Writings of the general word's body

Monday, June 30, 2008

Sulaiman Addonia reads in London today

Eritrean-born Sulaiman Addonia reads from his debut novel, The Consequences of Love (published 3 July by Chatto & Windus), tonight at:
The Victoria Library
160 Buckingham Palace Road
London SW1W 9UD
(nearest tube: Victoria Station)
Date: Monday 30 June 2008
Time: 6.30-7.30pm
About the book:
Set in Saudi Arabia in 1989, The Consequences of Love is a story about the price of pursuing true love in one of the most repressive societies in the world. Naser is a 20 year-old Eritrean immigrant forced to live in Saudi Arabia because of the troubles in his homeland. Like most migrant workers, his every move is watched by the religious police and his every waking hour is punctuated by the shrill sermons of the blind cleric who runs the local mosque. But one day hope springs forth into this misery as a note drops into Naser's lap. It is that most sacrilegious of things, a note from a woman. 'I have been in love with you for a year, since the first time I saw you.' Against all the forces of his world – religion, police and state – Naser pursues true love knowing that detection will lead to the direst of consequences.

  • Watch the author discuss the novel here.

Monday, June 23, 2008

New Reads

Emmanuel Sigauke has a story in the SNReview. Mopane Whips looks at the side-effects of war on the damaged psyche of young men in the community. One such man, Mukoma, has a rather disturbing fondness for beating and chasing his younger 'brother' all over town.
Instead of fetching a Mopane whip, I went to a Mubondo tree. I thought Mubondo whips were more painful—they looked so—than the Mopane. But boy was I wrong when I returned to Mukoma with the fairly long and fat whip, which I knew was ready to greet my bottom. Mukoma didn’t have to say anything in response. One look on his face told me to go back to the usual Mopane. Mopane whips were just killers, so painful you often wondered whether they had just been created to be weapons of pain. And indeed, Chari, whose father, another man who had not joined the war but told everyone he was a comrade, beat him often as well, had confirmed that Mopane was just for the purpose of straightening bad boys like me. He told me he was not bad; his father whipped him to put Mopane trees to use. But I did not agree with him. We also used Mopani for other things, especially firewood. I liked Mopane wood fire, but hated the burn of the whip on my bottom.

I returned, whip in hand, approaching Mukoma slowly. He was waiting, smoking some tobacco wrapped in a piece of newspaper. The cigarette packs he had brought from South Africa were gone by now, and he had taken to smoking this tobacco that made him twist his body with each pull, then bulged his lips excessively. I walked, slower, but determined to hand him the whip; soon this—the beating itself—would be over, and I would put salted water on my wound and then go to collect the goats and enclose them in their pen. But something in me told me not to keep walking, so I stopped.
Things Fall Apart Reloaded
In the year of the fiftieth anniversary of Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie has a new short story, The Headstrong Historian, which reimagines the arrival of white colonialists' in Igbo society from a woman-centred perspective.
The day the white men visited her clan, Nwamgba left the pot she was about to put in her oven, took Anikwenwa and her girl apprentices, and hurried to the square. She was at first disappointed by the ordinariness of the two white men; they were harmless-looking, the color of albinos, with frail and slender limbs. Their companions were normal men, but there was something foreign about them, too: only one spoke Igbo, and with a strange accent. He said that he was from Elele, the other normal men were from Sierra Leone, and the white men from France, far across the sea. They were all of the Holy Ghost Congregation, had arrived in Onicha in 1885, and were building their school and church there. Nwamgba was the first to ask a question: Had they brought their guns, by any chance, the ones used to destroy the people of Agueke, and could she see one? The man said unhappily that it was the soldiers of the British government and the merchants of the Royal Niger Company who destroyed villages; they, instead, brought good news. He spoke about their god, who had come to the world to die, and who had a son but no wife, and who was three but also one. Many of the people around Nwamgba laughed loudly. Some walked away, because they had imagined that the white man was full of wisdom. Others stayed and offered cool bowls of water.

