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The place of Urhobo folklore in Tanure Ojaide’s poetry
While some notable studies have been done on Tanure Ojaide and his coevals on their “Alter/Native” tradition of modern African poetry that gained inspiration from indigenous African oral literature and folklore, there has been no focused study on the place of folklore in his writing, especially his poetry. Ojaide’s writing is deeply steeped in Urhobo folklore, which his upbringing and later study and research in Udje have brought about. Though this is not an essentialist reading of his work, I intend to use his specific cultural background to do a reading of his poetry in order to show the depth, breadth, and complexity of his themes and the sophistication of his art, all of which are infused with his native Urhobo folklore. From legendary personages such as Ogiso, Arhuaran, Aminogbe, Ayayughe, Ogidigbo through the fauna and flora of the iroko, akpobrisi, uwara, eyareya, to the incorporation of folk songs and modelling of poems on the udje genre, Ojaide uses orature to establish a cultural identity and a common humanity for his work. Through local folklore and a style borrowed from the oral tradition he deploys folkloric resources as style and form to advance his themes. My study thus illuminates the deep meaning of the writer’s thoughts and the effective use of oral poetic performance style. This conscious effort of the writer appears to have yielded poetic dividends in the relevance of his work and the literary reputation he has gained through his consistency despite innovations now and then.
Keywords: cultural identity, Tanure Ojaide, oral tradition, Urhobo folklore.