Saturday, November 17, 2018

Where Is Ako; where Is Uche?


Obododimma Oha

Akonauche (sometimes written as “akonuuche” to reflect what, in phonology is called a feature smear, the attribute of one sound affecting the sound of its neighbour) is an Igbo compound word formed from “ako” (being wary, cleverness, discerning, cautious) and “uche” (thoughtfulness, wisdom, etc.). Both are obviously relatives, and, in recognition of this affinity, the Igbo put them together to form a mega-term that we can translate as a soundness of mind from which somebody critically looks at an issue and makes the right choices. We called it a mega-term, or, as recognized in linguistic morphology, a superordinate where we could locate such terms as amamiihe (wisdom), nghota (understanding), itughari uche (reasoning), etc. Where akonauche is used, we should look out for other related words – its close companions -- that may be used for textual cohesion. Sometimes, akonauche may not be specifically mentioned, but these related terms signal that the text is talking about it through webs of relationship.

Another noteworthy issue is that akonauche may be narrativised to us through its trajectories, even abuses and impossibilities, like the tortoise going round collecting all wisdom in a calabash, with the selfish intention of hoarding them and being the only wise person around. The futility of this exercise is shown at the end of the narrative where tortoise, unable to cross a branch with the calabash of wisdom on his head, is given the helpful advice by a passerby, when he thought he had collected and stored all the wisdom in the community and should be wiser! We also see the pragmatics of akonauche in its use and experience in the narrative of nwa ebulu ako, who is asked to tell the number of times an experience can make him have amamiihe. Question and answer are important in also making us pupils who attempt the question and wonder whether we are right after all! We are also on test in the understanding of how akonauche relates to experience.

We live in an age when things are simplified and compound or complex forms may be given short versions. The term akonauche is sometimes clipped in Igbo discourse and used simply as “uche” (even though the word “uche” also exists as a free morpheme used in the language). In that case, it is assumed that the interlocutor has competence enough in the language to recover the removed part, “ako+na.” Oh, what is the point giving limbs to this word? Many limbs would make it redundant and monstrous! Uche tells us the person is just not talking about the possession of wisdom or not caution or cleverness is entailed in it. Otherwise, how can one be wise if one is not equally cautious? Don’t be fooled by the fact that the two words have been conjoined with “na” (and).

Now, where is ako; where is uche? I have stated that the clipping as a morphological transformational process removes “ako+na” from the structure but “uche” is still there; the trace is there and we can fill the blank spaces.

The next thing to worry about is whether akonauche actually manifests in the utterances of people these days (on social media and in real life). If all humans have the faculty of akonauche, differently distributed in people – obu si na ike di n’awaja n’awaja (obu the bird said that ability is variously distributed) and in families (which is one reason the Igbo carry out iju ajuju or making enquiries before contracting a marriage and if akonauche is something we  can acquire, activate or boost from the various interactions we have in our community, is there enough evidence that people are critical enough and are making the right judgments – or do the leave the thinking to others and relying merely on their own akonauche? How many times does experience teach them, or does it teach them at all? As that related Igbo proverb puts it, otu osisi o na-adu ha n’anya ugboro abuo? Do they allow one stick poke into their eyes twice? I hope that the first poking has not caused them to be blind.

I have the feeling that the number of times the same stick pokes into their eyes may be dependent on the lens through which they look at reality. They may be looking at situations through the lens, through the eyes of other people – assuming the first poking blinded them or forced them to look at situations, not with their own eyes, bought through the eyes of others. Obviously, they are being led like goats or sheep to the slaughter and cannot as much as resist. When they are slapped on this cheek, they turn the other one. When both cheeks have been sufficiently slapped, they should turn their buttocks and receive the blows!

Where is ako; where is uche? They are either on vacation or have taken to their heels. I thought that humans were thinking creatures, that thinking separates them from animals! Lower animals should forgive me. Not all of you are “lower”? after all. In some contexts (especially higher institutions where things are upside-down, have you not noticed that while dogs and goats get out of the way when vehicles are approaching), book people don’t! They are too big to keep safe! They have to demonstrate their “bigness” (of people who are learning a lot from the books) by refusing to leave the road! And I still ask: where is ako; where is uche?

There are other strange situations one can cite. All to show that akonauche agbaala oso (has taken to its heels) in the affairs of humans and/or is fast dwindling in some contexts on this planet. Where, my sister, my brother, is ako; where is uche?

Monday, November 12, 2018

Something Standing Beside Something


Obododimma Oha

The Igbo use the proverb, Ihe kwuru, ihe akwuso ya (literally, “Something stands beside something"). That something that stands beside it is its complement, as well as its alternative. There are always other alternatives, other routes. If there are no alternatives, there is a problem. We are left with no option and must accept or deal with what is available. That zero-option is an example of absolute tyranny, and when it is introduced in discourse, you can be sure that silence would result. Since people are not allowed to look at the issue from other angles, the only thing for them is to follow what they object to, what they cannot in their right senses accept, or to keep quiet and continue to gnash their teeth! In that case, you can see that silence is not always golden, not always an assurance that the silent person does not want to talk.

Is it not interesting that that thing standing beside something is not just an antagonist? As an option, an alternative, it is its replacement. But it is not quite reasonable to think of a replacement as an erasure, complete removal, obliteration, of the other. That thing standing beside that thing is that thing in a fuller sense; it is its complementation. That thing is always incomplete without that thing standing beside it. That thing standing beside it is necessary to its existence, even for the clarity of what it really is or stands for. Semanticists tell us that contrast of pairs enables the realization of the meaning of words. If there is no death, I doubt that you would more clearly understand what life is. A contrast is tied up with the ontology of things, even ideas. A contrast is needed to complete the sense.

Ihe kwuru, ihe akwuso ya! If one thing does not want us to understand it and to scrutinize it, it should not come forward at all. It should not stand. Even when something sits, another thing is sitting beside it. That thing standing or sitting beside something helps us to think beyond the thing just standing or sitting. The besideness is sought by a people that wish to think deeply, not a people for whom others do the thinking.

Man standing beside woman;

Life standing beside death;

Approach standing beside retreat;

Night standing beside day;

Speaking standing beside Listening;

And so on.

