Professor Pamela Olubunmi Smith on Friday July 15 2016 publicly presented her new book, “Treasury of Childhood Memories”, an English translation of Ogun Omode, in honour of its writer, Alagba Professor Akinwumi Isola, alias Honest man.
Although, the event took place in the honouree’s house in Ibadan, he was however kept in the dark throughout the preparation of the programme. It was therefore a pleasant surprise for him when he came out and saw the guests (most of whom he has a relationship with) and the activities lined up in his honour. In fact he was shocked that his wife, Iyaafin Ádebola, was a part of the “coup” as she eventually got to know that she was in the know from the beginning of the planning.
Pamela, the lead ‘coupist’ said, “Baba’s wife and I were the conspirators. We did not let him know anything until this morning. We just felt that we should give him a pleasant surprise. We felt we should honour him. He deserves more than what we are giving him and he deserves to be celebrated every day”.
Among the attendees were: Isola’s PhD supervisor, Professor Ayo Bamgbose who disclosed that Isola finished his PhD thesis in just two years; the writer’s mother, Madam Modupe; Professor Femi Osofisan; Professor Bode Lucas; Professor Desalu Babajide; Professor Philip Adedotun Ogundeji; Profesor Adeleke Adeeko, University of Ohio; Professor Tejumola Olaniyan, University of Wisconsin-Madison. Others: Professor Femi Taiwo, Professor Ayo Ahmed, Director CEPAD, Professor Arinpe Gbekelolu Adejumo, Professor Nelson Fasina, Dr. Wumi Raji, Kunle Ajibade of TheNews Magazine, Col. Raphael Iluyomade, Olori Olubunmi, wife of Alagba Adebayo Faleti, Engineer Akinlolu Akintewe, Mr. and Mrs. Sola Akande, Moshood Ayoade Adeleke, and Alagba Deola Ikumapayi.
The chairman of the occasion, Professor Solomon Olukayode Fagade said, “Our gathering is a celebration of the excellent contributions of two children of the Yoruba race to fostering the advancement of the spoken language of the Yoruba and spreading it to the nooks and crannies of the world. Fittingly, this exercise involves a son, Professor Isola Akinwunmi and a daughter, Professor Pamela Smith”.
Noting that he was a product of the setting of the novel, Fagade said, “I am a product of that era of village life. Imagine a condition of no light, no television, no pipe-borne water, no well ventilated home, no paved road etc. This is the picture created lucidly of little children living their early life innocently in the village. They are not glued for hours to television watching cartoons, or playing computer games endlessly. On the other side, they are not exposed to drug abuse, street hawking, street begging
and various vices that we can observe today”.
He said, “Let us praise and applaud Professor Isola Akinwunmi for letting the modern world into the enviable secrets of our communal living of the past. I am sure many of us are dreaming of living part of lives in the peace and tranquility of the villages with their lush vegetation, persistent cool and well oxygenated air and grandeur of nature”.
According to him, Pamela’s ability to translate four Yoruba books to English was not a mean achievement but outstanding which has demonstrated her devotion, commitment, perseverance and unflinching search for excellence.
Reviewing the book, Osofisan noted, “Childhood is the lost Eden that all adults recall with nostalgia, and in this collection of 13 scintillating stories, one of the finest living writers in the Yoruba language, Akinwunmi Isola, plunges back into the archives of memory, and recreates for us some of the delightful episodes of that nirvana of his youth. Told with his customary poetic skill and wit, his unmatched gift of the gab, his command of the opulent rhetorical resources of the Yoruba language, the episodes sparkle like precious stones, telling of a time of innocence and of a world that, sadly, can no longer be retrieved”.
He stated further, “As we follow the adventures of these rumbustious young boys, relishing their triumphs and failures, sharing their pains and laughter, we come to recognize ourselves as we too once were, and come to a better understanding now of the weaknesses and the strengths of our societies. So compelling indeed is Isola’s evocative skill that these youthful escapades turn on to a mirror of the dreams and the longings that have brought us to where we are today, the flaws that undid us, and the virtues that strengthened us and might still redeem us”.
He concluded, “We cannot thank Pamela enough for her wonderful courage and her brilliant work of translation, in bringing these stories to readers in the English speaking world”.
A publisher, Yew Books, Sola Akande described the translation of Ogun Omode to English as perfect saying, “Pamela got it right. She captured it all in terms of appropriate words and tempo. She is a master. Pamela’s translation made me “Jack-laugh” and tear up at the very same points I did when I was editing the original manuscript those many years ago. ‘Gege se gege’ (perfect). It is like reading Isola in another tongue”.
Adeeko emphasized that the original book, Ogun Omode taught the importance of Yoruba language and names, saying, “I have been following Isola for years and if I write, I quote him because his works are thoughtful”.
According to him “Every child in the world of Akinwumi Isola’s Ogun Omode learns very early the unlikelihood of a cohort of 20 kids playing together for 20 years! They know that adulthood will creep on everyone and that moving away will happen. Yet that knowledge never deterred any kid from enjoying the assuring drills of family, neighborhood, village, school, church, farm, and playground, etc., Pamela O. Smith’s masterful translation of Isola’s childhood memoirs reveals how life unfolds for the young child between the antithetic desire to remain in the cohort permanently and the necessity of moving along on the path of life. If the loving parents, quirky teachers, peculiar school inspectors, cranky older neighbors play their part well, traveling into future decades is less fearsome.”
Professor Ayo Bamgbose described Isola as a brilliant scholar and writer who was divinely gifted in the act of fiction writing. “What makes Isola distinctive as a writer is that he is humble. He investigates before writing. He reads first before writing. And what you don’t know about him is that he is not an ingrate. Out of all the students I supervised, he is mostly appreciative. Every year, he buys a cloth and sends it to me. He is a honest man that he is being nicknamed”.
Reacting to all the accolades, Isola who spoke in Yoruba simply said, thank you all. I appreciate you and none of you will die younger”.
In his tribute, Olaniyan, “The vault of Treasury of Childhood Memories is filled to the brim and overflowing with gems! Akinwumi Isola is a master story teller and here again, after her earlier translations of Isola’s funsetan Aniwura, Iyalode Ibadan and Tinubu, Iyalode Egba: Two Yoruba Historical Dramas, Pamela Olubunmi Smith has reaffirmed her record as more than up to the match. When a major writer meets an expert translator, the gain is always double, plus one.”
In her response to the views of people regarding the book after reading its 13 chapter titled, “The loss of Innocence”, Pamela said that she did the translation of Ogun Omode to say thank you to Akinwunmi Isola, stressing that Isola deserved all the accolades showered on him considering how well he had lived his life and contributed his quota to humanity.
Pamela is a Professor of English, Humanities and Women’s Studies at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. Her English translations from Yoruba include: Akinwumi Isola’s Efunsetan Aniwura, Iyalode Ibadan and Olu Omo Tinuubu: Two Historical Plays (2006) and Adebayo Faleti’s Omo Olokun Esin (The Freedom Fight, 2010).