“The most beautiful things are not associated with money; they are memories and
moments. If you don’t celebrate those, they can pass you by.”- Alek Wek
I consider this review a very daunting task. Daunting, not because I lack the requisite knowledge to do justice to the artistic construction of the author. It is deemed daunting because the author is not just a friend, but a brother. If I praise the book too much, I may be accused of subjectivity. If my critique of the book is harsh, I may equally be accused of being envious of the artistic prowess of my friend! Such is the dilemma I have found myself in reviewing this literary work. I have however decided to treat this assignment with the objectivity it deserves because the author has taken us back to the past most of us here are familiar with, has enacted the present we are all witnesses to in artistic form and has prognosticated about the future we desire not just for us but for generations yet unborn!
The Parallel between the Title of the Memoir and the Resurrection of Jesus Christ Permit me to draw a parallel between this fascinating memoir and the account of resurrection of Jesus Christ on the cross of Calvary. I hope I am pardoned as I find it intractable to separate my faith from whatever I do. My faith runs through my being and all I represent. The title of this book – Resurrected Memories – struck a chord in me and set me thinking as I went through the content therein.
Like Jesus Christ whom the stone used to block his tomb could not stop from rising from the dead, Resurrected Memories is a work of art that has resisted all obstacles and inhibitions to become an artistic material this generation and the unborn generations will reference where philosophical lessons are required and wisdom to navigate through life is needed. Just like the good deeds of Jesus Christ could not be buried, Resurrected Memories has brought back the sweet memories of the author, especially his academic accomplishments and humanitarian endeavours across all the villages, towns and cities he has traversed. No matter the setbacks or challenges a man may be beset with, if he is determined and resolute, he will surely leave an indelible footprint in the sand of time. This much Resurrected Memories has been able
to showcase to us with the way the writer has taken us through his sojourn in life thus far.
The Thematic Preoccupations/Structure of the Work
Mankind Olawale Oyewumi’s Resurrected Memories is a 20 chapter memoir that captures the good, the bad and the ugly memories of the past as well as how that past has impacted on the present and the lessons for the generation next. It chronicles, in a convoluted manner, the memories of the author, either as narrated to him by other protagonists in the subjects being addressed or as an active participant in the happenings.
The Memoir takes us through events preceding the birth of the author in the chapter titled ‘1976’ and how such events are not just coincidences but premonitions of what or who the author may turn out to be. Besides giving an account of his birth in this chapter, the author plays the role of a historian by documenting some significant events that happened in the year 1976 for us not to lose sight of where we are coming from. Historical documentation is not limited to this chapter; it actually runs through the whole memoir. Such is the intellectual fecundity of the writer!
My Immediate Ancestors, a chapter I find very interesting in the work, talks about the lineage of the author. It is more of a generational account of the author’s family. This chapter shows the influence (s) family background has on formation of human mind. The eclectic disposition of the author to issues of life draws more from the influence of his maternal grandfather. What else can one say about a man whom the author describes thus?
“He repaired roofs and functioned as one of the security officers of our village. He sang and drummed. He weaved baskets and more. He professionally hunted games, adeptly tilled the soil and served as Islamic clergy to the mud-made mosque of the Eleta Onikoko village – Ikire – throughout the eighties and much
of the nineties, maternal grandpa Folorunso was a lot of intriguing things to our childhood upbringing then.”
The above depiction, to whosoever is familiar with the accomplishments of the author, shows where he got his insatiable quest for knowledge about everything or almost everything that is laudable and lofty from. The implication here is that children are more influenced by exemplary modelling than mere talking about good deeds. The other striking thing here is that it brings back to mind names of interesting compounds to some of us who were born and grew up here, but are non-indigenes. Compounds such as ‘Ajilo’, ‘Kuogbo’, ‘Olugun’, among others are literarily invoked by the author with their distinguishing characteristics.
Resurrected Memories also talks about places, childhood play, the ease of divorce and consequences on children, the author’s northern Nigerian days, the author’s tourism in dangerous adventure and how the author saved a Ghanaian. It needs to be pointed out here that the narration of the author on the divorce of his parents is not really palatable as the attendant consequences would move one to tears. While the author has succeeded in passing across a message of joy in harmony or living together no matter the odds, it is instructive to note that the experience, rather than breaking the author, actually made him a better person. Hear him: “The tragedy of the human experience consists not much in the bemoaned sorrow from daily living than in the reconciliation with its obscurity – fostering, death-dealing verdicts if we resign to reckless fate. I was nothing less than a potential survivor and I survived…”
This review will be incomplete if I leave out the sections on Fatima College, My Aye Gram Friends, Priceless Boys of Unity School, Friends and Acquaintances from Other Schools, “Janjastic” the Lover Boy, Fantastic Principals I knew, Undaunted Academic Spirits of that Time, School Sons and Favourite Fatimarians and Brotherhood in Eternity: Memories of my Fallen Friends. These sections bring back fond memories of childhood, academic rivalries, Friendships within Fatima College and across other schools such as Ayedaade Grammar School, Baptist Grammar School, Saint Augustine’s Grammar School, among others. The chapter on ‘Janjastic the Lover Boy’ talks more about a child’s infatuation rather than about love.
No one would have known that as academically serious as Janjastic was, he too had a soft spot for daughters of Eve! Who will not anyway? After all, women make the world tick! In fact, the humanity of the author as a special breed of biological homo sapiens is well reflected in his gratitude to the various dramatis personae he mentioned in this work and the influence each and everyone has had on his life – academically, socially, economically and even spiritually. Indeed, like Ama Ata Aidoo put it: “Humans, not places, make memories.” What a world we will have if the message ‘we are better together as helpers of destiny to one another’ the author has implicitly captured in this work can be put to practice!
This is a review, not a rewriting of the story – Resurrected Memories. I have only attempted to give us a glimpse into this work. If Wole Soyinka’s Ake is celebrated as a beautiful writing on his years of childhood and his Isara is seen as a voyage around his father he famously called Essay, then Oyewumi’s ‘Resurrected Memories’ has done much more than the two works put together. It is not just an account of his childhood years, but also revolves around his parents, his friends, associates, his trials, his tribulations and his triumphs. The language of the work alternates between simplicity and the sublime, and sometimes it is transcendental.
The sometimes esoteric nature of the narration notwithstanding, ‘Resurrected Memories’ is a masterpiece. This work is capable of resurrecting any dream you might have buried or you are planning to bury as the doggedness with which the author has navigated through life thus far is worthy of emulation. This is a message of hope. It is a message of never say die. It is a message of location is not limitation. Ikire is a theatre of dreams. Ikire does not kill dreams. Ikire inspires hope. I may be an Ijesha man, but Ikire produced me. I can easily relate with the resurrected memories in this work. For whosoever has passed through this peaceful town, the memories will definitely be familiar.