Echoes of the Traditional Society
In his foreword to Akpandem James‘ first book, Memories of Yesteryears, Dr. Reuben Abati said, “James may be accused of a certain. unmistakable romanticism of the past, an obsession with nostalgia….”
In many ways, this sequel, Echoes of the traditional society, appears to confirm what Abatii said. A number of the chapters, Such as. “Women belonged in the backyard”, “Facing the village stream”, “Local delicacies” and even “Boki young men were lucky”, are strikingly familiar echoes of James’ reminiscences in Memories of yesteryears.
There’s nothing wrong with nostalgia, especially in light of the worsening crisis of identity facing us today. And James is not just creating a reputation for himself in this genre of writing, he’s shining the light on our past that may, hopefully, help us connect the dots to our present and chart our future course.
It’s creative nostalgia.
James drew heavily from the past, but I read the book in present tense. He sent the manuscript to me as I was preparing for the traditional wedding of my first daughter.
My son-in-law is not a ”Boki young man” eloquently captured in Chapter Seven of the book. But the dowry list which was handed down to me from the village by my eldest uncle and which I handed over to the family of the groom, read almost like what James wrote about, even though the author and l are from different ethnic groups and different states 317km apart.
My experiences at funerals were hardly different, too. I buried my father and my mother. At some points during both ceremonies, l could not help feeling that this Lagos Boy was facing a “gale of retribution”, to borrow James’ phrase in Chapter Four. I’ll say a bit more on this later.
Echoes of the traditional society is more than an extension of James‘ first book. Even though he uses the same thematic rear-view mirror, the author brings fresh insight into aspects of the traditional society – especially in the Southern parts of Nigeria – still popular even in modern folklore, but which rationally minded readers may find a bit hard to swallow.
For example, readers outside the author’s cultural milieu might regard the “bleeding” or “vanishing” trees in Chapter One and the “invincible Egbesu” boys who brushed off bullets at close range in Chapter Two as the stuff of myths and fiction. Trees talk and fools argue with armed men in folklore, but hardly so in real life.
The greater benefit in the book is not what it tells us about the past, but how it nudges us to use what we know about the past to create a better future. And we can. During my father’s burial in the village, for example, I resisted the enforcement of a callous rite, which required that my mother should be carried hand-and-foot, stretched horizontally and passed three times either way over the remains of my father. I thought that was too much for the grief she was bearing and stood my ground.
We have a duty to not just speak against some traditional practices, which have held us back and scapegoated the weak and the vulnerable, but also to resist them.
That’s what creative nostalgia means; that’s what reading the book might encourage you to do. And that also means bringing up our children, especially the boys, differently – not to despise tradition but also not to be afraid to have a healthy, balanced view of life.
What the reader will notice, unmistakably, is the eclectic nature of the themes, apart from the similarity between Chapters Three and Four, the book begins with mystery trees in Chapter One, meanders through funeral and marriage rites in Chapters Three and Four, then The Hunter and his Dog in Chapter Six, serves up local delicacies in Chapter Eleven (surprisingly excluding dog meal otherwise called ‘404’), and ends up in Chapter Thirteen with a slice of James’ odyssey in journalism.
The language is clear and the author’s power of recall of places. names, and events, quite remarkable. The inclusion of a glossary commends Echoes of a traditional society, to an even much wider audience.
James’ book is not only a valuable resource that reminds us of our past, it presents us with an opportunity to preserve the good and change the bad.
September 29, 2017
1. Trees that tell tales
2. The whiff of myths: 90 minutes at Yenagoa
3. Funerals as festivals
4. Funerals of ﬁnes and levies
5. Traditional courts still potent
6. The hunter and his clog
7. Boki young men were lucky
8. Homecoming of a ﬁshing clan
9. Women belonged in the yard
10. Facing the village stream
11. Local delicacies
12. Revelry with purpose: Nung Ukut Udobio
13. Media metamorphoses: From Voice codes to digital keys – Uniform Yanky Calling Lima Gulf
Mr. Akpandem James
Akpandem is the immediate past Managing Editor/Chief Executive Officer of Independent Newspapers Limited. He worked for The Punch newspapers before moving to Independent Newspapers Limited. Akpandem holds an MBA in Leadership Studies from the University of Liverpool, United Kingdom; a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communication Arts from the University of Uyo; and a National Diploma in Mass Communication from The Polytechnic, Calabar (now Cross River State University, Calabar. He is a member of the Nigerian Guild of Editors as well as the Governing Board of the Nigeria Institute of Journalism, Lagos, and Special Media Adviser/Honourary Consultant to the National Cancer Prevention Project. Born on June 29, 1962, Akpandem hails from Ndukpo-Ise in Nsit Ubium Local Government.
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