Outside It’s CHARLY BOY, Inside, Its CHARLES OPUTA
(Being a presentation prepared for the launch of Charly Boy’s book, My Private Part at Musa yar’Adua Centre, Abuja, but which was never presented because… well, it’s a Charly Boy Show!!!!)
I have decided to rebel against the topic given me by the organizers of this event to take this distinguished gathering through an exploration of the personality of Mr Charles Oputa and the character of Brand Charly Boy. In doing this I request you to indulge me to raise questions after questions. This is because just like many of us here, and including the celebrant today, there are yet aspects of the two entities that remain shady to me. Because of this lack of a complete knowledge of the phenomenon of a dual-personae, I have escaped into raising questions instead of providing definitions. Thanks for the indulgence anyway.
Who is Charly Boy? Who is Charles Oputa?
Are these two characters interfacing in anyway? Or are they intruding on each other's comfort zone? Do share common values that make them symbiotic? Or are these two distinct entities that only share a common body, a common soul? Are they two separate entities destined to share a common structure?
The ultimate questions; can one divorce the other and still survive? Are they destined to live together forever till the ultimate end Terminate their relationship?
Simple as these questions appear, they are not so easy to answer. To unwrap them, we have to dismantle the two entities that we are confronted with.
Charles Oputa and Charly Boy are two distinct personalities, two separate characters, two entities that need each other to survive but yet are separate-able. The resolution, to distinguish between the two or not lies on the chief promoter of the brand Charly Boy, the bearer of the entity called Charles Oputa.
But this is as far as one would want to push the semantics.
The fact is the name Charly Boy rings a bell side by side Charles Oputa who hails from Oguta. It was Charles Oputa that started a musical career with the famous song then, Nwata Miss, but it was Charly Boy that inherited that musical career, with the coming of the album, 1990, which aside from the razzmatazz that heralded its birth, was indeed a breaking point in the history of contemporary pop music. At the time 1990 came, perhaps there was only one publicly anointed artiste licensed to be so daring as to deploy his music to talk down on the Nigeria military rulers. That artiste was Fela Anikulapo Kuti. There were others who were doing same, especially among the folk music groups, but Fela was the icon of political music.
Then came Charly Boy who not only sang to the face of the corrupt, inept, military rulers but also invited them to his public performances and told them to their faces that they were rogues in uniform.
That was the birth of the brand Charly Boy.
And with that background in focus, it would be clear that the Charly Boy character did not worm into public consciousness as the queer fellow who decked himself in leather suits with safety pins strewn all over his body, and gradually graduated to body piercing. It is this political fundaments or if you like essentials of the character Charly Boy, that has ver time manifested in public consciousness as an interventionist, a mediator, a public intellectual and street philosopher who shocks and motivates and mesmerizes the public with his communicative eloquence and irrepressible nuisances.
Intriguingly, while the self-comforting public with its puritanical pretensions desire the personality Charles Oputa, an American trained public communicator, son of a respected Justice, it is the character Charly Boy that they have fallen in love with. Thus the contradiction that seems to rule the perception of the character Charly Boy is more the burden of he public than that of Charles Oputa.
At this point I invite us to search within our deep for the truth why we are reluctant to accept the strange character Charly Boy as a necessary member of the moral-driven self-preserving society? Why are we comfortable even when we pretend this is not so -- to clandestinely caesarean the dual foetus, just so we could have the one that seems more accommodate-able within our consciousness of self-righteosness or socio-political correctness?
I think that we are reluctant to accept th Character Charly Boy with all its nuisance values because of the flaws in our own orientation, our own socialization process, an because of the sort of society we were brought up in. In spite of the loud proclamations of the existence of our individual inalienable rights to be who we choose to be, our society thrives on pretences… we as Nigerians, as Africans do not live out of our own convictions but according to the dictates of others. We thrive under pressures of expectations from our parents, friends, our society. So, we do not what we do not because we are convinced of such actions, but because we are EXPECTED to do them. We go to Church not because we are convinced that we need the church in our life, but because we think if we do not go, we would be labeled; we get married not because we are sure we need a life-partner But because if we do not marry, we would be labeled; we belong to peer groups not because we are convinced that we need it but because if we do not belong to such groups we could be termed strange. This attitude to life is a subversion of truth, a subversion of reality, and these are the bases of the disorderliness that have characterized our communities. When you have people living through forced ethos, running their affairs through faked norms, you can not expect them to run a successful society, progressive community. This I repeat is the basis of our troubled humanity… our society thrives on deception and untruths. We could say then that perhaps the reason other societies thrive better than us and we are forced most of the time say ‘in advanced countries’, ‘in civilized societies’, ‘in advanced societies’ … we are only referring to the degree of truths that reign in those societies. When we point at he inadequacies of our own society, wondering why our communal life is so chaotic, we are only referring to the almost total absence of truths or contradictory realities that rule our society, and this is coming directly from the fact that we do not allow our people to live their own reality; we compelled them to live within the box of our own truth.
