To be or not to be – Let your decision(s) be based on be purpose.

I would like to be an engineer! Oh no, I do not want to be an engineer! Both sentences indicate that someone has just made up his mind, but if I may ask why you would want to be or why you would not want to be; the answer will indicate how much information (knowledge) you possess before coming to that decision.

Then, to be or not to be is a question that prompts an individual to engage into a decision making process. Before you make that decision, you will need to have as much information as possible and a capacity to process that information adequately.







The amount of quality information can lead to well informed decision.

Deciding to be or not to be an engineer (or any of your desired profession) should not be handled with levity because it is a major crossroad in your life; someone said “we are product of our decision(s)”. Early this month I had an opportunity to speak to a 16-year old son of a pastor friend of mine. Knowing he will be matriculating next year, I asked him as we drove together to fetch few items in a nearby grocery store: “so what would you like to be after your matriculation exams?”  Without mincing words he said “I would like to be a chemical engineer!” Of course the next question is to ask about his subject combinations, how many distinction(s) and in which subject did he obtained those. Now my next question was “why would you want to become a chemical engineer and not mechatronic or aeronautic engineer?” I asked that question because I wanted him to convince me that he had made a good decision which should be a function of how much information he had gathered concerning the career in question. He later told me that he like fixing things.


Having passion for fixing things does not necessary guarantee you will be an engineer or better still becoming a successful engineer. It took me about 15 minutes to explain to him being an engineer does not mean you will be fixing things: there are different cadres of engineering of which their responsibilities are to model, design, create and fix of things. If you do something because of the wrong information you have about it, there is a high tendency you might end up being frustrated because you are not getting what you expect.


If you identify that you are good at fixing things, ask yourself another question: what kind of things would I like to fix?  But hold on, how about conceiving (modelling; designing) that “thing” in your mind and creating (build) it.


Choose science and technical subjects, develop an attitude for studying, and spend time in your preparation for those subjects, ask questions, ask student engineers, teachers and as many that can help you.

Gather as much information as possible; visit informative websites, read books and start with those that are not complicated. If you spend time with books written for people with second year university mathematical background, you will find those books difficult to comprehend and this will definitely dampen your excitement and create an impression that engineering is a very difficult profession. Talk to student engineers, talk to your seniors, talk to your parent, talk to your teachers and ask questions; ask your teachers for possible excursions to visit companies or universities in the relevant department. You can visit sites like,, and to find good scholarly articles which will be explained in a lay man’s language – these sites should spice up your interest.

How much do engineers earn in salary in different countries? What are you expected to know? How many formal years of study do you need? What will be required of you as a student engineer? What will your work required of you as an engineer in terms of hours? Would you still be studying even after graduation to be competent? These are the question that you will have to answer, at least you have an idea of what you are getting into.


  • Never cease praying. Continuously pray that God should direct you in the area of choice of career.
  • Never decide to be an engineer just because it is a prestigious profession; have good reason for your decision, prestige only does not count!
  • Never decide to be an engineer because Ade wants to one; there could be some elements of peer’s influence but you are not a robot, use your capability to think and make your decision based on knowledge.
  • Never decide to be an engineer because you will get fat salary. Engineering is not the highest paid profession, if salary is a big decider find out how much, otherwise you will miss out or be eventually frustrated.


After all, God the Father did not create man for the fun of it, he has reasons for doing so and he equally expects return (outputs; contributions; optimizations) from him. One of the reasons is that He (God) did so to bring order upon all His previous creations (Genesis 1:26). Being an engineer, there are expectations and the important one is to make your surrounding and the world a better place through your contributions. You will need to come into term with that before embarking on this journey. May the Lord bless you – AMEN.


NIGERIA @62: There is Still Hope for a New and Greater Nigeria – Apostle Enyinnaya Okwuonu




In a recent interview with Emmanuel Falodun of the Faithheroes Africa, the Lagos State Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria’s Chairman, Apostle EnyinnayaOkwuonu mentioned that there is still hope for a New and Greater Nigeria because we are here today.

He further elaborated that prior to this time, believers were not interested in politics, but now in Nigeria, Christians are massively involved in the electoral and government processes.

Also he stated that the church is becoming more conscious and aware of their responsibility in having a good governance.

He further emphasized that Nigeria has come so low that the only way out is to start coming up.

The chairman of Lagos State Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria(PFN) Apostle EnyinnayaOkwuonu stated that one of the 10 point agenda of the new National president of Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN) Bishop Francis Wale Oke is the greater Nigeria project, which has been going around the 36 states of Nigeria.

In relation to this, the PFN Lagos State Chapter has already commenced“A New Dawn Agenda” which is an offshoot of the Greater Nigeria Project. This project ensures that the church is involved in every aspect of the nation be it politics, entertainment, education, agriculture and family.It also serves as a synergy of the old and the new generation. The PFN in Lagos State is well structured and rooted to the grassroots.

Also speaking in the interview is the general overseer of God’s Mercy Revival Ministry, Dr. James Akanbiwho said Nigeria has seen better days in the past and there are possibilities for Nigeria to be great again.

Dr. James Akanbi, a seasoned and dynamic father in the Lord expressed that Nigerians have tasted the enjoyment of fantastic days where we enjoyed free education, freedom of religion without hassle, good security, health care, infrastructure service and national wealth.

He further stated it is possible for Nigeria to be the great nation that it was before. He emphasized the importance of prayer in ensuring that Nigeria achievesthe Greater height we all wish for it.

Also emphasizing on the role of prayer, Prophet OloyedeYinka stated the need to intercede on behalf of Nigeria because Nigeria as a whole as a role in Nations. She also highlighted the importance of the old and young generation coming together to take the necessary steps in bringing Nigeria to the spotlight of greatness.

Professor Joe Omeokwe, during the interview, expressed his deep concern on the issues of tribalism and nepotism in the Nigeria leadership sector and encouraged all Christian bodies to come together and embrace the unity of one body in Christ.



Yeku Afis Tunde

Institute of African Studies

University of Ibadan

Ibadan, Nigeria


As a deployment of his theatrical resources as dramaturgic interventions in the reshaping of a continent still enmeshed in the sticky web and orbit of international manoeuverings, Femi Osofisan concerns his Reel, Rwanda!  with the revolutionary discussion of war and genocide. This brings to the fore the idea that Osofisan’s art is ‘unabashedly historicist and uncompromisingly progressive and sympathetic to the mass of the people’ (Tsaaior, 2007). It is against this significant backdrop that this work explores Reel, Rwanda! as a textual refraction of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.

Genocide has been described as “the successful attempt by a dominate group, vested with formal authority and with preponderant access to the overall resources of power, to reduce by coercion or lethal violence the number of a minority group whose ultimate extermination is held desirable and useful and whose respective vulnerability is a major factor contributing to the decision for genocide.” (Fein, 1990). From various attempts to describe genocide, as this, it is clear that the focus has consistently remained political, and for the literary artist, this solely sociological approach is inadequate.

This study fundamentally posits that the representations in literature of the crimes of genocide and other deliberate human massacres ought to be expansively discussed if further atrocities are to be prevented. There have been very scanty literally responses by African playwrights and even writers generally to the Rwandan genocide. Although, a number of writers (Africans and non- Africans) have been able to come up with works that seek a recapturing of the program in the central African Country, it is yet noted that the Genocide is viewed as a sacred and indescribable events for which there can be no adequate representation. This is why Fergal Keane in his novel, Seasons of Blood (1995:4) sadly comments that

In writing about Rwanda, I am conscious that my words will always be unequal to the task of conveying the full horror of the crime of genocide.

Also, Philip Gourevitch’s statement in his account of the genocide is informing. In his work, We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed with Our Families (1998), Gourevitch states that ‘I can see that it happened. I can be told how and after nearly three years of looking around at Rwanda and listening to Rwandans, I can tell you how and I will. But the horror of it – the idiocy, the waste, the sheer wrongness – remains uncircumscribable’

Since, postcolonial critics seek to reveal the representations of other cultures in literature and how such literature is evasively and fundamentally silent on matters concerned with colonization and imperialism (Barry1995:198), the colonial politics that led to the Genocide in Rwanda therefore assumes a site of interest to critics and writers of African Letters.

It is in this light that Femi Osofisan’s obsessive social vision is understood as (Awodiya, 2006) rightly observes that the playwright ‘believes that the theatre should be used as an instrument of change in the society. For this reason, his theatre not only educates but attempts to bring about socially and politically responsible change in the society.’


In Reel, Rwanda!, Osofisan concerns himself with the postcolonial realities of political unrest, conflict and genocide. The play retrospectively captures the events as a post-genocide account of life in Rwanda.

(Dunton 2006), as regards the emergence of the play provides this insight: Reel Rwanda! Was commissioned by London’s Tricycle Theater and first performed in March 1996 as part of a programme of new plays commemorating the first anniversary of Nuremberg trials and intended to stimulate awareness and discussion of the responsibilities of the international community in respect to crimes against humanity


Reel, Rwanda!

Reel, Rwanda! is a one-act play with a dramatic action that develops through four clearly delineated stages. The play relies heavily on expository dialogues as well as cognition and awareness through which it details the processes of genocide. Osofisan comments through one of his characters, Alain, that genocide is ‘the Systematic and cold-blooded elimination of a portion of the populace’ (197). The Rwandan genocide between the majority Hutus and minority Tutsis took place in 1994, although there had been a lot of fatal and brutal factors that led to its 1994 eventual climax.

The setting of the play is a bungalow in Kigali, and this is sometime after the cessation of the genocide. The first part of the play highlights a dialogue between two characters, Rose, a Hutu lawyer, and Françoise, her friend and former lecturer, who is now a retired professor. Rose is seen in-between the knees of Françoise who lovingly braids the former’s hair. When she finishes, Rose refuses to look at herself in the mirror, since she is afraid to re-enact images and memories of the genocide on her own face. Later, they both confirm the events that lead to their re-union. Françoise having seen Rose on television has come to Rwanda to seek out her old friend and pupil. She hopes to take her to France where she expects that her wounds will heal. Rose in her part tells her of the murder of her husband, who had criticized the government of Habyarimana. It is ironical that Rose’s husband became ‘a marked man’ and was later killed even after he had trained the interahamwe militia. Rose tells Françoise how she also lost her children to the militia and her initial attempt to save them by offering her body as ransom. But it is all a dream, ‘this land has killed all the humanity in me’ (187), she submits. But Françoise promises her a respite, ‘when you get to Paris, all these nightmares will recede’ (192-193). Paris is thus projected as the ideal and idyllic society, the utopian world of the European that is free of social vagaries; this is the only solution Françoise offers Rose.

The second part of the story reveals the entrance of Jean-Baptise, a Tutsi government official and friend of Françoise. Jean-Baptiste has brought along his Belgian friend who is a lawyer, Alain. Alain has been appointed to the human rights commission that will eventually report to the Goldstone Tribunal. Jean–Baptiste and Françoise exchange pleasantries, and together with Alain set down to a relaxing discussion about the evils of the genocide especially the role of the interahamwe. Jean–Baptiste is a little uneasy when he learns Françoise has come to rescue a Hutu lady. This is because he thinks all the post-war favour from the west has not been all-inclusive, as only the Hutus whom he believes are the major actors of the genocide, have continued to receive attention at the camps, especially at Goma, thus, Jean-Baptist sees Françoise’ interventions as a reversal of priorities, but the strength of friendship soon override Jen-Baptist’s initial rising anger. In the interest of reconciliation, he decides to meet Rose, who has been elsewhere in the bungalow.

