Writings of the general word's body

Monday, July 28, 2008

SB on Caine Prize 2008

Many thanks to SB who sent me the following about this year's Caine Prize.

Caine Prize 2008 Winner

This year's Caine Prize has been won by Henrietta Rose-Innes from South Africa, with her story ‘
Poison’ from ‘Africa Pens,’ published by Spearhead, an imprint of New Africa Books, Cape Town, 2007.

The winner of the £10,000 prize was announced at a celebratory dinner at the Bodleian Library, Oxford on Monday, 7 July.

The short story by Uzor Maxim Uzoatu, ‘Cemetery of Life’ which was first published in issue 52, autumn 2007 of
Wasafiri was on the shortlist for the Caine Prize.

The Caine Prize is awarded to a short story published in English by an African writer whose work has reflected African sensibilities. With over 90 entries coming in from 17 African countries, the writers on the shortlist were:

Mohammed Naseehu Ali (Ghana) ‘
Mallam Sile’, from ‘The Prophet of Zongo’, published by Amistad, an imprint of Harper Collins, NY, 2005
Stanley Onjezani Kenani (Malawi) ‘
For Honour’ from ‘African Pens’, published by Spearhead, an imprint of New Africa Books, Cape Town, 2007
Gill Schierhout ( South Africa ) ‘
The Day of the Surgical Colloquium’ from ‘African Pens’, published by Spearhead, an imprint of New Africa Books, Cape Town , 2007
Uzor Maxim Uzoatu ( Nigeria ) ‘
Cemetery of Life’ from ‘Wasafiri’ No52 Autumn 2007

This year’s panel of judges was chaired by the Artistic Director of the Southbank Centre, Jude Kelly OBE, who is responsible for creating a unified artistic vision for the whole 21 acre site. An experienced director of over 100 productions, she was awarded an OBE for services to the theatre in 1997 and is Chair of Culture, Ceremonies and Education at the London Organising Committee for the Olympic Games.

Joining her on the panel were Jamaican poet and professor of English, Mark McMorris, Hisham Matar, the Libyan author of the internationally successful first novel, In the Country of Men, Eritrean-born Hannah Pool, a Guardian journalist, and the previous 2007 judge, South African poet, novelist and lecturer Jonty Driver.

For further information please visit the Caine Prize website.
  • Words by SB; image by MW

New Read

The adventures of a 419 chancer chasing scamming dreams on the internet, is the subject of a new story by A Igoni Barrett, Dream Chaser, published in Eclectica.

It was twenty minutes past eight in the morning, and the cybercafé was already three-quarters full. Samu'ila chose an unoccupied system at the far end of the room. Approaching it, he walked into a blast of air so cold he could feel the skin of his armpits break out in goose-pimples; the spot he had picked was in the path of the draft from one of the air conditioners. Despite this, Samu'ila pulled out the chair and sat down. He cracked his knuckles with anticipation and then drew out the sliding panel on which the keyboard lay and carefully punched in the password on his ticket. The monitor screen burst into life. With a happy smile on his face, Samu'ila bent his head over the keyboard and tip-tapped his way into the phantasmagoric realm of the worldwide web.

Read about Samu'ila the 'Yahooze' guy in Dream Chaser.

Down Botswana Way

[I] t was common place for the San/Bushmen to be referred to as Lesarwa/Masarwa; le-/ma- being the singular and plural in Setswana for a noun class that is mostly reserved for things. As time passed, it became politically incorrect to use such terms and now Mosarwa/ Basarwa are the correct terms to be used.

And not a lot of people outside Southern Africa knew that I'll wager. Want to know about the writing scene in Gaborone? What Lebo Mashile said in True Love SA? Or why the Media Practitioners Bill about to go through the Botswana Parliament will kill freedom of expression? Then Thoughts From Botswana, a blog by Motswana writer Lauri Kubuitsile, refreshes the parts Wordsbody cannot reach.

Ike Anya, doctor of letters

Ike Anya is something to everyone. To some, he is an astute travel writer. To others, he is a poet. He is also a good interviewer and a keen blogger. However people get to know Ike, they eventually get to know he is actually a medical doctor with one foot in the arts and the other in medicine.

