Lawrence Ogbo Ugwuanyi,Ph.D
Professor of African Philosophy & Thought
University of Abuja,Nigeria
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Taiwo has been a decolonizing
scholar well before the term achieved its current momentum. Along with other
achievements, such as his work on African modernities, on how colonialism
disrupted African modernization and why Africa must modernize, and
African knowledge systems generally, he is one of the interlocutors and perpetuators of the legacy of Akinsola Akiwowo, a pioneer of what would now be called decolonizing sociology,
a movement to which Taiwo contributed, with his rich co-written essay
creatively and critically engaging Akiwowo, and recently successfully spearheading
a special issue of a scholarly journal on Akiwowo's work.
may be understood in relation to Paulin Hountondji’s trajectory from African
Philosophy: Myth and Reality to the edited Endogenous Knowledge: Research
Trails, exploring conditions for developing African centred knowledge
within a matrix that goes beyond Africa and of Anthony Appiah's progression
from In My Father's House: Africa in the Philosophy of Culture to Thinking
it Through to Cosmopolitanism, as an African sensitive African
scholar who is yet self-consciously deeply implicated in the Western cognitive
matrix, of Abiola Irele in ''In Praise
of Alienation'' and ''The African Scholar'' and Chinua Achebe's ''The African
Writer and the English Language,'' texts thinking through the question of
African authenticity as a historical process undergoing change in the context
of various forces rather than a definitive identity, orientations that may
be juxtaposed with Toyin Falola's trajectory from ''Pluriversalism'' and
''Ritual Archives'' to Decolonizing African Knowledge:Autoethnography and African
Epistemologies in the struggle of the African scholar between various understandings
of African authenticity within contrastive but ultimately complementary pulls
of various knowledge universes.
Taiwo is a scion of what may be called the Ife School of Scholarship and Creativity, a multidisciplinary constellation of scholars and artists, including Wole Soyinka, Biodun Jeyifo, Akinsola Akiwowo, Karin Barber, Moyo Okediji, Pierre Verger, Akinwunmi Ogundiran, Ulli Beier, Toyin Falola, Victor Ekpuk, Wande Abimbola, Rowland Abiodun, Babatunde Lawal and others, across different generations of University of Ife associates, who through studying or/and working at the university up till the 80s , and perhaps the 90s, particularly in relation to its Institute of African Studies, were strategic to the constitution of crucial aspects of what is now known globally as African Studies and African oriented, African inspired creativity, resonating across the world.
They are pioneers, among other achievements, in the growth of the sub-field of Yoruba Studies as an example of what would now be called the decolonizing process, complementing, in the Nigerian SW axis, the eminence of the University of Ibadan in the development of the Ibadan school of History, centring African agency in the study of African history, along with other achievements of the University of Ibadan nexus, such as the work of Abiola Irele in African philosophies and literatures and Isidore Okpewho on African oral literature, among others, developments complementing the University of Zaria arts revolution by Uche Okeke, Bruce Onobrakpeya, Yusuf Grillo and others, in centring arts education and creativity in Nigerian environment and thought and the dispersal of the Zaria achievement across across Nigeria, fertilising the academic study of art across the nation, exemplified by Uche Okeke taking the animating ideology of the Zaria school, his theory of Natural Synthesis, to Nsukka, where it was catalytic for the artistic and intellectual achievements of the Nsukka Art school, represented by Obiora Udechukwu, Olu Oguibe, among other artists, scholars and writers, a fermentative effect reverberating to this day through Nsukka art graduates around the world.
From his earliest
publications to the present, Taiwo's scholarly trajectory has arisen from this
Africa centred matrix, distilling ideas and perspectives carried by artists and writers as they travel around the world, planting them in new soul, Taiwo's consistency of commitment and resilient passion suggesting a vocation fundamental
to the logic of his existence, where one's scholarship and the totality
of one's life are unified. His faculty page mission statement eloquently describes his mission and scholar and teacher along such lines.
I have not read his new book, only a number of reactions to it, but I get the impression that the title is meant to be provocative and evocative, hence its written on the book cover as
Against Decolonization:Taking African Agency Seriously, the
strike through in Against suggesting both
inclusion and exclusion of the idea, thus reading Decolonization:Taking
African Agency Seriously, suggesting its a text on decolonization
as a means of taking African agency seriously but possibly against a particular
orientation to this process, in the spirit, perhaps of Paul
Feyerabend's Against Method, which I understand as critiquing
particular approaches to scientific methodology, advancing what may be described as a different, more fluid approach to doing science than the perspectives he critiques, rather than arguing that the idea of systematisation and process central to methdology has no place in science.
