The African Struggle for Opportunities & Survival

Review of Blackass by Igoni A.Barrett


By ‘Dimeji Ogunranti.

Barrett’s novel tells a story about the struggle a black African faces in order to become a man. The hero, Tegoni, is a job seeker who whose lack of employment makes him a burden to the family. He becomes disillusioned with himself, the government and life in general. One morning, he wakes up tho to strange realization that he has Transformed into a white man. He begins to navigate the world not as a qualified young Nigerian but instead as a white man. The whiteness gives him some privileges and resources and with them, he decides to escape the the country.



 Tegoni, is a representation of the millions of qualified job-seeking school-leavers that are unemployed and are having their efforts frustrated by the suffocating environment. After his transformation, Tegoni realizes how all one needs in the unrelenting concrete jungle is of Lagos is privilege. The sort of advantages are various and unique like being white, male, female, rich or in a government position. As a former black man, Tegoni realizes the new perks of his skin color and how easy it is to scale up the social ladder whilst being white. He quickly morphs into the role of a ‘white man’ and his street smart and good judgment helps him to maneuver his way through tough tests. Because his blackness was a burden, he seamlessly moves on and adopts the new-found skin  complexion. He renounces his his blackness and everything that links him to his previous life like his name and family. The brings to mind the Darwinist theory of survival of the fittest to mind. In this scenario and unlike the stereotype of the African, the fittest is not the one who is physically strong. Here the fittest is the one who has the most application of wisdom. And true to the modern reality that has seen a steady increase in number of African intellectuals; brains outweigh brawn. That is a powerful reminder that the African youth are strong and ready to work and are also ready to renounce their home explore the diaspora and it’s opportunities if it is willing to let them reach their maximum potential. The story and the fact that Tegoni grows to be a great worker who easily adapts to his role and becomes a wake up call to other Africans who are standing in the way of the progress of other young Africans that at the end of the day, African youths are competent and are ready to work as long as the environment is conducive.

Lastly the biggest propellant for Tegoni is his family. He sees both parents as a lesson. His mother as a source of positive lessons about success, his father, a lesson on what to avoid and his sister an external conscience that constantly pushes him to reach for higher standards. When Tegoni assumes that separation is a means of pushing himself to greater heights, he constantly feels incomplete and his life  becomes a distorted internal conflict. At the end of the story, he reunites with his family and reaches an emotional balance and truly his life begins to appear like it is approaching completeness.

Barrett’s novel, a tribute to Franz Kafka’s Metamorphosis, is a beautiful and realistic representation of the African experience. It it written in easy to understand Nigerian English. It incorporates the everyday aspects of the Nigerian life like internet, transportation and food in it. It is an accurate representation of of the Nigerian experience. Barrett’s witty and descriptive storytelling keeps one flipping the pages.

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