Writings of the general word's body

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Gappah in Granta

Petina Gappah has a few choice words, or barbs you might call them, for South African President Thabo Mbeki, in the online section of the new and improved Granta website. No one needs reminding that Mbeki has been playing his tired old role, as an unmoving supporter of Zimbabwe's despot Robert Mugabe. In the South African leader's words, there is no crisis in the land of Zim. Is Mbeki living on this same planet, I hear you ask? Apparently not. Anyway, whatever the cause of the strange affliction somewhat akin to blindness, Gappah reminds Mbeki of a few chinks eating away at his own psyche's armour - as we would say in Naija, she showed him the holes in his trousers - then she tells him to bugger off and help elsewhere. Super.

Excerpt from An Open Letter to Thabo Mbeki
If I may digress a little, Mr Mbeki, it is not far from many people’s minds that you rather envy Mr Mugabe. Only your country’s iron-clad constitution, its tight bonds to international capital, its vigilant and frankly rabid press, and the naked ambition of the men and women around you prevent you from embracing the joys of geriatric dictatorship. You cannot be Mr Mugabe, Mr Mbeki, but you have been his body man and his handmaid. You have aided him in his misrule, you have provided cover for him before the world, you have blocked the will of the majority of Zimbabweans who have a different vision for their country.

You are human, Mr Mbeki, and are therefore prey to the resentments and obstinacies that plague the mere mortal. There was that
HIV-does-not-cause-Aids brouhaha, wasn’t there, and the whole ARV saga, where you had to cave in to pressure and go along with a policy you did not support. Then there is the more recent Polokwane putsch by ballot – democracy is a bitch, isn’t it, Mr Mbeki? You are probably still seething because Jacob Zuma, a man whom you consider unfit to govern, may very soon move into the seat you currently occupy in Union Building. And of course, there are those unflattering comparisons to your predecessor, Nelson Mandela. History has wedged you between a saint and a satyr, Mr Mbeki; it must be really hard to be you.

What a splendid insult! Petina Gappah's open letter recalls Shailja Patel's one to another dastardly fellow during the recent Kenya crisis.

Monday, April 21, 2008

New Gong Anthology

"We, not foreigners, must be the judges of whether or not a particular book has told us something we need to know about our evolving tragedy – flawed elections admitted to even by the victors, an ex-president alleged to have slept with his daughter-in-law, two hours of electricity a day despite billions of dollars expended – except that we have bought into the notion that the real world happens elsewhere, and that what we think and feel are of no account. In other words, we believe in our own mediocrity, which is why, for instance, the established Nigerian publishing houses have signally failed to follow where the writers have led and are content instead to continue churning out sloppily edited textbooks for a guaranteed local market.
It was with this in mind that The New Gong was launched in 2005: to provide an indigenous platform for new Nigerian writing that made no excuses in terms of editorial values. We believe we have made a modest start in that regard but we wanted to extend it further by showcasing in a single volume the range of good writing coming out of Nigeria, hence this anthology. We simply put out the word and selected from the best that came in without regard to gender, theme or any of the other ‘smelly little orthodoxies’ which finally make a mockery of the thing itself. The reader will judge for themselves how far we have succeeded in our self-imposed task."

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Chinua Achebe @ Princeton

"In the Q/A period, Achebe was asked about the state of contemporary Nigerian literature, whether there are any young writers he considers of promise. To which he responded that yes, indeed, there is important work coming out today. But he would not mention any specific names, because according to him, "it is not fair" to do so. You could almost hear in him the sentiments of a proud father of many accomplished children being asked in public to name his favorite child! Wisdom is an immense gift."

