By Ima Myers (April 17th 2006)
"...Interwoven with the political undertones of the book, is the passion and determination of Kailou, the reincarnate, who struggles to be different from Kailou the hunter/wizard. This drives him to overcome the multiple ordeals he faced; ranging from the death of his guardian, to the onset of the Liberian civil war, to the culture shock he met in the United States...”
In Thomas Kai Toteh's book, African Child from Wizard to Refugee, he brilliantly recounts his experiences in Liberia by weaving together several themes, including; the rural/urban dichotomy present in virtually all African societies, the ever present clash between what Toteh terms as the “civilized” way of life vs. indigenous African customs, the roots of political anarchy in Liberia, the misfortune of children who fall through the cracks in Liberia and the power of determination.
In Toteh’s accounts of growing up in rural Liberia, the reader is quickly confronted with enchanting stories of mysticism, mythology, magic and “African Science”. Toteh paints this picture of rural Liberian society through his retelling of the mysterious circumstances surrounding the death of the hunter/wizard Kailou and his eventual reincarnation, which is enshrouded in mystery.
Kailou the hunter/wizard and Kailou the reincarnate become vehicles to contrast the practitioners of African traditional customs vs. those who have adopted the “civilized” way of life by living in the “big city”, learning “civilized things” and becoming “devoted Christians”; thus, abandoning the indigenous African customs and traditions. Underneath this all, is Alfred, who serves to remind the reader that African traditions and religions are not all negative, and could be put to positive use, as opposed to being abandoned.
Contemplation of the roots of the events leading up to the Liberian civil war are featured through the book; including accounts about the dealings of some of the Liberians who joined the “Mason” fraternity organization, the neglect of social structure and infrastructure, the rise of ethnic conflict during the Doe years and the dawn of anarchy in Liberia.
Interwoven with the political undertones of the book, is the passion and determination of Kailou, the reincarnate, who struggles to be different from Kailou the hunter/wizard. This drives him to overcome the multiple ordeals he faced; ranging from the death of his guardian, to the onset of the Liberian civil war, to the culture shock he met in the United States.
On the whole, African Child from Wizard to Refugee, is a refreshing tale of the triumph of the human spirit, interwoven with the many political and social realities in Liberia.
The excellent readability of the book along with its resonating themes makes it a “hard-to-put-down” book and an unforgettable read.
Ima Myers currently works as a Research Analyst in Ottawa, Canada. Mrs. Myers is also the Vice president of DOVAfrica, a capacity building NGO.