Category Archives: Non-Fiction

“When the internet arrived, the homosexuality deamon went digital”

a brief scientific history of deamons.

Binyavanga Wainaina on the scientific history of African deamons

Ivan Forde

Image by Ivan Forde

When the internet arrived, the homosexuality deamon went digital, and was able to climb into optic fibers. Homosexuality deamon learns fast. Full of trickery. Read a lot and decided to convert from simple analogue deamonhood, to an actual ideology. Homosexuality demon is by this time quite African, a middle class one, likes old colonial houses, comfy hotels, really likes imported things. Homosexuality deamon decided to occupy son of a pastor to a scholarship in the Netherlands where they ate cheese, wore clogs and smoked bang. While smoking bhang and at tenting philosophy they came up with a Homosexual ideology. They called it Gayism and Lesbianism. Homosexuality deamon and son of Pastor knew that Africans would never accept them unless they were imported and western. So they bought skinny jeans and balanced trousers.

Flight back to Nairobi (first class with NGO money), they were attacked overflying Sudan, by a chariot of male African homosexuality deamons. It was very traumatising – a bunch of Wolof speakers afro-deamons, some Azande, some refused to say. Two Kings. Shaka and Kabaka Mwanga. So. they were hijacked and taken to a hotel in Entebbe. They were taught many things, secret Baganda things, warrior-like Zulu things. Kabaka Mwanga said he really liked young boys, pages. He liked girls too. Actually he liked a feast of flesh.

So, deamon of Homosexuality (French mum, English dad) and Pastor’s Son were very well educated. Shaka, they learned was into pain: thorns, shot spear stabs, soulful war cries. He taught them geopolitics and how to shield their websites. Shaka was not into women. Hated lesbians. Kabaka mwanga hated white people, kept trying to poison Imported Homosexual deamon. He really hated Catholic priests. They killed his lovers. The things they did in the Cathedral!Over two weeks in Entebbe, they used social media to spread Afro-homosexualism everywhere with a few dutch techniques…………Continue on Brittle Paper


I can’t honestly say what this is. Really. You just have to read and make of it what you will. Looks like Binyavanga was possessed by Marechera’s spirit or something. The most I can say is that when storytelling tips over the edge of prophecy, you get this.


Ivan Forde

So the deamon for homosexuality, is it French? Coz many Pentecostals say it is not African. Now, the deamon of homosexuality—I’m thinking it came on a ship, coz deamons must be hosted by a body. They just can’t arrive by teleporting. Bible Scientists who know the field very well have deeply researched ALL African knowledge and are sure Gay deamon DID indeed come from the West. Scientists and experts on Bible Africa are sure Homo deamon was imported. I’m not sure though whether by plane or ship. Container number? Homosexuality deamon could very well have arrived, not in a container (carrying Friesian bulls maybe?), it could have come with passengers. Homosexuality deamon must have sat around bored for a long long time occupying one or two people, until the internet arrived.

When the internet arrived, the homosexuality deamon went digital, and was able to climb into optic fibers. Homosexuality deamon learns fast. Full of trickery. Read a lot and decided to convert from simple analogue deamonhood, to an actual ideology. Homosexuality demon is by this time quite African, a middle class one, likes old colonial houses, comfy hotels, really likes imported things. Homosexuality deamon decided to occupy son of a pastor to a scholarship in the Netherlands where they ate cheese, wore clogs and smoked bang. While smoking bhang and at tenting philosophy they came up with a Homosexual ideology. They called it Gayism and Lesbianism. Homosexuality deamon and son of Pastor knew that Africans would never accept them unless they were imported and western. So they bought skinny jeans and balanced trousers.

Flight back to Nairobi (first class with NGO money), they were attacked overflying Sudan, by a chariot of male African homosexuality deamons. It was very traumatising – a bunch of Wolof speakers afro-deamons, some Azande, some refused to say. Two Kings. Shaka and Kabaka Mwanga. So. they were hijacked and taken to a hotel in Entebbe. They were taught many things, secret Baganda things, warrior-like Zulu things. Kabaka Mwanga said he really liked young boys, pages. He liked girls too. Actually he liked a feast of flesh.

- See more at:

I can’t honestly say what this is. Really. You just have to read and make of it what you will. Looks like Binyavanga was possessed by Marechera’s spirit or something. The most I can say is that when storytelling tips over the edge of prophecy, you get this.


Ivan Forde

So the deamon for homosexuality, is it French? Coz many Pentecostals say it is not African. Now, the deamon of homosexuality—I’m thinking it came on a ship, coz deamons must be hosted by a body. They just can’t arrive by teleporting. Bible Scientists who know the field very well have deeply researched ALL African knowledge and are sure Gay deamon DID indeed come from the West. Scientists and experts on Bible Africa are sure Homo deamon was imported. I’m not sure though whether by plane or ship. Container number? Homosexuality deamon could very well have arrived, not in a container (carrying Friesian bulls maybe?), it could have come with passengers. Homosexuality deamon must have sat around bored for a long long time occupying one or two people, until the internet arrived.

When the internet arrived, the homosexuality deamon went digital, and was able to climb into optic fibers. Homosexuality deamon learns fast. Full of trickery. Read a lot and decided to convert from simple analogue deamonhood, to an actual ideology. Homosexuality demon is by this time quite African, a middle class one, likes old colonial houses, comfy hotels, really likes imported things. Homosexuality deamon decided to occupy son of a pastor to a scholarship in the Netherlands where they ate cheese, wore clogs and smoked bang. While smoking bhang and at tenting philosophy they came up with a Homosexual ideology. They called it Gayism and Lesbianism. Homosexuality deamon and son of Pastor knew that Africans would never accept them unless they were imported and western. So they bought skinny jeans and balanced trousers.

Flight back to Nairobi (first class with NGO money), they were attacked overflying Sudan, by a chariot of male African homosexuality deamons. It was very traumatising – a bunch of Wolof speakers afro-deamons, some Azande, some refused to say. Two Kings. Shaka and Kabaka Mwanga. So. they were hijacked and taken to a hotel in Entebbe. They were taught many things, secret Baganda things, warrior-like Zulu things. Kabaka Mwanga said he really liked young boys, pages. He liked girls too. Actually he liked a feast of flesh.

- See more at:

“I am a homosexual, Mum”

From Chimurenga Chronic Blog, Binyavanga Wainaina


“I am a homosexual, Mum

(A lost chapter from One Day I Will Write About This Place)

11 July, 2000.

This is not the right version of events.

Hey mum. I was putting my head on her shoulder, that last afternoon before she died. She was lying on her hospital bed. Kenyatta. Intensive Care. Critical Care. There. Because this time I will not be away in South Africa, fucking things up in that chaotic way of mine. I will arrive on time, and be there when she dies. My heart arrives on time. I am holding my dying mother’s hand. I am lifting her hand. Her hand will be swollen with diabetes. Her organs are failing. Hey mum. Ooooh. My mind sighs. My heart! I am whispering in her ear. She is awake, listening, soft calm loving, with my head right inside in her breathspace. She is so big – my mother, in this world, near the next world, each breath slow, but steady, as it should be. Inhale. She can carry everything. I will whisper, louder, in my minds-breath. To hers. She will listen, even if she doesn’t hear. Can she?

Mum. I will say. Muum? I will say. It grooves so easy, a breath, a noise out of my mouth, mixed up with her breath, and she exhales. My heart gasps sharp and now my mind screams, sharp, so so hurt so so angry.

