THE FOLDED LEAF by Segun Afolabi - Memories we Lost and Other Stories Study Guide

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'The Folded Leaf, is a short story that was shortlisted for Caine Prize 2015. It boasts of its urgency to address burning contemporary issues in Nigeria. Bunmi's voice introduces most of the characters through whom the narrative will move forward.


While characters like Bunmi, Samuel, Tunde and Mrs Kekere are introduced with peculiar health challenges, others like Bola, Papa and the Ejiofohs accompany them; and together, they form the narrative backbone with Bunmi as the main narrator. The story is about a Christian community comprising of various family members who in spite of health challenges have had to contend with the reality of their being, and to live a normal communal Christian life. But when after a strong resolve of collective contributions, they set out on a journey to Lagos in search of healing, from a man of God who doesn't seem to have answers to their questions, a new reality which will alter or question the basis of their Christian faith and practice is unfolded. 



The author explores the role of religion in our daily lives portrayed in the contemporary Nigeria and the larger Africa.

Religion is used to brainwash the followers of some deities that more superior to the others. Churches in the urban area are portrayed to be superior to churches in the rural areas. It is through this portrayal that we see villagers, worse still the village preachers like Reverend Abbe and Reverend Okulaia leading the congregation to a point of donating towards Mrs. Eiiofoh, Mr Kekere, Bola and Bunmi among other travellers, for their journey to Lagos, going to seek for healing from pastor Fayemi "P.92"

The issue of religion is becoming a melting pot in Nigeria, and Africa at large. Religion seems to rob the individual of choice. Religious extremist leads to hypocrisy, obsession, alienation and fear. It through this religion that people lack self acceptance. Not until the get robbed of their money, do they come in terms with their physical challenges. Bumni the narrator, who cannot see, begins to understand her own life and accept it after having made a long journey to Lagos city to be attended by pastor Fayemi's church, in vain.

The narrator, Bunmi begins to come to good terms with her life, an self-actualization is seen whereby she accepts that her physical impairment is God given, therefore appreciates reverend Abb who prays for people, even when they have paid no money. (p 94)

Prayers are not left aside in all the doings. The faithful's travelling to Lagos; gather for a prayer led by Reverent Ab before setting off for their journey to Lagos. 'Bless Samuel, tamer Jehovah, "today, today, please- send him new ) prayers are perceived as a tool of spiritual healing, nourishment

Poverty and class barriers

Another theme that comes out clearly is the class stratification in the contemporary Nigeria. The story adroitly brings to light, the ever existing gap between the rich haves and the poor have no's right from the village to the suburbs of the capital, Lagos, people are seen to be poor, compared to those who lives in the urban centers.

Mrs. Kerekere pleads with the policemen on their way to Lagos, that they are not rich (P.84). In fact, the money they are spending on their way to Lagos is a donation from their local church that alone, they couldn't manage to afford it.

Comparison is made with the urban people who are very rich.

Daddy cool is better known in the account of his helicopter and Gulfstream jet, and his homes in Florida and Switzerland and somewhere in the Caribbean (p 81 )


Afolabi is trying to imply that there are multiple ways of viewing life, in different apheres, by using the narrative voice of the blind narrator Bunmi to elaborate on the theme of perception:

Appearance to me may not be your own appearance. And my own understanding of own self, may not compare with other people's perceptions. But do any of us identify the same thing in exactly the same way? Is the colour blue the same? And does the leaf smell?

Bola thinks sometimes. So don't worry, he says. And Bola's right about most things.

In trying to avoid authorial interference, Afolabi tells his through this blind twelve-year-old whose narrative power inheres her strong stimulus, curiosity, perception and scepticism; a narrator who relies on interviewing skills like probing, prompting, scoop and interrogation to account for the plot's progression.

