Saturday, December 25, 2010

MUSDOKI: Literature and the distortion of history

For the birth of literature in any culture, you need three things besides readers and publishers. Have you guessed? Okay, I'm not one to keep people in suspense. But the truth is that every culture undergoes rigors of parturition before the water breaks and then a healthy child will glimpse the face of the earth.
Okay, okay, for the birth of literature you need these three things: 1. writers, 2. reviewers, and 3. conscientious reviewers. Usually # 3 precedes good writers, for they make those talented people rethink the figments of their imagination before spewing them out there for public consumption.
Why am I saying all these? I have been following the meticulous, almost religious examination of African literature in form of reviews by Ikhide Ikheloa, and I strongly believe that African literature of the 21st century cannot be discussed without acknowledging his midwifery job. Last week he sat on Lola Shoneyin's Baba Segi's Wives (No pun intended, friends). This week it's Ahmed Maiwada's Musdoki. I find his reviews increasingly professional, very helpful, balanced and sincere. Musdoki, he says, is an important book.
Here is an excerpt:
"It is true that in terms of the written word, with respect to the Nigerian civil war, the commentary has been dominated by Southern thinkers. There have been few Northern writers weighing in with their perspective. Despite the myriad flaws of Musdoki, it is an important book in that it shows that a fiery rage burns still in the hearts and minds of Northerners. There is no excuse for what happened during the pogrom and the Nigerian civil war."

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Laurent Gbagbo has put Ivory Coast on a precarious path

An exciting piece by Chika Unigwe, the author of On Black Sisters' Street
"By refusing to accept the poll result, Gbagbo is pushing Ivory Coast to the brink of war, like a fly following a corpse into a grave."


Sunday, December 19, 2010

Loving Baba Segi's wives

I believe you've got to smile after reading this.
"This is a rebel gleefully tugging at silly clay boundaries. Every other page hides sentences that desire to stir your consciousness - and your loins. Nothing is taboo for Shoneyin; she is eclectic in a brilliant near-reckless manner. Her words are defiant, and drunk with the sweet musky smell of primal sex. Sexual tension keeps the pages erect and thirsty for lusty sex."

Excellent review by Ikhide Ikheloa:

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Not so, Adaobi…

.... and the debate continues. Thanks to Tricia Adaobi Nwaubani, many brilliant minds are expressing ideas that might, in deed, begin to shape our consciousness, and perhaps lead to more robust discourses that we solely need.
Here is another response by Chuma Nwokolo:

"At any rate, wholesale cultural suicide is too high a price to pay for national unity, if only because it is just a deposit. The full-price is a level of self-hatred that is ultimately inimical to any nation."

Achebe And Adichie: How 4Ps Impact Success Of Literary Brands - By Uzochukwuamaka Otoh

I thought you might like this piece by

THE 4ps of marketing as developed by Jerome McCarthy in 1960 was later upgraded to include 3 more ps. The original price, place, promotion and product were later improved to include 3 other necessary factors of marketing, people, physical evidence and process. As with many theories of marketing, which are more consistently applied with product brands, the theory of the 4ps has yet to find full expression in its ability to positively impact the equity of service and personality brands.
Literary brands as with other brand types often go through a series of metamorphosis, which render them better and more refined. Literary icons such as Wole Soyinka, Chinua Achebe, Ben Okri and Chimamanda Adichie have come to define themselves via their style carving a unique niche thereby making them literary brands to be reckoned with the world over."


Nwaubani, Ngugi and the Nobel

Another informed reaction to Tricia Adaobi Nwaubani's Op-Ed piece. I love how writers and critics analyze Nwaubani's ideas; how they push her to rethink her ideas. I am sure she will bounce back with a more vigorous, enriching OP-Ed. Never discount smart minds, friends.

Anyway, this is Molara Wood's beautiful piece. Let the debate begin, friends; I'm loving it.
"My own reading of Nwaubani’s ‘In Africa, the Laureate’s Curse’ was predictably complicated. I am a great admirer of Mario Vargas Llosa (a worthy 2010 laureate) and many other great Latin American writers, people in whose works I’ve found a world closest to that of the Yoruba, from among whom I’ve sprung."


Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

"A humid night two years ago, sitting beside a male friend in his car, and I roll down my window to tip a young man, one of the thousands of unemployed young men in Lagos who hang around, humorous and resourceful, and help you park your car with the expectation of a tip. I brought the money from my bag. He took it with a grateful smile. Then he looked at my friend and said, “Thank you, sir!”"

Beautiful, smart piece. It made me think.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

In response to Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani’s “In Africa, the Laureate’s Curse” an op-ed piece in today’s New York Times by Carmen McCain.

"When I first began to read Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani’s op-ed piece “In Africa, the Laureate’s Curse,” published in on 12 December 2010 in the New York Times, I thought I would enjoy the piece." Writes Carmen McCain. But then, Nwaubani's piece lost one of its front tyres and never regained its balance.
Good piece.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

In Africa, the Laureate’s Curse

An interesting piece by Tricia Adaobi Nwaubani. Here's a taste.

"Here, each successful seller of plantain chips spawns a thousand imitators selling identical chips; conformity is esteemed while individuality raises eyebrows; success is measured by how similar you are to those who have gone before you. These are probably not uniquely African flaws, but their effects are magnified on a continent whose floundering publishing industry has little money for experimentation and whose writers still have to move abroad to gain international recognition."

To me though, what began as a promising essay somehow turned into a mishmash of cowardly ideas, the core of which sought to suggest that it is separatist for a writer to write in his native language or even to claim that he is a writer from his ethnic group. Is Soyinka not Yoruba? Does it make him less a patriotic Nigerian? To me, the more Yoruba he is, the better for me as Igbo. He has single-handedly introduced me to the riches of Yoruba culture. Denying who we are doesn't make us more universal-minded. What cripples a nation is when individuals fail to empathize, when they believe that others are there to serve them

By the way

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Baba Segi’s house of misfits

Olushola Ojikutu enjoyed Lola shoneyin's much talked-about novel. Here is an excerpt of Ojikutu's review:

"Nonetheless, The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives is a book which elucidates the intricacies inherent in the typical polygamous Nigerian home. And the wonderful use of language and grammar, save for a few editing oversights, ensure that it is an enjoyable read. Lola Shoneyin possesses a strong adventurous voice and is representative of the new crop of female writers who will undoubtedly play an important part in promoting Nigerian literature."

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Best Books of the Year

Alastair Campbell on Chika Unigwe's novel.
My favourite novel of the year was On Black Sisters' Street (Vintage) by Chika Unigwe. I was drawn to it first by the beautiful picture on the cover, of the back of a stunning black woman's body. Inside is the haunting story of four African women trafficked to Belgium and working there as prostitutes. Sometimes a novel can tell you more than any amount of documentary journalism."

Friday, November 12, 2010

Celebrating African fiction

African drumming and dance will herald a new collection of contemporary African fiction on Wednesday. Agni literary magazine, based at Boston University, is publishing half of the 21 short stories in the print edition of its fall issue and half at Agni Online.


Sunday, October 31, 2010

Creative writing workshop in Enugu

"Coal City Literary Forum Enugu Presents a workshop with the theme; Saving our Natural Environment through creative writing,

Scheduled to hold from the 3rd to 5th of November 2010.The workshop is designed to equip young and aspiring writers with the skills for incoporating environmental issues into their writing which will serve as a sensitization mechanism to Nigerians about our responsibility to the environment. "
Courtesy of Bookaholic Blog.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

You’re Invited: E.C. Osondu’s Book Party on November 2

"This election night, please join Guernica in celebrating the launch of Osondu’s exhilarating debut collection, Voice of America, published by HarperCollins. In the tradition of Wole Soyinka, Nadine Gordimer, J.M. Coetzee, and Chinua Achebe (all patrons of the Caine Prize), Osondu’s stories are wise, soul-stirring, and deeply compelling. In electrifying prose, he articulates the struggles of Nigerian immigrants in America, and refugees, villagers, and expatriates in Africa. Voice of America marks the beginning for a brave and remarkable new voice in African literature."

