© Eze Ossai

Hello World! We’re delighted to bring you the sixth chapbook in our AROUND THIS FIRE response poetry series, responses to Kanyinsola Olurunnisola’s IN MY COUNTRY, WE’RE ALL CROSSDRESSERS. Read Darlington Chibueze Anuonye’s thought-provoking introduction here, then download and read AROUND THIS FIRE 6.

 
 

THE SHARED BROKENNESS OF ALL COLONIZED PEOPLE
 

Crossdressers are a confluence of conflicting personalities in search of their true identity.

In her introduction to Kanyinsola Olorunnisola’s Crossdressers, Laura Kaminski, the Praxis editor for Around This Fire series, acknowledges the urgency of the poems’ inquiry: “how come only things foreign to my body make it beautiful?” There is, of course, an acute sense of vulnerability that accompanies this confession, but it does not incapacitate. It does not suggest a denial of self; rather, it foregrounds the complexities of hybrid identity. As an indication of a departure from the place of familiarity to the anonymity of strangeness, Crossdressers is a consequence of man’s attempt to locate him-self among his varied fascinations, to interrogate those obsessions and to contend the fixity of his foreignness. Thus, the collection is a breathtaking insight into the trauma that results from pluralistic selves. But the wonder of hybridity, as Robert Young observes, is that it “combines differences and sameness in an apparently impossible simultaneity.”

The contributors to Around This Fire 6 delineate, with such fathomless understanding, the core of Olorunnisola’s collection. Refreshing is the depth of their brilliant minds conscientiously tracing the history of Africa’s dilemma located in the atavistic horror of colonial invasion. Whereas Crossdressers reveals the lack of spiritual connection between generations of colonized fathers and sons, Around This Fire 6: Responses to ‘In My Country, We’re Crossdressers’ expounds the complex corollary of the discourse.

Download and read AROUND THIS FIRE 6

Ernest Ogunyemi’s “We Did Not Meet Them” captures the despondency of a people lost in the cataclysm of colonial dislocation; Ifunanya Angelique’s “Wreckage” is a meditation on the hallmark of colonialism: the eroding of human dignity, the invention of cruelty and the dearth of the sense of community and shared values among the colonized people; the impact of colonial contact, as exemplified in Angela Imhanguelo’s “runaway”, stretches, with brazen cancerousness, farther than the immediate ruins of the people. Their future is trampled as the colonizers instill in them a yearning for something foreign; j lewis’ “clothes don’t make the man” is a denunciation of the artificiality of those desires beyond the reaches of home; Romeo Oriogun’s “After a Visit to the Museum”, a rewriting of Africa’s history mutilated by colonial prejudice, is trenchant in its interrogation of the truth of history. It not only points out the monstrosity of western paradigm of historical half-truths, it also explicates the essence of colonial conquest, which is to rename. And the danger of renaming is that it unnames; the persuasive ingenuity of Eze Ossai’s “Did You Tell Them?” is manifested in its ability to remonstrate the colonial myth of the lack of identity of the colonized, reincarnating the resilient spirit of Kunta; broken ancestors suffering the indignity of irrelevance against the dominance of foreign gods come alive in Onyinyechi Eze’s “stories don’t teach you how to kill a god”; but by exonerating the gods from all indictment of incapacity, Nnane Ntube’s “Our Gods Are Not To Blame” situates poetry in its adjudicative dimension; Michael Akuchie’s “revolution is a patron of afrobeat” harnesses the potentials of music for spiritual renaissance; Trust Tonji’s “answering the curiosity of my lover” opens up a long history of dispossession; and Neil Creighton’s affecting recollection of a peculiarly Australian colonial experience in “Three Stories, Three Songs” and how it fits into the canon of revolutionary poetics reclaiming the deprived destinies of colonial victims is indicative of the shared brokenness of all colonized people.

To name is to illuminate the human experiences, to authenticate the self and to bear such self as an incontrovertible identity. Man’s search for his “authentic name”, as Isidore Diala puts it, “is inextricably linked with his search for a true identity and a true home.” The distinctive feature of Around This Fire 6, then, is the infinite magic of the poets’ imagination refined, even more, by a perfect synchrony of both ancient and modern cultural philosophies, the inwardness of their discernment and the resonance of their collective voice. They deploy their craft to question, to refute, to re-humanize, and to teach their readers, as Chinua Achebe describes it, “that their past—with all its imperfections—was not one long night of savagery from which the first Europeans acting on God’s behalf delivered them.”

Download and read AROUND THIS FIRE 6

It is astonishing, pleasantly so, that the colonial institution created to malign the colonized man has conceived in him the audacity to step out of himself in ways that transcend his human limitations. His desire for home is stirred as he journeys towards a newer, profounder knowledge of himself. The deep, startling understanding of the crucible conditions of freedom that powers Around This Fire 6, and how it accentuates the self-conscious efforts of the artists to resurrect their cultural heritage from the catacomb of colonial assault, confirms the extraordinary status of the collection. How else do I commend this anthology of prodigious talent than to bid it fareforward into every heart in search of its true identity? There’s a going and a coming, I know. But we must remain.

 
Darlington Chibueze Anuonye,
Curator, Selfies and Signatures Anthology
 
Download and read AROUND THIS FIRE 6
 
Darlington Chibueze Anuonye, a 2018 Cesar Edigo Serrano Foundation Ambassador of the Word for Nigeria, is the curator of Selfies and Signatures, an Anthology of Short Stories. The Nonfiction Editor of Ngiga Review and Director of Aba Creative Writing Workshop, Anuonye was recently longlisted for the 2018 Babishi Niwe Poetry Prize. He was shortlisted in 2016 by the Ibadan Poetry Foundation for its inaugural mentoring and writing residency. A participant of the 2011 Longman Creative Writing Workshop, he was formerly the editor of Ovis Magazine. Anuonye holds a degree in English Language Education from Imo State University and has worked as a volunteer teacher of English Literature at Emmanuel College, Owerri. He’s currently a temporary staff of the Department of English and Literature, University of Benin, Benin-city. His short fiction, memoirs and poems have appeared in Brittle Paper, Black Boy Review, Storried Magazine, Ovis Magazine, Praxis Magazine, Coal Magazine and elsewhere.

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