Weeks later, Ayaju brought another story: the white men had set up a courthouse in Onicha where they judged disputes. They had indeed come to stay. For the first time, Nwamgba doubted her friend. Surely the people of Onicha had their own courts. The clan next to Nwamgba’s, for example, held its courts only during the new yam festival, so that people’s rancor grew while they awaited justice. A stupid system, Nwamgba thought, but surely everyone had one. Ayaju laughed and told Nwamgba again that people ruled others when they had better guns. Her son was already learning about these foreign ways, and perhaps Anikwenwa should, too. Nwamgba refused. It was unthinkable that her only son, her single eye, should be given to the white men, never mind the superiority of their guns.

Jhumpa Lahiri

There was a profile of Jhumpa Lahiri, hot favourite for the Frank O'Connor Prize for her second short story collection 'Unaccustomed Earth, in Saturday's Review section of the UK Guardian (the paper recently devoted its 'In Praise Of...' editorial segment to Lahiri).

Her first story collection, Interpreter of Maladies (1999), which she finished not long after turning 30, won a string of awards that culminated in the Pulitzer prize for fiction. Her first novel, The Namesake (2003),was also well received and became a US bestseller; a less wellreceived film of it by Mira Nair was released in 2006. Her marriage in Calcutta in 2001 to Alberto Vourvoulias-Bush, a Guatemalan-American journalist, was given Hollywood-scale coverage by the local media, complete with paparazzi shots. And - unusually, to say the least, for a serious piece of writing, let alone a story collection -her new book, Unaccustomed Earth, went straight to the top of the New York Times fiction bestseller list.One of the things that make Lahiri's success in the marketplace all the more surprising is her lack of interest in either charming her readers with exoticism or dazzling them with a slick style. Unflashily written, long, almost grave in tone, her new stories patiently accumulate detail, only gradually building up a powerful emotional charge.

Holding back the years

Here's a picture that came out of the printers from day one with a decidedly nostalgic hue, as though it knew it'd be held up someday in the future so its subject could reminisce about her younger self.

Yes, here's MW as photographed in Lagos (in the Jibowu/Fadeyi area, I think), Nigeria, on 18th June 1996. 12 years ago, and how physically transformed I am. I remember this top which I matched on the day with my flowy linen trousers in the same beige colour. The dainty 'aspirant-pearl' earrings were a favourite of mine then (they are now lying forlorn at the bottom of a box cluttered with pieces of old costume jewellery tarnished with age and time, which I no longer wear but still do not have the heart to throw away, having such strong attachment to items from my past...). As for the bag, peeking from under my left arm, it is long gone, either to relatives in Nigeria or to a charity shop. But I remember it served me faithfully for several years. I had bought it in Warehouse, in the black/white snake-print that was all the rage in the mid-90s (actually, looking on the streets of London now, it's plain to see the skin look is back - when did it ever go away, fashion looping over and over upon itself? - only this time it's mainly the warmed gold/brown big-cats/tiger imitation look).

This is the kind of picture I come across in the flat and I go: "Aww... look at me!" And I stare open-mouthed and wide-eyed as one grasping for one's old self lost somewhere in time but frozen in the image for posterity. Then I address the empty air: "Ah, where have all the years gone?" It's usually at this point that my kids give each other a knowing look that says: "Here we go again!"

My personal aesthetic is more or less the same as in this photo. One difference is my hair. I have not relaxed/straightened my hair since 2001 and I've never looked back. Throughout the 90s however, I wore my hair in varying lengths of this chic bob, graduated at the back, with warm highlights in front. I was a devil with the curling tong; and being blessed with very thick hair, my hair often astonished people who usually thought it had to be a wig. I'd be at a party, my hair styled to the hilt and some female would touch the graduated part and, finding no seams, would exclaim: "Ehn, it's not a wig?!" Looking at some old pictures now, especially the ones with the 'big' party hair, I have to remind myself also, that it's not a wig. Happily, on a good day, my afro when bouyant has the same effect...

