Writings of the general word's body

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

The Future's Orange

"I am just me. I don’t think about some other public persona beyond that. As for pressure, sure, there was nervousness when I was working on Half of a Yellow Sun, but it was more about, I’m going to do this book. I knew that if I failed, I would not have done justice to this very important subject. I didn't want to write some polemical book that is more or less a bit of propaganda. It’s so easy to get it wrong."
- Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, in an interview with me.

Monday, May 28, 2007

New Reads

Issue 3 of Blackbiro is now online. The e-zine is going from strength to strength; a link to the archives of back issues, and the website will be fully user-friendly. In this issue is an assortment of short stories, poems, essays, book reviews and visual art.

Excerpt from Chika Unigwe's story, The Invention of Football and Other Truths...
As the oldest of the four and the most widely traveled, Titi is believed to have the most encyclopedic knowledge of all of them. It is from her that they learnt that in a certain part of China, the mirror signifies re-union. It is also from her that they heard that former president Sani Abacha died on top of an Indian prostitute and that in Cuba, cigars are rolled on firm virginal thighs. She is aware of the latest fashions, not just in Lagos, but also in New York and Paris. It does not matter that none of them, not even she, has ever been to the places that she names. It is enough that she knows. She commands their attention. Her voice rises above the clashing and the goat smell of the kitchen, and the occasional groans and yelps from the sitting room.

“You know, football was invented by a woman.”

--Read on

~ * ~
Back to Saturday's Review section of the Guardian, and Uzodinma Iweala reviews A Long Way Home by Ishmael Beah. Cited bits of the book recalled Iweala's Beasts of No Nation in which a child soldier, Agu, comes under the control of a rebel leader known only as Commandant. So in Beah's memoirs...
He was told by a charismatic lieutenant with a fondness for Julius Ceasar: "If you do not want to fight or help, that is fine. But you will not have rations and will not stay in this village ... This is your time to revenge the deaths of your families and make sure more children do not lose their families." Beah's life became a series of violent spells where killing was "as easy as drinking water". As he takes us through a life of battles, promotions and unfathomable acts of cruelty, we almost forget he is only a boy. It is only when he writes that "we all wanted to be like Rambo; we couldn't wait to implement his techniques", that the horror and despair of his situation, the mix of innocence and maturity that is a child soldier, hits home.

What is it about child soldiers and Rambo fixations? Agu's lot also wanted to be like Rambo. Unlike Stallone however, they don't have the benefit of illegal growth hormone. Nuff said.

Interestingly, Iweala (son of Nigeria's former Finance Minister & recently chosen as one of Granta's 'Best Young American Novelists') - writes from a decidedly 'Western' viewpoint. Hear him...
In telling his story of how war erodes consideration and thoughtfulness for others, Beah challenges us in the west to question our glorification of it. We assume that the struggles we fight are ideological compared to the savage civil conflict that destroyed Beah's childhood. We assume that killing with laser-guided missiles is somehow more humane than slitting a man's throat. But in addition to its emphasis on the beauty of human resilience and hope, a central message of A Long Way Gone is that war, hatred and violence consume everything in a society, especially children. Even more important, it admonishes us to think of young people affected by war who should occupy far more of our news pages and television screens.

--Read the review in full

WS: Pugilist & Peacemaker

There is no escaping Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka in the UK media presently. He gave the Raymond Williams lecture at the Hay Literary Festival on Saturday 26 May; a fact I relayed to a poet friend at mid-afternoon on the day only for him to say: "Ehn, Kongi is reading? Tell me how to get to Hay-on-Wye." I had to disappoint him and say it was much too late for a last minute hop. Plus I've never done the Hay Festival myself, so I'd be the last person to advise...

The Saturday's Review section had a half-page review of Soyinka's You Must Set Forth at Dawn (newly published in the UK) by Margaret Busby.

Fast forward to today, and Soyinka is on the cover of The Guardian's G2 section. Inside is a profile by Maya Jaggi.