Even when one type of speaking stands, another stands beside it. Same for one type of listening and one type of writing! Ihe kwuru, o si ihe ozo ka o kwuso ya (When one thing stands, it implores another to stand beside it). You see; we are giving other permutations to the proverb. What stands implicitly invites a besideness. Besideness clarifies it; activates it!

That is to say that things do not just stand; they ask for otherness, for besideness. Things standing are terribly alone and desire companionship.

This issue of things standing beside things is in agreement with the Igbo thinking that a naghi ano otu nga elele mmanwu (One does not watch a masked performance from only one angle). In the first place, it is even impossible to watch a performance that involves chasing and running about, witnessing this or that fantastic display or skill, this or that narrative of narratives happening once in a while, just from one spot! One rooted at a spot in such a performance is either under an influence of charms, or does not understand the performance.

The Igbo, I believe, think of other possibilities. Life opens many different doors for us to peep in. If one is a flutist like Unoka, Okonkwo’s father in Things Fall Apart, one can also be a farmer, a hunter, physician, etc, so that if one engagement fails, one falls back on the other. Also, there could be an interesting way that knowledge in one fertilizes knowledge in another, helps it to flourish in a significant way, It is in fact in the arena of knowledge that when one stands, another stands beside it. Knowledges have ways of interacting and invigorating one another.

Can you see that when Ezeulu in Achebe’s Arrow of God sends Oduche to be his eyes and ears in the coming Whiteman’s dispensation, he is not mistaken? He is acting in line with this ancient wisdom that one does not watch a masked dance only from a spot, as well as the philosophy of besideness. Igbo (African) ways have to stand beside the Western. Traditional Igbo religion has to think of standing beside Christianity and with confidence, Ihe kwuru, ihe akwuso ya!

Now, as descendants of Oduche, how do we play our roles of being Ezeulu’s "eyes" and "ears"? Are we busy thinking that only one thing should stand? Then, we are terribly prodigal and need to be recalled, if possible. Is it an African idea and Western counterpart? Leave them; they need to interact. When one says that it does not need the other or cannot learn from the other, it is mistaken.

Thursday, November 01, 2018

The Masked Spirit as a Site of Signification


 Obododimma Oha

What fascinates me about the Igbo masked performance is not the claim that the masked dancer is the spirit of ancestor and that it emerges from ant holes. What fascinates me is that it is, together with its idea and general performance, a   wonderful signifying practice. OK, even the claim that it is a spirit of the ancestor, that such a spirit emerges from ant holes, is part of this signifying practice. Its identification as a spirit of the dead ancestors is really what masking is all about: it unifies presence and absence in the mask and unless you go inside the mask to verify the claim (which would amount to a cultural violation of the sacred), how could you tell what is inside the mask?

Even if it is the human being that is inside the mask asking, as we could find in Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart: “Odulukwe’s body, do you know me?” is the human not really half-mortal and half-spirit or soul? Do we not at death merely discard the flesh and the spirit travels on? In that unusual thinking, is the human flesh not just a mask and/or costume holding the spirit? Are we not already always masked spirits, and what we now call masked spirit in culture is a mere secondary form, thrice removed from reality, Plato would add in his theory of forms?

 Further, claiming that it is the spirit of the ancestor not only invites us to accord such a mask the respect the hallowed forebears deserve, but also makes becoming an insider, an initiate, desirable! It is when one is initiated that one would have access to the sacred knowledge and know what is inside the mask. One who desires to know should know (fully). Interestingly, this knowing of what moves inside the mask is called ima mmanwu (literally, “knowing the masked spirit) in my village. The initiation is the act of knowing, of getting familiar with the masked spirit and its signification. An initiate is then understood as one who knows, not just what is inside the mask, but the entire signifying practice of the mmanwu. Which is why the non-initiate is referred to (yet a signifying dimension) as ogbodu nti abadaba (literally, non-initiate of large ears). How can one have large ears (that are naturally adapted to sharp listening) and hear without comprehending? It is, indeed, an irony! An ogbodu may be present among those who know what moves inside the mask and would not comprehend their communication in various modes! That ogbodu, as put in the hyperbolic “nti abadaba” really has large but useless ears.

Why would the ogbodu in their deplorable naivety not be told that the masked spirit emerges from ant holes? If indeed the craft of clandestine communication privileges deception through the sign, this is one of them. Among the initiates, the use of codes and ciphers to include and exclude, which are part of the mystification of the masked icon, includes making the ogbodu believe such things as emergence from ant holes. This is not to say that the mmanwu practitioners cannot deploy magical arts and really make entities like the masked dancer come out of ant holes or wall crevices and even to disappear. But, obviously, somebody is making a fool of another about another’s lack of knowledge about the signifying practice, about signification in signification, about signification beyond signification!

A test usually administered by the adukwu to find out whether one is an initiate further proves that membership is signification (and its decoding).The adukwu  would say to the person: "Gosi m akwukwu mmuo" (literally, "Show me the leaves of the spirit"). The "leaves" may not be real leaves of any tree. The addressee, if an initiate into the secret communication, should be able to decode "akwukwo mmuo" ("leaves of the spirit") very easily. An ogbodu would display ignorance by taking leaves literally and denotatively and naming leaves. But signification in mmanwu is not a gamble! It is better not to gamble and get into bigger trouble. There could be (and often are) checkpoints, tougher riddles beyond igosi akwukwu mmuo ("Showing the leaves of the spirit")!

Akwukwo mmuo proves that discrimination is crucial in mmanwu signification. Just the way that shibboleth and sibboleth of The Holy Bible are used in discrimination and identification of enemies! Akwukwo mmuo helps an initiate in dealing with an outsider who pretends to be an insider!

Further, the presence of an ogbodu among adukwu when the secrets of mmanwu signification is given some revelation often attracts a derogatory alert, "Ogbodu na-esi" ("There  is the stench of a non-initiate"). Such an alert, which is again coded only for the insiders' comprehension, makes the discussants become war. This alert may also convey the idea, "Don't go ahead with the discussion because there is an intruder" or "Be cautious and use a coded speech instead." But, why would the non-initiate's presence be described as a "stench"? Obviously, it is a derogatory remark. But apart from this, it is cognitively the ogbodu of large ears is a mere animal with a distinct smell. The  smell is the vulnerability of the mmanwu signification in that discussion! The smell is the risk of tolerating an outsider!