Taiwo’s book seems to be a critique of a particular approach to decolonization,
rather than a denunciation of the decolonization mission, in the spirit
perhaps, of the differences between Soyinka's work and his understanding of
Negritude, a difference of perhaps questionable significance, and between Molefi
Asante's approach to Africa centred creativity and other approaches.
All doing the same or similar things, from different perspectives.
Apologies for what might look like a lecture. I’ve been thinking of Taiwo for some time, slowly following his work and those of the creatives I understand as his closer fellow travelers, and this conversation stimulated me to put these thoughts together.
After the age of 75, which I am not sure I will get to, I will write a memoir on the subject below. A year after my PhD, I took over the editorship of ODU: A Journal of West African Studies, which I edited till 1990. With Taiwo and others, we established the Ife Humanities Society.
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Stress. Almost beautiful weather. I must dash this off in x minutes and take off for a walk with Better Half. It's always like that. What may appear to be disjointed is written between household chores. My a-pologies
Some time ago I posted to this forum “ Colonialism : What if ?” -
Professor Gloria Emeagwali was brave enough to respond directly in that blog piece. Perhaps, we could have all saved ourselves some trouble, and disabused ourselves of certain assumptions and presumptions if prior to furthering the discussion we had assessed pages 153 -177 - Chapter 8 entitled “Legacies” of Bernard Porter’s “ British Imperial - What The Empire Wasn’t”
Even more exciting, what kind words a seasoned Afrocentric anti-imperialist such as Africana Emperor Molefi Kete Asante would have specially reserved for Oluwatoyin Vincent Adepoju’s whimpering apologia.
Mbembe’s “ On the Postcolony” ( 2001) also deserves five stars…
That’s an extremely tantalising title . “Against Decolonisation” for some, a compelling, must read title : must confess with some shame, that I had never heard of it , but like “Black Skin, White Masks” - the very title of the former is a sufficiently compelling reason to want to engage with it even if the first knee jerk reaction is to dismiss the effrontery of the very title as just another example of the type of uncle tom foolery that would motive Prospect Magazine to show it so much respect. The first question is why doesn’t the author take the more direct route and change the title to “In Praise of Colonisation” - if that is indeed the main thesis suggested by “ Against Decolonization” . An what’s wrong with mental slavery ? Another good question that your average uncle tom would like to answer on a gramophone recording of Man Friday on the neo-Colonial label popularised as “ His Master’s Voice” - a possible refutation of or complementary to Bertrand Russell’s “In Praise of Idleness and Other Essays”
Had we but “world enough and time” to zap through each and every exciting book-title - every book title that you would normally expect holds some special promise that the contents would fulfil the living up to its titled promise, that the reading would not be time wasted reading in vain and with great expectations about the intellectual acumen of the author as advertised in the blurb - reading doggedly to the last sentence - to the very end of the book, never fulfilled ( O what a disappointment) then, honestly speaking, merely reading and reading, all Milton, all Shakespeare, all Dryden, certainly all Keats ( for me, nothing to do with degrees - all Seamus Heaney, all Derek Walcott, and ( in alphabetical order) for Messrs Adepoju and Bangura, all Falola, for Dear Baba Kadiri (alias “ogunlakaiye”) all Fagunwa - and perhaps some of the others and so, if we had world enough and time we would have nothing else to do, and still following Marvell’s trajectory, I dare say as I read skipper Kperogi’s mighty dedication and first chapter last night, after which I thought that maybe reading the rest of the buk of which he was editor would probably be superfluous, and as I thought of the loving dedication - I first thought of T.S. Eliot's A Dedication To My Wife and then these other lines surfaced in the upper echelons of this heart and little mind of mine - about how many years to devote to the study and praise of some special writers...
“An hundred years should go to praise
Thine eyes, and on thy forehead gaze;
Two hundred to adore each breast,
But thirty thousand to the rest;
An age at least to every part,
And the last age should show your heart.
For, lady, you deserve this state,
Nor would I love at lower rate.”