An Orchestra of Minorities is one book I was really happy to finish. It was just too sad for comfort but regardless, very enlightening. It didn’t make me cry out but it evoked a lot of feelings within me that made my mood low. After reading two of Chigozie Obioma’s books, I can confidently say that he is really a deep thinker and his books evoke deep thought. In this book centered around Igbo traditional beliefs (ọ̀dị̀nànị̀) and cosmology, he explores areas we ordinarily wouldn’t bother thinking about with creative ingenuity.
An Orchestra of Minorities is a story that explores Igbo mythology and presents it in a manner which makes it relatable to our present lives. Chinonso is a young poultry farmer who saves a woman, Ndali from committing suicide. That one incident draws them together in a bond that grows quickly from friendship into a love so strong that each can defy anything that would prevent them from being together. Chinonso finds out that he is not the right match for Ndali who comes from a wealthy family. The knowledge is engrained into him in the most humiliating manner, driving him to seek to bridge the gaping hole only education can fill. He leaves for Cyprus after selling all his possessions, to improve himself for Ndali’s sake unaware of what fate had in store of him. A chain of terrible misfortunes occur from then on, driving him farther away from Ndali. He becomes a broken man blinded by a meld of love, anger and hatred which an unfair world has forced him swallow.
Chigozie delivers this heart wrenching story in a very unique way. Chinonso’s story is narrated by his Chi who in Igbo mythology is a person’s guardian spirit. The narrative is engaging and a page turner with bits of humour here and there. It was fascinating to understand certain things about Igbo traditions which have been shrouded in mystery or just not explored because it might be unorthodox. Whereas, there’s so much similarity between our traditional and modern beliefs. Through the wisdom exuded by Chinonso’s Chi, a window into the author’s mind is thrown open. He analyses the actions of man in several situations, exploring motives and rationalizing eventual decisions. The concept of God, free will and conscience is so vividly explained. At some point, the story felt partly like a rendition on the essence of man. The Chi’s discourse also addressed the pertinent changes colonialism created in our culture, highlighting both the positives and negatives.
An Orchestra of Minorities was a well-researched piece of fiction which I would have enjoyed if it wasn’t so tragic. I’ve said before in my review of The Fishermen that Chigozie reminds me of Ted Dekker because of his mastery of creative word play. I had a lot to take home on sentence structure and how to convey a message in the most creative way possible. Such things excite me and it’s a wonderful gift for a writer to have. It makes writing beautiful. I paid attention to his descriptions because that’s one area I need constant grooming on. His descriptions were vivid and perfect. There was a beautiful description of Alandiichie, which is like the spirit world or heaven as the case may be. It left me reeling with awe.
There were many new words to learn. You can’t read Chigozie’s book and not see many strange new words except you are the dictionary itself. It got a bit burdensome to check for their meanings. So, I had to pinch myself anytime I wanted to skip checking. I have to admit I skipped some because I just wasn’t bothered about their meaning. Does this happen to anyone?
It’s a good read for anyone who cares to understand Igbo traditions as long as you can stand the sorrow the story may cause you. I was tempted to quit reading it but I forged on after necessary breaks to restore my mood. So you can read it too. It will definitely be worth your while. If not for anything, read it to expand your knowledge.
If you’ve read An Orchestra of Minorities, share your thoughts with me in the comments section. What are your thoughts on Chi or guardian spirits? I actually believe we have guardian angels and I pray to them for guidance. Do you understand how love can turn into hatred? It’s mind boggling. Let’s chat on all these!