This review should have been done a long time before now but I have been quite involved in so many activities. So, I attended the just concluded Ake Arts and Book Festival (which happened in Lagos by the way) and it was a great event where interesting topics were discussed. One thing that was discussed through all the sessions that I attended was the need for Africans to begin to appreciate their culture and interrogate a lot about what we are being taught by the West. As I listened, I could not but think about Ositadinma Amakeze’s The Last Carver.
The book starts with the narrator mourning the death of a prolific and talented carver. The narrator speaks highly of Omenka as a man with so much depth yet lived with simplicity. What amazed me about this book is the expertise of the author to use the memory motif and take us back into the days where Omenka was alive and also use that opportunity to tell other tales, traditional folklore and intimate us with the richness in the igbo cultural festivities and culture without confusing the reader in the process.There is so much desire to be Western by Africans that the likes of Ositadinma Amakeze give us a bit of hope that someone is preserving our culture in the pages of books. Click To Tweet
This story is not what you read all the time. As I read the book I imagined being told the stories under the moonlight by a griot. The book is saddled with rhythm and it is poetic in its flow. The descriptions are indepth and the language is a mix of Igbo and English. As a none Igbo speaker, you might tend to feel alienated but not too worry, there is glossary behind so you can keep up.
When you read the book you are wiser than you were before you picked it up. This is because the use of proverbs, the characters that are described and their stories have lessons for us as readers to draw from. The themes of the book range from love to humility, community and communal living as a vehicle for social development. These were some of the things that our fathers believed in. The need for people to come together to discuss and proffer solutions to issues that are centered on the community. Everyone is important! Even the drunk is important for entertainment like the character of Nwanze.
It is important we bring back our culture and tell it as it is without too much western colourization. This Ositadinma Amakeze did flawlessly. It is a book I can recommend. Is it without it flaws? No it isn’t. Sometimes, you feel lost with the memory ( or stream of consciousness) motif as it is written more as the recollections of Mgbirimgba (the narrator). As with recollecting events, linear progression isn’t something you would see clearly as one memory leads to another which may have happened before or after the present context for which the recollection/memory is being made. However, maybe I shouldn’t say it is a flaw really but a style that may not be too familiar with many readers who are quite used to linear plots where cause and effects are followed thoroughly.
Kudos to the fantastic publisher of the book, PurpleShelves. The cover of the book takes your breath away because it is so REAL and uniquely carved for the book. Oh, the illustrations are quite catchy too. You should read it!