02 Oct 2016

Examining the air, number, Character, range and Reception of Cyprian Ekwensi’s Writings


Ekwensi certainly one of Africa’s most prolific writers who died later just last year and had been buried early this present year, maintained a captivating writing task throughout their life, posting an accumulation quick stories, Cash On Delivery, their final work of fiction and completing run their memoirs, called, in my own Time for a long time to their demise. With over twenty novels, choices of stories and quick novels to their name, Ekwensi’s thematic preoccupation similarly covered the Nigerian Civil War through the point of view of a journalist and life in a pastoral Fulani environment in Northern Nigeria.

Ekwensi’s first posted work had been the novella, When enjoy Whispers, posted in 1948, 10 years prior to the great African novel, Achebe’s Things break apart, appeared in London. He was motivated by sadness over their unsuccessful make an effort to court a new woman whose father insisted that she makes a marriage of convenience to publish it. This quick, light romance formed section of exactly what became known as the Onitsha Market school of pulp fiction, as well as its success inspired Ekwensi to carry on because same mode.

Ekwensi had currently distinguished himself by the a number of quick stories he’d written for broadcast on radio. These he later on built, within ten times, while on their option to Chelsea School of Pharmacy, London, to understand their first novel, folks of the town, which Nigeria’s premier magazine, The Daily circumstances, posted in installments before it appeared in book type in 1954. but that has been maybe not posted in the us until 15 years later on. Folks of the town (1954) had been the first West African novel in modern design English to be posted in The united kingdomt. It’s publication hence noted an essential development in African literature with Ekwensi becoming one of the primary African novelists to receive much publicity into the western and finally the most prolific African novelist.

The fact Cyprian Ekwensi began their writing career as a pamphleteer is reflected into the episodic nature of folks of the town (1954) an accumulation stories strung collectively but reading like a book, by which he provides a captivating portrait associated with fast-paced life in a-west African city, Lagos. Folks of the town which recounts the arriving at governmental understanding of a new reporter and band leader in an emerging African nation is filled up with their operating commentary in the problems of bribery and corruption and despotism bedeviling these types of states. Inside it and lots of other individuals, Ekwensi explores the lure, delights and challenges of metropolitan life, as well as the severe permissiveness and impersonal interactions permeating the everyday lives of migrants towards city, where close-ties ordinarily fostered by the extended family members system of the conventional communities constitute a critical check up on the deviant lifestyles that look for full appearance into the city.

According to, Bernth Lindfors, not one of Ekwensi’s many works is totally free of amateurish blots and blunders. Lindfors consequently concludes he could not phone any “the handiwork of a careful, skilled craftsman.” On their portrayal associated with moral irresponsibility in city life, Bernth Lindfors, argued that “because their sinful heroines often visited bad stops, Ekwensi can be viewed a critical moralist whose novels offer training in virtue by showing the tragic consequences of vice. But it constantly seems like he’s more interested in the vice compared to the virtue and that he is designed to titillate along with show.” While this view might contested, it really is unquestionable he constantly strove challenging attain their market into the most instant and personal design. Undoubtedly, it was to keep up this he clung to those themes that afforded him the size audience he such craved

In a 1972 meeting by Lewis Nkosi, Ekwensi defined their part as copywriter hence: “i believe i’m a writer who regards himself as a writer when it comes to masses. I don’t think of myself as a literary stylist: if my design comes, that’s simply incidental, but i’m more interested in getting in the middle associated with truth that your man in the street can recognize compared to simply spinning words.”

Ernest Emenyonu, a Nigerian critic noted for their sympathy towards Ekwensi, costs that Ekwensi “has never ever been correctly assessed as a writer.”

Another sympathetic critic,the long-standing United states convert towards research of African Literature, Charles Larson, defines him among the most prolific African writers associated with twentieth-century. According to Larson, Ekwensi “is essentially the most widely-read novelist in Nigeria–perhaps even in West Africa–by readers whose literary preferences have not been subjected to the more complex writings of Chinua Achebe as well as other even more skilled African novelists.”