An excerpt that touches on tomorrow's inauguration of a 'new' Nigerian President...
Tomorrow's inauguration of Nigeria's new president, Umaru Yar'Adua, is, for Soyinka, such a throwback. Along with international observers, he deems last month's presidential elections "no elections at all", so baldly were they rigged. "In some states there were no votes," he says. "We have videos of police commissioners carting off ballot boxes, and police looking on as thugs carted them off." Though the outgoing president, Olusegun Obasanjo, ended military rule in 1999, Soyinka sees his rule as "civilian dictatorship". He has now "made himself life chairman of the ruling party to dictate policies", he says.

On the situation in Darfur...
Soyinka presided as chief judge at a mock trial last November when Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir was found guilty in absentia of crimes against humanity in Darfur. For the playwright, poet and novelist, who is also an actor-director, the symbolic court was "play-acting, but of a very serious kind". During the tribunal set up by Genocide Watch, Soyinka heard searing testimony, he says, from "witnesses flown out from southern Sudan, people whose families had been killed, or who had been raped or seen relatives raped or maimed - some broke down. They testified to the war crimes of the Janjaweed [the government's proxy militia], saying they raided villages and killed Nuba at any time."

Soyinka quoted a Yoruba saying, "Sooner death than indignity" (iku ya j'esin) to underscore his belief in dignity as the basis for human freedom. There's much to nod along with WS on, as always. But he still lets Tony Blair off too easily, in my view.

And more Osundare

It was all smiles for the prolonged photo session after Osundare's reading in Leeds. Here he poses with Palorine Williams (a Yorkshire based writer and member of the Inscribe Group) and Jack Mapanje.
After the workshop - Prof. Osundare and Nana-Esie Casely-Hayford, a writer of Ghanaian extraction who on arrival, greeted the Nigerian poet in Yoruba.
L-R: Ray, Osundare and I. I told Prof. Osundare that I had never been to Leeds before but I had to come as I couldn't miss this unique opportunity to see him. "And when you're dealing with a 60-year-old man, you have to seize the moment!" he quipped good-humouredly. Osundare greeted Ray in the extra warm manner of 'omo wa ni' (he's our child), and as I later found out, Ray is from the Congo.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

People Are My Clothes

Niyi Osundare and Malawian poet Jack Mapanje in Leeds in 12 May. Mapanje revealed for the first time his role in the 1986 Commonwealth Poetry Prize, where he had to defend Osundare's book which was Africa's entry for that year. Osundare only heard the behind-the-scenes story at the reading in Leeds, and he joked to Mapanje, "You are a very wicked man! All these years, you never told me how it came about." Mapanje (who teaches at the University of Newcastle and introduced Osundare to his student, Nigerian Peter Adegbei; top right) also praised the Nigerian poets efforts in campaigning for his release from imprisonment by the Malawian authorities. Osundare's reply: "The effort we made to get you out; it wasn't me, it was you."

Osundare’s Tender Moments in the UK
By Molara Wood

Poet and scholar Niyi Osundare breezed through Britain earlier this month, making links with readers and writers, on his first visit to the country for several years.

Sandwiched between appearances in Huddersfield (Friday 11th May) and Plymouth (Sunday 13th May) was the city of Leeds, where Prof. Osundare studied for his Masters degree during 1973-74.

He spent Saturday 12th May as the guest of Peepal Tree Press (a publishing outfit devoted to Caribbean writing). The day was packed with activities including a workshop, reading and talks, as well as media interviews - organised by Kadija Sesay, literary activist and publisher of
Sable Litmag of New Writing. Sesay first met Osundare when she chaired his reading at The Commonwealth Club in London in 2001. The poet featured on the cover of a 2003 edition of Sable.

First on the agenda in Leeds was a workshop with the Inscribe Writing Group, led by Osundare. Inscribe provides support for writers of African and Asian descent. Among those taking the workshop was writer Rommi Smith who had introduced Osundare to his audience in Huddersfield the night before.

In attendance for the evening reading was Malawian poet Jack Mapanje, who paid tribute to his Nigerian counterpart. Mapanje was chair of the Africa panel when Osundare was up for the Commonwealth Poetry Prize in 1986. "I want to show off about it, that’s why I came," joked Mapanje, who had to defend Africa’s entry, when it tied with Vikram Seth, the contender for Asia. "I said, ‘There’s no African poet using orality who is as good as Osundare. This poet is going to go far in Africa.’" The Commonwealth Foundation raised the cash prize to £6,000 that year, so it could be shared between Osundare and Seth.

