Exploring the Breath, Range, Character, Scope and Reception of Cyprian Ekwensi’s Writings

Ekwensi one in every of Africa’s most prolific writers who died late remaining yr and was buried early this yr, maintained a vibrant writing train all via his life, publishing a bunch of temporary tales, Cash On Provide, his remaining work of fiction and ending work on his memoirs, titled, In My Time for quite a few years on to his lack of life. With over twenty novels, collections of tales and temporary novels to his establish, Ekwensi’s thematic preoccupation equally lined the Nigerian Civil Wrestle from the angle of a journalist and life in a pastoral Fulani setting in Northern Nigeria.

Ekwensi’s first printed work was the novella, When Love Whispers, printed in 1948, ten years sooner than the great African novel, Achebe’s Points Fall Apart, appeared in London. He was impressed by sorrow over his unsuccessful try to court docket docket a youthful woman whose father insisted that she makes a marriage of consolation to place in writing it. This temporary, gentle romance long-established part of what grew to turn into typically generally known as the Onitsha Market college of pulp fiction, and its success impressed Ekwensi to proceed in that similar mode.

Ekwensi had already distinguished himself by the quite a few temporary tales he had written for broadcast on radio. These he later put collectively, inside ten days, whereas on his methodology to Chelsea School of Pharmacy, London, to grasp his first novel, Of us of the Metropolis, which Nigeria’s premier newspaper, The Every single day Events, printed in installments sooner than it appeared in information type in 1954. nevertheless which was not printed within the US until 15 years later. Of us of the Metropolis (1954) was the first West African novel in stylish sort English to be printed in England. It’s publication thus marked an crucial progress in African literature with Ekwensi turning into one in every of many first African novelists to acquire so much publicity throughout the West and in the end primarily essentially the most prolific African novelist.

The reality that Cyprian Ekwensi started his writing career as a pamphleteer is mirrored throughout the episodic nature of Of us of the Metropolis (1954) a bunch of tales strung collectively nevertheless learning like a novel, throughout which he supplies a vibrant portrait of the fast-paced life in a West African metropolis, Lagos. Of us of the Metropolis which recounts the approaching to political consciousness of a youthful reporter and band chief in an rising African nation is crammed collectively together with his working commentary on the problems of bribery and corruption and despotism bedeviling such states. In it and a number of other different others, Ekwensi explores the lure, thrills and challenges of metropolis life, and the acute permissiveness and impersonal relationships permeating the lives of migrants to the city, the place close-ties often fostered by the extended family system of their standard societies signify a important look at on the deviant life that uncover full expression throughout the metropolis.

In line with, Bernth Lindfors, none of Ekwensi’s fairly a couple of works is totally free from amateurish blots and blunders. Lindfors subsequently concludes that he could not title any “the handiwork of a careful, skilled craftsman.” On his portrayal of the moral irresponsibility in metropolis life, Bernth Lindfors, argued that “because his sinful heroines usually come to bad ends, Ekwensi can be viewed as a serious moralist whose novels offer instruction in virtue by displaying the tragic consequences of vice. But it always seems as if he is more interested in the vice than in the virtue and that he aims to titillate as well as teach.” Whereas this view may be contested, it is plain that he on a regular basis strove arduous to achieve his viewers in primarily essentially the most fast and intimate sort. Actually, it was to deal with this that he clung to those themes that afforded him the mass readership he so much craved

In a 1972 interview by Lewis Nkosi, Ekwensi outlined his perform as creator thus: “I think I am a writer who regards himself as a writer for the masses. I don’t think of myself as a literary stylist: if my style comes, that is just incidental, but I am more interested in getting at the heart of the truth which the man in the street can recognize than in just spinning words.”

Ernest Emenyonu, a Nigerian critic well-known for his sympathy in path of Ekwensi, bills that Ekwensi “has never been correctly assessed as a writer.”

One different sympathetic critic,the long-standing American convert to the look at of African Literature, Charles Larson, describes him as in all probability essentially the most prolific African writers of the 20 th century. In line with Larson, Ekwensi “is probably the most widely-read novelist in Nigeria–perhaps even in West Africa–by readers whose literary tastes have not been exposed to the more complex writings of Chinua Achebe and other more skilled African novelists.”

Kole Omotoso earlier President of Nigerian Affiliation of Authors and Drama professor at School of Ibadan confessed a lifelong fascination with him after learning his novelette The Yaba Spherical about Murder as a child, for, as he confesses, it taught him the importance of home in writing fiction. Omotoso goes on to state that Ekwensi’s important significance in Nigerian writing is on account of he believed in himself and ‘made us think about in ourselves.’ The pan-Africanist slant of his writings and his publications being principally in Nigeria had been found commendable. When many various African writers had been in self-exile, he chosen to remain in his native nation, barely than keep abroad the place publishing options are further ample.