To be able to decode the uttered or displayed signs about a performance, one must be initiated into the signs of the practice. Initiation is an entry into a signification, into a world.  That initiation into signification shows us that the practitioners look at signification as knowledge, and are cautious about it. It is a weapon for protection, as well as that of discrimination. Discrimination is important in this case; initiates, or the adukwu, must have to be differentiated from the ogbodu and directed appropriately. It is not public knowledge even if the performance is on the public square and the lect in use is what even speaker in that locality understands.

Consider the wall murals! One in which the mmanwu is mounted on the inyinya (horse) narrates in adulation that that particular mmanwu has risen in rank because o gbuole anyinya (It has killed a horse). In our community, the killing of a horse by the mmanwu is seen as a kind of high chieftaincy, even though a new addition to the mmanwu semiotics of authority. The killing of a horse was not always there in the culture. Even the horse was later introduced into the culture by the Igbo neighbours from the Northern part of Nigeria, and owning or riding a horse was treated as a special privilege, what more a spirit riding the horse! Further, horse meat was rare. Killing the animal (which is more than the act of slaughtering) and making the meat that is rare available was seen as unique, something other competitors in mmanwu should try if they could!

Another important dimension of signification in this cultural production is the seen in the song and proverbial utterances of the Nne Mmuo (Mother Spirit), which I partially mentioned in anther bog essay. The Nne Mmuo entertains through elevated wise utterances and special songs, which thrill mostly the elderly people in the audience, unlike the iti aba (violent thud of the “head” on the ground) associated with the Okoro Mmuo (Youthful masked Spirit). The youths, understandably, flock around the Okoro Mmuo as he goes round ecstatically performing the iti aba around the square. The Nne Mmuo knows how to move action and move souls through its are pithy sayings, weighed too “heavy” with age to engage in any gymnastics. Her own type of gymnastics is in the craft of speech.
 Are you surprised that the Igbo anthropomorphically signify these spirits as Nne Mmuo (Mother Spirit), Okoro Mmuo (youthful masked spirit), and akakpo (midget spirit); that is, giving them human attributes? The culture even feminizes one of them (Mother Spirit). Why? I know that nne (mother) is the source of everything; the greatest spirit. Feminizing one of the spirits is just one of the projections of our attributes as humans to spirits! They don’t have to display their sexual parts for us to confirm this.

The words of the Nne Mmuo are the just in character, for, as the elderly “Mother” spirit, she must utter the kind of things and kind of manner spectators expect ancestors, especially their “mothers” who have access to ancient knowledge, to be able to put it. The Nne Mmuo is not a trifler; is associated with serious things. We are told in Chinua Achebe’s Arrow of God that in the night, the Mother Spirit went round the community and wailed for the “murder” of her children by Christian cultural invaders. Also in Things Fall Apart, Chinua Achebe writes that Uzowulu’s problem with his wife and with his inlaws led to mothers spirits being brought up to the village square for the adjudication. Impartial judges that they are, the mother spirits went straight to the point and heard from both sides. They quickly dismissed the case as trivial and told Uzowulu what he should do. The ancestors had spoken and there was not rigmarole or objection.

The Mother Spirit is economical, yet profound with speech. That orientation was good for her authority, compelling for rhetoric. That orientation makes her drama find a home in the art of elderly speech; also in the general mimesis of the clan.

One thing that could be learnt from this is that the mother spirit’s gender, clearly female (even if men are in control of masked spirit cultural production), raises a question about women transmitting and perpetuating significations that derogate and denigrate them in many African cultures. The female in the masked spirit performance is “mother” and both spirits and all adukwu must submit to this holder of the ofo or oji, staff of her authority. What is very interesting about it is that she is the centre of the mmanwu signification. If the spirit-presence is feminized, even if in a theatrical make-believe, the culture must have a special place for femininity in the signification. That the female enters a signifying system that de-privileges women and even propagates it through cultural productions is a strange situation. 

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Humanising God and Teaching Him to Speak Our Own Language


Obododimma Oha

Human imaginations of the existence and actions of a Supreme Being (called “God” in English, “Chukwu” in Igbo, etc) have always found expression in the anthropomorphisms in our human narratives. The Supreme Being is made to be like us humans through His adoption of our linguistic and non-linguistic habits. Look at the title of this essay again. Did I not use the objective pronoun “Him,” in referring to God, as if he is my kinsman living just after my premises? In Genesis, we are told that: “God created man to his own image: to the image of God he created him: male and female he created them” (1:25, 26). From the standpoint of the semiotician, the human being is the iconic and mimetic representation of God, bearing a similarity or resemblance to the Almighty. I guess this iconicity is understood, from the perspective of Morris’ interpretation of the iconic sign, to be denotative. Charles Sanders’ Peirce is cited as suggesting that the iconic sign is, in fact, a copying of the object (Noth, 13). Related to the explanation of the signifying relationship between humans and God, the former are copies of the latter.
The title for this essay, as part of the design to enact surprise, brings up the following issues:
1. God does not possess a language or sign system;
2. God has been made by humans who thereafter try to give him one of their attributes – speech-using, since they themselves are homo loquens – otherwise, he could have other sign system or not have any at all, as in (1);
3. Making God (in our own image, linguistically) makes it possible for us to interact with him; and
4. Making God in our image makes it possible for us to privatise or claim him for ourselves.

Connected to my use of the pronoun “him” in referring to God, there is a reverse signification in which God is constructed in the image of the human, instead of humans being constructed in the image of God. This is understandable since we have to be familiar with the image of God first to be able to perfectly understand the biblical assertion, “God created man to his own image.” The book of Genesis did not describe God’s features as an antecedent to help us to understand the iconicity that was being presented to readers. God’s image remains an area of silence, perhaps an unspeakable, which is considered abominable to probe, represent, or utter in ancient Islam, Judaism, and so on. The Muslims would not want God to be represented in any form, even his prophets who obviously had perceivable forms. For early Judaism, only priests were allowed to utter the holy name, Yahweh, which is the origin of “Thou shalt not take the Lord’s name in vain” (even when people were permitted, they were not to utter the name anyhow!). They should not pronounce it, at all!

