Writings of the general word's body

Monday, March 31, 2008

Paradise Lost

Paradise Lost: Revisiting the Niger Delta - photographs by George Osodi are on display @ the Centre for Contemporary Arts, Lagos, until May 3, 2008.
  • See report and images from the exhibition's 29th March opening on Artspeak Africa. And there's more on George Osodi elsewhere on the blog.
  • Venue: Centre for Contemporary Arts, 9 McEwen Street, Queens Street, Sabo, Lagos (opp Methodist Church, Herbert Macaulay Street), Nigeria.

Up the Gangirwal

Scene from a just concluded expedition up Mount Gangirwal in Nigeria, near the border with Cameroon. Here pairs of boots enjoy the ride as bare feet are put to work as the group crosses a river before confronting the mountain. Jide Bello (lawyer and culture enthusiast) is in the foreground. That figure on the left channelling Gandhi is Bibi Bakare-Yusuf of Cassava Republic Press.

See Jeremy Weate's posts on the hike over at Naijablog (see also, 'Mountain of Death'). Related post here.
Image © Jeremy Weate

Biyi Bandele Tours Nigeria

Biyi Bandele tours Nigeria with his WWII novel Burma Boy, published in a West African edition by Kachifo.

  • He's in Lagos on 5th April
  • Kano - 8th April
  • Abuja - 9th April
  • Port Harcourt - 11th April

Tour co-sponsored by the British Council. Click on the below for more information.

Chimurenga 12/13: Dr. Satan's Echo Chamber

Chimu People on the 164-page double edition, out now

The latest issue of the Cape Town based cultural and literary journal, Chimurenga, is a double-take on sci-fi and speculative writing from the African world, collectively titled “Dr. Satan’s Echo Chamber”. The title of the double-issue is drawn from a dub mix by the late Jamaican producer King Tubby.

Chimurenga 12 is a collection of dystopian faction, which challenges, relentlessly, and throws rocks at the windows of the world. The issue features writing and art by: Allan “Botsotso” Kolsky, Koffi Kwahule, Joao Barreiros, Olufemi Terry, Doreen Baigaina, Stacy Hardy, Akin Adesokan, Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu, JG Ballard, Emmanuel Dongala, Blank du Blanc, Jean Malaquais, Liesl Jobson, Peter Kalu, Dominique Malaquais, Basim Magdy, Jean Lamore, Femi Rage Dawkins, James Sey, Minnette Vari, Teju Cole and Rana Dasgupta.

Chimurenga 13 documents the making of several Afrofuturist projects, from the speculative engineering of Abu Bakaar Mansaray to the film-work of the Black Audio Film Collective and Jean-Pierre Bekolo, and dub/death-work of King Tubby. The issue also features: Angolan composer and theorist Victor Gama’s object-oriented music writing; John Edwin Mason on the making of Abdullah Ibrahim’s “Mannenberg”; Lionel Manga on future-present Douala; Baudouin Mouanda on SAPE; Pume Bylex on his paintings; Eyal Weizman on walking through Palestinian walls; Luca Frei on the Beaubourg underneath Paris and a discussion between Sartre and Nkrumah staged by the Sharzhad Collective.

Since its very first issue in 2002, Chimurenga has received excellent reviews; writers, poets, scholars and journalists, among numerous others, have lauded its originality, the quality of its content and its willingness to tackle subjects other publications might consider too difficult or controversial to address. It is widely viewed as one of the most interesting and important publications available in post-apartheid South Africa and is fast gaining supporters abroad. Award-wining Kenyan writer and founder of Kwani, Binyavanga Wainaina, says “Chimurenga is the finest literary magazine in Africa”. Vanity Fair calls it “an uber-cool, multilingual journal spinning a funky mix of art, culture and political writing from and about Africa”. Chimurenga is available at bookstores across South Africa.

ISSN 1683-6162

To order or subscribe to Chimurenga, please contact:
email: chimurenga@panafrican.co.za; phone: +27(21)4224168; fax: +27(21)4241673
Or visit our website

London Elects

Campaigns are under way for London Mayoral and Assembly elections on May 1. It's all a bit of a song and dance for this happy band I snapped outside London's Victoria Station, on Friday, 28 March. They were asking passers-by to "Vote Felix" the cat.

