Writings of the general word's body

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Death of Saddam

"Surely, the best punishment for a dictator is to see himself losing power. The rest, is open to debate."
Said Djebbar
Human Rights Lawyer
On SKY News, 29 December 2006

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Farewell to A Man's World

I Can't Do The Split No Mo'
The truly great may grandly exit on great days, as James Brown (1933 - 2006) did on Christmas Day.
"I can't do the split no mo'" - this, from the mouth of the Godfather of Soul, is my own choice of the famous last words of James Brown. He said it in a documentary (probably Soul Survivor), shown on British television (Channel 4) in 2004, I think. Though shown a bit late in the night, the documentary was billed as something of a small television event, and was followed immediately by a specially recorded live concert given by Brown in Novemer 2003 - to mark his 70th year on earth and many decades as 'the hardest working man in showbusiness'.
There is a sense in which great men and women can in their twilight years almost become a subtle parody of themselves; a sense in which they serve to aid and validate the aspirations of lesser artists seeking to rub shoulders with greatness in the hope something might rub off (and so it was that the over-promoted and probably overrated Joss Stone got to earn her stripes by performing live on stage with the man who sang 'Sex Machine'); a sense in which we feed on them still, to tell ourselves that by witnessing the spectacle, we have lived in great times.
For these and many other reasons, the great are not allowed to simply be; they have to prove again and again though they are no longer in their prime, that they can still roar, that we were correct in our sense of awe the first time round. One got a sense of this as, clad in a shiny blue suit, James Brown carried on gamely onstage, surrounded by young, flapping dancers he needn't have had to share the stage with. There was that tiny sense that it should have been... one is not quite sure what.
Still it was mostly grand. James Brown in his seventh decade, still did moves that made the jaw drop. He loved the drama of falling on his knees singing Please Please Please, while a bandmember put his velvet cape back on his shoulders and coaxed him to get back up again - the audience never tired of seeing it so he never tired of giving it to them. He still sang with raw funkiness. How, at 70? you wondered.
The documentary helped give perspective to those who were too young to have experienced James Brown's heyday of the 60s and the 70s. Grainy black and white footage showed where Michael Jackson must have first seen the footwork that gave birth to the moonwalk. Would we have had Jackson the dancer without James Brown? Or Prince the all round performer? Those moves in black and white are still amazing. And how the music punctuated the times, the sexual revolution, the 'I'm Black and Proud' track that shouted out a slogan of civil rights and Black Power... the music whose influence is everywhere.
The documentary showed in archive footage ample evidence of a dance move that was conspicuously absent from the 2003 London shows. Brown must have been asked in the documentary because he admitted: "I can't do the Split no mo'". He looked down as he acknowledged the effect of age and decline on his abilities; no incidental music, no histrionics, no explanations, no regrets, nothing. A stoic James Brown said with dignity and gravity: I Can't Do The Split No Mo'.
This was for me the most poignant moment in the documentary and the show that followed, and it struck me then, that this could be James Brown's last stand in the UK. I was not going to get a chance to catch him in concert in a year or two, and I suddenly regretted not having managed to catch the 2003 shows.
I Can't Do The Split No More - this has come to mind every time I've thought of James Brown since that television event. It came to mind again when in the early evening of Christmas Day a friend called my mobile from Nigeria to say: E ma Ku u ti James Brown o. It could only mean one thing. I was away and hadn't heard the news.
And earlier today, a friend's elderly mother sang for me an old Yoruba track referencing James Brown, as performed by Ebenezer Obey (Omo eniyan sa ni James Brown, to n fi moto se ese rin o...aiye o, aiye o, a o lo'gba yi pe o). It was a hit when my friend's mum was a young woman. She sang and I smiled as she did so, because the song helped her appreciate the importance of the man we now said had died.
This is a man's world, Brown famously sang. I always loved that song. Not because it goes on to say the world would mean nothing without a woman - but because he sang the unavoidable truth (about this being a man's world) as a lament, such that I, a woman, could sing it without any sense of conflict.
I Feel Good; Please Please Please; Get Up (I Feel Like Being A) Sex Machine; Papa's Got a Brand New Bag; Get Up Offa That Thing; It's a Man's World; Say It Loud - I'm Black and Proud; Living in America... and more
With all that funky music, he needn't have had to do the split no more.
  • Image from the Funky Stuff website

Stamped Sealed Delivered

This postage stamp arrived with a recent mail from Lagos and was my first sighting of the much talked about series of stamps honouring Nigeria's literary giants.

The Phantom

Reading the 'Letters to the Editor' section of the free Metro newspaper on the morning of June 3, 2003, a letter about the British public's fascination with David Beckham's then short-lived corn-rowed hairstyle - caught my eye (see on the right, as cut out a pasted into my notebook). I read the correspondent's name and it was signed by none other than Obotunde Ijimere whose book - The Imprisonment of Obatala and Other Plays - I bought in Nairobi, Kenya in 1995 and have treasured since.

The Imprisonment of Obatala carries on its inside cover an image of the 'author', a Yoruba man with facial marks, said have been a member of Duro Ladipo's theatre troupe, who was then encouraged by Ulli Beier to write in English. Or so it goes... But popular lore has since led one to understand that Obotunde Ijimere is the pseudonym used by Beier himself, and that some notable others (of the Mbari Mbayo Group) are said to borrow the name now and then. All of which make the letter in the Metro all the more fascinating.

I should have known from the start that the name is a pseudonym anyhow, since both the first and last names - 'Obotunde Ijimere' are very poetic references to Yoruba names for monkey species.

Obotunde Ijimere has been called the phantom of Nigerian literature, having the agility of a monkey or a trapeze artist, the cunning and the trickery.