Thus we see character like Charly Boy, like Fela, like the my favourite visual artist called Junkman, who decide to live outside of our box of societal expectations, we are quick to pontificate that they are subversionists.
The intrigue here however, is that deep within us, we admire the character of Charly Boy, we dream that we could be like him; we wish to be free to live our lives the way we like, to be free to make our choices, author our own truth, create our own happiness, make our own mistakes, and make our own corrections.
But the truth is we cannot at least publicly, or outwardly live like Charly Boy, or accept the values of such character, because we have been conditioned by our socialization to subvert the truth, the reality; not living our life according to the reality that characterized our creation by God.
I say here therefore that failure to wholeheartedly accept Charly Boy and accept the character not as an out-norm, out cast is because we cannot we cannot be seen to be accepting truth as authored by the creator in consonance with the realities of our existence.
The other side of this argument, of course, is the fact that Charles Oputa -- the shy, introverted, kind-hearted personae is the nosey, less sure-footed personality who keeps intruding into the affairs of Charly Boy, daring, multi-talented artiste, who fishes in the cauldron of non-conformist, almost anti-norm values to operate as a public Communicator, and in the process draw attention to itself and its work. To great extent, Charles Oputa will not dare what Charly Boy will attempt. It is even very possible that Chales Oputa does not approve of so many things that Charly Boy does. Of course, one could say that Charly Boy is a pain in the ass of Charles Oputa, but the two are destined occupy one body, to share souls even as one inflict pain on the other.
Beyond the face values of this statement, we could begin to question, how much of Charly Boy's actions are real as in genuinely motivated, how much are showbiz, albeit put up to attract attention to one self.
Again, the job of unravelling this is the burden of the public and not of Charles Oputa or Charly Boy. This is one of the tricks by which the brand Charly Boy has kept itself glued in public consciousness. The brand has kept the public glued to the examination of attempting to unravel its mystery, even when the real answer is so close at hand.
You could ask for instance that is it real, when Charly Boy appears in public almost naked, his whole body pierced with pins?
Is it real or public showcasing when the same character that you would think irresponsible because of the actions described above, felt moved by the plight of pensioners that he mobilised them for a confrontation with those holding the proceed of their working life? Or when he led Okada riders to demand for their right to engage in economic activities? Or when he led the struggle to raise fund for a beloved dying friend?
If you have resolved this then you could proceed to ask: Is Charly Boy, then as an artist, a visionary or a reactionary? Can Charly Boy then fall in the Seer category of say a Wole Soyinka? How enduring is his art? What yardstick should we use to decide who is visionary and who is reactionary? Does he speak a kind of truth? What truth telling does CB
engage in? Is an alternative life style from the norm artistry? This pins and needles and Okada riding is not total art. Yes I agree he disturbs our perception of what is decent but does it go as far as to make us think about our relationship with others?
Like a mobile one man theater, this man from Oguta has recreated what it means to live one's art. Can anyone live on art in Nigeria and not leave the world before his/her time? What does it mean to live as an Artist in a country still locked in the struggle for the creation of self-identity. We are neither traditionalists nor citizens of a modern world. We cannot afford to be hybrids without roots.
To tell the story of Artists as rebels in modern Nigeria or anywhere else for that matter, permit me to use the life of Charly Boy as my departure point and trace how a cross-fertilization of concepts is now becoming a brand with a definite identity. An appraisal of this identity is not the main burden of
this presentation, we shall leave that to another day. Our main concern for now is to trace the source of the river that created the waves on screen, on the streets of Gbagada and now Abuja and now on sheets as printed text. How did Charlie Boy start and what were the social conditions in existence at the time he came onto the scene.... (tell his life story here)
* Why did he decide to be different?
In a study of why artists tend to be anti-norm, why hey choose to rebel against social order, Dr Karen Henricks, from the University Melbourne’s School of
Behavioural Science, found that many highly creative people, particularly in the arts, have a number of distinctive personality traits. She says, The main factor of personality I found linked directly to creativity was two-dimensional, with one aspect being what we termed ‚ ‘healthy rebellion’‚ and the other being a predisposition towards Psychosis’.