At Nnorom's do

Here we are clawing a small literary event out of Nnorom Azuonye's son's birthday party, yesterday in London. L-R:
  1. James Henshaw (son of the late playwright James Ene Henshaw); he is heading to Nigeria early next month to inaugurate a N100,000 prize in memory of his father - the ANA/James Ene Henshaw Prize for Playwriting. The winner of the prize (to be given for unpublished plays) will work with an experienced director to bring the play to production.
  2. Nnorom Azuonye who brought us all there. Nnorom is the publisher of Sentinel Poetry Online (acknowledged by the Arts Council as 'a Poetry Landmark of Britain) & the Sentinel Literary Quarterly, and a host of other art initiatives too numerous to mention.
  3. Author and current President of ANA (Association of Nigerian Authors), Wale Okediran, who never forgets to touch base with his constituency of Nigerian writers in the UK when he's in town. Okediran is being interviewed today lunchtime by Elizabeth Idienumah of BBC Radio Scotland on this years 50th Anniversary of the publication of Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart - for which the Nigerian leg of the commemorations begin 12 April.
  4. And there's me, MW.
  5. Ike Anya, writer and consummate book lover. There was a time Ike and I ran into each other like clockwork on art beats where no one sent us; we just went for the love of it, and wrote about it. Google him for his writings. He is also a medical doctor and blogs at Nigeria Health Watch.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Harry Garuba @ 50

"BIRTHDAY FOR THE BRIDGEHEAD: Harry Garuba a Professor in the Centre for African Studies and Department of English of the University of Cape Town, South Africa, is internationally reputed for his innovative and ground-setting scholarship in the fields of Cultural Studies/Theory, Literatures of Africa and the African Diaspora, and Performance Studies/Discourse Analysis. A poet of note who has been described as having “a disposition for the tender and philosophical”, and whose collection, Shadows and Dreams heralded a new moment in its “alluring lyricism” and “introspective depth”, he taught at the University of Ibadan from the 1980s through to the 1990s – remarkable periods in Nigerian history and the flowering of African literature. At Ibadan, Garuba served as a mentor to an entire generation of writers, artistes and scholars, whose articulations coalesced into voices from the fringe, a movement that altered the dominant perceptions of arts and aesthetics."
Thursday 27 March 2008 - 4pm
@ The Jazzhole
168 Awolowo Road
Ikoyi, Lagos

Monday, March 24, 2008

New Reads

Lily Mabura's story, How Shall We Kill the Bishop? - a finalist in the Glimmer Train Fiction contest - is published in Wasafiri Issue 53. Mabura, a Kenyan, has done well in Fish Publishing contests in the past...
Keeping things Kenyan, Muthoni Garland has a new story up on Kwani?. Here's how The Remaining begins...
Alfonse disappeared one Saturday, after a half-day’s work, after a generous helping of rice and meat stew at the late lunch at which he’d told off his son for a D grade (‘in English,’ he’d sneered), after giving his daughter money for a movie, and after - what now seemed to his wife - an unusually vigorous bout of sex with her. Alfonse had walked off into a cool Nairobi evening, and not come back.
In Parselelo Kantai's The Cock Thief, Corporal Naiguran takes off for the Ugandan border with a golden cock. He rides through a Kenya from which everyone's leaving, and lying about it.
There was something strange about her. It was as if she was there and not, existing in constituent parts but not as a whole. For one, she looked very different from her voice, a rough, rousing roar of four in the morning in those dark little hovels by the roadside, the ones run by fat round women called Rhoda and Francisca who serve cheap lethal brews to broken men in oversized jackets. Now she spat a gob of miraa suddenly into a polythene bag magically extracted from somewhere in the complicated folds of her clothes. Miraa. He hated it. It was undisciplined. Leave the leaves to the goats. And then she was unwrapping half of a Big G, chewing it, making rude, rhythmic clicks. She seemed to appreciate the sound more than the flavour. She stared at him the whole time, her large liquid eyes shining out of the khanga that covered her head and framed her face; the rest of it disappeared inside a fur-lined jacket, unzipped half-way down to reveal a T-shirt tucked tight into a pair of worn jeans. Limuru, he knew, got very cold. He wondered what she would do with her jacket in the heat of Kampala. But it was the sound of her walk that convinced him this was a malaya, a prostitute going west to seek new flesh markets. She had come down the aisle towards the seat, swaying slightly, her boots clicking loudly against the floor of the bus. There was something of an advertisement about the sound of her walk. There was nothing left in Kenya. Everybody was leaving, and lying about it.

Beyond Green

Through these windows,
what sees us and what we see
what cares, what scares
aware or oblivious, we have felt all.

these scattered and scarred details
have clothed our view in rainbows
and these windows,
subservient and silent
are witnesses to what we have seen.

We never run out of what’s there to see:
We'll see what massages the eye
We'll see what pricks hope
We'll see the crowns of thorns
that haunt our dreams.

Perhaps when the window gets tired

we will see what within
has always not been part of the view.
For now, the secret is:

we'll have to keep looking
Beyond the green hills of Nyanga
if ever we are to catch
up with fugitive hope.

© Emmanuel Sigauke
  • Beyond Green is used by permission.
  • Emmanuel Sigauke is the editor of Munyori Poetry Journal. Visit his blog, Moments in Literature.

Rotozaza in West Africa

JG writes in on Rotozaza's tour of Ghana & Nigeria...