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The 2011 Paris Literary Prize

For those who write novella, this might be of interest.
The 2011 Paris Literary Prize will be awarded for an unpublished novella (defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as a short novel, or long story). A submitted novella must be a sustained narrative with a minimum word count of 20,000 and maximum of 30,000.
Good luck, and ENJOY

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Kenyan man builds aeroplane in front yard

Hei, this is not literature, but, well what the heck, it's such good news that I thought I should share it with you. Here is Mr. Nderitu in his own words:
"In the west they are sending people into space. In Africa we are still struggling for good roads. Without trying bigger things, we will never get anywhere."
Well said, bro. This is beautiful.

Monday, October 25, 2010

African Odyssey

"Her father's story led Nadifa Mahomed to write her debut novel. Bron Sibree reports

If Nadifa Mohamed ever had any doubts about writing her acclaimed debut novel, Black Mamba Boy, they had nothing to do with the real-life story that inspired it: that of her father."

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Helon Habila’s ‘Oil on Water’

Another review of Helon Habila's novel, Oil on Water. Thanks, Ikhide.

"In the beginning, the book is engaging; it doesn’t sound contrived and there is abundant evidence that Habila did some research for this novel. There is enough detail to provide memorable scenes. His greatest strength is deployed to descriptions of the apocalypse that is the Niger Delta. Dreamy and haunting are the lush descriptions of the roiling waters and forests. Habila loves water and he finds a peaceful kinship with the seas and the rivers. When he is good, the scenes remind one of Vietnam, Napalm bombs, children on the streets fleeing fires roasting them, and My Lai."

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Soyinka, Le Clezio for Garden City Literary Festival

You've got to love this if you love independent literary developments in Africa, any part of Africa. This is what makes for solid traditions. Kudos to Koko Kalango for her ingenuity.
Okay, read this.
"Nobel Laureates Wole Soyinka and J.M.G Le Clezio are the headliners of the third Garden City Literary Festival, which opens in Port Harcourt on December 8. An initiative of the Rivers State governor, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi and organised by Koko Kolango of the Rainbow Book Club, the festival is intended “to highlight the significant contribution of writers to the story of African nations.”
Thanks to Bunmi Ajiboye for reporting.


Thursday, October 14, 2010

An Eurocentric Nobel Prize and African literature

Is it true that the Nobel Prize is Eurocentric? Djamel Belayachi, Heba Montaser believe that it is, and they have their reasons. Here is the layout of their argument:
"African literature is generally ignored by the Nobel committee. Since 1901, only four writers from the continent have been rewarded, two of whom are entirely of European descent. This year, Africa has again bitten the dust after many had tipped the Swedish Academy to give the award to one of four ingenious African authors: Chinua Achebe from Nigeria, Nuruddin Farah from Somalia, Ngugi wa Thiong’o from Kenya, and Assia Djebbar from Algeria. Nevertheless, the Swedish Academy has failed to live up to its Eurocentric reputation by choosing Peruvian writer Mario Vargas Llosa as winner of the 2010 Nobel Prize in literature.
Enjoy the rest of their argument, and share your opinion.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Esiaba Irobi wins national literature prize

" The late dramatist and poet, Esiaba Irobi, has won the 2010 Nigeria Prize for Literature. Irobi's play, ‘Cemetery Road', was adjudged the best ahead of Ahmed Yerima's ‘Little Drops...' and Onukaba Adinoyi-Ojo's ‘The Killing Swamp' for this year's prize awarded for drama.
Ninety three entries were initially received before the panel of judges comprising theatre scholars, Dapo Adelugba, Mary Kolawole, John Ilah, Kalu Uka, and Tanimu Abubakar, who pruned them down to 11. Irobi, Yerima, and Adinoyi-Ojo made the final shortlist of three announced at a press conference on August 11."
So writes Akintayo Abodunri. ENJOY!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Why Ngugi wa Thiong'o should have won the Nobel prize for literature

On top of his achievement as an imaginative artist, the Kenyan writer's decision to write in Gikuyu is a truly brave move deserving high reward," writes Zoe Norridge.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Kenyan author sweeps in as late favourite in Nobel prize for literature

This looks good, friends.

"With the announcement of the winner of this year's Nobel prize for literature due later this week, Kenyan author Ngugi wa Thiong'o has emerged as a late favourite at the bookmakers."

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Independence Blues: two hands raised in darkness

"Two men are waving, but to whom exactly? Tafawa Balewa’s hand hails the people, but what of James Robertson? Is he waving hello, farewell, or not so fast? It’s hard to tell, and yet the stiffness of those gloves, sash, headgear and medals suggest a man no longer at ease."
Sarah Ladipo Manyika author of "In Dependence"
"Five decades ago, the white man waved goodbye to Nigeria. But today, Nigerians remain in captivity. The colonialists rule our minds. We obsess over what they think about us." Adaobi Trici Nwaubani, author of "I Do Not Come to You By Chance"

These are some of the beautiful reflections by Nigerian writers on the significance of Nigeria's independence.
Five decades ago, the white man waved goodbye to Nigeria. And today? Many Nigerians are more than happy to do exactly what the white man did.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The top 25 African writers

I thought you might like this. I'm sorry if your favorite author is not included here. Life is often harsh.

"The pace of modern African literature is faster, tone and style sexier and more defiant than the great generation of Independence writers.
Hitherto taboo subjects are explored. The African basket that was the only source of idiom and metaphor still provides, but the new writers are not afraid of going farther afield for literary fodder.
These are exciting literary times for Africa. Ironically, most of the new African stories are by writers “discovered” by Western literary prizes for African writing — the Caine Prize, the Penguin Prize and the Commonwealth Prize, among others."

Monday, September 27, 2010

Young writers start new chapter in Nigeria's literary history

This is truly exciting. Nigerian literature has really taken off. We on the ground have known this for ages, but now CNN take note, too. Beautiful.
"(CNN) -- A 19-year-old Nigerian undergraduate student has signed a two-novel deal with the British publisher Faber, making her its youngest ever woman author.
Chibundu Onuzo, a history student at King's College London, will have her first novel, "The Spider King's Daughter," published next year."

Thanks to Jeremy Weate of Naijablog.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Oil on Water by Helon Habila

Bernardine Evaristo reviews Helon Habila's recent offering, Oil on Water. She avoids critiquing Habila's art; she just states what is in the book. Here's the beginning.
"A huge chasm exists between Nigeria's multibillion dollar oil revenue and the standard of living for most Nigerians, the majority of whom are dirt-poor. When oil was discovered in the Niger delta in the late 1950s, Nigeria was on course to become the richest country in Africa. But for over 50 years the corrupt collusion between the multinational petroleum corporations and the Nigerian government has meant that profits are siphoned off into Swiss bank accounts, while the rest of the country can go hang itself."

Monday, September 20, 2010

The Trial of Robert Mugabe - Nominated

Oh, well, you heard it right. My novel, The Trial of Robert Mugabe, has been nominated for the prestigious Hurston/Wright Legacy Award.
Zora Neale Hurston: I love her lyricism.
Richard Wright: I love his hard-hitting realism. What more need I wish for my writing career?
ENJOY Friends

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The problem with Africa

Still on Naipaul Jason Cowley writes in the New Statesman:
"At its best, V S Naipaul’s Masque of Africa is marked by moments of startling clarity and insight — but the author’s view of his subject is that of an old man, fixed in his own, peculiarly jaundiced beliefs about a continent."
Great review. ENJOY!

The Naipaul in us

Ikhide Ikheloa joins the many voices that seek to understand the what and why in Naipaul's recent offering, The Masque of Africa. Very powerful reflection:
"The writer V.S. Naipaul is at it again. He has just visited Africa and written about his contempt for that continent in his new book The Masque of Africa. He travels to places like Uganda, Ghana, Nigeria, the Ivory Coast, Gabon and South Africa - to discover the "nature of African belief" according to a recent review of the book by Sameer Rahim in the UK Telegraph. Rahim gives the clear impression that this book does not improve upon the silence. It is the same tired, stereotypical garbage about Africa and civilisations of colour. You wonder if at 80 years of age, he is finally losing it. In Gabon, his legs give way and someone attempts to transport him in a broken wheelbarrow. Give me a break! Why the drama?"