“I have never thrown my heart at you mum. You have never asked me to.”

Only my mind says. This. Not my mouth. But surely the jerk of my breath and heart, there next to hers, has been registered? Is she letting me in?

Nobody, nobody, ever in my life has heard this. Never, mum. I did not trust you, mum. And. I. Pulled air hard and balled it down into my navel, and let it out slow and firm, clean and without bumps out of my mouth, loud and clear over a shoulder, into her ear.

“I am a homosexual, mum.”

July, 2000.

This is the right version of events.

I am living in South Africa, without having seen my mother for five years, even though she is sick, because I am afraid and ashamed, and because I will be thirty years old and possibly without a visa to return here if I leave. I am hurricaning to move my life so I can see her. But she is in Nakuru, collapsing, and they will be rushing her kidneys to Kenyatta Hospital in Nairobi, where there will be a dialysis machine and a tropical storm of experts awaiting her.

Relatives will rush to see her and, organs will collapse, and machines will kick into action. I am rushing, winding up everything to leave South Africa. It will take two more days for me to leave, to fly out, when, in the morning of 11 July 2000, my uncle calls me to ask if I am sitting down.

“ She’s gone, Ken.”

I will call my Auntie Grace in that family gathering nanosecond to find a way to cry urgently inside Baba, but they say he is crying and thundering and lightning in his 505 car around Nairobi because his wife is dead and nobody can find him for hours. Three days ago, he told me it was too late to come to see her. He told me to not risk losing my ability to return to South Africa by coming home for the funeral. I should not be travelling carelessly in that artist way of mine, without papers. Kenneth! He frowns on the phone. I cannot risk illegal deportation, he says, and losing everything. But it is my mother.

I am twenty nine. It is 11 July, 2000. I, Binyavanga Wainaina, quite honestly swear I have known I am a homosexual since I was five. I have never touched a man sexually. I have slept with three women in my life. One woman, successfully. Only once with her. It was amazing. But the next day, I was not able to.

It will take me five years after my mother’s death to find a man who will give me a massage and some brief, paid-for love. In Earl’s Court, London. And I will be freed, and tell my best friend, who will surprise me by understanding, without understanding. I will tell him what I did, but not tell him I am gay. I cannot say the word gay until I am thirty nine, four years after that brief massage encounter. Today, it is 18 January 2013, and I am forty three.

Anyway. It will not be a hurricane of diabetes that kills mum inside Kenyatta Hospital Critical Care, before I have taken four steps to get on a plane to sit by her side.



Will leave a small window open the night before she dies, in the July Kenyatta Hospital cold.

It is my birthday today. 18 January 2013. Two years ago, on 11 July 2011, my father had a massive stroke and was brain dead in minutes. Exactly eleven years to the day my mother died. His heart beat for four days, but there was nothing to tell him.

I am five years old.

He stood there, in overalls, awkward, his chest a railway track of sweaty bumps, and little hard beads of hair. Everything about him is smooth-slow. Bits of brown on a cracked tooth, that endless long smile. A good thing for me the slow way he moves, because I am transparent to people’s patterns, and can trip so easily and fall into snarls and fear with jerky people. A long easy smile, he lifts me in the air and swings. He smells of diesel, and the world of all other people’s movements has disappeared. I am away from everybody for the first time in my life, and it is glorious, and then it is a tunnel of fear. There are no creaks in him, like a tractor he will climb any hill, steadily. If he walks away, now, with me, I will go with him forever. I know if he puts me down my legs will not move again. I am so ashamed, I stop myself from clinging. I jump away from him and avoid him forever. For twentysomething years, I even hug men awkwardly.

There will be this feeling again. Stronger, firmer now. Aged maybe seven. Once with another slow easy golfer at Nakuru Golf Club, and I am shaking because he shook my hand. Then I am crying alone in the toilet because the repeat of this feeling has made me suddenly ripped apart and lonely. The feeling is not sexual. It is certain. It is overwhelming. It wants to make a home. It comes every few months like a bout of malaria and leaves me shaken for days, and confused for months. I do nothing about it.

I am five when I close my self into a vague happiness that asks for nothing much from anybody. Absent-minded. Sweet. I am grateful for all love. I give it more than I receive it, often. I can be selfish. I masturbate a lot, and never allow myself to crack and grow my heart. I touch no men. I read books. I love my dad so much, my heart is learning to stretch.

I am a homosexual.

Binyavanga discusses why he came out on Books Live SA


Review of Queer African Reader

From The Feminist Wire a review of the Queer African Reader edited by Sokari Ekine and Hakima Abbas

By Rita Nketiah and Rose Afriyie

QAR Cover

In the past decade, African sexual minorities have received increasing attention. 2013 alone saw numerous headlines most notably around  the murder of activist Eric Lembembe in Cameroon and the passage of  the “Anti-Homesexuality” and “Same Sex Marriage Prohibition” bills in Uganda and Nigeria respectively. But there is much more to Queer rights in Africa than murder and policy advocacy.  For example, most mainstream media outlets have been reluctant to include: accounts from queer Ugandans in their own words about the root of African homophobic policy in the Western evangelical movement; the lack of sustainability of lesbian-led nonprofits in Kenya; the marginalization of intersex and trans folks in Uganda; and the fearlessly captured lives of Queer South Africans through photography, to name a few.

For better or worse, there has been much debate and controversy about the place of queer people in African societies. The most heinous of these opinions has been that homosexuality (a term often used to generalize the much more complex sexual experiences of queer-identified people) is an “un-African” ideology superimposed by former colonial powers. In response, many queer Africans and allies have sought to challenge the deeply ingrained gender and sexual norms that continue to threaten the quality of life for non-straight Africans.

Amidst these debates comes a bold new anthology called the Queer African Reader, published by Pambazuka Press, and co-edited by Sokari Ekine and Hakima Abbas. Indeed, the very idea that one places “Queer” and “African” side by side radically challenges the notion that these identities are mutually exclusive. Understanding LGBTI Africans holistically, not just as newsworthy after vicious murders or after the passage of discriminatory laws, but in their everyday resistance against sexual identity oppression seems within reach. This resolution arrived at in Queer African Reader is especially relevant now as we embark on a new year and new possibilities of envisioning LGBTI Africans and it is important to call out the notable contributions to this effort by name

A History of Haiti and the Legacy of Violence in Jamaica

From Left of Black: A History of Haiti and the Legacy of Violence in Jamaica with Laurent Dubois and Deborah Thomas

Host and Duke University Professor Mark Anthony Neal is joined in-studio by Laurent Dubois, the Marcello Lotti Professor of Romance Studies and History at Duke University A co-director of the Haiti Lab at the Franklin Humanities Institute, Dubois discusses his new book Haiti: The Aftershocks of History (Metropolitan Books). Dubois gives historical context to the longstanding relationship between the U.S. and Haiti. Also the author of Soccer Empire: The World Cup and the Future of France, Dubois also talks about how he uses athletics as a gateway into political and cultural engagement.

Later, Neal is joined via Skype© by University of Pennsylvania professor of anthropology Deborah Thomas. The author of Exceptional Violence: Embodied Citizenship and Transnational Jamaica and co-director and co-producer of the film Bad Friday: Rastafari After Coral Gardens, Thomas discusses common misconceptions and stereotypes against Jamaican people. Thomas dives into the history of the Rastafarian Movement and their oppression. Lastly, Thomas talks about her film, and how her background as a dancer inspires her scholarship.

