Sunday, August 21, 2011

The Prize of Thoughtlessness

A friend of mine once told me that much of Nigeria's problems is that Nigerian leaders seem to have taken an oath never to think through any of their decisions. Their policies are cut to meet the need of the present ... as if they lived in a refugee camp.
An example of a shameless waste of mind, time and resources is the Nigerian literature prize, presently tagged at $100.000 dollars. I hope you read this correct: HUNDRED THOUSAND US dollars for a book.
Anyway here is my piece on the Nigerian literary prize. While you read it, remember that iconic phrase: "A Mind Is a Terrible Thing to Waste."

Friday, August 19, 2011

Wanted dead or alive: Happy African Writers!

Mukoma wa Ngugi disagrees with Ikhide Ikheloa on the aesthetic parameters of African literature.

"But that is the weaker principle in his argument. What I am interested in is his assertion that “many writers are skewing their written perspectives to fit what they imagine will sell to the West and the judges of the Caine Prize.”

Does Mukoma have a strong argument, or is he just trying to shoot down Ikhide?

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Wole Soyinka Prize for African Writing

This is potentially the greatest prize for African writing. One of its initial defects has been that it was only for books that have NOT won any award at all. This debilitating clause has now been removed. So the prize is now open to all really, really, good books by any African anywhere. This is Soyinka spirit as I know it. Excellence! Friends, let the good books win.
Here are entry rules.

And should I forget, I need to send some profound words of admiration to Ogochukwu Promise for her excellent work at Lumina. Profound spirit!

Insights from an insider and outsider

Colin Gardner lovesPius Adesanmi's
"YOU'RE Not a Country, Africa: A Personal History of the African Present"

"The picture that he paints is in many ways very grim. Yet his writing is buoyant and he is not without hope; hope that Nigeria, and Africa as a whole, will pull itself together and use its best instincts to devise a valid ideal and workable political and economic policies. This book helps one to entertain such a hope."


New Nigerian writers are in need of spirit

Here is a provocative essay by one of the very few Nigerian intellectual gadflies, Obi Nwakanma. He takes Nigerian writing to task.

"...the trouble with my own age of writers. We have no story; no drama, simply because we have lived in diapers all our lives, secluded from the messier details of real power; sheltered by the romantic view that writers are isolate figures, shielded from the rest of society by their moral sensibilities."

See the rest of the essay below, but here is my take on the piece.
Nwakanma's goal is to rouse his generation of writers from their creative slumber. I love that project. In fact,the more Nwakanmas and Ikhides we have, the better for Nigerian writing. Anyway, for a better judgment, I trim Nwakanma's arguments to their basic logical form.

Thesis: modern Nigerian literature is a joke.
Support: The current crop of writers are apolitical.
Conclusion: Their products are therefore anemic.

Actually, given his very first sentence, "Writing is an intensely political act," I think that he is basically correct. If you don't believe that writing is political then his essay crumbles. One might tell him that being political is just one of the many aspects of literature. In this regard, if the Achebe and Soyinka generation chose to be political and therefore made their marks in the literary world, the third generation of Nigerian writers could choose to be apolitical; they could be existential, or purely ethical and still make their mark on the world literary map.

The good thing in his essay, though, is that he challenges writers and critics, including himself, to dig deeper and explore the Nigerian human condition. I have lately read a number of young Nigerian writers. There is a lot to discover in their works. They are just waiting for clever, profound critics.