By Ishmael Mzwandile Soqaga
Ideally African literature is quite superlative for a number of reasons. It is infelicitous that many libraries in Africa are not productively resourced to unfold this mammoth achievement. Certainly it is hardly knotty to see some of the profoundly contribution of African authors in libraries; either in the urban or bucolic setting. However it’s excitingly prodigious to appreciate the power of technology, in particular the internet which is fashionably indispensible to provide exquisite details about African literature.
Since its world recognition – African literature is burgeoning in a breathtaking way. So many prolific writers in Africa are essentially committed in advancing fine creative literary work. Countless books by superb writers can be found in many different parts of the world and others are also translated in a range of languages of the world.
Of course there are unsung literary catalysts and pioneers of African literature whose works are significantly transcendent. Recently it becomes habitual that every time when African literature is mentioned readers would ignorantly think only about big names that are merely popular in African literary context. Specifically; Africa has colossal number of authors – famous and infamous. Another vexation about readers is when they ignominiously assume that for a book to be published it must necessarily be written in English or other European languages.
Sublime writers such as KP Maphalla who originally wrote his books in Sesotho, have influenced many fine writers in Africa. Thomas Mofolo also contributed significantly in the world of letters. His book Chaka which he wrote many decades ago still attracts the attention of many pundits and it also constitutes part of discussion and studies by scholars. In fact Maphalla has been central to many writers like Pule Lechesa! In Nigeria the charismatic Daniel O. Fagunwa played a very pivotal role in African literature, especially in promoting African indigenous literature. In fact Daniel O. Fagunwa is one of the catalysts and pioneer of African indigenous literature in Africa. His literary prowess which he illustrated with great zeal, definitely has hypnotized great number of African writers in Nigeria and in Africa too.
Primarily, Amos Tutuola one of early hard-working, prolific African writers was inspired by Fagunwa. The sedulous Tutuola in his writings demonstrated a vivid understanding of the creative art of writing. However, contrary to that in the academic point of view Amos Tutuola can be viewed in a different way. Tentatively, the stereotypical academics inevitably wreaked havoc to literature. Colonial stereotype among African intellectuals and academics convinced them to probably assume that literature is only the product of the academics - that those academics can produce fine creative work. Unfortunately, although colonialism is defeated in Africa albeit, its legacy impacted abysmally among the academics.
I have been fascinated with O Bolaji one of Africa’s sons who continues to do excellently in literature. He is an alumnus of the University of Obafemi Awolowo and a grassroots literary guru. To give a succinct explanation – his books have formed a principal study among the scholars and the pundit. Exhilarating books have been written about him too. But the point here is; Bolaji began to be fond of the world of letters when he was very young (toddler) before he could attend school. Specifically, his Father the late Chief Eselby Bolaji who was a prolific writer too contributed immensely in his journey of literature. Simply, the vigour and the passion that his Father had for books was very delectable and he was able to influence the children in the house.
Therefore, I believe it is absolutely unbecoming to suggest that authors need to receive certain training from school in order to become relevant authentic writers. For instance, Amos Tutuola celebrated his first novel (Palm-wine Drinkard) which was actually published overseas many years before Achebe’s Things Fall Apart. Tutuola was almost illiterate, yet he produced great literary works – one need not be highly educated before penning fine creative works/ books. Job Mzamo the fantastic Free State (South Africa) based bard remains a veritable, pragmatic and exquisite writer who produced very superb poems in creative writing. Like Tutuola, he only attended primary school but is a highly polished poet, with excellent diction and imagery.
Furthermore, Tutuola’s work has been highly acclaimed by both whites and African critics, including professors like Wole Soyinka. He was a genuine African writer with inspiration from local folklore, traditions, superstitions etc. Tutuola was a born story teller; hence he published about ten books in his lifetime, novels and short stories.
It is quite important for young African writers to start to read with enthusiasm about early writers like Tutuola. Imperatively by reading and studying about such writers this will definitely add more understanding about early African writers. The new writers will have an idea of pre – colonial situation, beliefs and ambience. In fact the tragic reality is that only few young African writers now take inspiration from rural setting, villages, forests etc.
Unfortunately, the young generation today generally lacks stimulation, spirituality and introspection; and they are strongly inclined towards inane comments on social media. One needs to be wary of such pernicious situation because if the situation continues it will eventually obliterate and cause great despair to African literature. What price for new Amos Tutuolas to emerge in our modern era?
Works by Amos Tutuola
The Palm-Wine Drinkard (1952)
My Life in the Bush of Ghosts (1954)
Simbi and the Satyr of the Dark Jungle (1955)
The Brave African Huntress (1958)
Feather Woman of the Jungle (1962)
Ajaiyi and his Inherited Poverty (1967)
The Witch-Herbalist of the Remote Town (1981)
The Wild Hunter in the Bush of the Ghosts (1982)
Yoruba Folktales (1986)
Pauper, Brawler and Slanderer (1987)
The Village Witch Doctor and Other Stories (1990)