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This chapter dwells on the beauty of a woman’s hair and explains the cultural value attached to the head. The hair is seen as an agentive part of the body, crucial to the wholesome understanding of the entire human framework. It can distinguish gender. For example, the Kojusoko hairstyle is “forbidden” for men. Furthermore, Kojusoko (meaning “face your husband”) is not only known for distinguishing between gender, but also for describing women. The discipline and values inherent in the message being expressed are the typical moral standards of the Yoruba. Besides the gender role and message being conveyed by hairstyles, hairstyles also express spiritual connotations. For example, there is traditional importance to the loose state of the hair of a mourning woman. Other occasions include “naming, cult festivities, pageantry, and celebrations.” With pictorial evidence, the chapter emphasizes how hair shows age, identity, religion, political status, or social categorization and differences in the styles adopted at executing the patterns and drawing the lines, as well as the length used.
This chapter is centered on the scientific conceptualization of the term “photography” and its relationship with the photographer, the photographed, and the viewer, including that which is existent between the photographer and the camera, especially the chemistry between both lenses — biological and technological — the synergy and the differences. Photographs, according to the chapter, are representations of the reality of a particular timeframe. By answering certain expedient questions, the author engages his collections (with pictorial evidence) to illustrate the nature of photography vis-à-vis other factors that contribute to the shot, such as the camera and how it is received by the people. Moreover, the chapter views photography as a “social contract” between the photographer and the photographed, and “construction” as the process of taking the shot and reproducing the image. As for the interpretation of the picture by the viewer, it is believed that the pictures themselves dictate how they are to be interpreted or engaged, although this is also highly dependent on the viewer’s understanding. In addition, the chapter explores the effect of photography at its dawn and what its exclusion of African peculiarity, color-wise, meant.
This chapter also appreciates the aesthetics and cultural significance of African arts – celebrating the outstanding creativity inherent in Yoruba history, social life, and artistry; however, with a focus on painting, which, as other Yoruba arts, transforms their cultural ideas into materialization. Yoruba painting in this chapter is portrayed to provide “visual gratification” and “creative inspiration” as well as a means of engaging viewers in “critical commentaries” that promote culture. Also, it is seen as capable of engendering cultural unity with portrayals of “mythological and historical” aspects common to the Yoruba people, for instance. Beyond the above, Yoruba paintings are also used to illustrate the sociocultural principles of the Yoruba via “naturalistic postures and framings” in which individuals are shown to display some of these collective values. With pictorial evidence, the chapter references many of these cultural values, such as “reverence” depicted in the painting of an individual stooping. Like other materials in Yorubaland, paintings have meanings to them and are expressive, albeit in non-verbal communication mode, revealing who the owner is or their “intimacy with the idea, person, motifs, belief” being espoused in the painting.
This chapter is basically a review of a collection of poems mirroring the Yoruba cultural ethos, drawn from Etches on Fresh Waters, Scoundrels of Deferral, A Mouth Sweeter than Salt, and Counting the Tiger’s Teeth. Believing the core of a nation to be its people, the poetry collections seek to present a narration of the nation through poems about the cultural practices, values, and beliefs of the people. Clearly, the chapter depicts poetry as a creative mode of expression, performing a “dialectic function of narrating a group’s culture,” and as a means of “documenting” and “teaching” culture. The chapter launches into the cultural significance of poetry and how poetry reflects the past and present cultural realities of the Yoruba people especially. The cultural ethos include salutations to the revered, celebration of ethnic identity, sermons on moderation, unrestrained freedom, and hospitality, amongst others, while some were used to show women’s sociocultural position.
Beginning with “multidisciplinary approaches to the study of self,” the chapter explores the “collective experience” of Africa through poetry. The chapter, in its depiction of the interwoven relationship between self and narrative, establishes the perpetuity of self with words such as “ever-changing,” “evolving,” “becoming,” and “actualization.” Further, the chapter establishes how self is discovered through a consciousness of belonging to a larger society vis-à-vis self’s relationship with other aspects of the society. Poetry gives the reader the opportunity to feel a larger expression of the narrative, such as the energies, events, and experiences felt by the poet. However, understanding these expressions requires the possession of the same level of sensitivity by the reader. With references to his poetic collection, the author proceeds to examine the narration of self to portray existing socio-cultural values/desires and their importance in Africa. They include eulogizing and celebrating individuals, extolling the mother both as the carrier and nurturer of life, and the pride in face marks as ethnic identity, amongst others.
