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Femi Osewa: Telling African Tales

Femi Osewa

It is safe to say that every Nigerian born within a certain time grew up listening to folktales and fictitious stories “under the moonlight” about the tortoise and the hare, but sadly most people vaguely recall these entertaining tales because they have simply grown up and forgotten.

The need to keep these stories alive and pass them down is one that is obvious to promising author, Femi Osewa who has spent ample time writing captivating stories that give new readers goosebumps and old readers nostalgia.

Readers have often compared Osewa’s books to evergreen classics like the Drummer Boy, Footsteps in the Dark, The Boy Slave, and the likes. This comparison is apt because his works are among some of the few today that still bear that genuine authenticity and void of sappy storytelling.

Osewa has always been captivated by folktales since he was a child. Growing up in Akure, his grandmother would narrate captivating tales, mostly involving animals and their interactions with humans. The tortoise was a fairly regular character in her stories, and he was oddly always cast as a villain.

As an adult, Osewa realised that people are still fascinated by good stories, regardless of adulthood challenges and responsibilities. He is of the opinion that the methods of narrating these stories need to evolve with the times.

The traditional oral method of telling tales ‘under the moonlight’ is endangered by other mediums of storytelling. “Many of the stories I grew up listening to cannot be found anywhere in print, if the trend is allowed to continue, sadly those stories would not be known to the coming generations.”  

His most recent work, the book “Simi Visits Grandma – Folk Tales From Jalingo” seeks to address this problem. It is a great example of storytelling at its finest. It features a young girl named Simi who travelled from Lagos to visit her grandmother in the village for the first time. The Grandmother eventually takes the girl to the animal kingdom by means of an engaging story involving Ìjàpá and his exploits in the kingdom. Osewa’s intention was to take the reader with him to the environment by means of his colourful description, to make him feel, hear and experience the feelings of the characters.

It is also interesting that Osewa intentionally made a conscious effort to address negative stereotypes against inter-ethnic marriages. He painted a sweet relationship between Simi’s parents Olú and Nkem who are from the Yoruba and Igbo tribes. It is also interesting that Osewa recognises the need to stay true to his authentic side, spelling Ìjàpá for instance with the correct districts throughout the book and subsequently including an endnote to explain the correct pronunciation and definition of some terms would not go unnoticed by readers.

Regardless of achieving the feat of documenting his story, he ultimately wants to create animated sequences of some of the folktales. “My dream is to one day see some of the original folktales come to life on a big screen”

Osewa is currently working on another book that “would continue the exploits of Ìjàpá and the animals.”

The second instalment titled ‘We Must Crown the Elephant- Up, Down, Round & About Tales from Katagum” would curate African folktales in a unique way that would be readily accessible to readers of all backgrounds.”

While we enjoy the newly released book, we can only wish more power to Osewa on his second instalment already underway.

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