Gerd Meuer mit Nobelpreisträger Wole Soyinka
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I know what to celebrate after those 50 years

How Nigeria Enriched Me...

Nigerian Village Square - Monday 04 October 2010

Written by Gerd Meuer Thursday, 30 September 2010 23:41
Against the ‘efulefus’

Yes and yes and yes: at 50 years of age Nigeria is in a mess, imploding, burning, as Niyi Osundare, Okey Ndibe and so many others have been telling us…, but then so many Nigerian cultural ‘producers’ have terribly enriched me during those 50 years.

No: let me be honest ! I only came to Nigeria for the first time in 1962, which means that my ‘relationship’ with Nigeria is only 48 years old. Or, as I like to put it – unseriously: the remaining two years, to make it half a century, were spent begging for visa or residence permits in Nigerian embassies.

And then some RANDOM THOUGHTS, because the world is, contrary to what some contributors to NVS believe, a very complex, complicated place...

As a ‘Caucasian whiteman’ I shall have to live with that dreadful birthmark of having invented, then practised slavery, colonialism and neo-colonialism and the continuing exploitation of the African continent. Okay: it wasn’t me personally but my grand-, no my grand-grand-grand-father, which is bad enough. (I did manage to teach KONGI how to properly pronounce the German noun SIPPENHAFT, which is somehow similar to ORIMOLUSI and that hand-sign, meaning, so I was told in Bariga: not only you but a long line of your ancestors have been cursed…)

I am also NOT supposed to share in Africa’s cultural heritage and cultural wealth, simply because I am NOT supposed to understand anything of or about it. I, however, refuse, have to refuse to accept that verdict, since that heritage has enriched me for the past 50 years: yes, it has.

In concrete terms: NOBORY can take Duro Ladipo, Demas Nwoko. Segun Olusola, Sunny Okosun, Victor Olaya, Bobby Benson, Seffi Atta, Adichie and all the others away from me...

And I also do NOT want to be 'without' Niyi Osundare, by no means, and and Ken, and Twins Seven-Seven and so many others...

Ouch: I almost forgot KONGI!

And for quite some time I have not wanted to be without that NVS crowd on the editorial board and some of the heavyweight contributors

Although I can make do without R.A., B.E. and J.P.C.

And I cannot help having met Harry Belafomte in Dakar for an entire week !!! Having met Mwalimu Nyerere on several occasions, just like I met with Thabo Mbeki in Dakar when apartheid was still alive.

Having travelled with Willy Brandt, Oluv Palme, Larachi Yaker anf the Socialist International, to meet first L.S.Senghor and then Houari Boumedienne..

It just came along…during those almost 50 years in Africa.

Just like I had a drink – with hundreds of others°! – with that Chilean president on a first of May in 1973, but I never met, never wanted to meet OBJ or Abacha… or IBB. And that other Yar Adua was a most charming interview partner.

Does it matter that I do NOT want to make do without them all as listed above?

It does, ‘among other things’ (to use that GUARDIAN term), but what is far more important is the fact that I also had the chance – and that for at least four decades - to tell my own German-speaking people, in Germany, Switzerland and Austria – well, not all of them but quite a number – those with open minds - about that African heritage, on the radio, on TV and in numerous newspapers and journals, in conferences, seminars and workshops, even schools and universities.

Also I was for many years fortunate enough to ‘sponsor’ quite a number of African writers, critics and even musicians. Not that I am a lootocrat, who could easily pay for their tickets, their stay in Germany or their honoraria. But I did have access to public funds, be they those of our
very generous (and very rich) public radio stations or the cultural departments of our German cities.

The late Camara Laye and Francis Bebey will attest to that from above… and so will the Niyi Osundares, the Kole Omotosos, Taban lo Liyongs, Tolu Ogunlesis, Patrice Nganangs… the list is simply too long, and again I need not mention KONGI.