It is easy to get mad at Naipaul for dismissing most African beliefs as naive. It is perhaps also easy, if not easier, to get mad at yourself for ever taking any of the Christian/Islamic beliefs seriously. Oh, humanity, idiocy is thy name!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Ellen Banda and Pius Adesanmi Wiin Penguin Prize for African Writing

After spending exciting weeks in my village, Nigeria (No light, not internet connection), I am happy to resume this blog with the exciting news of my friend, Pius Adesanmi, winning the inaugural Penguin Prize for African writing, in the Non-fiction category. The other winner, in the fiction category, is Ellen Aaku, from Zambia.

Read Sahara Reporters' report on this. ENJOY!
You might also want to check out the other report featuring Ellen: Ellen Aaku wins fiction prize at M&G Litfest.
Good luck, guys.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Olufemi Terry wins Caine prize for African writing

- This one happend while I was away. I'm writing from an internet cafe.

the most recent winner of Caine Prize for African literature has this to say:
"The label 'African writer' is not a particularly helpful one ... Whether it's journalism or fiction, there is too much emphasis put on issues such as poverty or disease, and I feel the label 'African writing' exacerbates that particular tendency. I would like to see more of a shift away from writing about Africa set on the continent, and more exploration of the issues of the diaspora."

But African writing is not about poverty and disease, bro. One can still write about God and the Angels while wearing the cap of African writer. Anyway, congratulations on winning this important prize.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Dora Akunyili misses the point on culture

I have been taught that to be cultured is to possess a systematic, community-enhancing and humanity-nurturing attitude to the world. This is philosophy of culture 101. Culture is therefore a 'cultivated' pattern or attitude that encourages (or hinders) the flourishing of humanity. Whoever fails to grasp this should perhaps be humble enough to be taught. Culture is not a thing you produce solely for the markets; it is essentially something for the hearts and minds of the producers and their kith and kin. So, German/Yoruba/French culture becomes a totality of people's creative response to the peculiar issues of their time and space; it the people's attempts through the arts or religion or mores, to ease the tedium of life. What would life be without dance, songs or words chiseled for some effects?

Anyway, what am I to say to this report below? This is Nigerian culture, as was reported by our able Molara Wood.
“This is totally unacceptable,” said an indignant Akunyili. “Don’t talk. Don’t talk. Keep quiet,” she commanded, when Itan tried to explain, pulling down the only other woman to share the opening ceremony limelight with her. “She sang in a foreign vernacular language and she wore a Ghanaian attire. As far as I’m concerned, that is not how to sell our culture,” pronounced Akunyili, and many in the audience clapped."

Does anyone still need to know the root of Nigeria's problems? Read the whole report, and judge for yourself. ENJOY

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Ben Okri: My family values

Thanks to Naijablog I stumbled upon this beautiful piece by Ben Okri.
"One of the greatest gifts my father gave me – unintentionally – was witnessing the courage with which he bore adversity. We had a bit of a rollercoaster life with some really challenging financial periods. He was always unshaken, completely tranquil, the same ebullient, laughing, jovial man. I learned that life will go through changes – up and down and up again.It's what life does."
Whoever knows Ben will surely say aloud: Dat's right!

Wednesday, June 30, 2010


Having received approximately 250 submissions in the fiction category and 50 in the non-fiction category from countries all over Africa, Penguin Books South Africa is pleased to announce the names of the shortlisted authors for the inaugural Penguin Prize for African Writing.
Congratulations on all the shortlisted candidates. May the best win; may others get good contracts.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Writing as a way of relating to others

I almost missed this great piece by Molara Wood. She explores Unoma Azuah writing and being. I love the piece for several reasons which have little to do with the fact that I admire Unoma and Molara's writings. Unoma's approach to literature reminds me of mine. Literature is there to make us connect to others; it is there to allow us to put ourselves in other people's shoes, to imaginatively reconstruct the others' lives. Since I happen to be heterosexual due to some genetic combination, I have never felt attracted to a person of my sex. Literature allowed me to put myself in the shoes of those who feel sexually attracted to persons of the same sex. Literature allowed me to understand that the issue is not that they will it, but that it is just the way they are. I have to deal with it. Just like I wake up dreaming of a hug from a woman, they wake up dreaming of hugs from people of same sex. I have to put myself in their positions.
Great piece, Molara.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Lessons on a tour of Badagry

Sometimes, discourses of the Atlantic Slavery are made to sound foreign and unreal. Not so with Kola Tobusun, who in his visit to Badagry, an old West African Slave port, saw first hand the pride exuded by some of those Africans who sold their kin, the African capitalists, who amassed fortunes from the inhuman system. Here is Kola:
"Ruled by white-cap feudal chiefs originally from Dahomey, with a strong military empowered by the proceeds of slavery, Badagry lays claim to having sold millions of people captured from parts of Nigeria to the Portuguese and other European traders who came in droves in the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries."
Thanks Kola.
Perhaps, the true African Renaissance begins from the moment we begin to explore our ethical obligations to one another.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Half a World From Gulf, a Spill 5 Decades Old

The only silver lining in the dark clouds of America's oil spill is that some Americans get the chance to know what their oil companies and other Western concerns are doing elsewhere. Case in point: The Niger Delta. Now Obama has secured $20 billion dollars to compensate those whose lives have been touched by this spill. Those in the Niger Delta whose lives have been damaged get not even a gesture of empathy from their own government. Sad.
Here is an interesting article on the issue in The New York Times.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Adichie holds court at Farafina’s literary evening

I am happy to announce that literary activities are alive and well in Africa. News from South Africa, Zimbabwe, Kenya and Nigeria are encouraging. People are engaging in the mind. Here's a report from Nigeria.
"Nothing could beat the eloquence of a writer at the Farafina Trust Literary evening on May 29 at the Civic Centre. Marking the end of a 10-day Creative Writing Workshop, the literary evening infused music into readings by the workshop facilitators – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Chika Unigwe, Niq Mhlongo, and Binyavanga Wainaina. Foremost Ghanaian writer, Ama Ata Aidoo, was the special guest of honour.

Welcoming the audience, publisher of Farafina Books and trustee of Farafina Trust, Muhtar Bakare, said the workshop was a way of ensuring that people take control of their own stories. “Literature is very important,” he said. “Ideas lead change in society (and) literature helps us to qualify these ideas.”

Saturday, June 5, 2010

The Oil Spills We Don't Hear About

Anene Ejikeme pens a beautiful Op-Ed in The New York Times about the other forgotten oil spills especially in Nigeria. Many Americans do not know that their oil spill is just a hint of what happens in the Niger Delta where most of their oil comes from. Surely they wouldn't like to hear about that because it doesn't concern them. They are, after all, only rugged individuals, who are concerned about only their business, and who are supposed to have all pulled themselves by their bootstraps even when it involved denying others boots.
Thanks Anene.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Adichie Makes The New Yorker’s “20 Under 40″ List

The New Yorker has chosen its “20 Under 40” list of fiction writers worth watching, a group assembled by the magazine’s editors in a lengthy, secretive process that has provoked considerable anxiety among young literary types. The list will be published in the double fiction issue of The New Yorker that arrives on newsstands Monday. All of the writers were told two weeks ago that they had made the cut.

They are Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, 32; etc etc. Congratulations, Chimamanda.