This sets the dramatic action towards the third stage of the play. When Rose enters, Jean–Baptiste is shocked to know that she is the same ‘butcher of Butare’ (213-214). He pulls out a gun and threatens to shoot her but Rose merely manages some brief protests as regards her innocence. At this point, the dialogue becomes expository again as Jean-Baptiste informs us that Rose had collaborated with the interahamwe to massacre Tutsis. Françoise is confused but Jean–Baptise continues,

Two hundred and fifty thousand Tutsis perished in that attack! And when you had finished, Rose, you all climbed into your buses and went for a celebration in the town hall… You did not even pause to change your clothes, clean off the blood… You who were a mother … how could you then shoot like that into the midst of innocent children? (213)

Alain is surprised but the Yoruba Egungun Mask, which has been evident all along from the very on set of the play, begins to dance, thus the dramatic action is stifled and jerked.

As events in the play reach a climax, the ritual mask continues to dance, as it is accompanied by offstage drums and incantations. Jean-Baptiste is puzzled, ‘the dead are stirring Alain! (219). At this point, Rose confesses and cries out, ‘Help me Françoise’ (219). Rose goes on to give a very detailed and extensive account of her role in the Genocide. She tells of how she was made to kill her godfather, a Tutsi, and then ‘…something – my hand – went up and came down with a crash. Blood filled the air and… all my humanity died that night’ (221). The mask dances out of sight since the confession is over while Francoise moans softly, “her mask” has implicated her pupil. Rose hands herself to Jean–Baptiste, who will have her put on trial, and thus the play terminates.


RepresentingGenocide in Reel, Rwanda!

What is evident in the different phases of the play presented above is Osofisan’s portrayal of genocide within an expository framework. Through the interactions and dialogues of the principal characters, we gain insight into how the genocide happened. For instance, Rose informs us:

‘Kigali had become a slaughter – house… Disaster! The end of the world … the interahamwe were waiting with their clubs and machetes’ (192)

After abandoning the corpse of her husband who had been killed by the boys ‘from the militia that Pierre himself had trained’ (189), Rose tries to escape with her children and she finds a convent where hundreds of others were taking refuge. But in a dramatic twist of events, the cathedral becomes very unsafe as Rose ‘… could not sleep’ she explains:

‘I got up … and came to the office of the mother superior. She was on the phone and didn’t see me… the mother was calling the soldiers to come to her convent and rid her of the “pests” that had it. She was inviting the interahamwe thugs to come and murder us!’ (191).This is an apparent indictment of religion in relation to the Genocide. The roles played by supposed leaders of the catholic institutions left many murdered in the cathedrals of Rwanda.

At a point, Alain, the Belgian lawyer who is very critical of his country’s colonial policy in Rwanda insists that the trials for the perpetrators of this crime against humanity must hold, ‘for we are talking of genocide. Not just the usual crimes against humanity, but the systematic and cold-blooded elimination of a portion of the populace…’ (197)

Jean–Baptiste, on his part, retorts against the Hutus:

‘They‘re murderers, Françoise! Does that mean nothing to you? Callous murderers! They killed and raped and maimed my people!’ (199) But to all of these, Françoise claims ignorance, she says:

‘It’s frightening, isn’t it? And the pity of it all was that the world was kept in the dark for so long’ (197).

But Jean –Baptiste further informs on the Genocide:

‘Such a pogrom as we’ve never witnessed on this continent! Genocide, Françoise! I was here, I saw it all! And if I am alive to tell the story, it’s by sheer luck…’ (197)

Jean–Baptiste provides more insights to how the Genocide got to Butare:

Butare was a University Town… a town of culture, Tutsis and Hutus lived together there like brothers and sisters. We’ve mingled and intermarried for centuries … one night, without warning, squads of the presidential guard flew into Butare. And the same day, busloads of the interahamwe Militia drove in… in the night, shooting began… (199)


Mask of Violence

A very important symbol in Reel, Rwanda! is the Yoruba ancestral Egungun mask. It has been purchased by Françoise from a woman who desperately needed money. Françoise explains to Rose that the mask ‘dances, they say, and the dead return’. The mask thus becomes a metaphor of the much needed connection and greatly desired reconciliation with many loved ones lost to the genocide. That the eyes of the mask are open is a comment on primordial presence in our day-to-day social transactions, as well as a pointer to the play’s concern with knowledge.

The use of the mask aptly brings to the critical fore the essential place of masquerade festivals in the autochthony of African dramatic and performance forms. In this direction, Wole Soyinkain his famous theoretical essay on African tragedy, “The Fourth Estate, as noted by Olaniyan (1995), cogently points out that festivals are in themselves pure theatre  at its most prodigal and resourceful…the most stirring expressions of man’s instinct and need for drama at its most comprehensive and community-involving.”

Debunking African art forms as impulsive inartistic expressions therefore only echo parochial western views aimed at a continual privileging of the African Other. It is this putative assumption that Osofisan’s use of the mask motif in Reel, Rwanda!seeks to dismantle.

The mask accompanied by drums and incantations assumes a performative role as the play reaches a climax. It helps to unmask the truth as it comes awake. Jean-Baptiste insists that ‘the dead are stirring’ and Rose is forced to confess to her criminal roles in the Genocide. However, the effectiveness of Osofisan’s mask of truth has been questioned especially as it relates to its universal strength. As regards this however, a prominent contribution to the debate has it that ‘in performance to a non-Yoruba audience or to one that does not have roughly cognate masquerade tradition, the use of the mask techniques remains questionable, but the argument is  quick to conclude that ’What one assumes Osofisan to be drawing from here is the recognition that the Egungun encapsulates a moment of liminality, a point at which in the Yoruba cosmos a window is opened between ayé, the visible, tangible world of the living, and òrun, the invisible spirit realm within which the dead reside’ (Dunton, 2006).

From an existential position therefore, there a hybrid space between the world of the dead and that of the living, since when the mask dances, the dead of Rwanda return to find a blood birth of killings and tears. So the use of the mask motif foregrounds the ancestral interference that the African people sometime resort to in their bid to ensure justice. This is similar to the traditional trial adjudicated solely by the nine Egwugwus in Chinua Achebe’s Things fall Apart.

The mask therefore assumes a cultural import that privileges an African essentialism in which material and immaterial elements of the African worldview serve as counter discourse to the hegemonic master text of the European. Ofofisan therefore invests the mask with spiritual lineaments which radically contest western assumptions of epistemic hegemony over marginal other. The mask is a dramatic representation that has a profoundly ontological spirituality.

In relation to his other stylistic options, Osofisan relies largely on the expository mode for a graphic and vivid re-enacting of the processes of the Rwandan Genocide of 1994. He situates his plot in a Kigali bungalow in post-genocide Rwanda, and thus relies on the memory of characters that had been part of the pogrom for a dramatic enacting of the evens of the genocide. Memory as a device is therefore germane to the plotting of the play. The use of this technique echoes narrative ethos in postmodernist fictions where characters struggle with memory. So it is what (Tsaasior 2007) identifies as ‘the evocative power of memory and rememory’ that the text relies on. In relation to this, (Dunton 2006) also comments that ‘Osofisan’s exploration of cognition is played out through the interchanges between the three major characters’.

Also, as an expository one-act play, the need for a graphical presentation of events is well appropriated as Osofisan brilliantly depicts very gory details through a vivid language. An instance of this is seen when Rose tries to placate the interahamwe by offering her body

‘They laughed, and took me into the bush, and I … gave them my body, one after another. Oh the pain… when the last of them was still on top of me, I heard the screaming in the road and I pushed myself up frantically, ran back to the road, and … I saw it, the blood, the … I fainted…’

That Rose continues to suffer the agony of the murder of her husband and children, as well as that of the sexual abuse she is subjected to is evident in her refusal to look at the mirror after Françoise finishes braiding her hair. It is obvious that a retrieval of self-identification is difficult.

There is also the use of foreshadowing in the play. This is not only demonstrated through the overall tone of the text but also through the conversation between Rose and Françoise at the beginning of the play. Rose for instance speaks of ‘Floating corpses’ and ‘hideous monster’ and as such one expects a very tragic plotline.

Other aspects of style in the play include Osofisan’s use of parallelism and dystopian gloom. This is an antagonistic relationship between Rose and Jean-Baptiste. The former is eventually arrested by Jean–Baptise for trial. While Jean-Baptise is a Tutsi government official, Rose is a Hutu lawyer and “the ethnic cleansing” or genocide is between majority Hutu and minority Tutsi. Francoise and Alain are white characters while Rose and Jean-Baptiste are black characters. These are instances of parallelism. It can be added that each of these characters has a symbolic representation. Françoise for instance represents ‘a sympathetic figure…whose limited perception reflects the deeply flawed response to the genocide by the West’ (Dunton 2006). Rose represents the notion of what (Lentin 1997) describes as ‘(En) gendering Genocides’, the idea of negotiating the impact of catastrophe on women. Although this is a feminist political agenda, yet it helps to understand the traumatic experience that made Rose the ‘butcher of Butare’

Also as regards symbols in the text, Jean- Baptiste’s gun can be read as a metaphor of the psychic disbelief as regards the cessation of hostilities. Even after genocide, a lot of people are still afraid, and hence some go about having such weapons. Jean-Baptise is supposed to be a government official, who should be interested in reconciliation, but he has a gun, and he threatens to shoot Rose, a Hutu.

It is informing to note that Osofisan sets the play within the framework of dramatic dystopia. He re-invokes a picture of gloom and horror through the testimonies of the characters, and this helps to intensify the grand in-humanity that is associated with the crime of genocide.

Finally, that Femi Osofisan sets Reel, Rwanda! within the scope of the minimalist tradition of South African protest plays is apparent in his economy of words and characters. This reductionist technique intensifies the potency of genocide with reference to the systematic reduction of a racial or ethnic group.


Postcoloniality in Reel, Rwanda!

Although Osofisan rejects the label of ‘postcoloniality’ and insists that it is characterised as ‘merely intellectual discourses… which are currently fashionable because they serve scholars so well in the western academic circuit but which are so remote from the concrete concerns of the people on our continent’, (Osofisan in Tsaasior, 2007) yet that his dramaturgy is robustly postcolonial is evident in his various plays. His Reel, Rwanda! for instance does not only explore the Rwanda crises but it also subtly comments on many other communal debacles on the continent. The relevance, therefore of a text like Reel, Rwanda! to the present crises in Darfur, Southern Sudan cannot but be emphasized.

The emergence of the crises in Rwanda has been attributed to colonial politics. At different points in their history, the Rwanda people had been colonized by such European imperial lords like Belgium and France; their successful attempts of ethnic balkanization are echoed by Alain:

‘I know that we Belgians are largely responsible for the ethnic animosity that has destroyed this lovely country. Before we came here, these people Hutus and Tutsis, had lived together for centuries in the same valleys and villages … And then, in 1933, for the purpose of our own colonial exploitation, in order to use the Tutsis effectively as agents, we brought division here…And to reinforce this division, we gave each one an  identity card…’

The ID cards also bring to mind the pass laws of apartheid South Africa where blacks were reduced to computer codes. It is with these ID cards introduced by the Belgian colonialists that the interhamwe massacred many at the different road blacks of Rwanda.

Also relevant to this is the role of the French government in the Genocide. Jean-Baptiste informs Françoise that ‘it was the French, your people, who funded and armed the murderous Habyarimana government’ (2.5). It thus becomes clear that the destruction of native people in countries by Europeans continued even long after they had left those places. This is an obvious indictment of the neo-colonial tendencies of the Western world; they achieve this basically through economic exploitation and a cashing-in on a very weak (African) leadership.

