Mysticism And The Nigerian Creative Industry by Nwakanma Chika
Bose noticed that Emma, her two week old baby was not feeding well. Three days later, his body temperature was so hot that it seems like his blood was boiling. Agitated and confused, she rushes the baby to the clinic seeking redemption from the medical doctor. Countless prescriptions and diagnoses later, alas Emma dies. The family is distraught. What must have happened to their new found love? How could life be this cruel? Not satisfied that his death is ‘ordinary’, they decided to consult a native doctor whom her friend introduced her to. The native doctor, blessed with the gift of ‘seeing’ after much incantation, libations and exultations with his ancestors, releases the bombshell. Bose’s step mother far away in the village (Bose resides in the city) is the one responsible for the untimely death of her baby. According to the native doctor, she nailed a piece of rag to a cherry tree in her
backyard. That was what killed the baby.
The script narrated above is a replica of storylines in Nigerian movies and fiction books. Some like the ‘mirror boy,'(a cheap imitation of Onyeka Nwelue’s Abyssinian boy) has taken mysticism to a new dimension. Magical reality/mysticism is the strongest voice in Nigerian creativity. Our stories portray voodoism, mysticism, magic et al.s’
Overly dependence on magic realism and mysticism is nothing short of a cheap shot at creativity. Writers hide behind the cloak of magical reality to make up for their inadequacy in producing creative stories that would stimulate the mind. Most pundits are quick to assert that this is a reflection of our culture and traditions. This is a fact. You can’t separate the African man from mysticism. The tenets of African culture evolve around superstition and mystical affiliations. All facets of African society are influenced directly or indirectly by superstitious and spiritual beliefs. Ours is a society where the priest is the king and the king is the priest. Little wonder this attribute is flaunted in African literature and movies. But is that all there is in Africa and its creativity? Is the fate of the African man always predetermined by some cosmological forces that he has no power over? It seems absurd seeing Nigerian creative writers propagating
‘magical’ solutions to questions that are scientifically answerable. This is the bane of not only the Nigerian creative industry, but also the Nigerian society at large. Such attributes are the reasons why Nigerians and Africans are yet to come to terms with their existential realities. We chose to leave everything to fate, mumbling ‘it’s the will of the gods’. We spend more time on trying to solve religious equations than tackling the problem headlong. There is a dearth of the acceptance of responsibility on individual and societal levels. Concisely put, the Nigerian creative industry is a reflection of the Nigerian society. But need it so? Europe was in the same precarious state as Nigerian and African societies. In the ‘dark ages’, superstitions held sway. The occurrence of phenomena was explained in supernatural terms and man was thought incapable of achieving much. The result? Europe ushered in the most backward era of civilization in history.
There were no innovations or landmark achievements. There was a perpetual dearth of human creativity. It was not until the renaissance which heralded intellectual thinkers and groups such as the philosophers, Johannes Kepler, Galileo etc who challenged these religious dogmas and beliefs, that man began to realize his optimum potential. Mysticism was replaced with scientific inquiries and analysis. This gave birth to scientific and technological innovations, and subsequently the industrial revolution which has transformed the world.
Juxtaposing this to the Nigerian scenario, Nigerian writers and creative artists have to jettison their mystical appendages in contemporary works. This is not an advocacy for rejecting our roots and beliefs. Writers and artistes remind us of our history, portray the challenges of the present, but more importantly create a future for generations yet unborn. Creative writers channel the thought pattern of society. What type of future are we creating? What type of picture are we painting presently? One shrouded in magic, mystical forces and superstitions. Do we choose to remain at the lowest rungs of societal development? The answer lies in the way we use our pens.