Tag Archives: Literature

Bernadine Evaristo – Mr Loverman

Diriye Osman interviews Bernadine Evaristo author of Mr Loverman

In a revealing interview with Salon, Donna Tartt once said, “I had a fairly well-known editor tell me that The Secret History would never be published because no successful book by a woman had ever been written from the point of view of a man, and that I would have to change it to a female narrator.”

Although it’s tricky for both male and female writers to write from the point of view of the opposite gender, there have always been a number of tremendously talented and successful female authors who have not only risen to the challenge but, in doing so, have completely demolished deeply-embedded social codes that should not have existed in the first place.

British-Nigerian novelist and poet, Bernardine Evaristo is not only a master of literary gender-bending but she’s also adroit at subverting well-worn tropes from slavery to stifled sexuality in a way that feels new, visceral, vital. Although Evaristo has always been an innovative stylist, her latest novel, the critically acclaimed, award-winning smash, Mr. Loverman, is her chef d’oeuvre; a masterful dissection of the life of a 74 year-old, British-Caribbean gay man. It is a book about secrecy and self-protection, freedom and fear, history and the future, family and faith, repression and renewal.

For Evaristo, this extraordinary act of ventriloquism was necessary. “I knew this was an explosive mix for fiction”, she says. “Not only is black homosexuality all but invisible in British fiction, but the idea that a septuagenarian is actively gay is potentially very controversial.”

“I like the challenge of writing beyond my own culture (I’m not Caribbean), gender, age, sexuality and so forth, but it does mean that I have to work hard to create authenticity with my characters. To make them totally believable and convincing.”

Evaristo, who originally trained as a stage actress, nurtured her writing talent by penning roles for black actresses “because few parts existed for us in the early 80s.” She dropped acting but fuelled the fire to keep writing. “The magic of writing,” she says, “the emotional, intellectual and imaginative connection I feel to it, is addictive. My influences are wide and varied, and certainly many writers inspired me to tell my own stories when I was very young – Gloria Naylor, Ntozake Shange, Keri Hulme, Toni Morrison, Michelle Cliff, Audre Lorde, Alice Walker.”

With the recent anti-gay legislation in Nigeria and throughout a depressingly large part of Africa, does she feel there’s been enough of a response from African writers in terms of exploring the issue of homosexuality in fiction or non-fiction?

“I’d say not,” she says. “It’s still quite a taboo subject in many communities and certainly not enough people speak out. You’re probably one of the very few writers writing black African stories with gay characters. When I chaired the Caine Prize for African Fiction a couple of years ago we shortlisted a gay story by Malawian writer Stanley Kenani. Lola Shoneyin’s super novel The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wivestouches on lesbianism, as did Monica Arac De Nyeko’s Caine Prize winning “Jambula Tree”, which won the Caine in 2007. But essentially, when you can list such stories on one hand, there is a problem. I wrote a piece for The Guardian about the long history of pre-colonial homosexuality in Africa when the recent anti-gay legislation was passed in Nigeria, my father’s homeland. We need more voices out there, gay or straight, writing stories that include homosexual characters.”

Aside from her work as a novelist and poet, Evaristo teaches creative writing at London’s Brunel University, where she spearheaded the creation of the prestigiousAfrican Poetry Prize, which offers a powerful platform for gifted poets on the rise.

Part of what makes Bernardine Evaristo such an important cultural figure is that she’s an intellectual who’s unafraid to take creative risks. Every book that she has written doesn’t feel so much a progression as a complete re-invention of style, subject matter and genre. Once you add a hearty dose of compassion and energetic forward-thinking to the mix, what you get is not only an artist who repeatedly resists status quos and shoots straight for the jugular but a bonafide literary rebel with a cause. This in itself is worthy of celebration.

Bernardine Evaristo’s Mr Loverman (Akashic Books) is out now as is Diriye Osman’sFairytales For Lost Children (Team Angelica Press).

This piece was originally published on the Huffington Post

The Art of Ama Ata Aidoo [Film]

Indiegogo Fund Raiser for “The Art of Ama Ata Aidoo

We are waiting for this film, we want this film, lets help get this film made – Donate Here

The Art of Ama Ata Aidoo explores the artistic contributions of one of Africa’s foremost woman writers, a trailblazer for an entire generation of exciting new talent, including internationally acclaimed Nigerian writer Chimamanda Adichie. The publication of The Dilemma of a Ghost in 1965 at the age of 25 made Aidoo the first published African woman playwright. In Anowa (1970), she demonstrated her courage by addressing slavery, a very sensitive topic even today in Ghana. Her most recent work is Diplomatic Pounds and Other Stories.

Ama Ata Aidoo
Ama Ata Aidoo

The film follows Aidoo over a course of a year during which she travels to her ancestral village in the Central Region of Ghana and is feted at a Festschrift orqanized by friends and colleagues at the University of California, Santa Barbara. She then attends the premier of her seminal play about the local African experiences of the slave trade, Anowa, performed by UCSB Theater.

