Kole Ade- Odutola
PH.D., RUTGERS UNIVERSITY, NEW JERSEY
AREAS OF INTEREST
Yoruba language and culture, media studies and participatory use of video.
Kole Ade-Odutola is a Nigerian Yoruba poet, photographer, and academic. He has published several books of poetry, including The Poet Bled and The Poet Fled. He was critical in the founding of the Coalition of Nigerian Artists (CONA), that advocates the Nigerian government for better visibility of the arts. He has participated in various events pushing for greater rights and access to the arts and free speech in Nigeria.
Odutola received his Bachelor of Science in Botany in 1984 from the University of Benin, in 1998, his Master’s Degree in TV/Video from the University of Reading, and his Doctorate of Philosophy in Media Studies in Media from Ithaca College in 2010. He has worked as a lecturer at Rutgers University and now teaches language and cultures at the University of Florida, which he has done since 2006.
Odutola has made various speeches, lectures, and presentations regarding Nollywood, literature and poetry and mass media in Nigeria at various national and international conferences and events.
Shopping for signs: What the eyes see by Kole Ade-Odutola
July 4, 2022
IT was in the early 80s that a certain Afolabi Adesanya, fresh from the United States of America, arrived the media terrain armed with cinematic and photographic knowledge. He went around Lagos and environs taking photographs of signs written in localised English. The sign writers produced the words the way the words sounded to their native ears. Those were the days when road side shops sold “meat pile” and Fuckanizers helped mend tyres.
The Column then was aptly labeled as Sign-Righting.
Now, fast forward to 2022, the attraction to reading signs on shop windows in Europe has returned but with a different objective. What, for instance, is the significance of humorously naming a fashion store in Vienna as fat face? However close to the Victoria Coach Station a restaurant is named Happy Faceand it goes on to share an excerpt from a Guardian (UK) columnist, Grace Dent.
As you well know, the meaning of a word in one culture is bound to have a very different meaning in another. Take the case of Ole & Steen as a name of a store in Lagos. The question will be who is the thief? The owner or the potential buyer?
Photo: Odutola in the train in Vienna. Photo: Ulrike Meinecke
TO console myself I tell all those who care to listen that I am like the (the child who never listens to counsel) who decides that to see the play and display of masquerades he must not remain on the same spot but to keep the dialogue between his sole and the road ongoing.
Why I forget that masquerades and pain are twins still beats me today.
I started this ‘oju mi to’ trip from Stockholm, Sweden and later proceeded to Germany with less pain or anything to report. I saw the Swedish dancing masquerades in the form of well laid out cities and waterfronts. Just like that child, I went into places I was not invited. I participated in ongoing discussions I thought were up my street. I even gatecrashed into a bell ringing solemn ceremony by those who want peace in the world. The simple but symbolic 2022 World Leader Summit of Love and Peace took place in Stockholm, Sweden. (Friday, June 3, 2022. Stockholm+50 and 2022 World Leader Summit of Love and Peace).
At every poking of my nose, my bank account suffered. I left Stockholm and moved to Germany for four days without any incidents. The flights arrived on time and like orun a tan Omo soko, I was encouraged to buy other tickets as if flying was going out of fashion.
Did our people not say the three stone stove gives the cooking pot its desired stability? The journey to Vienna almost made a lie of that age-old observation. Even those who think, “third time lucky” will need a re-think if they give this piece a chance to develop its wings. I should have ordered for ewe agbeje(that mythical leaf that makes you stay still). Instead of enjoying the company of my aged mother in the UK; I heard that an Adire festival was taking place in Vienna, Austria and my itching legs left my brains behind. How could my ears pick up sounds of a trip to the ancestral land of Susanne Wenger, MFR (the late Adunni Olorisha) and not jump? I did and my butt has a long story to tell. I am here in Spain (Palma de Mallorca) reflecting on my misadventures if I may call it so myself. All those who attended the carnival are back at their duty posts but I am buying one ticket after the other.
So how did my ordeal start?
…A trouble foretold
I WENT online like most modern day shoestring travelers, to shop for the most cost effective ticket. I thought I got a good deal from a relatively unknown Wizz.com.Why did I not suspect when the out- bound trip from Gatwick Airport which was delayed for over two hours and as you know one mishap soon gives birth to many more and plans started to fall out of place. Ms Ulrike who agreed to meet me on arrival almost gave up. Thank God, she did not. We made it to the Airbnb she helped me secure and I settled in fast. Once settled in, it did not take long before I located where to buy a few things for an emergency meal. Among all I bought, the bag of onions on sale could last me for a month if I were to remain that long in Vienna. You know when the almighty accompanies you on a journey everything (or almost all) works like parts of a well-oiled clock.
