Rushdie had previously said that he and West, an author and editor, began growing apart when he wanted to move to the US and she wanted to stay in the UK and have another child.

Following a miscarriage, the couple officially split in 2004.

Following the split from West, Rushdie immediately dove into the world of pop celebrities, marrying model turned Top Chef host Padma Lakshmi in 2004.

The two had met back in 1999 at a lavish New York City party thrown by media queen Tina Brown. Lakshmi alleges that the two had an affair during the party, and that Rushdie promised to be with her once his rocky marriage to West concludes.

Rushdie’s 2001 novel, Fury, was dedicated to Lakshmi. At the time of the wedding, Lakshmi was 28, while Rushdie was 51.

While Rushdie’s previous marriages lasted more than a decade, his union with Lakshmi only lasted three years, with the novelist bemoaning her in his memoir as a ‘bad investment’ who overly narcissistic and ambitious.

Lakshmi hit back at Rushdie in her own memoirs, calling him ‘sexually needy’ and insensitive to her endometriosis.

How Salman Rushdie lived under the shadow of a fatwa for 30 years: British author went into hiding when Iran’s spiritual leader ordered he was killed for ‘blasphemous’ The Satanic Verses but he was living a ‘normal life’ in New York before his stabbing

BY JACK WRIGHT

He was first forced into hiding more than 30 years ago by Iran’s theocratic dictatorship after the regime branded The Satanic Verses a work of blasphemy.

READ ALSO: MUSIC REVIEW: Simi’s “Woman”: An Explosive Tool For Social Change

From ever-changing safe houses, constant armed guards and a new identity, to finally finding a new home in the US, British author Salman Rushdie has now been stabbed in the neck on stage in New York – the supposed beating heart of free speech and culture.

Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, then Supreme Leader of the Islamic republic, issued a fatwa – or religious ruling – calling on all Muslims to murder the celebrated atheist author and anyone involved in the publication of The Satanic Verses on February 14, 1989.

Rushdie, now 75, was forced to live under the long shadow the fatwa cast until it was finally lifted by Iran’s hardline regime in 1998.

But for nine years, the writer constantly between safe houses and was protected by round-the-clock armed guards. He even adopted an alias, Joseph Anton – a combination of the first names of two of his favourite writers, Conrad and Chekhov.

The fatwa also led to the murder of the book’s Japanese translator Hitoshi Igarashi, the targeting of its translators and publishers in Turkey, Norway and Italy, and worldwide riots and book-burnings – while The Satanic Verses itself was banned in many countries.

Sir Salman Rushdie holding a copy of The Satanic Verses during a 1992 news conference in Arlington

Sir Salman Rushdie holding a copy of The Satanic Verses during a 1992 news conference in Arlington

Speaking about the controversy with the Mail, Sir Salman said: ‘Being under the fatwa was a jail, but I think that one of the problems is that from the outside it looked glamorous, as I sometimes showed up in places in Jags with people jumping out to open the door and make sure you get in safely and so on. Looks of who the hell does he think he is? Well, from my side it felt like jail.

‘There was this crude argument that I did it in some way for personal advantage, to make myself more famous or to make money. At its most unpleasant it was levelled at me from the Islamic side that the Jews made me do it. They said my [second] wife was Jewish. She wasn’t, she was American.

‘If I had simply wanted to trade on an insult to Islam I could have done it in a sentence rather than writing a 250,000-word novel, a work of fiction.’

Muslim activists beat a burning effigy of Salman Rushdie in New Delhi

Muslim activists beat a burning effigy of Salman Rushdie in New Delhi

‘What you have to remember is that The Satanic Verses is not called Islam the Prophet, it is not called Mohammed, the country is not called Arabia – it all happens in the dream of somebody who is losing their mind.’

What still shocks him is that no radical Muslims in Britain who backed the call for his assassination were ever prosecuted.

‘There were these occasions, like in Manchester, where Muslim leaders said to their congregation, ‘Tell me who in this audience would be ready to kill Rushdie?’ and everyone in the audience raised their hand. And the police thought this was OK.’

READ ALSO: Damon Galgut Wins Booker Prize With ‘Gripping’ South Africa Novel The Promise

He says: ‘Supposing I had been the Queen and an imam said to his congregation, ‘Who would be ready to kill the Queen?’ and everybody raised their hand. Would you think the police would not act?

‘I only use the Queen as an example to dramatize this but it seems odd that when it is a novelist of foreign origin, therefore not completely British in some way, that it was allowed to happen with impunity.’

Rushdie remembers his split from his wife Marianne as being a particularly traumatic time. She claimed that the CIA was aware of Rushdie’s whereabouts and so his cover was blown. When he realized that she was lying he decided to end the relationship.

 ‘It was very shocking. There simply was a point at which I had to choose whether to be alone in the middle of this hurricane with nobody there for companionship or whether I somehow had to put up with this person in whom it was difficult to have faith.