Tuesday, June 1, 2010

More on reparations and all that jazz

To the extent that our admission of culpability should re-engineer our collective and individual moral compasses, compasses that allow us to begin to appreciate the being of the other in the African world, I think this essay should be read aloud. Here it goes:
"Skip Gates recently re-ignited an old controversy by stating that Africans are also culpable in the shame that was the transatlantic slave trade because they were active participants who relied on the trade for revenue. I agree with Professor Gates. To the extent that African states sold off Africans, they are just as culpable as the Western states that bought Africans as slaves. That they are too destitute to pay should not absolve them from culpability and responsibility."
Some call this guy a sell-out. Some call him insensitive. I call him a gadfly, one that is interested in us loving ourselves and one another. E.g. I go to the Niger Delta, I see gas flares that have been roaring since years, roaring day and night in the midst of Ogoni or Ijaw or Urhobo villages; I see these people's rivers forever condemned by months and months of oil spill. What do I feel? What kinds of questions do I ask myself especially if I belong to Nigeria's middle, upper middle or ruling classes who live hundreds of miles from the Niger Delta? What?
Read this and judge.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Shell & BP & EXXON etc in Nigeria

I thought you might be interested in some of what has been going on in Nigeria for ages. Pictures speak volumes, they say. Okay:
Picture # 1

Friday, May 28, 2010

China’s subtle, silent invasion

Salisu Suleiman alerts thinking Africans to the imbalance inherent in the Chinese relation to Africa. Is it a new form of colonialism? Taking a quick look at Africa's intellectual history, it does appear that over the last fifty years, African intellectuals have invested much of their energies addressing the white man, but not much in challenging, on the one hand, various forms of inequalities and unfairness in the existing African systems, and on the other, African leaders to invest in their people. The result has been our experience of the Age of Ressentiment that failed to put Africa on the path of creative engagement with reality.
Salisu's reflection reminds us of what happens when such a vacuum is allowed to exist for long. Here he writes:
"Wherever there is a vacuum - economic or political, outside forces will move in. It is only a matter of time before the true shade of Chinese intentions in Africa, beyond raw materials emerges. The Chinese invasion is subtle and silent but salient. You only realise it when everything you see is tagged, ‘Made in China’."
Wise words. thank you Salisu.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Who needs reparations? Not Africa!

A couple of weeks ago, Henry Louis gates Jr. published an article in which he highlighted, among other things, Africa’s culpability in the Trans Atlantic Slave Trade. Many Nigerian members of different listserves launched scathing attacks on him. I, too, took part in the discussions that dared to surface against the noisy backdrop of curse and name-calling. But my greatest wish, besides airing my humble opinion, was that these discussions take place in an open forum.
Africa needs rigorous discussions of issues that confront us. And this should be done with the goal of making us more responsive to one another, more prepared to the riches of our humanity.
I am happy that Ikhide has taken the discussion of some of these important issues to the public. Great piece that should encourage informed debates about Africa. I love it.
Bravo. ENJOY!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Nomad: From Islam to America: A Personal Journey Through the Clash of Civilisations

Ayaan Hirsi Ali is not a typical author that you can read with soothing music in the background. No, you have to sit up, because you will be ready to agree or disagree with her almost loudly.
I think that she is exactly what the Somali society, indeed, the African intellectual world needs: an uneasy truth-sayer. You might not agree with everything she says, but boy, she stings, and I love her for that. Hopefully she will help Africa emerge from the age of naive ressentiment.
Here's a review of her latest book, "Nomad" I look forward to reading the book.

Memory and citizenship at Ike Okonta’s book launch

I thought you might like this:
The essence of shared social memorialisation was the focus at the launch of Ike Okonta’s new book, ‘When Citizens Revolt: Nigerian Elites, Big Oil and the Ogoni Struggle for Self-Determination.’ The Ogoni struggle and their place within national historical relevance are at the core of the book, which was presented to the public at the National Institute of International Affairs (NIIA) on Tuesday, April 27.

The book, which is drawn from Okonta’s D.Phil at Oxford Universty, was published by the Port-Harcourt based Ofirima Publishing House. CEO of the outfit, Doifie Ola, said it was formed to “encourage debate in terms of social change, which for some time has [been lacking] even in the mainstream media, and we thought that we engineering that kind of process, will help to move our country forward.”

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Welcome to Lagos - Ikhide's Ethics and Aesthetics

This guy made my Sunday with his piece on the BBC documentary: Welcome to Lagos.
An excerpt:
"The BBC deserves major kudos for its excellent documentary ‘Welcome to Lagos’ which shines a big light on the open sores of Lagos (apologies to Soyinka, who has reacted angrily to the piece, calling it patronising and condescending). Soyinka should reconsider his views. The BBC deserves credit for having the courage to damn the consequences and put out what was obviously going to be controversial. The Nigerian poor were empowered to open their doors and hearts to the world and revel in their humanity, warts and all. It was a triumph of the human spirit over the meanness of those sworn to care for all of us."

Beautiful piece, bro Ikhide.

Shock and surprise at Wole Soyinka award ceremony

Confusion and dilettantism cast ugly shadows at Wole Soyinka Literature Prize. In one of my earlier posts, I pointed out that the exclusionary clause (Books that have won other awards are not eligible for this prize), which is part of the entry conditions, instantly makes the prize a laughing stock in the intellectual world.
But then the prize organizers seem to have broken their own rules when they included two books that have already won prizes in the shortlist. So, where do you stand, dear promoters of honesty and the intellect? Here's one of your entry conditions: Books that have won other awards are not eligible for this prize.
But then Nwaubani's book won the Commonwealth Best First Book Prize (Africa Region, announced 18 February 2010) and Matlwa's won the 2006/2007 European Union Literary Award.
Why am I so concerned about this? Wole Soyinka, to me, is a global icon of intellectual excellence, and to drag his name into an exercise that promotes mediocrity makes me sad. Another thing is that Lumina stands for light. I wonder how bright this light still shines when it is covered with this bushel of foggy information.
Here's an interesting article on the issue. Thanks to NEXT.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

EMAIL FROM AMERICA: Revisiting Yellow-Yellow

This is a lesson on how to review a book when you cannot afford not to like the author. Ikhide revisits Yellow Yellow, a book that is, well, not bad, but one that the author is definitely in a better position to trump - assuming she remains a writer.
I love how the reviewer undertakes the job of a literary critic, and begins to provide explanation for the work's obvious lack. Here he goes: "But I could argue that the book’s aimlessness in the end is a great metaphor for Nigeria’s aimlessness in the new dispensation – an uncritical acceptance of alien values and a resulting caricature of what Nigeria once was."
Well done, bro.
But who says that reviewers can't be critics and interpreters? In the absence of any robust narrative about the Niger Delta experience, one can surely return to Yellow Yellow in hopes of finding what one missed in the earlier reading, or what one wished were there.
But I love the review despite the obvious attempt to wring some meaning out of a promising, but only promising, book.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Nigeria's anger at the BBC's Welcome to Lagos film

Here's Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani reacting to Nigeria's criticism of BBC's documentary, "Welcome to Lagos":
"...hardly have I come across passionate expressions of "Oh my goodness! There are people in our country living like this? What shall we do about them? How fast can we act?
The Nigerian obsession with image often approaches neurotic proportions. What people think of us appears to take manic precedence over who we really are. You might imagine that the rational response to some of the infamies we are accused of across the globe would be: "Are we really like this? If we are, then let's do something about it – quick." Instead, we perpetually harangue and speechify to "correct" the world's impressions of us.

To be a good writer all you need is to know your way with words. Tricia is dexterous; no, she is ambidextrous with words. Okay.
To be a writers' writer, and the conscience of your generation and the world, you have to have your heart at the right place; you have to be able to see more than meets the eye and to set the tone of discourse for your generation. Tricia does that not only in her novel, but in her writings especially this reflection on Nigerians' phony patriotism.

God, how I love smart writers.

