LITERATURE, LIFE, and ‘African Magic’

Most of us here will find it quite unremarkable to find ‘life’ in tandem with ‘literature’. Imagination may thereafter begin to wander uncontrolled at the intrusion of ‘African Magic’ into the trilogy. For one thing, it nibbles at edges of thoughts of resurrection, sets up a potential arena for theological competition. In other words, it offers a reading that, among other potencies of African magic, there is the power to ensure that life continues after death etc. etc. That line of optimism would be encouraged, I concede, by the existence and content of a round-the-clock and year round television channel that produces such marvels of the supernatural derring-dos. These videos are beamed round the world from a South African station. For the rare member of this gathering who has remained immune to this viewing menu, we are speaking of mysterious deaths and resurrections, emanatons through walls, through trees and other solids, witches, ghosts, zombies, ritual sacrifice, levitation, voodoo, hypnotism, lechery, incest, vaporization etc etc.


Trees bring out the whimsical in a variety of human sensibilities. Also the lyrical, the rapturous, or the simply reassuring, as in family belonging. Lately however, that is, in the past decade or two, trees have attained apocalyptic dimensions sitting in judgment over humanity will the proceeding end in a reprieve, or a death sentence on the planet itself? No wonder I have also been lately struck by the fact that, even without their newly conferred powers, trees have played an intimate, even dynamic role in the evolution of human culture and history especially on this continent. To go all the way back to beginnings, it would not be out of place to speculate that it was under one such an accommodating canopy of boughs that our great forebears underwent the earliest formulation of community. That seems quite plausible, even inevitable, since trees offer not only land bearings, but shelter against the sun. This primordial subconscious, I propose, is why we are hardly ever content to let a tree be - a tree - just a tree in itself and for itself, a replete presence in its own right. Apart from obvious utilitarian ends that the tree offers - shade, protection, food, material convertibility etc etc., we even impose on it the burden of reference points, metaphors, ethical abstractions and injunctions in forms of proverbs, analogies, celebrate the tree in reams and reams of poetry, entrenching it in social consciousness through the painterly arts and numerous other forms of cooption to the ends of aesthetics and iconography.