Thursday, October 05, 2006

Generational Imbalance

In reaction to Ama’s comment on a new member (Senator Ihenyen) in Kriazitiviti, a literary linkserve, Tolu Ogunlesi said:

No, Lord Ama, I doubt that we are empty barrels.
We are many other things, " [the] unfortunate children of fortunate
parents" (Biodun Jeyifo); the "Yahoo-generation" (Damola Awoyokun),
etc etc, but, empty barrels, nah, I doubt it.... And he further buttressed his point with a free verse poem title: A NAME FOR US.

Tolu’s view on generational superiority quite differ from Chike Ofili's. He condemned vehemently in his paper delivered at Aina Onobolu Hall during ANA-Lagos' August Reading the various names Tolu agreed were really his generation's names.

The argument proper:

Chike Ofili: Generational Superiority

A tree cannot make a forest and in trusted unions is the wisdom of the Yoruba. They established this fact by a practical experiment. Imagine a forest filled with several species of trees and monkeys as their specimens. In this forest, monkeys jump from one tree to another, dangling, hovering, on and over branches with ease, enclosed in excitement; to the amusement of the researchers. Then, at an instant, the trees are distanced from one another. The monkeys with the highest skill of synchronized movement in the forest are subjected to the stress of long distance travel to get to another tree and suppressed by turmoil. Hence, unions form and these foster cordiality. This is the reason why you see people with common ideas, missions and believes coming together to form groups, forums and communities in ancient Africa and in other parts of the world.

The 1st and 2nd generations of writers in Nigeria came together in the 70s after succeeding in their various miniature groups to form an alliance that would give their voices more recognition and make them heard. They registered the Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA) almost immediately after political tensions in the country relaxed and ever since then the association has been upright.; although some members of the association constantly toed the political terrain and projected the association to its purported height within a twinkle in their eyes. Among these notorious and radical writers are Prof. Wole Soyinka, Prof. Chinua Achebe, the late environmentalist, Ken Saro-wiwa, Odia Ofeimum and several others. Today, the association has its branches in virtually all the states in Nigeria.

As the second Saturday of the month is sacred to published and unpublished writers, publishers, journalists, book enthusiasts and lovers of literature in the congested city of Lagos, they all gathered at Aina-Onobolu’ s Art Gallery under the umbrella of the state branch of ANA. The Lagos chapter of the ANA held her September reading with the theme: “The Climate of Creative Writing in Present-day Nigeria”. Uduma Kalu and Chike Ofili were the guest speakers, whilst Maxwell moderated with high intellect. After some readings, with fair criticism, the chairman, Folu Agoi declared the interactive section opened. Even though Uduma Kalu, the renowned journalist could not grace the reading, he sent his contribution towards the theme through his colleague who read his paper with his own personal embellishments. Chike Ofili also came with a written paper, but he had a lot of books and materials to buttress his view points. Indeed both of them argued for the 4th generation of writers, stating clearly their limitations and successes in Nigerian literature. However, Chike Ofili argued that the reason why 1st and 2nd generations of writers looked down on both 3rd and 4th generations is that they equate generation X with the UK and America. He explained that X is used to connote an unknown figure in mathematics, thereby it means empty in the actual sense.

At the inception of the section, Chike Ofili affirmed that it was because of Colonial and independence issues (which needed constant highlighting via all forms of _expression) that 1st and 2nd generations had the opportunity to produce several pieces, and, of course, the foreign publishing houses in Nigeria were eager to publish new African voices. This was unlike what has befallen the 3rd and 4th generations that have become inclined to self-publishing, tagged: “vanity publishing” by the older generations. Indeed, the 3rd generation was partially favoured by the Biafra War and the tense political atmosphere in the later 70s.

Refusing to pay due compliment by the older generations to 4th generation, Chike Ofili submitted his view as a bone of contention. And this he said was founded on the fear of not being wiped out of circulation, which equates them with the characteristics of the bourgeois. Also he quoted Odia Ofeimum to have said that the 4th generation is a “Clap-trap generation” and Prof. Niyi Osundare’ view that this generation is a “CNN generation” in one of his interviews. These respected and renowned writers were classified as the pioneers of the 3rd generation. But when critically viewed, the 4th generation has nothing much to discuss other than the world epidemic immune deficiency syndrome: HIV/AIDS as its acronym. Both speakers argued that the common issues ravished the hearts of the generation. The great pan-Africanist, Prof Ngugi wa Thiong’o and the late Ocot p’Bitek, who are 1st and 2nd generations respectively, are known for their promotion of African ideologies, arts and culture; also campaigns against the African bourgeois, traitors, puppet politicians and colonial and imperial brutality, reasons being that these constituted the reality of their time.

Nevertheless, the generation in question has done equally well as far as Nigerian and African literatures are concerned. The rate at which they win international awards and prizes to the glory of Nigeria and the continent cannot be under estimated. Even though with their fictitious (as viewed by the older generation) fictions, poetry and drama, they have redeemed the Black image all over the world. And they never claimed their fellow writers’ creative works by having their names widely-bolded across cover pages at the expense of the original writers, in the name of translation, which the 1st and 2nd and perhaps, the 3rd generations are guilty of.

Ayanda Abeke
Rumour Networks

Tolu Ogunlesi: A NAME FOR US
"Google is the new Godot.." - The Generation-X manifesto

I have thought of a name
For my generation

We are the Wastebin /Condom /Yahoo / Claptrap generation,

Somehow, the dregs
Of time have found
Bed and breakfast
In us

We have soaked our garments
In the suds that washed
The sweat of the fathers

We have coveted the miracle
Of amnesia -
An unknowing - of how
To loosen the knots
Fate gened in us

We are the last page
Of an unwritten book
The night in which God
Put out the last star
The cycle will begin again
After us. From purity.

We are the age
In which water outgrew
The fingers of the well

What shall we rename Oedipus
Now that he has spurned blindness?

And what,
Shall we rename madness
In an age sans Mind?

Tolu Ogunlesi (c) 2006


Araceli Aipoh said...

HEY Ayanda,

Well done. I love that Tolu Ogunlesi poem.

Ayanda Abeke said...

Hello Araceli,

Thanks. But do you think what Ogunlesi wrote really described the thrid and the yet to be figured generations of Nigerian writers? I don't quite agree with him because you and I are part of these generations he claimed to be Claptrap, CNN, Yahoo and sorts.

I will like you read the poem again and read between the lines this time for you to see clearly what I am saying.

Thanks for coming over.