My Most Memorable Book... Sharing Experiences


 

                                                     

                                               Animal Farm by George Orwell

          

Jimoh, Ganiyu  a.k.a Jimga is an artist/scholar. He holds a B.A Graphic Design and M.A Art History from the University of Lagos. Jimga is a protest artist who uses the tool of cartoon and installation art as a conduit of campaigning against the injustices in the society. He won NUC award in 2010 in arts and humanities. He is currently a Graduate Fellow in the Department of Creative Arts , University of Lagos where he teaches and studies as a Ph.D. research candidate.

JIMGA
  


Going back the memory lane, I will be forever grateful to George Orwell for the book ‘Animal Farm’.

I read this book when I was in JSS one, some twenty years back. A very long time indeed, but the memory still remains fresh as its influence on me is so enormous that it has become part of me, part of my philosophy and ideology.

The novel is about the animal rebellion against human domination. After the death of their leader who actually saw the dream of animals uniting together in a free world, the rest were able to carry out the revolution and got their freedom from their autocratic boss Mr Jones. Before long, greed sets in and the ruling class, the pigs started the government of domination, marginalisation and oppression. These eventually culminated into the collapse of the ideology of their ‘Martin Luther King Jr’ Old Major who had the dream of a United States of Animals called Animal Farm. The ultimate pun in the book is that the ruling class, ‘the pigs’ headed by Napoleon refined themselves to the level that the oppressed members of the Animal kingdom like the Donkey, Sheep, Hen etc. couldn’t differentiate between the pigs, their kind who were  ruling them and the humans, their colonial masters.

As I wrote earlier, I read the book when I was very young and my imagination was inconceivably innocent which made me enjoy the book better. Being someone that is artistically inclined, I usually visualise all the narratives in my mind and it did not take long for me to be nurturing the idea that the kingdom actually existed somewhere on this earth. ‘Funny as this may sound, I started treating animals in my neighbourhood with respect believing that one day they might revolt against the status-quo and at least they would remember how I treated them and be nice to me. I could remember that I was actually rearing two rat babies, which were originally swept out of our store to die in the dustbin under harsh sun. They ran away after two weeks of caring for them anyway.

The greater influence that later moulded my philosophy about life, and serves as a stimulus in shaping  my consciousness about socio-political realities came when I met my Sister’s hubby, a University of Ibadan student then. We discussed the book and he made me understand that the book was actually a fiction and a satire of the then communist Soviet Union. I was so amazed at the narrative prowess of George Orwell. His appropriation of different characters in pre-World War II Soviet Union:  Old Major as an allegory of Karl Marx, Napoleon as Joseph Stalin and so on. All these narrative instruments inspired my artistic and philosophical creed and I started asking questions about some things I understood to be unjust in my neighbourhood. The time coincided with the June 12, 1993 election period in Nigeria. Almost everybody who is reading this article will agree with me that the period witnessed a lot of inequalities in socio-political equation. The book launched me into the rebellious art of criticism and visual satire so intense that I drew a funny caricature of General Abacha as the Napoleon and M.K.O Abiola as the Snowball that was banished by the dictatorial act of the former. I wish I could lay my hands on those drawings today, it could fetch me a laurel…never the less the legacy continues and actual won me award last year for my art of political criticism. I owe all these to that small light kindled by the spark generated in my imagination by Gorge Orwell’s Animal Farm published in 1945. I love that book!