The biggest difference from this photo now, is that I'm twice the woman I used to be. Back in the day, friends called me 'Pinto', 'Figure 8', what have you. I was dead slim, didn't know what a calorie-controlled diet was, never saw the inside of a gym (still not a gym person), ate what I liked when I liked and never gained weight. I'd enter a shop and buy Size 10 and not bother myself with trying it on first because it would be just right, why wouldn't it? Wore a few skin-tight killer dresses in my time. Oh, for the days of glad grace! Now to my surprise I find extra weight sticking to me like an unwelcome friend. One big downside to the writing life is that you spend so much time sitting down in one position for hours and hours as you string words together. The hips get comfortable and begin to spread... Lord help us.

But now and again, I come across a picture like the one above and feel the urge to sing the George Harrison song, 'Long Time Ago When We Was Fab'...

  • Click on image for larger view

On 'Tapestry of Life: New Beginnings'

A Conversation Between Jahman Anikulapo & Ndidi Dike
In relation to Tapestry of Life: New Beginnings Exhibition

‘’I believe that the beauty of a creative person is the freedom to create as you will. I shouldn’t be forced to do works or engage in creativity that I am not deeply inspired to do. When I have a statement to make, I say it the way I am motivated by my inner desire and my convictions to do it. All this years there was a contentment working with wood and that was what I was doing. But those who know my stories know I have always painted like every other trained painter; only that I painted on wood. I may decide to paint on cloth, on a car, on your body etc. it depends on the direction of my muse’’

Show after show, Ndidi has, in truth, shown that she had other dimensions to her artistic enterprise that had not been allowed to flower; or had been deliberately encouraged to rest in her huge cauldron of experiences and encounters with the dynamics of art practices from other parts of the world.

But why is Ndidi painting now; in this show? Perhaps boredom with wood? Fed up, with sculpture

No, I am not bored with wood at all.

But you haven’t worked on canvas or board for so many years.

No, I have not! In fact, not for years now. That’s exactly the way it is, but as an artist you are free to continue experimenting with new ideas, themes, media, materials and processes

And you’re not reaching to some people saying why doesn’t she paint anymore?

I think I am a very free spirit, I do what I feel inside. I don’t think there’s undue extraneous influence in all I have done so far in my career. That has never moved me. If you give me any media I can manipulate it to create something intriguing, be it clay, metal, paper, shoe laces and mixed media etc.

Twenty years plus is a landmark in the career of any artist; and now Ndidi, reputed for her woodwork, is going back to painting, where she started from….


Isn’t there some other motive for going back to painting?

I feel within myself…I am somebody who is always willing to add something new. If you look at my very first exhibition, that should be in 1986, there were paintings mixed and sculpture; after that, I step down painting on canvas and concentrated on sculpture. My show in 1987 was mainly sculpture relief’s, some of which I also freed them from the spatial limitation of the wall and put them on the floor of the exhibition hall. I found something deeply motivating in the wood; I fell in love with texture of the wood the spoken language of the wood, the different grades and innate colours and I thought I had so much to say with wood. There were so much that wood would enable me to say that another media at that point in time could not. That was it
Increasing one's visual repertoire is a constant challenge for me.

I am not defending my self, it’s just a drive and emotion, as I said there is no outside influence it’s the desire of an artist.

When did the urge for the canvas hit you?

The overwhelming need to paint on canvas started in June 2004, before that because of my insecurity and trepidation I experimented with some small paintings on paper once I had done this, I was confident to paint on canvas.

Sure you’re not trying to say that in 20years, there were so many things you wanted to say, which the wood medium did not allow you to say? And thought probably painting would be the appropriate medium…?

I didn’t say that but I felt I wanted something diverse from what I was doing before. I just had new ideas and I felt I could say them in a new medium using acrylic with other textured elements that activate the canvas…

What do you think of those who have been used to your wood? Have you asked from them what they think of you changing your medium? I have an impression that some of your collectors might be puzzled: why is she painting?