Narratives from Queer Africa

Narratives From Queer Africa

The dominant U.S. media narrative of queer identified Africans is one of victimization. We’ve heard the many stories of criminalized sexuality in various African nations (and sometimes we hear about the Western Evangelicals who have worked to institutionalize this hate). While the narrative serves a purpose, it has consistently left out a major part of the story: the actual voices of Africans who are navigating this existence.

Just in the first half of this year, three collections of creative writing by and about queer identified Africans have been published. Check them out:

The Queer African Reader

From the publisher’s site: As increasing homophobia and transphobia across Africa threatens to silence the voices of African Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) people, the Queer African Reader brings together a collection of writings, analysis and artistic works that engage with the struggle for LGBTI liberation and inform sexual orientation and gender variance.

The book aims to engage a primarily African audience and focuses on intersectionality while including experiences from a variety of contexts including rural communities, from exile, from conflict and post-conflict situations as well as diverse religious and cultural contexts. Contributions from across the continent explore issues such as identity, tactics for activism, international solidarity, homophobia and global politics, intersections with the broader social justice movement in Africa, the feminist movement and LGBTI rights, religion and culture, reconciling the personal with the political.

Queer Africa

From the African Books Collective: Queer Africa is a collection of unapologetic, tangled, tender, funny, bruising and brilliant stories about the many ways in which we love each other on the continent. In these unafraid stories of intimacy, sweat, betrayal and restless confidences, we accompany characters into cafes, tattoo salons, the barest of bedrooms, coldly gleaming spaces into which the rich withdraw, unlit streets, and their own deepest interiors.

Visit Modjaji Books (publisher of Queer Africa) on Facebook or at the African Books Collective for an excerpt and more information on ordering.

Q-Zine Issue 6: LGBTI Creative Writing

Q-Zine is a quarterly mag published by Burkina Faso-based Queer African Youth Networking Center. In Issue 6 (February 2013), the magazine released an anthology of writing. You can read it online here or download a .pdf version to read later.

These are just a few works published this year. For more writings from queer Africa, check out this list of LGBT African literature on BookShy and this more detailed article from BookShy Blogger, Zahrah Nesbitt-Ahmed, posted on Gender Across Borders.

Sexuality and Social Justice in Africa: Rethinking Homophobia and Forging Resistance

image001Sexuality and Social Justice in Africa: Rethinking Homophobia and Forging Resistance by Marc Epprecht


The persecution of people in Africa on the basis of their assumed or perceived homosexual orientation has received considerable coverage in the popular media in recent years. Gay-bashing by political and religious figures in Zimbabwe and Gambia; draconian new laws against lesbians and gays and their supporters in Malawi, Nigeria and Uganda; and the imprisonment and extortion of gay men in Senegal and Cameroon have all rightly sparked international condemnation. However, much of the analysis has been highly critical of African leadership and culture without considering local nuances, historical factors and external influences that are contributing to the problem. Such commentary also overlooks grounds for optimism in the struggle for sexual rights and justice in Africa, not just for sexual minorities but for the majority population as well.

Based on pioneering research on the history of homosexualities and engagement with current lgbti and HIV/AIDS activism, Marc Epprecht provides a sympathetic overview of the issues at play and a hopeful outlook on the potential of sexual rights for all.



‘Clearly written, well researched and deeply committed to global social justice, this book foregrounds decades of research on sexuality in Africa. It shows, despite much publicized homophobia, the existence of sexual tolerance and calls for the elaboration of erotic justice.’ – Dr Robert Morrell, Research Office, University of Cape Town, South Africa

‘Through meticulous scholarship, Marc Epprecht has become a global authority on how homosexuality is indigenous to Africa. In this book, he once more brings sanity, clarity and wisdom to a debate too often warped by ideology. His book is a vital introduction for anybody wishing to understand the complex ways that African societies are changing when it comes to issues of sexuality, and how new ideas about sexual identity – often deeply grounded in ancient traditions – are taking root on the continent. As the global culture wars play out on African soil, pitching those who advocate ‘human rights’ against those who claim to represent ‘traditional values’, Epprecht writes vividly of the people who actually live on the battlegrounds of these debates, and cautions us to eschew easy readings in favour of deeper understanding of the contexts. This very necessary book is a work of activism as well as scholarship. It provides trenchant lessons for all those interested in social justice and how to support and defend the rights of embattled sexual minorities in sub-Saharan Africa.’ – Mark Gevisser, author, journalist and Open Society Fellow

“what a friend we have in jesus” by Mark Jacobs


What a Friend we have in Jesus, by Mark Jacobs
The only thing a lot of us know about Haiti is that in many instances, were it not for Haiti, Guyana would be the worst place in the Caribbean. And that Haiti is supposed to be a pretty depressing place with voudou.

A minority of us might know about the Haitian revolution and so on, but it does not mean much to those of us who are not really interested in revolting.

Mark Jacobs was born and raised in Guyana and went to live and work in Haiti and this book of 17 pieces of writing show insights into Haiti which might still leave us not having any different views of Haiti.

This is probably the first book ever written by a Guyanese about their own travels in the Caribbean (and the diaspora) – and it is refreshing that Mark Jacobs seeks to put this Guyanese visitor gaze on Haitian life. So often people have come to Guyana and written about their time here, that it is a relief to see this reversed gaze (One day we might get best sellers who return to India and to United Kingdom and USA and write those nice kind of patronising travelogues).

The first story is ‘black woman and child’.. Mark writes about black woman in Haiti and in Guyana beating/threatening to beat a child. In ‘madame’ about love Guyana style with Haitian overtones. The other vignettes (I cannot find a better word) are short incisive reflections, moments in time about the experiences in Haiti.. about police who beat people and police who give people a lift on the road ; about magic and about reality. Some of the stories are funny, but the laughter is a kind of alternative reaction to anger . Creole and Kweyol are used to tell the stories and there is no insistence on correct English or French or Creole.

The last story, with its irony though.. is a bit of history.. about God, the loving and suffering Christ who died on the cross (as many of the slaves were probably thought they had to suffer too and accept their lot since heaven was waiting). The litany “the god of the slaver is not to the god of the slave” is repeated in the end of this book and I remember the Easter Sunday 7am service with the Pastor talking about how the youth rebelling (and remembering the middle finger protests ) and then in the same sermon Pastor trying to remind the congregation that the people laid down their robes and so on in protest at the Romans for Jesus to come in riding on his donkey. But in Haiti and in Guyana, saviours come in air conditioned SUVs with dark tinted windows.

Jackie Kay, ‘Falling Back” – Meeting my Nigerian Father

A humorous 15 minutes from Black Scottish writer, Jackie Kay on her birth, life in Scotland and her journey to meet her Nigerian father who turns out to be a ‘Born Again Christian’ who spent their first meeting jumping up and down praising God. Wonderful – a must listen!

Jackie Kay @ 5×15 from 5×15 on Vimeo.

The Red Dust Road
Jackie Kay was born in Edinburgh in 1961 to a Scottish mother and Nigerian father. She was adopted by a white couple at birth and was brought up in Glasgow, studying at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama and Stirling University. Her experiences of growing up inspired her first collection of poetry, The Adoption Papers (1991), which won a Scottish Arts Council Book Award and the Saltire Society Scottish First Book of the Year Award. Her other collections include Other Lovers (1993), Off Colour (1998), Darling: New and Selected Poems (2007) and The Lamplighter (2008). Her collection of poetry for children, Red, Cherry Red (2007) won the 2008 CLPE Poetry Award. Her first novel, Trumpet, published in 1998, was awarded the Guardian Fiction Prize and short-listed for the International IMPAC Dublin Award. She has also published three collections of short stories: Why Don’t You Stop Talking (2002), Wish I Was Here (2006) and her latest book, Reality, Reality (2012). Her memoir Red Dust Road (2010), a memoir about meeting her Nigerian birth father, which was short-listed for the 2011 PEN/Ackerley Prize. Jackie Kay was awarded an MBE for services to literature in 2006.

