Thursday, March 31, 2016

USA Africa Dialogue Series - Fwd: Nigerian Insult Literature : Adeyinka Olarinmoye Crafting a Journey from Cocoa House to Lassa Fever


                                                                                                                                                                                          Nigerian Insult Literature

                                                                                                                                                      Adeyinka Olarinmoye Crafting a Journey from Cocoa House to Lassa Fever

                                                                                                                                                                               Oluwatoyin Vincent Adepoju

                                                                                                                                                                                  Comparative Cognitive Processes and Systems
                                                                                                                                                                   "Exploring Every Corner of the Cosmos in Search of Knowledge"

Insult literature consists of denigrative expressions which demonstrate  literary value.

Insult literature is a part of classical Nigerian performance art, as represented for example, by a festival in my village, Imoga, in Edo state, in which social satire is conducted through insults, from which context comes one such example in the language, Okpameri, here rendered in my inadequate spelling:

Ekwabwale yanezameva, eyanezama sa, oleooogala! delivered in a beautiful, sing song voice, declaring  "your peers have three wives, have two wives, consummate lazy bones that you are!", most likely ridiculing a man with no wife or with one wife, in a time when polygamy was a demonstration of status.

 Insult literature is also demonstrated in the interactions of Nigerians on the Internet, particularly in the context of political debates, which may be described as the central online activity of Nigerians on social media, an activity that inspires fierce passions and a broad range of colorful expressions.

I collect insult literature on Nigerian centred social media and have made an initial presentation of my efforts in "The Beauty of Insults". I also create  insult literature myself, having been involved in extensive forms of this practice, such as an insult poetry contest arising from the differing political views of a group of others and myself, as well as one in which the other person directed ridicule at my family in vile terms relating to ancestry, some of the exchanges visible in the lower posts on this thread, an experience I transformed into a scholarly  essay comparing his insults to  the magnificent imaginative permutations  of Howard Philip's Lovecraft's fiction, centred in the exploration of human fears of cross-species genesis and non-terrestrial life forms, and also built a website, The Demented Nnabuaghas, taking the insult contest further by creating horrible fictional personas for the other person's family.

The essay " 'Aquatic Ancestry' by Kingsley Nnabuagha and the Fiction of Howard Phillips Lovecraft : A Study in Imaginative Convergence" was later anthologized by David Haden in the TENTACLII : H.P. Lovecraft blog which guides readers to scholarly literature on Lovecraft's work.

I am struck today  by the concise force and historical sweep of the insult  delivered by Nigerian politician and academic  Adeyinka Olarinmoye on her Facebook wall on the 31st of March 2016, responding to a contribution to a discussion  in the context of a harsh exchange of words:

"take a high jump from Cocoa House, visit Sambisa with cutlass and demand to see Shekau or look for lassa fever giving rats to make stew with."

This is classically beautiful in crafting a verbal punch consisting of  allusions to various positive and negative aspects in a sweep of Nigerian history.

The person addressed is being invited to commit suicide by jumping off the height represented by Cocoa House, a structure perceived as  iconic of the development programs of Obafemi Awolowo, premier of Nigeria's Western Region from 1 October 1954  to  1 October 1960, Cocoa House, completed in 1965,  being then the tallest building in West Africa, penetrate the near mythic Sambisa forest, its near mythicisation emerging from  its being understood as a central base of the Boko Haram Islamist terrorist group, having been pushed to the outskirts of Borno state in 2013, after making their name through years of spectacular bombings and shootings in population centres and massacres of schoolchildren after their 2011 escalation, from which purported forest base their leader Abubakar Shekau  consistently made  videos sent out to the world to project the group's maniacal vision, leaving Nigerians wondering why the forest seemed impregnable, to the 2015 Lassa Fever outbreak that claimed lives in Nigeria.

The references to these historical contexts are presented in a delightfully ridiculous manner  represented by the incongruous suggestion of challenging heavily armed terrorists with a cutlass inside their forest base, making soup out of rats known to carry a fatal disease and jumping off an iconic skyscraper.

The convergence of imagination and language that shapes literature, reworking the conventional into the unusual or improbable, is a primal demonstration of the ability of the human being to free themselves from the configurations defined by society, nature and history, creating worlds that open a window into parallel or intersecting possibilities, at various scales of the realizable and the unrealizable.

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