Now you see him, now you don't.

Flora Nwapa's Blue Lake

I read Flora Nwapa's books Efuru and Idu as a child and I was fascinated by her descriptions of a blue lake. Last year, I visited relatives in Ogwashi Uku, Delta State. My uncle took me to see many of the different rivers and lakes surrounding Ogwashi. This reawakened a desire to see Flora Nwapa's blue lake, Lake Oguta. After some arm-twisting on my part, a few days later, I set out for Imo State with 3 others in my uncle's old 504. We arrived at the lake and it was even more beautiful than I'd imagined. Since we were in Oguta I felt I had to pay my respects to the woman who opened doors for many African women writers. We visited the Nwakuche compound and although none of the family were home, the groundskeeper listened to the story of how we came to Oguta and let us see the grounds and take a picture of Flora Nwapa's final resting place.

Farafina Readings

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Tanure Ojaide (both published by Kachifo-Farafina Books in Nigeria) are doing a series of readings in Nigeria. Details below...

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie reads from her second novel Half of a Yellow Sun...
  • Quintessence, Lagos on January 5th 2007 @ 4pm
  • Novotel, Port Harcort on January 6th @ 12.30pm
  • Jazzhole, Lagos on January 11th @ 5pm
  • LASU/Bookworm - Lagos - on January 12th @ 10am/5pm
  • The British Council, Abuja on January 13th

Tanure Ojaide reads from his novel, The Activist.
  • Novotel, Port Harcourt on December 30th 2006 @ 12.30pm

Read Wole Oguntokun's Review of The Activist.

Season's Greetings

Took a night-time stroll through Trafalgar Square about 8.30pm on Thursday December 21st, and these are some of the scenes. The daytime throngs of tourists were gone from around the fountains and the bronze lions at the foot of Nelson's Column but there was still some activity. A small crowd watched carol singers being filmed under the giant Christmas tree in one corner, but the rest of the square was deserted and calm. The ground was beginning to glaze over with ice from the chilly weather and did not invite walking. Still I was drawn to the white marble sculpture of Alison Lapper which now graces the Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square.

Many public figures (including Nelson Mandela) were considered for the once empty fourth plinth, but the honour went to disabled artist Alison Lapper who was born with shortened legs and no arms. Sculpted by Marc Quinn and unveiled in September 2005, the sculpture shows Lapper when she was over 8 months pregnant, and represents the only female figure in the square. The other statues in the square are darkish in colour (Nelson is pale - probably white marble too - but he is so far up in the sky that he hardly comes into the reckoning at ground level). And, lit up from below, Lapper's portrait glows radiantly at night. And it was this that stopped me going straght into the underground station as planned - and drew me into the square instead.

Monday, December 18, 2006


A scene from Jasonvision's production of Ola Rotimi's play, The Gods Are Not To Blame. Directed by
Wole Oguntokun, the play was staged in Lagos as part of the Muson Arts Festival, on October 28.

Wole Oguntokun is in the directorial mode again on Boxing Day. He directs Wole Soyinka's The Swamp Dwellers - as part of the Jasonvision Legend Series.

The Swamp Dwellers is on at the Agip Hall, Muson Centre, Lagos, on Tuesday December 26 @ 3pm & 6pm.

Tickets cost N2000 for Adults/ N1000 for students (with ID).

There is a musical pre-show with the group, Nefretiti feat. Adunni.

For information & tickets, please call: 0802 301 3778 / 01- 897 1691 / 01- 813 6229.
  • The Gods Are Not To Blame image - courtesy of Wole Oguntokun

New Reads

Nigeria has recently witnessed a plethora of writers from the diaspora doing reading tours in that country and this is supported by a new generation of young publishers who are linking up with metropolitan publishers to co-publish African editions of books by African writers first published abroad. African publishers like Farafina Books on the ground acquire the rights to publish them locally in order to make them available and affordable in Africa. In addition, they have toured these writers to several cities in Nigeria and recent tours have included Sefi Atta (winner of the inaugural Wole Soyinka Prize for Literature in Africa 2006) with her book Everything Good Will Come, Diana Evans with her book 26A (winner of the Orange Prize for New Writers 2005) and Ogaga Ifowodo, one of the most respected of a younger generation of poets and a major poetic voice, appeared at The Jazzhole in Lagos with his latest publication entitled 'Pouring Words on Troubled Waters: The Writer and His Nation' in September 2006.
  • The above is extracted from Becky Clarke's introduction to the current issue of Crossing Borders Magazine, which offers up new short stories by African writers including Jackee Budesta Batanda and Blessing Musariri. Read it all here.

In a new story by Nadine Gordimer published in The New Yorker, a South African woman contends with a sense that her husband, a cellist, is having an affair. In this excerpt, she wonders who the other woman might be...

Or was the woman nearer home? A member of the national orchestra in which he and his cello were star performers? That was an identification she found hard to look for, considering their company of friends in this way. A young woman, of course, a younger woman than herself. But wasn’t that just the inevitable decided at her mother’s tea-table forum? The clarinet player was in her late forties, endowed with fine breasts in décolleté and a delightful wit. There was often repartee between them, the clarinet and the cello, over drinks. The pianist, young with waist-length red-out-of-the-bottle hair, was a lesbian kept under strict guard by her woman. The third and last female musician in the orchestra was also the last whom one would be crass enough to think of: her name was Khomotso; she was the second violinist of extraordinary talent, one of the two black musicians. She was so young; she had given birth to an adored baby, who, for the first few months of life, had been brought to rehearsals in the car of Khomotso’s sister so that the mother could suckle the infant there. The director of the orchestra gave an interview to a Sunday newspaper about this, as an example of the orchestra’s adaptation to the human values of the new South Africa. The violinist was certainly the prettiest, the most desirable, of the women in whose company the cellist spent the intense part of his days and nights, but respect, his human feeling, would be stronger than sexual attraction, his identification with her as a musician would make distracting her from that taboo. As for him, wouldn’t it look like the old South Africa—a white man “taking advantage of” the precariously balanced life of a young black woman?