Obodo 9ja

Guest post by Adebiyi Olusolape*

I read Achebe’s piece in the Grauniad. The piece says nothing about his latest book, but it says a lot about Nigeria. What follows are some of my prejudices and misconceptions, stated in response to statements culled from Achebe’s piece:

I believe that it is fundamentally important, indeed essential to our humanity, to ask the hard questions, in order to better understand ourselves and our neighbours.

Spinoza’s exhortation immediately comes to mind, “Non ridere, non lugere, neque detestari, sed intelligere”– “Not to laugh, not to weep, not to hate, but to understand.” I say let the man laugh, weep and hate, it humanizes. I, too, cherish understanding, but let Achebe laugh, weep and hate, it humanizes. I for my part will cherish understanding, deplore hatred, weep with them that weep and laugh with those who rejoice.

Achebe’s polemic is a study in Hate as fine art, but do we admit it? Because it is Achebe; because he’s an old man; because he is Igbo; because it’s about Biafra; because he knocks Nigeria, which is our national pastime and we are enamored with those who can knock Nigeria with panache and righteously; because the hate is so sublimely expressed– I think he has surpassed Conrad.

Achebe projects the image of Nigeria as “the other world,” the antithesis of Biafra and therefore of civilization, a place where man’s vaunted intelligence and refinement are finally mocked by triumphant bestiality.

Did the federal government of Nigeria engage in the genocide of its Igbo citizens…

Charles Dadi Onyeama was at the ICJ throughout the war. Was it not the Roaring Lion of Eke himself who once (in)famously observed that the Igbo domination of Nigeria was only a matter of time?

Some of Nigeria’s finest jurists were on the Biafran side: Louis Mbanefo, Chike Idigbe, Moses Balonwu, G.C.M. Onyuike, Chukwudifu Oputa, Anthony Aniagolu; Biafra was recognized by Tanzania, Ivory Coast, Gabon, Haiti– why wasn’t a case of genocide brought before the ICJ?

I recognize Achebe’s question as part of a global process of working out what genocide means. I know there were pogroms before the war in which “Easterners” were sought out and attacked. I believe Federal soldiers have questions to answer over massacres in Asaba, Onitsha, Ihiala and Biafran soldiers over Urhonigbe.

To go off on a tangent, there is a concession in Achebe’s query although it may require some teasing out. It is that all through the war, the Igbos who pledged allegiance to Biafra, that allegiance notwithstanding, continued to be citizens of Nigeria. I have continued to wonder about the ramifications of the expulsion of non-easterners from the Eastern region even before the Federal “police action” began against the “rebellion.”

The world continues to work out what Genocide means. Witness the recent events in France and Turkey over the Armenian question, the recent Bosnian genocide trials. There is renewed interest in the Herero Genocide. I, only recently, made the acquaintance of a scholar who has written on the connections between everyday work and the Rwandan genocide. I can only hope those who have the courage of their convictions will go beyond the kinds of actions that created wartime propaganda to something concrete.

…punitive policies, the most notorious being “starvation as a legitimate weapon of war.”

Is there a weapon of war that is legitimate? Is war itself legitimate? Bear with me, I am still trying to learn Grotius properly: ius ad bellum, ius in bello. Pacifism? Didn’t both sides use starvation as a weapon of war? What does the evidence from when Bonny Island was held by the Federals say? What does the experience of Ogonis, in Biafran concentration and refugee camps, tell us?

Obi Iwuagwu’s ‘Food Shortages, Survival Strategies and the Igbo of Southeastern Nigeria during the Nigeria Civil War’ identifies about ten factors that contributed to starvation during the Nigeria Civil War, the economic blockade being a significant factor.

Chima Korieh’s ‘Agricultural Transformation, State Policy and Agricultural Decline in Eastern Nigeria, 1960-1970 had already pointed me to two other factors. The refusal of relief supplies by the Biafran administration then becomes a thirteenth.

A reading of the various accounts of the civil war has made me wonder about a fourteenth: profiteers and corrupt administrators. Do I pursue understanding to the point of splitting hairs, into proximate and ultimate causes? What is the point? If we neglect other factors and focus on punitive policies alone, what does that help us understand? Are victim-hood and innocence the only grounds for insight?

Why has the war not been discussed, or taught to the young, more than 40 years after its end?

My mother used to tell me about the bombing of Yaba during the Civil War, and how civilians died, others were maimed. She told me direct hits were scored by a Biafran bomber on the area around Casino Cinema, and how after that the once vibrant commerce in that area ebbed away.

She grew up on Ondo Street, Ebute Meta, and is an alumna of Queen’s College and Yabatech. I, myself, am writing this on Raymond Street. Nowadays, the area around “Casino” bus stop, on Herbert Macaulay Way is one of the quieter spots on that long stretch of road. That has always had an extra significance for me.

What dread and pain that bombing brought, some of which my mother was able to communicate to me– what my mother communicated to me was enough to begin understanding the terror and harm that came to others who experienced indescribably worse under Federal aerial bombardment.

As to teaching the war, I was never one to confuse schooling with education. If this is about schooling, shouldn’t the crusaders be directing their practical-critical activity towards the various Ministries of Education in the federation?

I have been searching for a copy of that controversial History of the Nigerian Army (1863-1992) which the Nigerian Army Education Corps and School (NAECS) prepared and which I learnt dedicates over 10% of its content to the period 1966—1970.
I wonder, to cite just one example, whether the petition brought by none other than Prof. Ben Nwabueze, with the Ohaneze Ndigbo, before the Oputa panel and all the responses that petition provoked, especially that of the Ogbakor Ikwerre, can be considered a formal discussion.

I wonder, then, whether the publication of Matthew Kukah’s book, last year and all the related publicity, in which Kukah called upon government to deal with the findings of the Oputa panel, can be held to be another attempt to put these issues on the front burner.

I am struggling not to interpret Achebe’s statement as erasure, not to number him on the side of the successive administrations of the country, similar in their dismissal of the Oputa panel.

This calculation, the Biafrans insisted, was predicated on a holy jihad proclaimed by mainly Islamic extremists in the Nigerian army…

In 1992, a letter was written to the Sultan of Sokoto by the extremist Izalatu Islamic Group, seeking his assistance in waging a jihad in Zangon Katab. On the strength of that letter alone, should the Kataf crises be characterized as jihad?

In any case, the motif of jihad is one that recurs in Nigeria’s history, from the jihad of Uthman Dan Fodio to Boko Haram. I would like to know who the ‘Islamic extremists in the Nigerian army’ were.  I would like to learn about their proclamation of a holy jihad.

Why were there more small arms used on Biafran soil than during the entire second world war?

This is fantastic. I want to look at Achebe’s sources. In any case, ascertaining the sources and quantities of arms supplies to both sides should help us along in answering this loaded question.

Why were there 100,000 casualties on the much larger Nigerian side compared with more than 2 million — mainly children — Biafrans killed?

Tears come out of the skies every time somebody dies. Does one not ask for different skies as from the distance of another life? One trusts to Time to heal all those who were touched directly and in other ways by the staggering loss.

