Spanning to sixty years after the death of the renowned Yorùbá writer, novelist and epic storyteller, Daniel Olorunfemi Fagunwa, reckoned for gargantuan stories like Ògbójú Ọdẹ ninu igbo Olódùmarè, Ireke Onibudo among others, there is a huge cultural abrasion which is apparent to everyone. There is a glaring decline in the realm of Yorùbá literature, particularly when it comes to the publishing scene and this could be traced to inadequate language education, cultural demonisation, absolute apathy and the haste to want to identify with foreign values.
For a language blessed with several literary elements, ranging from òwe (proverbs) to akanlo ede (idioms) to alọ apamọ and alọ apagbe (riddles) to ẹna (the Yorùbá language of codes) among others, Yorùbá struggles to maintain her feet when it comes to the shelf. However, Àrẹ̀mọ Yusuf Àlàbí Balógun does not only identify as a language gatekeeper but acts accordingly towards that path. Having built a presence over the years as a cultural griot and troubadour, he invested himself and his resources into the actualisation of an actual Yorùbá novel which brings us all under one roof today. At a time where bookshelfs are filled up with English novels and books alike, Àrẹ̀mọ Gemini brings to most youths – the experience of getting an actual Yorùbá book for the first time ever and for the aged ones, a portal to memories.
Àrẹ̀mọ Gemini’s debut novel, Ṣẹ̀gílọlá Arómirẹ́ Ògìdán is a three hundred and seventy paged tragic novel that places a focus on misogyny, cultural taboo and sexual abuse. Known over the years for his consistency in addressing female concerned issues with his art, Àrẹ̀mọ Gemini leaves no stone unturned with this novel. With a deft approach to his prominent characters – Ṣẹ̀gílọlá, Afolake, Bewaji and Gberin, there is a constant amongst them, which is abuse, however from different quarters and at different phases in their lives. It is terrifying to know that the abusers in Gemini’s debut are not total strangers to their victims but it is even more scary to know that this is a vivid reflection of so many women, across generations and times.
Mágùn, loosely referred to as thunderbolt in English language but primarily, a spiritual medium believed to curb adultery and fornication by taking the life of one’s sexual partner at that moment or reducing such to sexually inactive during romp, is one that has been argued to be a myth or fallacy, kinda. Gemini extends light on the intricacies of Magun after so many years and deftly settles the conversation of a myth or an actual fact. It is amazing to see how he pitched Magun into the central spot of a modern crime story and the accuracy flows through till the last minute of the story, leaving you to quiver for more. In SAO, every chapter shuffles the climax higher. As though getting to watch the unending drama of the world in 3D, Gemini crafts a web of chaos in SAO – one which could be said to only begin, when the story seems to come to an end.
The deliberateness imported into the molding of the characters, from the major to the very minor, in which there exists an apparent air of distinctness is something to applaud over and over. From the over loving Ṣẹ̀gílọlá to the rusty, angry and unhealed Gberin to the cover girl for justice, Bewaji, there is a level of seriousness imported into the becoming of these characters which is unparalleled. The tone for the arch villain in SAO, Gbenga Akinrinade and Oloye Kanran Asubiọyẹ Agẹdẹgudu, is set in such a way that the hatred can only increase faster from one chapter to another. Without gainsaying, there is provocative but necessary storytelling in Àrẹ̀mọ Gemini’s SAO. One could readily see what Gemini is angry at over the years, within his art and why he has chosen this path of writing with burning fingers.
Reenacting the global effect of his name and rearing towards the agelong dream of “O2 Arena for Yorùbá oral arts”, Gemini brandishes SAO with the best of creative designers, Barakatullah Adegboye – Ridzaina who ate the cover art and left no crumbs. The cover speaks so much without actually saying a word as you wouldn’t know what to expect until you open the book and find the words written in Yoruba. SAO is the ignition of a renaissance and a movement likewise, to tag SAO as just a book will be to reduce the magnitude of work Gemini has invested into this. Just like you cannot, I equally cannot wait to see the magic Àrẹ̀mọ has got in his sleeves subsequently but for SAO, this is one peak toptier storytelling that even the author will struggle to beat in his forthcoming publications. I enjoin us to be a part of the SAO experience and directly become a patron of language and cultural safekeeping.
I’ll shut the door on this sizeable review with an excerpt from the last but not the least chapter of Segilola Aromire Ogidan, titled “Fèrèsé Ayé” :
“Ènìyàn ṣhá. Ẹ kì í fún ara yin ní ìsinmi, nígbà tí ẹ bá wà láyé. Nígbà tí ẹ bá tún kú tán, ẹ kò tún ní fún ara yin ní ìsinmi. Àárín ayé tí èmi àti Talib n gbé yìí, ti fi yé mi pé lásán ni gbogbo nǹkan tí ọmọ ènìyàn ń wá kiri. Àdánwò ni n si ti ìdí rẹ jáde, pẹ̀lú. Àdánwò tí ẹ ti fi ṣe awọ ara láti ilẹ̀ náà ni n fá ogun sí ayé yin. Ìfẹ́, ìbálòpọ̀, ayẹyẹ, òde, ìbáṣepọ̀, àdánwò ni gbogbo àwọn nǹkan wọ̀nyí…”
I do hope you grab a copy in the coming days and I firmly believe you’ll enjoy reading. Cheers.