Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Mmanwu Uli Animates Ibadanland


Obododimma Oha

Eke Ukwu 29 November 2009 was Anambra State Day in Ibadan, Oyo State. The celebration which took place at the Cultural Centre, Mokola, Ibadan,on the mandate of Anambra State Forum in Oyo State, witnessed many cultural performances by members of the various Anambra State town unions based in Ibadan. The ancestors were also there, travelling several thousands of miles from the land of the spirits. Emerging from ant holes and dripping with ancient songs and proverbs,Anagharakpo and Ekwusike -- two celebrated okorommuo from Uli --took the ogbo and turned the premises of the Ibadan Cultural Centre to a very lively asaa. The two masked spirits literally became the centre of the celebration that was intended as a fund-raising occasion.They sang, they danced, and sang their dance, the poetry of their spirit bodies casting a spell on the audience that seemed to keep growing every minute. The two okorommuo seemed to have been sent by the spirit world to provide the much-needed rousing for the inhabitants of this city at a time that daily life in Nigeria had almost become empty and punishing. Below are some of the photographs of the two masked spirits entertaining and bringing back life into human experience.

Surely, the ancestors are not inhibited by the boundaries of time and place. Their spirit bodies as transforming texts remain unknowable, unreadable, yet remaining the animation of the spirit of community in a postcolonial African world.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Onye ọchịchị

Onye ọchịchị sị:

Kwa ụnụ chọrọ
Ka m nye ụnụ ọkụ;
Ngwa, ọkụ gbaa ụnụ.
ọkwa ụnụ chọrọ mmiri;
Mmiri maa ụnụ.
Kwa ụnụ chọrọ okporoụzọ dị mma;
Ngwanụ, tọnụ n’ụzọ.

Onye ọchịchịrị, nnannaa ha werekwa gị!

--- Obododimma Oha

Tuesday, September 29, 2009


"Until now I always felt a stranger in this town, and that I'd no concern with you people. But now that I've seen what I have seen, I know that I belong here whether I want it or not. This business is everybody's business."
from The Plague by Albert Camus

(Poetic Works on Health & Illness in Human Experience)

The body as a text or network of texts - as a sign, a signified or a signifier, as a myth - articulated and performed by the self , the I, or by instinct, and read variously by the other, the I, the we, the subject, or the object, achieves complexity especially when set in illness and health narratives. The languages of the body in such contexts, as configured in cultural works, especially through a poetic insight, would be undoubtedly useful in trying to understand how health related to the vegetal, animal or human world is art and/or science, or how possible contaminations between science and art can transfer to scientific art, or artistic science by considering psychology and sociology as sciences of the behavior respectively of the single and of the many, religion and philosophy as sciences of the mind or of the metaphysical, medicine and biology as manifest sciences of the body.

Poetic works that feature, interrogate, or probe health/illness representations in culture and society are hereby invited for publication on the Poets’ Corner. The editors, Obododimma Oha and Anny Ballardini, are particularly interested in artwork that presents illness and health in unusual but inspiring modes with the aim of shedding light on the nature of both. Unusual and intuitive readings should become tools to dismantle the spiraling maelstrom of malady or to forge a consciousness to enlighten the human being in the acceptance of what is if and whenever change or improvement is impossible. Poetry should rise to the height of medical science as an assistant, an advisor, or as the healer, be it at a physical or metaphysical level.

Welcome are works that seek to present poetic languages of the mentally challenged, the aphasic, the traumatized, the schizophrenic, as well as any kind of disease, be it infectious like AIDS, or “generational” like cancer, be it connected with what is usually seen as a seasonal minor collapse like viral influenza, or with accidents that change the lives of the victims.

The present contextualization could broaden to include the idea of a nation as a single community, a constitutional body characterized by illnesses or healthy states. It could also visualize, and still not be limited to, various economic systems with their dangerous trends/breaths sweeping away hopes or bringing in new ambitious projects, be them healthy or ill. The same history of art or literary criticism could be reviewed under the lens of variables that determine the health or the illness of the category.

