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Dr Martin Akpans Speech "A Labyrinth of Hurts"

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Dr Martin Akpans Speech "A Labyrinth of Hurts"

  1. 1. There would be no me, without you lord; I could not have done this without your divine enablement. I dedicate this first effort to my peerless master and king, my lord, Jesus Christ, who loved me, when I was unworthy of love. And…To the Holy Spirit, my counsellor and my guide, whose might I rely on, each day of my life…. THANK YOU FOR HONOURING ME Unyime-Ivy King Author BURNING HURT
  2. 2. A LABYRINTH OF HURTS A Reflection on Burning Hurt By Dr Martin Akpan
  3. 3. I am neither a literary critic nor a reviewer. I have refused to do this cap, though on several occasions, writers and colleagues in the Pen Family, especially the association of Nigerian Authors [ANA] have tried to force it on me. The reason is simple: I do not want to be labelled a witch or vampire for Benedict nightingale, himself a drama critic and reviewer for the new York times and the London times, in 1996 at the Salzburg seminar, arrogated so much (mysterious) powers to the critics and reviewers, describing them as “witches and vampires (who) are clearly up to no good”. And i am inclined to agree with him, having had the fortune and misfortune of stumbling on the works of Chiweizu, an unrepentant critic who once described the poetry of Wole Soyinka, the revered Nobel laureate as “barren, artistic austerities...of limping obscurities.” It is only the likes of Chiweizu, who swagger into territories where even angels fear to tread, that can dismiss this doyen of African literature as ‟obscurantist poet and maker of contorted ardities‟ that are bound to cause” mental indigestion” in the reader. This explains why I don‟t want to be called a critic.
  4. 4. y job here tonight is to attempt. As a hierophant of the literary communion, to share some of the thoughts I have garnered from burning Hurt, which to my mind, is a great work by a great writer. Unyime-Ivy may be budding writer and a first-timer. But she is certainly not a dabbler or an amateur. To that extent, Burning Hurt, I can say straightaway, is well-cooked ‟native soup‟ that will continue to whet our appetite and curiosity for a long time to come. THE BOOK Burning Hurt is a 276-page free-flowing novel, condensed into 23 chapters of reader-friendly prose and complete with a rich glossary. THE BOOK COVER is glossy. And cast in a hazy motif of topless tropical woods with birds apparently clinging meditatively to spindly branches in a cold harmattan morning. THE BOOK TITLE, in white cursive lettering, occupies the central part of the cover, while the author‟s name is super imposed on a silhouette of what looks like Cupid in her seducing nudity. The BACK COVER, which bears a close semblance to the front, gives a bird‟s-eye view of the author; her photograph and her bio-data. There is also a blurb which introduces the story and leaves you to imagine the unfolding scenario. Published in 2012 by AuthorHouse, Bloomington, the book is exquisitely packaged to meet the taste and preference of modern readers. The M
  5. 5. author DEDICATES the book to Jesus, whom she calls her peerless Master and king as well as the Holy Spirit, “my counsellor and guide”. A six-page tribute in the book speaks volumes of the author‟s generosity of spirit and appreciative heart. For devoting that chunk of a book to acknowledging the contributions of her mentors, inspirers and friends, undoubtedly portrays Unyime as one who treasures people and relationships. THE STORY Burning Hurt is an apt title for a book which chronicles a multiplicity of seamy relationships, most of which leave bitter taste in the mouths, if not seething wounds in the psyche of its principal characters. Right in the thick of this labyrinth of hurts is a young lady, Itohowo (fondly called Ity). Hers is a pathetic story. And there is a lot to learn from Itohowo‟s saga especially by the other ‟Itohowos‟ that happen to fill this hall and the society at large. This is a moving story of love, love gone sour and love that ironically generates hate and bitterness-all resulting in a broken heart and a shattered life and society. But Itohowo is only a throw-up from a dysfunctional home. Caught in the crossfire of a hostile and troublous home environment, she was driven into the waiting hands of a dandy (Daniel Ukpong). Daniel‟s initial warm friendship provided the bait that rocked Itohowo into
