Cultural Revival in Ogunlana’s Collection of Short Stories

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Yinka Olatunbosun

Music was in the air. Call and response sounds of the bata drums by Muri Ayangbola reverberated in the hall at the Civic Centre in Victoria Island, Lagos, which was the venue for the launch of the book, Out of the Black Pot and Selected Tales. Written by Olabode Ogunlana, the book is described as a collage of short stories with deep roots in Yoruba culture and ideology.

Many had been weaned on the Bible and other holy books and as a result, they lack the requisite appreciation for cultural entities like Esu, Esudeyi, Obatala, Abure, Elegbera, Orita Esu, amongst others. The author sought to draw parallels between the biblical episodes and the metaphorical characters in his stories.

In his remarks, Ogunlana bemoaned the Nigerian socio political climate as well as the destruction of the middle class and humanity in general. Clearly, his remarks were insight into the ideological context of his stories and characterisations. One of the reviewers of his book, a consultant surgeon, Prof. Afolabi Olumide, noted “The Power of Love”, “A Mother’s Dilemma’’ and other stories, drawing out the moral lessons imbued in each. He made reference to the author’s expose on church and its materialistic outlook.

“Much more than footprints seems to satirise the church today where the length of a man’s birthday celebration or even his funeral sermon correlates positively with the magnitude of his financial contribution to the church. In the case of a Mr Cole, his funeral sermon was in four sentences: Every human being was sent into the world to fulfil a certain purpose. Of our brother, whose body lies before us, all we know was that he was born and he died. Nothing else about him was known. He left no footprints in the sands of time. End of Sermon.’’

He added that the character of Mr Cole portrayed in the book didn’t match up to today’s church’s indices of righteousness, as he was not “sowing seeds’’ of ill-gotten wealth in church. Though he was a hard-working family man with decent living, he made no mark in the eyes of his church. In his conclusion, Olumide noted that the book “a significant contribution to the promotion and preservation of age-old stories that parents can read for pleasure and discuss with their children.

Prof. Olukunle Iyanda, who also appraised the book, described it as a “didactic cultural instrument’’ which is rich in satire. “Storytelling has always been a powerful tool in the Yoruba acculturation process. This book preserves the stories in their pristine form, without suffering the losses and distortions that are usually inherent in an endlessly long line of communicating the stories by oral narration from generation to generation,” he observed.