Quoting Nnorom Azuonye's words on Ike Anya. "Something to everyone" - Nnorom can say that again.

Ike was recently appointed a Consultant in Public Health Medicine at the Hammersmith and Fulham Primary Care Trust. To the man who has achieved this great feat, it was just another blessing for which he was grateful, and not something to shout about. Ike's childhood friend and fellow public health doctor/co-blogger, Chikwe Ihekweazu felt differently about it, and together with his wife Ijeoma, they set up a fantastic reception in Ike's honour at the Cicada in London's Farringdon area on Friday, the 4th of July 2008. As the event kicked off I looked around. No Molara Wood. Shit! Who is going to write about this night?

No Molara Wood. But Nnorom stepped up, and wrote about it! Where there's a writer, no story goes untold. Read his account of the evening.

One always had this fear that Medicine would take Ike Anya away from us eventually, but judging from his recent showing, we need not fear too much. One of his trademark writer's interviews - a discussion with the author Sefi Atta about her recently published novel, Swallow - was in the Nigerian Guardian of 20 July. Anya also co-edited the just published Weaverbird Collection of short stories by Nigerian writers; his fellow co-editors for the collection being: Akin Adesokan, Sarah Ladipo Manyika (whose first novel, In Dependence, is out soon via Legend Press, UK), and Ike Oguine. Contributors to the Weaverbird include: Ike Okonta, Victor Ehikhamenor, Tade Ipadeola and Unoma Azuah.
  • Swallow & The Weaverbird Collection are published by Farafina/Kachifo.
  • Photo of Ike Anya (with Uzor Maxim Uzoatu) by MW.

Obama who art from heaven

I was watching one of the US news networks some days back when I heard about Gerard Baker's satirical piece in The Times. Soon enough, Baker popped up on the screen to perform his piece, which narrates in Biblical terms Barack Obama's epic journey to the Democratic nomination and rapturous reception in Europe. The European leg of that journey reached fever pitch in Germany (not to mention a Sarkozy 'anointing' in France), and so it was interesting to see The Guardian's 'View from... Germany' cartoon published on Saturday.
Every weekend The Guardian has been publishing these very topical Cartoon 'views' from around the world. During the Zimbabwean re-election sham, there was one depicting a match in which every striker, defender, midfielder and goalkeeper on the field for both teams was Robert Mugabe himself! And on the weekend of 19th July there was a 'view from... Canada' on the Madiba's 90th birthday, in which Thabo Mbeki struggles like an ant in Nelson Mandela's mammoth shadow. Priceless.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Explo on Pan Africanism

Dear All,

Just like with Socialism, Pan Africanism has acquired so many conflicting definitions and practices. As we have different people calling themselves socialists and carrying out actions which are in conflict with one another there are aslo people calling themselves Pan Africanists and not agreeing on what to do together practically.

I am making this posting to spell out what Pan Africanism I subscribe to, to avoid any confusion in anybody's mind about my politics. I see Pan Africanism as the political struggle by people of African descent in unity to reshape the relationship between people of African descent / Africa and the rest of the world under guidance of social justice. This is, therefore, to dismantle the unfair and unjust relationship and associated assimilation imposed by enslavement and colonialism.It is to resist and fight against the attempts at forcing Africans to be assimilated into other cultures. It is to dismantle the political and economic architecture imposed on Africa and Africans which is being held together by proxy wars. My reference point on this are teachings of Kwame Nkrumah, other Pan African teachings (Cabral, Diop, Tabatha, M'buyinga etc) and the legacy of the All African People's Conferences.

Pan Africanism, to me, is not just a declaration or a set of essays. It is a living political movement. No other forum, apart from the Pan African movement, provides space for this. I don't know any section of the Left (European or Asian) which has developed a positive engagement with the Pan African movement as a movement and work with the Left globally remains a struggle as Walter Rodney, C.L.R. James and George Padmore observed. (At the Rendezvous of Victory by C.L.R. James). The Left,globally, is hostile to Pan Africanism and the European left as well as anarchists, without exception, are subversive of Pan Africanism.

