Atunbiby Kunle Adewale, Arts in Medicine Projects, 230 pages, Autobiography, 2020
Atunbi is a Yoruba word loosely translated as ‘’The Re-birth’’. The re-birth of what, one may ask? Another rhetorical question that readily comes to mind is: How can a 40-year-old be re-born? The literal meaning of the title of the book is one hanging on the premise of both biological and physiological inferences. Biological, when one considers the impossibility of a man entering his mother’s womb to be borne forth a second time. Psychological, when you consider empathising with the writer as he trod the slippery ground of apparent failures both from internal and external factors. On one hand, the title evokes thought of introspective claims from the eye of the writer. On the other, it shadows within the pages of the book – the moral fabric existent in an African home towards the end of the 20th century.
The author explores the rich possibility of the title Atunbi with sub-themes such as ‘’Grit, Guts and Glory’’, sufficiently expounded in the narrative. Filled with humour and tension, the storytelling ability of the writer is never in doubt. It creates an impression that the book is not just an acid test of Adewale’s writing acuity but a tale that speaks from the mind. All through the book, the writer leaves an imprint of undying vim in the face of oddities with evident fluid prose and insightful interpretations.
Atunbi creates a relatable tale, one that is commonest with people from the lowest of backgrounds such as the writer. In the book, the young Kunle is born into a polygamous family having to share space with 13 other siblings; his mother and her rival with the head of the Adewale family stead – his father. He grows up in an environment renowned for recalcitrance and vices of all sorts. Indeed, the young Adewale does not have much choice in life. He witnesses first-hand domestic violence as he helplessly watches his father beat his mother to a pulp at the slightest opportunity. The Adewale family was not anything the young Kunle would admire greatly as he experienced the usual rivalry that polygamous homes are reputed for.
His was a home where poverty was second nature – the ambit of deprivation and hopelessness. How best would you describe a situation where a human being scrambles for habitation – with animals? Such was the stark reality of Kunle Adewale’s upbringing. Yet, he tells of how highly religious his parents were – the perfect example of a Christian family, you may say. Observing the customary morning prayers and compliance thereof – it was one of the prime gifts handed down to him by his retired Army father and struggling trading mother. Taught to be self-sufficient from days when his contemporaries cowered in the embrace of their parents, he hawked wares for his mother – a getaway from the ambient flacks at home, the need to join others to enjoy the ‘’street life’’ – as his father was very strict about the children relating with others in the neighbourhood – he gambled and played football. This was the beginning of his journey of self-discovery with tremendous results.
He suffered from the whims of low self-esteem as a child and teenager; poor academic performances at both primary and secondary school, his physical growth seems not to equate to progress. Failing the WASSCE and JAMB exams at different times becomes a source of worry – a reason that may justify his family’s refusal to allow him further his education in the first place. His willingness to set his goal in motion with meagre resources is remarkable. Prescient of what hurdles lay ahead, he tightened the sash for the journeys ahead. The dark long days during his OND programme at Auchi Polytechnic, Auchi did not deter his dreams nor did the depriving circumstances during his undergraduate years at Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife slow him down. His resilient spirit persisted.
Despite numerous love rejections, the paucity of funds, and, tears – Kunle graduated from the university and served his country with all diligence. His budding interest in NGO and professional training as a fine artist altogether came in handy at the time of destiny fulfillment. Sadly, his mother – a bastion of support died on the eve of his success. Notwithstanding, the rhythm of her words – gave an impetus for an overwhelming, fast-paced movement to the halls of fame and celebration. Giving love a larger portion of his heart, he met and fell in love with his heartthrob, also forgiving his father.
Kunle Adewale’s story is wholly absorbing – one that reeks of disappointment, pain, and, untold hardship. It also crisscrosses the themes of predestination, prayers, hard work, and consistency – the far-reaching ideals which is far beyond sheer wishes.
This book is no doubt every reader’s choice.
–Odubanwo, a culture enthusiast, writes from Lagos