That at the beginning of the play, Rose sits in-between Françoise’s knees is symbolic of how Africa fundamentally remains a puppet to European nations, such that the characterization of Rose and Françoise will be interpreted as Afica and Europe  respectively.

In addition to all of these, the role of ‘that clown house called the UN’ (196) is also questioned, ‘since when the slaughter stated, and General Dallaire sent frantic requests for reinforcement, what happened? The world body, led by the US, voted instead to cut down the troops…’  Even employees of the United Nations who are from Rwanda are left and abandoned to certain death, because, Alain concludes, ‘our government forbade the evacuation of any but foreign nationals’ (209).


By putting the story in the mouth of his characters, Femi Osofisan re-enacts the sordid and gory details of the Rwanda genocide. He blends narratology with dramaturgy to indict a continent blessed by munificent nature and yet with a debauched leadership; he also examines the consequences of the colonial overlorship of imperial Europe in relation to the tactful division done to a people such that a heinous crime as genocide becomes the product of a complexion of ethnic conflict that severally continues to bedevil the continent.







Adeyemi, Sola (ed.) Portraits for an Eagle: Essays in Honour of Femi Osofisan. Bayruith, 2006

Ahluwalia, Pal. “The Rwandan Genocide: Exile and Nationalism” In Social Identities: Journal for the study of Race, Nation and Culture Vol. 3 No. 3, 1997

Barry, Peter. Beginning Theory: An Introduction to Literary and Cultural Theory. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1995.

Fein, Helen. “Genocide: A Sociological Perspective” In Current Sociology: The Journal of the International Sociological Association. Vol. 38 No. 1. 1990

Keane, Fergal. Season of Blood: A Rwanda Journey. Penguin books: London, 1994

Olaniyan, Tejumola. Scars of Conquest/Masks of Resistance. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 1995

Osofisan, Femi. Recent Outings II. Ibadan: Opon Ifa Readers, 1999.

Tsaasior, T, “The Postcolonial State and its Texts of Meaning: Femi Osofisan’s Dramaturgy as Paradigm” (unpublished)



Bello M. Abiodun

MA, African Studies (in view)

Institute of African Studies

University of Ibadan

Ibadan, Nigeria

















This study is concerned with the continuous relevance of African music amidst the many historic changes characterising a postcolonial and postmodernist era, with emphasis on the development of an ‘alter-native music’ landscape in Nigeria and elsewhere on the African continent within the three decades covering 1981-2011. The work focuses attention on how the folkloric and the popular on the one hand, and the ideological on the other, have furthersharpened the theoretical relevance of the performance of African music, consequently foregrounding its praxis in the pursuit of a pan-African agenda in the Twenty-first Century. In arguing for the sounds of meaning and meaning of sounds in African Music, the paper affirms that the overarching cognitive aesthetics of the Yorùbá world is replete with musical or linguistic expressions, with sounds which are made to waft on the wings of deliberateness. This therefore makes a case for the development of alter-native African music which, like some precursors before it, has taken the mode of movement from the rusticity of the folkloric to the sophistication of urbanism. Also implicated in here is the vital fact of the drum’s centrality in most of Africa’s orchestra. This aesthetic-religious function makes clear the prevalence, amongst the Yorùbá, of tension drums with their wide range of tonal configuration and cultural addiction to “talking” with musical instruments. The work concludes with the contention that African art is never void of the ludic and the util– elements constituting the touchstone against which the arguments of this disquisition are rested.












Word Count: 250

Keywords: Alter-native, sound, self-assertion, music

From time primordial, the art of Africa has never assumed an ontological existence void of functionality.  In essence, African art has never existed for its own sake. African art – verbal, performing or plastic – intrinsically combines elements of the ludic and the utile(Wole Ogundele, 2008). In fact, the minimal unit of human language – sound – does not, in actual usage within the African (Yorùbá) context, go unburdened, whether as deployed for language or as part of the melodic aesthetics of African music. Therefore we speak of sounds of meaning and meaning of sounds. A note of caution then will be for an ògbèrì(a non-initiate)not to think of a ‘humming’ sound in the syntax of an African language or song as a mere product of impulsive fancy as the overarching cognitive aesthetics of the Yorùbá world, for instance, is replete with expressions, musical or linguistic, the sounds of which are made to waft on the wings of deliberateness and purpose. Thus, in the proverbòré kítíkítí, iyèkan kàtàkàtà; níjó òré kítíkítí bá kú, iyèkan kàtàkàtà níí kù, – a rough translation of which can be realised as, ‘‘a bosom friend indeed, but an ‘unworthy’ kinsman; on the day that a bosom friend dies, the ‘unworthy’ kinsman yet remains as one’s recourse,’’ (my translation) – a combination of linguistic beauty and profound communal philosophy has been achieved. Although the morphological configurations kítíkítí and kàtàkàtàmay not readily pass as entries in a Yorùbá lexicographical compilation, they are more or less lexicalised in this proverbium and each being not without its own semantic implication.

By extension, this phenomenon has a similar bearing on both the making and the sound of African music. (A phenomenon or mannerism so resplendent in Asa’s vinyl, that even a humming sound – as in the opening of Àwé for instance – does not go meaningless or pass for mere sonic redundancy.) At the level of tone and tonality, the idea, and thus the existence in Africa, of ‘Talking Drums’ is suggestive of a collective conscious that the drum possesses the capability to speak to the people. Thisphenomenon, by implication, gives rise to a collective, interpretive community of the technology and art of the talking drum. The talking drum of Yorùbáland, of which the people of the Republic of Benin (among other Yoruba people of the Diasporas) are an extension, is an archetypal reference. Thus, in Benin Republic, as elsewhere in the entire Yorùbá nationand certain other parts of Africa, skin drums are used to – among other things – sound, or “talk,” the praise-names by reproducing the inflection of the language. In addition,percussion sessionsare found to be played in honour of the vodun deity, Dan(the serpent deity), on a sacred drum called dan hun, which means “Dan’s drum.” Africa is noted to be replete with examples of this kind, and this reality continues to gain much currency among scholars of African folklore.

It must however be noted that in the case of the Yorùbá language and Yorùbá ‘talking’ drums, the drums are only able to ‘talk’ because they only mimetically (but artistically) re-produce the tonal inflection of the language in question, which itself is, like many other African languages, a tone language, the only connecting possibility between the drums and the language in question being tone. In essence, while these ‘talking’ drums are able to re-produce the possible and intelligible tones of the Yorùbá language, they cannot do the same with English which is a stress language, or any other European language for that matter. Where any such attempt is made with English (or any European language), the fundamental phonological principles of that language are likely to be compromised. And because the intrinsic nature and constitution of languages are necessarily different, blunders of this kind will be akin to such as were earlier committed by such scholars as the German Africanist Ulli Beier who had, on his earlier encounter with Yorùbá poetry, found it ‘difficult to describe the form of Yorùbá poetry in the absence of European categories of metre and rhyme’ (Olatunji 1984:3). Olatunji has rightly argued that

… the question need not arise whether or not to transfer to the discussion of Yorùbá poetry, categories derived from the poetry of other nations, especially European. Since a poem employs the patterns of its language of composition for its literary effects, any meaningful discussion of the poem must take the structural patterns of that language into consideration. Categories ought, therefore, to be derived from the material in question and are only true for that material. p. 3-4

In the opinion of Vansina (1965), as noted by Olademo (2009), the removal of a tradition from its context is a form of amputation. Thus, to understand a tradition, it is necessary to know the culture which has produced it. Therefore, whether in the tonal inflection of the linguistic idioms of the Yorùbá people through the talking drums, or in the sonic sonority of the human voice employed for language or music, the essence of meaning – the exchange of it – is never lost or traded for nothingness. In fact, in many cases, even the barest meaning might hold some connection(s) with, and thus be traceable to, the mythology of the people, and the truths of these facts are often only mythologically founded.Whatever the validity of this claim, states Olorunyomi (2005), the ancient Yoruba dictum, Àyànàgàlúasòrò igi(Àyàn of Àgàlú, who speaks through the medium of wood) is suggestive of the kinship of music and the reconstitution of speech pattern.

Africa’s oral tradition is a vast repository of knowledge and spirituality which has not only functioned to serve the need of the people in religion, social dealings, culture etc (Olademo, 2009), but more significantly instrumental to the crucial process of preserving both the people(s) and their history(ies) until the defining moment of colonial encounter with Europe and its multifarious dimensions of durable influences, the impact of which predictably resulted in various processes of acculturation. This reality in turn has led to the creation of ‘cultural crossbreeds’ that now have evident indices in African cultural productions. As Caleb Dube (n.d.) has documented, urbanisation and industrialisation as consequences of European colonisation produce new urban lifestyles, social networks and gender relations, which were in many respects different from those in indigenous rural societies.However, while colonialism lasted on the native soil of Africa, much experimentation by Africans had begun in the creation of musical art forms novel to their own local context, as shall be seen later in the course of this work in the case of Highlife, the ‘Afroclassical’ forms, and the various ‘Africa-sounding’ musical experimentations of the 1960s and ‘70s.

As has been found in the course of this research, the development of alter-native African music, like some precursors before it, has taken the mode of movement from the rusticity of the folkloric to the sophistication of urbanism, however through the vehicles of migration and transformation, the former essentially making possible the latter. The veracity of this statement can thus been negotiated further from here. One central reality is to be indentified in the fact that the etymological relevance and commonality to the terms ‘folk’ (Old English, folc) and populus (Latin, ‘people’; popularis, ‘of the people’) goes further in foregrounding the integral significance and implication of ‘the people’ to the development of this genre-ic (that is, ‘alter-native’) reality. As such therefore, the meeting of the folk and the populi technically implies the meeting of traditionalism and urbanism, respectively.

Earlier in his career as a novelist, Achebe (1964) did hold up a number of arguments in a favourable defense of Africans and their past, amongst which also is the fact that:

African peoples did not hear of culture for the first time from Europeans; that their societies were not mindless but frequently had a philosophy of great depth and value and beauty, that they had poetry and, above all, they had dignity.

The term ‘folklore’ perse has been variously explored by scholars from time to time, and still poses itself as one category that is yet to be fully and satisfactorily realised and justified. It is nonetheless navigated and appreciated as a general term for the verbal, spiritual, and material aspects of any culture that are transmitted orally, by observation, or by imitation. It is commonly agreed that people sharing a culture may have in common an occupation, language, ethnicity, age, or geographical location. This body of traditional material is preserved and passed on from generation to generation, with constant variations shaped by memory, immediate need or purpose, and degree of individual talent(Irele, 1975; Encarta, 2008). Folklore has therefore come to be regarded as part of the human learning process and an important source of information about the history of human life. Amongst a number of attempts to find the commonality amongst human societies, their cultures and their lore and mores, the structuralist attempt of Claude Lévi-Strauss (1970) in this regard readily comes to the fore, albeit his propositions tend to be fraught with counter-perspectives from certain other scholars.

In his examination of myth as a subcategory of folklore, Lévi-Strauss offers that universal lawsmust govern mythical thought and resolve this seeming paradox, thereby producing similar myths in different cultures. Each myth may seem unique, but he proposes it is just one particular instance of a universal law of human thought. In studying myth, Lévi-Strauss tries “to reduce apparently arbitrary data to some kind of order, and to attain a level at which a kind of necessity becomes apparent, underlying the illusions of liberty”(Lévi-Strauss, 1970:10). A comparative assessment of his theory of “the trickster” better foregrounds these underlying universal laws of human thought as demonstrated in myths, particularly in the case whereby the character of the Yorùbá mythological trickster, Èsù, is placed side-by-side that of the few Native American mythologies that formed the primary subjects of Lévi-Strauss’ work. This anthropological experiment implicitly or explicitly establishes the place, relevance and dynamics of African (and in this case, Yorùbá) folklore insomuch that African myths, like other myths from across the world, also consist of elements thatoppose or contradict each other and other elements that “mediate”, or resolve, those oppositions. Hence, like the archetypal raven and coyote in the Native American mythologies analysed by Lévi-Strauss, the Yorùbá Èsù is equally to be found to have a contradictory and unpredictable personality.