This hour-long documentary locates the multi-textured variety of Aidoo’s writing in an historical and cultural context, and charts her pivotal journey through moments of inspiration in a life that spans seven decades, from colonial Ghana through the tumultuous era of independence, to a more sober present day Africa where nurturing women’s creative talent remains as difficult as ever.

This documentary celebrates Aidoo and her work and brings it to new audiences in a way that will inspire future generations.

Who we are: We are a team. Director/Producer is Yaba Badoe an award-winning documentary filmmaker and writer based in the UK. Her latest film, The Witches of Gambaga, won the 2010 Best Documentary Award at the Black International Film Festival 2010 and the 2nd Prize, Documentaries at FESPACO 2011, and was nominated for the One World Media Award, Best Documentary in 2012. Producer is Amina Mama, one of Africa’s leading activist feminist scholars. She founded the journal Feminist Africa, has taught courses in African cinema, co-produced The Witches of Gambaga, and is currently on the faculty of Women and Gender Studies at University of California, Davis. Margo Okazawa-Rey, a feminist scholar activist, is Associate Producer and leading this campaign.
What We Need & What You Get

Courageous. Controversial. Compelling. Truth-teller. Ama Ata Aidoo is a poet, novelist, and feminist. Women make up fewer than 10% of the world’s film directors, so it’s a struggle to tell the story of any woman, especially an African woman. So we are asking you to help us raise $45,000 to tell Aidoo’s story, the fascinating tale of an iconic writer whose work both captures the specificities of history, culture, and geography and transcends them.

The Art of Ama Ata Aidoo is almost there. After two years of fundraising, excitement, negotiation, and filming on location in Ghana and California, the good news is that we’re half-way through the journey and we need your help. We are trying to raise $45,000 (two-thirds of the budget) here on Indiegogo. The money you help us raise will pay post-production costs: editing, music clearances, colour grading, and a sound dub. We are confident that the final 1/3 of the budget will be raised from organizational donors like the African Women’s Development Fund and the Global Fund for Women.

When you donate, you will be acknowledged on the Donor Wall of our website and receive project updates. In addition, you can receive a signed postcard, t-shirt, limited edition DVD, Aidoo’s books, and other memorable perks.

Part 2 of 2: Hollywood star SEBATI MAFATE

Hello friends! Donald Molosi here. I linked up with Hollywood actor-writer SEBATI MAFATE again to do the second half of our conversation about his latest sensational book, “MEMORIES OF LOTSANE.” I have read the book myself and recommend it to lovers of literature as well as to people who just simply enjoy good writing. The book is available on amazon.com and other book-selling sites like Barnes and Nobles.

DM: Most, if not all, of your work tells an African story in some way. Do you, as an African writer, feel that it is your responsibility to tell African stories?

SM: Yes, for the simple reason that Africa is rich with stories and we should never deny the world the beauty of our cultures and our tales, not only do I as an African feel the responsibility to share those stories, I just enjoy doing it.

DM: You mention denying the world of African stories. Do you feel that a certain type of African story has been denied the world or that a certain type of story has been “overtold”?

SM: Not at all, what I mean is that there are many African storytellers out there whose voice is never heard for the simple reason that they have not come forward, and there are many reasons for that, but whatever the reason is it is time that they step out of the shadows and tell those stories. I am glad that the Nigerian film industry is doing just that, and the results speak for themselves in seeing the market they have created for themselves.

DM: Nollywood is a perfect example of Africans consuming what they produce. But let us get back to you. Having seen your work, I often wonder – how does your background as a martial artist define the work you do as a writer if at all?

SM:Part of the martial arts is meditation and other spiritual aspects of the art, it helps deal with the curve balls life throws at you, including ‘writer’s block’, and that is why my dedication to the art has helped me as a writer, it doesn’t mean that it solves all my problems, but it helps a great deal. In a way it also enriches my imagination, especially when I delve in a fictional project.

 DM: What do you want people to take from your latest book, Memories of Lotsane?

SM: Nostalgia, we have all been teenagers at some point, and we have all been in high school (at least that is what I hope), and I hope people will be taken back in time to their own experiences good or bad that made them what they are today. In short really I would like people to relate to the story whether they are in Africa or some province in China.

DM: Who is the one writer that has had an impact upon you and how?

SM: That has got to be the great Elechi Amadi (The Concubine, The Great Ponds, and The Slave to mention a few) I was first introduced to Mr. Amadi’s work when I was a student, and soon found out that he held a degree in Mathematics and Physics, a strange combination at the time since I was an Engineering student as well, but a writer at heart, so I could relate. His style of writing was simply magnificent and dealt with deep rooted African culture and lore; you are drawn to his work even though his novels end like a Greek tragedy, but you realize through his writings that even though we would like it to be, life can at times not be the fairy tale we wish it would be, case in point the novel ‘The Great Ponds’, it tells the story of two warring villages fighting over a pond rich with fish. The protagonists from both sides are determined to win at all costs that in the end both villages lose, and this done at a great loss of human life.