This does not mean that the Right Wing is more accomodating to the Pan Africanist movement. The Right Wing represents the imperialist ruling class so the question doesn't arise where they stand. It is the politics to maintain the unfair and unjust world and therefore to fight against Pan Africanism. However, the Left is supposed to be anti-imperialist and that is why I'm highlighting this and also because there are all manner of people of African descent who initiate debates about which of the Left to choose from. I say NONE and the only relationship we should have with them is that they allow us a space where we spell out and organise our politics without any dictate from them. I doubt whether such space can be permanently provided but we don't have any alternative than to do exactly what I am talking about. the ideal is to have our own space.

Pan Africanism does not also mean just the grouping of black skins. Many organised groups of Africans, led by the petit-bourgeois, are anti-Pan Africanist. I saw a hostile response when ALISC Network put together Zimbabwe and Cameroon together for discussion hosted by ALISC's parliamentary supporter, Jeremy Corbyn. From that experience, we have even resolved never to organise a meeting on a single neo-colonial state. Our events should create a Pan African approach rather than institutionalisng Jan Smuts Pan Africanism. (Jan Smuts is the father of apartheid poltics in South Africa. Nkrumah used the term Jan Smuts Pan Africanism to refer to the declaration of Pan Africanism which in practice just goes along with the structures created by the Berlin Conference of 1884). Our approach will bring us in conflict with "Declaration Pan Africanism" which is not located in any movement but just in the minds of the declaration maker and his/her feelings.

In order for us to unite and for unity to be meaningful we must be clear of our lines of demarcation otherwise unity will be futile as advised by V.I. Lenin, the Russian revolutionary. I have spelt out the basis of the Pan Africanism, which the Pan African Electoral Challenge I am associated with, is attached in my presentation on Proxy Wars In Africa at Marxism 2008. I have an uncompromising commitment to the contents of that presentation. It, therefore, spells out my non-negotiable relationship with other political forces and also the basis of any unity and joint work. I'm going to transcribe and circulate the CD immediately it is ready for publication to put to rest what practical politics I am ready to be involved in and with which platform I am associated with as I return to Africa.

Brotherly and Comradely,

Explo Nani-Kofi


Monday, July 14, 2008

Writers in the news

I had planned to make Sulaiman Addonia's reading of 30th June here in London but my good intentions went to pot. And so I was glad to see this profile of the writer in the Metro just days later. Click on the black & white page on the left for a better read of the article on the writer, whose novel, 'The Consequences of Love', is out now.
*Meanwhile, Nigerian Jude Dibia made the South African press recently (see below, right), discussing his second novel, Unbridled, which is now published by Jacana in SA.


Colin Grant will discuss his book on the life of Marcus Garvey, 'Negro With A Hat' with Petina Gappah - tomorrow 15th July at the South Bank Centre in London. Time is 7pm.

Colin Grant's book Negro With a Hat illuminates the life of Marcus Garvey, a vital, yet often misunderstood, figurehead of the black diaspora. Garvey rose to fame as leader of the Universal Negro Improvement Association in 1920s Harlem, and went on to inspire future black leaders and artists with his mesmerising speeches, yet his life was dogged by controversy and the whiff of corruption.
Thursday 17th July @ The Jazzhole, 168 Awolowo Road, Ikoyi Lagos @ 4pm
Odia Ofeimun, Reuben Abati, Toyin Akinosho will join Kunle Ajibade for an interactive discussion of his new book, 'What a Country!'
Kunle Ajibade’s new book, ‘What a Country! goes beyond the narrative aesthetics of his prison memoir, Jailed for Life: A reporter’s Prison Notes, published in February 2003, to grapple with questions of justice, popular welfare, human rights and good governance. It is eloquent and poignant. Its vision is broad, both powerfully anchored in local knowledge and robustly cosmopolitan. Its passion for the betterment of Nigeria – indeed, what a country! – is evident and infectious. Kunle Ajibade, never lets go the respect for human value, the shared space that the creativity of writers, human rights activists and pro-democracy workers – especially the leading lights, avatars and exemplars of the cause – have defended across the world at great risks to their own lives.

