Writings of the general word's body

Tuesday, July 24, 2007


We have come to the cliff, a sheer drop
cried below, death was asleep there,
snoring in the aquamarine waters.
Beneath the French fortress, ganja men
smoked on, hanging castaways on knotty trees.

We travelled a little while, a little lost.
We held the baobab trees, glistening in the dusk,
whispering how many were lost, how many never returned.
Without knowing why, we babbled like babies
in the house of slaves, smells grabbed us like memories
in this meeting of ways at the gate of no return.

We sail to the sale across the endless sea,
the medley of voices, the nights without cover
when a master’s sperm beckons, children strewn
like harmattan dust, what can the Portuguese say;
only that we too were here, trampling on men and fish.

Here, volcanoes become rock and sand,
boababs live to tell the tale to a
museum of women, hot colors wed
in the sun, brick/red for loss, turquoise for joy,
green for an elegant shoulder swathed in boubou.

In the avenue of baobabs,
griots recline, strumming on balafons.
Tell it to us, these things we forget,

the garden of desert plants
the ruins of cannon guns.

© Toyin Adewale-Gabriel

  • At the PEN Women Writers' literary evening earlier this month in Dakar, Toyin Adewale-Gabriel read her poems, "Safari (for Ogaga Ifowodo)" & "Goree".
  • "Goree" is used with permission.
  • Poet photographed @ the Kadjinol Cultural Centre, Dakar, Senegal - on 11 July 2007 - by MW.

Sunday, July 22, 2007


"We don't call Gorée an island," the unofficial tour guide said many times. "We call Gorée a continent - because people from all over West Africa passed through here, into slavery."

Gorée Island

  • Images taken on Goree Island, Senegal - 12 July 2007 ©M.Wood.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Carry On Regardless

Wordsbody is on a short break. We remain open for comments, so let's have them. And party on!

Doing the LBF

I merely dropped by at the last London Book Fair (these pics from 16 April) in the sense that I had no real business there. But I went there to fraternise with 3 Nigerian writers/publishers who were in town. My involvement, as it were, went no further than the front steps of the Earl's Court One venue. I hob-nobbed and 'met' with my people on this frontage. Muhtar Bakare (above left; publisher of some top Nigerian writers & Farafina Magazine) and Bibi Bakare-Yusuf (below; publisher @ Cassava Republic Press) had gruelling daylong engagements inside the fair. But writer Jude Dibia (right; author 'Walking With Shadows' & 'Unbridled') found it a bit hard-going, which made me relieved I never went inside.

  • Since this blog is going to be taking a short break, how about we run a little competition?
  • Win a copy of Jude Dibia's second novel 'Unbridled'.
  • All you have to do is answer this simple question: In Walking With Shadows, what is the name of main character's wife?
  • Answers by email to: laralara8@hotmail.com - first correct answer in my inbox, wins. Please include your name and city/address. Winner to be announced at the next blog update.
Bibi Bakare-Yusuf is the face behind Cassava Republic Press. She is the Nigerian publisher of Helon Habila & Abidemi Sanusi - with more writers being added to the roster. Diligent, soft-spoken and highly principled, books are not just a business for Bibi. She sits on the Roundtable at the Caine Prize Colloquium in London today.
Bibi and I have been friends for nearly 15 years, and it's been wonderful to evolve not just as friends on a personal level, but also as voices on the Nigerian literary scene. Whenever we get the chance to catch up these days (which is not often, since Bibi is based in Abuja and galivants all over the world in her spare time) we talk, talk, talk - until time itself runs out. Her sister & my friend Sisioge (aka Ireti Bakare-Yusuf; I am her son's godmother) stubbornly injects fashion and other matters into our 'literary' conversations; Bibi and I just roll our eyes and carry on talking, which infuriates Ireti.

When Bibi's day was done at the LBF, we sat on the front steps and talked, talked, talked - till the event closed and hundreds of bookfair goers flowed out of the venue, past us and into Earl's Court Station across the road. And there we were talking books. Ah, bless!

Lagos Reading

The first monthly reading and meeting of all creative writers resident in Lagos, under the umbrella of Association of Nigerian Authors, Lagos Branch, ANA Lagos, after the annual Lagos Poetry Festival (LAPOFEST) organised by the Association, holds next week, Saturday, July 14, 2007.

