Aside from the great thematic and stylistic accomplishments of Okri’s “Stars of the New Curfew,” a particular quotation stood out to me. When the narrator could find no logical solution to ending his nightmares, he concluded, “Like all sensible and secretive Lagosians, I began to consult with herbalists and sorcerers” (95). This process of returning to one’s “roots,” specifically in the face of irresolvable issues, is one that we have seen repeatedly in the works we have read thus far.
In Half of a Yellow Sun, Olanna, who considers herself Christian, consults a dibia in order to bring Kainene back home. When Odenigbo points out the ridiculousness of what her actions, she responds, “I believe in everything. I believe in anything that will bring my sister home” (540). Despite the fact that Olunde abandoned his father as his heir in order to study medicine in Europe, he still sacrifices himself in the name of the ancestral tradition. This act proved to avoid calamity for his people, when Elesin’s will appeared to be too weak. Upon Okonkwo’s exile in Things Fall Apart, he must return to his mother’s kinsmen. His mother’s youngest brother, Uchendu, explained to Okonkwo, “When there is sorrow and bitterness he finds refuge in his motherland. Your mother is there to protect you” (134).
Now, what does this recurring theme tell us? In times of desperation, we seek all types of protection available. That’s simple enough. Going back to the Okri quote, those that return to old traditions and beliefs are “sensible and secretive.” After the process that the herbalist put our narrator through, including chewing a mixture of leaves and alligator pepper seeds and then having the pepper seeds thrown into his eyes, it was still a sensible thing to do. After all, it worked! Why is this something that must be a secretive process, if all revert to old traditions? Why must the traditional ways be a shamed path?