More often than not, media representations and social portrayals of activism in the Niger Delta convey the characteristic Eurocentric chauvinism of geopolitical assumptions.
Activism is not a new phenomenon in the Niger Delta. During the colonial era, an Ijawman, Garrick Sokari Braide, became the face of social protest, when, through his religio-spiritual activities being his own reading and interpretations of the Biblical Holy Spirit phenomenon, preached won a large followership over to himself. His ministrations challenged status quo and had significant socio-economic impacts. As revenues from alcohol and other British trades dwindled, the colonial administration blamed Braide
The Ijaw Women Connect (IWC), founded by Rosemary Aken Graham-Naigba, conveys and articulates a radical alternative to status quo activism in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria. Although there are abundant justifications for social justice activism in the Niger Delta, for too long, most have not been founded or based lasting ideological principles. Hence, governments and other key players such as the multinational oil companies have taken advantage of this porosity or lack of critical philosophy.
Rosemary Graham-Naigba describes herself and the IWC as difference makers. In this piece, I intend to examine the intersections of gender, class, and culture in the categorization of activists in the Niger Delta. I also consider the historical roles of colonization and hegemony in the distribution of justice in Nigeria.
In this piece, David Olali examines the seeming innocuousness that heritage icons assume, with their predisposition towards narratives of nativization, where they take on new social and cultural life, with the appertaining implications of meanings appended to them. Following Jacqueline Jones’ argument—on the myth of race—in Dreadful Deceit (2013), Olali argues that symbols, while they are capable of conveying intents, including racialized ones, are of themselves, as in understanding scripture tropes, not racist, but the people who deploy them could either be and/or are purveyors of racist agenda before transferring it to such icons! But that, too, depends on the task or deployment to which such “racist” icons are put.
Biblical scholar Jeanne Kabamba Kiboko offers a compelling case for a postcolonial reading of the biblical woman of Endor. In Diving the Woman, a subversive reading of Eurocentric “conquest exegesis” (230), Kiboko successfully executes her proposition “to analyze, to resist, and to reconstruct the so-called canonical literature” (xxix) given that “I am now a biblical interpreter and translator for postcolonial Africa (xxx). While this book problematizes Kiboko’s interests in the subject of divinatory practices as it relates to “1 Sam 28 at the Disanga,” her insertion of an alternative reading of the translated texts—unto othered, colonized cultures such as her Kisanga in the Congo—her “disordering process” (xxix) breaks the “carefully and strictly controlled” (5) “penalty one endured” (85), with a valorization which eminently privileges philological legerdemain and exegetical prioritizations over the psychosocial determinants of “the practice evil of divination” (104).
Bookended by a “Prologue” and an “Epilogue,” the seven-chapter Woman of Endor lavishly excavates the demonization by translating indigenous ways of knowing, or mediumistically gaining access into the divine spheres of the supernatural world. As “the first female to be ordained in the Southern Congo Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church [SCAC]” (xxiv), Kiboko crosses the established hermeneutical boundaries with “freedom, power, and authority” (62). However, her “faith in the text” seems to exhibit, for a self-proclaimed African feminist (63) theorist, a partially—but equally troubling—obliviousness to the acute presence and agentiality in translation transactions; she could not emphasize enough the bane of the struggle in translation: power and knowledge claim. To translate is to arrogate knowledge and by so doing privilege a medium, a language, a text/textuality/literacy. Kiboko does the latter very profusely for, as a translator herself, she tells us that “translators control the inner-biblical debate by deciding to demonize the woman’s divinatory practice” (106).
Understandably, as a Western-trained priest resident in the United States, a ravenously modern exemplar in empire configurations and appurtenances, Kiboko recognizes “the most common impetuses to use divination” (84), including “prophylactically” (83), and in countering the dilemma of “suffering, both individual and corporate” (84).
Clearly, the woman of Endor is a witch, not only due to her divinatory powers, but also given that her “magical” practices fall outside of canonical ordering, and beyond the Yahwistic agenda, and the religious limitations on the Israelite monarchy. Even though Kiboko provides a strategically useful translation of 1 Sam 28 in the Hebrew-Kisanga flow, her suggestively, exclusivist mimicry of the English ideological assumptions about the need to be translated, first and foremost, reifies, and participates in, the dynamics and socio-politics of transatlantic mobility/mobilization and immobility/immobilization of meaning.