Read 'The First Sense'...

Sunday, December 17, 2006


You stand on the stark platform
under the lone glow
an island of attention,
a vulnerable picture –
pouring out your heart,
a river of candid songs.

How come such tenderness,
from a heart full of scars?
You teach me forgiveness
under a tungsten lamp.

O Songstress, O Songstress,
I hear this river of songs –
sometimes as fast as a flood,
now and again slow as twilight –
pouring out of your wounded heart.

How come such passion
from a soul full of fissures?
You teach me endurance
on a loney island.

O Songstress, O Songstress,
I hear this river of songs
sometimes soft as a whisper,
streaming out of your heart.

© Emman Usman Shehu

  • Published in the Sunday Sun, Lagos, on 26 November 2006. Reproduced with permission.

Infinity and Beyond

Missed this discussion on science fiction and Afro-futurism and the Starship Black Female, held at the ICA yesterday. The poster for the talk was this classic Ebony cover of Nichelle Nichols, one half player in television's first inter-racial kiss (with Star Trek's Captain Kirk aka William Shatner). Missed the talk but I just love the Sexy Black Space Vixen image, so here it is.


Another 'comment' deserving of a post all to itself. This review was left on my blog on November 28. Read on...

Adichie’s Half of a Yellow Sun
By Amanta Usukpam Ukpaghiri

I finished reading Half of a Yellow Sun and was left with a lingering sense of sadness at having completed the novel too quickly. I wished it continued and that l continued to read it, perhaps, for a very long time. It is a masterpiece of a work, destined to be a classic; Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie has trod where many others have feared to tread. She has taken the pain and suffering and horror of a people – the Igbos -- and given them novelistic prominence, and by so doing, asked historical questions that still demand answers. She, in effect, stands athwart the current amnesia in Nigeria and requests that the country comes to terms with the Igbo sub-nationality and either accept it as a full member of the polity -- or leave it alone to its own devices. Admirably, she is (as she said in an interview) “insistently and consciously” Igbo – and unlike several economic climbers in today’s Nigeria, is never shamelessly apologetic that she is Igbo.

This book is truly more than a novel – although even as a novel, it is extremely well crafted, brimming with characters that come alive and leap off the pages and embody events that unquestionably took place in the history of Nigeria. Indeed, this book is a form of historical narrative that tells the story of Igbos’ vibrant engagement with Nigeria in the 1960s before the civil war, the massacres of tens of thousands of Igbos following military intervention in politics, and the period of the civil war itself from 1967 to 1970.

Chimamanda has achieved several noble things with one stroke. She has furnished literature with simple, elegant and sharp sentences and a (albeit horror) story beautifully woven together in paragraph after paragraph. She has also written a history of the Igbos during a certain period of time. Finally she has presented a literary monument to love and relationships and hope and human dignity. Her characters - - their lives, their triumphs, and their failures – speak to the enduringness of love and truth and the dominance of the human spirit.

It is simply amazing that Chimamanda is only 28 years’ old -- she was born 7 years after the war ended. Yet she tells her story with a level of insight, maturity, compassion, knowledge and deftness that belies her age. It is abundantly clear that her writing is the product of tremendous research on her part of the events that led up to and including the civil war. This is fiction based on facts – or “faction.”

Chimamanda’s characters are seen in every day life in Nigeria. Ugwu exists in several houseboys in Nigeria with ambition and intelligence who continue to rise by dint of application of their brains and hard work and focus to attainment of lives of accomplishment. Ugwu’s sense of ownership of his Master, Madam and Baby is quite widespread among faithful houseboys. Odenigbo – the professor of mathematics at University of Nigeria, Nsukka -- is the quintessential intellectual, perhaps, with his head caught up in the clouds with numerous ideological constructs and deconstructs. Kainene and Olanna are extremely human characters whose sisterly relationship with each other ironically blossomed in the midst of the war – and became warmer as they came to experience the horrors of the civil war together. Richard comes across as familiarly tragic – wanting to belong to and in Biafra and never belonging or never accepted as belonging.

Which brings us to the concept of belonging. It is a concept that Chimamanda explores in her novel. Miss Adebayo was never seen as belonging; and of course, neither was Richard. Indeed, the Igbos who had lived in the Northern part of Nigeria for several decades were never seen as belonging. Nor were the Igbos who had lived in Lagos: Chinua Achebe escaped death in Lagos during the massacre of Igbos by a hairsbreadth. The parallels between Igbos and the Jews are really striking. Belonging is a potent concept; witness the current acrimonious debate raging in the industrialized countries over immigration, which is inextricably linked to who belongs and who does not.

This is a story that has universal applications even as it is largely set in Igbo land. It tells the story of political conflict and war and love and hate and betrayal and oppression and human affirmation that is contemporary and resonates with the human condition.

It will be eminently interesting to see how this “transcendent novel” in the words of Publishers Weekly – which has been received with great literary acclaim in the United States and Europe – will be received in Nigeria. It is safe to predict that it will be seen in certain quarters through dogmatic lenses that will uncritically seek to brazenly question the novel’s premises. But this will be largely besides the point – because Chimamanda has rendered a classic and has told a story about a historical necessity – the defense of and by a people from being wiped out from the face of the map.