Whereas some college students discounted Ekwensi’s novels, others valued their social realism. Charles R. Larson put his work in historic perspective: “Local color is their forte, whether it be Ekwensi’s city of chaos, Lagos, or Onitsha … ; the Nigerian reader is placed for the first time in a perspective which has been previously unexplored in African fiction.”

Inserting Ekwensi’s work firmly throughout the widespread idiom, Douglas Killam outlined their significance: “Popular fiction is always significant as indicating current popular interests and morality. Ekwensi’s work is redeemed (although not saved as art) by his serious concern with the moral issues which inform contemporary Nigerian life. As such they will always be relevant to Nigerian literary history and to Nigerian tradition.”

Ekwensi instructed tales that, like well-cooked onugbu (bitter leaf) soup, left a delightful after-meal tang on the palate. By the use of his works Ekwensi instructed us {{that a}} work of fiction does not deserve that honourable establish if it does not at first sight-…-arrest the reader like a cop’s handcuffs….. I study numerous Ekwensi’s books, and save for ‘The Drummer Boy’, which was a helpful textual content material as soon as I used to be in junior secondary college in Plateau State, the others had been study on account of they’re what a book-hungry soul needs for sustenance. Who can, having been initiated into the cult of Ekwensi, overlook the revenge-driven Mallam Iliya, the sokugo-stricken Mai Sunsaye, the skirt-besotted Amusa Sango, the raunchy belle, Jagua Nana (they don’t create girls like that any further, whether or not or not in fiction, on the telly, and probably in precise life); and the heart-rending Ngozi and heroic Pedro? They’re my buddies for all occasions.

Ekwensi did slightly greater than create ‘airport thrillers’. He instructed good tales that keep on throughout the hearts of all who encountered them. ( Henry Chukwuemeka Onyeama a Lagos-based creator and coach)

An Ibo, like Chinua Achebe, Ekwensi was born in 1921 in Minna, Niger State, in Northern Nigeria, nevertheless attended secondary college in a predominantly Yoruba area, Ibadan. He is very conscious of the assorted important ethnic groups in his nation, and thus possesses a data often properly exploited in his novels. He went on subsequently to Yaba Bigger College in Ibadan after which moved over to Achimota College in Ghana the place he studied forestry. For two years he labored as a forestry officer after which taught science for a fast interval. He then entered the Lagos School of Pharmacy. He later continued on the School of London (Chelsea School of Pharmacy) all through which interval he wrote his earliest fiction, his first book-length publication Ikolo the Wrestler and Completely different Ibo Story (1947) , printed in London. His writings earned him a spot throughout the Nationwide Media the place he rose to Head of choices throughout the Nigerian Broadcasting Firms and at last turning into its Director.

Numerous events in Ekwensi’s childhood contributed later to his writings. Although ethnically an Igbo, he was raised amongst Hausa playmates and schoolmates and so spoke every tribal languages. He moreover realized of his heritage through the assorted Igbo tales and legends that his father instructed him, which he would later publish throughout the assortment Ikolo the Wrestler and Completely different Ibo Tales. In 1936 Ekwensi enrolled throughout the southern Nigerian secondary college typically generally known as Authorities College, Ibadan, the place he realized about Yoruba custom along with excelling in English, math, science, and sports activities actions. He study all of the issues he would possibly lay his fingers on throughout the college library, concentrating on H. Rider Haggard, Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, Walter Scott, and Alexandre Dumas. He moreover wrote articles and tales for fairly a couple of college publications, considerably The Viking journal.

All through the later part of his stint as a forest officer Ekwensi started yearning for the city. So beginning in 1947 he taught English, biology, and chemistry at Igbobi College near Lagos. To his programs he study aloud manuscripts of books for teenagers, Drummer Boy, Passport of Mallam Ilia, and Trouble in From Six, and temporary tales. Lastly, after a very long time of supplementing his writing career by working in broadcasting and doing completely different public relations work, Ekwensi gave up his day jobs in 1984 to pursue writing full time. He returned to writing grownup novels, choosing and choosing from his non-public “archive” of earlier written manuscripts loads of which he revised into the novels Jagua Nana’s Daughter, Motherless Little one, For a Roll of Parchment, and Divided We Stand, which had been printed throughout the Nineteen Eighties. As an example, in For a Roll of Parchment he recounted his journey from Nigeria to England, as he had in Of us of the Metropolis. He did, nonetheless, exchange his supplies to portray post-World Wrestle II Nigeria, with its sooner paced life.