 The assumption in my use of “him” in referring to God is that God is male (has a penis, wears a beard, etc). But God, according to theologians and religious leaders, is spirit; what does a spirit need a penis for? What is the long beard for? In old catechism books in the orthodox Christian churches, drawings of God presented him as a very old male with long beard. Such representations are understandable; to suit the idea of God as the “ancient of days,” as well as reference to the Almighty as “my Father in Heaven” by Jesus Christ in his discourses in the Bible. The masculinisation of God has a lot to do with a patriarchal construction of God’s superiority. He has to be male in order to be superior in a patriarchal culture. This assumption, of course, is countered by matriarchal cultures and recent feminist theology which represent God’s superiority in terms of femininity.

The long beard given to the Almighty, apart from suggesting a masculinisation (see, I am already capitalizing “Almighty,” as if God is in sign!), also conveys the idea of “mightiness” in terms of wisdom. Sages in ancient traditions were often associated with long beards. For God to be the wisest of the wise or the source of all wisdom, he has to have a long beard, to attract the necessary human reverence.

Thus, human representations of God and his semiotic attributes suggest that, indeed, humans try to think of the Almighty in terms of what they are familiar with. There is also an interesting trajectory in this representation project that imagines God’s difference, complexity, and difficulty as means of narrating and consolidating his awesomeness. This short essay focuses on such unique representation of the Almighty, along the same discourse path of anthropomorphism, but this time around in terms of creating a semiotic system, a lect for God. Used as a reference point in this essay is an update on Physicist Page on Facebook which presents interesting issues about God’s speech and clearly foregrounds the differentia of such Godly communication.

How is language captured in the Bible in narrating our relationship with God? Indeed, language, a human vocal system of communication and cognition, is uniquely human. Other beings may be equipped with different means of transmitting and processing information. A particular creature in another world – in Heaven or elsewhere – does not need human speech organs to communication. Saying “God said X” humanises the Supreme Being. It means God is like us and communicates by saying, using the so-called speech organs.

I guess the statement, “God said X,” assumes an understanding of God’s manner of communication and the ability to decode what God has communicated, apart from its implication of the idea of God as a language-using being. In the Bible, this language is central to God’s creation act and intervention in human affairs. God is:

(1) Represented as having created everything with logos, the word, in short, language. This idea that God spoke things into being conveys the magical or near-magical dimension to the act of creation. The other side of creation pictures God as a sculptor who actually uses materials to form something. God is sad to have formed Adam, the first person, from the dust or mud of the earth. Adam’s creation was the following way: “Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being” (Genesis, 2:7). For Eve, too, the creation was another form of sculptural technology, something more like modern medical transplant and/or engineering: “… the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping’ he took of his ribs and then closed up the place with flesh. Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out from the man ….”God the surgeon and sculptor; a combination of both! That gives one an interesting idea of the progression of his technology: from the crude mud-using designing to a higher flesh medical tech.

(2) Represented as having caused many languages in the world to emerge, as a strategy for checking human incursion into his divine territory or acquisition of high powers: “less man be like us”! It is as if God does not want to share features or powers with humans! He would want them to remain different and mere creatures. That, at first, actually features in his punishment of Adam and Eve with exile from Eden: “And the Lord God said, “The man has become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live for ever” (Genesis, 3:22). In the Babel story, humans are represented as having one common language and were working with one accord to build a city. God saw it and didn’t like it:

Then they said: “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves, otherwise we will be scattered over the face ofu the whole earth.”

But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower the people were building. The Lord said, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.” (Genesis, 11: 4-6)

So, God did not want the humans to exhibit their creativity and make progress? And, does speaking many different languages and being scattered all over the earth prevented humans from making creative progress? Have these prevented them from going to the moon and even exploring outer space or making great inventions, using skills God endowed them with when he sculpted them?
He came down to the city they were building to see it? To see it? So, he was not aware of it? He, as one who knows everything and sees everything, did not see the construction work or the city from his palace in Heaven? God is obviously humanised greatly here, and equipped with human irrational tendencies.

Linguists state convincingly that language changes over place and time. Obviously, from a single Babel language, languages have diverged greatly, and some have gone extinct. It is hardly seen as the jealous action of a supreme being.

(3) Represented as making Adam, the first person, provide the names of things in the environment arbitrarily, just like Humpty-Dumpty in Alice in Wonderland. Humpty-Dumpty tells Alice that whatever he calls anything, that is its name and meaning too. Adam, in fact, was not just the first person; he was also the first Humpty-Dumpty naming things arbitrarily and imposing meanings of words he coined. Semiotically, he join Ferdinand de Saussure in saying that the relationship between the signifier and the signified is arbitrary, the meaning of the sign conventional.

Now, let us turn to what God was constructed on Physics Facebook page as having said (he caused human languages to differ; now, they are using their science to report what a sample of his speech is like!):

Source: Physicist Page, Facebook.

What did God say? What God said to have said is put in a different “language” or rather in a different code, obviously to narrate God’s semiotic difference. What is the character of that semiotic difference and what does it suggest about God. First, what God said is esoteric, scientific (physicist), and we just cannot pronounce or translate or report it in our raw English. We can only report that “God said X and there was light.” God’s esoteric, scientific statement brought the Light, our enlightenment.

God is implicitly narrated as a scientist, precisely a physicist who utters the Light into existence, obviously a scientific re-interpretation of the Biblical account of narration. The Biblical account would not want to configure God as a scientist (maybe so as not to belittle the mighty creator). But God has, in fact, been presented as a scientist who creates and changes forms in nature, the mighty watch-maker.

The Physics Facebook text is deliberately parodic. It plays on or extends Genesis narrative in which God is reported as having said, "Let there be light" and there was light. Indeed, the narrative has many blank spaces. In which code or language did God say "Let there be light," and which sparked off light? If there was nothing called the "light" before then, how did God recognise it as the light? Difficult theological questions. But Physicist on Facebook would like to fill at least space and make language scholars uncomfortable! That THING that God said that caused light to be was scientific, maybe from electrical engineering!

What God said is deliberately made difficult to articulate, a mystification strategy. Why wouldn’t other professional groups re-identify God’s language as the language they themselves use in their own groups? Does the various religious groups try to identify God and characterise him in such a way that he takes sides with them – in wars, cultural values, et cetera? In the Old Testament of the Holy Bible, would the Jews like to share Yahweh (or Jehovah) with the gentiles? Do Muslims have the same attitude to the Jewish Yahweh as they have to their own Allah? Today, do some Christians or Muslims accept that Allah is God, that God is a translation equivalent of Allah? Is their argument not convincing, given that what the deity is presented as sanctioning in their holy books go against the interest of the other religion?