By extension, therefore, the foregoing further deepens the ethnographic truth as asserted by Yai (1999) that African oral literature, like any other literature, is protean; and by this stressing the significance, relevance and veritable nature of other subcategories of the oral African backcloth, African folk music and its art of composition inclusive. To this extent, the veracity of the fact that Africa had/has her defining pristine, autochthonous folk culture and its operational psychodynamics is proven. Olademo (2009) gives sufficient attention to discussing the classification and composition of Yorùbá poetic-cum-musical performances. In her discussion, she has posited that the composition of any oral genre for that matter proffers serious implication for its socio-cultural relevance across ages. However, amongst the Yorùbá, the mode of composition for oral genres differs albeit the several modes are interconnected. She indentifies two modes of composition, namely the rehearsal mode and the spontaneous mode. These two modes are to be found as constituting the underlying guideline(s) by which the creation of African music, as cultural productions, is governed; whether this is done by the traditional griots/bards/minstrels of West Africa, the izimbongi in the case of Nguni societies of Southern Africa or, as urbanity will always bring about, by the urbanised, more sophisticated African musician.

Highlighting the critical role of African (Yorùbá) women in cultural productions within the autochthonous context ofYorùbá oral tradition and folklore, Ilesanmi (1989:81-82) underscores these roles by women as evident in the preponderance of their yet extant oral compositions. Such materials have come to evidence themselves in the Isare and OrinÒsun, the obitun in Ondo, OrinOlori in Ìgèdè, the EkúnÌyàwó in areas around Òyó; all forms of lullaby (orin ìremolékún), the ago in Oka-Akoko Ondo State, and the Gèlèdé song in Egbadoland. These examples quite foreground the centrality of music and musicality to African (Yorùbá) oral compositions. In his discourse on the literary art and literary creativity in contemporary Africa, Oyin Ogunba (1978) identifies three types of performance patterns for Yorùbá oral genres, namely recitation, chanting and singing, while in a similar vein, Olukoju (1978) classifies Yorùbá oral genres into the speech mode, the chant mode and the song mode. Yet in these two taxonomic paradigms, the place of lyricism or musicality is central. A much later but comprehensive classificatory attempt by Fanilola (1991) is identified by Olademo (2009)and here Yorùbá oral genres are identified and classified (i) by the groups to which the poets belong and the technique of recitation; (ii) by the style of vocalisation employed by the artist; (iii) by the function of the oral genre; and (iv) by musical accompaniment.

In all of these developments, the intrinsic malleability and protean character of the originary oral, folkloric material is put to test. And as time has shown, the texts of African oral tradition have perennially proven their inherent capacity to adapt to the many vagaries of historio-cultural changes. As with African music, however, musical accompaniments – these accompaniments or instruments themselves being also materials or products of the oral tradition – have equally ‘demonstrated’ their ruggedness, adjustability and aesthetic value to trends and change even in the postmodernist world of musicultural productions. As Bísádé Ológundé (aka Lágbájá, ©2005-10) has observed, African music is autochthonously and typically ‘heavy on rhythm’, and this particular fact has served to underscore the centrality of the (traditional) drums in generating percussive and groovy rhythms which typically define African dance music. He states further that

Scholars have deduced that while melody and harmony are preeminent in traditional European music (and the West generally speaking) in African music (more so in West Africa) rhythm is king. The drum is the greatest purveyor of rhythm. And rhythm is arguably the most definitive of musical style in popular contemporary music. Although we use the drums in our music, mostly to create grooves and stimulate dance, in traditional Yorùbá music the drum plays more diverse roles. They do much more than stimulate dance, especially in the sacred worship of Yorùbá deities.

Regarding the significance of drums in Yorùbá deity worship – further showing the protean character of African material culture – Olorunyomi also reflects on the fact about African drums, that

… drums – in particular – and other musical instruments are deemed to be repositories of language, with the different Òrìsà (deities) expressing marked preferences of drum decoder for invocatory purposes. Hence, Obatala’s quartet includes Iyánlá, Ìyá Àgàn, Keke and Afeere which form the Igbin ensemble used by its devotees, while Sango’s preference is the Bàtá ensemble of Ìyá Ìlù, Omele abo, Kùdi and Omele Ako. With these are the Ìpèsè, Orunmila’s special drum, and Àgéré; Besides [sic] Agogo (metalophone) and sèkèrè (traditional rattle) of Ògún. (p. 5)

He explains further that beyond the fact of the drum’s centrality in most of Africa’s orchestra, this aesthetic-religious function most likely makes clear the prevalence, amongst the Yorùbá, of tension drums with their wide range of tonal configuration and cultural addiction to “talking with musical instruments since Yorùbá is a tone language, musicians have been able to develop a highly sophisticated use of musical instruments as speech surrogate”.  It is therefore not surprising how religion (in this case non-native religions such as Islam and Christianity) plays some influential role in the development of such neo-traditional forms such as sakara, apala, waka, and juju. Uzoigwe (1992) also records how Akin Eubadescribes waka as a socio-religious song of Islamic origin, and how it later became entertainment music, accompanied on dundun drums. In waka, female singers are usually supported by male instrumentalists, and although yet unsophisticated in its early stage (like other neo-traditional forms), it is usually employed in marriage, child-naming, and funeral ceremonies. Apala, which is performed only by men, also has some links with Islam and, like waka, it is very much influenced by dundun drumming. Thus, drums and drum types, and the skillful combinations of the various ensembles, play crucial roles in shaping the distinctiveness of these neo-traditional forms. In all of these, the artiste, in blending both indigenous and foreign influences, is able also to achieve an overall aesthetic balance in developing and refurbishing his or her art.

Furthermore, as a necessary psychodynamic criterion for great, creative oral (musical) composition, an artiste is required – or, at least expected – to possess a reliable knowledge and understanding of the nature, constitution and workings of the folkloric resources available to him or her within the ambit of the culture within which his or her compositions are being done. According to Olademo (2009:33-34), the artist requires skill and the taking of initiative for accurate handling of available cultural materials. It behooves, for instance, the (Yorùbá) artist to be conversant with available materials for the various genres of Yorùbá oral literature and to know how to integrate these materials towards producing a rich and compelling work of art. The artist must be acquainted with the correct sequence of the information available to him or her, in addition to the imperative of taking initiatives in the handling of the cultural material, particularly in terms of re-arrangements and artistic expressions. To this effect, Fanilola asserts that for a good composition of oral genre, the Yorùbá artist’s expertise of Yoruba language and stylistic devices is uncompromising.

Hitherto, it has been sufficiently established how artistic (including musical) creation is achieved in the native, rustic environment of the African artist, in an ambience completely devoid of urban influences. However, at certain stage in the history of any society, urbanisation as a crucial part of the process of social evolution does influence the movement and therefore transmutation and alteration of the oral material. In this process, the traditional oral text which is usually informed by the rustic experiences and observations of life lived by successive generations (Olukoju, 1978), comes in contact with the influence of urban life, and in this novel state becomes a kind of hybrid material for a kind of hybrid art (musical) form. As mentioned earlier, urbanisation and industrialisation as results of European colonisation do create new urban lifestyles and social networks which were in many respects different from those in indigenous rural settings.

To demonstrate how music performance forms part of people’s life in the city, Dube points out how that urban musical performance figures in Africa people’s struggles and strategies to maintain or alter their ways of life during times of dramatic social upheaval, a phenomenon that, according to him, has been noted in other parts of the world by such scholars as Turino (1993, 5). Citing Gilbert and Gugler (1992, 2, 62), Dube further shows that ‘these changes, notably in colonial societies, were a consequence of a historic process of the incorporation of Africans into the world capitalist system’ (a system that firmly found its footing at the collapse of the Berlin wall and Marxism.) In the view of Coplan (1980), one of the strategies used by migrants to survive in the urban environment is to adapt to new circumstances, usually drawing upon various resources including cultural forms like performance.  These migrants, in particular popular music performers, have been characterised and studied with focus on musicians as cultural brokers, mobile individuals skilled at manipulating multiple expressive codes in heterogeneous environments.

Again, it becomes important to the pursuit of this disquisition to establish the fact that Africa, before the advent of European colonisation, had a significant degree of homegrown, continental urbanisation and a form of global interaction with the rest of the world during the Middle Ages (Keita, 2008). During this epoch, rural villages that originally served to support only their immediate inhabitants grew into centers of trade, religion, and government serving a larger region. Keita goes on to document that

While cities and states differed across the African continent, most were characterized by an urban culture; that is, a culture characterized by population and structural density from which arise various social and political organizations unique to the setting. This culture in many ways transcended linguistic, religious, and ethnic devices. Urbanization and the resulting formation of states created specific local language and culture. The cities, then, also represented the cultural traits and symbols that were exchanged between different societies throughout the centuries.


During this process, the ancient and sophisticated processes of urbanisation and state formation are seen in Egyptian civilisation. In this reality, Egypt is identified and famous for characterising the urban culture, state formation, and broad cultural interaction of the ancient civilisations; and contemporary to ancient Egypt was the region of Nubia (Kush), which was known by its urban complexes. The celebrated cities of Meroë and Napata had served as administrative centres, capitals of their regions, and homes to large populations. On the Swahili coast in East Africa, the cities and the states had begun a process of the fusion of pre-Islamic culture that marked one of many manifestations of Afro-Arabic culture. The distinction of this culture that has persisted through the modern age is called Swahili culture. According to Keita, Swahili commercial and urban structures were sophisticated and generated so much wealth that they continued to astound European visitors even about 1,500 years later. Amongst other things, this civilisation also gave birth to the grand capital city of Great Zimbabwe, and while Great Zimbabwe was said to have been symbolic of grandeur, it also represented smaller urban communities that dotted the southern African landscape and that may have predated Great Zimbabwe itself.

Buttressing the foregoing reality further, Dube, alluding to Barber, points out that changes within African societies, for instance the processes of performanceproduction leading to professionalisation, have a long history in Africa(Barber, 1987,13). In a similar vein, Waterman (1990:3,157) also asserts that in some societies urbanisation was a feature of Africanlife before the coming of colonialism. In his study of the social and economicorganisation of juju music performance in Nigerian urban settings, Waterman found that specialisation in economic productionwas even evident in pre-European lineage-based craft associations of the Yorùbá.Although by contrast, the most important difference between a city or urban centre in that civilisation and that of a modern city may be said to reside in the level of sophistication and the urbane, a commonality will be that both are socio-economically influential enough to bring about urban migration, during which the oral material becomes susceptible to miscellaneous transformations, thereby passing from a state of rusticity or traditionalism to urbanism.