The unfortunate loss of our people is one other reason this country hasn’t made all the progress it should have. Nevertheless, I know the numbers are contested. I would love to know the basis of Achebe’s accounting.

‘The wartime cabinet of General Gowon, the military ruler, it should also be remembered, was full of intellectuals like Chief Obafemi Awolowo among others who came up with a boatload of infamous and regrettable policies.’

How then does Achebe justify his post-war relationship with the Commissioner for Health in that cabinet? What is Achebe’s position on the role of that Health Commissioner in the pogroms that preceded the war? I mean, does Achebe have a response to Ileogbunam’s allegations in Ironside, allegations which I have been told are corroborated by clues in Tanko Yakassai’s autobiography and the biography written by Alan Feinstein?

However, Awolowo saw the dominant Igbos at the time as the obstacles to that goal, and when the opportunity arose — the Nigeria-Biafra war — his ambition drove him into a frenzy to go to every length to achieve his dreams.

Awolowo’s roles in the conduct of the Civil War are a matter of fact but are his motivations and intentions? I am always wary of diviners of intention.

After that outrageous charade, Nigeria’s leaders sought to devastate the resilient and emerging eastern commercial sector even further by banning the import of secondhand clothing and stockfish — two trade items that they knew the burgeoning market towns of Onitsha, Aba and Nnewi needed to re-emerge.

What was the role of the government of the Mid-West State in the restoration of electricity supply to Onitsha, Enugu, Nsukka, and Nkalagu, enabling the rehabilitation of industries in the former East Central State?

Did Ogbemudia donate furniture and other resources to the University of Nigeria, Nsukka to enable that institution resume the training of Nigerians? Did people all over the country, in various ways, lend a helping hand to friends, family, acquaintances and even perfect strangers?

Did Awolowo save, during the period of the war, the revenue due to the East Central State and release those funds as monthly subventions at the rate of £990,000 after the war?

Did Ikoku, the Commissioner for Economic Development in East Central State, aver that the Federal Government made available a £21,505,000 grant and £10, 620,000 in loans for his state?

Did Mbakwe’s administration draw any funds from the federal purse?

In the 90s, I would stay with the Uwezus, in Oke-Ayo, Ibadan, whenever my mother traveled to Aba. In those days, she used to buy Bangkok Linen, Garbadine and other cloth. She also brought back secondhand clothing, which she sourced from Ngwa road.
My grandmother had introduced her daughter to Aba, Ariaria, in the 80s, a few years before I was born. Does it matter that the Uwezus are from Mbaise? Does it matter that my grandmother had her primary education in Umuahia, or that she went on to Uli Girls although she had to complete her secondary education in Enugu?

My interest in Nigerian markets as drivers of economic growth may well be related to certain elements in my personal history. But, what exactly was the significance of secondhand clothing and stockfish to the ‘eastern commercial sector’?

Well, I have news for them: The Igbos were not and continue not to be reintegrated into Nigeria, one of the main reasons for the country’s continued backwardness.

Have the Dukawas ever been integrated into Nigeria? Have the Katafs been reintegrated? The Tivs? An Ijaw man is President of Nigeria today and many Ijaw ex-militants have been placed in the lap of luxury, can we then say the Ijaws have been reintegrated into Nigeria since Adaka Boro’s Twelve-Day Revolution?

What exactly is meant by reintegration? What exactly are the privations peculiar to Igbos in Nigeria? For Achebe’s unqualified claim, Iweala adduced this, “A trip to the Igbo-dominated southeast reveals abysmal roads, bridges threatening to collapse, and a power grid that is all but entirely useless, all what many Igbos believe is a deliberate policy of neglect as punishment for the sin of secession.”

If Iweala is right, then I guess the Lagos-Ibadan expressway and the town of Ibafo are to be found in the ‘Igbo-dominated southeast.’ My goodness! Only last week, Dr Ajayi and I went to my house in Elebu, Ibadan. We had to park his car kilometers away from the house and continue on foot because the red strip of laterite that used to pass for a road has been terribly eroded as to become “unmotorable.”

We also waded through a stream because the bridge had long been washed away. I guess that’s because we were being punished for the sin of secession. In any case, we are all from Ado-Na-Idu, as B.O.N. Eluwa argues, in his posthumously published book on Igbo origins.

Is Philip Asiodu Igbo? Was Ukpabi Asika Igbo? Are Kalu Idika Kalu and Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala Igbo? Clearly, the things Achebe identifies correlate not to “Igbo” but to something deeper, something “Human.” Alas! Some men cling rather to the raft of old hatreds and prejudices than drown in humanity.

As for me, if I am to identify one of the main reasons for continued backwardness in Nigeria, it would be this unfortunate arrangement by which funds for development in, say, Oyo State are expected to come from, say, Bayelsa State.

I am opposed to the principle which is manifest in Decree 5 of 1969 and other revenue allocation measures since then, the recommendations of both the Ojetunji Aboyade Revenue Sharing scheme and the Pius Okigbo Commission on Revenue Allocation etc., etc.

M.I. Ahamba, in Twin Pillars of Unity, wrote, “[T]hose who believe in speaking their mind must develop patient ears.” The case for Nigeria’s unity will only be put beyond debate when this nation sacrifices certain majority interests in order to listen patiently to the voice of her minorities.

Nigeria has substantive ethnic issues to address; why is it that Hausa-Fulani, Igbo and Yoruba loudmouths are always trying to corner the national discourse? Why does a dog lick its balls? I guess it’s because it can. Just because it can.

Adebiyi Olusolape is a journeyman collagist. He is poetry editor of Saraba Magazine.

PART 1 – SEBATI MAFATE: Hollywood’s African Star

I have read many books in 2012 and one of the books that touched me the most is “Memories of Lotsane: The Chronicles of an African Boarding School” by the gifted Sebati Mafate. Mafate hails from Botswana and is not just an author but also a film-maker and actor in the Hollywood industry and other industries globally. I recently caught up with the man himself, Sebati Mafate, and asked him to tell me about his life and work. I hope you all enjoy the interview and grab yourself a copy of this game-changing book.
DONALD MOLOSI: Memories of Lotsane… how did the idea start?
SEBATI MAFATE: The idea started some 10 years ago, when I would tell my wife Vivian about the escapades of boarding school, particularly the story of Andries ‘Hotstix’ Ryan (May he rest in peace), the colored from Boxpits, who could not speak Setswana very well, I am sure by now having read the book you know all about him, and how he demoralized an entire football team by himself, by voicing expletive laced comments at them in his broken Setswana. Such stories and others I told would make people laugh and they, especially my wife, would tell me to write about these stories, and that was when I got the idea, even though to be quite honest I did not have any clue as to how I would structure a story like this one.
DONALD: You mention your wife who is not from Botswana like you. Both of you live in California.Do you think your writing voice would be different if you wrote from within Botswana? If so, how? Has the distance from   home been an informing factor to your writing or not?

SEBATI: Yes, I do think had I stayed in Botswana and not moved to the United States, my voice would have been different, not better, just different, because coming to the US broadened my horizon as a writer, it gave me an international perspective on things, this was evident when I wrote and published my second novel ‘WHEN THE COBRA STRIKES’ which was as you know adapted into the movie ‘Black Cobra’. 

DONALD: You could have written as realistic fiction or some other genre – why autobiography?