Visual artwork, poems, poetic fiction, poetic nonfiction, and photographs to be submitted for consideration should go beyond the traditional mimetic to narrate distortions, out-of-the-body experiences, virtual thrills and/or gratuitous hallucinations.
Visual works and photographs are to be saved in JPEG format; texts, which should not have rigid formatting, in Word.

All submissions should be emailed to the editors anny.ballardini@gmail.com and obodooha@gmail.com by December 1, 2009 with "Health & Illness" in the Subject line.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Ekwe a na-amara nsogbu


Obododimma Oha

Ekwentị ekweghị ntị
nụrụ ihe
ụtụtụ, ehihie, uchichi
nke ka nke, a kpọọ a pịnyụọ
nke ka iwe, a kpọọ a jụba onye a kpọrọ:
onye na-aza m?

Ekwentị, ozi bụ ọnya
e kwere tọọ ute na Naijiria:
ụfọdụ sị na ha bụ enyi nọ ala bekee akpọ
ma ha nọ n’azụụlọ enyo anya
ihe ha ga-ezute,
I zitere m nke a, I buru akụnụụba nke a!

Ekwe a na-akụrụ nsogbu
ka o bilie tagbuo
ekweghị ekwe hụta ute ekwere
mgbe ahụ ntị anụrụ ihe, ọnụ ezuru ike

Ekwentị ekweghị ntị
nụrụ ihe
n’obodo mkpọtụ,
ebe iche echiche dị oke ọnụ
obodo mkpagbu
ebe azụ na-elo ibe ya, wee buo

Ekwentị kwenụ ntị
nụrụ ihe n’ime ọgbakọ
kwenụ uche tụlee ihe a na-eme
kwenụ obodo anyị so mba ndi ọzọ
zaa aha n’ọgbakọ ndi a zụrụ nke ọma

ọma-ekwe ntị
ọ bụ na ị maghị ka e si ama,
ka ọ bụ na ekwe na-amazi gị?
e mee elu, a kpọba ntị
e mee ala, a kpọba ntị
ọ bụ naanị ntị ka Bekee tụụrụ ekwe a?

Thursday, June 25, 2009

A Novellist with Ofo in His Hand

Obododimma Oha

Not many Nigerian creative writers are traditional rulers or are willing to accept the invitation to become traditional rulers. Perhaps this is because of what seems to be the poor image that traditional rulership in Nigeria has acquired, beginning from the colonial era to the present. Although many traditional rulers in Nigeria resisted the colonization of their domains and were either exiled or jailed, the traditional rulers that succeeded them -- especially the warrant chiefs -- turned out to be tyrants who principally served the interests of the British colonial government that installed them. In recent times too, traditional rulership seems to have slid into infamy as many traditional rulers are known to have colluded with military dictators and corrupt politicians to abort justice in Nigerian political life and to victimize social critics, including radical literary artists.

Moreover, the selection process and installation of the traditional ruler in Nigeria seem to be characterized by some unhealthy forms of politicking and corruption which generally tend to undermine the integrity of the traditional institution. The very fact the roles of the traditional ruler are not clearly defined in the contemporary democratic system in Nigeria also makes the traditional ruler somewhat redundant and lead to traditional rulers being merely seen as instruments used by the political elite and nouveau riche in the society.

Thus Nigerian literati seem to have become highly suspicious of traditional rulership and try to keep distance from it. But not all Nigerian literary artists believe that the traditional institution is obsolete, criminal, and/or unsuitable for the image of the creative writer. While some writers turn down chieftaincy nominations and prefer to remain just writers, some believe that there is something in traditional rulership that must not be allowed to perish in the changing Nigerian society, particularly in the present matrimony of political systems in Nigeria.

Vincent Chukwuemeka Ike, author of many highly recommended novels and textbooks, is one of those who are convinced that the image of traditional leadership in Africa can be cleaned up and invested with meaning once more if the enlightened individual like the creative artist accepts the challenge of mounting the throne. Chukwuemeka Ike accepted the invitation from his community to become their traditional ruler. He is currently the Eze Ikelionwu of Ndikelionwu in Anambra State of Nigeria.