After Mapanje’s arrest by the Malawian authorities in 1987, Osundare served as his contact in Nigeria. "He got me on the Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA) who adopted me as their prisoner of conscience." 62-year-old Mapanje reminded Osundare that "he is not the only one" who has recently turned 60. The Malawian’s fifth collection was ‘The Last of the Sweet Bananas’ - so called because "I thought it would be my last." But he has surprised himself, and another collection, ‘Beasts of Nalunga’ - will be published in June. He presented an advance copy to Osundare, saying, "There are seven of us in Africa who belong to the so-called 3rd Generation who use orality - and [Osundare] is the best of us."

"This is a historic trip in many ways," Osundare told the audience, recalling his days at Leeds University. His links with the city have been kept up through Professor Emeritus Shirley Chew. Also in attendance, she edits the journal, Moving Worlds. Osundare has a long association with Peepal Tree, whose books are on his teaching lists. "The first batch of books I got after Katrina took my library was Peepal Tree titles sent by Kadija." He praised the "great facilitator" Sesay, telling her, "Immediately after Katrina you were the first person to talk to me from the UK, and I think our voices were tear-laden. Next time we talked, you said a computer was on the way." Peepal Tree is to publish Karen King Aribisala’s novel, ‘The Hangman’s Game.

Mapanje laughed when told that he was "a very wicked man" for keeping the inside story of the 1986 Commonwealth Prize from Osundare for two decades. Then it was on to the reading, which the Nigerian poet said should be a two-way process. So the audience sang the chorus as he performed a piece from his volume, ‘The Word is an Egg - title derived from a Yoruba saying. "I took it from orality, of course not forgetting the written and electronic tradition."

Osundare discussed Hurricane Katrina, which hit New Orleans in August 2005. "Katrina came, saw and nearly conquered. It threatened me and my family with two kinds of death - material and physical." He lost all his possessions. "We didn’t see the American government; till now we haven’t seen the American government." The American people, however, have been wonderful. "I came out of my house with only shorts, no shoes. The Red Cross gave us clothes." The second poem rendered, ‘People Are My Clothes, means so much more, post-Katrina.

Letter from the Editor’ touched on the dilemma of the African writer seeking recognition in the West. "Many African writers have ended up the kind of writers they never wanted to be, in order to be published Europe," Osundare observed. "In the end, they don’t make it here and they will not be read with any respect back home." Osundare is "old fashioned" in the sense that he believes art should have a purpose. "Growing up, my parents, though uneducated, used to say, ‘It is book we didn’t read; we read our inside’ - which relates to wisdom."

The poet is concerned that morality has become "a dirty word" - often dismissed as sentimentality. He recalled a writers’ meeting in the US where the Americans had "pretty poems" about nothing. They insisted that they had no issues. Right outside was a soup kitchen where the hungry waited on a long queue to be fed by charity. Osundare told his fellow poets, "That is a long issue!" This anecdote led to another poem, ‘The Large Heart.

‘The Battle of Hastings’ is one of few surviving poems written for Jack Mapanje. "Katrina took all the poems I wrote for him," Osundare informed. ‘Waiting for the Rain (taken from a Hugh Masekela song and devoted to the singer) followed. "I never went to South Africa all the time it was under the Apartheid yoke. I couldn’t stomach it." However, the poet reminded that people like Ruth First show that it wasn’t just a black struggle.

Osundare’s new book, ‘Tender Moments, is his first post-Katrina collection. It surprised many who see him as a political poet. But he insists, "I have a lot of love poems - written first in longhand - Katrina took them all." Afterwards, "I had nightmares, trying to remember the poems I lost. I had parapsychologists writing me to say, ‘We’ll make you remember.’" The healing process came naturally, and ‘Tender Moments’ is the result. Osundare read ‘Breaking Bread’ from the collection.

The poet’s home was submerged in nine feet of water during the Katrina. "I was there when my shelves were falling one by one." In the aftermath, all his books were buried in mud. The cover page of one of his collections was floating on water. Another book had swollen to four times its original size. "I felt the book was talking to me," hence the inspiration for another poem read in Leeds. ‘The Weeping Book is rhymed. "I don’t often rhyme," he said, "but when I am touched, I do."