‘The ‘healthy rebellion’ aspect of this factor involves things like questioning social conventions, being high on sensation-seeking, and being open to new or radical ideas’
He studies of a wide group of artists, she says, shows that there may be similar cognitive processes between creative
people and individuals suffering psychosis, such as attending to a wide array of stimuli which most people would filter out as irrelevant. These processes may be a driving force for creativity, giving people an ability to see things originally and generate unique ideas, or it may underlie psychotic thinking. These similarities may help explain the age-old view of there being a fine line between creativity and mental illness. The differences between the personalities of writers, performing artists and visual artists. On average, writers scored the highest on most personality disorder scales ‚ also proving to be more neurotic and less agreeable. Writers scored significantly higher on a measure of psychosis-proneness compared with all other groups. In addition, compared with non-artists, writers scored significantly higher on neuroticism. They also scored lower on the agreeableness scale, suggesting that they feel more at odds with the world and may be more prone to socially rebellious attitudes.
‘Performing artists (like musicians and actors) stood out as scoring highly on the openness to experience scale, which suggests that they enjoy actively seeking out new experiences and exploring novel things. We also found that the performing artist group scored the highest on the narcissistic personality scale, although this probably reflects their greater feelings of confidence, something which could be quite advantageous in such a career.
* Did Charlie Boy commit a class suicide or is he liking the sweet side of his class connections?
*What are the ideas in his music and social interventions
* How much local content is in this global appearance
CONCLUSION: To every rebel there are forces of resistance who try to stifle the originality of the artist. Art cannot be for art sake in a developing country like ours. The patrons, critics and consumers of art works insist that it must draw strength from the material conditions of the society from which it emanates. Please do not misinterpret me, I am not legislating for artists what they should do with their inspiration, I just want it be known that in our bid to create forms that are globally acceptable we should not forget that we owe something to our primary constituencies. So for art to endure it should not only engage in self-dialogue but endeavor speaking to, and arguing with all creative/reactionary elements of the society.
Can I still hear the echoes of Nwata Miss or you all have missed the signpost of where it all started. The call to the friends, families and foes to wake up that one of their own is back to give them a voice. Ladies and gentlemen on that note I rest my voice.
A Journey Through Charly Boy’s Private Part
BY ARMSFREE AJANAKU
CHARLY Boy’s chap book: My Private Part carries some larger than life qualities about it. The book basically reflects the author’s non-conformist disposition to life. The big volume is a collection of pictures, snippets, thoughts and poetry about the very controversial aspects of Charly Boy’s life.
Beyond this, however, the book reveals many parts of CB’s life, which people in their shock to the man’s non-conformist ways of doing things, may not see.
The picture will definitely move the reader from laughter to tears and then to realm of sober reflection. We get to see Charly Boy as a family person. We equally see him playing the role of being advocate for the voiceless. In my private part, we are allowed to take a stroll into a world that is bound to touch a chord within our minds.
From this work with Okada riders to his television interviews with the big wigs of society, my private part shows the bike-riding General in his true essence. The awesome thing about Charly Boy’s book is its non-conventional depth. We do not need to rack our heads to find meanings to words that are out of this world. Even for those who cannot read the written word, they would just need to read through the amazing pictures, which captures the man’s essence. From the book, we can glean that the character, Charly Boy is about the freedom of the human spirit, the need to break barriers and turn the world around. In the end, the book leaves us with a gravitation towards the ideal, where things would be bright and beautiful. The book also features what people have said about him, so the story tells itself with honesty and candour. This is not always the case with biographies and autobiographies, which are sometimes economical with the truth. Interestingly too, one other winning point about my private life is the fact the Charly Boy remembers he belongs to a community. He remembers Tyna Onwudiwe in an emotional way among others. This is a testimony to the greatness in this controversial but well loved character.
Charly Boy’s love life and the bond in his family is succinctly captured by his son Charles Oputa (Jnr): "as for mom, I love her to death … she is usually always happy, always smiling. I don’t know what we would do without our mother. I don’t think my father will last without my mother. But I know they love each other."
His daughter Dominique says: "people think my father is a bad person because of his tattoos and earrings, but I think my father is just cool. My school mates all want to meet him and they always ask me about him." There is no doubt that Dominique loves her famous father "for being himself and many people love him too."
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