Just a few quibbles. It was 20 and not 50 pounds that was vengefully decreed by the Government of Nigeria as the amount to be (and which was) given in exchange for all the money held by each former Biafran. Before the war, Cross River Igbos would have been referred to as Bende people and not Imo people. And the settlement in Port-Harcourt would have been called Umuokirisi and not Rumuokirisi – that came after the war. But these are mere quibbles and do not affect the historical accuracy of the novel regarding the lives and times of the Igbos before and during the civil war.

Chimamanda has rightly been described as the 21st-century successor to Chinua Achebe, and she indeed displays the same sophisticated simplicity in her writing and similar deep historical insights laced with philosophical wisdom. Indeed, Achebe describes her as being “endowed with the gift of ancient storytellers” and asserts that she “came almost fully made.” The serious bent of her writings is to be widely applauded. There surely is a literary ferment afoot among young Nigerian writers in the diaspora. And Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is at the crest of that ferment. To end with Achebe’s words: In writing Half of a Yellow Sun, “Adichie knows what is at stake and what to do about it.”

Amanta Usukpam Ukpaghiri

Monday, December 11, 2006

New Read

Tolu Ogunlesi's short story about a 14-year-old girl who asks the reader to avoid Made-in-Nigeria condoms - is published in the current issue of Litro.

Here's an excerpt from Seahorses...

This is where a diary comes in handy. Was it Janet Jackson or someone else who said a diary is where you can take your time to put the pieces of your life together. You have really matured, come a long way. From the infatuation-infested diaries of two years ago... A diary is where you can put your life together again. A diary is where you can play God. A diary is where you rule over time.
But there is a snag. You have never been good at creative writing. You remember only too well your literature teacher's remarks in your report card last term. Actually, you cant remember her exact words, but you remember the feeling you had when you held the card in your hands.
Now, here is another chance at creative writing, this time without the unease of knowing that some frustrated novelist posing as literature teacher might murder it with angry red ink.

So what's it all about? Are there seahorses in it? Read on.

Lamenting the Index

The Index Bookshop in Brixton was one of those places that existed as a reassurance to lovers of Black (African, Caribbean and African-American) writing. It can be so very difficult to find books by African writers in the main book chains in London. Getting to buy a copy of a book by Yvonne Vera in Books etc and such like, can be a hit and miss. In fact, I'm prepared to wager that you will not find Vera in these places at all. At the Index Bookshop, you would find Vera and countless other wonderful titles that would otherwise be obscure in the UK. At the Index, sitting on the corner of Electric Avenue and Electric Lane smack in the middle of Brixton market, you could find all of the speeches of Kwame Nkrumah in one volume if that was your thing; History of the Shona, Swahili or Yoruba Grammar, plus all there is to read of WEB Dubois and his ilk. This bookshop has been a place of pilgrimage to me, a sanctuary in the beehive of Brixton Market. I have gone there countless times, some out of a wish to see what one could find, and other times out of sheer necessity. When I couldnt find Adichie's Purple Hibiscus in the heady days after its Orange short-listing back in 2004, I ran at the last minute to the Index Bookshop - and there the book was.

The Index ranked among few precious others - New Beacon Bookshop on Stroud Green Road in Finsbury Park is the one that comes readily to mind. The Africa Book Centre in Covent Garden was a well known one (like the others much too small to stock everything in their specialised area); it has closed up shop and they only sell by mail order only.

And now the Index Bookshop has closed. It closed down last year and I only found out today - the hard way. I can't believe I had stayed away from the shop up to a year. And I have been in the Brixton area recently without looking over to ensure the store was there; I suppose I always thought it would be there. Well, today, I went looking for the Index Bookshop (I sometimes deliberately stay away from such places for the same reason I sometimes go; I'd end up staying too long in there and I'd spend more than was prudent) - just to browse, to marvel, and maybe buy a book or two if they proved irresistible.

I got to where the Index was and - the horror! A brand new fishmonger had opened where it used to be! Yet another fishmonger in addition to the countless others in Brixton market, and no Index Bookshop! When the fish-sellers asked if I needed help (to buy fish), they must have been taken aback to hear me ask for books, the bookshop, instead.

It was a sad walk back to Brixton Station in the rain. I guess I'll have to make my way to The New Beacon more often then. Long may the New Beacon stay open, but the closure of the Index Bookshop is a big loss.

Royal Geographical Society

I attended a symposium on Slavery at the Royal Geographical Society, London, on October 31. It was organised by Black British Heritage, a community group working to create awareness about contributions made by people of African descent to the history and prosperity of the Britain. The organisation, a charity plans to be very involved in next year's 200 years' anniversary of the abolition of slavery on the British Isles.

Many issues on Slavery debated on the day. The Royal Geographical Society was a place when, in the heyday of Slavery, English adventurers and 'discoverers' came to display the goods and trophies they had brought with them from their traves. The 'goods' included Africans in bondage. (As it happens, an exhibition of West African Mud Architecture, Butabu by James Morris - taken on his traves in Senegal, Benin Republic, Mali and Northern Nigeria - was on display in another part of the building. I interviewed Morris and wrote about the same exhibition, held at another venue, back in 2004)

As I walked around the Royal Geographical Society on the day, my thoughts were on ages past. And looking for the merest echoes of painful history, these were the sights that caught my camera's eye.
  • Wooden figure guards the 'Minstrels' Gallery;
  • The second photo, on the stairway, points the way to the lavatories;
  • The fellow in the 3rd photo looks away from you whilst you're in the toilet; and
  • One of the Zanzibar Chests on display.

Dawes Edits Peepal Tree


Award winning poet, Kwame Dawes joins Peepal Tree Press, the leading publisher of Caribbean literature and Black British literature, as Associate Poetry Editor from January 2007.