  6. 6. the blind alley of a whirlwind affair, which, expectedly resulted in a pre-marital sex and a teenage pregnancy. And as it often happens in such illicit relationships, Daniel abandoned the girl he claimed he loved at the most critical point in her life. And to compound her woes, she was denied the needed parent shield and coverage. She was thrown out the house by her ‟step-father‟, Sunny Akpanudo and mother, Eme and left to nurse her wounds in the cold hands of Fate. Itohowo‟s world came crashing like a pack of cards. She was shattered. But thank God that, after years of a tumultuous life, she was able to pick the pieces of her life again when she found true love and conjugal comfort in the caring heart of Geoffrey, a relationship that produced two lovely children. Besides, she managed to come out of her bitterness and mental pain, by forgiving and reconciling with Daniel as well as her mother, Eme and her aunt, Ikwo, both of who, like Daniel, had abandoned her to her fate when she most needed them. Burning Hurt is not about Itohowo. It is about all of us. The author has, wittingly or unwittingly thrown up critical issues and concerns bordering on our contemporary society. She has also attempted to puncture some of the deep-seated myths and stereotypes in the Ibibio cosmos, where the story is set. Using appropriate stylistic devices, she has woven a riveting and un-put-down-able tale with
  7. 7. beautiful imageries and strong descriptive power and elements of suspense. BURNING ISSUES IN BURNING HURT Unyime-Ivy has given us a coat of many colours in her Burning Hurt. Unknown to her, perhaps, she has offered the reading public several books in one. Each of her thematic concerns in Burning Hurt signposts a book. And there are many of them ranging from the issues of broken homes to pre- and extramarital sex, teenage pregnancy, street children, preference for male children, plight of the girl child, sex education, adoption issues, family inheritance and godly lifestyle. Other burning issues creatively explored in the book include: adult delinquency (exemplified by Sonny‟s escapades), parents abandonment, witchcraft practices, false prophesies as well as Ibibio cultural/traditional norms and practices. The author‟s skilled and expert handling of these issues is, no doubt, predicated on her early exposure to life in the village, good childhood upbringing under caring and God-fearing parents, deep knowledge of her cultural milieu, seamless marriage to Ubong as well as her interest in and closeness to her people. These and other salutary factors have contrived to bring out of her, a book that is multivalent.
  8. 8. It is not possible or even desirable to gig the reader a panoramic view of any work in just a few minutes of view. However, there are some aspects of this sizzling offering that command immediate attention. Foremost among them is the recurring issue of pre- /extramarital sex, which the author has extensively and painstakingly indicted in this book. This is personified by the Casanova, Sunny Akpanudo, Itohowo‟s “step-father, whom the author rightly tongue-lashes as a serial adulterer, an irredeemable womanizer and a seasoned drunkard. In fact, the whole account in the book – the scandal, blackmail, intrigues, conspiracies, betrayals and bitter rivalry are largely traceable to Sonny‟s excesses, directly or indirectly. Needless to say that it was his amorous advances to Ity, his ‟step daughter‟, that provided the trigger for the kaleidoscopic events in the life of the young girl and their domino effect on her family and community at large. And to even imagine that Sunny was Itohowo‟s true father from his early tryst with Itohowo‟s mother, Eme, when she (Eme) was just 15, is heart- rending. What a sordid affair! Another key area of concern of the author is that we have almost lost grip of our rich cultural heritage and traditional community organisation through „Europeanized‟ lifestyle. She has, therefore, tried to convince the reader that long before the white man came to this part of the world with his so-called modern civilization, we had
  9. 9. had a well- structured society with inbuilt mechanisms to maintain law and order as well as foster communal love and unity. The ekpe, ekpo, akata societies (all- male groups) and ebre, iban isong etc “(all- female groups), were examples of such mechanisms. In Burning Hurt, the author relives that arcadian era and laments the erosion or near- erosion of our wholesome traditional values, mores and ethos that to engender a sense of community and shared values in our fore- fathers. If there‟s anything Unyime-Ivy treasures, it is family and godly relationships. This, she has amply demonstrated in this work using various devices, concepts, situations and scenarios. One of such relationships was the trio of Rita, Ese and Verity (Daniel‟s wife). So mutual was their closeness and love that Rita and Ese stood solidly by Verity, encouraged her and earnestly and consistently prayed for her travails lasted until she found fulfilment in her marriage by overcoming her barrenness of nine years. In another development, the author frowns at the pervading virus of prophet-lying (prophesying falsely) and witchcraft label slapped on some aged parents by their children especially when such children experience some life challenges such as barrenness, sudden or chronic illness, financial hardship or unexplained losses. This was the lot of Diana, whom Akpan, her son, accused of being a witch because according to prophet Inokon, she was responsible for the