Anyway please ENJOY her beautiful piece on Guardian.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Wole Soyinka Literature prize - A mercy prize award

Could somebody please help me understand this? A literary prize one of whose entry conditions is that "Books that have won other awards are not eligible for this prize."
In this way, excellent works such as Petina Gappah's An Elegy for the Easterly, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's Half of a Yellow Sun, and Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani's I Do not Come to you by Chance are already condemned by the grace of their sheer excellence. Is it still a prize for excellence or a pat on the back for trying? How, in the name of all that is holy, can excellence be a disqualifying factor in a prize dedicated to excellence? How can a prior recognition be a badge of dishonor, a stigma? How am I to take the winning entry seriously? Or rather the prize itself?
A mercy prize award? It's like marrying somebody out of pity: You enter into marriage with an ugly man who's been rejected by all the women around. How's that?
I ask these question not because this prize shouldn't be taken seriously; I ask because Wole Soyinka Prize for literature is a terrible thing to waste.
Anyway, here's the result of the recently concluded prize award. Congratulations to prize winners.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Wole Soyinka attacks BBC portrayal of Lagos 'pit of degradation'

According the Guardian, Nigerian playwright derides Welcome to Lagos, shot in teeming slums, as colonialist and patronising.
Speaking to the Guardian, Professor Soyinka said that Welcome to Lagos, the BBC2 observational documentary which follows various people in poor areas of the city, was "the most tendentious and lopsided programme" he had ever seen."

I watched the programme on YouTube. Soyinka has been the one consistent voice that sought to expose this country's open sores. How he turns to accuse the West of colonialist ploy, when they do the same, is a bit intriguing. Is this the triumph of Achebeanism? But then Soyinka is, after all, a man, a normal human being who can feel lonely and the need to join the mass of community.
In a country where the new crop of intellectuals seek to solve the problems of their country by attacking the Western portrait of the same, an old lion might feel lonely, dispirited in his long moral battle to right the ship of his people.

I have to think that the BBC is doing a great service to Nigerian humanity. Rather than rankle our nativist bile, this series should put all of us to shame. Those of us who squirrel thousands and millions of dollars out of the country; those of us who are in the position to try a little kindness, we all who have the leisure to think about the world, should spend some time on any part of this series. We should ask ourselves some questions and think of ways to create a decent society in Nigeria.

Enjoy the Guardian report.

And here is a part of the series.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

No Arab Writers Make the Shortlist for ‘African Booker’

It appears that some voices are registering their discontent over the apparent negligence of North African writers in the only "African Booker," the Caine Prize for African writing. Short story prize, mark you. One of the voices expresses it thus:
"They’ve announced the shortlist for the Caine Prize for African Writing (sometimes called the “African Booker,” even though it’s a short-story prize, not for a novel). The shortlistees were selected from 115 entries from 13 African countries. (This compelled me to look up: “How many countries in Africa?” on the Internet. Most common answer: “53.”) ...Next year, let’s at least get it together and submit something from a few North African writers. After all, it may not be an ideally structured prize, but it is £10,000."

Good for you, brother, or sister. And this makes me actually want to be an Arab writer located somewhere north of whatever is called sub-Saharan Africa. I can compete in the Arabic Booker from which my sub-Saharan brothers and sisters are excluded. (Bad for them) Next, I will want to compete in their consolation prize, short story prize!), which some malarial delusion led some people to call Booker prize. Got it? God, please make me an Arab writer. Now!!!
Anyway here's the original piece. ENJOY.

The Caine Prize and African Writing

M.A. Orthofer got me thinking and even laughing, with his incisive comment on the Bookerishness of a short story prize. To be sure, the Caine Prize for African writing has been called the African Booker. Friends, this is a short story prize, and the organizers thought it honorable enough to call it the African Booker. But then there is an Arab Booker, Russian Booker, Asian Booker - all for published novels. Chei, chei, my goodness. It's like giving three women gifts. The first gets a real Rolls Royce, the second, a real, real, Rolls Royce, and the third, gets a Toyota Corrolla. She dances away happily announcing to the world: Rejoice with me, this is my Rolls Royce. Get it?

Anyway, here is Orthofer:
"The premier short-story prize of (sort of) the continent, I'm still no big fan of their touting it as: "widely known as the 'African Booker' and regarded as Africa's leading literary award". (The Booker -- all the Booker variations, from the Man to the Russian one -- are for novels (well, save the International one, which is an author/career prize), but for some reason African authors must make do with no more than 10,000 words ?)"
Orhofer also raises another important issue discussed by our Ikhide. ENJOY!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The winning qualities of the Caine prize

Ellah Allfrey meditates on the nature and existence of a prize dedicated solely to African writing and African writers. She acknowledges the difficulties involved with the label "African Writer," but nonetheless seems to shrug it off by implying that there's nothing wrong in having a literary prize address works from a given area. What, after all, is wrong in having Asian Man Booker?
What, in Holy Baajeba's name, is wrong in a person being called an African writer? Nothing, Ellah says, by Jove, nothing. After all, Ellah testifies (as a Cine prize judge), what triumphs in any prize, any, be it the prize for jaundiced-eye writers, or prize for widows and widowers, is the beauty of imagination. Simple. Alles klar?
Okay, here is Ellah in her words:
"In the end, for all the issues regarding the very nature of the prize, the ambition and imagination of the top stories won out. We loved what moved and transported us. It was that simple."
That's the winning qualities of the Caine prize.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Caine prize reveals 'uniquely powerful' shortlist

Whoever dubbed the Caine Prize for African writing African Booker made a mistake in his/her choice of word. A short story prize is a short story prize, and please God, let it remain so regardless of how helpful it is to the authors in particular and to African writing in general.
Anyway, this year's shortlist has been announced:
"'Uniquely powerful' stories from South Africa, Zambia, Sierra Leone and Kenya have made the shortlist for this year's Caine prize for African writing.
Dubbed the African Booker and with patrons including Nobel laureates Nadine Gordimer, Wole Soyinka and JM Coetzee, the £10,000 prize is given to a short story by an African writer published in English, with 115 entries from 13 African countries received this year."

Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Memory of Love by Aminatta Forna

Tim Adams reviews Aminatta Forna's The Memory of Love, and observes that the book is " a sharp reminder that the prime mover of Sierra Leone's monstrous recent history remains on trial in the Hague. Charles Taylor is so steeped in blood that his prosecutors still struggle to make any single one of his crimes speak to the incalculable sum of the grief visited on an innocent population. As Forna's forensic reinhabiting of the aftermath of the conflict reveals, these wounds may have vivid physical realities, but it is always behind the eyes that they are felt most keenly."
It looks like Aminata is doing to Sierra Leone what Chimamanda did to Nigeria in her beautiful Half of a Yellow Sun.


Scamming my way through India

Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani's writing has such a seductive power. The writer, like a snake charmer, takes you into her world with her words, and before you know it, you're done. Done? Yes, done reading her text. This is what she displays not only in her beautiful novel, "I Do Not Come To You by Chance," but also in this piece, "Scamming my way through India."
She's relentless in her attempt to warn Nigerians off their God-given mission of destroying Nigeria (oh sweet home) and Nigeria's image (oyooyo image). Here's Tricia:
"Now, there’s a limit to what we Nigerian writers can do, how far we can go in salvaging our country’s international reputation using carefully crafted words. We can convince the world that our brothers swiping dollars off unsuspecting mugus are simply ensuring that dependent siblings have a good education; we can suggest that our sisters labouring through their privates in Italy are merely guaranteeing that aging parents spend their final days in comfort. But how on earth are we to explain away hijacking someone else’s creativity and boldly entering it for an international competition? Surely, there are quicker—and saner—ways of making a few hundred pounds."


