Igbo names and spellings for various settlements
Abakaliki is Abankaleke; Afikpo is Ehugbo; Awgu is Ogu; Awka is Oka; Bonny is Ubani; Enugu is Enugwu; Ibusa is Igbuzö; Igrita is Igwuruta; Oguta is Ugwuta; Onitsha is Onicha; Owerri is Owere; Oyigbo is Obigbo... any more will be added.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Odeziaku: Poet, pederast and palm-oil merchant

John Moray Stuart-Young (1881–1939) was an English 'Uranian' poet, memoirist, novelist and merchant trader who was born into poverty in the slums of Manchester and eventually found his way to Onitsha where he later became a wealthy merchant palm-oil trader under the British colonial machine. Ostracised by the white colonial upper class in the British west African colonies, Stuart-Young was embraced by the people of Onitsha who nicknamed him Odeziaku. He grew famous in Onitsha for his stores and his 'strange ways' as well as for his lack of interest in women and his apparently unmarried status. His 'strange ways' were really his 'Uranian' tendencies, John Stuart-Young was a 'boy-lover' who took a few [very young] Onitsha boys under his wing over the years, sponsoring them and their families and leaving much of his wealth to them on his death. John Stuart-Young's perceived 'effeminate' demeanour earned him the names Eke Young and Mami Wata's Wife by the Onitsha people, names he detested, preferring Odeziaku ('writer of wealth', originally a misspelling of Odoziaku, 'treasurer'). His weird shopfronts in Onitsha town, some of the shops including 'Ye Little Wonder Shop', Half Way to Bush' (his dwelling called 'The Little House of No Regrets'), with distorting mirrors in his largest store, had his stores nicknamed Mami Wata's shrine and further linked his 'unconventional' ways with the water spirit, a figure that was largely born out of the contact between west Africans and Europeans on the coast.

As a writer Stuart-Young assumed names such as "Jack O'Dazi" and "O. Dazi Aku", carrying on from his consciously manufactured identity in Onitsha, a place far from the slums of Manchester. His articles and poems were highly regarded and printed in several African-edited newspapers which had him hailed as "West Africa's Poet Laureate". John Stuart-Young died from throat cancer in Port Harcourt on 28 May, 1939. The ceremony for his mourning lasted up to four days and was attended by 10,000 Igbo mourners; a newspaper suggested his grave should become a national shrine.

John Stuart-Young's story highlights many things about Africans and Europeans in the colonial period and the relations between them, one of the largest take aways is the unveiling of the breadth of exploitation of Africans by European colonial agents. Stuart-Young's story shows the extent to which a European could be embraced in an African society and how different identities were dealt with in Igbo society in particular.

John Stuart-Young's life and implications surrounding his identity has been expounded upon in The Forger's Tale: the Search for Odeziaku by Stephanie Newell.