  • Theme: An Appraisal of the Content of Nigerian Literature, with Emphas is on Language.
  • Special Guests: Bibi Bakare, Andy Akhigbe, Jossy Idam
  • Book Review: God of Poetry by Uzor Maxim Uzoatu
  • Compere: Dagga Tolar
  • Venue: Cultural Hall, National Gallery of Art (Aina Onabolu Complex), National Theatre, Iganmu, Lagos.
  • Time: 2.00 p.m.
As usual, the special reading, which will be spiced with exciting recitations, performances and readings from creative works of new and established writers, will present the right atmosphere for the exhibition of creative talents. All (published) authors are therefore implored to bring copies of their publications for presentation and sale at the event.

Folu Agoi
Chairman, ANA Lagos

Bandele Reads 'Burma Boy'

Biyi Bandele read from his new novel, Burma Boy @ the Lewisham Library, London - on publication day, 21 June. The author later discussed the book, about West African involvement in World War II - possibly the first novel on the theme. It was inspired by (but not based on) his own father's experience in Burma. Some in the audience also had African/Caribbean fathers who served in WII, and whose contribution and sacrifice has largely been overlooked in writings on the war. Wale Okediran (President of ANA - Association of Nigerian Authors) was at the reading as was Ellah Allfrey, Bandele's editor. She knew the author always wanted to write Burma Boy, so she pushed and encouraged him until he did. If everyone had an editor like that.

To the left is Alan Morrison of the Lewisham Library who organised the event. The library is laying on regular book events, many of which will be of interest to blog readers here. Malika Booker launches her book, 'A Storm Between Fingers' at the venue tonight. So those who can make their way to Lewisham High Street, London for 7.45pm, should do so.
Wale Okediran with Bandele at the reading. Okediran also held a meeting with
Book Aid International at their offices in London during his brief visit to the UK (BookAid pics at the next blog update).
  • Images by MW

New Read

This week's new read, is mine; here's an excerpt from my short story, Kelemo's Woman...
Kelemo was one of the "subversives" whose names were being read out on the corporal's radio as he advanced further into our room. The army man's boots stamped dirty imprints on the floor. I could hear the commotion as other soldiers rampaged through the tenement. I rose from the bed and held the cover to myself. The woman in the next room screamed at the top of her lungs and begged a soldier, please, don't, don't, don't. I heard the laughter as her cries were defeated into whimpers. No use begging hyenas, I thought. I promised myself that whatever would be taken from me, I would freely give, of my own will. The corporal's eyes traced a lusty line down the length of my body, and I allowed my cover-cloth to slip to the floor.

- Kelemo's Woman is published in Eclectica.
  • Whilst you're over at Eclectica, you might want to check out this travel piece by Ike Anya - Going Home. The home in question being Nigeria.

Enter the Titans

You've never had it so good, all you lovers of African writing. What were the chances of 2 heavyweight websites serving up addictive doses of African literature being launched round about the same time? Well, it's happened. Wide-ranging, seriously ambitious and already amazingly vibrant. Welcome 'African Writing' & PONAL....
African Writing - incorporating a website as well as a print edition (going monthly in print from September). There is already so much to read on this website - new short ficiton from Helon Habila, lots of poets, cartoons, literary news and more.
Behind 'African Writing' is the publisher/editor team of Chuma Nwokolo Jr & Afam Akeh.
Here's what Nwokolo Jr had to say about the publication: "African Writing is a literary paper, which also has an online presence. It is the first open sales publication of its kind with an All-African perspective, offering new writing from, and information on, the literatures of the continent. African Writing is interested in the literary lives, literary work and thoughts of those who make writing happen in the African world... We will reflect the faces, controversies and peculiar flavour of the African writing world, a world increasingly inclusive in the processing of its familiarisation with other world writings and writers.

PONAL - The brainchild of Pius Adesanmi and Amatoritsero Ede, PONAL (Project On New African Literatures), this features photo galleries of literary events, writing news, resources and information on conferences, audio of authors reading their works; while also highlighting the more 'obscure' gems by under-appreciated African writers. And that's not all. There's a Gboungboun ('Loudspeaker' in English) Magazine, edited by Ede.
Here's a bit about what PONAL has in store: "We present exciting new and emergent African literatures, especially those trapped within the ideological, political, economic, and institutional contexts of the Postcolony, and excluded by the canonising mechanisms of the metropolitan academy... we will disseminate, archive, and comment on the works of well-known, emergent and relatively unknown but equally engaging writers of the third generation from the entire continent."

To the Queen and Her Donkeys

On a state visit in Nigeria

She was cloistered
Among her jeweled eggs,
The Fabergé. Nothing of the streets
Came in shore. Just mirrors of waving hands,
Welcoming the donkeys, laden with grief
From London.

