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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:Decolonizing the mind Onitsha-style: reexamining Ogali A. Ogali's cultural nationalism in 'The Juju priest'
Author:Ochiagha, TerriISNI
Periodical:Research in African Literatures (ISSN 0034-5210)
Geographic term:Nigeria
Subjects:Onitsha market literature
popular literature
literary criticism
About persons:Ogali A. Ogali (1935-2006)ISNI
Albert Chinualumogu Achebe (1930-2013)ISNI
External link:https://doi.org/10.2979/reseafrilite.46.1.90
Abstract:As revolutionary as Achebe's Things Fall Apart was for the Nigerian elite in the immediate aftermath of its publication, the Onitsha Market writers were initially oblivious and later impervious to the novel's groundbreaking feat. Few pamphleteers engaged with the colonial theme and their exertions-admittedly not beholden to Achebe's work-have not received scholarly attention. After the heyday of the Onitsha Market phenomenon, its most famous writer, Ogali A.Ogali, composed his first full-length novel, 'The Juju Priest' (1977). While Ogali had previously dealt with colonialism in earlier pamphlets, Achebe's formal, stylistic, and ideological influence became apparent in this first novel. This essay reads Ogali A. Ogali's 'The Juju Priest' as a window into a non-elite experience with the convolutions of mental colonization and cultural nationalism and complicates Peter Ayers and Reinhard Sander's reading of the novel by arguing that The Juju Priest is an allegory of Ogali's particular process of mental decolonization. The author of this article sets the scene by discussing the peculiarities of Ogali's booming career as an Onitsha pamphleteer and then examines The Juju Priest at three distinct levels: first, by exploring Ogali's striking mimesis and subversion of colonial discourse in the first part of the novel, which coincides with his use of the cynical-satirical mode; second, by discussing his comic-satirical construction of colonial mimics and cultural nationalists; and finally, by looping back to the author's earlier works, 'The History of Item' (1960), the unpublished pamphlet 'No Country Is Civilized' (1964-65), and 'No Heaven for a Priest' (1971). Intriguingly, the intertextual relationship between Ogali's 'The Juju Priest' and Chinua Achebe's 'Things Fall Apart' seems to indicate Ogali's latent wish to transcend his status as a popular writer. Throughout the analysis, the author fleshes out Achebe's influence on Ogali's novel and then zooms in on the convergences and divergences in the two writers' engagement with the colonial encounter and epistemic violence in the final part of the essay. The problem at stake in the theorization of literary inequality, then, is not whether peripheral writers 'borrow' from the centre, or whether or not literary traffic flows from centre to periphery, but is the restitution, to the subordinated of the literary world, of the forms, specificities and hardships of their struggles. Only thus can they be given credit for the invention - often concealed - of their creative freedom. Bibliogr., notes, ref., sum. [Journal abstract]