Writings of the general word's body

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

The Phantom

Reading the 'Letters to the Editor' section of the free Metro newspaper on the morning of June 3, 2003, a letter about the British public's fascination with David Beckham's then short-lived corn-rowed hairstyle - caught my eye (see on the right, as cut out a pasted into my notebook). I read the correspondent's name and it was signed by none other than Obotunde Ijimere whose book - The Imprisonment of Obatala and Other Plays - I bought in Nairobi, Kenya in 1995 and have treasured since.

The Imprisonment of Obatala carries on its inside cover an image of the 'author', a Yoruba man with facial marks, said have been a member of Duro Ladipo's theatre troupe, who was then encouraged by Ulli Beier to write in English. Or so it goes... But popular lore has since led one to understand that Obotunde Ijimere is the pseudonym used by Beier himself, and that some notable others (of the Mbari Mbayo Group) are said to borrow the name now and then. All of which make the letter in the Metro all the more fascinating.

I should have known from the start that the name is a pseudonym anyhow, since both the first and last names - 'Obotunde Ijimere' are very poetic references to Yoruba names for monkey species.

Obotunde Ijimere has been called the phantom of Nigerian literature, having the agility of a monkey or a trapeze artist, the cunning and the trickery.

Now you see him, now you don't.

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