On 20 July, 2017, I attended a lecture presented by Kola Abimbola, the son of Wande Abimbola, and an Orisha priest and babalawo based in the United States. I was amazed, just like many people in the audience, when he declared that the God, as named in the English language, is not the same thing as the Yoruba Olodumare. He explained that Ajayi Crowther who was the first to use Olodumare for God did so strategically to make the indigenous Africans to whom Christianity was being preached to easily accept the new religion, thinking it was the same thing as their own, or that its deities were the same as theirs. Quite persuasive! He went ahead to explain how Olodumare could not be viewed as “the supreme Being” in the presence of other policing deity like Esu Elegba, that Esu would not even tolerate it. Thus, in the Yoruba pantheon, the deities just have their roles, and are in hierarchies as reinvented by the emergent Yoruba Christianity.

Returning to the representation of God’s signification as revealing that of a given profession, God therefore becomes for everybody, every profession, something we all want to identify with, something we want to have a share of, or do not want to share with others. If He is quoted somewhere as saying he is a jealous God (in the same effort to make him only our own), various appropriations of him suggest being jealous to share him with the other. God, therefore, is our major shibboleth, culturally and professionally. He is what we use in excluding and including others, in discriminating against others, even in justifying the physical elimination of others.
A simple semiotic description of the text above is necessary. It was shared on Facebook as a visual which contains signs in the symbolic mode, as Charles Sanders Peirce’s classification of the three modes of the sign would indicate. A simple explanation of symbolic signs or signs in the symbolic mode is provided by Chandler as follows:

… a mode in which the signifier does not resemble the signified but which is fundamentally arbitrary or purely conventional - so that the relationship must be learnt: e.g. language in general (plus specific languages, alphabetical letters, punctuation marks, words, phrases and sentences), numbers, morse code, traffic lights, national flags….

 There is a good reason to present the symbolic signs to converge as a visual. There is an overarching idea about what God uttered (in God’s language) and the reporting act (human language, which happens to be English) to co-occur, one within the other. That brings up human reporting act as an important point worthy of consideration in this discourse. Interestingly, what is invented in the discourse of the visual as God’s text or God’s language, is still human symbolic communication, even though a specialized human symbolic communication, the language of the scientist – the physicist, specifically. That, too, is an important point worthy of consideration. Why is God given the symbolic language of the scientist? We will get to that issue shortly.

There is also the crucial need for a visualization, against a dark background, of both texts. The dark background reminds one of the disclosure in the Book of Genesis that before God created the heavens and the earth, everything was void. After creating the heavens and the earth, there was pitch darkness and God did not like it. So, he created light with the logos, the spoken word. He said, let there be Light and there was light. Later, he separated the light. But, there is an interesting metaphorical use of the dark background, not just its allusiveness. The dark background represents ignorance or lack of knowledge, which God’s text seeks to expel. God’s text, as a matter of fact, illumines the dark, really shining in dark space.

The representation of what God was said to have said is a dual symbolic text, with language (of the scientist) created out of everyday language. Godhood, is, therefore featured as a speech created from speech. Scientific symbols give us a level of narration and a higher speech, a god-speech! And God said X! You can’t vocalise the X, honestly!

But if the superiority of God is constructed this way through the language of science, do pastors not do a similar thing with glossolalia? Glossolalia is the language of the spirit, the language of the few who with it police the highway to Heaven. Same for its translation or interpretation. Only few filled with the spirit can understand or explain it. No wonder it  could be a piece of drama, rehearsed and acted to make-believe.

Given the language that makes a scientist, has God not been honoured as a scientist (or the patron of scientists): God’s lect (idiolect and diatype) is scientific symbolic language. The rest of us who do not have access to his lect should not enter the ark yet; poor us!
The visual obviously suggests God’s awe as a scientist, the difficulty of comprehending him as an esoteric scientist, his scientific omnipotence, etc. How can we approach him unless we can communicate with him in his scientific speech?

The God-text always needs expert decoding, something similar to what pastors say about messages from God, especially in the form of glossolalia. Luckily, children studying leaves in the bush in Africa can see God’s esoteric hand on the leaves!

As children who played in the woods in the African countryside, my mates and I identified leaves with lines that looked as if an artist had drawn them as carrying Chukwu’s written texts. We were ignorant of the fact that those were lines were made by insect secretions but which, by coincidence, became interesting visual patterns. We did not think of any insect or animal drawing those designs, even though we knew that animals like termites, birds, rodents, etc exhibited interesting artistic skills in making their dwelling places. Why did we think of God coming down to earth to write on those leaves? What did God write on those leaves? We did not find answers to these and other questions, but took the difficulty in answering them as part of the wonders of God and His unknowable nature.

God’s handwriting on leaves! God could do that, anyway. Being the superior intelligence, God was literate and communicated in codes that were strange. After all, are all created things not God’s texts? In a sense, things created by this Supreme Being carry his handwriting or are His handwriting as a creative artist. The expanding universe is His canvass where He writes and draws, as well as draws in writing the complex text of a creation. Is the world not a complex text? And in the artistic writing of the universe, does this Supreme Being not maintain some kind of order, some kind of syntax in which this moon as a satellite has to maintain its route in revolving round the planet earth? Do the planets and moons and stars not maintain collocations with this and that heavenly body and keep to orbit along under certain conditions in time and space?

Funny and naïve our judgement about God’s handwriting may be, there are, indeed, insightful bases to think of God as a writer that uses codes or as an artist. Beyond this reasoning, however, is the God-code or the medium through which God expresses Himself. Many world religions attach themselves to particular (ancient) languages as the languages preferred by the Almighty in communicating with the world. Those languages are, as claimed, the languages God used in making revelations and instructing the world through certain chosen individuals, who are equally revered just as the language or code in which they received God’s message.

 Oh God, you have been made in our own image, especially linguistically, diatypically and dialectally!

Chandler, Daniel (n.d.)  Semiotics for Beginners.

Genesis, Holy Bible (NIV), Colorado Springs: Biblica.

Noth, Winfried (2015) “Three paradigms of iconicity research in language and literature,”  in Hiraga, M.K., W.J. Herlofsky, K. Shinohara, & K. Akita (eds.) Iconicity: East Meets West, Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company, Pp 13 – 34.