Kole Omotoso past President of Nigerian Association of Authors and Drama professor at University of Ibadan confessed a lifelong desire for him after reading their novelette The Yaba Round about Murder as a young child, for, as he confesses, it taught him the importance of area in writing fiction. Omotoso continues to state that Ekwensi’s significant importance in Nigerian writing is because he thought in himself and ‘made us rely on ourselves.’ The pan-Africanist slant of their writings and his magazines being mostly in Nigeria had been found commendable. Whenever a number of other African writers had been in self-exile, he decided to remain in their indigenous nation, without stay overseas where writing opportunities tend to be more plentiful.

While many scholars discounted Ekwensi’s novels, other individuals respected their particular personal realism. Charles R. Larson put their work in historic point of view: “neighborhood color is the forte, whether it’s Ekwensi’s city of chaos, Lagos, or Onitsha … ; the Nigerian audience is put the very first time in a perspective which was formerly unexplored in African fiction.”

Putting Ekwensi’s work securely into the popular idiom, Douglas Killam explained their particular importance: “Well-known fiction is always considerable as indicating current popular passions and morality. Ekwensi’s work is used (although not conserved as art) by their serious anxiety about the moral problems which inform contemporary Nigerian life. As a result they’re going to often be highly relevant to Nigerian literary history also to Nigerian tradition.”

Ekwensi informed stories that, like well-cooked onugbu (sour leaf) soup, left a pleasant after-meal tang in the palate. Through their works Ekwensi informed us that a work of fiction cannot need that honourable name if it will not to start with sight-…-arrest your reader like a cop’s handcuffs….. We read lots of Ekwensi’s publications, and save for ‘The Drummer Boy’, that has been a recommended text once I was at junior secondary school in Plateau State, the others had been read since they are exactly what a book-hungry heart needs for sustenance. Who are able to, having been started to the cult of Ekwensi, forget the revenge-driven Mallam Iliya, the sokugo-stricken Mai Sunsaye, the skirt-besotted Amusa Sango, the raunchy belle, Jagua Nana (they don’t really create women like that any longer, whether in fiction, in the telly, and probably in actual life); as well as the heart-rending Ngozi and brave Pedro? They’ve been my friends for life.

Ekwensi performed significantly more than generate ‘airport thrillers’. He informed great stories that live on into the minds of who encountered them. ( Henry Chukwuemeka Onyeama a Lagos-based copywriter and instructor)

An Ibo, like Chinua Achebe, Ekwensi was born in 1921 in Minna, Niger State, in Northern Nigeria, but went to secondary school in a predominantly Yoruba location, Ibadan. He’s really acquainted with the countless significant cultural teams in his nation, and therefore possesses a knowledge frequently well exploited in his novels. He continued consequently to Yaba Higher university in Ibadan and then moved over to Achimota university in Ghana where he studied forestry. For just two years he worked as a forestry officer and then taught technology for a short time. He then joined the Lagos School of Pharmacy. He later on carried on at University of London (Chelsea School of Pharmacy) during which duration he composed their first fiction, their first book-length publication Ikolo the Wrestler as well as other Ibo Tale (1947) , posted in London. His writings attained him a place into the nationwide Media where he rose to Head of functions into the Nigerian Broadcasting providers and finally becoming its Director.

A number of occasions in Ekwensi’s youth added later on to their writings. Although ethnically an Igbo, he was raised among Hausa playmates and schoolmates so talked both tribal languages. He in addition discovered of their heritage through the many Igbo stories and legends that their father informed him, that he would later on publish into the collection Ikolo the Wrestler as well as other Ibo Tales. In 1936 Ekwensi signed up for the south Nigerian secondary school called national university, Ibadan, where he learned about Yoruba tradition along with excelling in English, mathematics, technology, and activities. He read everything he could put their hands on into the school library, focusing on H. Rider Haggard, Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, Walter Scott, and Alexandre Dumas. He in addition composed articles and stories for many school magazines, specifically The Viking mag.