It was not all gloom & doom because the Friday before the city parade proper, I was sure the organizers would have an event, so I insisted that Ms. Ulrike showed me the Wiet Museum on a day the deity of Sunshine opened all her windows. We were both sweating like laborers enjoying a hot spicy meal. She was right and I was wrong. Nothing was happening at the museum. Instead of accepting my error; I insisted we should cross check at the Nigerian Embassy in Vienna. As expected, no useful information came from our long walk to the place! By now, there was no face saving for me, home was the destination of an adventurer and to the abode of Ms. Ulrike we headed. No one needed to tell me that I just found a guiding angel by the name of Ulrike.
She had not properly adjusted to the lights in her apartment when a call came from ever-lively Mr. Ademola. He was the one who informed us that a reception party was underway and that the invitation was open. To make it double sure he sent pictures of bags, clothes, aprons made from Adire on display to Ms. Ulrike’s cell phone. The images decided for us that the Presbyterian Church by the UNO building was the happening place. Since my 8 Euros (24-hour ticket) was still valid, there was no debate or long talk…. to the place we went and on seat were elders who left Nigeria in the 70s and have now made Austria their new home. Their faces without words told stories and the frequency by which the bottled got empty told me age blunts the sting of alcohol.
…All good things must end
If all good things must have an end, the Adire festival registered well on my mind and set me thinking what 2023 has in store for residents and visitors of this city of performing arts. The star of the night was a certain Ms. Amina; she served guests and members of the association food & drinks with a trade mark smile that cannot be faked. That usual Nigerian long drawn face seen at parties was totally absent, at every moment she radiated pure joy. Please give it up for Ms. Amina wherever she may be this day!
It was part of the plan that I would spend the Sunday, looking around Vienna. It was another sunny day and to the concert venue, we went.
Now forget everything and come along with me to Monday, the day of my checking out of the Airbnb. Again, everything including buying my ticket went well. I arrived the airport in very good time for my 5:00 PM flight back to London. Let me not draw the matter long, the plane developed a major fault before takeoff and all the 154 passengers were returned to where we boarded.
The moment we entered the terminal, Wizz Air staff melted into thin air never to be seen throughout our ordeal. A piece of paper with an address was what we were given by staffers of the airport authority of Vienna. It only directed us to Hotel Rainers on Gudrunstasse in district 10. About 50 other passengers took different forms of transportation to the fairly rated Hotel. On arrival, the lone worker at the reception confessed that no bookings had been made and that we were all on our own. The frantic call he made not withstanding we were not allowed into rooms until very late. I was the last man standing.
At about 3:00am I was finally allowed into room 217 to rest my head for a few hours. As it is the tradition in Hotels, I had to vacate the room by 12 noon. The $82 charged for this short stay was yet to be paid because my local Bank in Florida was protecting me. Who says traveling is not sweet. At this point, should I not be asking for prayers?
…The reign of pains
TO bring this sweet-sour narrative to a close I bought a new ticket for 250 British pounds so I could travel on Tuesday, June 27th 2022. The itinerary was awkward but who cares. I was to take a two-hour flight from Vienna, Austria to Palma de Mallorca (in Spain). That I got on that plane is the stuff miracles are made of.
The idea was to connect an EasyJet flight to Luton. That did not happen. I am still here at the deserted Spanish Airport waiting for a flight to Gatwick at 7:00 AM on Wednesday. To make this happen another 160 Euros had to flow from my bank account to Easyjet’s account. If you have lost count of how much I have wasted so far, just keep repeating the Nigerian lingo, “who send you market”
As I compose this agonizing narrative the phrase Eddie Iroh (formerly of the Guardian newspapers) used years ago keeps coming to my mind, “this is the life of a poor reporter” he would always add to reports he sent home to The Guardian on Sunday from his European base.
I am not a poor reporter but a travel writer who enjoys pouring his heart on screens for others to read. I hope the pain and the cost would not be lost on those too busy to read the lines and in-between the lines as well. Let us meet again during my next trip as you repeat that lingo “who send you market”