Monthly Archives: January 2014
The name of a detective on the American television show Law & Order: Special Victims Unit is Odafin ‘Fin’ Tutuola. If you have read the Nigerian novel The Palm Wine Drinkard, the name sure rings a bell, Michael Thelwell writes that the author’s grandfather was an odafin, a spiritual leader, and Fin Tutuola was the given name of Amos Tutuola‘s father.
Amos Tutuola (20 June 1920 – 8 June 1997), aged 76 was a Nigerian writer famous for his books based in part on Yoruba folk-tales.
Tutuola was born in Abeokuta, Nigeria, in 1920, where his parents Charles and Esther were Yoruba Christian cocoa farmers. When about seven years old, he became a servant for F. O. Monu, an Igbo man, who sent Tutuola to the Salvation Army primary school in lieu of wages. At age 12 he attended the Anglican Central School in Abeokuta. His brief education was limited to six years (from 1934 to 1939). When his father died in 1939, Tutuola left school to train as a blacksmith, which trade he practised from 1942 to 1945 for the Royal Air Force in Nigeria. He subsequently tried a number of other vocations, including selling bread and acting as messenger for the Nigerian Department of Labor. In 1946, Tutuola completed his first full-length book, The Palm-Wine Drinkard, within a few days. In 1947 he married Victoria Alake, with whom he had four sons and four daughters.
Despite his short formal education, Tutuola wrote his novels in English. After he had written his first three books and become internationally famous, he joined the Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation in 1956 as a storekeeper in Ibadan, Western Nigeria. Tutuola became also one of the founders of Mbari Club, the writers’ and publishers’ organization. In 1979, he held a visiting research fellowship at the University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University) at Ile-Ife, Nigeria, and in 1983 he was an associate of the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa. In retirement he divided his time between residences at Ibadan and Ago-Odo. His works include:
The Palm-Wine Drinkard (1946, published 1952)
My Life in the Bush of Ghosts (1954)
Simbi and the Satyr of the Dark Jungle (1955)
The Brave African Huntress (1958)
Feather Woman of the Jungle (1962)
Ajayi and his Inherited Poverty (1967)
The Witch-Herbalist of the Remote Town (1981)
The Wild Hunter in the Bush of the Ghosts (1982)
Yoruba Folktales (1986)
Pauper, Brawler and Slanderer (1987)
The Village Witch Doctor and Other Stories (1990)
The name of a detective on the television show Law & Order: Special Victims Unit is Odafin Tutuola. In the first pages of the introduction of The Palm Wine Drinkard, Michael Thelwell writes that the author’s grandfather was an odafin, a spiritual leader, and Tutuola was the given name of Amos Tutuola’s father.
Brian Eno and David Byrne took the title of the novel My Life in the Bush of Ghosts for their 1981 album.
One of the characters of the gamebook The Race Forever, from the Choose Your Own Adventure collection, is named after Amos Tutuola.
Tutuola died at the age of 77 on 8 June 1997 from hypertension and diabetes.
Many of his papers, letters, and holographic manuscripts have been collected at the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center at the University of Texas, Austin.
Monday’s Child is fair of face,
Tuesday’s Child is full of grace,
Wednesday’s Child is full of woe,
Thursday’s Child has far to go,
Friday’s Child is loving and giving,
Saturday’s Child works hard for a living
But the Child who is born on the Sabbath Day
Is bonny and blithe and good and gay.
This timeless traditional poem is something I find quite simple and daring in its wit and humour. It subtly plays on man’s thirst to know his fate. I remember first reading it when I was about six years old and despite my young age I discovered my willingness to know what the future may hold or even what I’m made of. We’re made to find the reason for things and to find out the secret of things. Have you ever sat wondering how true the words of this poem are? I bet you’ve done such several times and if you were born on a Wednesday, you probably disputed the poems authenticity. Then you discovered that as much as you’d have loved the script of your life fully prepared before your birth, you’ll definitely love to have the opportunity to change some things. Well, I seem to think you do have it. Fortunately, I was born on a Sunday. And having read it now, do you mind sharing your day of birth and what you feel about the words written about it.
I’ve observed how close to helplessness a normal human being is without him knowing. There’s a situation where you experience the dislocation or sprain of a finger and the whole hand becomes incapacitated. It’s illogical to design a machine and make very huge parts almost extremely dependent on the tiniest ones. At least that’s what I thought. Conventionally though, it’s very reasonable to design huge parts to be made up of a combination of a lot of smaller parts. I’ve heard of a place on the human body-a small knob of bone on the chest called the solar plexus. A blow on it knocks an individual down and maybe out, even perpetually and I wondered why the designer will put so much into such a small knob. A little malfunctioning of a small component of the human body causes so much discomfort. Medical science had no answer for many years to the question of the function of a small human part called the appendix in the human body. All they knew was that it could get inflamed and cause a dangerous condition called Appendicitis. The tiniest bone in the human body is in the ear and when it’s not there, the whole system can’t hear a thing. I’ve tried to phantom out a reason for these, but really, I think it’s just the designers way of saying ”simple is the most powerful”.
As an engineer, it’s not strange to me that science has also adopted this philosophy in the design of things. A small spark plug powers a big engine. I’ll want to believe the same applies to writing. When I used to fall into the temptation of trying to write some big philosophical book. It never came together but when I wrote from my heart how I felt, somehow people saw the mystery of it and commended it. A writing devoid of heart is a helpless baby missing a small part.