During the subsequent section of their stint as a forest officer Ekwensi began yearning when it comes to city. Therefore from 1947 he taught English, biology, and chemistry at Igbobi university near Lagos. To their courses he read out loud manuscripts of publications for the kids, Drummer Boy, Passport of Mallam Ilia, and difficulty in From Six, and quick stories. Eventually, after years of supplementing their writing career by doing work in broadcasting and performing various other advertising work, Ekwensi gave up their time jobs in 1984 to follow writing regular. He returned to writing adult novels, picking and choosing from his personal “archive” of earlier written manuscripts much of which he revised into the novels Jagua Nana’s Daughter, Motherless Baby, For a Roll of Parchment, and Divided We Stand, which were published in the 1980s. For example, in For a Roll of Parchment he recounted their travel from Nigeria to The united kingdomt, as he had in folks of the town. He performed, however, update their product to portray post-World War II Nigeria, featuring its quicker paced life.

Sex, violence, intrigue, and mystery in a familiar contemporary environment usually into the fast-paced melting pot associated with city had been common diet in Ekwensi’s works especially in Jagua Nana, by which a rather worldly and very appealing forty-five year-old Nigerian woman with numerous suitors drops in deep love with a new instructor, Freddie. She agrees to deliver him to examine law in The united kingdomt in the comprehension of their particular marriage on their return. Around this gorgeous and impressive prostitute, Ekwensi sets in movement an entire panoply of vibrant, amoral characters who’ve drifted from their particular outlying beginnings to seize the dazzling pleasures associated with city.

As well as the novel itself shows us the seedy underbelly associated with big city, Lagos, where Jagua’s favourite haunt, the Tropicana club, sets the scene for much of the story.

Sometime, back in the 1950s the Onitsha Market ‘literary’ mafia, strarted creating and marketing and advertising openly, a semi-nude picture of a buxom Igbo teenage beauty, because of the sassy caption, “Beateam mee lee” – we dare that overcome me!

Those had been the prudish times of high moral values in Igboland and indeed Nigeria , of Elizabethan style with cane-wielding major school teachers and headmasters. The offending picture delivered shockwaves right-down the spines associated with general public who, nonetheless, rushed to purchase copies. Guys who resulted in their particular noses at photographs in public areas, secretly bought, seen and relished copies. guys performed odd jobs for parents, as well as the cash they attained had been conserved up to the one shilling cost of the image, which they accustomed buy it and then often tucked it away, in-between publications, from the spying eyes of parents or perhaps the course instructor, from where interested peeks associated with treasure could be sneeked sometimes, at its owner’s danger, even in the middle of a lesson. Noted for churning out almanacs, with photographs associated with famous, unfolding occasions, folk art, along with these types of literature as those of Ogali A. Ogali, author of the legendary “Veronica our Daughter”, the mafia knew locations to draw the range. Sex, however, marketed any time as well as the mafia knew this. But no one desired to be identified with everything also from another location pornographic. “Beateam mee lee” had been consequently, at the time, the mother of daring.

It was from this backdrop that Ekwensi took the Nigerian literary scene by storm because of the publication associated with raunchy Jagua Nana. Ekwensi’s most widely browse novel, Jagua Nana, posted in 1961 came back us towards locale of folks of the town however with a much more cohesive land dedicated to Jagua, a courtesan that has a love when it comes to high priced as reflected in her name itself, that has been a corruption associated with high priced English car, Jaguar. Her life personalizes the dispute involving the old conventional and modern metropolitan Africa. Although Ekwensi had early in the day shown the path of their works together with the publication, in 1954, of folks of the town, it was Jagua (the lead personality within novel) that built the Ekwensi legend and thought a life all a unique, becoming a folk hero of sorts. Jagua dared the reading general public. Ekwensi the musician, in addition had the miracle of choosing brands of their characters which were instant hits. They stuck like glue into the audience’s memory and aided animate the fictional personality. Bold, defiant, imaginative and rendered with uncommon technical finesse, Jaguar Nana completely established Ekwensi given that ultimate chronicler of Nigerian city life.

Published in 1961, the novel Jagua Nana, informs the story of a the aging process prostitute called Jagua who tries to provide for by herself protection in her subsequent life through her commitment with a more youthful man. However although this young man is studying law in The united kingdomt, Jagua requires by herself in several tasks, some dubious, some maybe not. Jagua Nana, observed some enhancement in land high quality and control, unlike exactly what gotten in folks of The City, chronicling the adventures of an ageing prostitute in Lagos, in deep love with her work as well as the high priced lifestyles, but who results in grief and dissatisfaction.

