GUEST POST: Introducing Omoseye Bolaji – An Intriguing African Writer
As most of you know, I have almost solely handled this blog. All articles, reviews, interviews and others have been from me. This is my first Guest Post. Rahpael Mokoena is a book critic and a South African and wants to introduce to us the 'intriguing African writer', Omosoye Bolaji, a writer from Nigeria. This is more like a South-West connection.
By Raphael Mokoena
|Omoseye Bolaji (right) with Pule Lechesa|
Omoseye Bolaji, the South African based versatile Nigerian writer, is an intriguing wordsmith. He often baffles readers and critics. Is he a “serious, committed” African writer, or otherwise? What is his literary legacy? Why is he often dubbed a “grassroots oriented” writer?
Yet, many serious literary critics and commentators take him (Omoseye Bolaji) serious; to the extent that over half a dozen different studies (books) have been published about his literary work. The academics of the rather conservative University of the Free State were also in unison when they conferred the Chancellor’s Medal of the University on Bolaji in 2007.
It is clear enough that that just like in the world famous case of British writer, Dorothy Sayers, most of Bolaji’s readers will always associate him with Mystery/Detective works. Indeed, Bolaji has created one of Africa’s best known sleuths, Tebogo Mokoena, who features in seven published books – from Tebogo Investigates (2000) to Tebogo and the pantophagist (2010) See selected works at end of this article.
Despite the great success and the popularity of the “Tebogo Mystery series”, especially in South Africa, it would be wrong to pigeon-hole Bolaji, or his corpus of writings in this way. Bolaji’s versatility as a writer often works against him, as he is a novelist, short story writer, journalist, poet, biographer, playwright, essayist, literary critic, etc.
I for one feel that Bolaji’s contributions to sparkling literary criticism/essays, has been largely undermined. His two major books of this ilk, Thoughts on Free State Writing (2002) and Miscellaneous Writings (2011) are powerful and eclectic enough to earn him a solid reputation as a skilful literary critic/writer. Thoughts on Free State Writing, though published almost ten years ago, is an intelligent work containing well thought-out chapters on subjects like African fiction, Books for children, Literary criticism, Poetry, Biographies, African renaissance, vagaries of Education etc.
Omoseye Bolaji’s latest published work, Miscellaneous Writings (2011) is already being described by some pundits as a breathtaking work of art containing many short dazzling essays. At least half of these essays involve world, African literature, but there are many other topics brilliantly brought to life by the author in this new work. Topics, or, and protagonists covered in this new work include: DH Lawrence, Lewis Nkosi, The Allure of Father Xmas!, The National English Literary Museum (Grahamstown), Steve Biko, Nigerian and South African Writers, Camara Laye, Dambudzo Marechera, NMM Duman, Gabriel Okara, Facebook, Ola Rotimi, The tormentone, Gordon Banks, Horrific Murder/Rape, Segun Odegbami, The Illustrators, Teboho Masakala, Musical Maestros, Sheila Khala, Relativity of Poverty and others.
Omoseye Bolaji’s reputation as a poet is also limited, despite the fact that his poems are often evocative and dazzling, and they have been reviewed liberally across the board. Bolaji has actually published three books of poetry (see list below)
Bolaji has published only one play – The subtle transgressor, a drama which has been put on stage a number of times. The published play itself, especially the Sesotho edition, was reportedly a “fast-seller”. Translated into Sesotho by poet and literary critic, Pule Lechesa, Joo, letsa Shwa-Letla Botswa has been quite a success.
|Bolaji's 2011 Book|
This short introduction to the literary contributions of Omoseye Bolaji can not be complete without mentioning other general novels published by him (as distinct from the “Tebogo Mystery series). Bolaji has written and published other interesting works of fiction like Impossible Love, The ghostly adversary and People of the Townships. The latter (People of the townships) is considered by many to be a quite important work in South African Black Literature.
I hope this piece will inspire others to do more research on Omoseye Bolaji and his published works – for one thing, there is no shortage of interesting articles on the man and his work on the internet. Let’s all learn more about the man dubbed “The Black African master of the unexpected”!
A SELECTION OF BOLAJI’S WORKS:The Tebogo Mystery series
- Tebogo Investigates (2000)
- Tebogo’s spot of bother (2001)
- Tebogo Fails (2003) Ask Tebogo (2004)
- Tebogo and the haka (2008)
- Tebogo and the epithalamion (2009)
- Tebogo and the pantophagist (2010))
- Snippets (1998)
- Reverie (2006)
- Poems from Mauritius (2007)
- Thoughts on Free State Writing (2002)
- Miscellaneous Writings (2010)
- Impossible Love (2ooo)
- The ghostly adversary (2001)
- People of the townships (2003)
- The subtle transgressor (2006)