Etiquette recently arrived in Nigeria from Ghana where the Rotozaza company was, it seems, hosted by the British Council for March 6, 7 and 8. Information about the visit was carried by the Accra Mail and the Ghanaian Journal, but this was ‘last minute’. In fact, the Ghanaian Journal posted details on line only after the tour had begun! This seemed to be the result of a late press release and/ or perhaps lazy arts journalism . In any case, the press releases seemed to be slotted more or less straight into the publications.

From the press coverage, it seems Rotozaza ‘(facilitated) workshops for students at the University of Ghana drama [?], Eagle Productions and NAFTI.’ I don’t think they went out to Legon, but I gather that some Legon drama students were invited to experience the work at the British Council premises in Accra. Otherwise, the Council concentrated on those concerned with acting for film / video.

It seems that the production involves participants repeating lines or responding to instructions delivered over head-phones. Etiquette is designed to be eminently ‘portable’ and will have a life of its own after the Rotozaza team have moved on. For example, the ‘show’ will travel to Kumasi so that those interested there have a chance to participate. For this is, above all else, participatory theatre.

In Nigeria , initial on-line coverage of the tour has fought shy of analysing and exploring the local reactions, but has turned up some material of interest. For example, writing in News Day on 18 March under the title ‘British Council Introduces Experimental Theatre to Students’, Funmi Ogundare, incorporated an illuminating quotation into her text:

The Director of Rotozaza Theatre troupe, Mr. Antony Hampton recalled how the experimental drama started. "There is a friend of mine in France who is a visual artist but had never been on stage before. I had a vision of him working around just in his own world, doing things on stage. But I knew he would want to perform what I was thinking of, that is getting him on stage so that he can be relaxed without having to worry about doing the job of an actor.

So we came up with the idea of listening to instructions and we proposed it to him that he should just follow it and that we would create something for him, which was not difficult to do but would be compelling to an audience. He agreed to it and it was fascinating and we started trying it with different people. After a few years we realised that this is not just one show but a whole practice and we needed to expand upon it and create new shows that uses the same strategy. We have used our strategies in a lot of ways. Sometimes with the head phones, actors on stage giving instructions live and whispering into their ears, among others."

It will be fascinating to get responses to performances in West Africa .

Taking a broader view, it is intriguing to try to see how Rotozaza fits in with the British Council’s drama policy. A brief glance at what has happened during the last sixty or so years in Ghana shows that initially the Council encouraged amateur theatre in Accra . That is to sat, the Council (founded 1944) backed a group that took the name ‘The British Council Players’ and put on a variety of British texts, including Blithe Spirit, Candied Peel, and, no doubt of greater interest to local audiences, assorted Shakespeare. In1963, the Council funded a major tour to West Africa of productions of Macbeth and Twelfth Night by the Nottingham Playhouse. Six years later, the Council promoted Judi Dench and James Cairncross on a tour of the country in a programme of scenes from classic British plays.

More recently, the British Council in Ghana has become adventurous and ‘engaged’. For example, they are currently supporting Theatre for a Change, an interactive, Boalian group.

Rotozaza, an innovative company that has been making waves at the Edinburgh Festival and elsewhere, is the latest choice.


19 March 2008

Farafina Now

Farafina Vol. 12, guest edited by Akin Adesokan, carries on its Letters page a note from the hilariously named Dingwo Normality. You read it and think: someone's having a laugh. Jim McConkey (who writes about Ayi Kwei Armah), Afam Akeh, and Omowunmi Segun (read her story, Homecoming) - are among the contributors. I am also in there, with my review of the film Bamako. As is Tade Ipadeola, who in the essay, Adedibully, casts a critical eye on Lamidi Adedibu, a man who gives a bad name to the term political godfather.

In the previous edition, guest edited by Petina Gappah (and with contributions from the likes of Darrel Bristow-Bovey, Chris Abani, Kuzhali Manickavel and Tinashe Mushakavanhu) and published before the ethnic violence unleashed after contested elections in Kenya - I spotted this quote, illustrated by a misbehaving monkey. A certain Mrs Njeri expresses concern about rampaging monkeys destroying crops and killing livestock. It wouldn't have seemed possible, but soon, human beings would behave worse than the monkeys...

The IRN Awards

News Release

More than one hundred submissions were received for the first IRN collection; and, entries were highly competitive. After a rigorous assessment of all works, especially based on how well the theme of theorizing eroticism in Africa is captured, these contributors won the IRN awards for their outstanding bodies of work.

Shailja Patel: The IRN-Africa Fanny Ann Eddy Award for the poem “Screaming.” “Screaming” is striking because Patel illustrates how damage to the body is one of the many tools oppressive patriarchy uses to impose control over people who dare step away from the margins of its strictures.