Vagina Dialogue: A Date with Eve Ensler

The poem Vagina Dialogue: A Date with Eve Ensler was first published by ‘Sea Breeze: Journal of Contemporary Liberian Writing‘ in 2006.   Sea Breeze which is edited by Stephanie Horton  was one of the first online literary journals on the continent.  The journal has a 7 year archive of must read radical and feminist writings by Liberians – Enjoy!

 

Korto WilliamsimageVagina Dialogue: A Date with Eve EnslerMy vagina became political last night
And does not want a monologue
It does not want to know its scent or color
It has known this for many years
There is no search for a clitoris
It is there and needs no friendly hands to find it
It wants to dialogue with Eve
Open an intellectual discourse
And challenge her feminist presumption
Of a global sisterhood that does not exist
It does not want to know about texture and depth
It has known this for many years
It wants to discuss the concept of community and individualism
And the impact it has on our bodies
It wants to talk about geographic regions in her monologue
And get on a blue mat to talk about female circumcision
And the right to abortion
It wants to dialogue
A monologue will make some laugh, others shocked
Of course, some wet and others hard
But a dialogue will bring to light our historical antecedents
It will tell why childbirth remains a secret and sacred discussion
Despite the role of the vagina in it
A dialogue will dismiss the search for the clitoris, especially
When we have to find our rights within society
To marry, especially if it is another vagina
A dialogue will bring light to the issue of why Michael Jackson
Cannot be replicated against the ‘sexy secretary and the little girl in the lavender teddy’
Eve, my vagina is angry and needs to update the issues in your vagina, oops . . .
monologueContinue reading at Sea BreezeCopyright © Korto Williams

” Calling out liberal gospels” Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak

Kenyan performance poet and activist, Shailja Patel first introduces Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak and then goes on to interview her. They discuss the ‘lecture circuit’, self-examination and reflection- speaking of the self but not speaking of the self. I watched this lecture and I recall Shailja’s question – a far cry from the ostentatious narcism that performs daily in new media!

Rockstar goddess of postcolonial studies. Leading feminist Marxist scholar of our time. Gadfly of subaltern studies: her seminal paper, “Can The Subaltern Speak?” seeded a thousand dissertations. Irreverent, iconoclastic, unfailingly taboo-busting, Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak is a study in highwire intellectual risk-taking. As University Professor of the Humanities at Columbia University, one of the world’s most elitist academic institutions, she trains upper-class graduate imaginations for epistemological performance. At the other end of the global spectrum, she has, for three decades, pursued the painstaking, backbreaking project of creating and sustaining schools for rural children in Western Bengal.

I want to understand something about bypassing the necessity of good rich people solving the world’s problems. Good rich people are dependent on bad people for the money they use to do this. And the good rich people’s money mostly goes to bad rich people. Beggars receive material goods to some degree and remain beggars. My desire is to produce problem solvers, rather than solve problems. In order to do this, I must continue to teach teachers, current and future, with devotion and concentration, at the schools that produce the good rich people — Columbia University — and the beggars, seven unnamed elementary schools in rural Birbhum, a district in West Bengal. This work cannot be done with an interpreter, and India is multilingual. I must understand their desires, not their needs, and with understanding and love try to shift them. That is education in the humanities. (Spivak, 2010)

What Spivak does in Bengal is the opposite of philanthropy, or uplift. At the 2008 inaugural World Authors And Literary Translators’ Conference, in Stockholm, she called for unflinching examination of the conference theme: “Literature And Human Rights”.

I take this idea extremely seriously, so I am obliged to critique it rigorously. We are self-appointed moral entrepreneurs, our mission predicated on the failure of state and revolution. We fetishize literacy, health, employability, without inquiring rigorously into what they have effected, or how we deploy them, in our own lives.

This consistently brilliant calling out of liberal gospels is one reason non-scholars flock to Spivak’s talks, though we may comprehend only every 5th or 10th sentence. But there is more. Spivak has a glamour, a draw, that defies the complex — some say intentionally over-difficult — nature of her work. As with all legends and icons, it is almost impossible to analyze the precise elements of her appeal. Her charisma is best described by its impact. Continue reading full interview on 3Quarks Daily

Situating Feminism lecture

The Parameters of Longing

I will argue for a new 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 myself began publishing Saraba Magazine, which to date has published 11 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 as privileged as I am, I understand that there increasing numbers of Nigerians on the web explains ease of accessibility, that at least, people find ways to do what they have to do online. And wasn’t it Gbenga Sesan who retweeted that Nigeria had the fourth largest internet users on earth? Continue reading

Lists: Books

Its that time of year when the various forms of media are filled with endless lists of the “best of” the year. I usually try to push against following the crowd but this particular list is worthy of repeating “The Alternative, The Underground, The Oh-Yes-That-One List of Favorite Books of 2011

I start with my own choice which isn’t part of the list [made up of well-known and not so well-known authors but at least people I do read]. I realise now that I have hardly read any fiction this year but the one book which stands out for me is Migritude: by Shailja Patel.

