Redreaming ways of seeing: Ben Okri’s intuitive creativity
Drawing on A Way of Being Free (1997) and A Time for New Dreams (2011) among other Okrian texts, this article is a discussion of the notion of redreaming ways of seeing through intuitive creativity. The argument is divided into three parts: the role of intuitive creativity; redreaming ways of seeing in The Landscapes Within (1981); and intuition or “the landscapes within”. The deployment of John Berger’s Ways of Seeing and Roland Barthes’s Image, Music, Text posits an Afro-Western worldview in which the title of Okri’s second novel effectively becomes a simulacrum for the lead character’s psyche that supplants character per se, so that the “landscapes within”—the psyche—becomes the eponymous hero of the tale. The contention is that the complex inner workings of the mind of the artist-protagonist, Omovo, is both the signifier and the signified. This is supported by analyses of an Okri poem and extracts from the novel. I argue that, in contrast to its inter-art variants, René Magritte’s 1935 Le faux miroir and La clef des songes, the novel invokes a neo-Platonic/Coleridgean concept of the “enlightening” eye as a correlative of Okri’s notion of the inward visionary quest of the dreaming “soul” “opening towards infinity”. The article concludes by briefly justifying the article’s claim that, in this novel, art deals with inner reality, with “the landscapes within”.
Keywords: dreaming soul, intuitive creativity, Ben Okri, psyche, The Landscapes Within