AFRICAN VALUES AND SCRAPS: A REVIEW OF AJIO’S THE SCRAPS by Debbie Iorliam

The Scraps by Aôndo-Aver Ajio is a book of pure African values, as mirrored particularly through the Tiv people. The rich cultural heritage of these people is presented, their beliefs, social forms and practices. Ajio exposes this culture for the benefit of those who are oblivious to it.THE SCRAPS

Ajio seeks to address social malaise and he does this by using his cultural roots. His traditionalist approach to his stories brands him as a custodian of his culture, one who desires to hold onto his heritage, as it is the umbrella he can hide under whether it rains or shines. And what better way to enjoy this than to do away with issues that pose a threat to what he stands for.

A reflection of the typical Tiv society and rural life is displayed. We see this rural life in most of the stories such as “Ornyôr”, “Kura”, “Inya kperan” etc .In ‘the stragglers’ the character Clems and his friend get drunk to stupor after attending a party while in ‘the scraps’ Hembam and his friend trek miles to a wedding reception on a Saturday to get leftover food from a wedding reception. It goes further to prove that rural life is characterized by idleness and poverty as shown in “The Stragglers” and “The Scraps” respectively.

The scraps reveals societal problems such as greed, infidelity, poverty, death , backwardness, pain, hunger and misunderstanding which stems from human existence , just to mention a few.

Ajio does not fail in letting us know about the history of the Tiv people in the story “Ikyarem”. He introduces us through the character Bem, how it is absolutely wrong to kill the Ikyarem snake which is believed to have rescued the Tiv people during their most trying period, by stretching itself across a river. And for this invaluable help, it was resolved that no Tiv man or daughter should ever strike the Ikyarem snake. This has become a tradition amongst the Tiv people of Benue state.

The stories are not what we are unfamiliar with, they capture everyday living and situations especially rural life that consists of going to the farm, doing household chores, and trying to make a living despite the risk involved. “Graveways” is the story of called Aho, who evades a cemetery and tries to evacuate the graveyard of a dead man with the intent of stealing his body parts. Unfortunately for him, he gets caught by a group of mourners who trudged into the cemetery to bury the remains of their beloved.

The style adopted by the writer is simple and this simplicity has made the book a very digestible one, for any kind of reader.  The speech patterns of the characters are also easy to comprehend and follow. The conversation carried out by these characters are what we use in our everyday endeavour. Noticeable is the writer’s use of Tiv words especially in the conversation of his characters. The writer does not fail in writing the meanings of such words used.

Characterization is the highly “Tivinized” right from the start to the finish of the collection of short stories. However, there are few exceptional cases in stories such as “The Rogue” and “Side Attraction” where we have names such as “Clems”, “Fred” and “Daniel” respectively. Predominantly, Tiv names abound in the book. Names such as “Faga”, “Msen”, “Tyoumbur”, “Msurshima”, “Akombo”, “Onyôr” etc. These names might be a disadvantage to those who are not of Tiv descent and pronunciation might be a challenge. Also, the meaning of such names would be lost to such a reader.

The characters are “Tivinized” in that they exhibit the typical lives of Tiv people which are characterized by farming most especially yams, the early rituals of preparing for their farming activities, the use of hoes and cutlasses for cultivation, poverty and their total dependence of it as a major source of living, but most importantly their rural way of life.

The settings of the book also take the rural form. Although, there are some exceptions in “Side Attractions”, “The Operation”, “The Scavenger”, just to mention a few.

The writer brings certain  matters to the forefront and allows his readers have a final say. He does this by giving most of the stories an open end -sometimes too open ended for comfort.“The Scraps” is a nice book but some of the stories have endings that are too abrupt and have made such stories to dangle. In “The Operation”, we are not exactly told of Msen who undergoes an operation, of what we are not exactly told. The story ends suddenly with the character trying to figure out exactly what has happened to him. “The Stragglers” is guilty with the same fault; the story ends suddenly with the character, “Clems” asking a question. In doing this, the writer stretches the overall aim of the book, which is to allow the readers come to a final conclusion regarding a particular story since the issues highlighted by the writer affects the reader as well. The decision to set in order to right such a malaise lies with the society, who are consumers of this work of literature and so, Ajio ends his stories by leaving them open to achieve this.

Ajio is able to merge pieces of scraps into something that can be worked on. The scraps are some of the problems in the society which he has been able to identify. He has been able to assemble these problems by weaving stories around them instead of dishing them out in their raw state.  He is a voice that has boldly come out to say that these are “the scraps” that confront us as a people – what then do we do with this wealth of information? Ajio is saying that even with these scraps, there is something in our humanity and society that can be that can be salvaged, not just for the purpose of the moment but also for posterity sake.

 

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The Scraps is published by SEVHAGE Publishers (2013) and is available is stores in Nigeria nationwide.

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