Title of Book: Ejima
Name of Author: Emeka Aniagolu
Genre: Historical / Science Fiction
Date of publication: 2015
Publisher: Griot Press USA, Inc
Reviewer: Salamatu Sule
Emeka Aniagolu is the author of the critically acclaimed Black Mustard Seed (nominated for the Commonwealth Prize, August, 2002); African Glimpses: Three Short Stories; Dreadlocks & the Seven Monsters; Ozo: A Story of an African Knighthood; Hollows of the Mask; and God’s Children Too (2012). He has also to his credit, several nonfiction works like: Beyond the Wealth of Nations: (Essays on a Search for Understanding, Community & Productivity); Standing on the Shoulders of Giants: A Multicultural History of Western & World Civilization (Vol. I & II); Co-Whites: How & Why White Women “Betrayed” the Struggle for Racial Equality in the United States; The Hood & the Swastika: (A Comparative Study of the Ku Klux Klan & the Nazi Regime) (2012).
Ejima is his current novel, a historical and science fiction which follows to mark the third sequence of his trilogy: Ozo: A story of African Knighthood (2005) and Hollows of the Mask (2009).
Ejima is about the internal, challenging cultural practices and beliefs of the traditional African Igbo society of the past with regard to the practice of killing identical twins as well as the external incursion of the new western order through Christian proselytizers in Nigeria, specifically in Igbo land. The author tells a compelling story of Ngozi who has been battling for a child for a very long time and the amazon female monkeys of Ikeora who defies an ageless tradition in a bid to save their twin from the cruel hands of Ajiofia forest. They dared the gods through the eyes of Aka Ani, the chief priest without fear.
While one may think the story of propelling newly born twin babies in Igbo land into the forest at that era is not something new, one may be forced to also think of its consequence and the psychological traumas this had on the women of that period.
The author craftily illustrates and unravels some of the most difficult questions bugging our minds of the feelings and yearnings of the women who at the time were at the receiving end of this fate. Did they just buy into the whole cultural ideologies of the land including the willful submission of their twins to Ajiofia forest? What was the motif of the Christian missionaries really, including the brains behind the too many mulattos of that era?
Emeka creates the extraordinary settings of two semiotic universes; while also trying to address the historical facts and fallacies of the matter with respect to critical question such as cultural supremacy; racisms of all shades and colours, including the identity question. From Liverpool through the McDonalds, we are able to get the west perceptions about Africans including the experimental analysis between intelligent and what it means to be dense like the giant African Stevedore who in this book symbolizes the Dark Continent, Africa.
Emeka creates in his characters two strong female voices from their respective societies as his mouth piece; in their eyes, their peculiar stories are told, While Ngozi is faced with the internal challenges of resisting the age-long creed of the lands towards twins, Mary Theresa on the other hand rebels against the oppressive tendencies of her father’s act after he kills her lover, the giant African Stevedore.
While the traditional Igbo society busied itself to frown on the birth of twin babies as a curse, “the people who use too much oil to cook their soup” received them as a blessing. Ngozi goes to Onitsha to seek for her rescued twin but faces a more challenging obstacle and the worrisome revelation of the chief priest of not ever going to set eyes on her twins again. She vows to remain in Onitsha for as long as it takes her to find them. In the eyes of the storm from that search, she finds herself in the hands of Mr. Kelly, the oil merchant who betrays their terms of agreement.
As one may think the missionaries as the foot soldiers of the abolition of the practice of killing twin babies, one cannot but appreciate the author for a thorough and well researched work and providing and separating facts from fallacies about the events of the periods. More important is the fact that the imageries are vivid and the stories fresh and new on the minds of the reader. Mary Theresa herself finds out that one of the major reasons for the British expedition in colonial Africa in Onitsha in 1857 was simply Christianity, Commerce and Conquest a bourgeoning palm oil trade flourished amidst other interest (p.90, Ejima) a typical camouflage affair.
In Ejima the author’s use of proverbs, wit, hyperbole, quotes dates and times of incidents, technological advancements and trade, characterization and symbolism to drive home his points. The book is a must read; as it sets room for a debate as regards whether or not the western part of Nigeria known as “the people who used too much oil to cook their soup” did buy condemned twins as part of the code trade that happened in Onitsha (pp.1 09-110, Ejima) or did the author assume it on a mere fictional terms?
Something somewhere must have informed the decision of Emeka Aniagolu to write the book Ejima and that I think was the need to unravel the real foot soldiers of saving twin babies, the women of the Igbo society of that era.