Song, Drama, and Wit in Children of Koloko

 by Amanda Grants


children of Koloko marks out at initial reading as something of a childhood story of innocence. But it really isn’t. What we have are character types presented by the author through the central character, Yoyo, and other bohemian adjuncts of the central personage such as Dickie and Buff.

So we have three youngsters who are negotiating their passage into adulthood and are keenly aware of the deficiencies of their environment and themselves. These are therefore some kind of social critics but not in an aloof, self-righteous manner. They are both participants in a drama of social transition and psychological awareness. The result is a kind of growth. But while the society records  painfully slow imperviousness to change, the pace of psychological growth of the hero predictably outmatches all his contemporaries.

Yoyo is a kind of interrogator engaged in dialogue with society. He dilates quite understandably between outright rejection of the generation of his fathers and leaders such as Dogomutun and Fathead. In 'The News' we see him defending public ridicule of his society which the likes of the politician, chief Dogkiller, had visited them through his actions of ruining public resources.


Koloko is a dramatic short fiction in the sense of its spontaneity of progression via the impetus of dialogic discourse –a salient and unique quality in the writings of  Chin Ce as in ‘The Bottle’ (Masks 2001). This interaction of dialogue and songs serves to convey deep social entrenchments such as the public song at chief fathead’s house warming ceremony: ‘When we eat, when we drink/ Food, wine for family sport/ Let them see, let them hear/ This is better life for rural hunger.’


Fathead’s speech at this celebration reflects the false confidence tricks of the privileged elite class and the false logic of those who admire them and aspire to material accomplishments without the corollary of basic intellectual discernment. ‘Koloko mma mma o! I salute you all. Our elders say that gbata gbata is a language that has two faces. It might mean good, it might mean disaster.’ (88) In this drama of social and communal acquiescence, tradition is made culprit by Fathead’s use of local wisdom in two proverbs, one: -that ‘gbata gbata is a language that has two faces; it might mean good, it might mean disaster’ and two: ‘it is from the home front that all  training must take off…’ with the English equivalent of ‘charity begins at home…’ Of course these are mere cheap social rigmarole. The women folk who applaud him are unlike the modern enlightened liberated folks. We may later see some rising liberated assertions in the younger generation represented by Tina and her mother, but only briefly.


The Koloko women of Fathead’s generation, through their songs and dances, are active connivers in a degenerate social order. The second song betrays the degeneration of art for the mere purpose of personal or communal indulgence. To support Fathead’s self-dominant dialogue, the women improvise a song from an Anglican hymn. We are shown an admixture of spiritual irreverence from poorly synchronised traditional and Christian religious forms: ‘The millionaire cometh/ See the millionaire cometh…’(90) But in both cases, particularly the latter, are inversions of their intended meaning. With communal epithets and witticism, Fathead justifies extravagant lifestyles and social ceremony -actions that are the bane of real communal progress. The society applauds in another intent, as long as they are participants of the crumbs of the table. In their haste to satisfy their palate, even custom and restraint can be thrown overboard. 'Now how do we begin?' Maika the palm wine seller asked. 'A hungry man does not waste the time on proverbs when the real meal is before him. De Tom what do you say?' (90). In the social dramatic, cheap and vulgar wit interact freely.

'Hey be careful how you cut the meat… like you don't have any bone in your wrist. See…see that one.'


'Whose name does he bear?' someone followed.

'Don't you mind these young boys of the end age.'

'No manhood in between, and no bones.'

'It's too much mischief with the girls.'

'Ha! Ha! Ha! (91)


 The bane of a society is when it questions little of all thrown at it as long as its appetite is indulged. And this, the thrust of Ce’s narrative fiction, is the bane of the children of Koloko.