Kasali Adebayor, a prominent farmer in the city of Akure, a husband of five wives, fancies himself as an activist for good governance while wielding the big stick of patriarchy over his family members. In the fast-changing African political landscape Kasali’s family comes under the spotlight; an exposure which – initially appealing and addictive – threatens everything he holds dear and secret. Kasali’s daughter who has been a secret rebel in her father’s Akure enclave visits her aunt in Monrovia, gets drunk on her freedom, and is soon caught in the web of violence that engulfs Liberia’s Glay presidency. Kasali Adebayor, weak against the subtle feminism-inspired request of his beloved wife Mojisola, ends in a dead-end that brings out the worst in him and begins the end of Kasali’s Africa.
Kasali’s Africa is a collection of 23 short stories and 5 poems, all linked to an enigmatic farmer, Kasali Adebayor, and his polygamous family and his community. He is burdened by fame and expectations due to a political office. As a result of his, choices Kasali begins to unravel.
The book explores themes like convention and rebellion, family conflicts, ambition, individual versus society, gender roles, and the power of feminism.
The first few pages reveal the work as easy to read, simple but not simplistic, and deep in a fun way. The first story, “The Day of the Dog” introduces the central theme that runs through the book: the tension between the old world and the new. One man (A white South African tourist) sees a dog as the man’s best friend, another (Kasali) sees a special delicacy. After a few chapters, I began to see Feyisayo Anjorin’s experimental gamble. Is Kasali’s Africa a novel or a collection of short stories that center on a man?
The narrative voices shifts, hence we see Kasali through the eyes of journalists, family members, random strangers, and community news.
At first, Kasali seems like an average man, but we see the reasons for the complexities of his interactions in his connections with politicians, wizards, and the military the story is set in the early 90s. At some point, the writer takes the story to Liberia and explores the ethnic divisions that resulted in the bloody civil war in Liberia, not by merely telling a story but by creating a world.
The story is set in Akure and Monrovia, even though I had thought it would be like an adventurous travelogue. The real beauty of Anjorin’s work is the audacity of its scope and the way the challenges of Africans, both rich and poor, plays out in the life drama of Kasali and his lovers and his enemies and the ones in the story who seem to see him as neither friend nor enemy. We see Kasali as a champion of patriarchy, Kasali as a custodian of culture, Kasali as a rebel, Kasali as an associate of powerful men, Kasali as a philanthropist, Kasali as an enemy of feminism.
The women in the stories are either strong, like Professor Briggs, an activist, and academician, Iya Eji, Kasali’s senior wife, or weak, like Bola, one of Kasali’s wives, who prefer to suffer in silence. One of the poems, “Suffering and Smiling” reads like a tribute to Fela Kuti’s song of the same title.
Some Africans seem to suffer a lot from the very people who should protect them (Government Officials), just as Kasali’s wives are women who have either mastered the art of benefiting from him or are suffering for asking too much from an insensitive man.
One of the works of poetry, “Akure” reveals the small town where most of the story unravels as a place of superstition, magic, faith, and mystery; quite similar to the Akure is Chigozie Obioma’s “The Fishermen”.
Kasali’s Africa is hence the story of Africa and the story of Kasali, beautifully told with energy, humor, pace, and interesting characters, a work blissfully free of introversion and self-conscious details.
Kasali as a character is human and believable, such that I found it hard to decide whether to love him or to hate him. The writer has not written his best work though. As much as I enjoyed the story, I could not just get over the feeling that it would have been better.
KASALI’S AFRICA is available as an ebook and paperback on Amazon, Barnes, and Noble, and Kobo.