Intercourse, violence, intrigue, and thriller in a recognizable updated setting most ceaselessly throughout the fast-paced melting pot of the city had been widespread weight reduction program in Ekwensi’s works significantly in Jagua Nana, throughout which a very worldly and intensely participating forty-five yr outdated Nigerian woman with quite a few suitors falls in love with a youthful coach, Freddie. She agrees to ship him to overview laws in England on the understanding of their getting married on his return. Spherical this beautiful and spectacular prostitute, Ekwensi models in motion a whole panoply of vibrant, amoral characters who’ve drifted from their rural origins to grab the dazzling pleasures of the city.

And the novel itself reveals us the seedy underbelly of the huge metropolis, Lagos, the place Jagua’s favourite haunt, the Tropicana bar, models the scene for lots of the story.

Sometime, once more throughout the Fifties the Onitsha Market ‘literary’ mafia, strarted producing and promoting overtly, a semi-nude picture of a buxom Igbo teenage magnificence, with the sassy caption, “Beateam mee lee” – I dare you to beat me!

These had been the prudish days of extreme moral values in Igboland and definitely Nigeria , of Elizabethan pattern with cane-wielding main college lecturers and headmasters. The offending picture despatched shockwaves correct down the spines of most of the people who, nonetheless, rushed to buy copies. Males who turned up their noses on the images in public, secretly bought, seen and relished copies. And..college boys did odd jobs for parents, and the money they earned had been saved as a lot because the one shilling value of the picture, which they used to purchase it after which frequently tucked it away, in-between books, away from the prying eyes of parents or the class coach, from the place curious peeks of the treasure could very effectively be sneeked typically, at its proprietor’s menace, even within the midst of a lesson. Well-known for churning out almanacs, with images of the well-known, unfolding events, folks art work, along with such literature as these of Ogali A. Ogali, creator of the legendary “Veronica My Daughter”, the mafia knew the place to draw the street. Intercourse, nonetheless, supplied any day and age and the mafia knew this. Nonetheless nobody wanted to be acknowledged with one thing even remotely pornographic. “Beateam mee lee” was subsequently, on the time, the mother of all daring.

It was in opposition to this backdrop that Ekwensi took the Nigerian literary scene by storm with the publication of the raunchy Jagua Nana. Ekwensi’s most usually study novel, Jagua Nana, printed in 1961 returned us to the locale of Of us of the Metropolis nevertheless with a far more cohesive plot centered on Jagua, a courtesan who had a love for the pricey as mirrored in her establish itself, which was a corruption of the pricey English automotive, Jaguar. Her life personalizes the battle between the outdated standard and stylish metropolis Africa. Although Ekwensi had earlier confirmed the course of his works with the publication, in 1954, of Of us of the Metropolis, it was Jagua (the lead character on this novel) that constructed the Ekwensi legend and assumed a life all its private, turning into a folks hero of varieties. Jagua dared the learning public. Ekwensi the artist, moreover had the magic of choosing out names of his characters that had been instantaneous hits. They caught like glue throughout the reader’s memory and helped animate the fictional persona. Daring, defiant, imaginative and rendered with uncommon technical finesse, Jaguar Nana utterly established Ekwensi because the final phrase chronicler of Nigerian metropolis life.

Revealed in 1961, the novel Jagua Nana, tells the story of an getting older prostitute named Jagua who tries to supply for herself security in her later life through her relationship with a youthful man. However whereas this youthful man is studying laws in England, Jagua consists of herself in quite a few actions, some uncertain, some not. Jagua Nana, witnessed some enchancment in plot top quality and administration, not like what obtained in Of us Of The Metropolis, chronicling the adventures of an ageing prostitute in Lagos, in love collectively along with her work and the pricey life, nevertheless who leads to grief and disappointment.

Ekwensi’s try to mud her up later and usher her into some sort of happiness and success introduces the search motif in his work, which manifests itself completely throughout the sequel, Jagua Nana’s Daughter (1987), the place Jagua, after a protracted search, was ready to reconnect collectively along with her educated, socially elevated daughter, who had moreover had her private truthful proportion of free life. Every daughter and mother had been on the similar time engrossed in a quest for mutual success and therapeutic until they met fortuitously. Finally, after she suffers sufficiently, Ekwensi permits her to have happiness.

