Decolonizing Ignorance and Stereotypes: A Review of Burying The Ghosts of Dead Narratives

Soonest_Nathaniel_Burying the Ghosts of Dead Narratives

 

By Paul Liam

The concept of decolonization in African literature is rooted in the attempt by pioneer modern African poets and scholars to decolonize the minds of Africans against the background of the barbaric narratives of European exploiters and colonizers who painted the continent as a jungle of apes and barbarians lacking in civilization.

African poets, therefore, sought to reeducate Africans about their histories, cultures, and traditions as a way of helping them to regain their lost self-esteem and humanity. They did this through poetry, fiction, drama, and criticism. This ideological drive was heralded by the African literary philosophy known as Negritude.

The consumption of the negative narratives on Africa by European and western readers ensued in the establishment of a permanent false image of Africa and Africans in their consciousness and sub-consciousness, as a people without civilization and humanity.

Several years after colonialism, the story hasn’t changed much as Africans are still considered second-class humans by Europeans and Westerners despite the fact that their ancestors claimed to have brought civilization to Africa against the historical evidence of Africa’s rich civilization and epistemology, they have perpetually been unable to unlearn the false histories they were nurtured with.

Several decades and centuries after their offsprings continue to interact with Africa within that narrow prism created by those racist and Eurocentric travelogues and narratives.

Well, we cannot deny the legacies of debasement, exploitation, and continuing imperialism by European and western establishments in Africa.

African poets like Gabriel Okara, Christopher Okigbo, Wole Soyinka, Leopold Sengor,OusmaneSembène,Abioseh Nicol, Kwesi Brew, Frank Parkes, John Pepper Clark, Lenrie Peters, George Awoonor Williams (Kofi Awoonor), Mbella Sonne Dipoko, Michael J.C. Echeruo, and OkogbuliWonodi and several others employed the instrumentality of poetry in conscientising Africans to take pride in their Africanness and liberate themselves from the clog of mental slavery occasioned by colonialism.

Consequently, Soonest Nathaniel has returned to that literary tradition with his collection, Burying the Ghost of Dead Narratives, in an ambitious attempt to decolonize the minds of his readers, but his readers this time around are not Africans or Nigerians, but Europeans and Westerners, many of whose perception of Africa and Africans is shrouded in deep ignorance and stereotypes harvested from a backlog of warp colonial history.

It is paradoxical that this decolonization project is enabled by Britain, through the British Council. Cultural exchange programmes and dialogue are key in the pursuit of intercultural relations and dialogue, especially in a world that has become a ‘global village’.

Soonest Nathaniel’s collection is an exemplifier of the functional use of art and in particular, poetry as an instrument of socio-cultural appropriation and dialogue.

The collection does not hide its intention to educate an external audience about Africa and in many instances, about Nigeria. The exogenous motif of the collection is telling of the underlining ideology behind the poems.

Using a didactic and prosaic style which is synonymous with all literature with an agenda to instruct, he teaches his audience about Africa, sometimes using satire and humor to conceal the gravity of his messages.

Central to the messages in the collection is the notion of the single story that westerners have of Nigeria and Africa in general. In Burying The Ghost of Dead Narratives, we encounter subtle yet lacerating derision of the ignorance of westerners of Nigeria and Africa at different levels in a postmodern world.

Thus, this collection is solid in its objective of debunking the perversion that emanates from stereotypes in a sense akin to what ChimamandaNgoziAdichie regards as the ‘danger of a single story’.

Single stories all over the world are products of limited consciousness enabled by ignorance and sometimes the unwillingness to unlearn prejudices that fuel ignorance and stereotypes.

Understandably, unlearning can be difficult as it humbles and puts the individual in an uncomfortable position of having toadmit either to themselves or to others of their weaknesses. So, how do you teach an unwilling learner about your country and people?

Nathaniel tells us to invoke metaphors whether dead or alive to renegotiate our perception of each other particularly through new narratives that speak to our shared values and humanity.

Soonest Nathaniel is one of Nigeria's leading poets.
Soonest Nathaniel is one of Nigeria’s leading poets.

 

To bury the ghost of dead narratives implies that we should put aside those stereotypical assumptions that hinder us from fostering genuine friendship and intercultural relations between the continent of Europe and Africa.

Dead narratives have divided us for far too long and to create new narratives of trust and mutual respect, we must tell positive stories about ourselves, our country, and our continent.

This supposition is corroborated by many of the poems in the collection. For example, in the poem, “Africa is Not a Country”(p.15) the poetic persona attempts to debunk the stereotypes about Africa when he says in the first stanza that,

Africa is not a country at the edge of old stories

Lingering between exploitation and aid.

