"social problems of a somewhat mixed-up but dynamic, even brash, modernizing community"
June 4, 2008 7:59 PM   Subscribe

From the Bookstalls of a Nigerian Market. Onitsha Market Literature consists of stories, plays, advice and moral discourses published primarily in the 1960s by local presses in the lively market town of Onitsha [in then-newly-independent Nigeria]... In the fresh and vigorous genre of Onitsha Market Literature, the commoner wrote pulp fiction and didactic handbooks for those who perused the bookstalls of Onitsha Market, one of Africa’s largest trading centers. Examples: How To Write And Reply Letters For Marriage, Engagement Letters, Love Letters And How To Know A Girl To Marry, Learn To Speak 360 Interesting Proverbs And Know Your True Brother, Struggle For Money [All full-text links are in pdf format, and some are quite large]. With links to additional resources.
posted by amyms (25 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
Wow, cool.
posted by tkolar at 8:08 PM on June 4, 2008

What a great find, amyms!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 8:14 PM on June 4, 2008

posted by acro at 8:26 PM on June 4, 2008

This is great! I'm enjoying the African bachelor's guide and lady's guide.
posted by pravit at 8:27 PM on June 4, 2008

You cannot write to unknown girl asking for marriage.

You can. It just doesn't work as well.

...so I hear...
posted by pompomtom at 9:00 PM on June 4, 2008

Dear Sir/M,
I am Major Kahn. an Auditor of a BOOKSTORE OF THE NORTH INTERNATIONAL, ABUJA (FCT). I have the courage to Crave indulgence for this important business believing that you will never let me down either now or in the future. Some years ago, an American Publishing consultant/ contractor with the Nigeria National Publishing Corporation, brought a rare first editon pamphlet valued $12.USD (TWELVE US DOLLARS) in on account. On maturity, The bookstore sent a routine notification to his forwarding address but got no reply. After a month, The bookstore sent another reminder and finally his contract employers, the Nigerian National Publishing Corporation wrote to inform the bookstore that he died without MAKING A WILL, and all attempts by the American Embassy to trace his next of kin was fruitless. I therefore, made further investigation and discovered that the beneficiary was an immigrant from Jamaica and only recently obtained American citizenship. He did not declare any kin or relations in all his official documents, including his bookstore deposit paper work. This money total amount$12.USD ( TWELVE US DOLLARS)is still sitting in my bookstore as dormant Account. No one will ever come forward to claim it, and according to Nigerian Bookstore policy, after some years, the money will revert to the ownership of the Nigerian Government if the account owner is certified dead. This is the situation, and my proposal is that I am looking for a foreigner who will stand in as the next of kin to beneficiary, and OPEN a Bank Account abroad to facilitate the transfer of this money. This is simple, all you have to do is to OPEN an account anywhere in the world and send me its detail for me to arrange the proper money transfer paperwork, and facilitate the transfer. The money will then be paid into this Account for us to share in the ratio of 60% for me, 35 % for you and 5% for expenses that might come up during transfer process. There is no risk at all, and all the paper work for this transaction will be done by me using my position and connections in the bookstores in Nigeria. This business transaction is guaranteed. And the first phase of the transfer will be ($4.USD) FOUR DOLLARS as advised by our insider in the bookstore. If you are interested, please reply immediately through my personal email sending the following details: (1) Your Full Name/Address (2) Your Private Telephone/fax Number. Please observe the utmost confidentiality, and be rest assured that this transaction would be most profitable for both of us because I shall require your assistance to invest some of my share in your country. I look forward to your earliest reply.
Major Kahn
posted by Floydd at 10:15 PM on June 4, 2008

Good Day, I am very interested to import some of your Nigerian books for a client of mine. The Money Order/Cashier's check that i send to you would include the cost for shipping this item to my client and my commission would be included on the same Money Order/Cashier's check.We shall solely be responsible for the shippment of the item.This mean you are to get the check cash it immidiately deduct the BUY IT NOW of you item and transfer the ecxess funds to the shipping company via WESTERN UNION MONEY TRANSFER so that the shipping company can come to you house for the pick up of the item so you need not to worry about the shippment of the item okay. Kindly send you information such as NAME , ADDRESS ,CITY, STATE, PHONE to overnight the payment your address today asap. Thank you very Kindly Yours Sincerely Mr. Lou Stuells
posted by Lou Stuells at 10:17 PM on June 4, 2008

Brilliant post.
Does anyone know what 'four forty' is? In the 'Beware of Women' book this is written:
Question: Who is that lady running four forty?
Answer: She is my girl friend. She has eaten up my money and when she sees that I cannot maintain her again, she run four forty.

