Tanimomo’s Piece of Mind (TPoM): I Don’t Blush when I Smile!
During my youth service, my friend and I played the game screen-shot above. You must have heard this riddle with varying characters: Either a non-human animal or an animal. Three lions and three men must cross a river. Their canoe can only carry two individuals at once. How do they cross so that each time the lions do not outnumber, outpower and eat the outnumbered men? In this case, it is all men; the three cannibals are blacks and the three missionaries are whites.
We might have cried ‘othering’ had the game been scripted as a novel or poem but it was so benign that we played on, my friend and I trying to be the first to complete the task. How does the new media further advance such narratives and binary oppositional themes of the blacks as cannibals and whites as their saving Lords and colonial masters? By the way, Personally, I have an issue with the English language, so it irks me we call Britain our colonial masters; for one the English language has been a safe haven in which this othering is hidden and conveyed.
To what extent do these narratives affect our psyche as Africans. In the series, Roots, a child was able to quell the ‘rebellion’ of blacks on the ship, though the writer, Mr Alex Haley was Malcolm X’s friend, I still wonder why he gave such enormous power over brave warriors to a white child. In contemporary narratives, othering is still rife, blacks are still the inferior and whites the superior, we have lived with it as Africans because it seems normal and benign so. Except the N-word is mentioned or an obvious derogatory term is used for a black person, we don’t feel the sting. Hence in the recent movie, Hercules, the barbarians are still black while the conquering nations are whites. So do you still wonder why the Cameroon-Nigerian Dencia’s whitening cream still sells well?
Like other histories, our history is not perfect and I won’t deny there were instances of human sacrifice and rituals in it. Nobel Laureat, Prof. Wole Soyinka explained by fictionalising the historical Elesin incident with Olunde. While this ritual was understood in the Yoruba cosmology as a way of transiting the king into an ancestor and helping the prosperity of the town, the West also have equivalents as revealed in Olunde’s question to an oyinbo official. Words like martyr, hero are used to describe the Western equivalent of our Elesin and others who willing gave their lives for the prosperity of their nations.
Here is an example, after the French revolution, the French paraded the heads of their lords on stakes, and guillotined their kings, this is the height of barbarity if looked at from a centurial angle. And this happened in modern era, after the industrial revolution. The oyinbos whitewashed their history by the ongoing (post)modernization, whereas our history stares at us and refuse to go away like Mugabe refusing to leave the seat of power.
To progress, African governments and universities must rise up; the media is a major actor in socialization; the industry should be funded to counter these narratives. What if we had a movie in which Amina of Zaria is fictionalized to have led a war and won against a Western state? What if the historical sites of Ife are replayed not in documentaries that but in movies for larger public consumption. What if apps are developed in Africa by Africans with emoticons that are black and behave like us. For crying out loud, I don’t have a blush when I smile as my BBM smiley portrays neither do I get red in the face when I am angry (I get red in the eyes instead). Our institutions of higher learning will lead the charge for change. One way is moving beyond the classical reasoning of literary appreciation as entailing only books, the media has to be criticized. The earlier we start, the better.