Every Day is for the Thief - Ikhide R. Ikheloa

If I were to write a book on why I am not a Christian (original title, Bertrand Russell) it will be because of Nigerian Christianity. Nigerian Christianity makes a mockery of all that is holy and decent. Reading Ikhide's review of Teju Cole's novel, "Everyday is for the Thief," reminds me of my anger with Nigeria's new crop of evangelists and pastors:
"We are introduced to a Nigeria innocent of an abiding set of core values and a coherent spirituality – a consumer nation at its crassest defined largely by the absence of a reading culture. Soaked in the effluvium of the new Christianity, Nigeria is host to a relentless scourge of new “pastors” gouging their destitute congregation to near-death."
There is more to be discovered in this review, and, I would say, in the novel. ENJOY.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Beneath the Lion's Gaze - Review by Aida Edemariam

Aida Edemariam enjoyed reading Maaza Mengiste's Beyond the Lion's Gaze. The novel is overall a great job with the only weakness being that there's not much artistic flair. The author"tries to illustrate too much. There are few artistic attempts to describe this period in Ethiopia: those who stayed were hobbled by censorship and legions of informants; those who left, by the exigencies of exile and fear for those left behind – so it's understandable that her characters eventually become ciphers for particular factions, and a microcosm of everything that happened in the first four years of the revolution."
I think the review makes me wanna go grab the book. Thanks Aida.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Daughters of Eve and Other Tedious Tales

Nigeria, it appears, is the world capital of anthologies: Anthology of short stories, anthology of short poems, anthology of new writers, new writers anthology, anthology of surviving ANA members, anthology of neglected authors, anthology of bowlegged authors, oh boy.
While many people would want to celebrate this as a sign of the much anticipated renaissance of creative spirit in Nigeria, Ikhide Ikheloa says, ee ehh, mbaa, not so fast brothers and sisters.
He takes on one of the series of anthologies as an example of what should not be done. Here is a taste of his judgment:

"Daughters of Eve and Other New Short Stories from Nigeria is an anthology of Nigerian short stories edited by Dr. Emma Dawson and published by Critical, Cultural and Communications Press (CCCP), Nottingham, UK. [...]
This is an anthology so bad, I almost resolved to give [...]up reading and reviewing books. It is becoming an unbearable ordeal. Why did I read this book?"

I think that what our dear Ikhide is suggesting here is that it is often better to remain hungry rather than eat something that would induce you to vomit? Did I get him right?
Anyway, read the entire review. ENJOY!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Over the rainbow: South African writers take centre-stage at the London Book Fair

Andrew van der Vlies takes us through the post-apartheid landscape in South Africa.

"South African writers still have serious things to write about. But some have discovered levity in the face of gloom, reflecting both the country's dysfunction and its promise in surprising ways. The local literary scene is varied and sometimes strident: magical realism, SF, crime fiction, and the surreally comic are now as likely to be displayed in bookshops' "local writing" sections as social realism, reportage and cultural commentary."


Thursday, April 15, 2010

Mugabe inflames the Afro-pessimists, but Zimbabwe's story is much deeper

"As Zimbabwe turns 30, however, there are significant achievements to celebrate. Independence itself was one, especially as it brought the end of an apartheid-in-miniature that had allowed a small white minority to enjoy benefits not available to the black majority. Rhodesia's segregationist policy was grievously unjust; but children born in Zimbabwe would no longer have their life paths determined simply because of the colour of their skin." - Petina Gappah

Petina Gappah is a great writer. Her stories (An Elegy for Easterly) are among the best you have read or can ever read anywhere anytime.
I'm thinking however that she tries her very best to tell Zimbabwe's good stories here. Well, since we can assume that we hear from the native informer's voice we have no option than to take her words seriously.
It seems a bit worrisome though, for a sharp, restless mind like hers, to argue that one of the achievements of an independent country is independence.
That reads like a wrong premise. But I love the fact, and this is a fact, that Robert Mugabe invested a lot in education, making Zimbabwe one of the most educated countries in Africa.
No one questions Bob's love of, and dedication to, his country in his first ten years. He's been there for thirty years now. 30 fucking years! So, his investment in education couldn't produce an intelligent leader capable of taking over from him.
Enjoy Gappah's tribute to Zimbabwe at 30. May this country see better days.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

A Simple Case

E.C Osondu has a short story in the Atlantic Monthly.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Ikhide Ikheloa loves Ngugi wa Thiongo's latest offering, Dreams in a Time of War, and comes to the judgment that, this is "an important book, full of authentic history. It reminds us that we should not take for granted the valiant struggles of our warriors of old. They fought the good fight, for us and the land. They were not perfect people, but they had heart. May this book inspire us to pursue anew the dream that our ancestors fought and died for."
Great Review. Enjoy.

Why my son is reading all sorts of dangerous books

I love this one. I love especially its gentle dismissal of Achebe's ideology. I, too, love Achebe, but the more I read his essays the less relevant I find them to be to modern Africa.
Anyway, enjoy Petina's love of dangerous books.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Shell Apologises for Human Rights Violations in Niger Delta

Isn't this funny and pathetic?

"We are sorry.

Since Shell first discovered oil in the Niger Delta in 1956, the company has ravished the land and polluted the environment. “We thought these people didn’t know what was good for them,” explains Bradford Houppe, Vice-President of Shell’s newly established Ethical Affairs Committee. “We never knew that we were bringing them impoverishment, conflict, abuse and deprivation. Now we know.” Shell acknowledges that it is responsible for large-scale oil spills, waste dumping and gas flaring. Each year, hundreds of oil spills occur, many of which are caused by corrosion of oil pipes and poor maintenance of infrastructure. “Our failure to deal with these spills swiftly and the lack of effective clean-up greatly exacerbate their human rights and environmental impact,” says Houppe. “And that is wrong. It’s just really wrong.”

Between 2005 and 2008, the Nigerian government received around $36 billion in taxes and royalties from Shell. “They have never, not in the slightest, held us to account for all the wrong we did,” says Houppe. “So without taking back any of our apologies, by all means: blame them too!”

God help me, I'm about to puke.

Read the text here.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Polygamy? No thanks

Lola Shoneyin is a fearless woman who engages Nigerian issues, feminist ones included, in ways that appeal to me. She doesn't mince words when talking about the unfairness of Nigerian patriarchal system. I began to like her writing after reading her first collection of poems, So All the Time I was Sitting on an Egg. In this essay, she takes on the thorny issue of polygamy in Africa. Most Nigerian men would like to argue that it is the course of nature that men have more wives (there's actually a proverb that purports that having only one woman leads to impotence, oh la la), or that Africa should resist the Western attempt to dictate Africa's culture, or bla bla bla. What do I think about the whole thing as an unrepentant Nigerian man?
Well, let's digest Lola's essay first.

"Lola Shoneyin's grandfather had five wives and her grandmother, the first, never forgave him. But she was shocked to find that polygamy is still prevalent in Nigeria"

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

10 Questions for Desmond Tutu

I love honest people. Oh, yes, I love them to bits. I even tend to worship them when they are in positions of power, political or moral. I read somewhere that Nelson Mandela is Africa's moral capital. I think this is true; we thinkers and writers can really build upon that man's candor and insight. The next Africa's moral capital is Desmond Tutu. This is a guy you've got to love regardless of your religious affiliation or lack thereof. Just consider how he approaches the issue of the so-called single story the West has woven around Africa. Rather than blame the West, what does he say? Oh, yes, your guess is correct: "Well, part of it is true. You have bad governments." (I swear he has Nigeria in mind. A fucked-up country).
consider again the issue of gays and lesbians, an issue in which the Ugandan government has wasted precious time and energy in the past months.
Anyway, read Desmond Tutu's responses to a wide array of questions posed to him. He is a saint, isn't he? And a gift to Africa. And of course, a moral capital. And a simple human.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani wins Commonwealth Prize in Literature

She has done it.
I Do Not Come To You By Chance, Adaobi's debut novel has won the Commonwealth Prize in Literature, Africa Region.
Congratulations, Ada. Good luck in the finals.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Penguin Prize for African Writing Update

"A message from Penguin Books CEO Alison Lowry:

Penguin Books has been both delighted and overwhelmed at the response we received for the Penguin Prize for African Writing. We received an unanticipated number of entries: around 250 manuscripts were submitted for the Fiction award and 50 for the Non-Fiction award, most of which were received just before the cut off date at the end of January. Entries have come from countries all across Africa, including Ghana, Nigeria, Botswana, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Uganda, Malawi and South Africa...."

Good luck to you, if you entered.

Monday, March 8, 2010

ANA is behaving like a political party, says Osundare

The acclaimed Nigerian poet and oracle, Professor Niyi Osundara, is of the opinion that the Association of Nigerian Authors is no more than a collection of petty, potbellied provincial politicians to be. No ideals, no ideas. This is pretty hard.
ENJOY the rest of the article.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Lola Shoneyin's flights of poetry

"Shoneyin soon stepped forward amidst thunderous applause and off she took her audience on a poetic flight, as she treated them to an outpouring of poem after poem. She read from her two previous collections, ‘So All Along I Was Sitting On An Egg' and ‘Songof a Riverbird'. Among the pieces read from these were: ‘She Tried', ‘Blessed Brassiere', ‘Diplomatic Lipservice', ‘What's Going On', ‘Jilted Jack', ‘Counterfeit Marriage' and ‘Epitaph'.