His Majesty, Eze Chukwuemeka Ike, speaking at the Authors' Forum

The Ezeship of Chukwuemeka Ike was one source of lively and friendly exchange of jokes yesterday at the Kakanfo Inn, Ibadan, as Ike met with other elderly Nigerian creative writers, scholars, and publishers at the Authors’ Forum convened by University Press Plc, Ibadan, as part of its 60th Anniversary celebrations. J.P. Clark-Bekederemo, who chaired the occasion, teased His Majesty, Chukwuemeka Ike, on the discomforts he (Clark-Bekederemo) felt in addressing him in his new status, also pointing out the superfluity in referring to the traditional ruler as “His Royal Majesty” instead of simply “His Majesty”. Ike, noble-spirited as ever, received these jokes about his chieftaincy warmly, without jeopardizing the dignity normally associated with his position as a traditional ruler.

Poet J.P. Clark-Bekederemo, speaking as Chair at the Authors' Forum

With highly respected writers like Professor Chukwuemeka Ike now involved in traditional governance, one could hope for the recovery of the indigenous political system and a creative approach to African values. Ike’s emergence as a traditional ruler has introduced a change into the posture of the contemporary African writer on African politics, shifting attention from the usual cynical orientation to direct involvement and practical commitment. As a traditional ruler and novelist, Ike is now not just a teller of stories about his society, but also the story itself.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Wrestling with Amalinze