I think that my German brothers and sisters profited from their presence amongst us very much. Just as they profited from the endless hours of radio broadcasts by and on those authors and musicians; among them the latter Francis Bebey again, but also Manu Dibango, Black Mambazo, Tunji Oyelana and so many others.

Not to forget the artists who exhibited in Bayreuth, Erlangen, Berlin… again the list is too long! Oh, I almost forgot: my son is only too proud to carry that name WOLE, even if only as a middle-name, but that was because of the man at the Dutch birth registry…, and both my son and my daughter enriched themselves very much through the presence of all those creative people, who, together, must have spent some years in my different houses… and with my different wives (we call that ‘sequential monogamy’) hosting them…

And that in the last eight years at least in the politically korrekk BLACK forest.


A final word, though…

Added to all this the internet made it possible to exchange some very enriching, rewarding thoughts with those on NVS who use their brain and master their imposed (I had to acquire this and several others during many years in school and university), language and who do not endulge in ‘exilic’ fecal language.


Excerpts from Orature as below

I did tell NVS readers how I was brought up on German ORATURE, and how I was then enriched by African ORATURE… let me quote myself…

All that then was my preparation for African story-telling, first by the young soldiers from the Maghreb and France’s black African ‘possessions’ like Upper-Volta, Senegal and other parts of Africa. Then those oratorical wonders perched on their soap-boxes at London’s Hyde Park Corner.

Those were, however, only intros to the real thing: the story-telling on the U.I.campus. Especially so on our way back from lectures to Independence Hall, where, late in the afternoon we used to stop by that small stream and wait for the palm-wine tapper to come down from his tree. And there were those long evenings on the balcony or in Students’ Cafeteria. Plus those weekend story-telling bouts in my village, in Odogbolu.

Add to this the official sessions in Ibadan’s MBARI MBAYO Club, plus those endless un-official ones there.

I did meet some of Nigeria’s best story-tellers, better known as writers or poets, their names being only too known. Well, I didn’t only meet them there, but also in many other places around Africa and also in Europe and the US. The best stories, however, were not being told in Literature or ‘Culture’ conferences but off the ‘ beaten track’, whenever we met after hours, be it in Berlin, Cologne, Erlangen, Munich or Heidelberg, even Addis Ababa and Houston, Texas. And you might just have guessed that the ‘NUMBA ONE’ story-teller always was ‘da man’ or KONGI.

Some of those stories did find their way into my book on “50 years on the road with Kongi!, and ever since that book came out there have been so many new ones that I might be ‘forced’ to do a second book.

I readily confess that I have been terribly enriched by the African Art of story-telling or ORATURE. Or let me tell it the other way round: that supreme African art form fell on fertile ground… HOW NOW? Well, simply because we Rhenish people, a 2.000-year-old mix of tribes and peoples and their cultures, have always been great story-tellers, some of us still are…

And I must also confess that this cross-pollinisation or cross-fertilization must have had a decisive influence on my career as a radio journalist, because what do you do in radio? You TALK! Well, before you do, you also use your ... brain.

But again: I readily admit that Africa’s very own art form - the art of the spoken word=ORATURE – deeply and persistently influenced my work in radio.

A big thanks thus to the African artists of the spoken word.




1  posted on 09-30-2010, 20:32:03 PM  Iyke Re: I know what to celebrate after those 50 years - How Nigeria Enriched Me…

Yea Gerd, it has not all been bad news for Nigeria and Africa in general, but all the same those early years were much promising as Kongi recently said, Nigeria had potentialities, but after some movements came the fall and we are still on the floor hoping to rise.

We hope that our hope will not be misplaced. My thanks to all who have made Nigeria proud these past years.