Shailja Patel is a Kenyan poet, playwright and theatre artist; she has performed her work in venues ranging from New York's Lincoln Centre, to Durban's Poetry Africa Festival. Her one-woman show, Migritude, received Ford Foundation funding for a Kenyan tour, and an NPN Creation Fund Award. CNN describes Shailja as an artist "who exemplifies globalization as a people-centered phenomenon of migration and exchange."The Gulf Today (United Arab Emirates) calls her "the poetic equivalent of Arundhati Roy."

Crispin Oduobuk-Mfon Abasi: The IRN-Africa Outstanding Award in Creative Writing for the short story “Two-Step Skip.”

Two-Step Skip” is a unique narrative set in Abuja,Nigeria; it tells the story of a young gay man who arranges to secretly meet with a potential lover he meets on line. He is, however, brutally attacked and almost raped for being gay.

Crispin Oduobuk-MfonAbasi lives in Abuja, Nigeria. His work is included in Workshop Engelsk VG1 Bygg-Og Anleggsteknikk (eds. Janniche Langseth, Hege Lundgren, Jeanne Lindsay Skanke) and In Our Own Words Volume 6 (ed. Marlow Peerse Weaver), as well as several other anthologies. BBC Focus on Africa and Genevieve are some of the other markets where his work has appeared. Also, his stories have been published by East of the Web, Eclectica, Gowanus, 42Opus and other literary sites. Crispin’s "Petrovesky and Polarbywall" was named a Notable Story in the 2005 Million Writers Award. The story was also named one of the ten finalists in the 2006 Best of the Net. Moreover, his "Maiduguri Road" was named a Notable Story in the 2006 Million Writers Award.

Victor Ehikhamenor: The IRN-Africa Outstanding Award in Visual Arts. Victor's images and drawings are haunting, and leave lingering impressions; his art makes very strong statements.

Victor Ehikhamenor was born in Edo State, Nigeria. He is an artist and a writer whose works have been widely exhibited and published. He is currently an MFA fellow at the University of Maryland, College Park.

Yvette Abrahams’ essay “Your Silence Will not Protect You”: Silence, Voice and Power Moving Beyond Violence Towards Revolution in South Africa (# Khib Omsis) won the IRN-Africa Desmond Tutu Award. This award goes to the outstanding essay submitted to OUTLIERS. In this essay, Yvette offers a theoretical framework through which identity and specifically lesbian identity in Africa is theorized in ways that deconstruct preconceived ideas about feminism, patriarchy, empowerment, politics of embodiment and social activism. This essay speaks [to] both the academy and the non-academic worlds and will inevitably generate more discussions and contributions to the understanding of queerness in Africa. The strength of this essay is that none of the following, silence, protection, violence, voice, power and revolution is assumed. Instead, Yvette works us through all the steps and argues for every position she takes or do not take. “Your Silence Will Not Protect You...” enters the pantheon of classics in related subject on its own right.

Yvette Abrahams was born in Cape Town in 1963 to parents of slave and Khoekhoe descent. She grew up in exile and returned home in 1983. Since then, she has joyfully tried to practice “the constant vigilance” which she affirms is the price of freedom. She was trained as a historian, and after many years in the academia, she became the Commissioner of Gender Equality. She [got] married to a dyke on Freedom day (April 27, 2007) and now spends most of her time off the Cape Coast planting enough trees to offset two lifetimes of carbon emissions. She has no cat.

Notisha Massaquoi's essay "The Continent as a Closet: The Making of an African Queer Theory" won the IRN-Africa Audre Lorde Award.

This selected essay captures the notion of 'home', citizenship and belonging for queer immigrants and refugees. She elegantly bridges African queer identities with accounts of "complex, dynamic, and overlapping geographies while interrogating transnational subjects, their nation of origin and destinations as well as their understanding of sexual dynamics." The beauty of the essay is that both Africa as a "continent" as queer identities are revisited and re-articulated from and beyond the "intellectual landscape of academic theories and practices." The queer project she imagines functions discursively as anarrative of Africa's political history boldly resisting oppression, and embodying utopian stories and possibilities of life as queer Africans on the continent.

Notisha is originally from Sierra Leone and currently resides in Canada. She is the executive director of Women's Health in Women's Hands Community Health Center for Black women of color and a doctoral candidate at the University of Toronto. Her most recent publication is the edited Theorizing Empowerment: Canadian Perspectives on Black Feminist Thought. She is currently working on a second collection with Selby K. Thiam entitled None on Record: Stories of Queer Africa.

The IRN-Africa Simon Nkoli Award goes to Professor Femi Osofisan 's article "Wounded Eros and Cantillating Cupids: Sensuality and the Future of Nigerian Literature in the Post-Military Era."