Ekwensi’s make an effort to dust her up later on and usher her into some kind of glee and satisfaction presents the pursuit motif in his work, which exhibits itself fully into the sequel, Jagua Nana’s Daughter (1987), where Jagua, after a long search, was able to reconnect together educated, socially elevated child, that has in addition had her very own fair share of loose life. Both child and mommy had been as well engrossed in a quest for shared satisfaction and recovery until they came across fortunately. In the long run, after she suffers sufficiently, Ekwensi enables her to possess glee.

As was to be in several of their various other novels, Ekwensi’s moralizing is evident and reform is achievable for a few characters. For example, into the subsequent novel Iska Ekwensi portrayed a new Ibo widow, Filia, who moves to Lagos after her spouse’s demise. There she tries to lead a decent life. While she tries to get an education and responsible work, she encounters many hurdles, which allow Ekwensi to demonstrate readers an array of urbanites. However this novel, posted by a European hit, could not contend for popularity featuring its predecessor, Jagua Nana, which caused conflict because of its frank portrayal of sex. Whenever an Italian film company desired to film Jagua Nana, the Nigerian federal government prevented this effort fearing bad media portrayals associated with nation.

Speaing frankly about exactly what inspired him to publish the task in an interview, Ekwensi said: I became a drugstore student at Yaba Higher university those days and I also lived in the same ingredient with a new man who was really enchanting. He would never ever miss their night club for everything. We’d per night club then, labeled as Rex Club, operate by the belated Rewane – both Rewanes tend to be lifeless today, incidentally plus one of them is at national university, Ibadan although the various other one had been a politician.

Now, many years later on, I became contacted to-do a programme when it comes to British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) about night life and I also learned that I experienced such product relating to this topic that i really could really build it into an entire book. That was the determination.

Still another of their novels is Burning Grass (1961) an accumulation vignettes providing insight to the lifetime of a pastoral Fulani cattlemen family members of Northern Nigeria..The novel as well as the characters tend to be based really on a genuine family members with whom Ekwensi himself had formerly resided. For after studying forestry at Yaba Higher university in Lagos during World War II, Ekwensi began a two-year stint as a forestry officer which familiarized him because of the forest reserves,from that he had been enabled to publish these types of adventure stories in outlying options as Burning Grass..

“inside times into the forest, I became able to reminisce and compose. That was once I really began to compose for writing,” he informed Nkosi. The several months spent because of the nomadic Fulani individuals, later on became the topics of Burning Grass.where he employs the adventures of Mai Sunsaye, who has got Sokugo, a wanderlust, and of their family members, who attempt to save him. While witnessing their protagonists through varied adventures, Ekwensi portrays the everyday lives associated with Fulani cattlemen. This very early work, considered one of his even more “serious” novels, had been posted by Heinemann educational editors and reissued in 1998

Two novellas for the kids adopted in 1960; both The Drummer Boy and The Passport of Mallam Ilia which were exercises in mixing conventional themes with undisguised romanticism.

Between 1961 and 1966 Ekwensi published one or more significant work on a yearly basis. The main of these had been the novels, gorgeous Feathers (1963) and Iska (1966), and two choices of quick stories, Rainmaker (1965) and Lokotown (1966).

Gorgeous Feathers (1963) reflects the nationalist and pan-Africanist awareness associated with pre-independence times of the 1950s and exactly how the young hero’s youthful commitment to their perfect contributes to the disintegration of their family members, hence underscoring the proverb alluded to into the name: “however famous a guy is external, if he’s maybe not respected inside his own home he’s like a bird with gorgeous feathers, wonderful on the exterior but ordinary within.”

From 1967 to 1969, throughout the Nigerian municipal war, whenever east section of Nigeria experimented with secede, Ekwensi served as a government information officer the experiences from which he accustomed compose the 1976 picaresque novel exist the Peace. which realistically portrayed the actions of a radio reporter into the aftermath associated with municipal war in Biafra.who in his effort to reunite their family members, encounters the violence, destruction, refugees, and relief businesses that these types of chaos engenders. Through flashbacks, Ekwensi in addition portrays the war itself providing a post-mortem in the just-concluded , interrogates the difficulties of enduring into the so-called peace. It appears to be for example at ridiculous fate of James Odugo, the air reporter who survives the war only to be lessen the street by marauding previous troops.