Music (including Yoruba songs, Blues and Jazz) is a huge source of inspiration for Osundare, who comes from a singing family. He loved American popular music as a young man. "Otis Redding had a particularly strong impact on Nigerian youth in the 60s and 70s. He had such fantastic control over his voice. When we heard he had died in plane crash, we celebrated his life and mourned his death." Osundare ended the performance with his "favourite poem" - the one he wrote for Redding.

Asked how much lost property has been replaced since the Katrina, Osundare revealed that he and his family live in "a sort of dormitory." But, "It’s the books, the manuscripts and letters" written to him by students all over the world - that are the greatest losses, "because they cannot be replaced." Osundare had moved his manuscripts from the university to his home for ‘safekeeping’ prior to the devastation. "The university escaped the flood. Water has its own logic." He wrote many poems about Lake Pontchartrain, all now lost. "I wrote the poems for the lake and the lake came to take her poems away!"

It was a life-changing experience, one that needs to be written about. But the detail is proving very difficult in prose; poetry has been relatively easier. Osundare confided that, "I am learning about the process - on how poetry and prose play on the mind." Jack Mapanje is in a similar situation. "I still haven’t finished my prison memoirs in prose," he said.

Prof. Osundare discussed his recent birthday celebrations in Nigeria. Most touching were his students who raised an organising committee around the events. "In March, I was commandeered to come to Nigeria to celebrate my 60th. I know it wasn’t me they were celebrating, but the fact of survival." The poet was moved. "These are the people who are my clothes."

Niyi Osundare’s poem, I Sing of Change, will display on London Underground tube trains for 8 weeks from next month. He is one of 6 African poets whose works by will be seen by thousands of commuters.

Next to Mapanje at the ALA Conference in California in 2002 (picture taken by Kadija Sesay and featured in a 2003 edition of Sable Litmag for which Osundare was the 'spotlight' writer) . Osundare recalled the occasion, "I was afraid to sit next to this man - Africa's most famous prisoner after Mandela!"

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Recalling Miriam Makeba In Concert


On the day that news broke of Nelson Mandela's withdrawal from public life, his country's greatest female singer, Miriam Makeba, was holding court in London with a concert at the Royal Festival Hall. Given the circumstances, the giant bust of the Madiba that stands at the entrance to the venue acquired an even greater poignancy.

There was a muted festival atmosphere in the main foyer with people of all races trooping through the stairways and walkways of the building. A wall poster carried a picture of a smiling Makeba next to the words: "Ma Africa is an icon for our times." A black and white recording of the singer in her younger days played in a constant loop on a large screen while chunks of her CDs disappeared in exchange for money at a kiosk beset by an ever-lengthening queue.

The main belly of the Royal Festival Hall itself is the kind of concert space that only a certain calibre of artiste can fill up. Miriam Makeba is such an artiste. The hall finally darkened and the star walked onto a blue-lit stage, a stately figure in an orange and black gown befitting the grand dame she is. She launched straight into her songs, one of which, African Dream, would set the tone for the evening with its refrain: "Africa is where my heart lies."

After some numbers, she spoke to acknowledge the audience and her "colleagues" onstage "who are actually my sons." She confided that she sometimes craves for more children of her own but said with a girlish wiggle: "It's rather difficult at age 72." The audience was charmed and applauded.

Each band member strutted his stuff on being introduced: pianist from Madagascar, guitarist from Senegal, bassist from South Africa's Natal Province and Nelson Lumumba on synthesiser was described as being "from South Africa, born in New York." One of the two backing vocalists was called Innocent, and according to Makeba, he was "not-so-innocent". He took the microphone and sang in a voice that major R'nB stars would have killed for, and when he was done, went over and kissed the star's cheek. Introduced last was the drummer, also from Natal, who got the audience to clap along to the rolling thunder of his drumming. When he stopped suddenly, it was Makeba's cue to replicate the sound with her throat, to the delight of the audience.

Then it was back to the singing with the number made famous by Disney cartoons and European stars as The Lion Sleeps Tonight. It must have touched a South African woman in the audience in the right places because she suddenly injected a shrill tribal call into the proceedings. Another song later, and Miriam Makeba announced she was leaving the stage for a drink of water. "While I do that I'd like to showcase South African youth." This was necessary because "The old girl's going to be exiting soon." Would she be 'slowing down' like the Madiba too, one wondered. In any case she left us in the capable hands of the 'not-so-innocent' one, who gave his all on the song, In Time.

