Every now and then the world's attention is drawn to a strange figure in the world of arts, a figure who "doesn't belong", who has not paid the proper dues and hasn't struggled up through the usual channels. No, that person suddenly rockets into the artistic firmament, does things in a totally unconventional way, and is immediately pounced upon and torn apart by those who have studied, worked, and sweated, dreaming of brilliant success. I think of somebody like Grandma Moses, who didn't start to paint until she was 78 and never attended a single art class, didn't know about a single "artistic convention", yet became one of the most popular American artists ever. The critics rewarded her by calling her "primitive". Yeah, right. Then, there was Niko Pirosmanishvili, a Georgian painter, who died in obscure poverty in 1918, having painted startlingly original images on any material he could get his hands on. The title "primitive" was bestowed on him also. Right here in my home town we had J.O.J. Frost, who painted scenes of the Marblehead he'd known as a child and events in the town's history. He painted on odd boards and tried, unsuccessfully, to sell his works for a nickel or a dime. After he died, he was recognized as a true artist and today his works are in New York and Washington. You can't get hold of one for love or less than a huge amount of money. A primitive. Amos Tutuola is a member of this little band, an original, a genius, a man who had no training, but just wanted to tell a lot of stories. If he'd written them in Yoruba, his mother tongue, we would never have heard his name. He wrote them in English, an English suffused with the tones and twists of West Africa. And guess what. Some African critics even felt ashamed of Tutuola's work, as it was not modern or European enough for them. Too primitive, right ? That word again. OK, for sure he doesn't write as smoothly as Hemingway or Turgenev; his grammar and spelling may leave something to be desired. But for those people who have not read Tutuola---don't miss your chance. If you love a story, if you love color and imagination, if you could like tales full of witches, magic, devils, and strange towns, if you are not totally wedded to the literary conventions set down by the critics, by the English departments of the world, then read Tutuola. "The Palm Wine Drinkard", "My Life in the Bush of Ghosts", or FEATHER WOMAN OF THE JUNGLE---all are great.
Tutuola's stories certainly do have connections to local Nigerian myths, traditional stories told for centuries. I will leave structural analysis to those so inclined. Unless you are familiar with the myths, though, everything will seem new. It seemed to me as I read through the account of six fabulous journeys that Tutuola's imagination had been fired by the cinema, both American and Indian. When mixed with the Yoruba tales, you certainly do have a fantastic result. If you are only interested in conventional novels, probably you'd better skip this book, but if you like Grandma Moses, if you like works by anyone who just fires away regardless of what critics say, then you're going to love FEATHER WOMAN OF THE JUNGLE. Original. Imaginative. Outstanding.