Monday, October 22, 2018

When Masked Ancestral Spirits Speak Interference Igbo


Obododimma Oha

I have always been excited with the speeches of the mmanwu the masked spirit, especially the Nne Mmuo (Mother Spirit), whose performance and entertainment is in the power of words. Is it the drizzle of proverbs or the thunderstorm of riddles? Nne mmuo moves around the ilo majestically, waving the staff of authority, the movement also being the movement of powerful language. The okoro mmuo (youthful masked spirit) may be known for iti aba (saluting Mother Earth loudly) with a thud of the flung head, the akakpo (midget spirit) enviously chasing of spectators here and there, causing injuries and flying temper. Ikpo Nsi Agba Akwara (the heap of shit that does not sprout roots), one akakpo in our community was annoyingly nicknamed. Call him Ikpo Nsi Agba Akwara and be ready to run; in fact, to fly, for he will chase you even to the land of the spirits! Honestly, it is the sign that is the real site of the performance of a masked spirit. Initiates who are initiates should know this, but I am going to address that in another essay. In the present one, I just address another disturbing involvement of mmanwu in postcolonial hybrid signification.

In an essay, I had dwelt on interference Igbo as a worrisome character of new Igboness – the speaking of Igbo with interference from other languages, especially English. Consider the following annoying usages:

(i) O na-ede article maka blog ya.
(ii) Mmanwu ahu na-asu eloquent English ma o kwuru n’ogbo.
(iii) Kedu onodu Ndiigbo in a country a na-emegbu ha emegbu?

If you look closely, you could see that the speaker in each case indirectly presents the speaking self as usu the bat that is neither a bird of the air nor a four-footed beast on the ground. Usu will always be neither here nor there! The late Igbo highlife musician, Oliver de Coque, referred to the emerging interference Igbo as “Ingligbo.” Another highlife musician, Bright Chimezie, also satirized the practice. In each, interference Igbo is portrayed not only as a diminishing competence (what contrastive linguists call “oblivescence”) but also as a descent from balanced bilingualism to incipient bilingualism. Those who mix English and some other local language may be doing so out of poor competence in translation of ideas from one language (which may be English or a local one) to another. In other words, they run into a hitch in the translation process and so try to make up with the other. In all, the speaking of an indigenous language is seen as being in trouble. English is in competition with the indigenous language over the soul of the speaker!

It is in this context of postcolonial competition and domination that one is surprised to find the masked spirit also speaking interference Igbo! So we also have linguistic imperialism in the land of the spirits from where the masked spirit has come? So the Anglicisation of the world, a linguistic globalization is also taking place? So the ancestral spirits also contaminate their Igbo speech?

I am aware that there have been abuses, like criminals entering the mmanwu regalia and maltreating targets or extorting money from them. We see these in some Nollywood films and take them as mere fiction. As they say in a modern Igbo proverb, Ndi mekaniiki ekweghizi mara ndi bu ndi ara (“Auto engineers would not, with their stained, sometimes ragged clothes, let us know who the true mad people are”). Fake masked dancers would not let us know the actual masked ancestral spirits. But times have changed and masking populations are getting wiser. They now know that a masked spirit was a police officer in a changing society, but could now be the criminal that carries a pistol. They know that, in the past, masked ancestral spirits could impartially adjudicate a case, as that between the erratic Uzowulu and his wife portrayed in Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart. But when things have fallen apart, why would a fake masked spirit not extort money and be harassed by a citizen who feels cheated? There is a lot of upside-down in postcolonial life, and so frisking and arresting a masked spirit, as in the following clip, should not surprise us:

1. Masquerade being held hostage by a citizen. Credit: Anonymous.

It is in this shocking context of a clearly an ongoing abuse of culture, even by practitioners, that one is reflecting about the bad water that has flowed into the open mouth of the ancestral spirit and he now speaks interference Igbo, as in the following clip:

2. Masquerade speaking Ingligbo.Credit: Anonymous.

Listen to the masquerade. Did you hear him use such English words in his speech as “hundred,” “occult,” etc? I know that the sign, the linguistic sign, as Volosinov once said, is a site of struggle, and that the linguistic expression of the masked spirit has always been this site. Now, if the struggle begins early, very early, at the level of selection of language, one should not be surprised. Such a selection is always already political and is also is a signifying act.

What this means now is that we have the “new” masquerade, not Chief Zebrudaya’s, but a “new” postcolonial masquerade semiotically distinguished by his double-toned nature. That masked dancer has emerged, not from an ant-hole but from the in-betweenness of cultures, could wear jeans pants, and if care is not taken, may soon relax in one corner of the ilo with a bottle of beer (and even making a call with a cellphone)!

Sunday, October 14, 2018

The Library in Our Heads and Its Many Missing Volumes: Memory and the Performance of Genealogy in the Contemporary Igbo Community


Obododimma Oha

Igụ ntaala, the performance of genealogy in Igbo culture, is a demonstration of competence in being a cultural and historical repository of knowledge. It is a display of competence, but also an obligation in the sense that every member of the community, especially males, are entrusted with the ability to narrate that community, beginning with themselves and their family histories. This essay discusses Ntaala as a cultural obligation, the skills in its performance and the declining attention in its practice, drawing attention to its centrality in the politics of identity in the community. The decline in the attention that is paid to Ntaala in recent times, given the confusions and neglect of indigenous knowledge systems in the Igbo nation in the postcolonial period, is considered a symptom of the destruction of cultural memory, as well as a decline in the attention that is paid to history of self and community in contemporary Igbo education.

Ntaala as a Cultural Obligation
Experts in linguistics tell us that we possess an innate ability to learn a language and that we have the ability to handle its production creatively, producing and comprehending utterances we have not heard before, essentially mastering any kind of structuring that is involved in each case. Does this competence end with language? Not at all. It even extends to readings – of texts and other significations by others. As Jonathan Culler, a literary critic, puts it, readers of all categories and of all kinds of texts, need a “reading competence.” They have to read news as news and a folkstory as a folkstory. It is scandalous to see a lettered fellow who sees everything published in a newspaper as the truth, or something in a literary text (say, a novel) as real-world event! It is better for such a fellow to hold the newspaper upside down while saying so! Or, as one often hears among semi-literate or non-literate folks that akwukwo anaghi atu asi (Books do not lie);what if your antagonist who handles the pen on your behalf has written something out of mischief and falsehood against your interest? Indeed, akwukwo anaghi atu asi. That is why some have continued to hold others down with the lies they have written. It is one reason why the pen is really mightier than the sword!