Happy Independa   posted on 09-30-2010, 20:37:21 PM  Patcho Re: I know what to celebrate after those 50 years - How Nigeria Enriched Me… Gerd, May you breed more children. I did not have so much of a mixed bag as a Nigerian. For one, I was born in that era that mortar and gunshots flew left, right and center and deafened my ear. All descents of that era have my characteristics which the basic is: I spent the past 40 years smooking cigarettes. Now, I'm spending my balance avoiding 2nd hand smoke from other peoples' cigarettes. I wish Nigeria can learn from me...{only wish}
Patrick Nwadike
Tokyo Japan.   posted on 09-30-2010, 23:43:49 PM  Tiger Re: I know what to celebrate after those 50 years - How Nigeria Enriched Me…
Yes, Gerd Meuer, the nostalgia remains for a country that held so much potential but somehow lost its bearing along the way. Yes, reminiscence about a nation with such abundant human and material resources that is still dangling on the brink of perpetual under-development and unbelievable suffering for its masses.

Nigeria, nay the African continent, remains an albatross. A scintillating star with gloom at is underbelly. A nation or continent of such diversity with such brilliant memories as you have elucidated in your peculiar way.

Yet, I see nothing to celebrate in what Nigeria had become over the years. A pure liability without a defined direction or perceptible movement on the path of sanity. Nigeria has become a burden to her children and a graveyard of sorts. It has become a country that evokes bitterness and regrets - one of the very few in the world. It has become a real source of sadness to her citizens. In truth, this is the nation we are celebrating today and which we seemed determined to bequeath to our children.

I am sorry to spoil your day, Herr Mueller. Please partake of Nigeria's 50th birthday because you have every right to. You are as much a Nigerian as my humble self - this cannot be denied. Enjoy but do not forget. With benefit of hindsight and committed patriotism, we could still make this country a better place. Nigeria could still be rejuvenated. Perhaps, that is the only thing worth celebrating about today!

Happy 50th Independence celebration!!   posted on 10-01-2010, 04:54:50 AM  Tanibaba Re: I know what to celebrate after those 50 years - How Nigeria Enriched Me…

Thank you for this beautiful piece. Is it an article, a poem or a mix of everything. Indeed I can feel
your varied experiences as I move from one paragraph to the other. Same person with different, but somehow related parts woven with the finest of silk material to produce this piece that infuses into your heart, your subconscious as you follow the orator in this moving theatre . The stage? the world with special emphasis on Africa.

What is it in Africa that arrests the likes of Gerd and Adunni? there must be something here that we do not perhaps fully understand, or which which we hardly pay attention to. There is a positve force here that is not denominated in Naira and Kobo. It is just out there like the air - free and not polluted but soothing. Our cultural heritage, our stories both moonlight and sunshine, our pride in our kente, aso oke, etibo etc. You feel a wave of something, pride more like it as you adorn those cheap African batik.

Then you read and listen to folklore about Ijapa the tortoise, about the forest of the thousand demons, Ireke Onibudo, those terrifying displays by Duro Ladipo and Hubert Ogunde. At every junction , the stress associated with man created problems on broad street and abuja evaporate as your savour the beauty and serenity that comes with these cultural/environmental subtitutes.

When you listen to the palm wine tapper and the palm wine drinker as they eulogise palm wine and the happiness and comfort, and perhaps fulfillment that it brings you begin to wonder if the guy cares or is aware of the rat race going on on Wall street and China.

yes let us celebrate those things that make us happy.

And Gerd, i doubt if you can truly claim not to be an African. I can see you in that jumper (dansiki) as I write these lines.

I sometimes wonder if these cultural/environmental elixirs are present in other climes outside of Africa.

Once again thank you. I love NVS too inspite of some irritations one encounters once in a while.

taslim   posted on 10-01-2010, 08:15:41 AM  Gerd meuer Re: I know what to celebrate after those 50 years - How Nigeria Enriched Me…

thanks to all of you so far!!!

may be ADMIN could open a page with

POSITIVE thoughts and remembrances ???

I mean: far off the beaten track of politics, IBBs and OBJs and the whole lot, though the fight must go on.

What I mean basically:

Seffi Atta will be very much around here in Germany in the next few

the power of Nigerian literature and woooman power !!!