Not a slaughterhouse nor a shrine

Where children’s bones are crushed

Into fine powder to be made into potions

In a bid to sate the protein needs of dying fathers.

The poem, aside from debunking the stereotypes about Africa being a country, and AIDS, and diseases and, goes further to illustrate some historical context about the real Africa and its glorious heritage. The fourth stanza of the poem is instructive as it provides deep posers for reflection,

No! she is not poor.

She provides for them all both high and small.

In her barns are roots, tubers, cereals and nuts.

In her banks are diamonds, platinum, gold,

uranium, bauxite, steel, copper

aluminum and coal,

there’s great wealth in the depths of her soul.

There is no favoured approach to understanding

the bondage from which she has risen,

surely, not through coloured-prism

of flattery.

We cannot undo the hours,

but even in the heart of darkness,

her light has found a place to bloom;

let the forbidden conversation find a tribe.

In the poem, “I am the other Nigeria” (10), the persona performs the same duty as in the poem “Africa is Not a Country.” He debunks the stereotypes about Nigeria in a creative way that seeks to appeal to the reader rather than castigate the offenders being addressed in the poem.

He highlights the global feats accomplished by Nigerians indicating that Nigeria and Nigerians are not defined by the stereotypes ascribed to them by the west. The achievements by Nigerians across fields of endeavour is projected as being the real Nigeria.

The poem could be regarded as a patriotic tribute to a country vilified by negative narratives because of the actions of a few citizens in the face of overwhelming evidence of exceptional brilliance and valor.

The first stanza of the poem summarises the functionality and can-do spirit of the Nigerians,

not the one on page 419 of the history book,

but the one in the next chapter where you’re yet to take a look.

The one for who impossibility is forbidden, the fractured frame

still holding immaculate pictures.

The one who knows water can be cruel

and the earth is not always a grave;

the one who understands that local hands can build global brands

and parallel line may meet and agree.

In his collection, Soonest Nathaniel urges us to put aside those stereotypical assumptions that hinder the fostering of new connections for mutual benefits.

 

In the “How to bury the Ghosts of Dead Narratives” (p.29), the persona talks about the need to bury the paste and embrace the new realities staring us in the face. He alludes to the paraphernalia that accompanies physical deaths and burial procession in Nigeria which he opines are not necessary for burying the ghosts of dead narratives.

He instructs on what should be done instead in stanza seven of the poem, he enjoins the mourners not to make light of the trauma in the tales being buried.

There should be poetry and loud music at the wake,

Tell jokes but don’t make light of the trauma

These tales have wreaked.

And in conclusion, in the poem “The New Story”(p.30), the persona in a reflective mood reconciles the past with the present in a bid to find peace and closure, he seeks a new beginning after burying the ghosts of dead narratives. He remarks in the first stanza of the poem thus,

It is not about what your fathers did to us,

nor is it about what our sons did to yours;

it is a chorus chanted

after the rooster regained her voice,

a tale told from the finish line—

where the earth

has annulled her contracts with neglect.

This is a fine collection that speaks to the essential issues of our humanity. We need to talk about them more openly and with the genuine intention to heal and move on. So, let us bury the ghost of dead narratives and weave new narratives of love and humanity.

Chimamanda Adichie Addresses University of Pennsylvania’s 2020 Graduating Class

A file photo of Chimamanda Adichie
A file photo of Chimamanda Adichie

 

Award-winning writer and novelist Chimamanda Adichie on Monday paid tribute to the 2020 Graduating Class of the University of Pennsylvania charging them to help change the world.

Delivering the commencement speech at the university – which she did virtually – Adichie noted that it was a strange time to be graduating.

“I can imagine that it must also be a difficult time, a confusing time, a disorienting time but if there is anything to be said for this strange time in which we find ourselves, it is this, that for you graduating at this time it is among other things an opportunity to start to think about the kind of world that we want to remake.”

She said she found the achievements of the graduating class impressive.

“I do have to say that I am most moved by the sacrifices that you’ve made, the sacrifices that you’ve had to make – I think even that is an achievement.”

Adichie had been tapped back in February to deliver the Ivy League University’s commencement speech this month, making her the first black woman to achieve the feat at the institution after then-US Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Patricia Harris did so 42 years ago.But the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown in major cities across the globe meant the ceremony had to be held virtually.

On Monday morning, the graduating class was joined by students, alumni, associates, teaching, and non-teaching staff worldwide to mark the occasion.

During the graduation ceremony, a special tribute was paid to the graduating students including special remarks from the President, Provost, students’ performances and the conferral of degrees.