Such very early works given that choices Ikolo the Wrestler as well as other Ibo Tales, and An African night of Entertainment, the novel Burning Grass, as well as the juvenile works The Leopard’s Claw and Juju Rock, Ekwensi informed stories in a rural environment.

Ekwensi carried on to publish beyond the sixties, and among their subsequent works will be the unique Divided We Stand (1980) by which he lampooned the Nigerian municipal war, the novella Motherless Baby (1980), and The Restless City and Christmas time Gold (1975), Behind the Convent Wall (1987), and visited Mecca (1991).

Ekwensi in addition published some works well with children.such as Ikolo the Wrestler as well as other Ibo stories (1947) and The Leopard’s Claw (1950). In sixties, he composed An African night of Entertainment (1962), The Great Elephant-Bird (1965), and difficulty in type Six (1966). Over time, Ekwensi produced various other publications, mostly for the kids, which though they might not have been globally acclaimed, had been nonetheless dominant and read all over Nigeria and Africa. They included Rainmaker (1965), Iska (1966), Coal Camp Boy (1971) Samankwe into the odd woodland (1973), Motherless Baby (1980), The Restless City and Christmas time silver (1975), Samankwe as well as the Highway Robbers (1975), Behind the Convent Wall (1987), visited Mecca (1991), Masquerade Time! (1992), and King Forever! (1992). In 2006, he completed run two other books; “Tortoise as well as the Brown Monkey”, a brief tale and “different Freedom”.

Gratifyingly Ekwensi continues to be writing, He has got posted a number of titles as When enjoy Whispers, Divided We Stand, Jagua Nana’s girl and King for Ever! all about previous works.

Whenever enjoy Whispers like Jagua Nana revolves around a rather appealing woman with numerous suitors. But whilst she believes she’s got claimed the passion for her life her father wants her to obtain hitched to an adult man in an arranged marriage.

Separated We Stand (1980) had been printed in heat associated with Biafra war itself, though posted later on. It reverses the received wisdom that unity is energy, showing how ethnicity, division, and hatred cause distrust, displacement, and war itself.

Jagua Nana’s Daughter (1986) revolves around Jagua’s child’s terrible search for her mommy leading her locate not just her mommy but somebody and. She is capable of getting hitched to an extremely put professional as she, unlike her mommy, is a specialist and. She hence gains the protection and protection she desires.

King for Ever! (1992) satirises the desire of African frontrunners to perpetuate by themselves in energy. Sinanda’s increasing to power from simple back ground cannot avoid their vaulting aspiration from soaring towards level where he was today aspiring to godhead

In years since Ekwensi began writing, the Nigerian audience changed. Unlike the days associated with Onitsha Market fiction, when publications had been imprinted cheaply and marketed cheaply to suit popular preferences at change associated with millennium couple of writing organizations managed the selection of publications posted; book costs made publications frequently exceed the get to associated with masses, restricted mostly to schools and libraries, which serve nonfiction and instructional materials. With various kinds of media increasing in popularity, the incentive to read has fallen. With fewer individuals reading for satisfaction, novels are in little need. Because of these scenarios, imaginative writers suffer. Of this drawback, Ekwensi informed Larson, “reporters thrive here, but imaginative writers get redirected as well as the imagination gets washed out of them when they must take the bread-and-butter home.”

At a community lecture in 2000, quoted by Kole Ade-Odutola in Africa News, the elderly yet still vivacious Ekwensi indicated their desire to “build and nurture young minds into the customs and practices of the communities” through their writings. He explained, “African writers associated with twentieth-century inherited the oral literature of your forefathers, and building on that, put at centre-stage of the fiction, the values wherein we as Africans had resided for hundreds of years. It really is those values that do make us the Africans we are–distinguishing between great and bad, justice and injustice, oppression and freedom.” In track because of the times, he’d begun self-publishing their writings on the web. Despite the vagaries associated with African writing world, at age 80 Ekwensi had been nevertheless pursuing their goal because as he composed in his essay for the primary Ekwensi 15 years early in the day, “The satisfaction i’ve attained from writing cannot be quantified.”


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