Wednesday, February 17, 2016
A REVIEW OF WHITE PLACES BY EBIDENYEFA TARILA NIKADE
White places on initial display presents as a collection of short stories chronicling the individual lives of a generation-the first generation of Akelachi Nicholas,comprising her immediate and extended family. The book which is predominantly set in the south-south of Nigeria, Port-Harcourt to be precise, takes you on a journey through the western and northern parts of the country depicting the harrowing experiences of several characters who have their roots in the south except for Alex Gonji. In as much as White Places ends on a somewhat joyful note, it cannot be classified as a comedy. It is a compilation of heartrending real life experiences fictiously told to evoke the readers empathy towards revolutionising our value system. Hence the book, White Places, is a coming of age story White places opens with the story of Alex Gonji- which narrates the ordeal of a slum boy who more than anything else desires to live the kind of life his father failed to provide them before his demise. The life his neighbourhood gossips feel they don’t deserve. Gonji’s sojourn in Mr Stone’s house brings to mind Ferdinad Oyono’s house boy where Toundi works as a domestic staff in a white man’s household. This takes you to pre-colonial times in remiscent which contradicts with the present day reality of the demolition saga that once rocked the capital city Abuja. The past and present are neatly fused together as one tail. Edeva Kolade loses custody of her son after serving a jail term for killing her husband Kolade. A man whom she gave life by donating her kidney against her mother’s wish. According to her “a rootless bastard” like Kolade deserved nothing but death. But Edeva herself is a victim of certain societal ills which is a bye-product of poor parenting. As a parent, teen and sex education counsellor, I can relate closely with Edeva’s plight as a case of child sexual abuse and its attendant challenges of sexual perversion, which has in no small measure contributed immensely to the trending LGBTS- lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender society. For the sake of the love they lack, they seek love in aberration to the natural laws of desire, thereby angrily seeking attention. When parents become too busy and preoccupied with their selfish ambitions and societal class, predators like Evangeline are inevitable. Edeva is a prototype of many women- she is the pervert who becomes a faithful and sacrificing wife and then metamorphoses into a murderer, avenging her husband’s infidelity with Nse, her maid. The story of Edeva Kolade one I find most intriguing. Sandra Minima loses both parents in Northern Nigeria, Kano. Her father to insurgency, and her mother to the shock of the news . She finds her husband on her return journey to Port-Harcourt. This story with its northern lexicon aptly describes life in northern Nigeria, and the plight of soldiers at the fore front of insurgency. This gives the book it's plausibility. Tosin Alakija is the fearless one, she will not accept violation and intimidation by her step father, Nicolas. A man who commands a worship of an indistinct element to which Tosin’s unyielding attitude fast tracks her eviction from home.She joins her father at Iwo without prior information of life in Iwo. Tosin is fearless and would rather die accepting violation than live facing it. Chikwado Kuforiji- the twenty five year old albino who believes so much in Yemi’s love is stupefied when that love could no longer contain her light brown skin. Yemi dumps her, but not without having his way with her. She takes off her church girl clothes and begins to thrive on borrowed robes. She goes clubbing ,lands herself a marital goldfish in Kuforiji whose appetite for sexual perversion is unsatiable. He makes a whore out of her. Though in affluence, Chikwado lives a life of pain. In a bid to get rid of the pain, she hires a mistress to whom she eventually loses her husband and marriage, gets caught in a web of infidelity with an unplanned pregnancy for Daniel her campus sweetheart. From the story of Rosaline, Akelachi’s maid, we revel in the spirit of resolution as Rosaline begins to connect the stories one after the other. Rosaline’s revelation hit me like the wave of a magic wand taking the scales of your eyes. Edeva is Akelachi’s niece. Her mother, Mrs Odogwu, is Akelachi’s sister , same as Eruchi, Sandra’s mother. Akelachi is abandoned by her husband Nicholas after burning her back with an iron for speaking out against his advances and lustful desires towards her daughter, Seyi, who eventually elopes with him. That marked the beginning of her silent sorrows. Akelachi concludes that all three sisters are under a spell- the spell of failed marriages, filthy cravings and misguided children. Wilson ,Rosaline’s boyfriend is Alex Gonji-the slumboy has become a notorious conman who deceives Rosaline into staging the robbery of her boss with a fake promise of marriage. When the deed is done,he leaves town to reunite with his childhood sweetheart Fatima in holy matrimony. Rosaline's bosom friend, Adaugo suffers the fate of being jilted by her sweetheart, Azania. When Yetunde's bottom power fails to secure her a place in the industry as promised by Danladi, she settles for Remilekun who lives on everything borrowed. Akelachi while on a solution quest to revoke the spell hovering over her generation, finds salvation. White places is a ninety five page fast paced and suspense filled ten chapter novel with every chapter named after a character. The book that raises enormous twenty first century issues which we are still grappling to come to terms with. At this point: let me paraphrase my blurb that White places brings to the fore salient issues which we have hitherto been silent about; feigned ignorance living in denial. But these issues are as real as the word “REAL ". Everyone is shrouded in some form of charade as we all have our peculiar challenges. Sexual issues in marriages are real- beyond that, one is either having too much of it, less of it, or an anomaly of it. Infidelity has great consequences both for the male and the female. Kolade and Abayomi both lost their lives to it. While Chikwado survived with an unplanned or rather an undesirable pregnancy. The signs of an abuser are always there. Mothers, speak up and protect your daughters for posterity sake. Stop protecting husbands. All actions must be carefully weighed to avoid future skirmishes. The consequences of any action are inevitable. Edeva kills her husband, serves a jail term and loses custody of her daughter. At first unremorseful, but bouts of regrets kept painting her memory. Some love to win; others love to lose. Sandra's love story is flawless unperturbed by the ephemeral hassles of marriage. The child you are not concerned about today will become a concerned in the future. Somewhere in the dark corners of a bedroom, a wife is playing whore to her husband. Ever heard of the saying, “a patient dog eats the fattest bone”. What Roseline had patiently waited for in all her years of loyalty slips off her hand like a slim fluid washed off with alum. White places cuts across borders, each story represents a unique sphere of our existence . It succinctly portrays the very essence of literature as a reflection of society.The work is devoid of romantic complexities and explicity Hence it a book for everyone. Through flashback and the first person narrative, Merit tells her stories in a non- linear plot such that each story stands on its own with all the elements that make it a complete story. Merit achieves prosaic aesthetic in her unique and careful selection of diction tomorrow suit the registers of each story. Words make up a writer' s toolbox and Merit's expertise at pulling the right tool for each predicament expressed in this work is highly commendable. Roseline tells her story in the lucidity of a language that befits her status as a maid. The infusion of indigenous names and places flaunts the book as a proudly Niger Delta initiative further spreading our penning prowess. If I were to fault merit,it would be for the effrontery to confront present day realities with a firm resolve to curbing. Merit has contributed immensely to virtue and knowledge. In concluding,White Places is a book for the now; it leaves us with a strong message of restoration and hope via salvation without being overly religious. No matter how messed up we think our lives are; God can still give us beauty for ashes- a second chance! As a poet and writer, I draw inspiration from almost everything. I wrote a two line poem after reading this awesome work of art... White Place! Where we begin and end Walking through life' s bend! White Places is a must have: must read: any day, anytime and anywhere. I want to be like Merit when I grow up. Thank you.