SEBATI: I wanted it to be real, because the events mentioned happened. I knew that there were some issues that would be uncomfortable for some people, so I changed their names or omitted them altogether, it was no attempt to embarrass anybody mind you, but really to tell what really happened to the best of my ability. Plus, and really there is no getting around it, I felt the need to relive the experiences – good and bad, however I must say it was worthwhile. Also, I never thought of ‘Memories of Lotsane’ as an autobiography per se, even though many people may look at it as such, to me really it was a narrative, a recalling of events as I saw them during that period between 1985 and 1987; my autobiography has yet to be written,maybe some day when I walk on three legs if you know what I mean.

DONALD: And I do believe you will still be writing then. You are obviously making a living doing what you love -writing and films, a field that is hardly remunerative in Botswana and Africa at large. What do you see as the biggest hurdle for an African writer in today’s market?
SEBATI: I do think we as Africans have not really cultivated our own market, we believe too much in impressing the west, when really we should be having a market that is second to none, case in point Nollywood, or the Nigerian filmindustry as it is known. They make movies at a very rapid rate and do not worry too much about quality as long as the message is there, they are feeding their markets’ desire and it is my understanding that they can barely keep up, which mind you is a very good thing, they talk about everyday contemporary issues that we can all relate to, which makes their films very popular, and their popularity has spread or is spreading all over Africa. Whereas in say South Africa, or even Botswana, we want to do it the Hollywood way, which is prohibitively expensive mind you, and any other way is, according to us, not up to standard. The same principle applies to writing. We have to encourage African literature to be read in schools, and governments (and authors too) should make a conscious effort to promote their own products, and we should do this consistently, something I see lacking among African writers and filmmakers.
DONALD: The story is set in Botswana, one of Africa’s lesser-known countries – did you have to “universalize” the story for a global audience?
SEBATI: Not really, because in the final analysis I was talking about the life of a teenager, in a boarding school, that happened to be African. High school is universal, every one, I would think, remembers their experiences growing up for the most part, especially in a high school setting, because that is a period in time that many of us get to start knowing a thing or two about ourselves and life in general, something I know everyone can relate to, whether you attended high school in Botswana, or Pasadena High School in Southern California for example.
DONALD: What can we expect from you in 2014?
SEBATI: The TV series based on my non-fiction book ‘MEMORIES OF LOTSANE: THE CHRONICLES OF AN AFRICAN BOARDING SCHOOL’ that would be a dream come true, but like every other dream, you have got to follow threebasic rules: Dream, Wake Up, and then Do it.

A short post on Nigeria

Today Nigeria celebrate 52 years of independence.  My home town is in the Niger Delta where we are still waiting for electricity so that at night we will be able to see the stains and lumps of petroleum waste on the shores and mangroves of the rivers, ponds and creeks. This is just one result of oil exploration – the list is comprehensive and the guilty ones come from within and without.

I believe Nigeria’s greatest achievement is that after 52 years, it is still the same one Nigeria.

Happy Nigeria Day!

It was a long time ago and I cannot remember the details but reading Sefi Atta’s novel, “Everything Good Will Come”, brought memories of my own growing up – I experienced a mix of Enitan and Sheri. A father whose fierceness was hidden behind a veneer of charm who wanted me to study law. A mother who was a free spirit and who jumped into Nigeria feet first. Nothing fazed her. I need to re read the book and refresh my memory but suffice to say Atta is one of the many contemporary Nigerian feminist writers bringing women from the margins to the center and I look forward to reading her latest book “A Bit of Difference” published by Interlinked Books.


At thirty-nine, Deola Bello, a Nigerian expatriate in London, is dissatisfied with being single and working overseas. Deola works as a financial reviewer for an international charity, and when her job takes her back to Nigeria in time for her father’s five-year memorial service, she finds herself turning her scrutiny inward. In Nigeria, Deola encounters changes in her family and in the urban landscape of her home, and new acquaintances who offer unexpected possibilities. Deola’s journey is as much about evading others’ expectations to get to the heart of her frustration as it is about exposing the differences between foreign images of Africa and the realities of contemporary Nigerian life. Deola’s urgent, incisive voice captivates and guides us through the intricate layers and vivid scenes of a life lived across continents. With Sefi Atta’s characteristic boldness and vision, A Bit of Difference limns the complexities of our contemporary world. This is a novel not to be missed.

Farad is a first novel by Emmanuel Iduma, co-founder / editor of Saraba Magazine.  I met Emmanuel on a workshop in Lagos in October 2009 and was immediately taken by his intensity and measured reflection along with excellent writing skills.  I remember he borrowed a book from me and I had to harangue him on the last day to return it.  On reflection I should have just given it to him.  Ever since then I have followed his work and progress.  I notice an increased confidence and self-awareness of himself and the contemporary literary and technology space he occupies.  I try not to be too influenced by  book and film reviews because so many times I end up being disappointed. Even what purports to being a ‘good’ review can be off putting. Take for example this one on Farad

This book is an experimental fulfilment of the uncommonly common. It is broken into eight different stories with unrelated plots. This is surprising. This style will definitely make you angry. The stories are disjointed but united in denouement. After everything, you will also grieve over your taste for normalcy. Everything about this book is resplendently different. Iduma is a daring writer; and this debut does not portray otherwise. Faradis a collage; a delicate calligraphy; a head with multiple faces. Though its resolution is single, the divergent parts are necessary.

What is “uncommonly common” ? “disjointed but united in denouement”?  Everything about this paragraph is pretentious and wordy and really tells us nothing.  So my anticipation for reading Farad is not based on reviews but on  Emmanuel’s writings to date and knowing his interest in ‘experimental’ writing and writing against the grain.  Farad is published by Parresia Publishers.

Finally in the trio of new literature from Nigeria, our dear father [grandfather] Chinua Achebe has  published his memoir on Biafra – “There Was a Country: A Personal History of Biafra” .  My hope is that along with the film adaptation of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie novel, “Half of a Yellow Sun“, Nigeria’s lost consciousness on Biafra will be awakened.






A New Nigerian Literary Order

I will argue for a new Nigerian literary order.

Suppose we call this ‘neo-literariness’, for want of a better word, and because in hyphenation a word acquires two identities. So, neo-literariness is the word to use for a generation of writers and enthusiasts who function despite institutional lapses, and whose artistic engagement thrives of new ways of being, especially web-technology.

I will explain with a few examples.

In 2009, Dami Ajayi and I began publishing Saraba Magazine, which to date has published 12 issues of PDF magazines, 5 poetry chapbooks and 2 sub-issues. We have, so far, received no grant, or made no profit, but we have published up to 120 writers from 5 continents. How do we manage to do this? When I am working on any new issue of Saraba, I wonder how these far-flung writers get to hear about our work. And this is more surprising because we have clearly defined our Nigerian and African sensibility. The answer is not far-fetched; something about how literature is exchanged is changing.

I think that the change that is happening is happening for two reasons — ease of accessibility and ambitiousness. The first is easy to explain. I pay about one thousand five hundred naira for weekly internet subscription. My subscription is 20 hours with a validity period of one week. I live in Lagos, which means I get 3G easily. If I lived in Umuahia, where I recently visited, I will barely struggle with EDGE. So although I know that there are exceptions, and not everyone is asprivileged as I am, I understand that there increasing numbers of Nigerians on theInternet explains ease of accessibility, that at least, people find ways to do what they have to do online. And wasn’t it Gbenga Sesan (@gbengasesan) who retweeted that Nigeria had the fourth largest Internet users on earth?