Kwame Dawes is the author of 14 collections of poetry, including the winner of the Forward Poetry Prize - Best First Collection for Progeny of Air, published by Peepal Tree Press (1994). He currently holds the position of Distinguished Poet In Residence and Louise Fry Scudder Professor of Liberal Arts at the University of South Carolina.

Dawes has published 7 of his collections, including his New and Selected Poems, with Peepal Tree Press as well as a collection of short stories, a memoir and other non-fiction titles.

His role will be to build the poetry list for this specialist independent press that celebrates its 21st anniversary this month. Dawes will select four new poetry manuscripts a year, from Caribbean poets from the islands and the diaspora and new Black British poets, many of whom he has worked with over the past 10 years, when he started the Afro Poetry School in London. This ‘School’ nurtured poets such as Chris Abani, Bernardine Evaristo and Dorothea Smartt, the latter two whom both published their first collections of poetry with Peepal Tree Press. Dawes will also be editing the forthcoming anthology, RED, a contemporary collection of Black British poets to be published in Autumn 2007, the first such anthology of contemporary Black British poets since The Fire People, nearly ten years ago.

Dawes said: “The aim is to make Peepal Tree Press a first stop for poets interested in books of impeccable design, solid editing, and a strong support system for the authors and the promotion of the work.”

On accepting this new position, Dawes said: “I am a Peepal Tree poet who has gained a great deal from this relationship. I have full belief in the quality of the poets already published by the press, but I also have a clear vision of how this press can grow and how Caribbean poetry can be enhanced by the work that Peepal Tree does."

"Above all, I am committed to the long term survival and growth of Peepal Tree Press, and if I can play some part in ensuring that it continues to improve as a publishing house, then that would make me happy.”

Dawes has great ideas and visions for what he intends to achieve, both for Peepal Tree Press and poetry in Britain:

“I want to help the press streamline its brand, to ensure that what we call a ‘Peepal Tree poetry book’ has a character, a quality and a certain identity that is distinctive.”

He believes that his involvement will be of particular significance for Black British poets:

“Peepal Tree's Caribbean list is already impressive; we want to sharpen the brand of what we publish in terms of quality and daring. We want to commit to poets, not just to a single book. At the same time, we want Peepal Tree to be a first stop for Black British poets--a venue that will produce work of the highest standard and that will, ultimately, challenge the somewhat homogenous output of the major British poetry houses. Peepal Tree Press can be one of those publishing houses that will infuse dynamic work into the market by introducing new and exciting poets to the list.”

Jeremy Poynting, publisher and founding editor of Peepal Tree Press, said that Dawes is the the right person at the right time for the future development of Peepal Tree’s poetry list:

“We are absolutely delighted to welcome Kwame Dawes to the team. We have been in existence for 21 years and taking on Kwame is part of an extensive review of where we have come from and where we want to go. We are justly proud of the poetry collections we have published in the past, but what we felt we needed was to refresh and reshape our purpose. I knew that we needed someone with a sure eye for the future and the capacity to work closely with new poets on the development of their work. Having worked with Kwame over the past dozen years, I recognise him as not only the leading Caribbean poet of his generation, but also as someone with the highest editorial standards and generous but exacting skills in working with other writers. We look forward to a long and fruitful relationship.”

CORA's Claus Award


2006 Prince Claus Award to Committee of Relevant Art (CORA)

On Thursday, 14 December 2006, the Nigerian organisation
CORA (Commitee of Relevant Art) will bepresented with one of this year’s Prince Claus Awards of € 25.000 by The Netherlands’ Ambassador to Nigeria,H.E. Mr. Arie van der Wiel.

According to the Jury of the Prince Claus Awards, the Committee for Relevant Art (CORA) is a unique Nigerian organisation that creates spaces to engage the publicin debate on cultural issues. Started in 1991 as anon-profit, non-governmental activist organisation, CORA’s aim is to explore all legitimate means to create an environment for the flourishing of contemporary culture in Nigeria, in particular to make the arts a lively, social and enjoyable experience for all people especially the young generations and to create a culture-friendly society.

CORA organises the quarterly Art Stampede, known as the ‘parliament of artists’, a lively, open-air, informal, discursive platform on burning issues in the arts where leading figures and invited international artists engage in public discussion and workshop-like sessions. Central issues have included the quality of recent Nigerian literature, special editions on Wole Soyinka and Okwui Enwezor, and artists as arbiters in political crisis. CORA organises an annual Cinema Carnival showcasing outdoor screenings of high quality African films. It also organises the annual Lagos Book and Art Festival, an open-air popular market featuring live music, drama and dance, activity workshops for kids, poetry and literature readings, book parties and seminars. CORA publishes ‘Lagos: The City Arts Guide’, a quarterly calendar of cultural events, listings, previews and reviews.

CORA has worked in the complex environment of Lagos, with neither government nor foreign donor support, for 15 years. It is building audiences for all branches of the arts and provides support for the work of artists and intellectuals. It is a democratic organisation run by a collective of involved citizens with current officers, Toyin Akinoso and Jahman Anikulapo. This award highlights the contributions of committed citizens, the role of local energy and initiatives in stimulating the arts and the importance of creating spaces of freedom, debate and cultural exchange.

The Prince Claus Fund is a platform for inter cultural exchange. The Fund is named after H.R.H Prince Claus, the late spouse of H.R.H. Queen Beatrix of The Netherlands. The Prince Claus Awards are presented to artists and intellectuals who have made outstanding contributions to the field of culture and development. The awards are given to individuals, groups and organisations around the globe, but primarily in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean. The Prince Claus Awards recognise artistic and intellectual qualities that are relevant in the contemporary context. They aim to support experimentation, to appreciate audacity and tenacity, to legitimise, to increase impact and to provide others with inspiration.