Technique and Language Use

First person narrative voice

This narration has been told from the perceptive of a first person narrator. The 'l' narrator is therefore the protagonist in the story and he narrates the events as he experienced them. This kind of narration makes the events to be quite immediate to the reader and hence, it becomes engaging to read. Segun Afolabi also uses present tense instead of the usual past tense we would expect in a story about events that happened in the past it is as if he is giving commentary on the event. A rapport therefore between the narrator and the reader is created.


The feeling of worry or excitement that a person develops when the writer develops a feeling that something is going to happen is what is called suspense. The folded leaf creates some desire to know whad happens to Bumni, Sam and Mrs. Kekere who are on their way to meet pastor Fayemi for healing.

Throughout the narration, the reader is kept glued to the text, to see how things will end. Even the village preacher, reverent Abbe is wishful that God may bless, heal and lead them to the capital, Lagos. "Bless Samuel, father today, today, please- send him new )


This is a literary technique in which the author sets two people, events or objects in opposition to each other in order to show

Afolabi uses contrast as a technique to drive in his thematic concerns with ease. Reverent Abbe is a servant of God in a village church, who prays to people to gain hope and restoration without pay. She leads a very humble life and she is depicted as a true believer, who loves her congregation. Her church donates whole heartedly to finance the long anticipated journey to Lagos. The author contrasts her with pastor Adejola Fayemi, or Daddy Cool as he is better known on account of his helicopter, jets and lavish lifestyle. His followers deny Bumnis' access to seeing him, even after paying all the money they had carried to the church.

Use of dialogue

Afolabi uses dialogue richly to develop his characters and themes. He reproduces the exact words that characters are supposed to have spoken. Cases in point are as follows;

'What do you have inside?" a voice demands from outside the bus.

police, " Bola whispers

"Just people, " the driver says "we go Lagos.

'How many of you?" (p 83)

This conversation reveals the experience the narrator and the other travellers face as they travel to Lagos. This and many other dialogues are used to foreground the thematic concerns and enliven the plot development.

Local idiom

The author uses local language. Since this story is set in the both

Nigerian suburbs and Nigerian city, Lagos, the use of local dialect makes it easy not only to identify the setting, but also to give it a local flavor. The following are examples of local dialects used; agbada, which means a four-piece attire worn by men; eshayu, which means thank you, na so meaning yes, it's true; among others.

Characters and Characterization


The narrator is a blind twelve-year-old whose narrative power is inheres in her strong will and introspecting personality. She is an examining girl who is young, honest and hopeful that she will receive healing after attending the church service in town.

She is indeed determined to meeting pastor Daddy Cool and therefore becomes too obnoxious, on learning that it will not be possible.

The story end when she is more strong and ambitious in spite of all the happenings that she has started to understand that at least she has life, a good one for that effect.



Reverend Abbe

Reverend Abbe is a pastor who is depicted as a servant of God, leading a true deity church. So loving and caring she is that she organizes her church members in the village for donations to the narrator's journey to seek healing.

She is a committed and dedicated Christian that though a deacon she is, members of the church prefer her to reverend Okulaia, who the reverend-in-charge is.

She is trustable that the narrator says that she is complacent having her as a clergy, who prays for people without asking for money from them (294)

Pastor Adeiola Fayemi.

He is portrayed as a fat cat tycoon, leading a wealth life. He runs a church in the Lagos capital. Religion seems to rob the individual of choice.

Religious extremist people really suffer a lot through him, making him an exploitative person. Not until they get robbed of their money, do they come in terms with their physical challenges. Papa has given out all the money that had been contributed, and denied access to the pastoral place pulpit (p 90) ln this case therefore, Afolabi's story represents the new face of pseudo-Christian practice in Nigeria, through him, which is hinged on the gospel of healing (miracles) and prosperity.


  1. Discuss the following oral techniques in the story:
    1. Use of songs
    2. Humour and comic relief
    3. Exaggeration
    4. Dialogue
  2. Put the following excerpt in its immediate context.
    I have always been blind. How they appear to me and my understanding of myself, might not compare with other
  3. Describe the character traits of Pastor Feyemi as exhibited in perception.

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