And in the company of the queen, a young buck –
In harm’s ways – against the message
of that bloody Sunday. A strange time bears an infant
in her bosom: in Istanbul, in Fallujah, in Kirkuk,
the claws of the falcons probe the night.

But we, the oblivious,

Merry, make her bed, wave
The flag of our hospitality,
And of the dear old empire. Showed
Missus Windsor our open-hearted
Place, where nothing stirs – not in this
Night of our autumnal.

But if some noon,
The thing inside us stirs,
Beware then,
For the witch will cry,
And her time will be near.

© Obi Nwakanma


  • To the Queen and Her Donkeys is taken from Obi Nwakanma's new collection of poetry, The Horsemen and Other Poems.
  • Reproduced with permission.


Artistic Director of the October Gallery, Elisabeth Lalouschek, stands on a chair to give some appreciative words about the 2 African artists exhibiting in the now concluded exhibition (just like Wordsbody to post after the event!) - Voyages, Crossing the Lake of Fire - 16 May. The exhibition, which displayed until 16 June, featured artists exploring the theme of 'Voyages' in commemoration of the bicentennary of the Slave Trade abolition.

In the blue agbada is Beninoise artist Julien Sinzogan whose 'Egungun' (masquerade) piece was the signature work of the exhibition. Here it is on the wall as Lalouschek speaks. She had visited Sinzogan in Benin to see an egungun for herself.

Next to Sinzogan is Zimbabwean sculptor Tapfuma Gutsa who is now based in Austria and, his usual materials (stones, calabashes...) being in short supply in his new abode, has begun to work with clay. Some of his clay pieces were on show in the exhibition. Gutsa is now a regular exhibitor at the October Gallery, which has a major interest in showing works by African artists. "In 1979 in Harare, I triggered an epidemic of sculpture," Gutsa declared during Africa 05 - and I recorded it in my article on him, published in the Lagos Guardian on 20 March 2005. Gutsa was dismayed by some of the words attributed to him in the piece (public utterances, mind you), but respected my right to report the truth as I saw/heard it. We remain friends. His piece, "The Miracle of Moses" & another stone work, inspired a poem of mine. Like a sculpture, the poem is taking a long time, and remains unfinished even after a year... Gutsa, a true artist.
  • Voyages was @ the October Gallery from 17 May to 16 June. Images by MW.

Lola Shoneyin At Large

Excerpt from Lola Shoneyin's forthcoming novel, Seed...
"One by one, Baba Segi greeted them. From the eldest to the youngest, he called their names: Segi and Akin, a daughter before a son, from his first wife; Funmi, Afolake and Motun, three girls born eleven months apart and stunningly alike, from the second; Ade and Kole- two sons proudly ejected by Iya Ade, the third wife. Baba Segi looked into the faces of the older children and tweaked the cheeks of the younger. For the fleeting moment it took for him to mouth the first letter and grin on the last, he made each child feel special. He looked only at them and they relished these moments.

Then he paused at the arch as he always did and turned to his wives. With a flirtatious hint in his tone, he would call them like he hadn’t set eyes on them in three decades. ‘Iya Segi. Iya Funmi. Iya Ade. Bolanle.’ Each woman defined by her first child. All except Bolanle who was just plain Bolanle, iya to none."

- You can read the excerpt in full on Lola Shoneyin's new website & browse through the writer's large picture gallery. More of her writings are available on the site, plus links to her blog & publishing house.
  • Image taken @ the Waterloo Gallery, London - on 6 May 2006 - by MW.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Africa @ 50

"Only Africa can fight for her destiny. In this struggle we shall not reject the assistance and support of our friends, but we will yield to no enemy, however strong."

Africa @ 50 Conference - Friday 6 & Saturday 7 July 2007
Post-Colonial Africa : 2 days of discussion & proposals for action.
School of Oriental & African Studies (SOAS) Main Building ,
Thornhaugh Street , London WC1 (Russell Square tube; Buses 7, 59, 68, 91, 168, 188)

Organised by the Royal African Society, Centre for African Studies at the University of London and the African Liberation Support Campaign Network (ALISC Network)



  • Africa in the Post-Colonial Era: Imperialism and Resistance - 6.30pm in Room G2 - with Madam Amina Adan (former Somalia minister); Dylan Chambers (former president of the African Caribbean & Asian Students' Society, Sussex University); John Rees (author of Imperialism and Resistance); Tafadzwa Sando (International Socialist Organisation of Zimbabwe); Albert Moutoudou (Union of Cameroonian Peoples UPC).