‘It was horrifying to be told by a policeman that they believed that your wife was lying to you. It is an experience most of us don’t have. And then for her to say that it was the police who were to be blamed and that I shouldn’t trust them sets a kind of mindf*** and I had to make my judgments.

‘It became impossible for me to have faith in her veracity. So in the end I thought it was better to separate.’

In an interview three years ago, he said: ‘Islam was not a thing. No one was thinking in that way. One of the things that has happened is that people in the West are more informed than they used to be’.

He ruefully added: ‘I was 41 back then, now I am 71. Things are fine now. We live in a world where the subject changes very fast. And this is a very old subject. There are now many other things to be frightened about – and other people to kill’.

Daily Mail

 

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Exploring The Multidisciplinary, Multicultural And Cosmopolitan Scope Of The Work Of The Polymathicc Scholar And Writer Toyin Falola

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Exploring The Multidisciplinary, Multicultural And Cosmopolitan Scope Of The Work Of The Polymathicc Scholar And Writer Toyin Falola

By  Oluwatoyin Vincent Adepoju

Imaginative creativities at the heart of a vast expressive enterprise, the Toyin Falola universe,  are evoked for me by this detail of the cover of Falola’s latest book, Nigerian Literary Imagination and the Nationhood Project ( July 2022).

Names of Nigerian imaginative writers and scholars of Nigerian literature constitute a cap worn by a writer and scholar, evoking embodiment of the creative values represented by that expressive world, as he wears a necklace indicating the titles of those books in which he explores his earliest journeys to becoming who he is, the matrix in which he is shaped by the convergence of self and circumstance, the constellation of possibility from which each moment is born, the imaginative intelligence of history beyond full human understanding even as it is partly constructed by human beings.

BOOK REVIEW: Toyin Falola’s Decolonizing African Studies: Knowledge Production, Agency, And Voice

Verbal creativities bring to life imaginative worlds, suggesting conjunctions between bodies of knowledge, between  modes of thought and expression,  generating new possibilities beyond their constituents, a dazzling web of possibilities configured by the traveller between history and literature, art and economics, self and culture, amongst other configurations constituting the journey of African humanity from remotest origins to international settling across the seas.

Exploring The Multidisciplinary, Multicultural And Cosmopolitan Scope Of The Work Of The Polymathicc Scholar And Writer Toyin Falola

On account of its infinitely stimulating power, all creativity opens itself to endless examination, recreation and inspiration of new creativity, particularly such a diversely creative complex as that developed by polymathic scholar and writer Toyin Falola.

 Falola is one of the most prolific scholars ever, at any point in history, in any culture, from the earlier achievements of the ancient Greeks to Asia and the Islamic world, to Europe, North America, South America, other continents, and Africa in its older oral and newer written traditions.

The multidisciplinary range of Falola’s  work is eclipsed perhaps, only by such scholars at the foundations of cognitive history as Aristotle, and such culturally foundational cognitive  complexes as the correlative African systems represented by the Yoruba origin Ifa, the Igbo Afa and the Dahomean Fa, among others, in their integration of multidisciplinary breadth represented by visual and performative arts, spirituality, philosophy and other disciplines, within a vast literary system organized in terms of a mathematical structure, a cognitive complex that is one of Falola’s inspirations.

READ ALSO: African Studies As A Matrix For Totalistic Knowledge: Exploring Toyin Falola’s Polymathic Creativity  In Relation To His Discussion Of Aesthetics In Decolonizing African Studies

Those older multidisciplinary architectures may surpass Falola’s work in the stage it has reached so far, in the older systems’ constitution of cognitive formations, establishing or consolidating particular styles of thought and expression at the foundations of the knowledge worlds of specific and related civilizations, later expanding into a global scope.

Those earlier achievements do not equal, however, the cultural breadth of Falola’s creativity, strategic for speaking to humanity in its expanding growth in multicultural and cosmopolitan interpenetration, his own inventiveness emerging within the richer information spaces of the 20th and 21st centuries.

The older accomplishments also do not match Falola’s expressive range, as his works cover every aspect of African Studies, except the sciences, as well as being strong in poetry in Yoruba and English as well as autobiography, evident in books embodying his masterly use of the expository and analytical essay, short essays, long essays,essay/poetry combinations and interlinked book chapters, in sole written, co-authored and edited books and social media publications.

His work also covers a broad range of scholarly organization,  running various book series with different publishers, conducting  interviews with diverse prominent personalities, framed by his rich overviews of their achievements, along with  organizing conferences on myriad subjects in African Studies and creating and running a very rich social media platform on continental and Diaspora African and world affairs, the USAAfrica Dialogue Series Google group, publication  which ensures high Internet and thereby global visibility on account of the platform’s strong online presence.