How can we view the performance of Ntaala as a form of competence? Having ogugu isi (good memory) is a talent and we are all invited by culture to have it. It is good to remember, particularly like ebulu ako, that little wise one that is immediately able to tell at first instance that an antagonist is at it. Hence, o muru ako. It becomes alert and plays cautious, in order to outwit the most powerful. Ntaala is a measure that one knows one’s lineage and can tell it. It invites males (on the understanding that females/daughters) will one day marry off, but if they are still able to narrate the Ntaala), it is commendable. To be a man in your community, you should know yourself, at least, historically.

In the past, it was considered a shameful thing that a man was not able to narrate his family tree and is asking to be made a custodian of tradition, to be an ozo-titled man. He has to be able to narrate his origin to the eighth to the tenth generation. How could he transmit culture if he lacked the competence to tell history? You see, one had to show that one had a sense of history for one to aspire to community leadership.

But Ntaala, as a cultural skill, was something acquired. One can acquire it by participating in cultural education, which occurred in various ways. But essentially, the male head of the family is the one who chooses the right time when young ones are ready to listen to stories to introduce it. Story, yes. And Ntaala is an important story, if not the most important. People may be called in turns to recount their Ntaala and he would correct them when they get it wrong. That was how my late uncle, Ofodumokwu, used to handle it. And it was this elderly uncle that I learnt to practice and ask questions about my origin. From him, I learnt to recount mine (from my father’s side) as:

Obododimma nwa Aguneechibeze
Aguneechibeze nwa Ohaezukosi
Ohaezukosi nwa Chukwuemeka
Chukwuemeka nwa Mbalaga
Mbalaga nwa Egwuatuonwu
Egwuatuonwu nwa Anasiudu
Anasiudu nwa Okwe
Okwe nwa Awo…

Don’t ask me to continue. I can. And can also narrate the branch of the tree of the maternal. But, this is not about me. It rather about asking that we do not neglect or fail to possess this cultural competence.

The narration of the Ntaala is not all about recounting genealogy. Also learnt are migration histories, which would become necessary over the years if there is a dispute about which community is elder or is host and which is a settler, which person of what bloodline can have what title. Indeed, one sad thing about such narrative performance is the storage in the head of the individual. But educated and clever people can also store them in other retrievable forms such as tape and digital recordings, etc. Such recordings can be stored as important materials in family libraries and be used for studies in oral literature and oral history. I am sure you are doing a serious thinking already.

The Skills for Ntaala Performance
Every performer of Ntaala has a weight of a heroic past on him or her. By that is meant the metafunction of the performance: the idea of bringing this heroic past forward and animating the spirit of a family. The first skill therefore is the pride about the past being narrated. One does not retell a past one is ashamed of. If one’s father is remembered as burglar in the community and its surrounding ones, why would one not want to forget him? That is a good example of remembering to forget! So, the main skill is the pride for the glorious past which one represents through one’s deeds.

Indeed, it is hard to think of pride as a skill, but when we think of what we are as ambassadors of our communities and families, and that what we can do as individuals mark us out, then it becomes clearer. For instance, my maternal grandmother was a celebrated griot and a no-nonsense woman nicknamed “Agbirigba Tugburu Ebule (literally, little things sticking to the body of the ram that killed the ram) the fact that I have her DNA fires me. It is like a relay race; one’s forebears ran meritoriously and handed over the baton. One has to run one’s turn creditably so that the team can win finally. It is a sad depressing thing for one to be the weak link in the chain!

Following this pride is the development of a good memory. Ntaala is not for people who forget easily, or who think that such things do not matter. Today that bad attitude to Western education intensifies these other forms of indigenous education, there is cause for worry.
OK, good memory.

It is true that there are people who can remember easily and some who can forget easily. One way, one adjunct skill that helps remembering is frequent practice, plus inquiry, in case some portions are forgotten. As oral performance homesteading in oral tradition, Ntaala is preserved and transmitted better through frequent performance. It is not a matter of once in a while. Even people who do not use their native languages or use them once in a while may start losing their eloquence and competence in them. Linguists call this “oblivescence”. Oblivion means lost or forgotten terribly. So, “oblivesence” must have originated from “oblivion.”The fact is that oral performance has performance, frequent performance as its life wire.

Other skills are predictable. As rhetoric, Ntaala performance needs all the finesse of elocution (elocution), using the necessary tropes in the rendition, taking note of the nature of the audience with whom one shares common interest and is being audited. Is the Ntaala performer gifted with a deep, sonorous voice? Oh, that is an advantage. What of proverbs and other ornamentations of speech? And assuming one has to perform an Ntaala now in the context of information technology at a family meeting, what are one’s advantages? Is it not possible for one to use flowcharts, graphs, and powerpoint, for instance, for visual enhancement, Ntaala performance, truly, can only get better.

The Decline of Attention
I hinted above that there is a bad attitude in the embrace of western education as requiring forgetting or ignoring other valuable forms of education. The neglect of Ntaala or its forgetting in the face of other western or modern narratives we are exposed to is really sad. Frequently, issues of social or group identity, even quests for one’s parentage, crop up. In addition, the world needs to know that having access to Ntaala is part of the Igbo articulation of selfhood and manhood, as well as headship of a community where one aspires to lead. Also, it clearly makes a person an important archive and a family library. Oh, I hear that the human family libraries are all dying off!

These are among tendencies that could and have led to the decline in the performance of Ntaala in our time:

1. Laziness in thinking that one is unnecessarily worrying one’s head trying to remember the past;
2. Distraction from or giving priority to other things of modernity;
3. Not realizing the enormous benefits or knowing and being able to recount one’s past;
4. A deliberate attempt at forgetting a shameful past; and
5. Not having knowledgeable people or those who have access to this past still around.

