One of my favorite quotes is from one of my greatest idols, Nigeria's great writer and Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka: "A tiger does not proclaim its tigritude. It pounces." This tiger of a story [Who Fears Death] definitely pounced on me without proclamation or warning. I'm glad I was ready for it.
—Nnedi Okorafor—"The Tigritude of a Story"Soyinka's famous quote, made in response to the Négritude movement of Senghor, Césaire, and other Francophone African writers has always resonated with me as well. Afrocentrism that spends most of its time contemplating its own plumage was perhaps inevitable in those early days, so soon after the colonial yokes had been thrown off. But having been immersed in our own reality, having, as Nnedi also mentions, endured wars of desperation such as the Biafran, having lived to see our resources squandered and the legacy of revolutionary leaders turned despots, we're past time for preening. If we plan to survive, it's well past mealtime. We'd better pounce. To be fair, Négritude never really took off in Anglophone Africa. In "Christopher Okigbo," Sunday Anozie quotes a letter sent to him by the great Nigerian poet. In 1966 Okigbo had been invited to the Negro Festival of Arts in Dakar, where his poem Limits was awarded first prize. Okigbo wrote:
About Dakar. I did not go... I found the whole idea of a negro arts festival based on colour quite absurd. I did not enter any work either for the competition, and was most surprised when I heard a prize had been awarded to Limits. I have written to reject it.
But I do think Okigbo and Soyinka are right to shrug off the totems of tigritude, I think we're seeing a generation of African writers come into their own through the urgency of the modern African reality I describe above. I look forward to reading Nnedi's own testament, which UPS delivered yesterday.
As Anozie says, "This sums up Okigbo's whole attitude to the color stress in Négritude." Soyinka's reaction was of the same kind. Anozie does actually surprise me by going on to claim that Okigbo's objections are ultimately shallow, and Soyinka's "cynical." To be honest, I find a lot that annoys me in Anozie's book, overall, but he also does more to plumb Okigbo's depths than anyone else I've seen, so it's still well worth a read.
By the way, Nnedi says:
Amongst the Igbos, back in the day, girls who were believed to be ogbanjes were often circumcised (a.k.a. genital mutilated) as a way to cure their evil ogbanje tendencies.
I had heard of female circumstances in parts of Igbo land, but I hadn't heard of its use as a counter to Ogbanje. I wonder whether that custom was widespread in Igbo land (as for example destruction of twins was a custom more in the far south than elsewhere). Time to ask our elders some straight questions.