This year’s Principal Prince Claus Award (EUR 100,000) was presented on Wednesday 13 December in Amsterdam to Iranian graphic designer Reza Abedini. The other ten Prince Claus Awards 2006 of EUR 25,000 will be presented to visual artist Lida Abdul (Afghanistan), cultural organizer Christine Tohme (Lebanon), writer Erna Brodber (Jamaica), publisher Henry Chakava (Kenya), poet Frankétienne (Haiti), actor Madeeha Gauhar (Pakistan), performance artist Michael Mel (Papua New Guinea), the Committee for Relevant Art (Nigeria), Al Kamandjati Association for music lessons(Palestine), and the National Museum of Mali in Bamako (Mali).

Royal Netherlands Embassy Abuja
Press Officer09-5244024

Remembering Chukura

Writers honour late ANA judge, Lynn Chukura
By Uduma Kalu http

GRADUALLY, and unexpectedly, a white body of a woman washed ashore. The crowd at the Labadi beach, Ghana, took a close look at it. It was the body of the poet, lecturer and former literary judge of the Association Nigerian Authors, (ANA), Lynn Chukura. She was teaching English at the University of Legon, Ghana.

Just recently, a member of a listserve had inquired about her. Lynn had also sent a poem, "Identity" for an anthology being edited by a Nigerian lady living in the United States of America. She was thinking of publishing her novel, "The Man", in the United States of America. Her earlier collection of poems, Archetyping, got an ANA honourable mention.

If there was any doubt among the onlookers at the beach that it was Lynn, the press statement that followed entitled" Obituary Notice: Re: Ms. Mary Lynn Olisa Chukura", wiped all that thinking away.

The statement, released by Kofi Anyidoho, Professor and Head of the English Department, University of Legon, Ghana remarked that "It is with deep regret that I write to announce the death of our colleague Ms. Mary Lynn Olisa Chukura, Senior Lecturer in the Department of English. Ms. Chukura drowned in the ocean at Labadi on Tuesday 21st November 2006.
"Ms. Chukura joined the English Department of University of Ghana as a Senior Lecturer on 17th February, 2003, from Nigeria, where she had had a long and active career at the University of Lagos. She has been a very dedicated and effective member of the faculty, with responsibility for a number of our core courses. Her death comes as a great loss to the department and the university.

"An American citizen from Lancaster in Pennsylvania, Ms. Chukura was born on 14th June, 1950, at Carlisle, Pennsylvania, with Kilheffer as her family name. She is survived by Mr. Udemezuo Onuora Nwuneli of Lagos, aged 32, and his two sisters Nkem and Nancy Nwuneli, currently living in the USA."

Arrangements for the funeral, he continued, showed that Lynn's body was laid in state last Saturday, December 9, from 7:00 - 9:45 am, at the St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church, University of Ghana, Legon. Burial Mass was at the same day at the St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church, University of Ghana, Legon, while the Final Funeral Rites held same day also, at The University Guest Centre, Legon. The Thanksgiving Mass was yesterday, Sunday, December 10, at 9:00 am. St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church, University of Ghana, Legon.
Another press statement also appeared last week. Entitled, "Tears Drop..." the message came from Lookman Sanusi and Nike Adesuyi, For The Lynn Chukura Committee.

The duo while announcing "Ms. Lynn Chukura (Nee Kilheffer) writer, literary critic and university teacher, mother, grandmother, sister and aunty, who passed away on Tuesday 21st November 2006 in Legon Ghana," went on to say that Lynn served for several years on the selection panel for Association of Nigerian Authors Literature Prizes where she contributed in no small measure in advancing the cause and course of Modern Nigerian writing.

"A Thanksgiving Mass will hold in her honour in Lagos Nigeria, on Tuesday, 12th December at St Dominic Catholic Church, Yaba Lagos. All friends, well wishers, former students, colleagues , most especially the Lagos/Ibadan literary community are enjoined to attend and pay their final respect to this great woman who gave so much of herself and her endowments towards the development of literature in Nigeria."

Lynn was a good swimmer and would often boast about it. She preferred to swim in the open sea because she felt natural waters have spiritual effect.

Since these announcements, writers, the world over, as expected, have been paying tributes to her. Some of the tributes remember the assistance she rendered to the writers and their associations. One in particular mentioned her political activism. Lynn resigned her appointment at the University of Lagos because her branch of Academic Staff Union of Universities, (ASUU), betrayed the struggle of the union in 1996.

Also Dr. Wumi Raji was sacked along with his colleagues by the University of Ilorin in 2001, Lynn tried her best to get Raji placed at the University of Lagos.

The bulk of the tributes to Lynn emphasise her literary contributions and achievements. She reviewed Maik Nwosu's Alpha Song at the French Cultural Centre, at the presentation some years back. ANA former scribe, Nduka Otiono, remembered "that Lynn just wasn't one of the most reliable judges ANA ever had, she lived a life of sacrifice for others, and was always ready to help. As Gen Sec of ANA, I sought and received her co-operation to prepare that comprehensive Guidelines for ANA Prizes on ANA website, which was adapted for the NLNG Prize and other prizes. And when she relocated to Ghana while her tenure as Judge was still valid, she accepted to complete her term if I could ship entries for the year's ANA Prizes to her in Accra.

"Clearly, she deserves an honour from ANA and WRITA for her selfless contributions to new Nigerian writing--as Judge, teacher, mentor, thoroughbred Editor, exemplary membership, etc, " he wrote.

Lynn was a regular presence at most literary activities. She was an executive member at the Women Writers of Nigeria (WRITA) and Lagos branch of ANA. Some of the national conventions she attended are also remembered by some of the writers. The writers expressed her commitment to literature, literary meetings in Benin City, Jos, Asaba, Kaduna, since 1994, and her editorial helps and as MUSON judge. Lynn shared some of her writings too, one of them said. One of the works was "The Man".