An early history of the process of transformation and transmutation of African (Yorùbá) folkloric material can be traceable to some of the experimental and groundbreaking efforts of some African art-music scholars, composers and ethnomusicologists. Prominent amongst these are Fela Sowande, Akin Euba, Mojola Agbebi, Samuel Ekpe Akpabot, and J. H. Kwabena Nketia. As shown by Olorunyomi, by the early and middle 20th century, the cultural atmosphere, musically, was already shifting from a sheer endeavour at imitating European forms towards an authentication of what was considered indigenous, hence the conscious quest for alternative musical forms. And because this was a major revolutionary, cultural-change sprouting response motivated by its own exigency, nothing became too much or too less to lend to the cause, as in fact the majority of this group had had to devote a significant aspect of their scholastic life to achieving this cause, having themselves already been grounded in the knowledge of Western musical forms, particularly classical music (Omojola, 1995; Sadoh, 2007). This knowledge was made possible through colonial (Victorian) exposures, although the imperative of breaking away from the imperial hold of this temporal ambience (to creating a new cultural identity) was accelerated by the vanguards of this cultural trend, much more so “having learnt that the colonial explanation of Christianity was one in which only Victorian hymns could be sung”. To produce this revolution, nothing else but the oral, traditional site could be returned to as recourse. Citing Collins and Richards, Olorunyomi points out how Sowande, who had already established a reputation for himself as Nigeria’s leading ‘symphonic’ composer, subsequently argued the case for this aesthetic departure and for grounding Nigerian musicology in the study of African religion.

As revealed by Bode Omojola, Sowande had accordingly begun the work of collecting African melodies for use in his activities. These were later to be developed into original compositions, in particular the Six Sketches for Full Orchestra and the African Suite. Some liner notes actually outline some of these early efforts by Sowande as some form of hybridity achieved with a great stylistic conflation of the folk and the Western. According to Omojola,

The African Suite, written in 1944, combines well-known West African musics with European forces and methods. For the opening movement, Joyful Day, Sowande uses a melody written by Ghanaian composer Ephrain Amu, as he does in the fourth movement, Onipe.  In Nostalgia, Sowande composes a traditional slow movement to express his nostalgia for the homeland (in itself a rather European idea).  At the centre of the work is a restive Lullabybased on a folk original. (Emphasis mine)

Sadoh also explains how some the pieces performed by Sowande were based on borrowed themes from his Yorùbá culture. Sadoh further establishes the fact that indigenous songs are employed in Sowande’s music for three reasons, a foremost reason beingas “a symbol and mark of national identity”, and the second basis “to classify the works under the umbrella of modern Nigerian art music”, and, thirdly,“to arouse the interest of Nigerian/African audiences in performing, studying and analysing the music”. Apart from rhythm, Sadoh explicates, the indigenous songs are the most audible elements of Nigerian culture vivid to the audiences and performers. Hearing those songs enabled them to compartmentalise the works as Nigerian musical heritage. And this moment well signalled the beginning of Nigerian art music.

With these advancements, the issue of authenticity and identity were already being concretised, and further progress – more or less simultaneously – in this regard was to be found in similar efforts by Akin Euba, who, according to Collins and Richards, had moved in the direction of works, more accessible to mass audiences in which ‘Western’ influenced ‘intellectuallist’ procedures of composition were rejected. A major pursuit, for Euba, was the development of an African idiom. This proved quite a challenging but not impossible task as, in the early stage of this effort, he could “not find the key to this idiom”.  But, as recorded by Uzoigwe, he felt all along that the key was being gradually revealed by his continued study of the theoretical basis of African traditional music and exposure to the traditional music of other peoples(Uzoigwe,1992). These attempts were later to culminate in Euba’s idea of ‘African pianism’.

This experimentation – which saw Euba exploring the ‘African’/percussive aspects of the piano – was such a prolific and artistic effort that, by the mid 1960s such works as reflect(ed) their pure African roots and aesthetic essence had been produced. Amongst these creations were Four Pictures from Oyo Calabashes,Impressions from an Akwete Cloth, and Saturday Night at Caban Bamboo.  Other works of this same time in which piano is combined with other instruments are Tortoise and the Speaking Cloth for narrator and piano, and Four Pieces for flute, bassoon, piano and percussion. Earlier efforts had been arrangements of folk songs which made use of African materials and works such as included Igi Nla So for piano and four Yorùbá drums, and Three Yoruba Songs for baritone, piano and Ìyáàlù (Yorùbá ‘talking drum’ of the dundun tension drum family) had been composed.Original compositions had been composed in European terms.  The Wanderer was said to be the first composition in which attempts to explore elements of African musicwere made.

By this time, the traditional, oral langue has been richly and significantly explored that even the African ethnopoetic relevance of the performances has somewhat become signature to the productions. This reality is quite evinced in Euba’s Abiku I. In the case of Abiku I, the psycho-spiritual principle of the ‘abiku’ (a child ‘born to die’) – in Yorùbá mythological belief – becomes a leitmotif, having implications not only for literary creation but also for other forms of performative artistic creations. As a folkloric and literary antecedent to Euba’s Abiku I, this folk content was earlier to be found in Soyinka and Clark-Bekederemo’s separate poems of the same title, and later in Euba’s composition.

At this historic moment, that is the 1960s, a group of young African (Nigerian) artistes had begun to emerge, building, like Euba, on their neo-traditional music antecedences of dundun drumming, sakara, etc, from which Highlife, their immediate antecedent, had developed. The origin and development of Highlife itself predate the ‘Afroclassical’ art music of Sowande and Euba, although these two had grown side-by-side at some point. And although Highlife – which itself is a consequential product of colonialism in (West) Africa – is reputed to have emanated from Ghana, it had taken a peculiar tinge in the hands of such Nigerians as Ambrose Campbell, Bobby Benson, Victor Olaiya, Chris Ajilo, Roy Chicago, Herbert Ogunde and Adeolu Akinsanya amongst others (Bisade Ologunde, ©2005-10). Highlife, which was later to influence the evolution of the “Afro sound” generation of the 1960s onwards, had, according to Tam Fiofori (cited by Olorunyomi),

…taken off as “palm-wine”, guitar music – so called because of the social occasion of palm-wine refreshment during performance – was soon transformed into an orchestra which, apart from guitar, included in its typical ensemble brass instruments such as trumpet, trombone and tuba, as well as reed instruments. Other Western-style instruments of this form are the trap drum and cymbals, accordion, xylophone and keyboard, with brass and reed instruments now carrying “the tones, in harmony led by the trumpet.” p.9

However, the latter half of the 1960s witnessed the emergence of new musical groups (bands) – the “Afro sound” generation – who, conscious of the activities of their African American contemporaries in the United States, also began some forms of musical experimentations. By now the Koola Lobitos Band of Fela Ransome-Kuti, who would later emerge a hugely celebrated figure of this generation, had already taken good shape; but being yet experimental, it had metamorphosed into the Highlife Jazz Band. As a matter of fact, this reality was a pervading syndrome of that generation as other contemporary bands were also found to be going through the process of change. Amongst these, Orlando Julius, whose musical band had progressed from being the “Afro Sounders” to the “Modern Aces”, equally proves significant in this generation. By the 1970s, other “Africa sounding” bands had emerged, also witnessing the rite of name-changing. There was the band The Cluster who also later metamorphosed into BLO (“B” for Berkely “Ike” Jones (guitar); “L” for Laolu “Akins” Akintobu (drums); and “O” for Mike “Gbenga” Odumosu (bass)) This group, like Fela-Kuti, Orlando Julius and certain others of that generation, had first played Highlife, trying also to be like TheBeatles, RollingStones, and the James Brown. (Of course, Fela’s persistent search for an appropriate style and ideology led to his further crisscrossing, and therefore the continuous change of his Band’s name(s), now from Fela Ransome-Kuti and the Nigeria 70, to The Africa ’70 and then to the Egypt ’80, respectively.) There was also the group Osibisa, remarkable for its experimentation with a musical form which combined an African style with a Caribbean blend.

From this point on, there began to be a tendency towards the acceptance of influences from rock music as was to be seen in BLO and such other bands as Ofege, and The Lijadu Sisters. For Ofege, rhythm is defined in terms of post-60s harmony vocals, in which the melodic fuzz “breaks out/breaks free, wild and uncompromising, while the rhythm in an African way are repeated and carry the song”. And, although the rhythm of Ofege is complex and groovy, bits of the funky elements are completely dissolved in the psychedelic effect of all.

The much fascinating appearances of Tunji Oyelana (and The Benders) and Jimi Solanke in this Zeitgeist cannot be undermined. Indeed, the conscious, deliberate deployment of rich cultural, and in fact folk, elements was to distinguish The Lijadu Sisters, Jimi Solanke and Tunji Oyelana, who at this time helped create a dimension of cultural rejuvenation through their creative art music styles. The contributions of this very crop of folk-conscious artistes was later to have some influence and implications for what was to partly constitute the orientation, temperament and tenor of what would emerge as Alter-native Contemporary African Music. In effect, the impact of this movement was to last into the 1980s, when the hitherto youngest of the alter-native contemporary African music artistes in this consideration were born, namely Nneka Egbuna (Nneka) and Bukola Elemide (Àsá), albeit such older artistes of this avant-garde musical movement such as Siji Awoyinka (Siji), Ayinke Martins and Femi Sanyaolu (aka Keziah Jones) amongst others in the genre also continually have reasons for an inextricable recourse to the artistic potpourri and whirlpool of the ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s.

In closing and consolidation of this disquisition, it cannot be highlighted sufficiently that even up until this point, the “Afro” (that is, the indigenous African element) has been a fundamental leitmotif in the evolution(s) of various ‘alter-native’ forms hitherto engaged. In essence, a sense of the authentic has become, of necessity, the very mooring to which all African arts of successive times have been tied. The socialist (Marxian) ideology has equally proved to be central and significant to shaping what subsequently defines the alter-native form that has evolved in the three decades that span 1981 to 2011(especially considering the fact that up until now more new releases are continually found to be made of alter-native contemporary African musical production as recently witnessed in the case of Àsá’s latest vinyl, Beautiful Imperfection, and in fact the emergence also of the South African alter-native Band, Uju). A central fact then remains that, in the midst of all of the historio-cultural and indeed kaleidoscopic changes as illustrated, the autochthonous oral backcloth continues to subsist through the times and trends. This reality –that the African art is never void of the ludic (beautiful) and the util (functional) – therefore constitutes the touchstone against which the arguments of this disquisition are rested and tested. This premise then being true, it followsthat its inherent strength is worthy of continuous and serious scholarly attention and of being brought to the mainstream of such contemporary world issues as (African) art and society, and such other issues as are being posed by the ever-changing, ever-evolving universe of postmodernism and African Diaspora studies.



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Discovering the purpose of God for your life

Pastor Peter O. Olayiwola

Distance Learning Institute

University of Lagos



One of the greatest miracles that can happen in the life of a person is for that person to discover or know the purpose of God for his/her life. As long as you have not discovered that unique purpose you are like a man who wakes up in the morning and you arrived at a particular bus terminal where several vehicles were calling several places. Since you have no particular destination, you will have to be running up and down not knowing which particular destination you have to go. A life without purpose is a wasted and useless life. It is full of confusion, highly unorganized. Each time you ask such people a question about their plans, the readymade answer is “I don’t know”. If you are in this category, God has sent me to you so that you will really take good time to actually discover the purpose of God for your life. My friend, have you ever lost the key to your house before? How long does it take you to gain entrance? You will have to call a number of people to help you to gain entrance into you own house. Can you quantify the efforts in terms of time wasted, costs, embarrassments? Can you imagine how easy it would have been if you have the key with you. My friend discovering your purpose is the key to unlock your success. Stop whatever you are doing now and take time to discover your purpose in life.


This aims of this article are to


  • help you discover the foundation you need to discover you purpose
  • to explain the process of discovering your purpose
  • Identify what your purpose should be
  • to point out the benefits you stand to gain by discovering your purpose and
  • to show you the possible dangers you are going to face if you live without a purpose.

