IN THE MIDST OF CHANGE–AN IDENTITY

Posted: August 13, 2014 in Articles

Art by Hillary Ugochukwu Cyril

Art by Hillary Ugochukwu Cyril

by Hillary Cyril Ugochukwu

My Mother grew up to master lots of Igbo folklore. She hardly spoke without using correctly one Igbo maxim. Sometimes I wonder how she managed to memorised such amount of ancient knowledge. Father had always preferred the White man’s way of doing things. He worked with foreigners from Britain, Germany and Greece. Through him, I learnt the epic of the Greek gods, of which Zeus was his favourite. He told us stories of the mysticism of Indian doctors. How one of them cured him when he was poisoned at work. He told us tales of Nazi Hitler and the Israelis. I still have the Russia newsletters series from his shelf. Truth is he had never crossed the Atlantic, but he knew foreign cultures as if he was part of it. Sometimes I wonder how mother could cope with the tales of heroic deeds of men from the cold war and how father could bear listening to the tales of the Ancient Igbo civilisation like Nri and Aguleri. Nothing other than love could have held this different people for long.. How can one be so humble to accept change, or believe tales from very alien people and come to terms with their way of life? Mother and father appeared different, embraced different beliefs, like yin and yen, but when joined together formed a most formidable force of life.

History is a terrible thing. It chooses those it wants to remember and forgets those it wants to forget. For those it remembers on its pages, It passes down through oral tradition. But truth is, history never actually forgets. Though it can confine to oblivion the deeds of unfortunate men; men who only exist as long as those who know their deeds exist.

Change is even more terrible than history, for when change comes, there arises a problem of acceptance. What the Igbo have come to term
“ndikwe na ndiekweghi” (those who agree and those who disagrees). But what is it about change that drives harsh opposition if change is good? And how does change change history?

Change usually comes with harsh opposition. I have come to realized that people fear change because of ‘uncertainty’. Something we have learnt to call ‘the unknown’. However should we fear the unknown more than the known…?

Mother told me a story of a legendary wise fool called ”NWAKPUDA”. I have come to learn from this tale that change cannot be stopped. Nwakpuda was said to have tried to stop a moving train at Umuahia (the now capital of Abia state, east of Nigeria) during colonial period. What was Nwakpuda’s problem? In the words of mother, legend has it that Nwakpuda had said ‘Trainu agaghi esi na Ama nna m agafe.’
The problem was not the train, but the ”Ama-nna”. The former can be translated, as “Train will never pass through my father’s compound.” ‘Ama-nna mu’ been tantamount to ‘my father’s heritage, my fatherland, my father’s culture et al. The full story was that Nwakpuda
stood on the railroad waiting for the train with a cutlass. His kinsmen pleaded with him to let go. He refused and accused them of cowardice and being of lesser men. The train came with fury but Nwakpuda took his stance with bravery waiting to cut the train to pieces. However, the
train struck first and Nwakpuda was just blood and crushed bones–a hero who never lived to tell his tale.

As a child from the womb of Africa, I have often asked where my place is in the world? Why is it difficult to embrace and master? How can I balance the conflicting believes inside me? I cannot even make a few sentences in my native language without a foreign word or accent… all I heard was change is coming to Africa tomorrow.

I have fears. Amidst the duality, the warning words of Ngugi (there is nothing as terrible as people who have swallowed foreign customs whole, without even chewing them) continue to urge me to go back to my roots, (though with a reconciliation of my foreign half). Then what is my identity I inquired. My mind went back to another saying: “The only authentic identity for the African is the tribe. I am Nigerian because the White man created Nigeria and gave me that
identity. I am black because the White man constructed black to be as different as possible from his white. But I was Igbo before the white men came.”* Then I released that I was
Igbo even before I learnt the white man’s ways.

To be continued…

NB: * Odenigbo’s speech in Chimamanda Ngozi Adiiche’s “Half of a Yellow Sun”.

Lyriversity — Liberty of Creativity

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Comments
  1. Anene Francis says:

    Words of wisdom… True. Fear of the unknown makes one resist change. But should our identity go with the wind? … Beautiful write up. Subscribing.
    * Wise fool ko fearless ignoramus lol
    (Do check these: Like yin and ‘yang’, …Then I released> realised ).

  2. Ezeamalukwuo says:

    Nice write up really…Change is Constant, but it is not easily embraced.

    History is very very cruel, it is unjust and unfair to a lot of people. The history of the world as we have it today, in my book, is the History of the World from Western Prespective. They decide who is to be honoured and who is to be virified.

    The ending statement from Odenigbo, about the Tribe being the authenic identity of an African Man. I totally disagree. Before the white man came, an Igbo village in Nsukka may consider a Tiv or Idoma village as a brotherhood, while considering a village in Enugu as being in Enemy territory. Same with a yoruba village in Kwara, may consider the Nupe people as a brotherhood, than the kingdom of Ife…it is the white man that brought this notion of similar language, similar tribe…even the bases of Tribe in Africa is majorly Language based…we speak similar language hence we are the same people, irrespective of our reasoning or belief. So tribe is a white man invention and should not be used to spurn the white man or to validate the Black man.

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