Kasali's Africa introduces us to Kasali Adebayor, a wealthy farmer in Akure. The Yoruba say the farmer is king and Kasali is king of the farmers. He has five wives, many children, a large farm, and a reputation that proceeds himself. Kasali's success as a farmer leads to his appointment to head of the State Farmers' Union. Political upheaval and the unexpected fame that comes with his appointment are just the beginning of the issues that will change Kasali's life forever. His refusal to conform and his abrasive personality leads to him becoming a caricature in the media.
Kasali, a Yoruba man, is not easily moved by political promises. He openly criticizes those in power as well as those vying for it. It's this quality that brings the press to his doorstep and keeps his name in the papers.
All of the unwanted attention causes strain on Kasali's way of life as many rise up against his culture and traditions.
When we first meet Kasali he is in a dispute about a dog. This initial chapter presents a lot about Kasali's personality. We find out that firstly, he is feared and respected in Akure. Secondly, that he has a propensity towards violence when angered. And most importantly that he is as stubborn as an ox. Unfortunately, Kasali's stubbornness eventually leads to heartbreak and disaster.
In all honesty, I like Kasali. He may come off as a dirty old man (and I mean that in every sense of the phrase) but something about him also seems wise.
While I liked Kasali and for the most part enjoyed the story, some of it just didn't work for me. Kasali's Africa is presenting a lot of large themes at once and sometimes it just gets a little muddled. Politics, religion, sexism, feminism, teen pregnancy, and death are all controversial topics addressed throughout the narrative. I was often as disgusted by Kasali as I was entertained by him (that is actually a good thing). The sexism just drips off the page sometimes. Kasali's 'alleged' treatment of his wives is a cause for protest in the book. His home life doesn't seem as bad as it is painted in the media, but there are definitely still some issues there.
The entire Adebayor family live in a large home on their farm. Kasali's wives and all of his children over the age of 6 work the farm with him daily. Kasali isn't the type of man you say no to, so this set up comes off a lot like slavery and illegal child labor to the world around him.
As a homeschooler, I was excited to find out that Kasali took responsibility for his children's education at home. That quickly changed when I realized he preferred to keep his children (especially the girls) AWAY from books.
Kasali is obviously sexist and a womanizer. Often using his wealth to bend women to his will and sometimes against their own. Watching him chase women and interact with his five wives was a bit disturbing. Feyisano Anjorin gives mixed messages as to what the arrangement is between Kasali and his wives concerning extramarital affairs. In one chapter he seems to be lying and hiding, while in another his wives openly discuss it with him.
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One Tough Cookie
Kasali's Africa uses a war-torn, military-ruled Nigeria as the setting for Kasali's story. You would think one would have to be strong to survive under those circumstances, and you would probably be right. It's easy to blur the lines between strength and cruelty though and sometimes I wasn't certain which one Kasali was. His daughter Bisola was stranded in the middle of a chaotic and murderous Liberia due to Kasali's harsh treatment of her. He forced his wives into the fields after the death of children and loved ones alike. His children fear him and locals respect him. Kasali's brash and often offensive nature gets him a literal message from Gahd (God) himself at one point.
All In All
The blurb for Kasali's Africa may lead you to believe it's a continuous story. It is not. It's more of a pish posh of different literary styles. Interviews, poetry, and prose all work together to paint the full story of Kasali Adebayor. Kasali's Africa has amazing potential but it fell just short of being fully realized. The last story or two seems to have been thrown in, in an effort to tie it all together. The story dragged on and then plowed by. The abrupt ending was quite the surprise.
I did enjoy the cultural aspects Anjorin worked into Kasali's Africa. I even rehearsed the non-English parts a time or two (or every time they spoke another language, don't judge me) just to see how it *may* sound out loud. Feyisayo Anjorin was also kind enough to respond to a translation question I had (apparently you can't google everything).
Overall, I did enjoy Kasali's Africa and I think you should give it a chance as well. Order your copy today and let me know what you think.