Africans on the Move: Transnational, Intranational, and Metaphorical Migrations
According to one who is more skilled than we in decoding the hidden messages in poetry,
The “Train to Ìdògò” captures with graphic accuracy the movement of a train through a tropical terrain. Most emphatic is the apt use of sound and sense devices that are the distinguishing hallmarks of good poetry. Staccato rhythms are spotted in the predominant trochaic feet that themselves convey the totality of a continuity of movement and sound, to tie with the moving train. Linked to the auditory imagery is visual imagery in the repeated ‘the train to Ìdògò puffs its black soot’, and other visual imagery. Ecological diction is aptly used including ‘ìrókò’, cactus, etc.
The poem also speaks of the train moving through many Yorùbá towns, from hinterland to coast. The references to Òkun, Etí-òsà, Ìbarà, Láfénwá, Ìdògò, and Ejìgbò tell a history. As indicated in the explanatory notes below the poem, Ìdògò was connected to the railroad line in 1930. It is probably better known today as the birthplace of Ebenezer Obey, one of the most famous Nigerian jùjú musicians. Ejìgbò market could be located in Ògùn State. It could also be in Òsun State, or a neighborhood in Lagos mainland that was thrust into the global public consciousness when the explosions at the Nigerian Army cantonment in Ìkeja forced those fleeing the inferno and explosions to dive into the canal. Multinational oil companies that have fuel distribution businesses in Nigeria also probably know Ejìgbò as the fuel depot. Àráoyè also considers Ojà Ejìgbò to be “an abstract representation of an unceasing dynamism and the train, whatever its “black and sooty downside, as an instrument of the compelling centripetal/fugal transactions that keep pushing us along its train.” This is the metaphorical migration of which our editorial title speaks.
Finally, the poem speaks of good-byes. It speaks of departures and returns, and reminds us that the train is slow. It is old, and so is the trainmaster. It carries both the young and old. It carries women and men. This Akìwowo, the trainmaster, is being implored, as done in the children’s song above, to take the sojourner home to the fatherland. In this way, Àráoyè’s poetry also connects with Niaah’s theme of repartriation – a return to the land of the father and the ways of the father.
What of the mother? Àráoyè tells us about the merchant women of Láfénwá who wave “their headgears to their sons on night boats that face up and downstream.” The harmony of life in Yorùbá cosmogony includes both the female and the male, with good luck, safe travel, and fertility being described as abo, (female) and the opposites as ako (male). Migration is also necessarily an experience that combines the negative and positive. Misfortune, exploitation, discrimination and marginalization may be the lot of the
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