But ambitiousness as an indicator of neo-literariness is a different matter. It means that our literature is changing because writers and literary enthusiasts are finding their voice on the Internet, as literal as that sounds. It means that writingaside the Internet, in this generation, is a failed endeavour. Even my most secluded of friends, Ayobami, has a blog. There has to be, I repeat, something happening for you online. There’s a plethora of Facebook groups, blogs, websites, that attest to a multifarious ambitiousness.

Because the first place a writer gets published, at least in my generation, at least most writers, is on a website. There are indications that more and more lit-websites will be hosted in the coming years, as we lack the structure in Africa for print journals. Saraba, although named as one of top African lit-mags, is yet to publish a print edition, if we ever will. I dare to mention the importance of this although we have equally seen how dangerous this could be — with the ease of accessibility people tend to pose as ‘critics’ without knowing the meaning of the word, or the art, the speculative erudition required. For the danger of our neo-literariness is the spontaneousness with which we can write — a tweet, a post, a comment, even before we have thought out our stance. …. Continue to The Mantle 

Paramilitarism and the Assault on Democracy in Haiti

Based on original research, over fifty interviews and more than 11,000 documents, Jeb Sprague investigates the dangerous world of right-wing paramilitarism in Haiti and its role in undermining the democratic aspirations of the Haitian people. Sprague focuses on the period beginning in 1990 with the rise of Haiti’s first democratically elected president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, and the right-wing movements that succeeded in driving him from power. Over the ensuing two decades, paramilitary violence was largely directed against the poor and supporters of Aristide’s Lavalas movement, taking the lives of thousands of Haitians.


It is absolutely imperative for Haiti’s history that such a detailed account of the role of paramilitary violence in the country be recorded… The marshalling of facts and events… [and the] meticulous references are phenomenal… an historical narrative — supported by personal testimony, interviews, WikiLeaks, press reports, history and common sense, etc… careful juxtaposing throughout of information from embassy cables side by side with events as they were happening on the ground during this turbulent time. It shows the contradiction with what [the] mainstream press was reporting.

–Mildred Trouillot-Aristide, former First Lady of Haiti; author, L’enfant en domesticité en Haïti, produit d’un fossé historique

In this crucial work, based on years of interviews, investigative reporting, and analysis of classified U.S. government documents, veteran journalist and scholar Jeb Sprague provides a shocking account of the role of paramilitaries in subverting the aspirations of the Haitian people for democracy, freedom, and development. He shows with great detail and analytical acuity how these paramilitaries are in the service of local and transnational elites whose dual agenda is to repress those popular aspirations and to integrate Haiti as a dependent cog ever deeper into the global capitalist order. What comes through most clear are the lies and deceit of the U.S. government and other Western representatives, for whom ‘democracy’ is but a smokescreen for systematic and far-reaching efforts to prop up a decadent local elite, turn the country over to transnational capital, and repress through paramilitary terror any resistance to its plan for Haiti. This book is must reading for all those concerned with the political and paramilitary machinations of the new global capitalist order. It shows just how far the elites who dominate that order are willing to go to hold down the people of a tiny island nation that face one adversity after another and yet continues to struggle for freedom 200 years after they threw off the shackles of slavery and colonialism.

–William I. Robinson, professor of sociology, University of California, Santa Barbara; author, Latin America and Global Capitalism: A Critical Globalization Perspective

This book offers the most substantial and detailed account yet written of the paramilitary insurgency that contributed to the internationally-sanctioned overthrow of Haiti’s constitutional government in 2004. Based on an impressive range of newly uncovered documents, the book provides a thorough and convincing analysis of this scandalously under-studied sequence, including a careful reconstruction of the struggle for power in the Haitian police force in 2000-2001, the Contra-style subversion campaign of 2003-2004, and the role played by the neighboring Dominican Republic. The result of this campaign more or less destroyed Haiti’s precarious democracy and crippled the country’s capacity to invest in its people or to respond to disaster; an understanding of the coup of 2004 and its consequences should remain central to any discussion of Haiti’s reconstruction today.

–Peter Hallward, professor of philosophy, Kingston University, London; author, Damming the Flood: Haiti and the Politics of Containment

This book offers a brilliant diagnosis of the history of political violence in Haiti. Jeb Sprague, who is a PhD student in Sociology, having interviewed some of the principal actors behind Haiti’s transitional period, brings to light many political events from 1990 to 2005. The book highlights the contemporary phenomenon of paramilitarism in Haiti and looks closely at the ways in which it was revived in the early 2000s. From the investigation of the role of paramilitarism in connection to the coup d’état occurring in 2004 to the election of Michel Martelly in 2011 and the return of Jean-Claude Duvalier, the author examines different elements attempting to keep democracy away from the Haitian people. Here’s a book that I will recommend everyone to read.

–Jean Sénat Fleury, Haitian investigating judge of the Raboteau massacre in Gonaïves, former instructor at Haiti’s National Police Academy (1995) and trainer and director of studies at the School for Magistrates (2002); author,The Challenges of Judicial Reform in Haiti

One might quibble about Jeb Sprague’s evaluation of Lavalas’s historical accomplishments, but one cannot deny that his book is a major and provocative contribution to our understanding of the travail of Haitian paramilitarism since the fall of the Duvalier dictatorship in 1986. Paramilitarism and the Assault on Democracy in Haiti is a must-read not only for Haitianists, but also for anyone interested in the processes of political destabilization and popular disempowerment.

–Robert Fatton, professor of politics, University of Virginia; author, Haiti’s Predatory Republic: The Unending Transition to Democracy

See here for a list of book tour events

Saartjie Baartman & other herstories of South African women*

Women in South African History by Nomboniso Gasa (Ed) published by HSRC Press, 2007.

Women in South African History traces the lives of South African women from the pre-colonial, pre-union period (mid 18th century) through to the post-apartheid beginnings and present day South Africa. It is written in four thematic parts: Women in the pre-colonial and pre-union periods; Women in early to mid-twentieth century South Africa; War: armed and mass struggle as gendered experiences; The 1990s and beyond: new identities, new victories, new struggles.

The book is a radical departure from the traditional history texts in that it uses a feminist analysis rather than the “more acceptable gender analysis” in it’s approach by examining “the ways in which gender intersects with race, culture, class and other forms of identity and location in South African history“. By including the present as part of history the book shows how the past and present are inextricably linked and thus better examines women’s experiences over the past 300 years. The experiences of women’s struggle and their continuing hazardous journeys towards liberation are expressed through the dual metaphors of “they move boulders” — challenges; and “they cross rivers” — dangers.

Women in South African History goes far beyond the many well known events and periods by feminizing those events and periods where women’s participation has never been acknowledged. In the chapter “Like three tongues in one mouth”: Tracing the elusive lives of slave women in (slavocratic) South Africa, Pumla Dineo Gqola, brings to life the slave women brought to South Africa from South East Asia, East Africa and Southern Africa. Despite the scarcity of historical and biographical narratives, Pumla is still able to document the lives of some slave women and more importantly the ways in which they resisted and revolted against their enslavement and their central role “to the historical constitution of Afrikaner society“. Other examples are women’s mass protests against carrying of passes in Bloemfontein and Potchefstroom in 1913; women’s involvement in the trade union movement during the 1930s; the participation of women in the ANC underground and military wing in the 1950s; township uprisings in the Eastern Cape in the 1970s and 1980s; naked women protests against lack of housing in Soweto in 1990; migrant women in Johannesburg and women learning to live with HIV/AIDS in present day South Africa.

