Oyewumi Olatoye Agunbiade’s The Symptomatic Experience of Master Curio is a thrilling and masterful story that is premised on the technique I call stigma air.
Our everyday life experiences reflect one form of stigma air or the other. In those days when we were much younger, we often tiptoed into our mother’s kitchen in odd hours when no eye was watching us to steal a piece or two of the luscious fried chicken or beef in her pot of soup.
We tiptoed because we were scared of the stigma air surrounding our mischievous action. This stigma air when not well managed in such situations could earn the prankster, the social stigma called “thief” or “robber”. In this sense, the subject matter of HIV/AIDS which Agunbiade explores in this short story slides on the idea of stigma air.
It must be noted that stigma air attitudes ride on the back of secrecy and concealment because of the social stigma that goes with its exposition. Armed robbers usually rob in the night, a time synonymous with darkness, with masked faces in order to avoid being caught and labelled the social stigma, armed robber – an appellation which comes with rejection as a consequence. The exposition of HIV/AIDS status equally comes with the social consequence of rejection.
The author positions the church as a place of multidimensional answers and solutions by empowering Pastor Bode with health agency which contrasts his normal agency of spirituality. He uses this strategy as a mode of repositioning the social dimension of the mainstream health discourse called HIV/AIDS. The narrator who has struggled with the idea of knowing his HIV status is helped out of his stigma air through the author’s repositioned discourse. Pastor Bode’s technique of symptomatic travel which introduces the suspense in his sermon on HIV/AIDS displaces and disorients the narrator who could visibly notice and see most of the symptoms mentioned by the pastor reflecting in his life.
Agunbiade’s symptomisation of Pastor Bode’s sermon gives the short story that powerful feel of a Van Dan roller coaster and thriller which then makes the use of suspense in the story top-notch. Though the narrator who eventually checks his HIV/AIDS status relishes the joy of being negative despite his apparent symptoms which simulate those of HIV/AIDS, the author makes a strong case for awareness as a perfect mental attitude towards the fight against HIV/AIDS.
Gabriel Kosiso Okonkwo (PhD)
Postdoctoral Research Fellow,