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Talking about filmography, IRIS: The Movie, a South Korean espionage television drama (2010) still comes first, in my list of grand movies. For a reason which was rather obvious or common to most Nigerians even, my sister never really fancied the drama because of the conclusion.

A work of art (movie or book) is only considered “standard” in the Nigerian context, when there is a happy ending. The hero must survive, reunite with his allies, enjoy while the villain must pay for his crimes, wallow in shame, die or run mad.

Art is supposed to mirror an original environment and the actual realities of the people, therein. My country men gets excited whenever a villain in a work of art drops dead but if only they could be honest for a moment, the reality around them will dawn on them.

The reality that karma only exists in work of arts and the actual world is extremely far from a ‘tit for tat’ system. Few gets punished, many tends to escape justice without much stress. The villains don’t get to die that much, the heroes actually gets buried rapidly.

In Tamọtiye, Ọláolúwafimíhàn Susan Bakre is not putting on any mask. Bakre is absolutely real, she brings to us “familiar, sad endings”. It takes being confidently real to tell so many stories of abuse and exploitation in a book yet let the villains go scot-free, even without cutting the chain of abuse, still.

Asides from the fact that she narrated several realtime stories that could serve as individual books, her writing ability was so gripping that no reader could easily close off the page, halfway. Bakre’s storytelling ability is beyond riveting, her character development and how every single persona links up to set up climax in the book is mind-blowing.

Again, Bakre proved wrong the notion that ‘skeletons only exists in the wardrobes of the rich’. In Tamọtiye, there are so many skeletons and the class of hierarchy is not spared, on any grounds. Everyone can go lower but just like the character ‘Dabiri’ in Tamọtiye, most people will prefer not to.

To search for justice seems to demand from the one searching to be equally free of dents. In Tamọtiye, Bakre reveals to us how impossible it is for a pot to cancel out a kettle, on the argument of tone color.

In Tamọtiye, Susan Bakre hinges on parasitic relationships, devoid of class. There’s a thorough shattering of the theory which connotes that abuse outsources itself mostly from the top class people with those at the bottom class as the preys and receivers. Susan Bakre brings to fore newer, unpopular truths that the concept of power and class is extremely relative. From the lots in the religious house predating upon the members, a randy doctor predating upon his patient, a dreamer from the trenches predating upon a moneybag and even more annoying, clients predating upon sellers (Bibilari and Ebuka); there is a realisation that everyone possesses the power to manipulate once they are in possession of a material (abstract or not), that is not so evenly distributed. Intimate affairs built upon a bedrock of power imbalance is always unjust, predatory and as it’s portrayed in Tamọtiye, eventually chaotic.

My immersion into each characters’ world and their differently similar plights has led me into having an earworm of “Brymo’s We All Need Something (2012)”. The parasitic nature of the characters seems to make them ignore the fact that they are actually victims in their own stories. It seems as though everything does not really count, provided their needs are met. Besides, even the most ridiculous bottom class individual you can think of seems to be overly protective of something, also — isn’t that obvious in how Bibilari could not unshackle herself from the cobwebs of abuse, solely because she needs to protect her family interests and name?

The cobwebs of abuse in Tamọtiye are so expertly knitted that for every attempt to escape abuse, the abused falls into a deeper mud marsh of abuse. While Omobonike struggles on close length with the new era “breakfast”, Bibilari represents the truth that sexual harassment can equally be meted out to sex workers.

Characters like Barrister Tosin is a reflection of the average Nigerian patriarch. Questions like “ashawo dey report rape case?” is an intense glimpse of distasteful comments that hops right from the public domain to Twitter streets. I’m particularly pleased that Susan Bakre enforces a needed notion — that sex workers engage in transactional sex does not makes it devoid of consent.

Best described as a wild language loop, Susan Bakre shows mastery in not just English language but harvests a crop of inferences from Yorúbá language, Pidgin language and even the “Nigerian(ized)” accent mixed lingua. The choice of diction and verbal gradation of each character seems to perfectly the setting therein (primitive or not), even before a prim proper introduction by the narrator.

Susan Bakre slips into more than one skin in Tamọtiye, taking her audience to a super high range compared to her last two collections of poetry – “About 21 and Lámèyítọ́”. Bakre’s growth is quite intense and she does not leave her audience behind, for every of these phases. This must be obvious enough in her annual ritual to drop a work of art, on her birth date. It is important to note that Susan Bakre, through her new book “Tamọtiye”, does not emerge as a “man hater”, at all. Instead, I perceive a lady, enraged with almost everyone around her and dishing out each person’s inactions without holding even a single emotion in. With a writing technique that is quite sleek for such intense conversations, Bakre leaves her audience in a pool of uncertainty at the very last page of the book. Uncertainty of whether the book has a sequel or if the chain of trauma is meant to extend, non stop.

Perhaps, the only message that was not so loudly pronounced yet was actually resonant enough for keen readers is the fact that the case of undiscovered paternity fraud in most homes are way too rampant, compared to the ones discovered. When next you call someone a bastard out of rage, be sure to check twice. That person might actually be a bastard, somehow somewhere. But oh well, Susan Bakre demystified the mystery already — not all secrets are meant to be told. Not just in Tamọtiye but this expanse of a city, not all secrets are meant to be told. Tamọtiye itself is a well hidden, compact secret well kept in less than two hundred pages, only meant to be uncovered by keen folks who recognises the value of uncommon artistry.

—Yusuf Alabi Balogun, regarded by many as Aremo Gemini, is a performance poet, cultural curator, social commentator and critic per excellence. He can be reached via his social media handles @aremogemini

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