Through her own life journey and mixing prose and poetry, Shailja’s Migritude exposes and shares the tears of history merging personal stories with reflections on violence, colonisation, and migrant journeys which flow horizontally and vertically, through the lives of women…….Read the rest of my review here

Dark Continent of our Bodies by E Francis White is an exploration of the roots of Black feminism. By focusing on the intersection of race, gender, sexuality and Black nationalism, Francis critiques the works of Black literary figures such as James Baldwin, Bell Hooks, Toni Morrison, Molefi Asante, Patricia Hill Collins and many others. Introduction online here.  Also worth mentioning and which I am still working my way through is the excellent ‘European Others: Queering Ethnicity in PostNational Europe‘ by Fatima el-Tayeb
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How I Earned the Right to Speak about Anything

It is hard, as I am sure most writers know, to efface the person, render it impotent in the face of the writing life. Who I am always haunts my writing; and this is why and how I argue that I have earned the right to speak about anything — and you might want to consider this word ‘right’ as encompassing as it is in the legal regime. To make this process easier (this essay is a process, every word builds into revelation), I have charted two layers: Identity and Ethnicity. You might have to be dishonest with me — you might have to forgive how I render myself so bare; all writers eventually do this, pushing themselves, in fiction, in poetry, to the place where there’s no telling what is reality and what is not, because everything is reality, everything written is real. Helene Cixous says this of Clarice Lispector, for instance.

I should give a background. I was born to an itinerant preacher — when I was born my Daddy was an employee of the Scripture Union, an interdenominational organization with offices around the world. His job description was ‘Travelling Secretary’; clearly, he ‘traveled.’ So, I begin my questioning from this point — I was born fluid; I was not to stay too long in one place, my Present was always in motion.

Of identity, I ask myself: Am I or aren’t I? How do I begin to define myself? What is the crack in the surface in which Me leaps into visibility? You should know that I do not feel Ibo enough, because I can’t speak the language well, because I respond in English when my Daddy speaks to me in Ibo. So, I am not keen to identify myself as This or That. In my case, there is no This, and no That. Perhaps it’s a This-That.

Which is why, in December 2009, when we were moving again, I wrote: ‘Who am I, after this transition?’ I cannot think this irrelevant — I am a borderline person. I have transited too much to be just one person. It is simply a question of identifying myself. What I want is to be able to say, This is Me, when a million others stand beside me, with me, in a crowd. So far, I should tell you, it has been difficult.

The antonym of ‘easy’, Anne Berger says, is not ‘difficult’. It is ‘impossible.’ If then it is not easy to define myself, is it perhaps impossible? Will I, as I remain on the border of who I am and who I can be and who I am meant to be, never identify myself in the crowd? I cannot tell if this is a shared feeling — but when I am in Ile-Ife I am not Yoruba, and when I am in Umuahia, I am not Ibo. I am simply, perhaps, Emmanuel, a person, but not the kind of person who feels ‘Emmanuel’ enough. Not inferiority, of course. It has never been a question of being less; perhaps it is that I am not ‘more’ enough, that I have ascribed too much to Being, and I am yet to meet up with that definition.

Speaking of Ethnicity might make this clearer. You see, I am an English-only onye Ibo who can comprehend Ibo spoken at any speed but is reluctant to utter any word of it, for fear of sounding incorrect. In fact I can comprehend Ehugbo, the language of Afikpo, which Ibos from other parts cannot comprehend. My Daddy wanted us to speak English first, in Akure, because he feared that we might become mischievous urchins, too ‘local’ in an urban space. So, we lapsed into an Anglo-consciousness. I do not blame him; I should not blame him. You want to blame him? English is a ‘lingua franca’, isn’t it? He remembers being mocked when he was a little boy of his inability to speak English — he remembers desiring to speak English like his brother.

But I realize that no matter how loaded, conflicted and difficult the word may seem to me, I am Ibo. By heritage. Perhaps there is some new meaning I can confer to it. I am, like, Carmen Wong, “A mishmash and hodgepodge of conundrums and contradictions.” I am ready to stay hyphenated, to add a dash to my personality, something like ‘English-only-onye-Ibo.’

Let’s imagine that there are others like me. Let’s further imagine that these others are — because this is the occupation dearest to my heart — writers. What will happen to their writing? Will it embody the same mishmash of their borderline personalities? How will they speak true to their sense of ethnicity? What home could they define for themselves, what sense of place?