In this essay, Professor Osofisan retraces the shifts from erotic abstract symbolism to flesh, "as breathing, living, and corporeal presence, capable of sensual desire and carnality, and vulnerable to violation" in Nigerian Literature in the post-Military era. He uncovers the ideological erotic stereotype underneath early Nigerian Literature --and pan-African Literature-- and discusses why and how the option for "full disclosure and unrestrained loquacity" has dominated the post-Military era. He also analyzes the impact of globalization and globalized "American values" and the possibility that erotic full disclosure in Literature may not escape the intrusive lenses and the probing inquisitiveness of the West. However, what is seen as "license" may itself be attributed a judgment value that is telling about our Christian upbringing, which out of misplaced zealousness, systematically expunge the vulgar. Professor Osofisan deconstructs the fortress of the insensible and embraces the new bloom and heteroglossia of wounded Eros with measured skepticism. To interrogate Eros in Nigerian Literature and African society, one must grapple with the multiplicity of subtle strategies and channels through which Eros is represented as well as the inadequacies and brutalities committed in its name. The beauty of the essay is that it not only highlights the shift from abstract symbolism to full embodiment of Eros in the post-military era in Nigeria, it also reminds us that such disclosure is not costless when the market of modernism collides with the lingering pain of humanism in our society.

Professor Femi Osofisan is a renowned African Playwright and professor of drama. He is currently in the department of Theatre Arts at the University of Ibadan where he has taught many dramatists for many years.

Sybille Ngo Nyeck and Unoma N. Azuah.
Editors, OUTLIER collection.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Anthony Minghella's Precious Film

I was invited to the premiere of The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency, held at the BFI Southbank on Tuesday 18th March. But I had to be out of town on a course that I considered ditching in order to attend the premiere of the film, based on Alexander McCall Smith's novel and starring the lovely R'n'B singer Jill Scott; and directed by Anthony Minghella, who one would ordinarily expect to see there, as well as the stars. The course won the day and I missed the event. And how sad to learn that Minghella (director of films such as Cold Mountain and The Talented Mr Ripley) died on the very day of the premiere of his 'perfect' last film. How much sadder it would have been for those who did make the event.
Earlier tonight, BBC One showed The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency - a special Easter treat. Rest in peace, Minghella.


White Easter...

The scene outside my kitchen window this morning.


Went to a good old Nigerian knees-up yesterday. It was the 40th birthday celebration of Funke Adeyemi (seen here being interviewed by MC Lady B of BEN TV as the celebrant's husband looks on). Funke's maiden name is Dele-Ojo. She is the daughter of the musician Dele Ojo, a contemporary of I.K Dairo & Ebenezer Obey. No account of the history of Nigerian music is complete without Dele Ojo's name.
This Below culled from The Guardian (Lagos): Benson Idonije on Dele Ojo
Dele Ojo... unforgettable voice of the independence era
By Benson Idonije

JUJU music took on a conventional highlife format upon independence in 1960 in a trend that was influenced by the dance band style of Emmanuel Tetteh Mensah, E. C. Arinze, Victor Olaiya, Roy Chicago among others. The late Isaiah Kehinde Dairo was perhaps, the first to be initiated with his ten-man Blue Sports Band. Along came Orlando Owoh, leader at the time, of the Omimah Band. But perhaps the artiste that helped to give authenticity to Dairo's innovation was Dele Ojo, a dynamic young singer, guitarist, composer whose popularity immediately cut across because of his unique approach.

Dairo's music though highlife-oriented still had its roots in the traditional juju format of his predecessors such as, Tunde Nightingale, Ojoge Daniel and others. This influence was more noticeable at the rhythm section level. Orlando Owoh for his own part, retained a few of these precussion instruments but placed much emphasis on congas.

Dele Ojo however, patterned his entire line-up on the big band style of prevailing highlife, using as many as three guitars to accomplish his style. The trap drums was there to deliver the highlife rhythmic effect, but what was absent was the line-up of horns which characterised the front-line section of highlife aggregations at the time in terms of trumpets, saxophones, and trombones.

Dele, boosted his ensemble sound with the assembly of singers who either provided appropriate responses to his lead vocals or created extended group vocal harmonies, which were orchestrated.

As lead guitarist, he created palmwine sounds that were in the idiom of big band highlife, and but for the absence of horns, the sound identity was highlife.

Dele's popularity soon flourished and was in great demand across Nigeria in 1963 up till the end of that decade, with a double advantage. His, easily passed for a highlife band as well as juju music outfit, and was often engaged by clients who required both sound identities, even though, highlife gave him a more national acclaim.

Another strong point in his favour was the fact that as a highlife-oriented Juju band, he sang both in Yoruba and English. And because he started out as a teacher before veering into the music profession, the English versions of his highlife were articulately done, among them, I Don't Know Why She Loves Me. Bouncing Bona and Christiana which also made hits as singles on Philips recording label. His music was enjoyed across the length and breadth of Nigeria and abroad.