Over all, in terms of its critical inputs to biblical and religious studies, Woman of Endor unveils the broad ramifications of mistranslation; in the narrowest sense Kiboko— through the miscategorization, displacement, and silencing of alternative or subaltern voice(s) of the (wo)man of Endor— gives the field/practitioners/authorial a “periscopic” something which facilitates, rethinking, resisting, and renegotiating congealing attitudes about scripture(s) and what roles they play in our lives, and vice versa.
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The reasons why “Comparative Heritage” is important are not immediately obvious, and for obvious reasons, too. First, nearly everyone feels comfortable talking about the positive and nice sides about their history. And again, that happens too often, for obvious reasons. Conversations around “heritage” often always assume a monotonous definition about some distant past, woven around the fine memories of the heritage inheritors. It feels like talking some nice things about an ancestor. Or, in another way, with “heritage,” one might assume that by that is meant our collective memory of the past, and how those moments past had shaped (us into) the present. These are ways, but not the only ones, of looking at heritage.
Fundamentally, Comparative Heritage (CHER) transitioned from Living Effective Heritage, to accomodate some critical reflections and thought-provoking conversations on “what is often implied, meant, done, unsaid/stated with heritage.”
So what’s the significance of that?
While the Comparative Heritage in unable to claim that it has the perfect panaceas to the hydra-headed conundrums of psychosocial and econopolitical dilemmas, CHER brings in a rather unique trajectory into the conversation on social and cultural formations, community understandings and transformations, as well as what humans do with themselves along the lines of defining heritage–individualistically and communistically.
Every culture of violence begins with the privileging of one heritage construct over and against (others). Take some historical examples for illustration: Bosnia, Arab-Jewish, Nigeria-Biafra (Hausa/Igbo). An even closer-at-home example is the subject of racism as a global evil domiciled in the United States. While the dominant meaning/understanding of racism is often linked to color– many cultures around the world deem that “white people” are ghosts/spirits/apparations)–by racism here is meant racial bigotry, which is not exclusive to skin color imaginings!
Central, therefore, to understanding the work of the Comparative Heritage project and the conversations it facilitates are its inclusiveness of the subjects, social landscapes, and topics that fall beyond the center, straddling the peripheries, into the domain of human d/evolving and innovative capacity for invention; where there are no lacking in the foregoing, history is witness to the unrestrained will of the human person, not only to master nature or to conquer natural forces but also to desperately pursue after power for the ultimate subjugation of their fellow humans.
Comparative Heritage begins with the initial theoretical assumption that heritage is the cycle that wheels human beings. Due to the human imaginative power and capacity to draw from the past, both real or invented, heritage becomes a negotiating tool, which often develops into fully comprehensible suppressive political weapons of social ordering.
Whether for good or ill, “heritage” deserves a second, critical look. It is this benefit of the doubt which permits us the opportunity to begin to develop basic initiatives for respect and understanding for the legitimacy of others who do not belong in our own circle of heritage.
As the center’s Research Fellow in Global Leadership (2012-13), I helped conceptualize ideas about African American heritage at the Interdenominational Theological Center; fortunately, I was the institutes’ defacto director.
Due to institutional dynamics, I repositioned my research activities (2013-beyond) with Living Effective Heritage (now Comparative Heritage, or CHERIT). One of my ideas was the conceptualization of “A Biography of Darkness,” an expeditious travel into the tortuous ascription of cultural heritage among Africans and African Americans.
I am grateful to Professor Ademola Dasylva, who graciously accepted to attend, and indeed gave the keynote lecture for the conference. I am grateful also to everyone who supported the project, especially my supervisor, Dr. Charles E Thomas Jr.
My special thanks to The Reverend Dr. Ronald Peters, the (then) ITC President, know no limits. In his address entitled “Ideology and Globalization: The Case for Omoluwabi the Yoruba Concept of the Personae,” Professor Dasylva knitted together culture tropes from Africa and their ideological embodiments relative to modernity and globalization trends and identity formations.
Continuing the heritage research, the CHERIT project invites partners and collaborators in various (intersecting) fields of academic and/or practicing scholarly pursuits.
To watch Professor Ademola Dasylva’s full lecture, please visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XDAIxf9NLss.