Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Generational Curse: A Bloody Superstition? Penetrating Damilola Yakubu’s Ireti

Not all stories I have read made me feel this way; very few did: I felt I had the penetrative power which logged me into the authorial privacy of Damilola while reading through his new short story Ireti—featured in the Survival (17th issue) of Saraba Magazine.

Ireti is the story of a young woman (Durosinmi) who suffers the pains of miscarriage allegedly attributed to a generational curse placed upon her family (Orimogunje) by her great grand-father’s adopted wife. All of them—the female children—will suffer this misfortune four times and only those who could dare or survive to try the fifth will have the joy of remaking themselves.

The reason for my feeling: I am very familiar with the traditional belief in generational curse, and stories woven around it. One of the most familiar grand narratives—from which I felt Damilola sourced his story—is this:

In the distant past, a wealthy man owned slaves punished a woman slave for getting pregnant by ensuring she was given ‘saltless’ meals throughout the pregnancy period and after  delivery. The slave, feeling humiliated, placed curse on the man’s generation of female children to suffer still-birth and other related misfortunes if they did not get similar degrading treatment. 

Nonetheless, the most impressive thing about  Ireti is how Damilola reworked the narrative to problematize the concept of generational curse; fit in the story with the theme of survival, and carefully eased himself out of falling into ‘nollywoodian stereotype’.

The curse? takes another direction in Durosinmi’s life. Instead of waiting for the fifth time to get her remake, it takes her just three times. The joy though doesn’t last long as the baby dies not long after his birth. Thus, Durosinmi’s dissimilar experience throws up a big question for Orimogunje family—and indeed every individual that believes in generational curse—to answer: this cyclical experience, is it really the case of generational curse or genetic inheritance?  
Nurudeen Lawal

Note: To read Ireti and other interesting stories and poems about survival, download the 17th (Survival) issue of SarabaMagazine here: 

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