In Aito Joseph, Wisdom wears a youthful face

By Sydney Mugerwa

Nigerians have this inherent gift with the written word that is all at once enchanting and enviable. They possess the ability to condense and distill the essence of their rich culture into a very beautiful narrative that it’s no wonder they dominate writing contests on the continent. Most Nigerians have encountered have the trappings of greatness bubbling inside of them and for the most part, they don’t disappoint.

On reading Aito Osemegbe Joseph’s short story for Writivism 2016, I immediately got swept into this Nollywood script and every word he wrote struck the right cord in me. His story is so beautiful, so mature, I am almost convinced he ripped whole pages right from a Chinua Achebe novel. This story is such an exhilarating read I am afraid I have run out of appropriate adjectives to drive my point home.

So basically Aito’s short story deals with tradition versus modernity. Set in Igboland, an Igbo girl has brought home a boy, Chris not from her tribe to marry and the elders naturally are not so enthused by this whole setup. The dialogue is so perfect, I mentally pictured the scenario frame by frame, unraveling. The pace is incredible, and Aito gets right to the action, taking on the persona of one of the village elders and an uncle to the girl Adaeze. And being a Nigerian, bluntness comes with the trade:

After all, when a child rubs his father’s face with fingers extracted from the anus, then is the right time for a merciless beating of those buttocks.

If I had a shilling for every time I read about that particular part of the human anatomy in a Nigerian story, I would be a millionaire already. And yet, every time I do, I find it both entertaining and liberating. This short story is full of such anecdotes that spice it up and ground it in African wisdom. If Aito’s youthful face wasn’t staring at me at the top, I would swear the narrator was some wizened village elder saying his piece.

And the ending…that one I will leave you find out. No spoilers here. The story is short enough as it is. Read the entire story here.

 

Editor’s Notes

The List is shortlisted for the 2016 Short Story Prize. 

This review was originally published at She Made Me Do It, as part of the #Writivism2016 Festival Book Features. Sydney Mugerwa is one of the select official book bloggers. He will review a number of Writivism stories alongside books that will be launched, featured and available for sale at the festival. Look out for the badge below on your favourite book blogs. And come to the festival to buy the books and get them signed.

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