Yes you are right: That’s exactly one of the thoughts that came to my mind when I started painting: ‘Why is she painting now?’ `What has happened to her? ‘And as you said: ‘is she tired of wood?’ for me, art is continuum.

As an artist in terms of your creative development, any media you think or feel comfortable with, you can work with. Remember that traditionally, I was a painter and my very early expressions were mixed media before I went to painting, to sculpture and now back to painting. So painting has been a part of my work all these years anyway. I had been painting on wood. I just decided to do it on canvas this time around. So for the collectors, I am just hoping everybody will feel ‘this is great!’ ‘She is expanding her media’; and that ‘she has raised the bar in terms of her many facets of creativity’.

Yes, you have been painting on wood, but would you agree that your colour scheme became so vibrant and evocatively emotive when you brought it out on the canvas? Hasn’t something happened around your creative life?

These things bubble in your sub-conscious. I’ve always liked colours, raw sienna, burnt umber, yellow ochre colours that have to do with nature of the earth etc. the use of white, is evocative of calm, contemplation, stillness, and peace. So for me, this is an exhibition of my sub-conscious in terms of the colour scheme. Its just happens when I start painting. I want the colours to be perfect.
  • Words by Jahman Anikulapo & Ndidi Dike
  • Images of Paintings by Onyema Offeodu-Okeke

Monday, June 16, 2008

Nduka Otiono reads in London

Poet/scholar and former Secretary-General of the Association of Nigerian Authors, Nduka Otiono, reads at the Waterloo Gallery, London on Wednesday, 18 June 2008. Otiono will read from his new collection of poetry, Love in a Time of Nightmares, in an event organised by Eastern Light.

Also on the bill on the night is Nnorom Azuonye of the Sentinel Poetry Movement and author of Letters to God.

R'n'B and Jazz singer Aletia will provide the music.

Waterloo Gallery
14 Baylis Road
London SE1 7AA
(nearest tube station: Wateloo Station)
Date: Wednesday 18 June 2007
Time: 6.30pm - 8.30

Theatre @ Terra

Terra Kulture
Tiamiyu Savage Street
Victoria Island

Produced by Wole Oguntokun
A Terra Kulture/Jasonvision/Hyve Ltd Collaboration

For tickets and enquiries, please call 0702 836 7228, 0808 123 9477
or e-mail laspapi@yahoo.com
  • Click on image for flyer details

Yellow Mountain Poets

After a week's workshop on poetry translations in Wales, Odia Ofeimun on other participating poets brought their poetry to the Purcell Room of London's South Bank Centre on 7th June 2008, in a night of readings celebrating 'The Poetry of the Yellow Mountain'. On the bill were Chinese poets Yang Lian, Wang Xiaoni, Luo Ying (who read an excerpt of his thought-provoking poem, 'The Last Person' in Chinese, then Murray Edmond read the whole thing in English), Xi Chuan (read in Chinese; then his work was read in English by Robert Minhinnick) and editor of The Poetry Review, Fiona Sampson.

  • Images by MW.

Ndidi Dike's 'Tapestry of Life: New Beginnings'

Ndidi Dike: the Cultural Diplomat
Tapestry of Life: New Beginnings’ is not just another documentation or portraiture of exquisite works of art by a Nigerian whose creative genius is widely acknowledged. It is not just a work of
art. It is also an instrument of diplomacy.

It is often forgotten that art has throughout history been associated with diplomacy. Great empires have used their great artistic accomplishments to express their grandeur and greatness. The Renaissance art of Michelangelo showed the greatness of the period when Europe rediscovered the classical tradition after the ruins of the Middle Age[s]. When you walk through some of the ancient cities of Europe, you see clear evidence of art expressing history, the history of nationalism, the history of internationalism; the history of human civilization and human degradation. Nothing has better expressed history and politics than art and artistry.