Yes, I speak about myself, asking questions that bother my art. And there’s a sense of urgency, too. There is, for instance, a Facebook identity, a Twitter narrative, the acculturation that comes from being an internet user. Should we only consider the internet as utility, not as lifestyle? Isn’t the internet a border, a separate identity, part of the dashes I’ve acquired?

I’ve decided to be a writer, which in itself is an acceptance of the Borderline, an acceptance of staying a hybrid, remaining fluid, accepting that one word cannot define your process, your heritage. How do I come to the point where I am not simply termed as an ‘African writer’? I do not fear this label because I am not from Africa, or not black, or because Africa has been derogatorily called blah blah blah. I fear it because it is, somewhat, a closed parenthesis. I want to work within an open parenthesis. I want my definition to start from ‘an English-only-learning to speak Ibo-onye Ibo-internet-using writer’ with a […] around the term, leaving space for more dashes. Because I am always more; and my writing will always be bothered with this More-ness.

Hence, it is this fact that gives me the right to plunge into uncharted courses, to use unused language, to speak about anything, because there is nothing like This or That in my head. There is the possibility of everything and anything.

But this is not, cannot be, the subject of a single post. I’ll publish a Kindle e-book with the same title in January 2012. I hope my ranting is heard.

 

A woman who walks through the yam field

I just discovered poems and short stories on Guernica – here is one from Chinua Achebe which he adapted from Chike and the River. Like many of Achebe’s stories it has the usual assortment of Igbo proverbs. This one ends with the saying….

A man who can walk through the Nkisa with his bare feet should not be afraid to sail the Niger in a boat.

So I came up with my own equivalent after imagining myself walking through the forest.

“A woman who walks through the yam field at night should not fear the tall grass in the day “

Those who answered to Abraham

After the incident of the leopard skin Chike lost some of his eagerness for crossing the Niger. He did not see how he could obtain one shilling without stealing or begging. His only hope now was that some kind benefactor might give him a present of one shilling without his begging for it. But where was such a man, he wondered. Perhaps the best thing was to take his mind off the River Niger altogether; but it was not easy.
On the last day of term, all the pupils were tidying up the school premises. The boys cut the grass in the playing fields and the girls washed the classrooms. Chike’s class was working near the mango tree with all the tempting ripe fruit which they were forbidden to pick. They sang an old prisoners’ work song and swung their blades to its beat. The last day of term was always a happy, carefree day; but it was also a day of anxiety because the results of the term’s examination would be announced. Still an examination was an examination and nobody liked to fail….The story continues

Beyond Covers Online Writing Workshop

I am glad to be part of an online writing workshop starting next week.

Here are useful links:

www.facebook.com/paperglory

www.paperglory.blogspot.com

http://www.naijastories.com/2011/10/beyond-covers-writing-workshop-online/

Of Tabloid Literature and a New Word Order

Sokari Ekine aptly writes about ‘tabloid bloggers’ in response the ABSU rape case; her post is the finest piece I read on the issue. I had intended to respond to the fray, but I figured I wouldn’t do a better job than Sokari. Yet, I had, after a discussion with a friend, considered it relevant to write about a similar concern, bothering on the emerging writer/blogger who has access to the internet.

I’ll call it intellectual foolery (or tabloid literature), which is hard to define. Anyway, what I speak about is the failure of young writers/bloggers to define themselves, to ascertain what it is that hurts them, what exactly they are speaking about, what their individual slant and originally created perspective is. There is what is called, for example, ‘thinking outside the box.’ This term is used by many speakers, preachers, and young people as a synonym for non-conventionality and iconoclasm. People speak to me about how different they are, or want to be; why it is important not to do things the way ‘it has always been done.’ But I find that most of the time, those of speak to me about being different are somewhat copycats, having no original desire for iconoclasm; put more aptly, most of the persons I have met who preach this are not deep-rooted in their convictions. They can convince others about the necessity for ‘thinking out of the box’ but they can scarcely prove how this will mean a difference to their world, what underlying principle or idea governs their proposed novelty, and even — more disastrously — how to transmit their novelty to a coming generation. I assume that our world is according too much to creativity and little to sustainability.

Let me write in clearer terms. I am speaking of the dangers of independent access to visibility. I prefer ‘visibility’ to ‘publishing’ since the former defies the logic of ascertaining the worth and readability of the material to be put out. So, many writers (who become bloggers — or better still, many ‘computer users’, since ‘writer’ should be defined in a way that ensures discipline) can become visible simply by having a computer and an internet connection. This is good and not good. In many ways, the ease that exists now assist in granting an emerging writer a wonderful opportunity to prove his/her worth. The danger, however, is that the opportunity to ‘prove’, for some writers, swallows the expedient opportunity to be diligent and responsible. It swallows, even more dangerously, the opportunity to define oneself — if an emerging writer is carried away by the simplicity of the ‘visibility’ process.

