Genre: Author: Publisher: Pages: Year of Publication: Reviewer:
TProse Dickson Salami Adama Transconventional Publishers 206 2016 Solomon Omayiwa he book Ancestral Farewell is a needed piece that exemplified cultural revolution. It came in 24 palatable chapters and 206 pages. The black and white combination of the cover has in a way expressed the two forces being fought for and against in the book; that is the ancestors and the future generation.
The cover photo is apt in identifying tribal concept as enunciated in the book. The imposing cover photo is that of a beautiful woman with tribal markings. She is in a pensive mood, her hand to her cheek and with pupils expressing mild sadness.
Reading through the book, the dominant theme wouldn’t be lost to readers as it highlights the conflict of value system which is the experiences of most ethnic groups in Nigeria and Africa alike. One can simplify this conflict as conflict between foreign influences versus local beliefs. Not all such influences are foreign though, as some locals at every slight opportunity position themselves in manners by which they can assess and have opinions on the actualities of the cultural life.
It is pertinent to note that the author in wielding a story around this village called Ubali was able to craft out the physical, mental, psychological, and to a great extent spiritual aggression exerted by the characters, thus explaining the deliberate struggle in having to replace one value system over another. The issue of cultural identity and the weight of such identity in humanity were also in full focus.
Losses are eventually incurred and in this wise Ancestral Farewell clearly state that the loss here is the local and well cherished values. Yet, it is not as such a total loss. It is a re-definition of values since humans are dynamic and changes are part of this human dynamism. Folks simply lived life to the full when they reasonably weigh options and drop all degrading values making them to live below the worth of their dignity.
Moreover, all cultures ought to be flexible so that in the event of a needed transformation or modification, losses won’t be incurred, and not even a prospective new and better life should be less enticing and sacrificed under the alter of an accustomed life.
For sure, changes would come, as it is said to be the only constant thing in life. No tradition today is practised exactly as it was centuries or even decades ago. But fear of an unknown life is often the reason for holding unto a known and an accustomed All the confrontations in the novel are in two fronts: tradition against tradition and then civilization against tradition. In the consuming arguments, good cases for the life of the future generation are presented against the manifestation of the ancestors who are the founding fathers upon which the present life is cast life. Arguments are required to make a case for that which is better, and so arguments are presented in the book. As the arguments, claims and counter-claims and attendant intrigues roll around in virtually all the pages of Ancestral Farewell, the author keeps the audience entertained, while heighten suspense and intermittent humour is also sustained.
Interestingly, the crises in the book are triggered by a university graduate, Arome, who develops a contrary opinion about the prevailing beliefs. Embolden by the activities of a white missionary, Mr. Richardson, Arome is poised to engineer some kind of change. But the path upon which he threads is tough and rough as he faces stiff opposition. First, his father, Okpanachi, is the titled defender of the same tradition, and so the opposition begins from home. It becomes worse as it extends to the king’s palace and the elders’ council where some elders are prepared to defend the beliefs with their breath. Worse still, some elders attack Okpanachi over his son’s uncorresponding beliefs and therefore question his position as the defender of the village’s tradition. Meanwhile, there is a betrayer in the land all along who passes the elders council secrets to Mr. Richardson and attempts to uncover the betrayer prove abortive. This extends the suspense in the novel.
Again, the beliefs are sacred and the ancestors wield the powers, therefore the people would believe nothing else. Besides, death penalty, mysteriously orchestrated by the gods, is the punishment for some offences. In effect, any contrary view of the beliefs merely gives the elders and other locals an excited opportunity to labour themselves defending the beliefs and to reaffirm their allegiance to the ancestors, rather than the opposite argument his pen to present all the disagreements through stylistic descriptions, grammatical wordplay and magnificent narratives, as if he was detached from the whole setting. But a cursory reader will see through the book into his mind and navigate him back into the picture.
The concluding two paragraphs in the book say it all and it reads: “In general, there were no feelings of conflicting limbo, except inner voices that prevailed in everyone’s mind: The End! The End! The End of Ubali Ancestors!
“The final understanding was that while the predominant half of the accustomed life had come to an end, the reformed half would make their lives more meaningful and then usher in the future generations in style. Only time will tell.”
By and large, the author is an interesting character and some kind of joker. He presents serious storyline on sacred things and strong traditional beliefs in the book, yet infuses humour at regular interval as well as endless suspense. The author’s style relaxes the readers and holds them spellbound; thereby making it difficult for them to drop the book once they open the first page.