Adichie, who also received an honorary doctorate degree from the university, encouraged the graduands to remain strong and focused amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“These may be strange times – they certainly are for me – but I want to urge you to remember that there is so much to celebrate. You’ve done it. You’ve graduated. Congratulations,” she said.

According to the university, the 264th Commencement Day event will hold physically on May 22 & 23, 2021.

“…when we all plan to be together again, taking our traditional march down Locust Walk to the Class of 2020 Commencement Celebration in Franklin Field,” the school wrote on its website.

On the same day, the institution said, Adichie will physically re-address the Class of 2020 and fully give her commencement speech on that day.

Adichie told the graduands, “I’m looking forward very much to addressing you in Franklin field sometime in the future and looking forward very much to meeting you.”

Aliko Dangote Is Forbes Africa’s Person Of The Year 2014

Aliko DangoteBillionaire businessman, Aliko Dangote, was on Thursday named Forbes Africa’s Person of the Year 2014.

At the unveiling ceremony in Nairobi, Kenya, Aliko Dangote, who has played key roles in Nigeria’s development, dedicated the award to Nigeria, noting he was proud to be African.

It was his fourth nomination for the position.

The panel of judges who decided Dangote fit the bill, said “Aliko Dangote is a lion of Africa in terms of business. He is second to none when it comes to investing in Africa, not just Nigeria. He is also a capitalist with a big heart. He puts his money where his mouth is and his foundation is a step forward for a man who wants to make a difference on the continent.”

Dangote clinched the award ahead of other finalists; South Africa’s Public Protector, Thuli Madonsela; Nigerian author, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie; Director-General of the Securities & Exchange Commission Nigeria, Arunma Oteh and President of the African Development Bank, Donald Kaberuka.

Pana TV Acquires Right To Stream Half Of A Yellow Sun

Half-of-a-yellow-sunThe African online television service, PANATV has signed an exclusive deal with SODA Pictures, to acquire the rights to be the first online television service to stream exclusively on its platform in the UK and US, one of the most acclaimed films from Africa this year, Half of a Yellow Sun.

In a deal concluded with Monterey Media, PanaTV has secured non-exclusive rights to stream Half of a Yellow Sun in the US along with a limited shared exclusive pre-window. The movie will be available for VOD in the US from June 29 and in the UK from August 2014.

The Head of Content at PanaTV, Mandy Roger, says “This demonstrates that we seek out high quality films for our viewers; expect to see more of such quality films and content on PanaTV this year.”

“We are delighted that Half of a Yellow Sun will be streaming on PanaTV, and believe it is a great home for the film to connect with audiences,” says Head of Home Entertainment at Soda Pictures, Louise Rae.

A sweeping romantic drama, HALF OF A YELLOW SUN takes the sisters and their lovers on a journey through the war which is powerful, intensely emotional and, as the response of readers around the world has shown, a story which can touch everyone’s heart.

The 2013 Nigerian drama film written and produced by the prolific Nigerian playwright, novelist and screenwriter, Biyi Bandele, and adapted from the international best-selling Orange Prize-winning novel written by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, stars Academy Award nominee, Chiwetel Ejiofor (Twelve Years a Slave), BAFTA award winner, Thandie Newton (Crash), Anika Noni Rose (The Princess and the Frog), John Boyega, Onyeka Onwenu, Joseph Mawle, Genevieve Nnaji and O.C. Ukeje.

The London premiere interviews and trailer are now available to view on www.panatv.com

Biyi Bandele Translates Half Of A Yellow Sun Into An Emotional Drama

half of a yellow sunNigerian-born British playwright Biyi Bandele has translated Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s powerful prize-winning novel, ‘Half Of A Yellow Sun’ into an emotional drama that gives voice to personal stories of the indignities and atrocities suffered during the Nigerian Civil War.

Based on a best-selling novel by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, the film is set between 1960 and 1970, the years of Nigeria’s independence from Britain, early democracy and collapse into civil war.

Its protagonists, including Newton’s Olanna and Chiwetel Ejiofor’s academic, Odenigbo, start the film as members of the country’s economic and intellectual elite but end it in tatters.

The film was screened to critics in Lagos to herald its anticipated entry to the big screens.

Buy Books Instead Of Recharge Cards – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

The author of Half of a Yellow Sun, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, has advised Nigerians to read more stating that what people read affect the way people think.

Chimamanda as the guest of the week on Sunrise enjoined Nigerian parents to endeavour to let their kids start reading from early ages.

She admonished parents and elders to “buy a book instead of recharge cards for the young ones”, “you don’t have to make that call” the very successful writer quipped as she further revealed that that her passion for writing developed because she started reading very early.

“It has to start very early. Reading must be encouraged at a very early age” she stated.

“Reading narratives is not just story books, as how people here say. Its also that narratives train your mind. It not only helps you communicate better, it make you think in a linear way.”