Falola’s productivity has long outstripped the various essay and book length assessments of his work, and will always do so as long as he maintains his current escalating trajectory of productivity, expanding in terms of disciplinary range and depth and originality of treatment of the subjects he addresses.

 My goal is that of critically engaging his work as it unfolds, examining its strengths and limitations, in relation to the total complex of his  productivity as my understanding of it develops, in dialogue with a multidisciplinary and multicultural frame of knowledge, possibly developing new structures of understanding  from these explorations and sharing these initiatives on the uniquely democratic space represented by social media, and possibly other platforms, such as books, one approach to expanding the impact of Falola’s work beyond its accustomed academic audiences.

.Adepoju, an independent scholar in Lagos researches  and publishes  on the polymathic work of Falola as  one of the projects  he is working on.

 

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Arts & Culture

2022 Finalists For Isaac Oluwole Delano Prize For Yoruba Studies Announced

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2022 Finalists For Isaac Oluwole Delano Prize For Yoruba Studies Announced

Babcock University, the Isaac Delano Foundation, and Pan-African University Press have announced the 2022 Finalists For the Isaac Oluwole Delano Prize For Yoruba Studies .

Two finalists have been chosen in two categories. The winner will be decided in the weeks ahead. The prize includes a citation, a certificate, $1,000, and public acknowledgment at the 2022 Convocation ceremony at Babcock University.

The Supervisory Board of the foundation is chaired by Dr. Bola Dauda. Other members of the board are Chief Akinwande Delano,Professor Bola Sotunsa, Dr. Michael O. Afolayan and Professor Olajumoke Yacob-Haliso.

Professor Toyin Falola is the Chairman of the 2020-2022 Jury. Other members are Professor Tunde Babawale, University of Lagos, Pamela Smith, Emeritus Professor, University of Nebraska, Omaha, and Professor Akin Akinlabi, Rutgers University.

The Secretary is Damilola Osunlakin, Ahmadu Bello University.

Finalist In The Book Category

Akin Ogundiran, The Yoruba: A New History (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2020)

By their default social nature, humans are always seeking ways to connect with their fellow humans, concepts, or phenomena. This desire to connect is replicated in other aspects of human endeavors, particularly in academic disciplines. The interconnected nature of academic disciplines is well explained by the linkages between history, anthropology, and archaeology. Anthropology and archaeology lend credence to historical portrayals and studies, while history helps bring perspective and solidity to archaeology and anthropology. These three fields of study complement one another and are intertwined so that a skilled historian is also knowledgeable in anthropology and archaeology. In other words, it is difficult to trace the history of a people if we do not have some understanding of archaeology and anthropology.

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This outstanding book, The Yoruba: A New History, is about connections at multiple levels. It is an intellectually stimulating book for anyone, particularly for academics and scholars in history, anthropology, and archaeology. The book takes the reader on a journey that begins at the climax of its message, reverts to the genesis of the Yoruba, then maneuvers readers through different historical developments in the existence of the Yoruba people, and then returns to the starting point — the climax — in such an all-around intellectual stimulation. Every chapter of this 562-page commentary on the Yoruba is a matching piece in the academic puzzle that Professor Ogundiran has neatly arranged to form the insightful book on a new Yoruba history with complex and understandable analysis. Readers are immediately drawn into the deep, propelled by Ogundiran’s deft use of language to unravel the wide-cracking gap that has classified the study of African civilization and history. Ogundiran criticizes the disposition towards African study from early on, which sees the advent of Christianity and colonialism as the defining point in the cultural evolution of Africa.

In the book, Ogundiran walks the reader through the need to study Yoruba history from the perspective of a holistic approach, one that includes comparative, theoretical, and empirical methods. This type of holistic study could help advance the research into the existence and evolution of the Yoruba people. It is easy to fall prey to the possible shallowness that mostly results from a study that does not look at history from varied perspectives. Ogundiran’s emphasis on portraying evolution and development during a distant time, not as independent capsules of time but as overlapping periods in continuous existence, is brought to the fore by how the book explores seven-time capsules as they overlap one another in the study of a new Yoruba history.

Furthermore, Ogundiran unearths the four pillars of the Yoruba cultural identity, starting with the “House,” a symbol of the socio-political organization of the Yoruba people; to “Divine Kingship,” which represents governance and its structures in a deeply political society; the complementary existence of the two recognized genders in Yoruba history — the one complementing the other, and vice-versa; to what is perhaps represented across cultures and not only with the Yoruba people, which is fundamental to the reasoning and being of all humans — a search for meaningful living, the thirst after immortality, which in itself births religion. Also, Ogundiran captures the turbulences that characterized Yoruba civilization in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Although these upheavals did not destroy the Yoruba population, they displaced certain cities and engulfed other places like Owu.

