Soyinka: From California with Love

Foto: Geraldo Magela/Agência Senado via Flickr

Thirty-four years back, one Saturday morning, then an undergraduate of the University of Ife, now Obafemi Awolowo University, a friend (Olatunbosun Oni) and I were walking down the pavement, when we heard coming from the direction of the Bookshop a voice saying “I will report you to the security! I will report you to the security.” Curious, we went into the bookshop to find out what was amiss and to our surprise, we found this Caucasian lady blushing; obviously embarrassed. She introduced herself as Jane, a Professor in search of Wole Soyinka. The bookshop assistant, seemingly uncomfortable, with her eyes half closed and unable to look Jane straight in the face, might have been trying to tell Jane to enquire about the whereabouts of Wole Soyinka from the security post, a short distance from the bookshop and so what should have come out as advice turned out to be threatening.

Foto: Geraldo Magela/Agência Senado via Flickr
Foto: Geraldo Magela/Agência Senado via Flickr

I apologised to Jane for what she had suffered in the hands of the bookshop assistant and subsequently, Bosun Oni and I followed her out of the bookshop only to meet with 51 other Professors. “We are from California! We are from California!! We are looking for Professor Wole Soyinka” one of the Professors who stepped forward to meet Bosun Oni and I said. The Professor subsequently asked us questions on the Alaafin and Ooni.

I think California is something of a natural habitat for Wole Soyinka, the world’s most prominent exponent of the myth of Ogun, the Yoruba god of war, wine, the road, creativity, metal arts, gunsmiths and agriculture. California leads the United States in wine production, Agriculture, Aircraft and Defence industries, and the creative industries of Radio, Television, Film and the New Media. All these bring into consideration much that Soyinka has written about the Yoruba god Ogun.

What makes the Californians so interested in the Yoruba? The famed William Bascom, then an anthropologist at the university of California, Berkeley, affirmed that the Yoruba are the most urban of African peoples whereas the Microsoft Encarta refers to the Californians as the most urban of the people of United States. Bascomb also informs “The Yoruba produced the greatest wealth of Art of any African people and the ancient bronze castings found at the Yoruba city of Ife, rank among the art masterpieces of the world”. In the language of the times we can say “Ife” is a global brand and Wole Soyinka has helped to strengthen the Ife brand.

Written by
Augustine Togonu-Bickersteth
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