Obododimma Oha

Chinua Achebe’s narrative about Okonkwo’s victory over Amalinze the Cat in Things Fall Apart presents an insight into indigenous Igbo philosophy on courage, industry, and leadership. It is indeed significant that Achebe’s novel begins with that narrative and links Okonkwo’s victory over Amalinze to his steady rise to prominence and growth as a leader. And just after presenting Okonkwo and how he rose to fame in his community, Achebe immediately presents the contrast that Unoka, who was a great failure, signifies. Unlike Okonkwo, Unoka was slothful and “incapable of thinking about tomorrow”. He lived to eat without working, and “always said that whenever he saw a dead man’s mouth he saw the folly of not eating what one had in one’s lifetime”. A great debtor, Unoka loved to play his flute when his fellow folk artists like Okoye worked hard on their farms and built up their wealth from which the flutist came to borrow, recorded his debts in perpendicular lines of chalk on the wall, and never paid back. I have had to reflect on this failure of Unoka elsewhere, in which I tried to link his problem to an inability to understand that being just an artist, a flutist, was not just enough to create a successful future in a community that saw art as merely part of the several skills that a human being needed to possess in order to say “yes” without his or her chi saying “no.” The present discourse briefly reflects on Achebean “wrestling” as a figuration of a courageous acceptance of challenges in one’s personal affairs as well as in one’s involvement in community life.
It is significant that Achebe, in presenting Okonkwo’s victory over Amalinze the Cat relates the fight to an earlier one in which “the founder of (the) town engaged a spirit of the wild for seven days and seven nights”. Thus Achebe gives his readers a hint about how the founding of Umuofia was based on “wrestling” at the highest level – that of wrestling with a spirit and succeeding. If the fight had ended in the spirit’s favour, there would have been no Umuofia, implicitly. Obviously this is a suggestion about how individuals in the indigenous context had to make heroic sacrifices in the interest of their communities, or how personal heroism and success support the well-being of the entire society. One wrestles for oneself, one’s family, one’s community, one’s nation, where “wrestling” is not merely the physical struggle to throw an opponent in an arena, but dealing with the challenges of life, as we find in Okonkwo’s case.
Readiness to wrestle with the challenges of life is expected of every individual in the type of Umuofia community where Unoka lived and loved to play his flute. The Igbo say that one should not challenge one’s chi to a wrestling bout. But we also find that one’s chi often challenges one to rise and wrestle with the spirit as a way of testing one to find out whether one is worthy of being invested with wealth and honour. One’s chi does not just say “yes” if one is not ready to say “yes” in practical and pragmatic terms. One’s chi would not want to lavish kindness on one who is not ready to work hard or to work one’s way up as if a spirit-helper never existed. Wrestling with one’s chi is thus approved of if it is an affirmation of the courage to be, to succeed, to give honour to one’s chi in the long run. One who refuses to work hard, as in the case of Unoka, ends up being a disgrace to self and to one’s chi, for indeed the self and the chi are inseparably one.
There is always an Amalinze the Cat on one’s road to success and on one’s road to removing shame from one’s family and community. There is always an Amalinze between one and one’s effort at bestowing honour on one’s chi. Amalinze is the test. And through that test the indigenous Igbo community identified its prospective leaders, trained them, and encouraged them.
What avenues of training were provided? Diverse: family life, mmonwu cult initiation and membership, title-taking, participation in warfare, meetings of the kinsfolk and discourses at the ilo, et cetera. One should be able to cater for one’s family. In the case of a man, he should be the dibia ulo (literally, “physician of the home”), competently catering for the emotional, spiritual, and physical needs of his family. As a member of the mmonwu cult, he learns the sacred secrets and interfaces of artistic performance, spirituality, social engineering, and governance. In title-taking, he learns the ethics and values of being mmadu onu ruru n’okwu (One whose utterances matter in community). In participating in warfare, he learns the honour of patriotism and sacrifice for one’s community. During public meetings at the ilo, he learns the art of “doing things with words with people,” as Willis Edmondson would put it in his Spoken Discourse, and recognizes the rights of other kinsfolk to speak and be listened to. He learns. He does. He learns to learn. He learns to do.
And the community watches as one navigates one’s way through these contexts of training and how one wrestles with a slippery-bodied Amalinze in every sphere of social presencing of self. As witnesses to how one wrestles with Amalinze in one’s personal and community affairs, the kinsfolk may decide to invite one to come and perform a role in governance. So, one comes to governance with the skills one has learned from diverse engagements with Amalinze in soldiery, teaching, law enforcement, engineering, etc and then begins the higher form of wrestling with Amalinze, through one’s handling of policy, public affairs, budget, social welfare, etc. Of course, one learns even more, especially the fact that one as a leader has not got all the answers, by wrestling with Amalinze in the sphere of public governance.
It is wrong to think that governance is solely for people who were created and endowed with the skills to govern! Born-to-rule, is it? Rulers who are made-in-heaven? Where does one find such gods or angels? Anyone of any profession can govern the society, provided the person has had some preparation, including readiness to wrestle with the Amalinze in every sphere of governance, and the willingness to keep learning.
Wrestling with the human Amalinze is a corollary of wrestling with life's problems, however frightening or insurmountable they might seem; it also symbolizes wrestling with problems in one's family and community -- a sort of existential wrestling a human being should be ready to engage in and not excuse self from, as Unoka tried to do! Also, every leader, as we find in Okonkwo’s case, has personal flaws, which constitute a very serious type of Amalinze in one’s personal life and relationship with society. Okonkwo defeated the human Amalinze, but failed to defeat this other Amalinze in himself. He failed to defeat the Amalinze in himself that, from a narrow male-centered framework of knowledge, derogatorily referred to other men whose views were contrary to his as “women”. He failed to defeat the Amalinze in him that acted out of the fear of failure; that wrestled in anger and not rational thinking and rational talking. That was the tragedy of his life, and it could be the tragedy of anyone and any leader anywhere.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Akwa Ndeeri (maka Adiele Afigbo)

Iwe zute iku, zute anyammiri, anya mmee!
Ndeeri bụ oke bụrụ agbata,
Mbata na ọpụpụ, mgbako na mwepu;
Ka ufere sobezie nnọkwara, bụrụ anya ikpeazụ.

A sịkwa na ọnwụ ama egbu?
Ya bụ anyụike jiri gbue ngwu,
Ka iwe zute iku, zute anyammiri.

Ije, nke na-anara onye ume…

N’ihe ekwe na-ekwu, akwa dị ya.
N’ude uhie na-asụ, mwute.

Ihe ikwu na-eti:

Anyụike gburu ngwu, isi adịghị ya mma;
Anyụike gburu ngwuru akọnuuche,
Ya gbukwaa akụkọ.

