Writings of the general word's body

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Aramotu leads Nigeria's AMAA Nominations

Nollywood star power with more than a little Ghollywood help last night in Nairobi at the Africa Movie Academy Awards' Nominations event . L-R: Jackie Appiah, Joke Silva, Kate Henshaw-Nuttall, Ini Edo, Rita Dominic, Ramsey Noah, Mike Ezurounye and Majid Michel.

And so, the nominations are out for the films that will vie for AMAA glory on March 27 in Bayelsa State, Nigeria.
The big contender for Nigeria is the forthcoming film, 'Aramotu', a Niji Akanni directed film entirely in Yoruba and starring Idiat Shobande as the eponymous heroine. Aramotu garnered 6 nominations including Best Actress, Best Director and Best Film! Aramotu premieres in March in Lagos.

Perhaps the strongest film overall is Sinking Sands, by Ghanaian director Leila Djansi and starring Ama K. Abebrese and Haitian actor, Jimmy Jean-Louis. All three are rewarded with nods in the Director, Best Actress and Best Actor category. Altogether, Sinking Sands has at least 8 nominations.
Other strong films in the nominations are Viva Riva! (Congo), A Small Town Called Descent (South Africa), Izulu Lami (South Africa), Hopeville (South Africa) and Shirley Adams (South Africa).

There are respectably showings for Nigerian films like Mahmood Ali-Balogun's 35mm film, 'Tango With Me', for which Genevieve Nnaji gets a Best Actress nod; Tunde Kelani's 'Maami' (nomination for young newcomer, Ayomide Abatti); A Private Storm and Yoruba film, Yemoja (Best Actor nomination for Antar Laniyan).

As everyone here is saying, see you in Bayelsa March 27.

Photo by MW

Event for Don Mattera, March 3

Invite from Jo'burg....

Lyrics of our Song

A dedication to Don Mattera’s Azanian Love Song

Like a weeping willow
I drop my soul
Into a pool of fire
Somewhere in a dark sanctuary
I hear the sound of a freedom song:

The child has risen
And walks defiantly
Towards the lion’s lair

Don Mattera-Azanian Love Song

On the 3rd of March 5 amazing poets will be coming together to present a heartfelt poetic tribute- event that celebrates the work of South Africa’s iconic poets, Don Mattera.

Don Mattera’s Azanian Love Song, is a well-renown award winning collection of powerful poems that reflect the poet’s experiences during the 70’, 80’s and the Sophiatown era. Don Mattera’s prolific work has inspired and cultivated the seeds of South African literature, and it is because of this that we celebrate the profound work of our own modern day Shakespeare.

A power pact performance of some of the most exciting poets to emerge out of the Jozi spoken word scene, the line up will include the theatrical voice of the legendary Prophet JD, the smart walking street talking, the amazing Masoja Msiza, the heavenly sounds of the genius Mpho Molikeng, the Bob

Marley of poetry Zwesh Fi Khush ,and the great Mak Manaka.

And the father himself Dr. Don Mattera will be our guest speaker on the night.

The show will start at 6pm in Newtown at the old Horror Cafe, now known as Shikisha. The cover charge is R50.

So please come and join us as we celebrate one of our own living legends of poetry.

For More info please contact : Mak Manaka on 079 475 6453/ mrmanaka@webmail.co.za
Prophet JD on 0737189831 / jcmthenjwa@gmail.com

Binyavanga Wainaina in Granta

It's been argued in some quarters that Binyavanga Wainaina is the best thing that ever happened to the Caine Prize. It would seem Granta's views aren't that far off, as the journal now tells everyone who cares to listen that the Kenyan writer's essay, 'How to Write About Africa' is the most popular ever on its website. It will be recalled that the essay went viral after it was published years back, for its lampooning of European Africanists. Is there anyone left that hasn't read it?

Originally print-only, Wainaina's latest essay for Granta has now been made available on the magazine's website, so many more than freely enjoy it. Low viral potential, but a wonderfully observed piece all the same. ''One Day I Will Write About This Place' is from the writer's forthcoming memoirs of the same title.

An excerpt

A well-known dombolo song starts, and a ripple of excitement overtakes the crowd. This communal goosebump wakes a rhythm in us, and we all get up to dance. A guy with a cast on one leg is using his crutch as a dancing aid, bouncing around like a string puppet. The cars all have their interior lights on; inside, couples do what they do. The windows seem like eyes, glowing with excitement as they watch us onstage.

Everybody is doing the dombolo, a Congolese dance where your hips (and only your hips) are supposed to move like a ball bearing made of mercury. To do it right, you wiggle your pelvis from side to side while your upper body remains as casual as if you were lunching with Nelson Mandela.

I have struggled to get this dance right for years. I just can’t get my hips to roll in circles like they should. Until tonight. The booze is helping, I think. I have decided to imagine that I have an itch deep in my bum, and I have to scratch it without using my hands, or rubbing against anything.

My body finds a rhythmic map quickly and I build my movements to fluency, before letting my limbs improvise. Everybody is doing this, a solo thing – yet we are bound, like one creature, in one rhythm.

Any dombolo song has this section where, having reached a small peak of hip-wiggling frenzy, the music stops and one is supposed to pull one’s hips to the side and pause, in anticipation of an explosion of music faster and more frenzied than before. When this happens, you are supposed to stretch out your arms and do some complicated kung-fu manoeuvres. Or keep the hips rolling, and slowly make your way down to your haunches, then work yourself back up. If you watch a well-endowed woman doing this, you will understand why skinny women are not popular among many in East Africa.

Related: How to Write About Africa

Commonwealth Writers' Prize 2011

While Wordsbody was sleeping, the Commonwealth Writers' Prize shortlists were announced...

