Down with ShakespeareBy Iquo B. Essien, The AFRican Blogger

Down with Shakespeare
By Iquo B. Essien, The AFRican Blogger

Published on Tue, Sep 04 2007 by Iquo Essien
Went to my sister's second baby shower, thrown by my cousin, in Boston on Saturday. Drove down with my very pregnant sis and brother-in-law from the Bronx on Saturday morning. I love Ibibio women. Loud, funny, boisterous, and beautiful. If y'all think I'm outspoken now, just wait till I get a coupla kids to my name. LOL

My three nieces and nephew, my cousin's kids, are so grown up now. The oldest is thirteen and i actually wore her buba to the baby shower because I didn't pack any nice clothes with me. I wore my thirteen-year-old niece's clothes! I don't know what that really means, if only to illustrate why folks have been asking lately if I'm still in school.

I think the reason why I'm their favorite aunty (LOL! at least I think so) is because I can remember being where they are now. The oldest is a COOL CHICK. Plays b-ball, and isn't afraid to be the only girl holdin' court with a bunch of dudes, all eyes on her. And she's got SKILLZ, though she is modest about it. (OK, maybe she's a little cooler than I was!)

She plays the piano and her walls are papered with inspirational quotes, some by famous people and others written by her, and pictures of her life that took me on a walk down memory lane. She wants to be a photographer and takes pretty good pictures for her age.

I saw a lot of myself in her. And, looking at her bookshelf, I realized what more I have to contribute. Growing up, I too did not have any books to read about girls like me making their way in the world. The aftereffects still make their way into adulthood.

At the wedding in Botswana, there were three separate references made to Shakespeare. I'm talking about grown Masuto and Tswana men calling on the inspiration of a long-dead white man. When the references were made, I looked around the room at other people's faces to see if anyone else felt the them a little absurd, but most were nodding their heads in tacit agreement. I figured I was the only one who felt like Shakespeare was full of hot air. You know what it is, it's not that he was full of it, but that he was more of a starving writer than a philosopher. I'm not quite sure why people worship him.

I, for one, am over it. I think we have thousands of Shakespeares on the continent waiting to be heard and I consider myself very lucky to be a part of a new generation of AFRican writers revising the way we see ourselves in the world. Here I am crying over a few rejection letters when there is real work to be done; I have to write for my nieces and my unborn nephew. I can't imagine how my life would be different if, from a young age, I found my story in the pages of a book. I might have felt empowered, capable of doing or being anything I wanted.

It is completely inappropriate to ask a child to abstract from Hamlet, Walden, or Huckleberry Finn to their own lives. To assume that they can go through this kind of indoctrination without ending up feeling completely self-alienated and ignorant of themselves and their stories. There are other terms I could use to describe it, ie, brainwashing and cultural genocide, but I'm getting off of my soapbox. All I have to say is: Down with Shakespeare.


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