Ihe ibe na-ebe:

Ederi ya n’ime ndeeri;
Elo ya n’ụkọ amamiihe;
Ndi a agaghị edina n’ili ma ọlị.

-- Obododimma Oha

Friday, April 03, 2009

Teardrops (for Adiele Afigbo)

A painted toe on the unfinished tale
The tale always, weaned from the teller
Will be longer than moments sketched
By the evening

And we, held by muscles of sand, descend
Into that somewhere nowhere
Into that night with claws
Which know no laws other than exit doors

Ngwu, on this deathkiss of the reckless axe

Tell me, is History his story only his Troy
You horse in to destroy?
And didn’t the uhie ask the knavish axe
Never to nether
Or linger near the seeding poplar?

A painted toe now on the unfinished tale
Sketched on the ground where he stood, asking to be understood
Okeosisi reborn
In night runs & flights
Of feathers, proverbs, prowess
Behind a litany of finds, finders, & founding

And which uprooting a replanting?
Which agony too personal to be collective
Drips from the tongues of yellowing leaves
And fallen branches?

-- Obododimma Oha

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

While the He/Art Pants Live

Obododimma Oha and Anny Ballardini are pleased to announce the new Anthology on the Poets’ Corner:
While the He/art Pants: Poetic Responses to the 2008 American Elections. We wish to thank all the contributors who have made it possible, and invite you to read and spread the good news.

• While the He/art Pants: (Poetic Responses to the 2008 American Elections)
• Editorial: Obododimma Oha
• Editorial: Anny Ballardini
• Edward Mycue • Jared Schickling • Bill Morgan • John M. Bennett • Conrad Reeder • Tom McBride • Gerald Schwartz • Farideh Hassanzadeh-Mostafavi • Russ Golata • Evelyn Posamentier • Gina Sangster Hayman • Matt Johnson • Susan Bright • Daniel Zimmerman • Fan Ogilvie • Henry Gould • Carol Novack • Joseph Duemer • Peter Ciccariello • Spencer Selby • Eugen Galasso • Grace Cavalieri • Amy King • Halvard Johnson • Raymond Bianchi • Lars Palm • George Spencer • Bob Grumman • Wendy Taylor Carlisle • Br. Tom Murphy • Annetta L. Gomez-Jefferson • Uzor Maxim Uzoatu • Jukka-Pekka Kervinen • David Howard • Obiwu • Afam Akeh • Jim Leftwich • Charles Martin • Luc Fierens • Eileen Tabios • Donna Pecore • Francesco Levato • Tony Trigilio • Terri Moore • Barbara Crooker • Vincent Francone • David-Baptiste Chirot • Julene Tripp Weaver • Daniela Gioseffi • Obododimma Oha • Judith Laura

• While the He/art Pants: (Poetic Responses to the 2008 American Elections)

• Editorial: Obododimma Oha

• Editorial: Anny Ballardini

• Edward Mycue

• Jared Schickling

• Bill Morgan

• John M. Bennett

• Conrad Reeder

• Tom McBride

• Gerald Schwartz

• Farideh Hassanzadeh-Mostafavi

• Russ Golata

• Evelyn Posamentier

• Gina Sangster Hayman

• Matt Johnson

• Susan Bright

• Daniel Zimmerman

• Fan Ogilvie

• Henry Gould

• Carol Novack

• Joseph Duemer

• Peter Ciccariello

• Spencer Selby

• Eugen Galasso

• Grace Cavalieri

• Amy King

• Halvard Johnson

• Raymond Bianchi

• Lars Palm

• George Spencer

• Bob Grumman

• Wendy Taylor Carlisle

• Br. Tom Murphy

• Annetta L. Gomez-Jefferson

• Uzor Maxim Uzoatu

• Jukka-Pekka Kervinen

• David Howard

• Obiwu

• Afam Akeh

• Jim Leftwich

• Charles Martin

• Luc Fierens

• Eileen Tabios

• Donna Pecore

• Francesco Levato

• Tony Trigilio

• Terri Moore

• Barbara Crooker

• Vincent Francone

• David-Baptiste Chirot

• Julene Tripp Weaver

• Daniela Gioseffi

• Obododimma Oha

• Judith Laura