  10. 10. barrenness of uyai, his wife, by “using a rope to tie her womb” (page150). The twin issue of witchcraft and proliferation of prayer houses, especially in Akwa Ibom, is extensively explored in chapter 3 of Burning Hurt. Now listen to this dialogue between Daniel, his wife, Verity and his parents-in-law, Prof. & Mrs. Albert Umana: “In Akwa Ibom for instance,” Prof continued, “witchcraft is the dominant focus. „Sir, I think that can be attributed to all the prayer houses springing all over the land, creating confusion in families and breaking homes with their fake prophesies”, Daniel pointed out and everyone laughed at his observations. ”They will tell you that the problems you are experiencing in life, are from within- ekong ‟mkpatiang ukot‟ – they say.” “You are right darling “, Verity chirped in, „these prayer houses thrive on perpetuating this fear by „prophe-lying‟ to their patrons and saying that, their battles are from their household. Hence, overnight, parents who toiled and laboured for their kids, become witches and wizards. It is such a dangerous trend”, everyone cackled at Verity‟s blend of the words, „prophecy‟ and „lying.‟ “You are correct my dear”. Verity‟s mother joined in the conversation. “In our state, having grey hair in a family is a big misfortune because you would be suspected of witchcraft! This sad turn of events is the story of many families in Akwa Ibom. Abasi mmi, ubok mfo oh! “It‟s scary, mum, Daniel concurred,” I think this is an important reason why we have so many young people dying in our state, unlike in Yoruba land where you have so many old people living well beyond their 80‟s, we hardly have elderly statesmen.”
  11. 11. “My love, you are right. The Bible says that when we honour our parents, we live long upon the earth. God cannot be mocked”, Verity said. “You will see an old man or woman, who sacrificed so much to bring up their kids, being labelled a witch or wizard by the very children they gave all to raise! You would agree with me, ladies and gentlemen, that thesis vintage Unyime-Ivy: An exquisite synthesis of invincible truth, impeccable diction and humour – a feature that is replicated on every page of this book. Overall, Burning Hurt has all the makings of an award-winning novel. It is well packaged, attractive and reader-friendly with just minor vetting errors that do not, in any way, detract from the merit or import of the work. The snug blend of English and Ibibio language is unique. [Example: Akpara ekpo ami has been sleeping around; Aunty Ikwo, Ufon mmie? Okay, ebe ndo; etc]. And traditional songs like this, which challenge husbands to their traditional roles:
  12. 12. Ebe eke nno naira-o Naira ekem so? Ndop nda okuk Mme ekem inung efere? Ndop nda okuk Mme ekem iyak efere? Ndop nda okuk. This is definitely going to compel a wide readership especially among the Efik-Ibibio speaking group. Besides, it is a welcome development at a time in our history when our children have lost grip of their mother tongue, because of some policy summersaults in our educational system. The central message in this book is unmistakable: that we should all be mindful of the actions we take now, as the repercussions are sure to come. And for our youths, instead of dissipating their energy in sowing the proverbial wild oats, they should strive to „sow righteous oats‟. This can be achieved through sound moral and Christian principles. This way, the dysfunction in the family, nay the larger society would have been reduced. Burning Hurt is a vade mecum of wholesome tit-bits on morality, godly lifestyle, family life and salubrious living. The book is both rich and enriching. Rich in the sense that, it is a pot-pourri of diverse human experiences in a nexus of interlocking and reverberating scenes, sounds and echoes, that breathtakingly illuminate and
  13. 13. tantalize the heart of the reader; enriching, because it is written in a language so simple and lucid that the salient points and lessons cannot be missed. Indeed, it is an argosy of Ibibio folklore, myths and cultural practices; a treasure trove of love remedies for broken homes and wrecked relationships. The plot is thick and rich, revealing and entertaining. A common thread runs through the book: An impeccable diction, which clearly portrays the author as an avid reader whose love for and emotional attachment to books have turned her into a consummate verbalphille (ala Des Wilson) or a connoisseur. It is a must read for all, irrespective of class and caste. Unyime-Ivy is a master story teller with an undisputable flair and gift of the garb. You cannot finish reading the book without having a clear glimpse of the persona of the author as a well-groomed and God-fearing lady who is passionate about correct conduct, attitude and practices. I am tempted to believe that Verity, the quintessential character in the book, is either Unyime-Ivy fictionalized on her alter ego. I see her standing shoulder-to-shoulder with Chimamanda in no distant future, if the sparks and sparkles she has demonstrated in Burning Hurt are not to allow to abate. Thank You.........

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