By Japhet Alakam
THE Umutu Cafe, located at Muritala Mohammed Airport 2 venue of the unveiling of a new book written by Chux Onyenyeonwu and in attendance were a select group of writers who came to see the creative work of art. Indeed, the powerful cover design, superb printing as well as the contents were so classic that many wondered whether it was the work of a first timer or not, but it was so.
The book entitled: “The Sixth Finger”a historical facts and complimenting dramatic fictional events is the reward of many years of intense research by Chux Onyenyeonwu. The unveiling of the 531 page book in Lagos last week marked the author’s debut in the literary world.
In the 98 chapter book, which is his very first attempt, Onyenyeonwu examines the Trans-Atlantic slave trade from an African perspective. It traces the life-changing journey of the slaves who, after being displaced from their homeland and separated from their families, were forced into a new life in Cuba and the Americas. Two centuries later a series of bizarre circumstances causes their descendants to cross paths in London. What will become of this strange meeting?
At the epic occasion, the author who linked the unveiling to that of the old proverbial expression of the chickens coming home to roost said that “The Sixth Finger that was sold into slavery with its head bowed in shame, today returns to its homeland with its head held high to haunt every vestige of evil in the land and the diaspora that has continued to enslave the helpless and innocents with impunity.”
Speaking on why it took him so long to come out, the author said he had to weave fact and fiction, history and speculation to recreate one of the most violent and volatile episodes in African history: The Trans-Atlantic slave trade. “in my desire to better the master wordsmiths that sculptured my writing skills, I painstakingly upped the bars to come up with a more difficult but plausible saga of a breed of people scattered in four continents with varied cultures.
It was one of the most difficult tasks and punishments, that I have ever inflicted on myself, sometimes I was tempted to just give up, and resort to simple and easy way out. But that was not part of my tutelage in the university life, which posits that the best prizes only come to those who go beyond the normal call of duty. With the finished work before our eyes, I am glad that I chose the more challenging terrain, to prove that The Sixth Finger, whether you believe it or not, is God in the affairs of men.” he added.
On what he wants to project through the book, the well travelled man of God said, “well the story like I said, don’t forget I’m a man of God in the first place. I have always wanted to agree that God is involved in every man’s life. There is no time or a particular period that God is not aware of what is happening. So there was a need to prove that even though there was slavery, that forced the blacks to be in America today, there was a kind of divine arrangement. It was like it happened by accident. So, I needed to sell that to people that in everything, God was part of it.”
On the target audience, he pointed out that it is for everybody, that is why it is international. It was written with international audience in mind and that is why when we have to produce, we have to go to the US where we can get the best technology. And we are looking at the youths today who are not aware of their past.
The author who said that he was indebted to Haley’s film, the Roots which he watched when he was small. “Well, I am mostly a reader, a veracious one and when I read Roots, there was a challenge. I was touched at how Kunta Kinte, the major character in the film refused to change his identity despite the suffering.
Major character in the film
On the title, he said, “One thing the writer must always do is to ensure that the title or the headline must be catchy, it must make someone ready to know the story behind the headline. So, when I started writing the book, there were so many titles available.
“Somewhere along the line, when the volume became heavy, the question was how are the books going to be identified over 200 years and in different places. I needed a kind of book that would be water tight. And that is how I arrived at the Sixth Fingers. The six fingers one would say, contains things that happened in these stories because, I had it in my family.”
In his view, “although the slave trade is over, the aftermath is still there. Blacks have not been fully integrated into their respective Diaspora societies whether in U.S., Cuba, Brazil and elsewhere. Blacks over there still have the mentality of slavery; they need to free themselves mentally too.”
Continuing, he said that the blacks in the Diaspora who have contributed immensely towards the deveoplment of the world economy are not accorded their rightful place as they are still put down in their host societies. Without black labour in the plantations, he also decried the modern-day slavery deployed by Americans in the guise of visa Lottery through which blacks enslave themselves anew by working menial jobs .