Those that were teachers also said they read and taught Lynn's story at the University of Jos, adding that Lynn would be remembered for her feminist vision in Nigerian literature.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Lynn Chukura 1950 - 2006

The death is announced (and noted on page 78 of today's Guardian, Lagos) of Lynn Chukura - the end coming at it did in the sea in Ghana on November 21st.

Chukura taught Literature at the University of Lagos for about 24 years before she moved to Ghana. A contributor to the 2005 anthology, Short Stories by 16 Nigerian women (with her story, Birds of Darkness), Ms Chukura was on the staff at the University of Ghana at the time of her passing.

From Nigeria to Ghana, the literary community mourns.

The Obituary notice from the University of Ghana, below....

Obituary Notice:
Ms. Mary Lynn Olisa Chukura

It is with deep regret that I write to announce the death of our colleague Ms. Mary Lynn Olisa Chukura, Senior Lecturer in the Department of English. Ms. Chukura drowned in the ocean at Labadi on Tuesday 21st November 2006.

Ms. Chukura joined the English Department of University of Ghana as a Senior Lecturer on 17th February, 2003, from Nigeria, where she had had a long and active career at the University of Lagos. She has been a very dedicated and effective member of the faculty, with responsibility for a number of our core courses. Her death comes as a great loss to the department and the university.

An American citizen from Lancaster in Pennsylvania, Ms. Chukura was born on 14th June, 1950, at Carlisle, Pennsylvania, with Kilheffer as her family name. She is survived by Mr. Udemezuo Onuora Nwuneli of Lagos, aged 32, and his two sisters Nkem and Nancy Nwuneli, currently living in the USA.

Arrangements for the funeral are as follows:

  • Laying in State: Saturday, 9th December 2006, 7:00 – 9:45 am, at the St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church, University of Ghana, Legon.
  • Burial Mass: Saturday, 9th December 2006, 9:00 am, at the St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church, University of Ghana, Legon.
  • Final Funeral Rites: Saturday, 9th December 2006: The University Guest Centre, Legon.
  • Thanksgiving Mass: Sunday, 10th December 2006 at 9:00 am. St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church, University of Ghana, Legon.

Kofi Anyidoho
Professor & Head of Department

Letter 49

There is nothing wrong in your disagreeing with my assertions. But there is something mightily wrong when you think or feel that we must reason alike or see things the same way just because we both write poetry.

You know very well how I treasure your person and your poetry. I still do. What I now find offensive is your revealed unwillingness to accommodate another person's opinion about poetry and society.

I honestly don't think that wisdom ends on your doorstep. It is not and has never been my intention to pander to your ideological position on writing. Hold your literary beliefs for I zealously cling to my own.

As a respected figure in the poetry circuit, you ought to know the virtue of diversity in that genre. We can't and should not desire to write the same way. When you criticised Wole Soyinka and Christopher Okigbo in your various talks and articles, you did that in the light of your understanding of what poetry is and what function poetry ought to perform. Nobody as far as I know has bullied you for holding those opinions. The writing universe is a large one. It can contain all shades of styles and ideas. For you to go about carrying on as if I have insulted you or knocked your head simply because I aired my view on poetry is very disconcerting. You have been inspirational to me because of your single-minded devotion to the art of writing. You still have my admiration but please allow me to be. Allow me to react to the world in my own way. Allow me to speak in my own way. Allow me to write in my own way.

I seriously disagree with you in saying that I contradicted myself in the poem titled "In The Bullring" which I recently published in the Daily Times. Political poetry is just one among the many kinds that I write. I have never urged for the obliteration of political or socially-conscious poetry. I simply noted that the writing of political poems (many of them trashy) mainly as a means of courting acclaim and acceptance in the Nigerian writing scene as is currently the vogue is hypocritical. Screaming slogans in poems is not the only way that one can show his or her commitment to the betterment of this nation. Politics is not the hold-all of a writer's thematic thrust. I don't want to see poetry narrowed insidiously to any one form, theme or function.

Uche Nduka
  • Taken from Belltime Letters by Uche Nduka (Newleaf Press, Bremen, 2000). Reproduced with permission.
  • Uche Nduka's poetry appears in this month's special 4th anniversary edition of Sentinel Poetry Online.

Chimurenga Vol. 10

The 10th edition of Chimurenga Magazine is out now and will have its official launch at the Kwani LitFest on December 14. Here's what Chimurenga's editor, Ntone Edjabe, has to say about the new edition...

Chimurenga Vol 10: “Futbol, Politricks and Ostentatious Cripples”

The new issue of Chimurenga is, yes, about football. And politics. But no, we are not talking about soccer as a capitalist apparatus, or as a substitute for war, or about South Africa’s ability to successfully host the 2010 World Cup, or about Fifa’s global developmentalist rhetoric – the writing and art actively side-step football clichés and branded discourses.

We chose instead to scope the stadia, markets, ngandas and banlieues to spotlight narratives of love, hate and the wide and deep spectrum of emotions and affiliations that the game generates. Because, after all, if you want to pitch it hardcore political, the playing field is the only area that Fifa does not and can not fully control – everything else is board-room approved.

But. Power, board-roomed or otherwise, must be confronted. Hence the issue is framed by two perspectives from Latin America, sure to inject some criticality in 2010 euphoria: the reader will enter the Argentinean fish-tank (where militants disappeared for death or brainwashing) during the 1978 World Cup, for an ethical exploration with activist Graciela Daleo, and emerge for a deep breath with Gustavo Esteva, who extracts the essence of the Zapatista movement as a radicalisation of democracy.