He was invited on a tour of Britain before the end of the decade of the sixties. And there, he had many shows lined up for him. He did not only thrill Nigerian communities in Great Britain, he also endeared himself to Britons and other foreigners who hailed him as the king of highlife.

Upon his return from his first English tour, he made the hit record, Ilu Oyinbo Dara in which he extolled the virtues of England in terms of life and living. But one of the benefits of this hit record was Dele's revelation of the hardships that Nigerian students suffered in England at the time. The information was quite useful to parents whose children were in London as well as those who were yet to send their wards abroad.

Dele also made a tour of the United States of America, which was very successful. The second tour which took him round more states of America was even more rewarding in that bookings now came from American entertainment agents who exposed him to the international scene.

This incredible success lured him back to America where he decided to stay for many years and making hit records. But by the time he came home in the seventies to settle down, the music scene had changed. Juju music had taken over from highlife, and Ebenezer Obey and Sunny Ade were now dominating the scene. Besides, while in America, some of his boys who became home-sick deserted him. He therefore found it difficult to regroup as he got back. And when he eventually did, he could not achieve the same artistic results from the new replacements.

Actually, the odds against him were not just many, they were overwhelming. Highlife was essentially a nightclub type of music; and before he travelled he played at Ibadan and Lagos at certain designated clubs which his fans found suitable in terms of comfort and location. All that was no more as the pattern had changed with the ascendance of Juju music whose exponents were mainly hired to play at parties and at venues of the choice of the hirers. And to make matters worse, his music no longer appealed to his fans whose musi-cultural perception had now altered sympathy with changing trends, with a natural preference for Ebenezer Obey and Sunny Ade whose music were then taking on all the elements of urban social music.

Fusing highlife and juju with their own individual approaches, the music was executed with modern instruments, which passed through high voltage amplification to make dancing irresistible.

When Dele eventually got his sound identity right with the recruitment of new musicians, he figured that what he was losing from the absence of live engagements, he could gain from studio recording whose sales had brought him enormous profit in the past. He then recorded an album titled Gele Odun which did not do well in the market. He miscalculated. He was wrong.

However, Dele Ojo and his Star Brothers Band played highlife at its best; and will continue to be remembered for the role they played in the development of highlife in the early years of Nigerian independence in the sixties.

Born in 1940 at Ilara-Akure in Ondo State, Dele showed keen interest in music from elementary school, leading the school band at age 15. He became a school teacher, in 1959 but because of his love for music, he relocated to Lagos and joined the Victor Olaiya's All Stars Band as a trumpet player. He also sang and played guitar for his artistic development. This experience however, paid off when the second set for which he played trumpet disbanded, rendering him jobless. He immediately took advantage of the popularity of the juju music to form a band with his highlife background.

In these days of re-issue where old works are suddenly coming into the limelight. Dele's wide and extensive repetoire would be well received. He started his recording career with Badejo Records owned by Badejo Okusanya, one of the oldest indigenous recording stables in Nigeria. But it was with Philips Records, an international company that he really did business as a recording artiste.

Apart from I Don't Know Why She Loves Me, Bouncing Bora and Christiana which he did in English, some of his hit singles include Opon Aiye, Eni afe Lamo, Aiye Soro, Owo, Abanije Enia, To ba raiye Je, Dele Mbo, Igba Eda, among others.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Fly Girl

This is Sade Adeniran photographed by the blogger at Goldsmiths College, London, on 13 March 2008 at the 'On Whose Terms' conference. Earlier that day in Kampala, she had been announced as this year's Africa Regional winner of the Best First Book (it was an all-Nigerian affair, as Karen King-Aribisala also won the Regional Best Book Prize for her novel, 'The Hangman's Game). This, for a debut novel, Imagine This, that she self-published. Things could have been a whole lot worse. Earlier last week my interview with Sade Adeniran was published on BBC Africa Beyond. Excerpt below.
Sade Adeniran, talking about the her road to (self) publishing.

Where to start? The manuscript took 5 years to write and when I finished, I gave it to friends and acquaintances to read. Their feedback gave me the courage to submit to publishers. I did this with little success, however some of the replies were encouraging. I figured I needed a new strategy; so I went into self-publishing. I remember reading about GP Taylor who self-published, then got a book deal. I thought, that could be me. I knew nothing about the business; I was just focused on getting the book out. So I got myself an ISBN number, found a printer, learnt about book formats and paper, got an editor and proof-reader and cajoled a friend into designing not only the book but also my website.
That was the easy bit. Getting 'Imagine This' into bookshops was a Herculean task that I never managed to solve. So I called up Independent bookshops like Crockatt & Powell, Mr B’s Emporium of Reading Delights and The Pan Bookshop (before it closed). After seeing the finished product and reading 'Imagine This', C&P and Mr B’s ordered copies and are pushing the book. It's available on Amazon; and you can place orders for copies from WH Smiths, Borders and Waterstones.