As was to be in quite a few of his completely different novels, Ekwensi’s moralizing is clear and reform is possible for some characters. As an example, throughout the later novel Iska Ekwensi portrayed a youthful Ibo widow, Filia, who strikes to Lagos after her husband’s lack of life. There she tries to steer a good life. Whereas she tries to get an education and accountable employment, she encounters fairly a couple of obstacles, which enable Ekwensi to level out readers quite a lot of urbanites. However this novel, printed by a European press, could not compete for recognition with its predecessor, Jagua Nana, which led to controversy for its frank portrayal of sexuality. When an Italian movie agency wanted to film Jagua Nana, the Nigerian authorities prevented this effort fearing damaging media portrayals of the nation.

Talking about what impressed him to place in writing the work in an interview, Ekwensi talked about: I was a pharmacy scholar on the Yaba Bigger College as of late and I lived within the similar compound with a youthful man who was very romantic. He would not at all miss his evening time membership for one thing. We had a night membership then, generally known as Rex Membership, run by the late Rewane – the two Rewanes are ineffective now, by the best way during which and one in every of them was at Authorities College, Ibadan whereas the other one was a politician.

Now, a couple of years later, I was generally known as upon to do a programme for the British Broadcasting Firm (BBC) about evening time life and I came across that I had so much supplies about this matter that I would really assemble it into a whole information. That was the inspiration.

But yet another of his novels is Burning Grass (1961) a bunch of vignettes giving notion into the lifetime of a pastoral Fulani cattlemen family of Northern Nigeria..The novel and the characters are based totally actually on an precise family with whom Ekwensi himself had beforehand lived. For after studying forestry on the Yaba Bigger College in Lagos all through World Wrestle II, Ekwensi began a two-year stint as a forestry officer which familiarized him with the forest reserves,from which he was enabled to place in writing such journey tales in rural settings as Burning Grass..

“In the days in the forest, I was able to reminisce and write. That was when I really began to write for publishing,” he instructed Nkosi. The quite a few months spent with the nomadic Fulani people, later grew to turn into the subjects of Burning Grass.the place he follows the adventures of Mai Sunsaye, who has Sokugo, a wanderlust, and of his family, who try and rescue him. Whereas seeing his protagonists through assorted adventures, Ekwensi portrays the lives of the Fulani cattlemen. This early work, considered one in every of his further “serious” novels, was printed by Heinemann educational publishers and reissued in 1998

Two novellas for teenagers adopted in 1960; every The Drummer Boy and The Passport of Mallam Ilia which had been exercises in mixing standard themes with undisguised romanticism.

Between 1961 and 1966 Ekwensi printed a minimal of 1 important work yearly. An essential of these had been the novels, Beautiful Feathers (1963) and Iska (1966), and two collections of temporary tales, Rainmaker (1965) and Lokotown (1966).

Beautiful Feathers (1963) shows the nationalist and pan-Africanist consciousness of the pre-independence days of the Fifties and the best way the youthful hero’s youthful dedication to his good leads to the disintegration of his family, thus underscoring the proverb alluded to throughout the title: “however famous a man is outside, if he is not respected inside his own home he is like a bird with beautiful feathers, wonderful on the outside but ordinary within.”

From 1967 to 1969, via the Nigerian civil battle, when {the japanese} part of Nigeria tried to secede, Ekwensi served as a authorities information officer the experiences from which he used to place in writing the 1976 picaresque novel Survive the Peace. which realistically portrayed the actions of a radio journalist throughout the wake of the civil battle in Biafra.who in his effort to reunite his family, encounters the violence, destruction, refugees, and discount operations that such chaos engenders. By the use of flashbacks, Ekwensi moreover depicts the battle itself giving a post-mortem on the just-concluded , interrogates the problems of surviving throughout the so-called peace. It appears as an illustration on the pathetic future of James Odugo, the radio journalist who survives the battle solely to be decrease down on the road by marauding former troopers.

In such early works as a result of the collections Ikolo the Wrestler and Completely different Ibo Tales, and An African Evening time’s Leisure, the novel Burning Grass, and the juvenile works The Leopard’s Claw and Juju Rock, Ekwensi instructed tales in a rural setting.

Ekwensi continued to publish previous the Nineteen Sixties, and amongst his later works are the novel Divided We Stand (1980) throughout which he lampooned the Nigerian civil battle, the novella Motherless Little one (1980), and The Burdened Metropolis and Christmas Gold (1975), Behind the Convent Wall (1987), and Gone to Mecca (1991).