I googled up Four Forty but I'm none the wiser after watching it.
posted by tellurian at 10:17 PM on June 4, 2008

Floydd copy/pastes faster than me. :(
posted by Lou Stuells at 10:18 PM on June 4, 2008

Does anyone know what 'four forty' is?

This is just total speculation, but 440 meters is the distance of a track-and-field race, so maybe it means she's running far away? Or running fast?

Upon Googling, 440 is also a V-8 engine size, so that might fit in with my running theory.
posted by amyms at 10:39 PM on June 4, 2008

Well, the largely Nigerian based Email fraud scams (enticing gullible souls to start handing over their assets to con men) are often referred to as "419 Scams", named after an article of the Nigerian Criminal Code. I'm guessing 440 might be another law, related somehow, perhaps.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 10:46 PM on June 4, 2008

But these pamphlets were written in the 1960s, way before the Nigerian email scams became part of the cultural consciousness.
posted by amyms at 10:58 PM on June 4, 2008

I think you're right amyms. Nigerians in America board:
Originally Posted by Ngrdiplomat
Sholaoddy...most of them Olympics sports na "white man's sport." Pound for pound naija go sloter those oyinbo's for 'black man's sport." Tell me...how many oyinbos can run four-forty after molue and danfo? Na wetin be archery or baseball or some of those sime-sime sports sef?

lol! now I remember why i joined this board... do you know the last time i heard the expression "four-forty"? Abeg Ngrdiplomat take am easy..
posted by tellurian at 10:59 PM on June 4, 2008

What a charming post - thank you!
The 440 probably refers to 440 yards (a quarter mile) - the standard size for the track at most schools in the UK and Nigeria in those days. (Four laps to the mile)
posted by speug at 11:07 PM on June 4, 2008

I was wondering how many comments there would be before an email-scam joke cropped up. Congrats to Floydd at 4 comments.

You're a douche!
posted by delmoi at 11:31 PM on June 4, 2008 [2 favorites]

Yup, a quarter of a mile. speug has it.
posted by Wolof at 1:02 AM on June 5, 2008

But these pamphlets were written in the 1960s, way before the Nigerian email scams became part of the cultural consciousness.

posted by flapjax at midnite at 1:03 AM on June 5, 2008

I was wondering how many comments there would be before an email-scam joke cropped up.

Yes, it's kind of sad that the first thing you think of when hearing Nigeria is SCAM.
posted by sour cream at 1:24 AM on June 5, 2008

Yes, it's kind of sad that the first thing you think of when hearing Nigeria is SCAM.

Indeed. But right here at MeFi, aside from this excellent post from amyms, there's a taste of some of Nigeria's more positive offerings just a few doors down.

Also, Batá drum and dance of the Yoruba, Nigeria, West Africa.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 1:50 AM on June 5, 2008

This is extremely cool!

And meh, to all those people who only think of scams, and never bothered to learn about Nigeria's particularly great contributions to world culture through art and literature.

Onitsha Market literature is a predecessor to the works produced by Achebe, Soyinka, Cyprian Ekwensi, Christopher Okigbo, and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, who recently won the Orange Book Prize.
posted by honest knave at 2:58 AM on June 5, 2008

I agree with speug - this post is indeed charming - thanks, amyms!

When you say "Nigerians," my first thought is King Sunny Ade - a highly positive and joyous association.
posted by madamjujujive at 8:19 AM on June 5, 2008

Great post, and I second the scam-related "meh." (I think of both Okigbo and Sunny Ade!)
posted by languagehat at 9:53 AM on June 5, 2008

Ja Fumni
posted by vronsky at 1:31 PM on June 5, 2008

This book is a good compilation.
posted by pinothefrog at 3:42 PM on June 5, 2008

Not to derail, but the "Nigerians in America" forum linked above is pretty interesting. Particularly some posts/threads in the "Immigrant Life" subforum about what Nigerian-Americans think about 419 scammers ruining their country's reputation. Here's one good post:

MrsKenna no mind them jare. All na jealousy.Only a fool wakes up in the morning to call a guy Tarzan and by evening he is crying he has been cheated out of his savings by a latest high tech means by the same guy who was thought to be hopping from tree to tree!
posted by DecemberBoy at 3:05 AM on June 6, 2008

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