The night belonged to the newest volume, of course. From ‘For the Love of Flight', Shoneyin performed ‘Bath Day', ‘Fancy', ‘Distance', ‘Multiply', ‘The Diviner's Hand', ‘Split Reed at Water Front' and ‘For Kiitan' - a long, and touching poem in honour of motherhood. Using her own experience, ‘For Kiitan' narrated the travails of a mother loss of a full-term pregnancy."

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Petina Gappah - The Sunday Times EFG Private Bank Short Story Award Shortlist

Petina Gappah has made it to the The Sunday Times EFG Private Bank Short Story Award shortlist.
Good luck, girl.

The Sarah Ladipo Manyika Interview

If you have ever fallen in love, you'll surely understand Vanessa in Sarah Oladipo Manyika's novel, In Dependence. And, if you, like me, love cosmopolitan spirit, you'll love Tayo, Vanessa's Yoruba lover. Why, in Mahaja's name, couldn't this lovely pair be together? In Dependence is a beautiful novel, one that can help you understand and feel the ache of Nigeria not realizing its full promises. I loved Tayo, and of course, Vanessa. I love the writing. Plush, smooth, you almost don't feel like you're reading.

Anyway, here are some of what Sarah has to say about the novel:
"My intention was to write a story of unfulfilled love fraught with the weight of history, race and geography and intertwined with questions of belonging, aging, religious faith and family secrets. I also hoped that the novel might speak to the complexities of contemporary Africa, its Diaspora and its interdependence with the rest of the world."

Chinua Achebe: lecturing the West in the past tense

God, I love this one. I have always known that someday we would begin to tell ourselves the truth of our present day human condition. I am just tired, dead tired of looking over our shoulders in our every attempt to explain our present and our future. Reading Achebe, especially his essays, makes me feel I am totally ignored in his discourse world. Does anyone feel like that?
Anyway, this essay reminds me of some of my feelings reading Achebe. Ikhide is right on.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

If anyone sees Zakes Mda please give him a hug from me, and tell him I admire him so much. His Ways of Dying is bad ass good. And here is another reason I admire him: His suggestions on how to write. Here are his ten tips:
1. Show, don’t tell. Humbug! You do need to tell as well. Effective storytelling is a balancing act between showing and telling, otherwise all stories would be in real time.

Anyway I disagree with him on some aspect of Nr. 7., and here is it: "....However if a novel doesn’t engage you in the first five pages discard it. Life is too short."

This is exactly what I did with Toni Morrison's Song of Solomon about five years ago, then again about three years ago, then again last year. I finally got over the first fifty pages, and Good Lawd, what a book. If anyone hasn't read Song of Solomon, please drop whatever you're doing, go and get it and read. Be prepared to yawn over the first thirty-something pages. But after that it's all tender lamb sirloin and red wine and a good chat... and whatever else follows.

2. Well, see the original here.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Odia Ofeimun wins Fonlon-Nichols Award

Congratulations to Odia. Well-deserved:
"Nigerian poet, essayist, journalist, and social critic, Odia Ofeimun has been announced as the 2010 winner of the Fonlon-Nichols Award. The award, administered by the African Literature Association, ALA, is given to an African writer every year for excellence in creative writing and for contributions to the struggle for human rights and freedom of expression, according to Dr. Oty Agbajoh-Laoye, chair of the ALA awards committee."

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Zimbabwe novelist finds a safe haven in Miami

"The death threats? Too numerous to count. The serious attempts on his life ranged from make-believe doctors offering potentially fatal ``medicine'' to a traffic accident that was no accident at all.

In his native Zimbabwe, he's been ranked as high as No. 17 on the government's Enemies of the State list."

Call for Entries: 2011 PEN/Studzinski Literary Awards

"Alert! SA PEN has issued its call for entries for the £10 000 2011 PEN/Studzinsky Literary Awards – which are judged by JM Coetzee – and has announced that Margie Orford is set to replace Shaun Johnson on the PEN executive."

Monday, February 22, 2010

In which my President turns 86 and I contemplate the joys of living in a gerontocracy

Petina Gappah at her best!
I love this one. A great mix of sarcasm, gritty wit and sorrow. Beautiful.
Nuff said. Enjoy.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Ten rules for writing fiction

I thought you might like this one. It can add one or two things to your writing arsenal.
My own advice: go against any of these rules when you feel like.
Otherwise ..., well, ENJOY!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Commonwealth Writers’ Prize regional winners’ shortlist announced

The shortlist for regional winners has been unveiled in the race to win the influential 2010 Commonwealth Writers' Prize."

Good Luck, friends.

The shortlisted writers for Africa's Best Book are:
Trespass by Dawn Garisch (South Africa)
The Double Crown by Marié Heese (South Africa)
The Thing Around Your Neck by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (Nigeria)
Eyo by Abidemi Sanusi (Nigeria)
Tsamma Season by Rosemund Handler (South Africa)
Refuge by Andrew Brown (South Africa)
Kings of the Water by Mark Behr (South Africa)

The shortlisted writers for Africa's Best First Book are:
I Do Not Come to You by Chance by Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani (Nigeria)
The Shape of Him by Gill Schierhout (South Africa)
The Shadow of a Smile by Kachi Ozumba (Nigeria)
Come Sunday by Isla Morley (South Africa)
Sleepers Wake by Alistair Morgan (South Africa)
Jelly Dog Days by Erica Emdon (South Africa)
Harmattan Rain by Aysha Harunna Attah (Ghana)


Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Penguin's African Writers Series is stuck in the past? Who cares?

Emmanuel Sigauke rejects Akin Ajayi's critique of Penguin African Writer Series, and invites us to rethink our tendency to politicize African literature. And to Ajayi's title he mildly chides: "Who cares?"
"The "who cares" question is mine...perhaps because I am tired of reading about the politicization of African writing, or its de-politicization for that matter."
Enjoy the rest of his strong arguments here.

Penguin's African Writers Series is stuck in the past

Akin Ajayi believes that the recently launched Penguin African Writers Series is stuck in the past. I think he has some great points here. It is hard to disprove the emerging impression that the African intellectual culture is predominantly past-oriented. There may be some powerful ideological persuasion behind that, but I am increasingly getting fidgety about the fact that the African has to glance over his shoulder several times in order to see where he is wedging his foot forward. Okay, okay, I might be taking Akin's thought a bit further than he might have dreamed, but, well, here is Akin in his beautiful words:

"Perhaps I'm hard to please, but I can't help feeling a little underwhelmed by Penguin's new African Writers Series, launched last month and published by its Modern Classics imprint. It's not that I think the series is a bad thing, far from it, but by modelling itself upon the iconic Heinemann imprint of the same name, the impulse to compare the two is irresistible. And, to judge from the first five books published, I fear that Penguin won't come out of this looking very good."

Friday, February 12, 2010

Wellesley College Honors Nigerian Author Chinua Achebe

Another one for our man.

"WELLESLEY, Mass.—Wellesley College’s Newhouse Center for the Humanities and the Office of the President hosts “Celebrating Chinua Achebe,” three days of readings, performances and scholarly events celebrating the work of Nigerian poet and novelist, Chinua Achebe, one of the most important international figures in contemporary literature. Winner of the 2007 Man Booker Prize for fiction, Achebe is best known for his novel, Things Fall Apart, the most widely read work of African fiction. Achebe will deliver the 2010 Wilson Lecture Friday, March 5, at 7:30 pm in Houghton Chapel."
See details!

Saturday, February 6, 2010

A week in the heart of coldness

Tolu Ogunlesi has an interesting piece on the recent celebration of African literature in Oslo:
"Returning a little over a year later for a week-long celebration of African literature organised by the Oslo House of Literature, I'm more forgiving. The city is not that ugly after all. But with a population of about half a million, it will always be a Tiny City in my estimation. Half a million people will be a housing estate in Lagos, I think."

