Writings of the general word's body
Monday, March 31, 2008
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.
- 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.
- 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 The winner of the prize (to be given for unpublished plays) will work with an experienced director to bring the play to production.
- 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.
- 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.
- And there's me, MW.
- 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
Monday, March 24, 2008
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.
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 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...
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
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
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.
"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."
[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:
- Written in Stone - by Molara Wood
- Bam Bai Ah Go See Yam - by Kela Francis
- Shades - by Nancy Downie
- Metaphor of Locusts - by Richard Ugbede Ali
- Hope's Acceptance - by Kobina Graham
- The Sacred Lake - by Unoma N. Azuah
- The Seven Thirty-Eight - by Jamien Nagadhana
- Kernig's Sign - by Niran Okewole
- Maude Hastings - by Yewande Omotoso
- The Wedding - by Ayla El Assad"
Sarah White (making the presentation)
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, 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.
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
- 13-14 March 2008, Goldsmiths, University of London
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.
(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.
Nene, my cousin, called the gossip session the real meeting. I watched her closely as she mingled with the other women. I noticed for the first time how bony her hand was, how all the veins that ought to have been covered with healthy flesh stood out like the drawing of a school child. But Nene was not an old woman. It was too much hard work that had aged her. As the bread winner, she supported her family with sales of akara and other petty goods. As in my own case, her husband had left her for the world beyond.
“Are you all right?” I asked Nene after she had disentangled herself from the other women and we were making our way home.
“I am all right,” she said, laughing.
But there was something in the sound, something hidden, which troubled me. Near the village square Nene let it out: “I think Nsima has joined the Ibok Youth Movement.”
She said it quickly, as though the words scalded her tongue, spat the words out as one would spit out hot yam. And she did not look at me.
- Read Playing Games.
But to see Johnson as a one-time radical turned national treasure is not quite accurate. Witness the Sun newspaper's distaste after his appearance on the Today programme last year, during which listeners were "subjected for nearly five minutes to the thoughts of the 'reggae poet', as his publishers call him, Linton Kwesi Johnson, whose most famous words are: 'England is a bitch.' Johnson came out with a rant about racism then proclaimed that, in his view, England was still 'a bitch'."
In any case, to focus on whether or not Johnson has earned the approval of either the political or cultural establishments is to miss the point. That they have taken note of him, he says, "is great. But they recognise me, not the other way round. Some black and Caribbean poets seek a kind of validation from these arbiters of British taste. But they really didn't exist for me. I was coming from a position of cultural autonomy. I did my own thing, built my own audience and established my own base. My audience was ordinary people."
- A life in writing - Linton Kwesi Johnson in today's Guardian Review.
The emphasis is on quality artwork and narration. Congolese artists are amongst the best today and if you need to see their works, google one of the following names:
- Barly Baruti
- Oubrerie & Abouet (Aya de Yupougon)
- Pat Masioni (Rwanda 1994 Vol. 1 & 2)
- Hallain Paluku (Missy)
- Pahe (Bitam)
Religious bigotry, tedious moralising, sexism, racism, pornography, provincialism, men in tights, flying superheroes, ramboism, homophobia, etc. should be avoided. Think of a narrative that can cross geographic and cultural borders and be understood in Mongolia, Botswana and Guam (you don’t have to water it down to make it accessible).
If you need any references from Nigeria, think about the great works by Amos Tutuola, Wole Soyinka, Chinua Achebe, Ben Okri, Chris Abani, Chimamanda Adichie and Helon Habila. Think of the music of Fela Kuti, Keziah Jones and Lagbaja. Check out Seth Tobocman’s ‘The curse of Nakedness’ which was inspired by the mess in the Niger Delta.
There are no technical limitations. Black and white or colour illustrations are accepted and works should be at least 36 pages long.
Scan (low definition obviously) about 4 pages of your graphic novel and forward it to firstname.lastname@example.org as soon as possible.
Francis M Bissong
PS: Spam merchants and 419ers should stay away. There’s no advance fee here.