The Short Story “The Folded Leaf” by Segun Afolabi
Nigerian culture and literature have long been underexplored by the world academic community and society as a whole. The short story “The Folded Leaf” written by Caine Prize winner Segun Afolabi is a short story that shows the new wave in Nigerian literature heritage. It touches on the critical themes of injustice, inequality, and distortion of religious rituals. The main ideas and meanings presented in this story are created by using bright images and metaphors that make the main “point” of the story special.
“The Folded Leaf” refers to a set of acute social problems. This story tells about the members of a congregation who traveled from the countryside to the big city Lagos to be healed of physical disabilities through prayer. The main feature is that the prayer was led by a famous and wealthy pastor, who deceived visitors to make more money. In my opinion, the central message of this story is Afolabi’s desire to highlight the problem of pseudo-Christian practices in Nigeria, which made ordinary people victims of deception and hypocrisy. Another meaning line is the scale of injustice and inequality that exists in society.
Through the image of a legless boy asking for money in a traffic jam and the description of the pastor’s wealth, the author creates a sharp contrast between the two segments of the population. Thus, the author calls on society to pay attention to the distortion of Christian values for the sake of achieving wealth, which is unacceptable in the modern world.
The strong images used by Afolabi underscore the main meanings and messages of the texts. First of all, the story is presented through the lens of a blind boy Bunmi, who has a real interest in living his life. What excites me is that Bunmi has never been in the city: “I’m having difficulty building a picture of this world in my mind” (Afolabi, 2015, p. 6). Bunmi also has difficulties understanding how his Mama, Papa, and brother look like. These images allow the reader to understand how blind people perceive the world and how difficult it is to enjoy their lives fully.
The central scene with the deception of the Bunmi’s poor family during prayer provides resonant contrast and resentment about injustice. “God does not love the poor!” – says the pastor during the ‘healing process’ (Afolabi, 2015, p. 8). This idea is radically different from traditional Christian values. This textual technique helps the author convey the whole essence of the pastor, his greed and cruelty. The final lines of the text make the reader understand that Bunmi is the real holy person whose sentiments are directed toward vulnerable people. Bunmi says about the legless boy: “I pray that he will have refuge at this hour and people he can rely on. Good people. Him smile.” (Afolabi, 2015, p. 14). These prayers for a stranger show that true Christian faithfulness is not in the speeches of that greedy pastor but in the hearts of ordinary people who do not fall into the focus of public attention.
To sum up, Segun Afolabi’s story “The Folded Leaf” presents a protest against the distortion of Christianity and the unbelief of some part of the Nigerian pastorship. Born in Nigeria, the author understands the context and knows these issues from the inside. Also, the author raises questions of injustice, inequality, and faith, which will resonate with readers worldwide. The remarkable thing about the story is that it uses powerful images and comparisons to highlight the true meanings and ideas.
Afolabi, S. (2015). The folded leaf. New Internationalist.