"Siyanbonga, Innocent", said Makeba on her return onstage, praising her backing vocalist for a job well done. Then her mind turned to the triumph over apartheid. "Thank you to all of you who raised your voices against injustice. Without you we wouldn’t be here celebrating our tenth anniversary." The audience clearly liked what it heard. Then she thanked the children, the mothers, traditional rulers and the leaders, "who taught us to be patient. Who tell us that while we may never forget, we must forgive." This led nicely into her next song, Masakani, a Zulu word meaning "You help me, I help you."

"I thought I should sing something in French", Makeba wondered aloud, asking if there were French speakers in the audience. There were enough responses in the affirmative. The French, she explained, have been exceptionally kind to her over the years. The country gave her its highest award, the Légion d'honneur; a flower, La Rose Miriam Makeba, is named after her. Even an Elementary School in Lille bears her name. Therefore, "I have to honour them from time to time." And honour them she did.

Makeba surprised all by dancing in step with the band on Inyar Kuthu Za. From the amusement of some the audience after the song, the singer realised she’d been caught sneaking a peek at her wristwatch. "Naughty Makeba!", she chided herself. Then her dress threatened to steal the show. "The bloody dress is coming off!", she said, alarmed but playful still. Innocent rushed over to fix her back zip, saving the day and the singer’s modesty.

Things got serious with a rendition of the Hugh Masekela penned Soweto Blues, about the 1976 Uprising. A swinging version of the famous Malaika was followed by Mother Africa. The singer dedicated her performance of the song "to all Africans, in Africa and in the Diaspora." The whites in the audience mostly kept their hands on their laps, but children of Africa were plentiful in the Royal Festival Hall and applauded wildly, greatly validated. The singer was not done talking.

"Our President Mbeki never speaks of just Africans, but Africans all over. We just won the 2010 (World Cup). Mbeki and Mandela said it was a bid for all Africa. I was proud!" Judging from the jubilant mood of the Africans in the audience, they were just as proud. "Africans, listen", she commanded. "I am tired of singing this song like no one is listening." So they listened as Makeba called in song for African unity with Mama Africa, written by her late daughter when the girl was only 12 years old.

The concert reached its peak with the infectious township beat of the hit song, Pata Pata. There was spontaneous dancing in the audience but no one, it seemed, enjoyed it more than Makeba, who danced joyously onstage, turning round and round as she sang. By the time the song ended, we were all on our feet where we remained in a standing ovation as the singer took a bow with her seven-piece band. She thanked the audience, the sound men and "the ones who lit us."

But there was more to come, and Makeba performed an old tribal song a capella with her band. She forces her musicians to sing ancient songs because "I want them to know where they are coming from, where they are and to better know where they are going." She called them "youngees" who refer to the likes of her as "oldies" and "dinosaurs", but she declared triumphantly, "at least a dinosaur has a history."

A small child emerged onstage to present a bouquet of flowers to Ma Africa whilst we, a respectful audience, remained standing. It became clear that most people had come to the concert not just to be entertained, but to pay homage to a real trooper. She sang once more, unaccompanied, to her mother, and all mothers, saying beforehand with charming flippancy: "Sorry fathers, we know you exist." Then she swept off the stage, a glorious mass of orange and black bedecked with flowers.

Outside the Royal Festival Hall after the concert, summery London at nearly 10pm looked more like late afternoon, and rain drizzled softly onto the bust of Mandela, who now seeks a more private life. "In time we all mellow", Innocent had sung. Like a few others, I stopped for a minute or so to contemplate the face of the Madiba as he stared into some unknowable distance in the gentle rain.

In London Right Now

The London African Music Festival has been on since the 18th of May and ends on the 30th. Time still to catch Koffi Olomide from the DR Congo (today, The Coronet Theatre), Africando from Senegal (Sunday) & Lekan Babalola @ the ICA on Monday 28th.

More Festival info here.

