Reflections on Kabiru Jammaje’s “Crossing Borders:

Critical reading of Abubakar Imam’s “Tafiya Mabudin Ilimi”, Daniel Defoe’s “Robinson Crusoe”, “John Bunyan’s “Pilgrim’s Progress”, Jonathan Swift’s “Gulliver’s Travels”, Veronique Tadjo’s “The Shadow of Imana”, Tim Butcher’s “Blood River” and “The Travels of Ibn Batuta” apparently inspired Kabiru Jammaje’s collection of 12 short travelogues.

Colombian Nobel Laureate, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, the father of magic realism, once said: “Ultimately, literature is nothing but carpentry. With both you are working with reality, a material just as hard wood.”  He said that literature and carpentry are tasking vocations.

Travelogues are increasingly becoming popular in Nigeria today.They come mostly in form of articles in the newspapers and other platforms. These efforts  were made by people of different callings.

However, reporters, freelance journalists, teachers, tourists, professionals, non – professionals, students as well as other travelers seem to be leading with varying degrees of success.

 These attempts in spite of their shortcomings have bridged important gaps in Nigerian literature at various levels.

They aso provide hidden secrets that could attract tourism — how to reach destinations — give cultural background as well as the Dos and Don’ts of many places around the world. They also illuminate, educate, inform and entertain readers.

As they say, writing is about judgement and interpretations — personal interpretations of moral vision. So also the content of any work gives it an agency in literature.

“Crossing Borders: The Travels of Kabiru Jammaje” racks the memory of the reader to 18th-century when writers settled into a locality for an extended period of time trying to absorb a sense of the place and observe with travel writer’s sensibility. This is exactly what Jammaje sensed and observed in twelve countries he visited.

This kind of travelogue was commonly known as the book of travels which mainly consisted of maritime diaries. This kind of writing become popular during Song dynasty (960 – 12 – 79) of medieval China. It is called travel record literature and was often written in narrative, prose, essay and diary style. This kind of literature might be transnational or cultural in focus. It involves travel to different places within same and record of space flight.

The whole idea of being a ‘travel writer’ is some how strange. Jammaje traveled to twelve countries – took notes — made authentic observations through writing with his students as well as readers who wish to lay their hands on the book.

The audience for his book are mostly students and people who have not been, nor will ever go, to the places visited by the author. This is quite a popular genre. People take the help of the traveling to know more about a particular place before deciding to visit it.

 The book apart from theme of detailed information about the attraction of places the author visited so that people get tempted to go on their vocation, personal experience and struggles — gives an insight into the understanding of the role played by the author in providing the historical background as well as the life and times of some personalities in this collection of twelve short travelogues.

Page 91 to 98 of the book were found very interesting on how the author narrated the Hajj rituals from beginning to end. His narrations on how he carried out the Hajj rituals in the book are  commendable. This part of the book is a good recipe for any one who is nursing ambition to go to Hajj.

The writer followed some specific rules carefully to make his travelogue more appealing and interesting to the readers by revealing hidden secrets that would attract many tourists. He highlighted the various attractions by mentioning the way and means to reach the destinations. He also named a few good hotels he stayed and gave some cultural backgrounds of the places he visited to make the travelogue richer. The author explained the Dos and Don’ts of some places.

One could easily recommend this book to students at different levels, travelers, tourists as well as any person with reading culture. The book would resonate well with literary students to the idea of travel literature. The narrations in this book flowed smoothly and moved the reading along very quickly with simple diction and good constructions. The insignitor of some facts in the book are very useful. I gave the book three stars. This is a reference subject to the idea of writing travel literature for aspiring writers.

Literary agenda, narration, essay, autobiography, biography or any historical fiction are mostly smoke and mirrors according to writers. So, the success of any book depends largely on creating a convincing illusion.

Therefore, readers must according to Roland Barthes separate a literary work from its creator in order to liberate the text from interpretive tyranny. Each piece of writing contains multiple layers and meanings. The essential meaning of work largely depends on the impression of the reader rather than the “passions” or “tastes” of the writer; “a text’s unity lies not in its origins,” or its creator,” but in its destination,” or its audience.

Using a classical technique in magical illusions — Bellow are some shortcomings in Crossing Borders:

 First, the writer did not embellish the book with pictures to give a photographic description. He said that he took pictures in some places. For example: in Harare and Dubai “…we ventured into the Dubai Museum and saw a lot of ancient artifacts. We spent about two hours in the museum and took several photos.”

It is suffice to say that the writer did not present a picture through his words. This could be more appealing.

Secondly, the writer failed to stick to a single style of travel literature. He used narrative, prose, essay, and diary style throughout.

One could not understand what the travelogue exhibits. Is Crossing Borders a coherent or aesthetic narrative? How does it associated with outdoor literature, fictional or non – fictional travel literature?

Thirdly, Johannesburg, the first country he visited — The author said, “l happened to sit near a well-mannered lady whom I initially thought was an Indian.”

Jammaje narrated how the conversation started and continued  — the lady told him that she lived in Kano and she was a Lebanese and pilot.

He said, “We discussed more issues and the rest was history.”

This brings some suspense and continues to keeping the reader on suspense.

Here, what are the issues and what was the rest?

One could underline the two statements. Several ambiguities are associated with the two statements. And there is also a tautology of information or idea.

If the writer cannot mention or narrate the issues he discussed with the lady and the rest, he should have left them out.

Issues are varieties of items from one aspect to another. Maybe security, economy, unemployment, community development etc.

 “… the rest was history.” Is this fictional or non-fictional statement?

Generally, the excerpts drawn from this collection of twelve short travelogues written by Kabiru Jammaje have kept the reader in an unclear mood because there is tendency in all the hoopla for any reader to hover in the empty space or to read ulterior motives and invent conspiracy theories in reaction to otherwise simple understanding.

Crossing Borders and other books written by Kabiru Jammaje are frameworks within which to understand Kabiru Jammaje as a potential writer.

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