Here in Nigeria, we have plenty evidence of the diplomatic verities of art and artistry. The colonialists did not come only with gun-boats and gun-powders. They also came with their art and culture to enchant and seduce the natives, and to humanize their brutality. And as Anthonio Gramsci, the Italian Philosopher and Marxist Scholar argued, empires do not rule through force only. They rule also through the hegemony of ideas. Art- whether as literature or sculpture or painting- is an instrument of maintaining the hegemony of imperialist power. It is in this wise that the British, the French and the Germans established cultural centers to propagate imperial ideals and values in the colonies.

Just as art and artistic expression could become instruments to reinforce oppression, they could also become great forces of resistance and liberation. Art has always been at the vanguard of liberation struggles. The Pan-African and Negritude struggles in Africa were sustained by artistic creativity. Our humanism, our idealism expressed through our literature, our sculpture, our paintings and our bronze works, were great resources that helped us to overcome the cultural nihilism of colonialism. With our great art we recovered courage and affirmed our humanity.

I intuitively identify the foreign policy value of the great artistry of Ndidi Dike. As a former Minister of Culture and Tourism I can easily understand what art has got to do with Foreign Policy. The whole work of a Foreign Minister is to project the greatness of his country. In today’s world of global competitiveness when tourism has become the greatest revenue earner, every country should be marketing its cultural and artistic resources. Citizen Diplomacy aims to project Nigeria’s greatness so that we can gain the competitive edge in global political and economic transactions. Such competitive advantage results in enhanced economic and social welfare for the citizens.

“Tapestry of Life” is a collection of diverse statements of the cultural greatness of Nigeria. It is a sublime expression of the artistic genius of Ndidi Dike, a Cultural Ambassador who is project Nigeria to the world through visual arts. I fully support her aspirations and commitments.

  • Speech by Foreign Affairs Minister, Chief Ojo Maduekwe CFR at the opening of Ndidi Dike's 'Tapestry of Life: New Beginnings' exhibition at the National Museum, Lagos.
    Foreign Minister

    On the right, the artist Ndidi Dike is shown with students of Yaba Tech painting Goriola Street in Ajegunle, Mushin, Lagos - during a workshop organised by the Goethe Institute, Lagos, in 2006.

  • Installation images by Don Barber.

The Maple Tree Literary Supplement

A new Literary journal to watch. The Maple Tree Literary Supplement is primarily concerned with Canadian writing but promises to "hold a conversation with the world by featuring some writing from around the globe." Fair enough. View their submission guidelines and browse the site.

More from Word From Africa

A couple more images from Word From Africa. Here I am stepping up to the mic for my reading during the 'Imagine This...' session of Word From Africa on 31st May 2008. Also in the picture are my fellow panelists: Karen King-Aribisala (middle) and Sade Adeniran.
Pictures thanks to my friend Ade Omoloja of HarrisonLoj Photography.
  • Images © Ade Omoloja

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Epitaph for the Bully

(far cry from Auden)

When at last he died
Market-women danced in the streets

Instant owambe
Thick as amala
Redolent of gbegiri

Scornful of the new edict
Lawful crowds partied in the streets

Gege in fireworks
Jubilations at Agbeni
Feferities at Foko

Mournful they dared not be-cause
Awful Lamidi held the city to ransom

© Akin Adesokan

  • For Chief Lamidi Ariyibi Adedibu, the godfather of Ibadan politics (aka the godfather of Amala politics) - who passed away on 11 June 2008 and according to Muslim rites was buried today, June 12, a not insignificant day in the fight for democracy in Nigeria.
  • Read Tade Ipadeola's brilliant essay, 'Adedibully: a dinosaur's last dance' - published in Farafina 12, edited by Akin Adesokan,
  • Epitaph for the Bully is used with permission.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

New Read

Victor Ehikhamenor's story, Riding Monkey With Pako, is published in the new summer issue of Per Contra.

Deboy is a village boy who begins to yearn for the city after the arrival of the headmaster's son, nicknamed Fedra Gorment. The no-nonsence Pako, Deboy's best friend, is unimpressed by Fedra Gorment's tales of the city. In Pako's company, Deboy takes part in all manners of exciting activities. All goes well, until they decide to ride 'monkey'.