African Liberation Day holds today @ SOAS
There will be a screening of the film 'World Social Forum' - held in Nairobi in January - including interviews with the Mau Mau; Poetry by Princess Emmanuelle; and special guest speaker is Samia - daughter of Kwame Nkrumah.

12 to 4.30pm in Room V111, SOAS, Vernon Sq, London WC1
~ * ~
  • You can now pick up this leaflet (right) at some stations on the London Underground, alongside tubemaps and other information about where to go and how to get there. African London lists Africa-related events/festivals; exhibitions; museums hosting African art collections; conferences; dance; workshops; theatre; shopping; arts & crafts; and of course, restaurant & bars. 'Imported' Nigerian Guinness gets a whole page ad in the leaflet.
  • Not to be missed: African London lists 'Africa Day on Trafalgar Square, Monday 28th May, 12pm - 7pm.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Review: Measuring Time

Excerpt from my review of Helon Habila's second novel, Measuring Time...

Sick and awkward, Mamo believes “he was doomed to die young.” He measures his survival in the face of encroaching mortality, taking “long walks to kill time.” Iliya paces, “measuring time with each step.” As for Lamang, he ends up rambling, “as if he were trying to make up for lost time.” Ultimately, it is the weak Mamo who must be strong.

Monday, May 14, 2007

An Adjectival Poet in Leeds

Niyi Osundare has just concluded a whirlwind tour of 3 UK cities. Here he is @ Peepal Tree Press in Leeds 2 days ago - Saturday 12th May. He led a full-day workshop with members of the Inscribe Writers Group. 3rd from left is Seni Seneviratne whose collection, Wild Cinnamon and Winter Skin, has just been published.

"They say I am an adjectival poet," Prof. Osundare said, "I like adjectives."

Palorine & Simon look on as Khadijah Ibrahiim (middle) makes a point during the workshop.

Writer Rommi Smith (whose poetry collection, Mornings & Midnights, is published by Peepal Tree) seen here with Osundare.

The workshop was facilitated by Kadija Sesay, publisher of Sable Litmag. Osundare praised her as "a great facilitator". After the workshop, the poet gave a performance @ the same venue. He also made appearances in Huddersfield & Plymouth.

  • Photos by MW.
  • Pics from Osundare's evening reading in Leeds @ the next blog update.

Word from the Mutha

Word From Africa - a London-wide celebration of the languages of Africa - takes place @ various venues between 2 - 10 June. There's some 2000 languages spoken on the African continent apparently (I'd hazard there's more). But don't worry if you don't speak 1, 2 or more of these languages. All are encouraged to come along anyway, because events will be in English or in translation or with commentary.

As for Music, organisers are confident it won't need translating.

Word from Africa kicks off with a full day of free events @ the British Museum on 2nd June.

And so on and so forth. Lots more writers & artists including Wangui Wa Goro & Blessing Musariri.

More information on Africa Beyond.


Rain does not evade the path of the runnel
Frogs do not decline the call of streams
The sponge will not refuse the voice of the river
Salt will ever heed the glad eyes of the sea…

The needle does not decline a tryst with cloth
The road does not complain at the tread of feet,
When young love meets the moon it blossoms
When eyes meet with beauty the face is glad

Let those who love this land be safe
Let those who hate this land be swallowed
And when the children lift their voices,
Let all of those who hear be glad,
Let all of those who heed rejoice.


Glory does not kill the morning
Splendour does not slay sunsets
Love for a child does not kill the mother
The praise of fathers does not kill their sons
When a bride kneels before her groom she's blessed
Whenever a daughter is born we know we shall not die
Whenever a son is given there is joy
Let all the daughters of this land be fruitful
Let all the sons of this land increase
And if from east or west there should be anger
If from north or south there should be rage
Let all the rage and anger dissipate
Like smoke in the breeze
Like dogdream when it comes awake.


What words we have spoken let them cleave
What hearts belong to us let them not grieve
Let our words find us prepared
Let all our dreams find us prepared
And our land, our country, our earth
Let them find us ready at our end.

© Tade Ipadeola

  • Reproduced with permission.

