Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Who Sits in Pa's Place, Telling Stories?


Obododimma Oha

In my Pa’s parlour, everyone has their own space and everyone’s space means. Everything, too, has its place, defined in relation to other things. There is the special place where Pa used to sit, from where he watched things that went on or watched everyone too. Pa always said we were all stories and were part of the stories that he told. When Pa was not around, like when he eventually slept and did not wake up again, Ma sat in his place, watching and also telling stories. In that way, Pa’s place was kept; the stories were kept. And the stories kept us.

Pa used to sit there, telling bearded stories. Stories of Mbe nwa Aniga holding a debate with Chukwu-abia-amuma. Stories of braves who went to the land of the spirits and defeated them in wrestling matches. Stories of why things are as they are. Stories of Wit slugging it out with Folly. Stories about values and the invaluable good life. Stories and stories and stories about stories in stories. Pa used to sit there, facing the whole family, telling stories that made our lives.

Now, the television and the video set sit in Pa’s place, telling a different kind of stories.

The television tells stories of things that never happened and wants us to believe that they really happened. The television tells its stories, making sure it has put adequate dose of salt and pepper. Seeing is believing and so showing is deceiving. And many maybes dissolve into certainties.

The video tells stories as if they are its own possession, as if those stories have not been stolen from the mouths and hearts of Pa and Ma and then peppered and salted into strange irresistibles. The video tells the story of this Igwe and that Ezemmuo and that village swallowed by the city and the city having constipation. The video tells all the happenstance as if people are always busy throughout the day and throughout the night scheming or quarreling over issues, and never have the time to go to the farm, or to do anything else. And the video expects us to believe that?

Is it not the same way the radio and the gramophone came to tell stories that competed with the stories told by Pa and Ma? The radio would sit there, so full of itself, and tell us, “This is London!” when, in fact, this is our village! How did the radio expect us to believe that nonsense, or to believe the stories it told afterwards?

And the gramophone, too, with that dog speaking the Master’s voice! How did it expect us to believe a story told by a dog, even if the story belonged to the Master?

The television and the video now want us to believe that they speak in stead of Pa and Ma. The television wants to Pa and Ma us with a different set of myths – its triumph over Time; its control over Space; its Presence in Absence and presencing of absence.

The television thinks we need more exaggeration and more vision. Now, it stretches and covers the whole wall, hoping to cover the entire mindscape and imagination of the hypnotized viewer. Is the magic the size? Is the magic in the size? This proxy Pa or proxy Ma that grows big and grows small. This proxy Pa and Ma whose stories expand and grow out of proportion; whose stories can also contract and reappear on the screens of handsets, Mpegs, etc, to spread and to peg the proliferating images on the canvass of our minds.

Ah, the TV and the video want us to see the story. That’s good. But the story is inside their eyes. They want us to see the story through their eyes, their eyes which never blink!

When Pa sat there, telling stories, he sat in our hearts. We asked him questions and he answered. He called and we responded. We called and he responded. Together with Pa, we sang the story. The TV and the video are far removed from us, do not feel our presence, and do not include us in singing and experiencing the story. The TV and the video speak alone, sit alone, and cannot see us.

We admire the ability of the TV and the video to tell stories through their eyes. Let the TV and the video take their seats as other storytellers around. But let them not displace Pa and Ma as the chief storytellers in this ezinuulo.

Friday, June 26, 2009

He Lived His Fictions (for Michael Jackson)

--Obododimma Oha

He lived his fictions, charmed moonwalker
Now frozen in the crescendo of his song

Many selves of lyrics embodied, disembodied, re-embodied
Yield, ecstasies, like this flexible

Was this self yourself?
Was this other in order?
Was this self selfless in melting hearts with ghostliness?

He lived his fictions, died his reality
Somewhere like nowhere on the maps of motion

Archangel to many visions
He stands at the threshold of changing myths