LONDON CHRONICLES (7): OF LECTURES, HALLOWEEN & BELIEF ERAS

The best part of school was beginning to happen, and in quick succession for that matter. Lectures not related to his immediate academic pursuits, symposia and the likes. Some within his school, others outside of it, and he made time to attend those that weren’t clashing with his classes, though he knew he’d still have attended the one Nigeria’s only Nobel Laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka was speaking at the week before, which was the fourth week of October in 2016, at the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies. The Professor is one Nigerian he’d followed like starstruck American teenagers follow Justin Beiber. Not only by reading almost everything penned by the great and eloquent author, playwright, activist, social crusader, and lover of the arts (amongst other appellations his presence conjures), he’d kept abreast with some of his lectures worldwide especially the BBC’s REITH LECTURES, besides book signings when opportunity availed him back in Nigeria. The fact that he objects to some of the old man’s politics especially following the 2015 General Elections in Nigeria, when the good professor seemed to swallow his vomit as regards President Muhammadu Buhari’s candidature at the time for presidency, or his vow to shred his American “Green Card” should Trump emerge as president in the United States, didn’t in any way dampen the esteem in which he still holds the man, for which not only did he attend the program but ensured a close enough to “ringside” seat.

PROFESSOR WOLE SOYINKA, GUESTING AT THE SCHOOL OF ORIENTAL AND AFRICAN STUDIES, UNIVERSITY OF LONDON.
PROFESSOR WOLE SOYINKA, GUESTING AT THE SCHOOL OF ORIENTAL AND AFRICAN STUDIES, UNIVERSITY OF LONDON.

He also found the debate organized by a consortium of universities in the United Kingdom, that took place in his school quite enlightening apart from been just educative. Even a member of parliament Stephen Donghy attended the debate titled “ARE WE GETTING DEVELOPMENT AID RIGHT?”, which was of particular interest
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to him since Nigeria remains one of the beneficiaries of British aid and much has been said about how not much of the effect of aid is felt on ground because of corruption. The after debate get together afforded him the opportunity to meet some members of the audience and spark up some discussions with them on matters relating to the debate over light refreshment which he has found to be a usual feature of such lectures, debates and symposia. He found much of the food bland, confirming what he’d already heard about British cuisine, though he’d also been informed that he’d get used to them and wouldn’t feel disgusted by them with time, as this was part of the culture shock that follows new arrivals especially from Africa, to the UK, he therefore settled more for the drinks.

Towards the end of October, Halloween was in the air. The first of the events in school he opted to miss, and as he made his way out of class, he noticed a white New Zealander leaving as well, and inquired to know why she wasn’t staying for the celebrations, to which she responded that Halloween wasn’t a feature of the New Zealand culture, and she didn’t see why she should join in. Even while in Nigeria he’d noticed the Halloween culture creeping in, first from niteclubs and now even children’s schools have caught the bug and it amused him how Nigerians would frown at masquerades that’s part of their culture as heathenic, pagan and Philistine, yet would easily take up the likeness, just because it’s western and hence must be right. He would see classmates with family in the United States celebrating Halloween like it was the best thing since jollof rice. As he watched Nigerian and African students get into the thick and thin of “Halloweening”, he tried to relate that to the New Zealander, who as far as he can recall wasn’t religious backing away from what ordinarily should intrigue her. He’d gotten home when a classmate, a Sierra Leonean called to find out if he was still in school and available for the Halloween party.

REVELERS AT A HALLOWEEN PARTY IN LONDON.
REVELERS AT A HALLOWEEN PARTY IN LONDON.

The next evening had another Halloween gig lined up, and just so he won’t be called a party pooper or killjoy he decided to tag along with friends. It turned out that beside the colorfully “dark” costumes, there was no curiosity to satisfy, just talk and beer, lots of beer but nothing really of anthropological delight. What he really would like to attend is a Caribbean party just to see those crazy dances he’d seen severally on screen, live. The next evening was still much of the same, at yet another Halloween party. Evidence of the fact that whites, nay Europeans have entered a post-Christian, or better still a post-religious, post-belief world was on display everywhere, with the reckless abandon and revelry that’s testament to freedom from all manner of encumbrances temporal or spiritual. He’d yet to see any of his classmates from the developed world who believes in a higher power, which further strengthens his observation about the “non-religiousness” of Caucasians, especially Europeans.

He couldn’t help but conclude that every (formerly Christian) society goes through a (so called) Pagan, Christian or better still-religious/belief (if you include eastern religions) era, then mixed, before the post belief era. Europe in his estimation is in the post-belief era, and he thinks Africa will be next. As for the United States, it’s likely post-Christian and mixed belief era, though the recent presidential elections point to the rise of the religious right, recent protests that greeted and still greeting President Trumps inauguration however show the latter to be in the minority, and that’s apart from the fact that he didn’t win the popular vote. As for Islamic societies, for now he surmises that they won’t be shedding their religion in the nearest or remotest future (his theory may not even apply to them), Islam as way of life is law, unlike former Christian societies that derived their law from the Bible then moved on. Of Christian Africa, he feels it’s at the mixed-belief era, aided and abetted by church abuses, pastoral scandals and prosperity gospel that’s left a few “(wo)men of faith” disillusioned, which is how these things start. His awareness of the decadence creeping into Christendom have however not caused him to look elsewhere in search of new religion, “looking unto Jesus” being his motto.

But he can see disillusionment taking root, bringing about the cycle. A rise to power, as with some Christian leaders in Nigeria rising to prominence, even getting named as “influential” or “most influential”, then decadence, followed by a fall, as it happens in the secular world. Like the Roman empire, rose, decadent, fell. Europe, the British empire, same. America, that Trump is trying to “make Great again”, China, India, all had risen (at some point in their history) and fallen, and are probably rising again. The fall of the Church in Africa may not necessarily herald the post-belief age, as just lurking by the corner remains the traditional religions which many may not have totally jettisoned in moving on to Christianity. One thing he has found of most indigenous religions, is the presence of female goddesses of fertility such as Yemoja (Mermaid or “Mammy-water” in the Nigerian parlance),

CHIEF PRIESTESS OF YEMOJA DURING A YEMOJA FESTIVAL IN OYO TOWN, OYO STATE, NIGERIA.
CHIEF PRIESTESS OF YEMOJA DURING A YEMOJA FESTIVAL IN OYO TOWN, OYO STATE, NIGERIA.

Osun and Orisun (of Yoruba mythology), Frigg (of Germanic mythology), Diana (of Roman mythology), to name a few, whose worship involves some form of free sex especially during festivals dedicated to them. He found it interesting how despite the distance between those ancient societies, they managed to observe similar rituals regarding specific gods, goddesses and deities, much like how the ancients were able to build pyramids in far flung parts of the earth even when the likelihood of both sides ever meeting in those days was practically remote and nil. He knew if he probed the origin of Halloween he’d find something related to the pagan, but that night wasn’t those kinda nights, so rather than beat the revelers, he joined them.

‘kovich

PICTURE CREDITS:
http://handluggageonly.co.uk
https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yemoja

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