And what do I mean when I speak of defining one’s self? As is evident from the ABSU rape blogs and tweets, it is somewhat easy for an emerging writer to get caught up in a crowd of tweeters and bloggers, speaking with their voices, resonating their ideas, and having no opinion of their idea. I cannot argue that ideas should not be plural or shared. What I am afraid of is becoming a writer whose language and thinking is swallowed in another person’s analogy and thinking.

It happens in this way: Sugabelly and Linda Ikeji blogs about the rape of a student (?) of Abia State University. Another writer, who has a blog, writes a post on the issue, quoting Sugabelly and Ikeji, repeating their speculations and opinion. It is not dangerous to quote them; what is dangerous is the absence of a different perspective and objective.
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iPad Apps I will Like to Create (1)

Last week, I bought a copy of ‘iPad: The Creative Pro’s Guide,’ which is a special edition of Computer Arts. It screamed ‘design your iPad app’ and I began to speculate on the possibility of learning to use the ‘Apple backend.’ For, as the people at Computer Arts affirm, the iPad and iPhone has brought a new twist to digital art and design (see interesting reports here and here). But, understanding how complex this might be for a person with varied passion and enthusiasm (as I verily am), I figured that it might be useful to state the ideas I have for iPad apps. Who knows, this playful manifesto might be useful for the app-developer who stumbles upon my ideas. And, given how good I am feeling today, I only request for a small mention of my name in the app!

Here are four ideas that could be wireframed into iPad apps — or thrown into the trash can.

  1. Padrarian — An app that allows users to borrow ebooks from a vast collection for a stipend or no cost at all. Once an ebook is borrowed, it will last for a specific time-span, and the user/borrower can choose from the available timespans (from one week to four weeks). After the selected time elapses, the ebook will be inaccessible. The goal would be to provide users with a library service on the iPad. A website will be dedicated to updating the app (making it up to date with the books on the e-library).
  2. All Reader — An app that enables the iPad to serve as some sort of wireless router, enabling mobile phones and allied devices to access books and readable materials from the (parent) iPad. Such that an iPad can serve a large number of users — the app can be downloaded on other devices, such that the interface of the iPad is replicated on the ‘slave’ devices. The app will be configured in such a way that QWERTY keypads can access the iPad’s interface. The iPad’s wireless service will cover a reasonable range.
  3. Gutenpad — An app that collects a huge amount of book summaries (each book summarized into not more than 750 words) on a wide array of subjects. It will be created for the quick reader, whose list of to-reads is piling each second. The app will be a sort of Project Gutenberg in synoptic form.
  4. iSocial — an app that is a diary of Tweets and Facebook posts. Based on the fact that proposed users of the app are addicted to social networking, it will be necessary a user’s tweets and posts are scarcely (if ever) collaged. Consider the fact that Facebook and Twitter are diaries of some sort — most users use daily. The only difference between a tangible diary and these is that the former has a system of referencing

I am hoping that in the future — some days, weeks, whenever — I can come up with more ideas, and see where it goes from here. But notice that I am really interested in apps that emphasize on accessibility to the readable material. I might be playing around with the ideas of the apps, but I am dedicatedly serious about emphasizing that more Africans have access to reading platforms.

That said, leave me to my dreams!

 

Making a Presence (3)

Change should never be considered in exhaustible parameters; I believe we should be resigned to our inability to measure how we have been besieged (permit me — this is how I often think of it) by the inexhaustibility of the internet, the e-age, and a digital culture. In this concluding post, I will make an effort of contemplating how important it is for African literary outfits to ensure that their outlook is speculatively accommodating of the infiniteness of the internet (‘outfits’ is a necessary word because I advocated in the last post for efforts that look beyond just a web-presence. Not even double-edged seems to be the word anymore; perhaps x-edged, x being a value for infiniteness.)

Saraba, which I co-publish, is one of the few online literary magazines that is managed by Africans in Africa. This is disconcerting, knowing the huge impact the internet is having on literature and literacy. Although I am inclined to write a piece on the fiery word-war between e-book publishing and traditional book publishing, I am equally tempted to neglect that desire since Africa in many respects is yet to catch up with the requirements of an electronic literary age. Yet for the purpose of a discourse, and perhaps for a prophetic analysis of the future of African e-literature, I point the reader to such pieces on Guardian, Tara Books, The Million (which has a section called ‘the future of books), and Washington Post. I even think the comments that accompany the pieces are equally as important — I find that the war is indeed a war, and hopefully I can make a contribution, however little, to the conversation in my next post.
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Making a Presence (2)

I remember an argument in my undergraduate philosophy class on the often blurred line between the public and the private. Essentially, we argued that it will be difficult to make an ascertained case for what is aptly defined as public — such as, for instance morality. This, of course, echoes Ludwig Wittgenstein, but as I do not have enough space I will not venture into furthering the argument. In this vein, however, it seems apparent that it is a lie to think it is possible to shield an online representation (a post, an article, even an email) from the eyes of an all-seeing public. This ‘public’  and its omnipresence is even harder to define.