From left to right are some of the African writers who took part in the celebration: Petina Gappah, Chenjerai Hove, Niq Mhlongo.


NLNG opens literature prize to all Nigerians

Just heard this:
"Nigerian writers seem to have their way with the Literature Committee of the NLNG Prize for Literature, after six years of criticisms and agitation.

The committee, in an announcement released to reporters on Wednesday evening, shifted grounds on two key issues that has agitated writers: the residency condition, which bars non-resident writers in the country from submitting their works for the prize and non disclosure of the identity of judges - which have caused friction between it and writers since the inception of the prize in 2004. ..."

I don't know whether this will solve Nigeria's intellectual crisis, and that in literature, but it is at least comforting to hear that the organizers are taking people's criticisms seriously.
Anyway read and judge for yourself.

An Elegy for the Easterl Up for Another Award

Petina Gappah's An Elegy for the Easterly has been nominated for Zimbabwe's National Award. Same with Brian Chikwava's Harare North.
Good to hear that these writers are getting the recognition they deserve. I strongly believe that Zimbabwe shall rise.
Here are the details from Ms Gappah's blog.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Quality Street by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is back with an exciting short story, titled "Quality."
Here's the beginning:
"They were drinking tea. One of the few things that Mrs. Njoku and her daughter Sochienne could still do together without acrimony was drink tea, because when Mrs. Njoku suggested they go to the new boutique on Victoria Island, or Titi’s Place for a facial, things they used to do together in Lagos before Sochienne went away to university in America, Sochienne called her a fat bourgeois, a dilettante dancing while Nigeria was failing, as though she could somehow solve the country’s problems by depriving herself of a manicure. But this, drinking tea, was neutral—as long as it was without fresh milk."

Sunday, January 31, 2010

EMAIL FROM AMERICA: Onitsha, Their Onitsha

Ikhide Ikheloa reviews Le Clezio's book,Onitsha
He is of the opinion that the otherwise well-written novel is no better than Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness. Here's a taste of his's assessment.
"Onitsha written by French author and 2008 Nobel laureate J. M. G. Le Clézio is a beautiful piece of fiction. Originally written in French and translated into English in 1997, it bears prose that steals your heart. Le Clézio can sustain quiet tension in a book and build up suspense. It does get silly in places where it succumbs to a puzzlingly mythical babble in which case it deteriorates from haunting prose to malarial hallucinations about the deities of Egypt and Ethiopia. As for the content and what it says about how the West sees Africans, it is an ugly book; for it reveals the insidious patronising attitudes of white liberals."

Personally I am tired of giving any attention to those works of fiction written by Westerners about Africa. The West seems to have devised an insidious means of pinning our intellect down to the game of defense, always having to redress their messy image of Africa. That pisses me off. The funny thing though, is that if we do not talk back, or at least show our disapproval, the messy image begins to gain some hints of authenticity. Still, I'm pissed off.
Anyway, here is Ikheloa's piece. ENJOY

Saturday, January 30, 2010

A trip to the source of the truth

Percy Zvomuya reviews Mukoma wa Ngugi's new novel, Nairobi Heat, and concludes that the novel's "biggest triumph is the way it forces us to re-examine accepted narratives and received truths. It shows us how cynically minded people won't hesitate to extract money from the skeletons of a genocide even as horrific as the one in 1994."
I love this; I love whatever discourse that forces me to rethink all accepted truths, whatever makes me even question what I know, and ask with Montaigne, Que sais-je? What do I know?
Look at what wa Ngugi is doing here, according to Percy: "Ishmael finds himself in the heat of "Nairobbery", where the bulk of this thriller is set." Ha ha ha, Nairobbey! You get it? What a literary morsel. Here's the whole review gist.

Anyway, please go get your own copy at
Another interesting review of Chinua Achebe's The Education of a British-­Protected Child.
"Adamantly refusing the notion that the British writer’s portrayal of African barbarity might be excused by his socio-historical context, Achebe makes Conrad, the man, answerable for the offensive stereotypes he promulgates as a writer. Comparing Conrad’s novel to other European portraits of Africa and its peoples, Achebe concludes that “without doubt, the times in which we live influence our behavior, but the best or merely the better among us . . . are never held hostage by their times.”

Sometimes I have the feeling that we Africans have given Conrad way too much attention, much more than he deserves. For Achebe to always come back to this guy makes my stomach churn. It's time to move on, friends.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Baptizing the Gun - Uwem Akpan

Uwem Akpan has come out with a new fiction titled "Baptizing the Gun."
Here's a taste:
"After an oil fire killed hundreds of my fellow swamp-dwellers in the Niger Delta, after the mass burials, after negotiating with the leaders of the scores of tribes that make up our church to insure that everybody’s burial ritual was represented during our week of mourning, I came to Lagos two days ago to visit some rich parishes and beg for aid. Now I’m staying at my brother’s place in Ikotun and driving his car. This morning, to my brother’s surprise, I had already sniffed out the black-market petrol crooks. I told him the fuel scarcity wasn’t going to stop me. I dipped my fingers into the liquid they were selling out of huge jars and smelled it—before buying. I sure know Lagosians, and Grandpa used to say, “If you know the people, you know the place.”

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Everyman's Library Presents The African Trilogy and I Am Moved by the Title

I love what Emmanuel Sigauke is doing here. He comments on Achebe's Trilogy now published in Everyman's library.
Here's a bit of the ideas he tackles:
"Comment about the "Africanness" of the trilogy: First, I am very happy that Achebe's publications have been published under the Everyman's Library label, as have those of Doris Lessing, Toni Morrison, Frank O'Connor and others. There are ongoing discussions of the Africanity of African writers and their books, or the repeatable question of the Africanicity of African literature(because, of course, this Africanicity is always either questioned or affirmed, dismissed or defended) ..."
I don't want to tell it all, so please check it out on his blog; ENJOY.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

In search of the African writer

Over the past weeks I've been in a forced hibernation. My soul had cringed at the barrage of negative events and news in the past weeks. At the home front, the absence of my Head of State for more than two months, sick in an undisclosed hospital in Saudi Arabia, has literally ground my dear country to a halt. Then as if that wasn't enough the earthquake in Haiti struck. And then, those of us interested in Obama registering some success were brought back to the stark realities of American politics when one Scott Brown won the Massachusetts special election. I wanted some good news, something to assure me that my world was not coming to an end. This, of course, kept me away from my blog, for I couldn't even think correctly much more type.

I stumbled upon this beautiful piece on the question of African writer by Ikhide. It somehow reminded me of my duty as an African writer, someone who owes something to the black world, whether I like it or not.
Here's Ikhide:
"Much has been made about recent statements ascribed to Zimbabwean writer Petina Gappah, in which she expressed unease at being called an African writer." ENJOY!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Yar'Adua and the ghost of Biafra

Ogaga Ifowodo is one of the few Nigerian poets I admire so much. His poems about the Niger Delta read like prayers to a silent God, but also supplications to his fellow Nigerians to please not elbow his people to extinction. For those who have been following the saga of the Nigerian president, who has been sick in Saudi Arabia for more than 56 days now, Ogaga's recent essay is more than a prayer. It is a dire warning. He combines the prophetic sensibility of a poet and the sharpness of a lawyer to plead on fellow Nigerians to wake up to the call of time. Here's an excerpt:

"Yar'Adua's determination, even "at this stage," to spit on the constitution reeks of the divine right to governance that the Northern power oligarchy has publicly boasted. No less an oligarch than Alhaji Yussuf Maitama Sule articulated God's allocation of national talent thus: to the Hausa-Fulani, leadership; to the Yoruba, diplomatic skills; and to the Igbo - of course, commerce! As for the minorities? Well, they do not exist, not even those from under whose feet the oil is drawn that made it possible for Maitama Sule to gain the prominence and perch for his gratuitous insult. And if they do not exist, how can you hand over power to one of them, to a "ghost?"
ENJOY and Pray for my beloved country.