Remarkably, the narration is rich and powerful, aided by archaeological, linguistic, anthropological, and historical evidence that one can almost feel as being present at the locations mentioned and connected with the individuals whose stories the book narrates to show the evolutionary development of the Yoruba people across timeframes. The Yoruba: A New History is a well-rounded book that has registered its place among the invaluable scholarly outputs of our time.

Finalist In The Creative And Performance Category

Mainframe: Ayinla by Tunde Kelani
Making a blockbuster movie is no mean feat. The arduous production process, the continuous refining of creative representations to ensure they project the finest of details, and the place of good storytelling, continuity, and the ability to connect with and sustain the audience’s attention cannot be overstated. Thus, when we consider Ayinla, the latest of Tunde Kelani’s movies, as a blockbuster, we should not only consider it as one of the top five highest-grossing movies in the Nollywood industry but also as a masterpiece that has registered its place as the defining point for biographical adaptations in the Nigerian entertainment industry.

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Another factor that lends awe to Ayinla’s widespread success is that it is dominantly presented in the Yoruba language. Despite this, the movie found widespread acceptance among viewers. It was a hit in cinemas and has been among the top 10 trending movies on Netflix for weeks, further testifying to the strength of the movie’s broad appeal and how quickly it gained popularity among Africans and other lovers of good productions. The things that make Ayinla deserving of praise pale compared to the movie’s awesomeness as a work of art. The movie demonstrates the artistic and creative ingenuity of the cast and crew, especially the producer and the writer, for an apt summation of the life of Ayinla, the musician, in such a eulogizing way, and the director, for the intricate selection of the cast. This has to be lauded because Ayinla is a beautifully arranged masterpiece. Since the movie premiere, not only has the director and the producer been receiving laurels, but the actors and actresses have also received their own warm and large share of the accolades, particularly Lateef Adedimeji, who did not just take on the role of Ayinla but rebirthed himself as the protagonist of the movie. Àyìnlá is the winner of the 2022 Programmer’s Best African Narrative Award in Los Angeles, California, USA.

Literature is the mirror of life, and the Ayinla movie is another wonderful product of literature that mirrors different aspects of society during Ayinla’s existence and several circumstances that could have contributed to his untimely death. The portrayal of Ayinla in the movie is such that one cannot but love the protagonist’s character, regardless of his whimsical nature. Great commendation must be given to the director and producers for the attention paid to the movie’s setting. When one considers the financial resources pumped into creating a setting that suits the story, the intellectual capabilities forged together to birth the masterpiece, and the human resources pooled together to make the movie a success, one would realize that they must be priceless and invaluable.

Research must have been conducted to learn about Ayinla’s hometown and his life. We see Ayinla, a musician and band leader subject to the whims and caprices popular among musicians — reneging on promises, devising dubious means to slip out of performing engagements, womanizing unashamedly, downtown brawls, one of which eventually led to his death, and general controversies. Watching Ayinla, the average person, no matter how old, can easily relate the struggles of Ayinla as a thespian to the struggles of artists across all ages, from the new-generation artists to the much older ones, and across genres of music, from hip-hop to Apala, to afrobeat, to highlife, and the likes. During Ayinla’s time, the indigenous religion was still widely accepted. Thus, self-protection, war-enhancing charms, prophecies, and destiny-unearthing ritual prayers were popular and not frowned upon. The viewers are made to see that Ayinla’s life starts to take a turn for the better when he consults the gods of his ancestors and accelerates the manifestation of his glorious destiny.

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Ayinla, the short-tempered, lovable, room-sparking musician, had at his fingertips the deft and rare skills of eulogizing to win people’s hearts and money. If viewers across countries and continents easily love the Ayinla character in the movie — so much so that the love has extended to Lateef Adedimeji for the excellent way he portrayed the character — one can only imagine how much people loved Ayinla during his lifetime. He was the typical Yoruba man who never shied away from saying what was on his mind — whether it was a profession of love, flirtatious words, abusive jabs for his enemies and sparse spenders, or huge words of praise for the big spenders. Ayinla was loved for this same reason. People did not just love Ayinla, the musician; they loved the full embodiment of Ayinla, the talented yet troubled virtuoso many easily misunderstood and the whimsical trouper whose fame was equally his downfall.

Being only human, Ayinla was prone to infallibility. He surrounded himself with people he could not fully trust, resulting in an abrupt and painful end to his life at a time when he was supposed to grow in popularity astronomically. He was not all saint — but then, is anyone? He snatched his manager’s girlfriend and stepped on some other toes.

Perhaps, what is most beautiful about the movie is how it is not only a representation of Ayinla’s life but also the way it reflects the lives of several other characters, which can be reviewed independently or seen as fragmented pieces of Ayinla’s life. In the Nigerian movie industry, Ayinla has set new standards in quality, details, directing, casting, and production for historical and biographical adaptations.

 

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