Diasporic Gods

Helen Oyeyemi is out with her second book, published by Bloomsbury. The Opposite House, drawing on Yoruban-Cuban mythology, was reviewed in the Guardian Review last Saturday.
Read the review - and there's also an online extract, here.
  • Previous blog tidbits on Oyeyemi - I, II, III & IV

Chima Ubani Pics

Photos long overdue for posting, from an event from almost 2 months ago. 17th March, to be exact. These are some of the friends and associates of Chima Ubani, who gathered to pay tributes to the life and work of the late civil rights activist, Chima Ubani. See Eki Gbinigie's report of the event - and mine.
  • Top Pics - Wearing the hat, is Dr. Abayomi Ferreira of the Democratic Alternative (DA);
  • a member of 'Friends of Africa' who organised the event, poses between Ferreira & Baba Omojola of the Campaign for Democracy (CD) - both organisations were at the forefront of the struggle against military dictatorship in the 90s. The late Ubani worked with both organisations.
  • In the denim jacket is Tokunbo Oke who raised laughs by recalling that Ferreira had him expelled from the Nigerian Labour Party in 1989 for Trotskyism. Oke said only Chima Ubani could bring "two giants of Nigerian politics" (Ferreira & Omojola) to the same London venue at the same time.

  • Bottom Pics - Dapo Awokansire (a former member of the Civil Liberties Organisation - CLO) poses between Baba Omojola & Hauwa Shekarau of Nigerian FIDA.
  • Dancer/writer Funmi Adewole is between Dr. Paul Okojie (who gave a paper at the tribute event) and Dr. Ike Okonta.
  • In another pic, Okonta chats with the man he greeted with the words "legend' - Omojola.
  • Standing alone is poet Dike Chukwumerije who read 2 poems in tribute at the event.

*Photos by MW


Staying with theme of Slavery in the year of the bicentenary, the October Gallery presents an exhibition of works by 4 artists exploring the notion of 'Voyage'.
The artists -
Tapfuma Gutsa (Zimbabwe), Julien Sinzogan, Gerard Quenum (Benin) & the late Pierrot Barra - will pay be looking closely at what the gallery calls the "most laden of historical journeys", the forced movement of enslaved Africans during the Transatlantic Slave Trade.
Voyages, Crossing the Lake of Fire is @ the
October Gallery, London - from 17th May till 16th June.

Literary Batik

Association of Nigerian Authors
ANA Oyo State Chapter

cordially invites you

to its
Dedicated to YINKA OWOLABI who passed on in April 2007

LiteraryBATIK is comprised of readings, performance, interactions, jokes, munching etc.

Guest Writer: Odili Ujubuonu (Winner, 2006 ANA/Jacaranda Prize)
Host: Ibadan Cultural Studies Group coordinated by Prof. Dotun Ogundeji & Dr. Ademola Dasylva

Venue: Educare Trust Exhibition Centre, Goshen Superstores Building, beside Coca-Cola, Sango, Ibadan.

Date: Saturday May 26, 2007

Time: 4: 00 P.M


Ebika Anthony

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Adieu Ebereonwu

Special Reading For EBEREONWU

A special reading-cum- meeting of all creative writers resident in Lagos, under the aegis of Association of Nigerian Authors, Lagos Branch (ANA Lagos), holds next week, Saturday, May 12, 2007. The reading is dedicated to the fond memory of Ebereonwu, a poet, playwright, movie producer/director and member of the State Branch of ANA who passed away in the first week of April, 2007.

Writers and aspiring writers are expected to read copiously from his literary works, which include:

  • Suddenly God Was Naked (1995)
  • Cobweb Seduction (1997)
  • Insomniac Dragon (2000)
  • Unpublishable Poems (2004)
The reading, which will be spiced with exciting recitations, performances and readings from creative works dedicated to the memory of Ebereonwu, will present the right atmosphere for the exhibition of creative talents. All (published) authors are therefore implored to bring copies of their books for presentation and sale at the event.

The up-and-coming ONILEAGBON Theatre, that recently celebrated the first anniversary of the troupe’s foundation, will also be around to add colour to the great event.