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History of Black South African Literature

A history of Black South African literature – but only two women writers mentioned?  Bessie Head and Miriam Tlali.  I am sure there are more?

The origins of Black South African literature in English lie in the Eastern Cape. The Glasgow Missionary Society founded the school of Lovedale at Alice in the Tyume valley in 1824 and here, and at similar mission schools subsequently established at places like Healdtown, Grahamstown and Umtata, English became the primary medium of instruction. The Society imported a printing press and began to produce their first publications, initially in Xhosa, such as an elementary spelling book, some hymns, and a small catechism. Their main literary task was the translation of the Bible into Xhosa – an event that had an important influence on subsequent writers whether they wrote in English or Xhosa.

Increasingly, because of the necessary literacy skills, the focus of literary activity moved to the cities – city issues handled by city-bred writers. The first western-style drama developed in the 1930s, most notably with the plays of Herbert Dhlomo. Most literary activity still centred at newspapers, such as Bantu World (founded in 1932). R R R Dhlomo published a short novel, An African Tragedy, in 1928, and Plaatje’s Mhudi was finally published in 1930. The novel form, however, was taken up after World War II, mainly by Peter Abrahams, whose book Mine Boy was published in 1946. Abrahams was also one of the first into a growing field of writing – that of the autobiography. While the diaries of Soga and Plaatje were pioneering predecessors in this area, Abrahams’s Tell Freedom (1954) was the first full-length published work of this kind. In the 1950s and 1960s, it was followed by several other autobiographies such as Todd Matshikiza’s Chocolates for my Wife (1961), Ezekiel Mphahlele’s Down Second Avenue (1959) and William ‘Bloke’ Modisane’s Blame Me on History (1963). Abrahams drew for his inspiration in his early poetry and prose on a combination of socialism and the ideas of the Black American writers of the Harlem Renaissance.
Continue reading adapts Caine Prize 2012 Shortlisted Stories


 The 2012 winner of the of the £10,000 Caine Prize, Africa’s leading literary prize, will be announced at a celebratory dinner at the Bodleian Library, Oxford, on Monday 2 July. To promote the new crop of young writers, in collaboration with the Caine Prize will be adapting (so readers can mashup) all the stories shortlisted for this year’s prize before the winner is announced.

Drop dates for the Caine Prize 2012 ’3butes’:

-          Stanley Kenani (Malawi) ‘Love on Trial’ — May 27

-          Melissa Tandiwe Myambo (Zimbabwe) — June 3

-          Constance Myburgh (South Africa) ‘Hunter Emmanuel’ — June 11

-          Rotimi Babatunde (Nigeria) ‘Bombay’s Republic’ — June 20

-          Billy Kahora (Kenya) ‘Urban Zoning’ — June 30

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On Maiwada’s Foray in Plagiarism

The problem is not that Ahmed Maiwada has complained of the similarities in ‘Bombay’s Republic’ and ‘Burma Boy.’ It is the manner in which he has done so — choosing to make a hurried conclusion before a logical argument, and choosing to, despite being a Lawyer and critic, assert his position non-evidentially. And what is more, he has done so in informal terms, in a manner that borders on vindictive desperation. But that cannot be a primary grouse, as I wish to clearly avoid lapsing into bouts of sentimentality. My interest is in laying bare larger concerns that he seems to have unintentionally (or abusively) raised. Since his Facebook profile is public, and since he graciously accepts friend requests, I believe the diligent reader will consider visiting his profile for an introductory session.

The accusation is simple — Rotimi Babatunde, author of the Caine Prize shortlisted ‘Bombay’s Republic’ plagiarized, ‘Burma Boy’, by Biyi Bandele. Two general statements are to be made. First, plagiarism cannot be proved aside the ‘intent’ of the plagiarist. And two, plagiarism, is not, on its face value, a tort (in fact it is referred to as a crime against morality, and not necessarily an illegality). To prove plagiarism, one has to hinge the offence to the offence of copyright infringement — a case of stealing someone’s work or idea, passing it off as an original, and making gain through this act. Each of these elements, I emphasize, must be taken independently. Each of these elements must be proved.

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Queer African Reader


Queer African Reader

Edited by Sokari Ekine and Hakima Abbas


 A visionary work melding academia and art that breaks the mould for Queer African studies

 Unique in presenting the voices of LGBTI Africans

 Groundbreaking in both scope and content, it encompasses voices from across the African content


As the double jeopardy of homophobia and transphobia, and western imperialism, threaten to silence the voices of African lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people, the Queer African Reader is a testament to the resistance and unrelenting power of these communities across Africa and her Diaspora.  The Queer African Reader brings together academic writings, political analysis, life testimonies, conversations and artistic works by Africans that engage with the struggle for LGBTI liberation.

The book aims to engage the audience from the perspective that various axes of identity — gender, race, class and others — interact to contribute to social inequality. It includes experiences from diverse African contexts and breaks away from the homogenisation of Africa as the homophobic continent to highlight the complexities of LGBTI lives and experiences through their own voices.

Contributions from across the continent explore issues of identity, resistance, solidarity, pinkwashing, global politics, intersections of struggle, religion and culture, community, sex and love.

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Let’s Talk About Sex

Did you just cringe from this direct affront of a title? Then that might be the hypocrite in you, the sappy morality you probably incurred from a decent upbringing and/or  religious beliefs. I am of a modest upbringing too: a good childhood, a roof over my head and parental censorship, one of which included my mother knocking off the TV set while it broadcasted a sex scene in the Black American Drama series, Soul Food.

At the tender age of five, I once asked my father how little babies came about? His reply was that it took long periods of prayer to the Almighty. Now that I am grown, I am wont to imagine intercession by couples in several sexual positions.

Saraba has taken a taboo subject to discuss in her 11th Issue. We were quite aware of the delicateness of this salacious delicacy, if you will, its ‘political incorrectness’. But the reality of sex either as a tool of procreation or as an object of pleasure can not be easily swept under the carpet of propriety. Nigeria as country has experienced a population explosion for instance; about two-thirds of her citizens are under the age of thirty. This speaks of an unequivocal consequence of unprotected sex.

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The Problem With Small Miracles

So, I was one of the cyberspace moralists that put in word for Okeoghene Ighiwoto, the now famous Nigerian patient who has been ‘saved’. How might one begin thinking of this matter in a post-salvation mode, now that we feel good, sigh gratefully, relish our success? But, as we find, success is often an imagined word. And that fact applies no less here, now that we walk the uncertain terrains of morality, sentimentality, and virality. We hear that Okeoghene’s matter has been taken over by the Delta State government. This is a triumph, obviously. It is the kind of triumph that happens when a first goal is scored. One must not be happy enough.

It has become Government matter. Government matter reminds me of how macrosystems often overwhelm micro-systems, so that no matter how much we try, we are faced with the need for an institutional overhaul. We cannot speak of a working health system, for instance, without the signing into Law of the Health Bill. Without, what is more, the justitiability of socio-economic rights, such as the right to good health, which is not included in the Nigerian constitution as a fundamental right. How can the right to life mean anything without a corresponding right to good health? How can the death penalty suffice as punishment if living corresponds to dying (unfortunately, Nigeria remains resolute on state-killing)? We keep creating microsystems — cyber-campaigns, rallies, walks, talks — focused on advocating for and ensuring good health, but the macrosystems are frustrating us.

The dots are easy to connect. We are successful in a limited sense. And our limitations mean more people are dying from a broader insensitivity. Our sentimentalities are not forming adequate constellations; the challenge is that the missing pieces are not within our reach.

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