ANYALI – By Emeka Aniagolu PhD A short review By Taiwo Akerele

Anyali: The challenge of integrating the ‘abnormal’ into the ‘normal’ – a deconstruction of the social conditions of human existence in sub Saharan Africa. 

Introduction: Originally set up in Nigerias’ eastern region, Anyali (the 193 paged book) is divided into 9 parts or chapters. Anyali is an Ibo word for albino.

In birth and childhood (chapter 1 page 9) the book talked about the climate of childbirth, the environment of the moment, and there is mention of the Gulf of Guinea and the great Sahara. What we call the harmattan season, is the Christmas period.

  • There is a narration around marriage in the eastern region, the mystery of childbirth, the pains of a mother, and the joy of a father on receiving news of the birth of his child. 
  • There is a twist on the normalcy and abnormality of the child especially when it is connected to color and any form of ‘disability’
  • The fabled story of the movement of the albinos from Iboland into Europe resurrects. 
  • It is interesting to read about the six months turnaround time between when Chika proposed to Ebele and when Ebele responded. This is typical of what used to be in pre-independence and traditional African society. 
  • In naming the child, Onyinyechukwu (meaning Gift from God), there is an element of the presence of the spirit of gratitude, appreciation, submission, reconciliation, and of course a sublime acceptance of what and where fate takes us as Africans. When we name a child Gift, it shows equanimity in what we cannot change in our lives.
  • Managing the condition (page 32) : In this part, the author dissects the major challenge that faces albinos in Africa – management. The education and enlightenment of Anyali’s parents helped with the effective management of her skin, management against social and cultural prejudices, and management of her interaction with her peers in and outside the school environment. The role of the Albino Association of Nigeria (AAN) in the whole enlightenment architecture. The origin of albinism, the causes, and the various dimensions of the conditions are well documented here. 

3) Troubling myths and young adulthood (page 48), (4) Dating head games & heartaches: Secondary school (52): the struggle for social integration, sex, and sustainable relationship: her encounter with handsome Chudi. 5) Dating head games & heartaches: University (60) her experience with Martin Akubu AKA Pirate. 6) Near marriages (67) Onyinye’s encounter with the young lecturer Mr kenechukwu and the near marriage incident. 7) passing for black (110). 8) Too white for blacks and too black for whites (118). 9) Angels in human form (150)

Key points/observations in Anyali

 All over the world, there is strong discrimination against what people termed the ‘abnormal’. Discrimination against colour, against tribe, ethnicity, race, choice of profession, discrimination against language, sexual orientation, between the rich and not so rich, within a nation there are discrimination within the political class and choice of party orientation, xenophobia and difference in language has been a major sore point in human relationship. 

For me Anyali is a summary expression of the social-contradictions of our world and global society. What we don’t know, we discriminate against it, what we know we describe it as normal, what doesn’t belong to us is not appealing, what is foreign is viewed from a distant eye and with suspicion.

The world is in urgent need of a complete self-discovery, discovery from viewing societies as conquered territories, blacks as slaves or children of slaves, whites as oppressors and looters of artifacts, we need to yank the world from self-destruct starting from our immediate environment. We must not reduce our conversation to just muslim or Christian or pagan prism, but from all angles of inclusivity.

There is a need for the realization that there are pagans and other religious sect that exist just like we must accept the reality of albinism as part of our human existence. Just like Dwarfs and other forms of human nature, those who consider themselves as ‘normal’ human beings must expose themselves and come to the reality of the multi-natural nature of the earth. 

Prof Emeka Anyagolu has used the story of Anyali to teach us beautiful lessons of going extra mile to accommodate what could be considered as strange, because the so called “strange” is part of the global ecosystem that can never be wished away through any form of discrimination or sociological behavioral patterns.

The progress made by Anyali – Onyinye in her later life, her sound intellectual output, her professional career and relationship, romance and emotions demonstrates very clearly that there is nothing abnormal and strange in been ‘different’ from what the society considers as normal, what makes the difference is the orientation, the environment, the people, the opportunities, the institutional support we receive, the training, the passion and commitment we demonstrate in our life, the difference we make and the value we add to our societal growth trajectory.  

Memorable quotes from the book

  • On female discipline and appearance: ‘that is precisely the point, Ms Okenwa, you are unlike all those girls. You don’t dress like they do and you don’t hawk your body to the highest bidder the way they do. You are a serious minded, self-possessed and self-respecting young woman. You are exactly what I have been looking for all this while. Page 73
  • On infidelity and break down of trust: One wise elder once said that ‘a woman’s ultimate punishment to a husband she no longer loves is to give herself to another man – page 75
  • On truth and reality: One good or bad thing about reality is that it is no respecter of persons, gender, race, class, religious or political affiliation, ethnicity or nationality, when it dawns, it dawns, like the light of day that emerges from the twilight of early morning, it is a brute fact of life as well as force of nature; page 77. 
  • On lesbianism: ‘Infact there is no word in igbo for lesbianism or gayness. Such an act, in traditional Igbo society would simply be considered nso-ani – an abomination – page 83
  • On what makes the folk of a people: ‘however, the core of a peoples folk is not their language, as important as that is, not their music, as important as it is, not their attire, as revealing as that might be, not their cuisine, as informative as that might be, and certainly, not the sex of their women, as intimate as that might seem! The core of a peoples folk is their spirit- that elusive, yet powerful essence that provides the intangible philosophical scaffold of their world view, the mettle with which they make existential meaning and moral sense of the world and their being in it – Aniagolu (2021)


Akerele (2022)

Please follow and like us:

Related posts

Leave a Comment

* Copy This Password *

* Type Or Paste Password Here *