We became suspicious of Fedra Gorment’s city tales when one day he started telling us stories from his books without pictures. Every storybook we had came with pictures. Primary Two Reader had David and Mr. Dauda driving a lorry from Ibadan to Lagos. Primary Three Reader had Mr. Giwa the trader standing in front of his store, and our own Primary Six Reader had the dubious Mr. Ali selling ashes instead of sugar to strangers. So where did Fedra Gorment get his two small books called Eze Goes To School and Chike And The River?

Fedra Gorment spun story after story from the books, claiming that his elder brother in St. John Bosco College, where white men and Indians were teachers, told him these stories. Though we did not believe him, the tales were interesting. That was until the day the albino stepped on a sore by narrating to us the story of a boy whose father was killed by a leopard in a thick forest. The story sounded similar to how a snake killed Pako’s father. From then on, Pako warned me to avoid the headmaster’s son for good.

“Very soon he will tell us he eats rice everyday and plays football with white children,” Pako grabbed my hand and dragged me away from Fedra Gorment’s court.

Monday, June 02, 2008

In London this week

Lost Writers @ Late - featuring Delia Jarrett-Macaulay, Courttia Newland and Susan Yearwood at the Museum in Docklands, London.
Thursday 5 June
Information here.
The Poetry of Yellow Mountain - Odia Ofeimun, Fiona Sampson and a host of Chinese poets will perform in the Purcell Room, South Bank Centre, London. The evening is tagged as a performance by poets who have been influenced by the Yellow Mountain Festival in China.
Saturday 7 June
Information here.

Best Nigerian Short Stories Project

Topaz Publishing House proudly announces the commencement of the Best Nigerian Short Stories Project. This will be a platform to annually showcase qualitative short stories from emerging and established Nigerian writers. There will be a periodic call for entries from which the editorial team will make its choice of those good enough to be included in the anthology.

The BNSS anthology will be edited each year by a different set of editors who will be looking for a broad range of voices, viewpoints, experiences and craftsmanship. Stories published in journals or magazines two years before this call are eligible but this should be stated in the submission.

The editors for the maiden edition which will appear under the title, the Best Nigerian Short Stories of 2008, are Bello Sule, Ozioma Izuora, Dul Johnson, Mustapha Mohammed and Tony Oha.

Submission guidelines
  • 2,000 words minimum and maximum of 4,500 words double-spaced.
  • Please submit by email attachment in Microsoft Word, Arial, 12 point font.
  • Deadline for submissions: 31 July 2008.
  • Bio: No longer than 6 sentences.
  • Full name as you would like it to appear if your entry is chosen for publication.
  • Contact information: mailing address, phone number, and email.

Please send submissions as an attachment to: bnssanthology@fastermail.com

Please c.c. your submission to: topazbooks@fastermail.com

Word From Africa 2008

Word From Africa 2008 has come and gone. It was very well attended and immensely enjoyable, and at the end of the day (after the launch of the new anthology Dreams Miracles and Jazz: Adventure in African Fiction) we downed some Guinness Foreign Extra Stout in the British Museum to, as we say back home, “wash it”. I had one small glass of the dark stuff only, as I didn’t want to walk back to the tube station seeing stars.

It was a bit of a family affair for me, as several members of my family were in the audience, including one or two who just happened to be in town for brief visits from Nigeria – as were my kids. The panel I was involved in, came after ‘What Kind of English is That?, in which Ben Amunwa, Biram Mboob and Uchenna Izundu read and discussed Ken Saro-Wiwa’s Sozaboy. 2004 Caine Winner Brian Chikwava had come out to support fellow African writers, and was in the audience. I really enjoyed the session I was involved in, Imagine This... Prize-Winning Women Writers –featuring myself, Sade Adeniran and Karen King-Aribisala. I went first, with an excerpt from my story, ‘Written in Stone’. Karen King Aribisala read a short excerpt from her novel, The Hangman’s Game (winner of the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize, Africa Region, 2008). Then she put her book down and gave probably the most dramatic performance of the day by bursting into song. And poetry. And song. Hardly surprising, the first thing Sade Adeniran said on taking the stage to read (from her book, Imagine This, winner of the Best First Book, Africa Region in the Commonwealth Writers' Prize) was to declare that, “I can tell you now, I won’t be singing.” The question and answer session that followed was very interesting, and all three of us had this and that to say in dialogue with the audience. This session clashed with the storytelling (in Twi and Fante) session by Nana-Essi Casely-Hayford, which I heard was very popular with children.