The John La Rose Memorial Short Story Competition

Grainy images tell their own tales too... My friend snapping the moment with my camera was too far away in the audience to get a clear image. Here's me being presented as the winner of the John La Rose Memorial Short Story Competition - at the 'On Whose Terms Conference, Goldsmith's College, London on 13 March 2008. The presentation was made by Sarah White (on the podium) and to the left in blue is Dr Margaret Busby OBE, chair of the panel of judges of the competition. Other judges were: R. Victoria Arana (of Howard University, USA), Kadija George (publisher of Sable Litmag) & novelist Courttia Newland. I won £150, 3 months free subscription to the New Nation newspaper and publication of the winning story - "Written in Stone" in Sable Litmag.

The Presentation

Dr Deirdre Osborne, organiser of the On Whose Terms Conference on the short story, founded this year in memory of John La Rose

"My sincere thanks to Sarah White and the trustees of the George Padmore Institute for agreeing that it was indeed fitting to put together a short story competition in his memory."

Sarah White on John La Rose and the competition

"I was John La Rose’s partner for 41 years [audience claps]. John was a poet, a publisher, a cultural and political activist. He was born in Trinidad in 1927 and came to England in 1961. He founded New Beacon Books in 1966, and was a co-founder with Kamau Braithwaite and Andrew Salkey of the Caribbean Artist Movement that same year. Over the years he was a leading member of numerous important organisations including the Caribbean Education in Community Workers Association, The Black Parents Movement, The Committee for the Release of Political Prisoners from Kenya, the New Cross Massacre Action Committee, and the International Book Fair of Radical Black and Third World Books. In 1991 he founded the George Padmore Instititute, a library, archive and educational resource centre of black material – Black British materials. He had wide international contacts and always kept in close touch with Trinidad... He died 2 years ago, in 2006. I am sure John would have been delighted to have a short story award in his name. Though he himself did not write short stories, or novels for that matter, he did enjoy reading them, and he valued highly the craft they entailed. In the 2 volumes of New Beacon Reviews, a critical journal which he published and edited in the 1980s, he always insisted on including a short story. John himself was a poet and essayist, and a very careful wordsmith, spending long hours fine-tuning his writing. Such skills are also needed for short story writing to portray a scene, an idea or a relationship – and then to be able to develop and bring it to a conclusion in the limited space available... He’d have been very appreciative of the skills that are needed for short story writing."

Margaret Busby OBE on the judging

“Of course we wanted to bear in mind that the winning story had to have some element of the ideals of John La Rose.”

[She recommended
the George Padmore Institute website for those wanting to know more about the ideals of John La Rose.]

“Eventually we decided to come up with a list that we thought represented the best of the stories submitted and what we were looking for in the stories was that, first of all, well crafted with a compelling beginning, middle and end; but also that they had stimulating, exciting writing style, interesting idea and some sort of imagination – and again relevant to John’s ideals. So we came up with a list of 10 stories we would put forward as highly commended and out of those 10 we’d choose the winner. Those stories were:
  1. Written in Stone - by Molara Wood
  2. Bam Bai Ah Go See Yam - by Kela Francis
  3. Shades - by Nancy Downie
  4. Metaphor of Locusts - by Richard Ugbede Ali
  5. Hope's Acceptance - by Kobina Graham
  6. The Sacred Lake - by Unoma N. Azuah
  7. The Seven Thirty-Eight - by Jamien Nagadhana
  8. Kernig's Sign - by Niran Okewole
  9. Maude Hastings - by Yewande Omotoso
  10. The Wedding - by Ayla El Assad"

Sarah White (making the presentation)

"I am very happy to congratulate the winner out of those 10 and that is Molara Wood, for “Written in Stone”. I have read the story, I think it was excellent."
[She thanked Deirdre Osborne “for all the work she’s done” and thanked the judges.]

Accepting, I said...
"In this story, there’s a woman who has been sidelined by history and in the narrative her voice comes through very, very strongly. And, not only is she insisting that her story be told, she is setting the terms under which that story should be told... I’m really, really glad that the judges felt for it. I’d like to thank the panel of judges and I’m really, really honoured to be getting this in memory of John La Rose. Thank you."

Animal's People in A Golden Age

Regional Winners of the 2008 Commonwealth Writers' Prize (Europe & South Asia)

From the Press Release

Professor Makarand Paranjape, Chair of Judges, comments:

"The competition for the best book was stiff, but Animal's People by Indra Sinha won out in the end for its fiercely original, zesty style, coupled with seriousness of theme and intent.

For the best first book, A Golden Age by Tahmima Anam, an evocative and sensitive narration of the creation of Bangladesh through the life of a courageous and unconventional mother, emerged as the winner.