Ekwensi moreover printed numerous works for teenagers.harking back to Ikolo the Wrestler and Completely different Ibo Tales (1947) and The Leopard’s Claw (1950). Inside the Nineteen Sixties, he wrote An African Evening time’s Leisure (1962), The Good Elephant-Fowl (1965), and Trouble in Sort Six (1966). Over time, Ekwensi produced completely different books, principally for teenagers, which though they may not have been internationally acclaimed, had been nonetheless well-known and skim all through Nigeria and Africa. They included Rainmaker (1965), Iska (1966), Coal Camp Boy (1971) Samankwe throughout the uncommon Forest (1973), Motherless Little one (1980), The Burdened Metropolis and Christmas Gold (1975), Samankwe and the Freeway Robbers (1975), Behind the Convent Wall (1987), Gone to Mecca (1991), Masquerade Time! (1992), and King Endlessly! (1992). In 2006, he achieved work on two completely different books; “Tortoise and the Brown Monkey”, a short story and “Another Freedom”.

Gratifyingly Ekwensi continues to be writing, He has printed quite a few titles as When Love Whispers, Divided We Stand, Jagua Nana’s Daughter and King for Ever! all related to earlier works.

When Love Whispers like Jagua Nana revolves spherical a very participating woman with quite a few suitors. Nonetheless whereas she thinks she has gained the love of her life her father expects her to get married to an older man in an organized marriage.

Divided We Stand (1980) was written throughout the heat of the Biafra battle itself, though printed later. It reverses the obtained data that unity is power, displaying how ethnicity, division, and hatred lead to distrust, displacement, and battle itself.

Jagua Nana’s Daughter (1986) revolves spherical Jagua’s daughter’s traumatic search for her mother important her to hunt out not solely her mother nevertheless a confederate as properly. She is able to get married to a extraordinarily positioned expert as she, not like her mother, is educated as properly. She thus options the protection and security she wants.

King for Ever! (1992) satirises the need of African leaders to perpetuate themselves in power. Sinanda’s rising to power from humble background does not cease his vaulting ambition from hovering to the height the place he was now aspiring to godhead

Inside the a very long time since Ekwensi began writing, the Nigerian readership has modified. In distinction to the occasions of the Onitsha Market fiction, when books had been printed inexpensively and supplied cheaply to swimsuit widespread tastes on the flip of the millennium few publishing companies managed the number of books printed; information prices made books often transcend the attain of the tons, restricted principally to high schools and libraries, which cater to nonfiction and tutorial provides. With quite a few varieties of media rising in recognition, the inducement to study has fallen. With fewer people learning for pleasure, novels are in little demand. Attributable to these circumstances, creative writers endure. Of this draw again, Ekwensi instructed Larson, “Journalists thrive here, but creative writers get diverted and the creativity gets washed out of them if they must take the bread and butter home.”

At a public lecture in 2000, quoted by Kole Ade-Odutola in Africa Data, the aged nevertheless nonetheless vivacious Ekwensi expressed his must “build and nurture young minds in the customs and traditions of their communities” through his writings. He outlined, “African writers of the twentieth century inherited the oral literature of our ancestors, and building on that, placed at the centre-stage of their fiction, the values by which we as Africans had lived for centuries. It is those values that make us the Africans that we are–distinguishing between good and evil, justice and injustice, oppression and freedom.” In tune with the cases, he had started self-publishing his writings on the Net. Whatever the vagaries of the African publishing world, at age 80 Ekwensi was nonetheless pursuing his goal on account of as he wrote in his essay for The Essential Ekwensi 15 years earlier, “The satisfaction I have gained from writing can never be quantified.”


Beier, Ulli ed., Introduction to African Literature (1967);

Breitinger, Eckhard, “Literature for Younger Readers and Education in Multicultural Contexts,” in Language and Literature in Multicultural Contexts, edited by Satendra Nandan, Uinveristy of South Pacific, 1983.

· , Amount 117: Caribbean and Black African Writers, Gale, 1992. Dictionary of Literary Biography

Dathorne, O. R. The Black Ideas A Historic previous of African Literature. Minneapolis: School of Minnesota Press, 1974.

Emenyonu, Ernest, Cyprian Ekwensi. Evans Brothers, 1974.

Emenyonu, Ernest, editor. The Essential Ekwensi. Heinemann Educational Books, 1987.

Larson, Charles R., The Emergence of African Fiction. Indiana School Press, 1971

Larson, Charles R. The Ordeal of the African Creator. London: Zed Books, 2001.

Lindfors, Bernth, ‘Nigerian Satirist’ in ALT5

Laurence, . Margaret Prolonged Drums and Cannons: Nigerian Dramatists and Novelists, 1952-1966 (1968).

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Palmer Eustace. The Improvement of the African Novel. Analysis in African literature. London: Heinemann, 1979.

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