Tejumola Olaniyan: The Great Masquerade of African Cultural Studies and Literary Criticism

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Professor Tejumola Olaniyan (April 3, 1959 – November 30, 2019) Author archives

By Olusegun Soetan

The Egungun imagery that I deploy here to worship Olaniyan alludes to the Yoruba cultural practice of immortalization and commemoration. In theory, Egungun works beyond the annual gathering of colorful masks and feasts: it is also a cultural instrument of mourning. When people cry, they recognize their loss, especially the final annulment of the deceased. Tradition helps the bereaved to conclude by translating the deceased into a memorial body. The passage ofhee-aye(our mundane world) to Ajiran (the kingdom of the ancestors) is essential to the Yoruba rite of passage, and its logic underlies reincarnation (metempsychosis).

Following the Yoruba worldview of death, Tejumola Olaniyan undoubtedly became an ancestor. While many can argue that he died young, at the age of sixty he remains an ancestor in the sense that he biologically fathered adult children and mentored many established academics and graduate students. As a father, in the academic sense, Tejumola Olaniyan qualifies to be revered as an ancestor. He is worthy of a mask and bulky insignia that will immortalize him as a profound literary critic and an excellent scholar in cultural studies. Thus, the university community to which he belonged would accept their loss, that is, his death, and his mask would invoke his commemoration. Eégún Teju(Teju Masquerade) will be a large masquerade that can match its larger-than-life setting. The badges, of course, would capture his tall, lanky body and parallel to his wà pẹ̀lẹ́(humility) that he displayed everywhere he went.

In comparative terms, Olaniyan’s scholarship resembles a (masquerade regalia) in the way he has significantly brought together disparate critical ideas to form beautiful bodies of knowledge in the humanities. As the systematic arrangements of lappes on , Tejumola logically links classical academic research to modern global ideas and contextualizes them. From his first revolutionary book, Scars of conquest / masks of resistance: the invention of cultural identities in African, African-American and Caribbean drama (1995), who underlines the importance of the dramatic arts of the African diaspora for global cultural production beyond the narrow and conservative reading of an essential list, until his last book,Taking African cartoons seriously: politics, satire and culture (2018), Teju provides unique academic insights that expand the frontiers of knowledge across disciplines (postcolonial studies, African diaspora studies, and cultural and literary studies), and he has excelled as a renowned critical theorist and public intellectual. global.

Creating his own lappets, he merges ideas from all disciplines in a coherent way to educate his readers about Africa and its other diasporas. From the periphery to the center, it locates the ideas and experiences that have shaped the critical thinking process of the African intelligentsia and documents how popular cultures contribute to governance and the state in Africa. Beyond theory, Tejumola provides his readers with a vivid articulation of postcolonial contexts in Africa, and he has shown how rogue states commit wacky violations of citizens’ rights. As a Marxist and postcolonial scholar by training, Olaniyan contextualized class struggles and demarcated the boundary of ethnocentrism and client operations in the social formation of democracy and political consciousness in Africa.

Teju was both a devoted scholar and a kind human being. He was dedicated to his constituencies – the university groups and the family (nuclear and extended). As the son of peasants, Teju understood poverty and want. First, Teju never liked seeing people in pain. He was a teacher who cared for his students, especially African students who migrated thousands of miles from Africa to study in the cold state of Wisconsin. To enable graduate students with families to take care of their homes, Teju’s postgraduate classes were often held in the evenings and he offered snacks.

Unbeknownst to many, Teju was an excellent mentor and father to many graduate students. He prioritized education and gave his full attention to mentoring. He took the work of his students very seriously, often so seriously that his comments on the essays and his feedback on the chapters of his essay were seen as reprimands. Nevertheless, none of his students missed the care, which laced the advice. Like the many spirits that inhabit Fagunwa’s novels, he spoke directly into the ears and the conscience. However, interestingly, he put a check mark on the brilliant ideas of his students and urged them to follow them.

Even with personal issues and issues, Teju would be working in the background to help find solutions, without letting you know. He was, indeed, a father figure, and you will notice his sense of humor in moments of conviviality, despite not being a man of many words. “Yeah” and “Alright” are his favorite closing remarks, and they were reassuring words. Teju, as a masquerade, was a Eegún-àgbà (an old masquerade) and was worn with wà pẹ̀lẹ́ (humility).

Teju’s private life included his philanthropy. As a renowned teacher, Teju should be busy with his research and not pay attention to the life and events of Òmù Àrán, his hometown. However, he was a true “son of the ground”. He gave students scholarships to attend secondary schools and universities in Nigeria.

Besides his academic prowess, Olaniyan was a quintessential cultural agent. In a sense, Teju’s cosmopolitan elitism as a renowned scholar in North America, to some extent, has been shaped by his cultural upbringing. Perhaps his interest in music and musicians (as a popular culture discourse) grew out of his lineage passion for good music. He showed a deep interest in African indigenous knowledge and questioned traditional values ​​beyond their purely didactic meanings and uses. His fellowship emphasizes utilitarianism in vernacular ideas, and he combines them with contemporary knowledge that can help African nations contribute significantly to global intellectual production.

Certainly, Tejumola Olaniyan was a special person: he embodied the spirits of the ancestors, and he had the gift of preparing for the future in the present. He was a minimalist who led a modest life. In total, Teju remains in our memory a mọlúàbí (a perfect gentleman), a brilliant scholar and a great mentor.

mọOlómùapẹ̀rán. The one from Omu, the mighty warrior

Ọmọọlọ́rọ́ agogo-idẹ Owner of a finely forged brass bell

Ọmọ Bánkọ́lé. Son of Bankole

Sùn un re o — Sleep well!

-Olusegun Soetan is Assistant Professor of African Studies at Pennsylvania State University


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