Humane, compassionate, and consistently impressive in their use of language and technique, telling of major historical events through the viewpoints of underprivileged but resolute protagonists, both books are, ultimately, stories of survival and hope. This is why I believe they will appeal to a wide variety of readers."

The announcement of the two winners took place at Goldsmiths, University of London. Upon winning his award, Indra Sinha, who was recently shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2007 for Animal's People, commented:

"It's a great honour. I am delighted for Animal and his friends".

Tahmima Anam, whose first book A Golden Age won the Best First Book Award, commented:

"I'm absolutely thrilled at this news; over the years, many of my most cherished authors have been winners of the Commonwealth Prize, and I'm deeply honored to have been given the chance to be counted among them. I'm particularly proud to be representing my country as the first regional winner from Bangladesh."

  • Images © MW

Vanessa Gebbie's Book Launch

Vanessa Gebbie, winner of the 2nd Annual Per Contra Prize (2008) and other writing awards too numerous to mention here just now, launched her short story collection, Words from a Glass Bubble at the Foundling Museum, London, on Tuesday March 11. It was my first time at the Foundling Museum, which started life in the 18th Century as a hospital for abandoned children. Its historic surroundings with priceless works of art was a fitting setting for the launch of a book by the author, who herself was given up for adoption at birth. The book is dedicated to the memory of a late friend, Jan Newton, who was also an adopted child. Newton’s husband was in the gathering at the Foundling Museum. As was Maggie Gee, whose blurb has pride of place on the front cover of Words from a Glass Bubble, above the image of the charmed girl hopping gaily down a bending road.
Also there on the night was London-based Elaine Chiew who was a finalist of the Per Contra Prize this year. Vanessa Gebbie, Elaine and I – along with several other international writers – are participants in a collaborative fiction project across borders presently. But it was Vanessa’s night, and Elaine and I jostled discreetly and atimes not so discreetly with the literary crowd all night to get our own words in with the author; and to get our copies of the book autographed.
Wine flowed with conversation but all fell silent when Gebbie got on a square podium in one end of the grand room to read from her book. An attentive, standing audience formed a crescent around her as she read the title story (a multiple award winner) , read all
the way through in 2 sessions.
I left the museum after this first time knowing I’ll be revisiting sometime soon. On the tube home I forgot my current reading and dipped into Words from a Glass Bubble instead. The shortish Yellow Birds, Beaks Open, narrated by the friend of a drug addict, was finished before I emerged on the other end. And the bedside reading later that night, was the title story read by the author earlier.

Words from a Glass Bubble is published by
Salt. Vanessa Gebbie is the judge of the 2008 Fish One-Page Story Prize. Visit her blog.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Conference: On Whose Terms?

"On Whose Terms? Critical Negotiations in Black British Literature and the Arts"

  • 13-14 March 2008, Goldsmiths, University of London

A Message of Goodwill

I am glad to know that a selection of my poems is being presented today in Mexico. I would very much have loved to be present. It would have been like going home away from home if you recall some opinion polls which claim that Mexicans and Nigerians share some very strong traits. Thanks to the new technologies, to ICT, I am truly glad to be able to speak to you from Lagos at short notice. It is not the same as being present. But it is the closest to being with you in person.

The new technologies throw bridges across the world as poetry has striven to bridge the hearts and minds across time and space - from generation to generation - bringing people together to share common sensibilities and a common morality. It is my hope that this little collection, Ninos del estero, will say something to Mexicans and the Spanish speaking world in a way that strikes cords of thriving empathies.

Thankfully, my translator is the best I could have got. Every Spanish speaker who has encountered Maria Baranda's translations has marvelled at the proficiency of the performance. To have the luck of being translated by such a wonderful poet is like winning an award. I do feel like a prize winner. To crown my luck, we have a daring publisher who has put services to artistic value above immediate commercial success.Poetry continues to enjoy a rootedness in the world because of such great souls. They are saving a risk for culture upon which human civilization depends.

Our publisher, Mala Vida, deserves applause: as does Maria Antonieta Flores, the Venezuelan poet whose words and interpretations have preceded me into several Latin American countries. I want to thank her and all of you present for taking poetry seriously enough to stand by one poet from very far away. I see your fine gesture as a challenge to continue doing what poetry has done down the ages: to seek to purify language, enhance music in speech, and sustain the sisterhood of all tongues.

Although I cannot be with you in person, I see your presentation as an early but special gift on my 58th birthday which comes up 16th March, 2008. I am highly indebted to you all. I salute your love of poetry and your goodwill towards a mere maker of metaphors.

May you have a good road under every sky.

Odia Ofeimun

(8th March, 2008)

  • Message sent by the poet to the presentation of the Spanish translation of his "Children of the Creeks" - held today at the El Palacio de Cortés in Cuanavaca, Mexico.