Okonkwo's A Spirit of Dialogue: Incarnations of Ogbanje
, the Born-to-Die, in African American Literature (Knoxville: U of Tennessee P, 2008) promises to expand our understanding of the intertextuality of Africanist traditions in African American literature.
Marking is indirectly related to another African phenomenon: the Yoruba abiku or Igbo ogbanje.
The novel Efuru provides an example of using names to signify and protect as a mother describes how, after giving birth to numerous ogbanje children, she births a daughter who lives: "I named her Ibiakwa--have you come again?
A spirit of dialogue; incarnations of Ogbanje, the born-to-die, in African American fiction.
The Igbo Ogbanje and Yoruba abiku are related traditional African images of part-human part-spirit children, who go through repeated births and deaths to the same mother.
As a matter of fact, the word ogbanje
is metaphorically used nowadays to refer to any behavior that reflects the same traits (Maduka 18; see also Ogunyemi for further discussion on the meaning of abiku and ogbanje
Tribe members believed some families were cursed with ogbanje
, or repeater children--babies who die in infancy and are then reborn to the same parents.
Because Onwumbiko is an ogbanje
(abiku in Yoruba), a spirit child who torments parents by dying soon after birth, Okagbue slashes the corpse, and, holding it by one foot, drags it into the forest for burial.
3) As Douglas McCabe demonstrates in his introduction to "Born-to-Die"--a recent study that explores the historicity and politics of ogbanje
and abiku in Nigerian letters--the autochthonicity and socio-literary imaginings of the belief have not remained impermeable to socio-historical, geographical, cultural, or discursive and literary practices and exchanges.
The Yoruba refer to the denizen, back from the chthonic region and born again, as abiku; the Igbo call the living icon ogbanje
Other critics relate the fleshly ghost to a West African figure, the ogbanje
, a demon/child who seeks to be born again and again, and is therefore marked by the mother so that it will be recognized on its return.
In discussing the character Beloved, Carole Boyce Davies writes of "the legendary abiku children of Yoruba cosmology or the ogbanje
in Igbo culture, who die and are reborn repeatedly to plague their mothers and are marked so that they can be identified when they return" (139).