Next session was Off the page translations, with readings from new books of African poetry as translated from one language to another. I was a late addition to the line-up of this session, as the Yoruba reader of 3 poems translated by Mark de Brito in his new anthology, The Trickster’s Tongue: An Anthology of Poetry in Translation From Africa and the African Diaspora. Other participants were Bashir al Gamar, Fathieh Saudi – and Isabelle Romaine (born in Cameroon and raised in Senegal, Romaine read poems by 3 Francophone African women writers including Werewere Liking – in English and French. The French renditions were especially powerful). Mark de Brito and I went first, and I had to read the Yoruba first, and Mark would read them in English. I read the following: Oriki Esu (Praise-poem for Esu); Oriki Orunmila (Praise-poem for Orunmila); and Ofo Abudi (Incantation). I really got into the spirit of the Yoruba poetry – especially on Ofo Abudi – so much so that I forgot I was in front of an audience. Wonderful. Mark de Brito (poet, critic, translator and musician) was born in London of Trinidadian parentage. He is a bridge builder, and has travelled extensively in Yorubaland, knows priests in Ile-Ife, Osogbo and other ancient towns, right up to the Yoruba of Benin Republic – building bridges between Africa and the Caribbean.

I was being interviewed by Vox Africa TV (3 ladies from Ghana, the 'big' Congo & the 'small' Congo – who conducted interviews with participants throughout the day) while the Dreams Miracles and Jazz launch readings were going on – so I missed it. Participating in this session were Ken Kamoche, Sefi Atta, Tony Adam Mochama, Mamle Kabu (who I was meeting for the first time; I’ve heard so much about you, I told her; I’ve heard so much about you, she told me) and Gitta Sumner.
Music was provided by the likes of Modeste Hugues; and Yoruba talking-drummer Ayan Ayandosu was in charge of one of the many art and craft and book stalls. Ensuring that all went smoothly for the rest of us were Africa Beyond’s Tessa Watt and the tireless Kadija George. And a lovely day was had by all.

  • These here are my pictures. My photographer-friend, Ade Omoloja took lots of images on the day, in addition to the official photos. Will upload some of these other images and do links when they become available.

African Languages Made Easy

Press release

  1. In the recent past, articles in newspapers and magazines at home and abroad have written on the probable extinction of Africa’s indigenous languages. Although this is a major source of concern, there has been no significant rescue. Blazing Ideas is however introducing into the market, three language learning materials; books, CDs and flashcards for the continual existence of these languages.

    The African Language Made Easy Series, African Phonics Flashcard Series and African Language Made Easy Series Audio-series, all in 3 indigenous languages, are Blazing ideas’ debut line of products, created to enrich the indigenous language vocabulary of students, readers, and professionals. And they are made in the best learning materials which meets the evolving global standards.

    1. The African Language Made Easy Series comprising of six (6) books in 3 different indigenous languages.
    2. The African Phonics Flashcard Series in three (3) different indigenous languages.
    3. The African Language Made Easy Series Audio-series comprising of three (3) beautifully packaged audio-CDs which are exact replicas of the audio-CD's that accompany the book. They are done separately to counter its piracy and also for affordability, as it would be sold at an extremely reduced cost compared to the book. All the narrative and sound (songs) features in the book edition will be in it also.