“The way people read affect the way people think” she said.


When asked by a viewer on Twitter whether she will write children’s book, the author who has written a number of novels stated that she has not started doing anything on children’s book.

“I think my vision is too dark and if I write a children’s book, someone might die and the poor children will be traumatised. But I think Nigeria is full of wonderful writers who are doing children’s fiction.”

“It is very important for young people to see themselves in books. It is very important” she added.

I Have Fallen In-Love With My Hair – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie was the guest of the week on Channels TV’s Sunrise and she never shied away from discussing issues of the African hair, her hair.

Her latest book; Americanah, which is being launched in Nigeria today has caused some hullaballoo over her remark about her preference for the African kinky hair.

“There is a mainstream idea of what is beautiful and it is not this kind of hair (pointing to her hair) and we (African women) have internalised that. We see our hair as difficult, as unattractive.”

“Our hair as it grows from our head is seen as something that we have to do something to, which is why when there is a big event, even women with natural hair don’t wear their natural hair to the event. They do something to it” Chimamanda explained.

The author who did not hide her dislike for hair attachment stated that “what we consider mainstream idea of beauty is, we have put on rims of plastic…. I don’t find that attractive at all.”

“If people want to do it, God bless them, I do think we have to talk about why our hair is something we have to do something to” she added.

Chimamanda glowingly acknowledged her preference for her virgin hair which she claims she has carried for a decade, saying “I have fallen in love with my hair because I didn’t realise it could do all of the things it does.”

She admits that new book -Americanah- is about hair, but there is a lot more to it.

“It is about immigration, it is about self-invention, it is about love.” “It is a traditional love story” she added.

Watch the interview and see her recommendations on how to maintain the African hair.

Wearing Natural Hair Is Unbearable For African Women – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Award winning author of ‘Half of a Yellow Sun’, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, has criticized the use of Brazilian/Indian hair attachments by African women instead of their natural hair.

Adichie made this known in an interview with The Observer,where she stated that African women should be proud of their natural hair, which is the pride of Africans.

When asked to discuss about her new novel ‘Americanah’ that includes the detail descriptions of black women having their hair done and also to give a brief description of her own hair, she replied;

“That is the best question! My hair is in tiny cornrows; I have a big ponytail on the top of my head. I quite like it. It is natural. I am a bit of a fundamentalist when it comes to black women’s hair. Hair is hair – yet also about larger questions: self-acceptance, insecurity and what the world tells you is beautiful. For many black women, the idea of wearing their hair naturally is unbearable”.

The hair industry is worth billions of dollars with massive importation of the attachments to Africa as the female beauty trends is largely about fluffy long Caucasian hair instead of their natural kinky hair.

Americanah was released in Australia on the 1st April 2013. It will be released in the UK on the 11th of April 2013 and in the US on 14th of May 2013.

Future Award Season 7 presents “Tear down the walls”

The seventh season of the annual Future Award will be coming up on the August 26, 2012 with the theme “Tear down the walls.”

Plans for the event were made known at a media launch over the weekend which held at the Coral Reef in Ikoyi with an assessment of the impact of past awards on the winners.

The 2012 awards, themed ‘Tear down these walls!’ is to emphasis, how far and how hard young Nigerians have worked to build a new system of innovation and values in Nigeria.

The awards to contend for this year includes, The Future Awards for Leaders, Entrepreneurs, Innovator and many others.

According to one of the organizers of the award ceremony, Ohimai Atafo, “over the past seven years, we have taken seriously our mandate to inspire leadership and build enterprise and nothing excites us more than the experience of presenting over 1000 Positive Role Models (especially outside of entertainment) to young Nigerians and Africans.”

The media launch brought, former winners and judges of the awards which includes, Tara Fela Durotoye (Entrepreneur of the Year and Young Person of the Year), Uche Nnaji (Style Entrepreneur of the Year) and Tolu Ogunlesi (Journalist of the Year) who interacted with the media on the impact and influence of the awards.

Future Awards continues to be the most influential and popular youth platform in the continent. It identifies young people who have excelled at their work, celebrates their achievements, and showcases them as role models to inspire a generation of Africans to believe in themselves and the future of their countries.

Former winners include female farmer and face of youth entrepreneurship in Nigeria, Mosunmola Umoru; international author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, NASA scholar, Tosin Otitoju, founder of the Dustbin Estate Children’s Foundation Tolu Sangosanya, investor of the 1-second power change-over based in Ajegunle, Otejiri Oghoghorie, the 2011 winner for Young Person of the Year, farm technology entrepreneur and Rolex Award winner Nnaemeka Ikegwuonu.