Umez, AWF & the BSU

Uche Peter Umez, the first guest writer to grace the Abuja Writer’ Forum’s newly instituted monthly readings, has won this year’s BSU Creative Writing Competition, judged by Caine Winner Segun Afolabi. Umez won for his short story, ‘The Outsider’. He wins a cash prize of £200 and a £2000 scholarship to study Creative Writing at Bath Spa University (BSU). Runner-up was Ovo Adagha who wins £75 for his short story, ‘Homeless’.

Uche Peter Umez and Ovo Adagha are both writers with whom this blogger has worked collaboratively before. More recently in Adagha’s case, and we continue to work together on the ambitious ‘One World Anthology’ which he initiated, bringing together a diverse group of writers across continents for the project; and the good news is we have now been snapped up by wonderful publishers in the UK, with a Nigerian publisher in the works.

Owerri-based Uche Peter Umez came to the monthly reading while the Abuja Writers' Forum (AWF) was still under a month old. What a way to start. The blogger was not there, but you can take her word for it. There was music (courtesy of singer/songwriter Bem Sar), a visual arts segment (thanks to artist Muyiwa Akinwolere), and performance poetry by Dekmankind. All this was on 21st June and the event took place in a mini-hall at Pen & Pages Bookshop in Abuja.

Introducing the guest writer, founder of the AWF, Emman Usman Shehu, said the AWF’s Guest Writer sessions would aid better interaction between writers and literary enthusiasts, and would help provide better publicity and distribution for literary works. In short: getting writers and their readers together, and getting the books into the said readers’ hands, in a place like Nigeria where much effort is needed still to reenergise the flagging reading culture.

Umez, a finalist in the 2007 NLNG Prize for Literature, is the author of a collection of poems, ‘Dark Through The Delta’ and a collection of short stories, ‘Tears in Her Eyes’. He began his reading with the short story, ‘Smouldered’ for which he was Highly Commended in the 2006 Commonwealth Short Story Competition. Other stories from ‘Tears in Her Eyes’ followed.

Other Monthly Readings showcasing up-and-coming writers will follow from the AWF, which also holds weekly reading & critique sessions. The group is also organising literary contests and is due to launch a literary journal, Cavalcade, soon.

  • Images courtesy of the AWF.

Monday, July 07, 2008

New Reads - Caine Special

One of the niggly things about the Caine Prize season at times is that shortlisted stories aren't always widely available. So you'll be at a reading by the writers who read excerpts and engage in discussions around stories which half the audience havent read, which must be somewhat frustrating for both writers and readers alike. Especially when the story in question is not available online. Not so this year.
Thanks to New Internationalist, publishers of the Caine anthologies, you can read of all 5 stories online (downloadable in pdf format).

One of these stories will win the Caine Prize tonight...

A Caine Reader

I ran into Sade Adeniran yesterday and I remembered pictures from this reading of hers in April (Wednesday 16th April) I always meant to post. She read to a small but not insignificant audience at the Holborn Library, London. Sitting cross-legged on the right is Farafina (and Kachifo) publisher, Muhtar Bakare.
Sade Adeniran will read from the works of shortlisted writers in this year's Caine Prize at today's award ceremony at the Bodleian Library in Oxford. Yes, a new Caine winner will be unveiled tonight!
  • Images by MW

il maestro

Wednesday 2nd July: the orchestra seen here on the stage at Wembley Arena is the Brent Junior Ensemble - performing the British Isles Suite during the Brent Makes Music concert. One of the instrumentalists in this talented bunch (a flautist) is the blogger's 10-year-old son.
  • By MW

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Nduka Otiono's London Reading

23 June: Pictures from Nduka Otiono's reading at the Waterloo Gallery, London, on Wednesday 18th June. Click on images for larger views. [Words to follow...]