The foundation for discovering your purpose

All the craftsmen in the world have a purpose for which they make their implements. Most time they provide a guide book called manual explaining the installation and how to use the equipment for the buyer to derive maximum benefits. Craftsmen do not make implements that are useless because if they do nobody will buy. If men and women that are created by God can reason this way, what about God the creator? Have you ever come to think of it that you are created by God? You are not created by accident, you are created for a specific purpose and no other person can fulfill that particular purpose as you will do. Failure to fulfill your purpose implies that part of the problem of the world is being created by you because you have failed to do what God has sent you to do. No wonder the Bible says in Romans 1: 28 that ‘And according as they did not think good to have God in knowledge, God gave them up to a reprobate mind to practice unseemly things;’. You need the knowledge of God as the foundational basis to know His purpose for your life. You cannot do anything meaningful without putting God first. God’s word says ‘The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom/understanding’.  I encourage you to link up with God and get your purpose straighten out.

 Jeremiah 29:11also says ‘For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says Jehovah, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you hope in your latter end. God has a special package for you. He has you in His plans, and these plans are glorious ones. All you need do is to get closer, establish a permanent relationship with Him so that He can reveal His plans/purpose to you. So what are you waiting for? Get on your knee and ask Him to take over your life.

Process of discovering God purpose

The question agitating your mind is how you will be able to discover the purpose of God for your life. As said in the previous section, you need to accept Him into your life and allow Him to make the plans He has for you to be open to you. The following steps can be taken to discover God’s purpose for your life:-

  • Prayers and meditations
  • Give yourself to the study of God’s word
  • Your interest and what you love doing
  • Start small and aspire to grow big


Pavlina Steve (2005) suggested two ways of discovering one’s purpose in life

The first method is to consult your emotional intelligence. Passion and purpose go hand in hand. When you discover your purpose, you will normally find it’s something you’re tremendously passionate about. Emotionally you will feel that it is correct.

The second method is to use your reason and logic to work down from your context. The clearer and more accurate your context is, the easier this will be.

To identify your purpose, you basically project your entire context of reality onto yourself. Given your current understanding of reality, where do you fit in? If you buy into the social context that most people seem to use, this will be virtually impossible. Social contexts don’t provide sufficient clarity. At best you may end up with a wishy-washy purpose statement that addresses the basics like making money, having a family, having friends, and being nice, but there won’t be any real substance to it. If you gave it to someone else to read it, they wouldn’t come away knowing you any better.

According to Pavlina 2005, the combination of both methods for defining your purpose to see where they lead you is highly recommended. According to the researcher if your context is sound, you should get congruent answers from both approaches. Your emotional and rational intelligences will each phrase your purpose differently, but you should see that it’s essentially the same. But most of the time that won’t be the case, and the answers will be different, which means your context is incongruent. You rationally think about reality in one way but you feel it in another way. Perhaps you hold religious beliefs but only follow them sporadically — they aren’t integrated across your entire life. You may feel in your heart that your beliefs are true, but you don’t think them in your head. In this case you have to identify the disparity, figure out where it comes from, and work it through until you can get both sides to agree or you can get clear on which one is correct. Use your consciousness to listen to the emotional side and the rational side, and be like a negotiator between them.

What should be your purpose in life?

The central purpose of creature is to have a personal relationship with the creator God. In John 15: 5-6 Jesus said ‘I am the vine, you are the branches: He that abides in me, and I in him, the same bears much fruit: for apart from me you can do nothing. V.6 If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned. You can see that no one can live without God, no man can be independent of God. You are created to be totally and unconditionally depend on God. Your ultimate purpose in life must be to please God, all other things are secondary.


Secondly, human society is created to be dependent on one another. It is obvious that no man can live as an island. No single person or family or a nation can live in isolation. If you agree with me, your purpose in life must not be self centred. You must always think of how you purpose in life will please God and benefit the society. Do you know that if your purpose benefits the society you will also reap financial benefits? Take for example footballers, Doctors, Teachers, Manufacturers of products, Comedians. Many of these people identified areas of their callings and they are benefiting the society and at the same time reaping financial benefits. You need to genuinely love others and seek society overall good.


Thirdly learn to discover and accept the deeper truth. People love those who will sing their praise, never ready to accept the truth. Truth is usually bitter but the ability to swallow it and digest it brings wisdom. You need to learn humility to accept the truth.


Fourthly, love sincerely and unconditionally, be passionate about the progress of others. When you sincerely love and you seek the good of your nation, community, friends, neighbours, employees or/employers, business partners and etc. You will discover that you are living in the atmosphere of joy and peace. Note that it is not the amount of wealth you gathered that matters but the numbers of lives you sincerely touched with your wealth. Trusted business partners are scarce because there is no sincere love, citizens commit crimes because there is no sincere love, and politicians are stealing the public funds because there is no love. Let us all redefine our purpose and re-align with that of God and our society will become heaven on earth.


Lastly develop and express your innovation and creativity. You are unique and special, so you need to generate unique ideas that will solve the society’s problems. This will lead to your strength. You must make up your mind to be different. Creativity and innovation required deep meditations and relationship with God

Benefits of discovering your purpose

You will have focus and direction: Now that you know where you are going it now becomes easier for you to get there.

It will enable you to plan your life (short, medium and long terms planning): You are able to work out your plans and how and when you get to your destination. You will need daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly and yearly plans. It must also include much longer periods.

You will be able to effectively and efficiently manage and allocate you resources. You do not misuse or mismanage resources. You become more conscious of where you are coming from, where you are, and where you are going. You allocate your resources in such a way that it gets you closer to your goals.

You become effective time manager and not time waster: One the benefits of knowing your purpose is that you will become a better time manger. Most people use a larger part of their lives doing things that have nothing to do with their future. A person with purpose realizes that time wasted is money wasted and also life wasted. Times that others have utilized and converted into wealth are wasted in mundane things.

Achieving-life- identified three benefits of purpose as:

 Personal philosophy: Discovering your Life Purpose is magical. It comes with a sense of meaning. It allows you to effect positive change on a world in need of such a thing. It allows you to finally stop saying, “Someday” and to begin living “now”. You help others “now”… you make a difference “now”. This is where you write down the values, morals, and principles by which you intend to live by. There’s a huge difference in the Life Purpose of a person valuing honesty and integrity as opposed to the person who doesn’t mind lying and cheating now and then. Like many others, you may very well be living a life today that doesn’t match up with your Personal Philosophy. Does your job have you doing things that go against your morals and principles? Have you allowed a friend, family member, or spouse to steer you in directions that have you violating your values? Getting your Personal Philosophy solidified will allow you to make life decisions quite easily from the viewpoint of principles that you hold highly.

Your Vision: As your Life Purpose comes squarely into view, your entire life vision changes. Instead of living life “by accident” and hoping things work out, you now see clearly how each decision affects you now and in the future. With your purpose of life mapped out, you no longer accept anything that violates that purpose and vision. Imagine the difference in your quality of life when you make choices based on personal truth rather than anything else society may be suggesting you do.

Making a difference: Since most people in today’s society are trapped in “survival mode”, they have abandoned all thoughts of “purpose” or living with “intention”. However, when you decide to finally rise above this and work on yourself in order to live your Life Purpose, you’ll find that your discovery of your authentic reason for being alive will result in a life where you make a difference to those around you. Discovering your Life Purpose is magical. It comes with a sense of meaning. It allows you to effect positive change on a world in need of such a thing. It allows you to finally stop saying, “Someday” and to begin living “now”. You help others “now”… you make a difference “now”.


Dangers of life without purpose:

  • No focus or direction
  • No particular plan in place
  • Resources are used carelessly
  • Times are wasted without apology “there is still time’saga
  • There is no definite personal philosophy and low self concepts
  • Joins the multitude

Pavlina (2010) stated that ‘No doubt there exist real dangers in life you must avoid. But there’s a huge gulf between recklessness and courage. I’m not referring to the heroic courage required to risk your life to save someone from a burning building. By courage I mean the ability to face down those imaginary fears and reclaim the far more powerful life that you’ve denied yourself. Fear of failure. Fear of rejection. Fear of going broke. Fear of being alone. Fear of humiliation. Fear of public speaking. Fear of being ostracized by family and friends. Fear of physical discomfort. Fear of regret. Fear of successes. It is time to leave the all manners of fear behind you and face life squarely. You will fulfill your purpose if you are focused and your take calculated risks.

Summary and Conclusion

This paper has been able to explain the foundation for discovering of your purpose with emphasis that God the creator must be central in the affairs of your life. It went further to explain the process of discovering your purpose. The paper also identified what your purpose should be. It highlighted the benefits you stand to gain by discovering your purpose and showed the possible dangers you are going to face if you live without a purpose. It is therefore safe to conclude that discovery of purpose do not come by accident. It is by determination to make a difference in life. It is by choice, so what is your choice now?




Pavlina, Steve (2005) Meaning of Life: Discover Your Purpose in Life  / Retrieved July 9 2010

Purpose of Life: 3 Benefits and 3 Steps to Discovering Your Life Purpose  Retrieved July 9 210

Pavlina S Courage to Live consciously

Folklore films as postcolonial counter discourse: Tunde Kelani’s films as paradigm

Folklore films as postcolonial counter discourse: Tunde Kelani’s films as paradigm



The filmic oeuvre of Tunde Kelani is unpretentiously postcolonial, and radically revisionist of a cinema tradition that has incipient capacity for counter discourse. It is in this light that this work concerns itself with a critical reading of some of the films of the foremost Nigerian filmmaker, setting them within a postcolonial framework that at once examines Kelani’s reconstruction of folklore in film, and best situates this discussion within the ambits of counter-cinema. The Alarinjo professional popular theatre and court masquerade of 14th century Oyo with their itinerant approach to a performance tradition of ritual festival is credited with the beginning of the Yoruba Travelling Theatre of the 1930s, a theatre form pioneered by Hubert Ogunde. It is proposed that it is within this performative frame that the works of Kelani’s are situated. Orality, as the authentic source of African Arts aesthetics is argued as the inspiring substratum for Kelani’s film.

This work sets out to contend that, beyond the rise of the folkloric cinema, the use of folklore in the Nigerian, and even African, Film is laden with ideology and meaning. Folklore, therefore, constitutes a functional assemblage of symbolic codes when examined within the contexts of postcolonial cinema. African Film is, thus, seen as a parole of a folkloric langue. The fundamental quest of the research can be located within the critical position which explains the failure of film criticism in Africa to assign folklore and oral tradition the counter-defining role it plays in postcolonial cinema. Its major claim is articulated by the fact that folklore films, as evinced by most of the cinematographic engagements of Tunde Kelani, are a viable Post-Afrocentric tool for projecting a truly authentic African vision and ontological essence. Since the Afrocentric, which is a critical perspective that privileges an African presence and self-determination in any analysis of African culture, is often embarrassed by the very cultural challenges it seeks to disentangle, as it is often seen when it borrows materials from the colonialist Eurocentric epistemology, this work attempts to locate Kelani’s folklore films within the post-Afrocentric lens that reconstructs, and at once, reaffirms the African image.