This chapter attempts to “study some of the many intersections between narratives and politics.” The human life or experience is seen as a story, a compilation of narratives that explain our realities. Similarly, politics, the apogee of any society, designed to establish and maintain it, is a “human narrative,” independent, and can be comprehended in relation to other aspects of the society. To expound on the theme of “collective action,” the chapter answers three questions: how people come together for a common goal; why enforcers of collective actions turn to stories; and the significance of storytelling in triggering a collective action. The chapter finds answers in “affinity” (feeling of oneness, proximity, and brotherhood) and “solidarity” (feeling of a common goal). The chapter broaches the issue of the inhibition to narrative politics — the “perceived reliance on imperial system of knowledge,” as well as its emancipation — “the elevation of repressed narratives.” In addition, through the author’s personal experiences, encounters, and references to scholarship, he mirrors some African narratives, especially the Yoruba and their importance in spurring positive change.
This chapter is a conclusion, a revisit from the beginning to recapture all that has been written. Analogously and methodically, the West had encountered Africa, witnessed its cultural practices but made the wrong, albeit demeaning, interpretation of it. Then came the “native,” attempting to walk them to the light through vast decades of experience and armed with an arsenal of cultural materials as evidence. The result is the challenge of the colonial matrix of power and resituating African literature at the center of African epistemology via autoethnography. Reemphasizing the points earlier made, the chapter discusses the position of self as an ambassador of the society it (self) comes from, having allowed its cultural ethos to manifest through self. Thus, everything about the individual manifests and reflects the “internal dynamics sustaining society.” This is further backed by the fact that the society shapes an individual through its “mores” and “institutions,” and thus makes it expedient to read a society through the character of an individual (an emissary), as opposed to an alien who cannot know beyond what is visible to the eyes.
The chapter begins with the concept of satire for the reader’s understanding of its broad and deep meaning and its significance. It proceeds to show the methodology of satire, which is to “highlight” and “ridicule” an act of folly to effect change in an individual, group, or society behind the act. It does this using figurative tools such as humor, hyperbole, irony, or sarcasm. In context, the chapter examines the use of satire and satirical expressions in works to mirror the African society. Importantly, the chapter notes that for satire to be birthed, there must be a set societal standard by which the subject’s action is measured against that which has been breached. While “morality is often the end goal of tales, parables, proverbs, etc., for satire, the concern goes above morality to include public interest.” The chapter finds satire in “songs of abuses,” which is very prominent among the Yoruba. These songs are often sung or performed when people are deemed to have fallen short of societal set standards. Or when criminals such as murderers, thieves, witches, and other extreme violators of social conduct are caught and especially exposed.
This chapter furthers the discourse on “narrative” with specificity on “magic, memory, myth, and metaphor.” Herein, the chapter shows that the knowledge of the past is preserved in oral vehicles as “songs, images, poems, rituals and religions, stories and myths,” as memories not only preserve but sustain them by transporting them to succeeding generations, using narrative when evoked. It also examines memory’s limitations, especially when compared to history. They include “bias (of the narrator), misinformation, infallibility and the impossibility of rightly (in)validating (individual) memories”–the lack of corroborator. It is also prone to manipulation and subject to the narrator’s interest, while the information processed and stored as memory can also fade over time owing to the collection of new memories. In the Yoruba context, the chapter highlights the relationship between “Itan” and “Aroba,” with the major distinguishing factor being their timeframe from the period of happening. The chapter also dwells on collective memory, which relies on individuals’ narration to become one because no one person was present everywhere to witness everything at once. Lastly, there is the clarification of the different problems in African epistemology, such as magic and the likes.