MARY SAYS TO ROSE:
This booklet is very good for married and unmarried women and also for bachelors.
From The Game of Love. by J. Abiakam, pseud.
This is a book, written for the enjoyment of Africans and all other people, who are interested in African affairs. It is something that will doubtlessly guide both the youths and adults, who come across it. Like my other books
Gift For People
When you think of what to give your friend or any other person as a ‘long to be remembered present, remember this book, the receiver will find it of immense value. Serve it as a kola to your stranger, he will value it more than two bottles of beer and will never forget you.
From Money Palaver, by Sunday Okenwa Olisah
Now let us hear of him whose golden opportunity was spent mainly on thinking of pan-cake faced girls and lip painted ladies.
From You Must Marry Me Demanded Miss Rosie, by B.U. Asike.
This book is full of exciting wonders, love, songs, music and unusual luxury. Now read about the man who continued to fight after his lifetime, “May his soul rest in peace.”- AMEN.
From £75,000 and 7 Years Imprisonment, by Penn C.I. Oti.
The out burst the whole episode kept the whole world gasping. Men and women of emotional tensions. They hunted love with charms, magic, power and deadly peri… the who incident is full of fantasies – romance – heroism – adventure – sacrifice and alluring melodies – Do charms actuall work in love-making? Now go on and find out for yourselves.
From Miracles of Love, by N. Keneddys Onwudiueguem
TO THE READER
He was an old man who had seen life. In his village he had prepared himself to live a full life. But the change came. It was not a sudden change. A white man with a book in his hand. Every evening this white man with the book had sat at the edge of the village and played with the children.
From No Bride Price by David Rubadiri.
* * * * * * * * * * *
Onitsha Market Literature has served several purposes it was never intended for. This chrestomathy is yet another. For us, they are fugitive texts from the other side to the near shore of here. They are a funhouse mirror of the unrecorded culture of Igboland’s mentality – full of superstitions, oral traditions, irrational anarchism and emotion mixed with approved theology or humanism – and picture a landscape of obscure, almost unfathomable, beliefs before the written word virus civilized their culture to death.
Words fly away, what is written stays put. Their words are reeling and writhing and rhythmic. Listen for assonance’ s that give effects of near-rhymes. Herein lies the unrecorded culture of Igboland. This is the sphere of popular “mentality,” full of irrationality, archaism, emotions, and superstitions generally thought too low to record. Its author’s aims were unpretentious and modest: to educate and entertain. As such they played an important role in the culture’s transition from traditional to modern, from oral to literate.
Literary critics, anthropologists, sociologists, and psychologists, students of comparative literature, pop-culturists, and multiculturalists, all of whom have good reason to be interested in street literature, should be careful not to take these writers more seriously than they take themselves. As Miller O. Albert forewarns us in the prefatory note to Rosemary and the Taxi Driver, “All characters in this novel are all round imaginary. Note, none is real. It is no true story and therefore concerns nobody in anyway. Whoever hits his head on the ceiling does so at his own fatal risk.”
In their introductions several of the authors ask that educated readers not take them too seriously and frequently apologize for their poor command of the language. Ill educated as they are and “not knowing English very well”, they facilitated their fellow Nigerians transition from traditional African rural culture to Neo-African, westernized, modernized urban culture, from orality to literacy.
Neither should they be dismissed as so unsophisticated as to not merit attention nor as being libels to the character of African literature. It is popular literature. Contemporary critics dismissed it as, in Wole Soyinka’s words, misthoughtful camp, which does capture some of its charm. I will not, however, make a case for the absence of literary conventions contributing to the unfettered originality of the pamphleteers. This is not “pure, primitive folk-like literature.” These entertainments, never sold as art, were never meant to be criticized as art and should not be read as art. Neither should they be read as sociological artifacts.
However, several advantages present themselves in turning attention to these small productions that can’t be found in the larger, more ambitious literature that grew up around it. As Samuel Johnson observed of the importance of the analogous literature of his times:
The mind, once let loose to enquiry, and suffered to operate without restraint, necessarily deviates into peculiar opinions and wanders new tracks, where she is indeed sometimes lost in a labyrinth, from which she cannot return and scarce knows how to proceed; yet, sometimes makes useful discoveries, or finds out nearer paths to knowledge.
Being neither an African indigene nor an accomplished academic, my purpose has been largely to make these authors and their audience accessible to an audience they were never intended for. That purpose is much the same as the pamphleteers stated intentions: to entertain and educate.
Image: Kurt Thometz, On the Importance of Small Tracts and Fugitive Pieces. Pt. One. Onitsha Market Literature