I am interested in questioning access in this second post of the series. The interesting fact, which makes me elated as well as suspicious, is that the means to access the internet is endless. While more and more people in Africa are accessing the internet (that is, those who have a basic education, whose need extends beyond just feeding, living), it will be interesting to speculate on what such access will mean for African literature online.

There are indications that Nigeria’s population has favoured its ranking — with up to 37.1% of all internet use in Africa. To use the internet one needs a computer or a phone or tablet, etc. etc. Computers are not widespread as mobile phones (I even think there are more smartphone users in Nigeria than computer users). And so, I prefer to consider the use of mobile phones to access the internet. It sounds better, knowing that phones are not usually gifts from aid organisations, phones are mostly bought by Africans. (Please read a detailed report on Publishing Perspectives where there are facts about access to the internet. I will concern myself with consequential matters).

Before a person makes a decision to use a mobile phone for other purposes aside making a calling and SMSing, such other purposes must be deemed needful, of course. In some sense, this need arises from the reason why a phone is bought in the first place (networking, communication). But it also extends, I think, to the possibilities surrounding the internet — the ability to be informed, to exchange ideas, and to stay relevant. It is easy to see, then, why Facebook, Google and Yahoo are the three most visited sites in Nigeria. I state, further, that it is clear that Facebook is the first because I believe it is more primary for people to want to remain relevant (after they are fed, that is). Then Google because people are subsequently interested in ideas, knowledge. And Yahoo (Yahoo News too), because email is a good way to receive information,.
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Taiye Selasi and some of the horrific things going on

Taiye Selasi is interviewed by Granta and on NPR’s Tell Me More and  speaks about  her debut novel “Ghana Must Go” [see my collection here] and now infamous short story “The Sex Lives of African Girls” [which I have not read].  Its not difficult to figure out why this has become so popular.   Neither of the interviews are that great though no fault of Taiye’s, so this is just me following the hype – with Granta she talks briefly about her novel

YI: Your story takes places in a rich household in Accra. Even though many of the characters are leading comfortable lives, a sense of menace runs beneath the surface. I was scared for all the women, especially the young narrator. Did you mean to paint the sex lives of African girls as dangerous and doomed?

TS: It’s hard to say what I meant, but that’s certainly what I’ve done. To be honest, I was rather surprised to discover that I’d painted such a devastating portrait. It was only months and months after I’d finished editing — focusing narrowly on rhythm, image, pacing, form — that I noticed how dark the content was, how fundamentally damning the comment.

This piece is told from the perspective of a girl who is just starting to grasp the sexual dynamics at play among the adults around her. It’s interesting that you chose to inhabit her limited point of view. Was it hard to get this narrator’s voice right — to figure out what she does and doesn’t understand?

I suspect the second person helped a great deal. This ‘you’ voice appeared in my head from the beginning and guided me through the text, limiting my view of things to her view: I rarely looked where she wasn’t looking. In the first draft I’d included a passage alluding to the nature of Uncle’s work in Ghana’s oil extraction industry — but omitted it when it became clear that the narrator wouldn’t (couldn’t possibly) understand such politics. I’d slipped for a moment into an ‘I’ voice, an ‘I’ mind, and it showed.

 

Tell me More with Michelle Martin is slightly crass in parts with  the usual stereotyping questions on “Africa” and writings by writers from various parts of the continent. It makes no sense to be talking to a writer from say, Ghana about  African writing.  Would she be asking a British writer about European writing  or an Indian about Asian writings? Why are writers from Africa expected to speak for the continent and  deal with “issues” for example,  “some of the horrific things going on on the continent right now”.   Hmm there are some pretty amazing things going on on the continent right now – uprisings in Senegal, Swaziland, Mauritania to name a few.   The truth is there are horrific things happening and the truth is there are some amazing people responding to these horrors. Not just the big names, high profile movement people but people on the ground in their every day lives refusing the violence being thrown at them.

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Marcus and the Amazons: Book Trailer

Marcus and the Amazons – a children’s story by Geoffrey Philp

 

I believe Marcus and the Amazons is worthwhile, especially because…

1. It’s a great little story that will stimulate all kinds of duscussions
2. Marcus is respectful of others even when he disagrees with their actions
3. The story dramatizes the values of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
and the Civil Rights movement by placing the events in a different context.
4. Marcus resolves conflict without resorting to violence
5. The story shows that actions/motives are not always as simple as they may seem.

Did I mention its a great little story?

 

After traveling through the forest, Marcus returns to his home and discovers that Amazons have enslaved his colony and imprisoned Princess Amy, his bride-to-be.

With the help of his friends from the forest, Marcus must save Princess Amy and rally his colony to stand against the Amazons. But during his stay in the forest,

Marcus has also renounced violence. Will Marcus succeed?