The use of folklore is not necessarily a new art form in Nigerian Cinema. In the 1980s, Moses Adejumo had, in his Orun Mooru, mixed folklore with rural comedy, traditional song and dance, a well as satire on the modern rich and elaborate trick effects ─for a ghostly dream sequence. This kind of interplay between cinema and folklore, also deployed by other film directors of that era (especially of the travelling theatre tradition) was necessary to articulate a cinema tradition, which according to Roy Armes (n.d), is “not derivative of Western film models”

From mainstream Nigerian Literature, it is evident in the works of Amos Tutuola and Chinua Achebe, two early proponents of the African Novel, which itself is an alien idiom of cultural expression on the continent, that the reconstruction of aspects of African oral tradition in the novel is essential to the emergent literary tradition of African prose fiction. Folklore and other oral materials such as myths and praise poetry were fitly crafted by Chinua Achebe, Wole Soyinka and other early writers of African Literature to recontest and dislodge the Eurocentric views that Africa had no history, and therefore, identity. These views were fundamentally projected by such colonialist narratives as Joyce Cary’s Mister Johnson and Conrad’s Heart of Darkness.

These stereotypic representations continued in the filmic adaptations of many filmmakers in Europe and America. An instance is Edgar Rice BurroughsTarzan of the 1930s. Since film, according to Hyginus Ekwuazi (1991), is “an audio-visual cultural encyclopedia” which carries a “national image”, it is imperative to examine how folklore in contemporary Nigerian Cinema is negotiated as a mimetic coding that foregrounds a true nationalist vision, on the one hand, and an original African essentialism on the other hand.


It is acknowledged here that the medium of film (or video, as in the case of Nollywood) is alien to Africa. However, some critics maintain, according to Murphy (2000), that “all African films are inauthentic or ‘Western’ simply because cinema was first invented in the West”. This position is faulty as folk and oral materials in the African Film and in the Nigerian Film in particular, provide a stylistic template for invading the continent’s epistemological enclosures that lead to the development of a home growth cinematic tradition and to redefine itself in the light of her true history. That cinema had been invented by the Lumierre brothers ─Auguste and Louis─, of French origin, for instance, never compels any to deny the authenticity of American or Indian Cinema. It is thus a ludicrous view to contend that Africana Cinema is inauthentic or exists as a parody of Western Cinematic traditions.


A central argument is therefore that the films of Tunde Kelani, invested with folkloric lineaments like drumming, songs and myths, orchestrate alternative hermeneutic paradigms which drastically contest the West’s view of a people seen “as marginal, uncivilized and on the periphery of historical consciousness” (Asante 1990: 119). An assumptive proposition of this study is that the films of Tunde kelani do not belong to what has been called Nollywood, as his cinematographic efforts are constitutive of alternative film narratives which deploy folklore and oral resources for ideological purposes. It is equally claimed that Tunde Kelani’s films, as a mode of cultural expression, serve as counter-cinema, especially in the light of how the consistent utilisation of folk and oral materials provide  an ideological template  for contesting stereotypic Western views about Africa.





The popular Yoruba travelling theatre in Nigeria, with its attendant performance tradition is credited for the emergence of the cinema in Nigeria. The beginning of this art form, such as the cinema which is the most versatile and collaborative, as it incorporates literary, musical and performance arts, is coincidentally defined within migratory trajectories, as on the one hand, it has in its provenance in theatre tradition with a mobile stagecraft, and on the other hand, in the rural-urban migration of the 1970s. The consequent population explosion in the cities, especially Lagos, the then-capital city of Nigeria, triggered off some annexing of creative energies, as the ghettoes that emerged immediately accepted these artistic representations, in cinema, of their social and cultural exigencies. Early Nigerian Cinema was, as such, an essentialist agency for arresting popular culture. It is this brief cinematic tradition that film scholars in Nigeria have signified as the Yoruba cinema, or popular Western cinema.


It is this same tradition that Tunde Kelani continues to draw from as he once stated that, “we draw a lot of our actors from the Yoruba traveling theater tradition, who belong to a lineage of actors whose fathers and mothers have thrilled the world in past decades.”(Tunde Kelani n.d) .However this cinema tradition that had emanated from the wheels later gave way to the downturn of the economy of Nigeria in the mid-1980s. As regards what is now modern film in Nigeria, which has curiously been branded as Nollywood, Onnokeme further provides the historical insight that:


the video film, came directly out of the practice of the now-famous Yoruba theatre troupes whose

directors felt the crunch of the difficult economic problems at the time. Ways of circumventing this economic downturn were experimented upon by these directors. Some of them turned to“canning” their theatre performances in VHS cassettes.


Some of the theatre practioners who felt the twinge of the economic slump, which eventually led to the massive drop in outdoor activities in major Nigerian cities in the years after the Nigerian civil war, had to continue this performance tradition. Video technology was therefore mobilised for this newly inaugurated cultural process. Faced with the same social and economic contingencies in the 1980s, this group of practioners resorted to using the cheaper medium of the video cassette to check the spiraling turn of theatre patronage in the cities (Onookeme, 2007).


This view is corroborated by Jonathan Haynes (2007:1), who contends that “in Nigeria, the first into the field were artists from the Yoruba traveling theater, who had been working on television for decades and had produced scores of celluloid films in the 1970s and ’80s. Video projectors allowed them to continue screening their work in the informal venues that they had been hiring for film shows.” However a major contestation of this study is that video technology which, continues to provide one of the major inspirations for Nollywood, is a dying medium, and needs to make explicit connection with other art forms for it to project an authentic cultural and nationalist ideology.


Folklore films

Folklore films are a genre of world cinema that privileges an extensive use of folk and oral resources in film. The study of folklore dates back to the English antiquary, William John Thoms, who in 1846 used it to replace the term popular antiquities. Although its definition is often problematic, folklore includes myths, legends, folktales, riddles, proverbs, chants, as well as many other oral resources which members  of a particular group transmit across generations. In 1938, Benjamin Botkin, folklore editor for the WPA Federal Writers’ Project, offered that folklore “is a body of traditional belief, custom, and expression, handed down largely by word of mouth”. (Botkin, 1938)


The use of folklore in films brings a fresh perspective to the cinema tradition, as film becomes a vital technology that can be annexed for the preservation of oral tradition. By focussing on the films of Tunde Kelani, it is posited that the use of folklore in cinema as an expanded medium of textuality constitutes a site for postcolonial resistance, while equally arguing that Nigerian Cinema could be apprehended as a veritable voice of post-Afrocentricity, especially when examined in its creative and robust deployment of oral tradition and folkloric materials. Kelani’s folklore films are thus engaged as cultural responses to the “western master-text” and what Tsaaior (2008) identifies as “its totalitarian assumptions of putative superiority and epistemic hegemony over marginal Others”.

Situating Kelani within the matrix of postcolonial cinema, as a result of his functional intensivity of folk resources, is an aptly timely reality, as only a slim literature exist that appropriates folklore in Nigerian cinema as post colonial counter discourse. Onookome Onome’s seminal dissertation on the rise of the folkloric cinema remains one of the few major works, by any Nigerian film scholar, in this direction.

What this therefore implies is that filmic expressions in postcolonial Africa become, for Kelani, a medium of self-assertion, identity retrieval and cultural reaffirmation. He takes the formulaic aspects of Yoruba oral tradition and distills them into allegorical motifs to comment on modern and immediate realities on the continent. Yoruba cultural aesthetics in Kelani’s work assume a state of cinematic metaphors that vividly projects the ontology and epistemes of the Yoruba.

History and folklore are implicated in this research as defining hallmarks of Tunde Kelani’s cinematography. He participates in the shared art of narratives through film. In his own words – ‘I use film to tell stories’−, it is evident that a sense of history, storytelling and folk narratives are crucially critical elements of his apprehension of film as a cultural weaponry for identity retrieval and the reconstruction of history. Using the resources of oral tradition and folklore, Kelani projects the various themes he grapples with from a historic vision which accentuates his place in Nigerian Cinema within alternative paradigms.

In his Oleku (1996), Tunde Kelani attempts a filmic adaptation of the literary material of Akinwunmi Isola which had been seen as a creative response to the claim by such European historians as the highly respected Oxford professor, Hugh Trvor Roper that Africa had no history. Roper (as cited by Okoro 2009:663) had contended that:


perharps in the future, there will be some African History to reach. But at present there is none. There is only the history of Europeans in Africa. The rest is darkness… and darkness is not a subject of history… we cannot therefore afford to amuse ourselves with the unrewarding gyrations of barbarous tribes in the picturesque but irrelevant corners of the globe. (Okoro 2009:663)


Roper’s views are however strongly challenged in Oleku as Kelani, in the film enacts a scene in which another historian, teaching African History, tells his students that Hugh Roper had been wrong in his claims. Having been asked if their continent had any history, the students in the class scene all fundamentally answered in the affirmative, echoing the fact that another ‘cannot tell our own story’.


The documentation of momentous periods in Nigerian History is here engaged as a recurring character in Kelani’s films. Arugba (2008) for instance, participates in this reality, as the historical and mythic Osun Osogbo festival is captured through the camera. This is an important cultural documentation of a festival tradition that is paramount to the Yorubas of Osun State, South-West, Nigeria.  Also, in Thunderbolt, Kelani accommodates the presence of Tunji Oyelana’s music, therefore documenting an important aspect of Nigeria’s musical history. This is also true of the characterisation of Afro-Juju king, Sir Shina Peters in Oleku. This historicist dimension of Kelani’s film foregrounds the ideological underpinning of the filmmaker. If it is true that the continent has been subjected to a single memory, then, it is shown here that folklore and other aspects of oral tradition set within the confines of cinema, becomes a template to free Africa from the limiting claws of that memory.  The subject of memory is a central article in June Givanni’s volume, Symbolic Narratives/African Cinema, where Sylvia Wynter’s study “Africa, the West and the Analogy of Culture”, deals extensively with how cinema can help the African filmmaker reclaim the right identity for his people. In other words, if cinema is the best means of subjugation, it is also the best means of emancipation (Wynter in Givanni, p. 29).


This research proposes that the cinematographic engagement of folkloric resources and aspects of oral tradition like dance, proverbium, praise poetry, and the like in the films of Tunde Kelani are invested with ideological underpinnings that are implicated in this study as post-colonial counter discourse to the western assumptions of hegemonic dominance. This is particularly relevant to the field of postcolonial film studies, as it is an additional effort in the development of a Nigerian perspective to postcolonial African Cinema. The central purpose of the research is therefore to argue that folklore films in Nigeria, as in other parts of Africa, constitute a counter-hegemonic discourse in which issues of cultural deracination and inferiority are recontested.

The work would be a contributory voice to the ongoing debate in postcolonial studies, in which the postcolony continues to be subjugated through textual conquest and globalisation. It intends to examine how the modern bourgeois global economy and its attendant ideologies destroy and create new cultural forms that, together with a decadent political class in Africa, marshal themselves for a recurrent conquest of the Other. The films of Tunde Kelani, deployed as textual specimens in this study represent a critical deployment of the cinema to regain an original African vision, on the one hand, and to, through the platform of popular culture rouse postcolonial Nigeria out of its socio-cultural slumber. Finally, this work further strengthens film studies criticism in Nigeria, as it is anticipated that continual research in this direction in the coming years will boost the call for the establishment ofacademic units dedicated to film studies in a Nigerian Universities.

Finally, by mobilising his films for cultural redefinition, Kelani uses folklore to generate an archaeology of Nigeria’s, and even Africa’s, place within the philosophical precincts of western tradition, and world cinema generally.

The research will be conducted in all of 2011. Considering the importance of fieldwork as an imperative social instrument in cultural studies, with particular reference to theatre, cinema and performance arts in general, the research will rely extensively on two modes of methodological enquiry: a structured interview with Tunde Kelani, necessary to determine his artistic and cinematic vision. This constitutes, in addition to archival materials, the basis for an informed analysis of his Arugba and The Narrow Path, two film-texts that in corporate a reconstruction of folklore. The researcher will embark on a field trip to Osogbo to study the mother text of these folk and oral forms. This will involve taking part in such festive activities as the Osun Osogbo, as well as other sites of folklore performance in its original context of delivery.  Field activities will therefore include interviews, participant and non-participant observations of these folklore texts in different contexts of performance. Through key informants, the researcher will identify the contexts of these performance forms and participate in them.