    Dr. Lolade Otitoloju, the founder of Blazing Ideas explains that the creative team who work on the edutaining materials together are professionals from different parts of the country. She expressed that she believes so much in the project. “Losing a language is like losing one’s identity; I noticed that many of the children of our generation speak little or nothing of their local languages. Initially, I started this project for my daughter, but I think there are many people out there who want to teach their children how to speak their native language too.”

    “We will release more product lines in other African Languages soon. We believe in what we do, and we think that African children should be able to learn their native languages, with as much fun as they will learn the English language. What we intend is to make learning native language as much fun as possible. Basically, all our materials are interactive, and we are confident that this approach will work to great effect.”

    Tunde Adegbola (Ph.D.), the Executive Director of the African Languages Technology Initiative also expresses that the product line “is coming at a time when wide debate over the importance of our indigenous languages is being argued.” While this approach to learning African languages may seem relatively new, Otitoloju expresses that she is confident that these product lines will translate into increased applications from these groups."

For more information on Blazing Ideas, please contact:

Olajumoke Verissimo

Yves Saint-Laurent 1936 - 2008

"There is no one left to dress," Cristóbal Balenciaga famously said when he retired in the late 6os. He died a few short years later. The quote always comes back to me whenever an iconic designer goes off to the great catwalk in the sky, as if the supreme-male-diva decided - enough, there's no one left to stick around to dress. Yves Saint-Laurent who died yesterday aged 71, was among the greatest of the great couturiers. Design genius and long-term lover of Pierre Berge, Saint-Laurent it was who put women in smoking jackets, something the pant-suit-wearing Hilary Clinton would appreciate. Yves Saint-Laurent understood that fashion was the Opium of beautiful (not to mention rich) women, and he created a classic perfume to prove the point.

*Flanking Yves Saint-Laurent to the right of this image is the French actress Catherine Deneuve. The long-haired black model behind the designer on the left is his one-time muse, the Guinea-born model
Katoucha Niane, who was found dead in the River Seine in Paris in February of this year.

A prick named Willie

'Rhyme and punishment' - is what The Observer calls it, as Derek Walcott gives VS Naipaul a taste of his own medicine in verse. Before reading out his brand new poem, 'The Mongoose' at the Calabash Literary Festival in Jamaica, Walcott is reported to have told the audience, "I think you'll recognise Mr Naipaul... I'm going to be nasty." I wonder what 'Sir Vidia' would have thought of being called 'Mr'. From what Walcott has to say, it appears 'Mr' is the least of Naipaul's concerns, for Sir Vidia is indeed the 'Mongoose' of the poem.

The joy of supplements, his minstrel act
Delighting editors endorsing facts
Over fiction, tearing colleagues and betters
To pieces in the name of English letters
The feathers fly, the snow comes drifting down
The mongoose keeps its class act as a clown
It can do cartwheels of exaggeration
Mostly it snivels, proud of being Asian
Of being attached to nothing, race or nation
It would be just as if a corpse took pride in its decay
After its gift had died and off the page its biles exude the stench
of envy, "la pourriture" in French
cursed its first breath for being Trinidadian
then wrote the same piece for the
English Guardian
Once he liked humans, how long ago this was
The mongoose wrote "A House for Mr Biswas"

For good measure, the poem also says of its subject:
"He doesn't like black men but he loves black cunt."

Ever wondered if Nobel laureates talked dirty? Wonder no more. VS Naipaul, according to his biographer, 'settles all his accounts'. All indications are he will fight back. For now, many a reader will take the view that Naipaul has been sniping away at Walcott for a long time. As The Observer concludes, Sir Vidia had it coming.


Arts journalist and culture activist Andrea Enisuoh interviewed me for her Artbeat page in New Nation newspaper. The piece appeared in last week's edition of the paper. The interview was looking ahead to the Word From Africa event, which held at the British Museum last Saturday. Enisuoh and I discussed my short story, Written in Stone (an excerpt of which I read on Saturday); and we touched on this blog also. Thanks to Andrea. The interview page is reproduced here. To read, click on the scan on the right for a larger view.