⦁ The text/plot (politics in families)
⦁ Context of production
⦁ Herbal medicine
⦁ Trauma in literature
⦁ Publishers as thieves
The Committee of Relevant Arts’ Book Trek continued on Saturday, November 14, 2020. Aramide Segun’s 2016 Novel Eniitan was at the center of the highly elevated discourse. The story in the Novel unfolds in very manageable locations. It is not one of those novels where the characters are spread all over the place. The geography of this writing is no doubt the city and its margins. Kinseko may be a metaphorical marginal city it still has all the pathologies of any big city with a preponderance of broken people and their plethora of troubles. For instance, the ill-treatment of unfortunate members of the lower class is exemplified in the portrayal of the house-help – Taibatu. The poor and the weak are always the losers in the story of life. They are the ones who live their lives in fear and are always consumed by fear. In the novel, the house-help walks away with a bundle of joy but leaves behind a bundle of Naira notes that would have helped her start a new life. If you are a lover of dark stories or stories of dysfunctional families, you will find this book a very fascinating read.
Apart from the themes above, Ms. Segun also talked about the sub-theme of herbal medicine since there is an Iya Adunni in the story. When she was asked if the plot in her story about the promotion of herbal medicine has influenced her personal life. Ms. Segun responded that growing up in a middle class family meant traditional concepts such as herbal treatments were not a part of her life but as soon as she arrived in Ibadan, she discovered that the people are so traditional especially during greetings compared with what she encountered in Lagos. During her time at Ibadan, IFRA, where she operated from, was based in and affiliated with the University of Ibadan’s Institute of African studies. This implies that there were papers produced on traditional medicine, which she read. Once or twice traditional diviners (àwọn Babalawo) were invited as guest presenters to the Institute and one actually tried to divine for her, which she refused. She admitted having contacts with those knowledgeable about the craft but that those encounters did not play any significant or direct role in the writing of the book. She ended her response with a suggestion to the government to take herbal medicine as serious as the Chinese have taken alternative medicine. What Ms. Segun and professor Adesokan did not discuss is the fundamental differences between Western Pharmacopeia and the traditional medicine she will like to see privileged. At what point will dosages and measures be discussed. Who will champion the issue of standardization in diagnosis when it comes to prescription of herbal medicines? I guess issue like these should not come into a literary gathering where imagination is key. In any case, another subtheme in the book has to do with Death.
“Death, one of the few characters unnamed in the novel, stalks both the young and the old, leaving the reader in suspense as to whom its next victim will be. I must quickly point out that the story is not about death but about the vicissitudes of family life placed against the backdrop of local politics. The shenanigans of the decadent class of politicians are skillfully woven into the plot.”
If I had one more opportunity, I would have liked to ask her how she deals with real life issue of death and the dexterous way in which she introduced death into the plot. As readers will come to uncover trauma is another recurring sub theme in the book, I would have wanted to know how she navigated this concept in the book. According to one of the experts “[t]he concept of trauma, itself a source of critique, is generally understood as a severely disruptive experience that profoundly impacts the self’s emotional organization and perception of the external world. Trauma studies explores the impact of trauma in literature and society by analyzing its psychological, rhetorical, and cultural significance. Scholarship analyzes the complex psychological and social factors that influence the self’s comprehension of a traumatic experience and how such an experience shapes and is shaped by language. The formal innovations of texts, both print and media that display insights into the ways that identity, the unconscious, and remembering are influenced by extreme events thus remain a significant focus of the field.” In Eniitan, the writer was able to navigate more of the psychological effect on the family than anything else. At each point, the reader will be shocked into reality and sent into a deep empathy with the characters.
The text and the context of its production soon took a beak seat during the lively conversation between Akin Adesokan, a professor of comparative literature who himself is an award winning writer, and Aramide (aka Wunmi) Segun. The discussion moved to why she used a digital platform for the publication of her Novel instead of one of the local publishers. In a not too surprising tone, Ms. Segun said, “Publishers are stealing from writers.” The real problem we have in this country, she stated further, is that publishers not been honest. They sell books and refuse to declare royalties and all the other sharp practices they engage in. Though the problem is not with publishers alone, the bookstore owners layer their as well. As she was discussing this with passion, my mind went to a presentation by Dr. Wale Okediran where he talked about empowering writers. My reaction then and today is should writers be made to promote their own books?
The event was designed more as a conversation between a writer and a professor of comparative literature with a vast amount of knowledge on current literary issues. Ms. Segun was so engrossed that she did not at any time stop to take a sip of water. It should be on the records that another CORA Book Trek has completed its cycle and we the virtual participants or those at the Freedom Park and the wiser for this initiative of taking books and their writers on a trek..