In terms of the temporal framework of this research, it is expected that the first two to three months (March to May, 2011) will be spent in the library doing preliminary literature work. The second part of the work, which includes actual fieldwork, comes up between June and December, 2011. It is afterwards anticipated that the work concludes in the library for a final documentation of major findings.

Colonial Cinema and Postcolonial African cinema

Postcolonial studies is conceived in this research as an interdisciplinary field which focuses on the experience and cultural outputs of peoples whose history is unabashedly characterized by extremely political, social and psychological oppression. This oppression was often the result of the political domination of a population, the colonised, by another population, the coloniser. (Tyson1999:365–365). It follows therefore that asymmetrical power relations defined within such oppositional paradigms as “cultured/natural”, “civilised/primitive or savage”, “rational/irrational”, “black/white”, are crucial to apprehending how the West (re)constructs the ‘Other’ at the margins.

The publication of Orientalism in 1978 by Edward Said is a foundational catalyst to the debate on how the West or the Occident have constituted, the colonised Orient, as a different, objectivised Other to the West. What is crucial here is how difference becomes a basis for the categorisation of coloniser and colonised into several binary oppositions.

In relation to this, Ida Mari Dreijer, in the introductory part of her work, quotes Stuart Hall, the British/Jamaican theorist who avers that “[d]ifference is ambivalent. It can be both positive and negative. It is both necessary for the production of meaning, the formation of language and culture, for social identities and subjective sense of the self as a sexed subject – and at the same time, it is threatening, a site of danger, of negative feelings, of splitting, hostility and aggression towards the ‘Other’.” Dreijer (2009:1). The operations of colonialist and anti-colonialist ideologies, especially along the lines of social, cultural, political and psychological ideals, defined within such ‘self-other’ sentiments are central to postcolonialism. All of these, and many other stereotypic cultural modes of the representations of the culture of the postcolony, are of concern to postcolonial critics. They also reject the Eurocentric idea of universalism, an instance in which a text is judged to be a great work when it has ‘universal’ themes and characters, although what was ‘universal’ was synonymous with what was European.

In terms of the centrality of language to postcolonial theorising in African Literature, the argument as regards whether writers of postcolonial societies should write in European languages or not, is adequately catered for, as the indigenous productions of African filmmakers privilege an expected use of indigenous languages. It is through these languages that the existing social and cultural relations of these societies are created. To this end, the importance of speech to an oral culture is stressed, film makers on the continent dispense with whatever gift or tongues they have to speak the one simple language of the mass of the people. (Ekwuazi 1991)

It is noted in this study that postcolonial African cinema, which often assumes a political stance, does not have to film back in response to Europe and America, as in the case of an empire writing or singing back to the centre. The writing back strain, some scholars have intoned, privileges the hegemonic centre, and hence perpetually leaves the empire in the marginal orbits of continual dominance. The folklore films in review are therefore interrogated not necessarily as conscious cultural resistance to the centre but in terms of how they validate a truly African essence, which contests assumptions of a continent without history.

Generally, postcolonial critics seek to reveal the representations of other cultures in literature and how such literature is evasively and fundamentally silent on matters concerned with colonisation and imperialism. (Barry1995:198). The field of postcolonial studies engages in examining how these issues are represented in all sorts of texts, such as literature, theatre or cinema.

The 1897 International Colonial Exhibition in Brussels is often cited as the emergence of colonial cinema. Among other pavilions that fascinated visitors, a movie theatre called the ‘Zoograph’ stood out in a typical way showing images of King Leopold’s private property, named the Independent State Congo. The Zoograph was provided by L’Optique belge (‘The Belgian Perspective’), a society that sponsored cinematography in the Congo. (Nkunzimana 2009: 80).


Cinema had emerged in 1895 during the height of the colonial period, and since that inauguration, it has been used as an annihilating and oppressive tool of cultural and political subjugation. A significant aim of colonial cinema is therefore the dispossession and ‘dis-identification’ of the African, such that this denigration becomes a symbolic signifier of his cultural disenfranchisement. A work which provides a good example of the colonial fascination with the exotic and sensationalist images is Armand Denis’ Magie Africaine (African Magic, 1938). Another is André Cauvin’s (Congo (1944)) with wild images of wilderness and a civilizing mission of colonial presence. These films are built on the same logic and intended to achieve the same ideological and commercial goals, which consist in the proclivity to relegate the African and his cultural essence to the periphery. Other films in this category include Jacques Feyder’s (silent film version of L’Atlantide (1920) and Georg Wilhelm Pabst’s sound version of L’Atlantide (1932), Edmond T. Greville’s Princesse Tam Tam (1935), and Jacques de Baroncelli’s L’Homme du Niger (1940).


Olivier Barlet (1997) opines that in a bid to escape “the categories of authenticity, identity and a single origin, filmmakers of African origin often claim the undifferentiated status of “filmmaker full stop”, which, paradoxically, boils down to denying their specificity”. This claim however contradicts  Kelani’s essential role as director of a brand  of African Film that has capacity for cultural validation. The ‘label’, African, therefore constitutes an ideological site of postcolonial problematics, as it has capacity for discrediting authorship, yet propagating difference. From another light, Med Hondo expresses it this way: “The African filmmaker is somehow an orphan because he is marginalised both outside and inside Africa” (Ukadike, p. 67). By working a narrative structure into their films, using a uniquely African film language, and by returning to oral traditional forms, African filmmakers assert their place in world cinema, granting themselves the agency to interrogate a stereotypic representation of the continent, thereby  defying the logic on which colonial cinema is erected.

Unfortunately, Stanislas Adotevi as cited by Barlet (1997) sadly comments that “postcolonialism in film theory still only rarely tackles the question of difference head on. And yet, it is thus that it could encourage Western critical discourse at last to focus on something other than reducing the Other to his/her difference, to accept questioning its own view of the Other.”

Homi Bhabha has described the colonial discourse as:

an apparatus that turns on the recognition and disavowal of racial/cultural/historical differences. Its predominant strategic function is the creation of a space for a ‘subject peoples’through the production of knowledges in terms of which surveillance is exercised and a complex form of pleasure/unpleasure is incited. It seeks authorisation for its strategies by the production of knowledges of coloniser and colonised which are stereotypical but antithetically evaluated. The objective of colonial discourse is to construe the colonised as a population of degenerate types on the basis of racial origin, in order to justify conquest and to establish systems of administration and instruction.

It is the interrogation of “conquest” and other colonial subjectivities, through the folkloric cinema that defines the aesthetic code which unlocks the films of Tunde Kelani. He clearly spells out on his Mainframe website that his cinema is out to promote “our rich cultural heritage and moral values both within the country and the outside world at large”.  It is this reality that Chief Eddie Ugbomah also has in mind when he says to Frank Ukadike that “Some day Africans must deliver. We must redefine an African image that is not Tarzanistic. We have not delivered. African cinema owes the world an answer” (Ukadike, p. 98). This work suggests that the folklore films of Tunde Kelani are some of the answers to these questions.


Colonial cinema is an audio-visual metaphor of the colonial discourse. Largely mobilised for binary and divisive hierarchies, colonial cinema aims at entertaining the western viewers with exotic stereotypes. Simultaneously, it offers these viewers the justification for colonization and strengthens their moral, cultural and technological superiority as members of the civilized world. (Nkunzimana 2009).


Commentators of the African film sometimes privilege Afrique sur seine, which appeared in 1955,  as the first Film on the continent, though it had made in France. The first francophone African film to be made in Africa, Sembene Ousmane’s La Noirede…, appeared in 1963. Since then, the dismantling of these colonial stereotypes about Africa has been the focal interest of African filmmakers, with Nigeria’s Kelani churning out a genre of cultural film narratives which are constitutive of a cinematic form that serves as counter-cinema to the exotic portrayal of the African in Europe and America, especially through the agency of Hollywood, and other conspiratorial cultural modes of representations from the West.


In their discussion of “Perspectives on Orality in African Cinema”, Keyan Tomaselli and Maureen Eke(1995) view postcolonial African Cinema as an instance of Third Cinema. They provide this insight:

Third Cinema is a cinema of resistance to imperialism and oppression, a cinema of emancipation; it articulates the codes of an essentially First World technology into indigenous aesthetics and mythologies…, [n]ot a genre but rather a set of political strategies using film (and video) to articulate the experiences and hopes of the colonially oppressed. (Tomaselli and Eke1995:115)


In this light, the example of Ousmane Sembene and Thierno Sow’s Camp de Thiaroye (1988), which re-examines the colonial experience, readily comes to mind. It is vital to note that much of critical African cinema is Third Cinema, and they, through the agency of mass education achieved by a return to indigenous oral art forms, create an open space for Africa to negotiate the rest of the world. By setting such films as Arugba, Saworo-ide, and The Narrow Path within the oralist framework of folklore, Kelani reconquers stereotypes and images of Africa midwived by western media and cinema.


However, in describing the structural paradigms of the African film in relation to Hollywood films, Ekwuazi suggests that “the greatest flaw in these folkloric films is in their form: they have yet to work out an authentic cinematic form for their folkloricism”. This claim, when examined in the light of  Tunde Kelani’s films is greatly contested as Ekwuazi’, supposing that folklore filmmakers are “yet to marry content to structure”,  does not, as a matter of foresight, consider the possibilities of a film director like Kelani, whose film repertoire includes, above all else, a historicist structure defined within oralist ethos. Folklore itself is has an intrinsic structure, as the form of a tale is different from that of a praise poem. By incorporating folklore into his films, the filmmaker ultimately transfers its internal structure. This is where Ekwuazi entirely misses the point. This study apprehends history and myth in the folklore films of Tunde Kelani as structuralist tool for re-imaging or/and (re)filming the African experience. Situating folklore in his films within a structure of history and folk tradition is itself a marriage of form and content, as in oral tradition, where form and content exhibit a fused, but fluid, identity.


An exemplifying tool for this is a film like Arugba which deploys an allegorical storyline to echo the often satirist and therefore functional nature of folklore. This is further emphasized in that the plot is advanced through a variety of different characters—as opposed to the single meta-narrator of conventional First Cinema. Music (songs, performances, lyrics), for example, is sometimes heavily foregrounded, operating as a narrative voice· in its own right. This lyrical approach is one of the elements through which Kelani achieves the post-Afrocentric in his films. It is also present in Saworoide, AgogoEwo and Oleku A lyrical structure laced with a multiple presentation of motifs and themes as well as an intensification of images and symbols are enduring features which establish Kelani’s films as cultural backcloths of the oral style. 


Before the advent of the film culture in Nigeria and other parts of the African continent, Africa had allowed others tell their story. Kelani thus set out to tell stories -Africa’s stories – through his cinema, thereby participating in the historical reconstruction of the African identity. Kelani mobilises contemporary realities for a cinematic tradition that privileges a mythic filmscape which eventually achieves atemporalness.



Folklore films in Nigerian Cinema have capacity for counter cinema. This study seeks to examine the ideological implications of mooring the African film in folklore. It suggests that the use of oral tradition and folklore in cinema serves as postcolonial counter discourse to the European master text and its totalitarian assumptions of superiority. Another major argument proposed is that the films of Tunde Kelani are mobilised for cultural reaffirmation, and therefore constitute alternative film narratives to mainstream Nollywood.



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