 

You can buy a copy of Marcus and the Amazons from SmashWords

Nigerian German writer, Olumide Popoola “This is not about sadness”

Nigerian German writer and performance poet, Olumide Popoola, discusses “multiculturalism” and the differences between Germany and Britain. She also reads from her new novella, “This is not about sadness” which is at the top of my “to read” list for the August.

Via Kalamu

Emmanuel Iduma: Ikhide’s Complaint ["The Caine Prize and Unintended Consequences"]

Guest blog post by Emmanuel Iduma, co-founder and co-editor of Saraba Magazine.

Emmanuel responds to Nigerian writer and critic, Ikhide Ikheloa’s essay “Email from America: The Caine Prize and Unintended Consequences”. The essay which one website described as ” Wainainaesque” after Binyavanga Wainaina’s satirical “How to Write About Africa” and together with Chimamanda Adichie’s   “The danger of a single story”, is fast becoming the third part of a trilogy of African intellectual criticism of Western literary imposition.

The Caine Prize for African Writing has been great for African literature by showcasing some truly good works by African writers. The good news is that the Caine Prize is here to stay. The bad news is that someone is going to win the Caine Prize this year. This is a shame; having read the stories on the shortlist, I conclude that a successful African writer must be clinically depressed, chronicling in excruciating detail every open sore of Africa. Apologies to Wole Soyinka. The creation of a prize for “African writing” may have created the unintended effect of breeding writers willing to stereotype Africa for glory.
The mostly lazy, predictable stories that made the 2011 shortlist celebrate orthodoxy and mediocrity. They are a riot of exhausted clichés even as ancient conflicts and anxieties fade into the past tense: huts, moons, rapes, wars, and poverty. The monotony of misery simply overwhelms the reader. Fiammetta Rocco, the Economist’s literary editor who chaired last year’s judges, crows that the stories are “uniquely powerful.” The stories are uniquely wretched. The chair of this year’s judges Hisham Matar declares presumptuously that the stories “represent a portrait of today’s African short story: its wit and intelligence, its concerns and preoccupations.” Really? Is this the sum total of our experience, this humourless, tasteless canvas of shiftless Stepin Fetchit suffering?

Ikhide Ikheloa made it a point to diss the shortlisted stories for the 2011 Caine Prize, which, by the way, is not the first time we have been served with his opinionated criticism. In response, I intend to make the case that there are deeper concerns than the sweeping conclusions he makes in his short essays, “How not to Write about Africa” and The Caine Prize and Unintended Consequences.” He complains that, “The creation of a Prize for ‘African Writing’ may have created the unintended effect of breeding writers writing to stereotype Africa for glory.” And he goes further to assert that the stories “celebrate orthodoxy and mediocrity,” that “they are a riot of exhausted clichés even as ancient conflicts and anxieties fade into the past tense: huts, moons, rapes, wars and poverty.” Then he praises Medalie’s “The Mistress’s Dog” because it narrates an “Africa without kwashiorkor.” The imagery he presents is stimulating, pitching Medalie’s ‘Africa without kwashiorkor’ against NoViolet Bulawayo’s “sniffing around Africa’s sewers.” This “sniffing” is by “good writers showcasing good prose and great dialogue” stuck in the “fog of stereotypes.” I implore the reader to take a look at those essays. I am more concerned about the implications of Mr. Ikheloa’s complaint(s) than about his affronts to the “good writers” and the Caine Prize which “has come to stay.” I will, however, return a few more times to his considerations.

The dilemma we face is the challenge of distinguishing between writing a “story” and writing “stereotypes.” It is clear that the divide, and the constructs, exist. It is also clear that both merge and are almost inseparable. For instance, I might decide to write a story about incest and child witch-hunt in Esit Eket, thereby writing an African “stereotype” or I might decide to tell a story of a deaf man who hears a single song, thereby writing a “story.” This is a fashionable divide, sometimes bedevilling, other times accommodating. But I consider this divide more intricate than superficial.

Let me make assumptions for what it takes to write stereotypes, and write a story. To write a stereotype, one mixes fact with fiction — narrating, on the one hand, a considerable navigation of the known world and on the other creatively repeating that known world. This is perhaps an art in itself, and essentially accommodating, I think. Or perhaps stereotypes get their essentials from “political correctness” — which suggests that “stereotypes” can fall within the category that encompasses the media, Westernization, Neo-colonialism, and whatnot. The other realm, of stories, demands extended imagination — we find ourselves making our special known worlds, giving no quarter to political correctness, living in a (re)imagined state. This second realm, unlike the first, becomes celebrated only because those who read us find in it an escape from “reality.”
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Aminatta Forna “The Memory of Love”

Aminatta Forna discusses her new book “The Memory of Love” with BBC Africa’s Bola Mosuru

Part 2

Links:
Reviews

The Devil Danced on the Water

Black Mamba Boy

Somali writer Nadifa Mohamed discusses her novel Black Mamba Boy inspired by the life of her father – often written about but never have their perspective represented.