ONE DAY CONFERENCE - Africa in the Post-Independence Era :

  • 9am – 5pm: Room G60 - Registration
  • 10am – 11.45am: Zimbabwe Today and the Way Forward - Tafadzwa Sando (International Socialist Organisation of Zimbabwe); Alois Mbawara (Free Zim Youth) & Wellington Chibanguza (Free Zim Youth)
  • 1.30pm - 3.15pm: Elections & Democracy: Cameroon , Guinea and Nigeria -
    Albert Moutoudou (Union of Cameroonian Peoples; UPC); Fatoumata Koulibay (Fraternitée Guinéene);
    Dr. Abayomi Ferreira (Democratic Alternative of Nigeria)
  • 3.30pm - 5.00pm: Proxy Wars in Africa - Tony Benn (president, Stop the War Coalition UK); Joseph Ochieno (Uganda People's Congress); Dahabo Isse (Somali Civil Liberties and Human Rights Organisation); Dr Haroun Abdulhamid (Darfur Union).

Events are free but you must register your intention to attend the rally or the conference - by email to nkexplo@yahoo.co.uk /Tel: 079 844 05 307


Request for Volunteers - Africa @ 50

Dear All,
This is a special appeal for volunteers to assist in publicising the Africa @ 50 event being organised by African Liberation Support Campaign Network on 6th and 7th July 2007.
We need people to leaflet, put up posters and leave information in African shops and community gatherings. Please email
nkexplo@yahoo.co.uk or phone 07984405307 if you can help us with publicising the event. We also need volunteers to help on the day of the event.

Petina, Parselelo & Me

And here's our own little Africa Conference - held in a noisy bar just off Oxford Street in London's West End on Friday 8 June. Petina Gappah (Geneva based writer from the Land of Zim); Parselelo Kantai (Kenyan, shortlisted for the 2004 Caine and a contributor to Vanity Fair's July 'Africa' issue) - and myself. Southern, East & West Africa at the table. So here's a record of the 'conference'.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

2007 Caine Prize

Monica Arac de Nyeko on her Caine shortlisted story, Jambula Tree...
"Jambula Tree is about loving against a very strong tide - society. Its just one of those stories that chooses you, you don’t choose it."

- read the interview.

E.C Osondu on his shortlisted story, Jimmy Carter's Eyes....
"Blindness, or the subject of blindness in fiction, has always fascinated me. From Jose Saramago’s novel of that title to Raymond Carver’s awesome short story, ‘Cathedral’. By the way, Carver used to teach here at Syracuse University and his ghost still roams the Hall of Languages. I also happen to have had a neighbour who is blind and I remember chuckling when I was moving into my apartment and there was this sign that said “Blind Person Area”. Still on this neighbour, he was anything but your typical blind man, if any such exists. The first time we met he told me a joke that was, to put it mildly, risqué - where did the 85-year-old man who just got married spend his honeymoon? At Viagra Falls! The story itself - ‘Jimmy Carter’s Eyes’ - is an attempt at allegory, which is all I can say about it."

- read the interview

  • Also shortlisted are Uwem Akpan, Ada Udechukwu & Henrietta Rose-Innes. Shortlisted writers will read @ the Purcell Room, London on Sunday 8 July (7.45pm) - as part of the London Literature Festival.
  • Caine winner is announced on Monday 9 July.

Eko Metro

Lagos Tubemap... The Lagos Underground, if one existed, as envisioned by Jeremy Weate. He unveiled the network map some days ago on his blog and has been taking readers/viewers' comments. Jeremy has even incorporated a Light Railway for the marshy areas - a bit like the Docklands Light Railway in London. He also sees this as something that could come to fruition with the involvement of PPP (public-private patnership). Someone has suggested that even if this is just an 'underground' pipe dream, the blogger could still rake in the cash by mass producing the map as souvenirs. 'Lagos of the Future', then. Reminds me of an 18th century map of Africa - on leather - that I bought years and years ago and won't let go of. Why does Lagos have to have a Circle Line, is my question? It confuses me enough in London as it is, Jeremy. Full marks for imagination though.
  • Image © Jeremy Weate

LAPOFEST '07 - in Pictures

The Lagos Poetry Festival (LAPOFEST), the 4th annual festival organised by the Lagos Branch of ANA - took place on 8 & 9 June. In front (in blue) is Folu Agoi, ANA Lagos chair. Next to him (in red aso-oke) is the festival's guest poet, Dr Ademola Dasylva, ANA prizewinner & lecturer of English @ the University of Ibadan.
  • Images courtesy of ANA Lagos