Venue: Cultural Hall
National Gallery of Art (Aina Onabolu Complex)
National Theatre, Iganmu, Lagos.
Time: 2.00 p.m. prompt

Best wishes,

Folu Agoi
Chairman, ANA Lagos

New Reads

This week's new reads are all about the Caine. Naturally, since we now know 3 Nigerians are in the running for the 8th Caine Prize for African Writing (Ada Udechukwu for Night Bus; EC Osondu for Jimmy Carter's Eyes, and Uwem Akpan for My Parents' Bedroom). Completing the list of 5, are Uganda's Monica Arac de Nyeko (first shortlisted for Strange Fruit in 2004), this time for Jambula Tree, a lesbian love story published in the Ama Ata Aidoo ed. Anthology, African Love Stories (Ayebia; 2006); and South Africa's Henrietta Rose-Innes for the story, Bad Places.

Excerpt from Uwem Akpan's My Parent's Bedroom - narrated by nine-year-old Monique, who unfolds a horrific tale set in Rwanda in 1994, yet manages the feat of not once mentioning the word 'genocide'...
I don’t understand why Maman is saying she wants to be with me when she won’t even look my way. I see dirty water dripping down the white wall beside me. It is coming from the ceiling. At first, it comes down in two thin lines. Then the lines widen and swell into one. Then two more lines come down, in spurts, like little spiders gliding down on threads from a branch of the mango tree in our yard. I touch the liquid with the tip of my finger. Blood. -
Read on.

Excerpt from EC Osondu's Jimmy Carter's Eyes, in which a blind girl suddenly sees better than anyone, in an old-style fable for a globalised world...
One day a little girl went missing in the village. Sometimes children would go missing but they would normally be found within a few hours. This was different. No one had seen the girl. When a child went missing, the mother of the child would tie her headscarf tightly around her waist and go around the village crying and asking Who has seen my child? It was generally believed that by the time she lost her voice, the missing child would be found. By the second day the child was still missing. The mother had lost her voice but the child was not yet found. When the mother walked past the woman frying bean cakes, crying and screaming, “Who has seen my child?”, the blind girl spoke for the first time.

“I know who stole the missing girl.” - Read on

EC Osondu's A Letter From Home (also published in AGNI) has been revealed as one of the Notable Stories of 2006 in the Million Writers Award. A cursory glance at the longlist also shows Crispin Oduobuk (for Maiduguri Road) and
Petina Gappah (for Something Nice From London - published in Per Contra & in print in Farafina vol. 8). Gappah recently placed second in the SA PEN award, judged by JM Coetzee.

Excerpt from Monica Arac de Nyeko's Jambula Tree...
Sanyu, after all these years, I still imagine shame trailing after me tagged onto the hem of my skirt. Other times, I see it, floating into your dreams across the desert and water to remind you of what lines we crossed. The things we should not have done when the brightness of Mama Atim's torch shone upon us - naked. - Read more excerpts here.

Chimamanda-Binyavanga Workshop

Caine Winner & founding editor of Kwani? Binyavanga Wainaina (middle) with journalist Yasmin Alibhai-Brown & Brian Chikwava (Caine winner, 2004) - photographed by the blogger @ the British Museum on October 15th, 2005. Wainaina teams up with Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie to run a creative writing Workshop planned for July in Lagos, Nigeria. Details in Farafina's press notice - below

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Creative Writing Workshop in July

Chimamanda Adichie and the Kenyan writer Binyavanga Wainaina will be teaching a creative writing class in Lagos in July.

The class will be run as an informal workshop and will meet for a fewhours every day to discuss assigned readings as well as the writing ofthe workshop participants. The idea is to encourage and promote reading and imaginative writing. To apply, please send a sample of fiction or non-fiction to
udonandu@gmail. com No poetry please.

You will be notified by e-mail if you are selected as part of the workshop and will receive further information about the dates and venue. Entries must be pasted in the body of the e-mail. No attachments please.

Deadline for submission is June 15. Notifications will be sent by July 10.


Osundare in Leeds

He recently clocked 60, and the Nigerian arts and literary community came together (the leaflet on the left, from one event organised by CORA) to celebrate with him.
Now he comes to the UK, and there's a special evening of readings and talks around the works of Niyi Osundare, poet, dramatist, critic, teacher and Katrina survivor.
Osundare reads from 6 to 8pm
on Saturday 12 May
@ Peepal Tree Press
17 Kings Avenue
Leeds LS5 1QS
Email: contact@peepaltreepress.com to reserve a free space.
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