We can see that Ntaala as a genre is a valuable performance of in which one is able to link one’s present to one’s past. It is also a wonderful site that links literature as a performance to history, just as it celebrates one as a continuation of those gone before,, an indigenous understanding of DNA and immortality.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Nwa Ebulu Ako and the Arithmetic of Awareness


Obododimma Oha

In my essay, “Wrestling with Chukwu,” in which I reflect on Chukwu’s testing of the wisdom of Tortoise, one idea that emerges is that both individuals come to the full realization that they have something in common or that they could get along well. Chukwu, I have argued, could have been testing Tortoise, his invention, to find out whether the latter possesses the critical thinking skills required of a genuine intelligent being. Chukwu is the scientist of scientists, oriented towards observing, inventing, testing, and following up with improvements on the initial product! Chukwu is satisfied with the way Tortoise even puts Him, the tester, in a position of disadvantage in the argument. The Supreme Being, obviously, is the ideal Creator-Mentor who would not be satisfied with anything less than a courageous challenger in the critical business of the mind. In the present essay, I dwell on how Tortoise himself continues this project of mobilizing and mentoring critical thinkers as sons and daughters of Chukwu.

Mbe the Tortoise, living out that attribute of his maker, wants to try his children on cleverness and wisdom. He wants to know whether they could use that mbeness of Mbekwu in living and interacting with the world. Tortoise wants to find out whether his three children have mastered the art of cleverness and could represent him effectively, anywhere and any day, in the game of wits. So, he invites them to his obi. Addressing them one after the other, beginning with the first-born, he asks: how many times would somebody do something against you before you realise what that person is up to? The first-born answers, “After the seventh time.” Tortoise, disappointed and infuriated, gives him a serious knock on his head, saying: “Stupid fellow! Whom do you resemble? Me? Idiot; get out of my sight!”
Then, the turn of the second son, who, thinking the first-born should not have mentioned a very high number, answers: “After the third experience.” Tortoise is mad with rage and gives this second respondent a punch in the stomach. “Brainless fellow,” he screams. “It is possible that at birth, they mistakenly threw away my baby and brought in ichi nwa, the afterbirth, instead! Get away!”

And now the turn of the third, who is barely five years old. Turning to him with eyes still burning with rage, Tortoise asks: “What about you, sapling? When would you realise that that individual in question is working against your interest?” To his surprise, this third son, fondly referred to as “Ebulu Ako” (the wise and cautious ram) answers: “The very first time, sir! That very first instance is enough for me to know whether that fellow is working against my interest or not. And, of course, I would start right from that moment to mobilize my own resources against him.” Tortoise, greatly amazed and overjoyed, lifts the boy up and presses him to his chest, saying: “You are truly my son! You will be the one to accompany me when I am going to pay my targets a visit!”

Perhaps this is just one variant on the narrative about test on faithfulness or steadfastness, another being that of the Middle East (probably) in which a dying king tests his wives, to know which would agree to follow him to the grave. In the story, the first wife – the wife of his youth who had aged – accepted to die with him, to our surprise and his. Quite clearly, wisdom comes (in both stories) from the most unanticipated. There is the surprise! We had expected the more elderly brothers of Nwa Ebulu Ako to be wiser with age. No! Old age, ironically makes the foolish more foolish! We are not surprised that their father, Tortoise, dispenses the hard knock on their heads! Well deserved punishment.

Like any father who knows his duty would do, as practised in the Igbo context of culture from where this story is harvested, Tortoise the trickster is giving his children the essential training in cleverness and wisdom. This training requires testing, to find out the level of knowledge and cleverness acquired. A father that does not test the son on thinking skills cannot be sure of how this son is going to wrestle with challenges in the future. Akonuuche (ako na uche), which literally means “caution and thoughtfulness,” is the Igbo articulation of the essential wisdom with which an individual confronts life. It is interesting that wisdom is seen as being inseparable from caution (or carefulness), which explains why both words are merged into a compound word (akonuuche or ako-na-uche). The Igbo see caution as an essential part of wisdom; one cannot claim to be wise when one is careless with ideas, words, things, and situations. We could, in fact, say that it is wisdom that makes someone act cautiously or handle situations carefully.

Learning caution is a major step in the training on critical thinking and social skills. Those who lack patience cannot learn to be cautious and can hardly think and act critically in the drama of social experience.

Interacting with others or acting in their presence, responding to the politics of nwannadi, and getting to understand what others are doing with us and against us, all require the orientation to Nwa Ebulu Ako. Those who submit themselves entirely to the nwannadi, or who do not even know what the nwannadi is doing against them – even using them against themselves – are just dead bodies! Those that would rather arithmetically or geometrically extend express their openness and friendliness to please the nwannadi cannot accompany Wisdom on its scheduled visit to its targets.

Is one saying that in Igbo thought there is nothing like forgiveness? No. Forgiveness exists in thought and is considered a manifestation of wisdom. Forgiving someone or a group does not mean that one should throw away caution. It rather means that one has chosen not to get angry and immediately seek revenge but to get wiser. Don’t get angry; get wiser! One that prefers to get wiser is armed with a better calculus, first of all dealing with self before wisely dealing with the other.

It is our expectation -- and is sometimes the case -- that wisdom comes with age. No; we must now begin to be careful with that assumption! It should be the case that greater exposure to the experiences of life should come with age, given that the older person must have had greater encounter with life, and must have learnt from those encounters.This is why the Igbo say: Nwaanyi buru ibe ya uzo luo di na-aka enwe mkpomkpo aria (The woman who is the first to get married accumulates more broken pots).But the woman who is the first to get married and out of her own laziness is unable to buy and get pots broken will have less broken pots to offer, or the one that is very careful with her pots, will have less broken pots to show! Amamiihe (wisom), the Igbo philosophise, is unevenly distributed among folks!

Why does Tortoise choose to couch his question in mathematical terms? Do decisions to be aware and to react hinge on calculations of the number of incidents? Perhaps the two children who fail the test operate from the angle of the Igbo philosophy expressed in the proverb which says: A borue agu n’okpukpu, o mee uṅara (When a leopard is butchered to the bones, it stirs). But agụ does not have to wait until it is butchered to the bone before it stirs! It does not have wait till it is cut down and the butchering commences. Things that are already cut down operate from the angle of disadvantage. The leopard must begin to perform its leopardness when it is still standing, fierce, and fully alive. That ebube agụ na-eche agụ, the awe of the large cat protects the cat, does not mean that it has to allow the enemies to commence butchering and then wake up later to drive them away and recover its flesh. Ihe agu na-erkwa bu anu; o bughi ahihia! What the leopard eats is meat (not grass!).