Between these you will find Of Fabric and Football – a travelogue in 5 parts that delivers idiosyncratic and powerful points of view on the ‘beautiful game’. Binyavanga Wainaina, with an acerbic tongue and an ironic eye, captures the chaos and transactions, the passions and textures of Togo, Ghana, and the Entire Continent Everywhere during the 2006 World Cup. Knox Robinson writes of the relationship between player and space; Diouf and Leopold Sedar Senghor stadium in Dakar; Eto’o and Yaounde’s drinking spots; Drogba and Houphouet Boigny airport in Abidjan (read an excerpt in today’s Sunday Times Lifestyle). Simon Kuper (Football against the Enemy) conducts an off-centre interview with bush war veteran, Liverpool great and droll football manager Bruce Grobbelaar (and other Whitemen who run football in Kaapstad). Peter James Hudson time-travels to 16thC Spain and its infamous Catholic-inspired inquisition. Novelist Patrice Nganang establishes, in Camfranglais, football violence (and the rivalry between the country’s top teams Canon and Union) as a metaphor to explore political violence in Cameroon in the early 90s.

In a stand-alone piece Peter Alegi (Laduma! Soccer, Politics and Society in SA), investigates the 2001 Ellis Park football disaster in Johannesburg, concluding with a meticulous indictment of the soccer bosses’ and the government’s roles before, during and after the tragedy.

Poetry finds its expression in two poems by Adriano Sousa (against futebol coaches who should be bullfighters); a poem by Molara Wood (for Marc-Vivien Foe) and poem by Gabeba Baderoon (on God and the Athlone Stadium). Filmmaker Lindiwe Nkutha gives a nuanced short story of hate in the dusty locale of a South African township while Julia Napier evokes the bodylove for the game in her short story about a female footballer.

There is a Tricolour Triptych – head, body and corpses. Firstly, Grant Farred produces a Derridean reading of Zidane’s world-stopping head butt. Secondly, a conversation between Achille Mbembe and Zidane’s teammate Lilian Thuram in the aftermath of the famous coup de boule. Thirdly, in a story of bones, Dominique Malaquais relocates the remains of Frantz Fanon.

There’re two pieces on football and cinema (sort-of):

First, maverick Serbian filmmaker, Emir Kusturica (Time of the Gypsies; Underground), in a conversation with Diego Maradona, the best player EVER and the subject of Kusturica’s documentary-in-progress, about Bush Jr, Castro, John Paul II and the poor of Argentina. And Philippe Parreno, co-maker of the acclaimed Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait, talks with Cyril Neyrat about the conceptual, political and technical motivations and processes in the making of the film.

The art and photography are delivered by Buyaphi Mdledle, Gerd Rohling, Andrew Dosunmu, Phillipe Niorthe, Joseph Francis Sumegne, Kwesi Owusu-Ankomah, Kate Simon, Nicola Schwartz, Joel-Peter Witkin and the Cuban Ministry of Information.

The cover is “Table Head (Evora, Portugal)” by Nicola Schwartz

Writing. Art. Politics. Who no know go know.


Association of Nigerian Authors
(ANA) Oyo State Chapter,

With support from Distance Learning Centre, University of Ibadan, Ibadan


Oyo ANA Poetry Writing Retreat/Workshop

Date: Friday 15th to Sunday 17th December, 2006

Venue: African Heritage Research Library Complex, Adeyipo Village, Ibadan

Interested members are expected to pay N700. This amount covers registration and transport to and fro Adeyipo.

Oyo ANA will take care of feeding, accommodation and other exigencies.

You can't afford to miss out.

For further information, contact

Ebika Anthony
Chairman, Oyo ANA

NOTE: Educare Centre, Goshen Suoerstore Building, beside Coca-Cola, Sango, Ibadan, is the converging point for departure to Adeyipo Village

~ ~ ~ ~
Kowry Kreations Media
…shell of creativity
“Poetry Potter”
Venue: National Library Hall, Opposite Casino Cinema, Alagome, Yaba, Lagos, Nigeria

Date: Every last Saturday of the month (December 30th, 2006)

Time: 3 p.m. prompt.

Admission: Free, Free; Free!

Guest Artiste: Odia Ofeimun
The Renowned Poet.
Highlights: dance: Crown Troupe of Africa,
drama: Onileagbon Troupe, music: Are, Awoko and Cornerstone.
Dress Code: Endeavour to come in your native attire.

R.S.V.P: Aderemi Adegbite 08035149337, Ropo Ewenla 08032311574, Lekan Balogun 08027727751
All lovers of literary existence are invited

~ ~ ~ ~

End-of-Year Party for Lagos Writers
All authors and aspiring authors are hereby invited toa get-together organised by the Lagos Branch ofAssociation of Nigerian Authors (ANA Lagos), to markthe end of the year 2006.
Theme: The Writer and the Publishing Industry in Nigeria
Speakers: Osarobu Igudia and Toni Kan OnwordiSpecial
Guest: Mr Steve Shaba, MD, Kraft Books LTD, Ibadan
Date: Saturday, December 9, 2006
Venue: Cultural Hall, National Gallery of Art (Aina Onabolu Complex), National Theatre, Iganmu, Lagos.
Time: 2.00 p.m. prompt
The special event, which will be spiced with exciting recitations, performances and readings from creative works of new and established writers, will present theright atmosphere for the exhibition of creative talents. All (published) authors are implored to bringcopies of their publications for presentation and sale at the event.
New members are enjoined to formalise their membershipon or before the December 9 fete. (Membership registration: #3,000; Annual Dues: #1,000)
Folu Agoi
0803 725 7165 / 0802 611 8565
Chairman, ANA Lagos