Update 6 July: And now to a few words about poet Nduka Otiono’s London reading from almost a month ago. 18th of June to be exact, and Otiono was performing in London for the first time in many years, in an evening of music and poetry presented by Eastern Light. The event was at the Waterloo Gallery and I had arrived fairly early to find Aletia, who was providing the music on the night, putting her guitar and vocal cords through tuneful paces in last minute rehearsals. When I had seen ‘Aletia Upstairs’ on the event flyer, I assumed she would be playing on an upper level - upstairs! - while we would listen to poetry down below. But we were all on one level, and Aletia Upstairs – I would later learn – is the full stage name of the musician. Apparently it’s quite the done thing in her native South Africa for an artist to adopt a basic everyday word for a second name.
Soon Nduka Otiono arrived with the organiser and master of ceremonies, Nnorom Azuonye, who would also serve as the opening act. Greetings and introductions while we set up (there was timefor an impromptu singing and dancing session involving Otiono and Aletia, the former jiggling a tambourine) and the event proper started. In what would later be referred to as a “modest international event”, there were 2 Nollywood filmmakers present (Obi Emelonye and George Kelly Toghanro), Osita Mba (of the Freedom of Information Coalition) and Chikwe Ihekweazu (who blogs with Ike Anya at
Nigeria Health Watch).

Nnorom Azuonye opened the proceedings by reading 3 poems (Liberty, Isikwuato and Isikwuato II) from his book, ‘The Bridge Selection’. Aletia Upstairs then accompanied herself on her guitar as she sang songs including ‘I Dream of African Skies’ and the famous ‘Malaika’.

Then it was time for the headliner. Nduka Otiono did not want to “choke” the evening with political poems and so he would read a love poem, or several. “Now that I’m in Canada I find myself writing lots of love poems,” he told the audience. First was a poem he wrote for his late paternal grandmother. “It took my relocating to Canada to begin to see my grandma again. Not many like to think that women who smoke much on the continent, but I knew one woman who smoked heavily. She was my grandma.” So he read the poem ‘Grandma’s Pipe’, punctuating his delivery with a tambourine he acquired from his recent visit to Italy (to attend a conference of the International Society of Oral Literature in Africa – ISOLA). More love poems followed: Love and Incense, Lovesick, Chatting (a commentary on online chatting) and another one in honour of a woman, this time the poet’s recently departed mother-in-law, For Mama Kweke.

The poet then looked back to older work, reading ‘For Ken, For Nigeria’ (from Otiono’s first collection, ‘Voices in the Rainbow’) – written around the time of Ken Saro-Wiwa’s hanging. Asked about the title of his new book – why Love and Nightmares? – Otiono said, “I think it’s a metaphor that describes what will one of the most powerful experiences, but one which is intertwined with pain. Love presents a very interesting metaphor – sometimes it’s a woman who is my country. I continue to find ways of dealing with this pain.”

Love “encompasses the paradox of my homeland, the deep-seated hurt I feel about the conditions in Africa.” So many of the poems in Love In A Time of Nightmares are an attempt to transfer the despair, the pain – to domesticate the political.

Another musical interlude by Aletia Upstairs, and Otiono took the stage again. He read ‘Swansong’ (from the anthology Camouflage) written in memory of the late poet and critic Sesan Ajayi, who in Otiono’s words, “left without a farewell.” He rounded off the performance with newer work from Love in a Time of Nightmares, reading ‘Rooms We Live In’ and Lonely Room At Christmas (“sometimes I am obsessed with rooms,” he explained, citing the womb as the very first ‘room’ in a person’s life journey.

There were more poems, but things got a bit blurred for this blogger when she was called up to read with Otiono on the poem, ‘Oil and Guns’. He read the Man’s voice while I read the Woman’s. Here’s a stanza from the Woman’s voice:

You shall know them
by the badges of rape on
their shoulders, soldiers
from Odi and other
war zones in the Delta
And what is oil without guns?
What is petrodollar without blood?

So I guess it wasn’t all about love after all.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Night into day

The sky as seen in Wembley at 10pm, today Wednesday 2nd July 2008.
  • By MW

Music and lights

Wembley Arena, 8pm, today Wednesday 2nd July 2008
  • By MW

Dancing by the waters

Wembley Stadium at 2.30pm today, Wednesday 2nd July 2008
  • Images by MW

Chasing shadows

2.15pm in London, today Wednesday 2nd July 2008