Unoma Azuah @ Queens University

Poet and novelist Unoma Azuah was at Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada recently to discuss her work as an African writer in the US. Author of the novel, Sky-High Flames, Azuah was at Queen’s as a guest lecturer/writer from 24th to 27th March. Her three days at the institution included a one hour poetry reading and discussions with international students at the international center. In the Contemporary Women Writers’ class, she read excerpts from her forthcoming collection of short stories, ‘The Length of Light’. Dean of students and class lecturer, Jason Laker, joined students' discussions about the themes of the stories.
In the Women’s Studies Department, Azuah participated in a talk about Anais Nin, particularly the place of Nin’s journals as a mine for feminist theory. Also up for discussion were: trauma, artistic forms, woman as artist, and writing the body. Class lecturer Professor Jane Tolmie argued that Anais Nin’s journals portrayed a life full of “games” – including the theatre of the everyday as well as sex games. Students shared their own insights during the session, raising questions about Nin’s and Azuah’s writings.
The visiting writer was also hosted by Professor Marc Epprecht of the Department of Global Studies. At the Van Righ Center (famous for its tradition of encouraging women’s achievement), Azuah gave a talk on issues of Emergent Sexuality in Nigerian, focussing on the Nollywood movie industry as well as the works of writers like Promise Ogochukwu, Jude Dibia and Lola Shoneyin.
All the time at Queen’s, Unoma Azuah shared with students her writings and insights into the life of an immigrant writer in North America; finding time along the way to sign copies of Sky-High Flames for students.
  • Images © Zanele Muholi (Ryerson University, Toronto)

New Read

In Lauri Kubuitsile's story, God's Command, white Adele has run over a young black girl named Mphoentle. Adele will discover that she shares more in common with the dead child's poor mother than can be expressed. Meanwhile, a young priest has his own interesting ideas about God's role in the whole sorry business.

The policeman snatches her passport from her hand. “You’ll not be going anywhere anytime soon,” he snarls at her. She tells him a story that puts her in the best light, no searching for lip balm in hand bags, but still he’s not happy.
“So you say you were going 40?” he asks, one side of his lip rose in disgust. She was a Boer, same as all of them. He hates her just as she expects him to.
She doesn’t hear him at first; she is watching another police officer lift the tiny body, now covered with a sheet onto the back of the bakkie. Only her small feet hang out. She wears the clunky black school shoes and white ankle socks of all of the school girls. Her mind drifts to her own daughter safely at school wearing the same shoes, the same socks. But then she thinks- even this girl’s mother believes that her daughter is safely at school. She has faith that all is well. A faith that will mock her with her ignorance when she finds out the truth in the matter.
Her husband, Johanne, comes up. “So are we done then, Boss?” his booming voice tampers down the policeman’s authority.
“Yes, she can go. But I’m keeping the passport. Don’t go anywhere.” He is not happy; the game is over too soon for his appetite.
They climb into the vehicle and they turn towards home. “Bloody Kaffir!” her husband spits. “Stupid picaninny jumps in the road and they want to blame you! Who the hell does he think he is? Just shows what idiots they are.” He looks at his wife staring blankly out the window and he becomes quiet. “Are you okay? “ He rubs her thigh with his big, red hand.


Published a tad belatedly, Crossroads (Apex Books, Lagos) is a new anthology of poetry in honour of Christopher Okigbo on the 40th anniversary of his death. Co-edited by Patrick Tagbo Oguejiofor and Uduma Kalu, Crossroads is introduced by critic E.E Sule and has a foreword by Isidore Okpewho. The late poet's daughter, the artist Obiageli Ibrahimat Okigbo is one of over 120 contributors (Nigerian poets at home and in the diaspora) in the anthology; she also did the cover design. Originally intended for publication in time for last September's Okigbo Conference in Boston, the anthology will now get its public presentation at a special reading in Abuja, to be attended by Okigbo's widow, Sefinat Judith Attah.

Zim in Verse

From Poetry International:

“A different window on Zimbabwe”
A Special Focus during the Poetry International Festival

“Zimbabwe is a country of poets. Zimbabweans write poetry, speak it and sing it in Shona, Ndebele, Tonga, Shangaan and other minority languages; we have poetry in English, praise, performance, oratorical, and declamatory poetry. Perhaps as many as one in six people writes poetry or takes pleasure from trying to do so.”

Poetry is important in Zimbabwe. During the 39th Poetry International Festival, Poetry International – in collaboration with and supported by Hivos-NCDO Culture Fund– is paying special attention to one of the most talked-about domains on PIW. Despite the political and economic circumstances in the country, each publication in the online magazine is rich in wonderful poets and excellent translations, accompanied by essays and interviews. In response to the question of how a troubled country like Zimbabwe is capable of presenting such a wealth of poetry, country editor Irene Staunton said: ‘The world knows only one window on Zimbabwe: cruelty, violence and corruption. Poetry International Web allows us to open a different window, so the world can also see our culture, our wealth and our poetry.’ During the festival, Poetry International is zooming in on Zimbabwe with a varied programme full of poetry, interviews, performance, music and film, showing the wealth and possibilities of the international website, which reaches far beyond any political border.

We invite you to discover the poetry of Zimbabwe during the 39th Poetry International Festival, on Tuesday June 10th. The event will feature an interview with editor, Irene Staunton. This will be followed by poetry readings by a young poet whose work, according to Irene Staunton, represents ‘a new and powerful voice in the canon of Zimbabwean poetry’, Togara Muzanenhamo. Samm Farai Monro, aka Comrade Fatso, will offer musical and slam-poetry intermezzos, accompanied by the guitarist of his band, Chabvondoka. He characterizes his poetry as ‘Toyi Toyi poetry, urban street poetry that mixes Shona with English, mbira with hip hop, poetry with the struggle to survive.’ Apart from ‘new’ poetry, there will also be PIW exclusives of yet unpublished works by well-known poets, Charles Mungoshi and Julius Chingono, both guests at previous Poetry International Festivals.

During the festival there will be a screening of the low budget movie ‘ZIMBABWE’ by South African filmmaker Darrell James Roodt. The film is described as a painful and topical drama about illegal labour migration from Zimbabwe to South Africa; seen through the eyes of a 19-year-old orphan girl.

Prior to the festival you can find a taster of Zimbabwean poetry on Poetry International. Here you’ll find biographical information, essays and other articles about the poets mentioned above, and, of course, their poetry in its original language and in English translation. The Zimbabwe programme in the Rotterdam City Theatre will be broadcast live on PIW. You will receive regular festival updates via our newsletter.

39th Poetry International Festival Rotterdam, 7-13 June
Tuesday, June 10th, 21.15 hrs, Rotterdam City Theatre

Sunday, April 06, 2008

'Goodbye Lucille' - Best 1st Book

2005 Caine winner and author of the short story collection A Life Elsewhere, Segun Afolabi, last week won this year's Authors' Club Best First Novel Award for his debut novel Goodbye Lucille, published this month in Vintage paperback. Afolabi collected the £1000 award at The Arts Club in London's Mayfair. Chair of judges, writer & publisher Carmen Callil, said of Afolabi, "His voice reaches out and after I read Goodbye Lucille it lingered in my thoughts. I'm sure he will go on to make a big contribution to literature."

Excerpt from Goodbye Lucille
‘This highway, where my parents died. They were driving the same way. Look! Look at that man!’ I pointed. A Medusa-haired wanderer meandered along the centre of the road, naked. He carried no belongings. The filthy matted hair that hung down his back and face seemed his only accessory. The driver braked and swerved to avoid him. As we overtook him we could see his skin, painted with dust. His mouth moved rapidly.

Calling Southern African Women Writers

Lauri Kubuitsile is editing a new anthology of short stories by Southern African women writers on the theme of 'Bed'.
And so to bed... See the call for submissions below.

Modjaji Books, the exciting new publisher for women in Southern Africa, is inviting submissions for its upcoming short story anthology. We want innovative stories that define the world from a woman’s perspective.

The topic for the anthology is “BED”. What does it mean to you? Memories of cosy bedtime stories, sterile beds in hospitals, or that sexy bed where a lover waits…

You tell us! We’re waiting to hear from you!

Send us your best, unpublished story before 31st July, 2008 to

For more information about Modjaji Books check out the


1. Stories should be between 3000 and 5000 words.
2. Stories should be unpublished.
3. The story should somehow involve the theme of BED.
4. All entrants must be women and citizens of a Southern African country (countries include: Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Moçambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia, and Zimbabwe)
5. Entries should be sent by email only to
modjaj@gmail.com. Send either as Word attachments or in the body of the email.
6. The entry should have page numbers and the title of the story on each page.
7. The following details should be at the end of the story:

  • Full name of writer
  • Postal address
  • Email address
  • Telephone number
  • Short biography of not more than 300 words

8. Writers of selected stories will receive royalties and five author copies of the book.
9. Confirmation of receipt of story will be sent to all entrants.

One World

Here's something that's getting a whole bunch of people pretty excited right now, me included. The 'One World Anthology. For now, I'll leave the talking to Vanessa Gebbie who's blogged about it. There's also a dedicated blog for the project, which also has its own MySpace site.

Chimamanda in London

Catch Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Orange Prize winning author of Purple Hibiscus & Half of a Yellow Sun in London tomorrow 7th April. Details on the flyer (left)