Here's the UK-based Chioma Okereke, a writer whose face some are only just beginning to notice, after noticing her book first, of course. Especially now that her debut novel, 'Bitter Leaf' has been shortlisted in the first round of the prize, in the Best First Book category in the Africa Region. I love this photo of her because she evidently takes the concept of natural hair to brave new lengths. And having met her dad, I look at the daughter and I just see the father.

Among those joining Ms Okereke in the First Book category is Caine winner E.C Osondu, whose collection of short stories,
'Voice of America' has been reviewed by several of his peers, including Petina Gappah and Helon Habila.

Habila himself in the running for the Commowealth in the Best Book category for the Africa Region for his third book, 'Oil on Water' - the only Nigerian in this segment. Nigeria has 3 writers in contention this year, the closest competitor to South Africa, which weighs in with 7 shortlisted writers.

I'm only going to reproduce the lists for Africa, the other Commonwealth regions are also worth a look. How else would one see that the very first winner of the Caine Prize for African Writing, Leila Aboulela, is now shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers Prize for the South Asia and Europe region, flying the flag for the United Kingdom? Meanwhile, Aminatta Forna, who could comfortably have been 'British' now, has been entered and shortlisted in the Africa region for 'The Memory of Love', a contender for Sierra Leone. Good to know that when it comes to national allegiances in the world of literature, everyone discovers where the dice falls, eventually.

Regional winners will be announced next week (March 3) and the overall winners, on May 21.

Shortlists for the Africa Region

Africa Best Book
The Memory of Love by Aminatta Forna (Sierra Leone)
Men of the South by Zukiswa Wanner (South Africa)
The Unseen Leopard by Bridget Pitt (South Africa)
Oil on Water by Helon Habila (Nigeria)
Blood at Bay by Sue Rabie (South Africa)
Banquet at Brabazan by Patricia Schonstein (South Africa)

Africa Best First Book
Happiness is a Four Letter Word by Cynthia Jele (South Africa)
Bitter Leaf by Chioma Okereke (Nigeria)
The Fossil Artist by Graeme Friedman (South Africa)
Colour Blind by Uzoma Uponi (Nigeria)
Voice of America by E. C. Osondu (Nigeria)
Wall of Days by Alastair Bruce (South Africa)

Image: Publicity Photo

Omoseye Bolaji, a review

A Nigerian Scribe in South Africa
Review by Raselebeli Khotseng

Hector Kunene Ed.
New Voices Publishing (Cape Town, SA)

Nigeria’s influence on African and world literature is awesome. It is extraordinary that Africa’s two all-time greatest black writers – Chinua Achebe, and Wole Soyinka (the first African to win the Nobel Award in Literature) both come from the same country, Nigeria!

So perhaps it is no co-incidence then that Nigerian-born Omoseye Bolaji has contributed so much to popular Black literature in South Africa in recent times. His impact is often described as galvanic and grassroots-oriented. He is already rather celebrated and has received a string of awards and accolades.

Omoseye Bolaji has published well over 20 books based on South Africa, and his fiction, in particular continues to be stunning to readers. Novels of his, like Impossible Love and The Ghostly Adversary have been very successful, with many readers singing his praises. Also, his celebrated “Tebogo Mokoena Mystery” series of books (which now numbers seven) is probably the only such “whodunit” series created and written by a Black African writer.

But more than this, Omoseye Bolaji has been a wonderful literary catalyst in South Africa, encouraging and nurturing a galaxy of talented black South African writers. Bolaji continues to popularise literature, in South Africa in particular, via his role as editor of a number of publications; encouraging book reviews, interviews, etc.

Startlingly, just within a decade some ten books have been published by various South African writers appreciating the literary work and impact of Omoseye Bolaji. Such studies have been produced by writers and critics like Pule Lebuso, Charmaine Kolwane, Flaxman Qoopane, Petro Schonfeld, Pule Lechesa and Julia Mooi, among others.

This latest work, simply titled OMOSEYE BOLAJI, is the most comprehensive of such published studies. The author or editor, Hector Kunene, scrupulously pieces together the background and persona of Bolaji himself; and publishes many articles based on his literary works.
The book contains some 30 articles, reviews, critiques, plus two interviews with the writer himself. The articles are all written by South African writers, black and white. The illustrious white South African movie producer and author, Aryan Kaganof contributes two of the articles. Other contributors are Raphael Mokoena, Pule Lechesa, Paul Lothane, Marika Du Plessis, Mzwandile Soqaga and Hector Kunene himself.

Two of the articles on Bolaji’s work in this book stand out for me (but this in no way suggests they are the best). Raphael Mokoena’s “Literary Allusions in People of the Townships” struck me as remarkable, especially the references to Charles Dickens’ work, Great Expectations. Mokoena in fact contributes at least four fine articles to this work.

I also enjoyed reading Paul Lothane’s essay, titled “Folksiness in Tebogo and the epithalamion” which focuses on the sixth of the Tebogo Mokoena Mystery books. It is a positive, yet intelligent review that emphasises a very vital aspect of African life, or predilection.

This new book of course celebrates the literary work of Omoseye Bolaji, the Nigerian who has performed wonders in boosting Black literature at grassroots level in South Africa. The two Interviews with Bolaji in the book are revealing and informative. I love the way he explains in detail how the culture of reading for pleasure used to be very vibrant in Nigeria.

Earlier in his career, Omoseye Bolaji worked as a journalist in Nigeria publishing “hundreds of short stories” in Nigerian newspapers, especially the Sunday Sketch in Ibadan. He attended Obafemi Awolowo University (formerly the University of Ife). He is one of the sons of the late, great Nigerian journalist and author Chief S.L Bolaji who held key positions in major Nigerian newspapers like Concord, Punch and Tribune decades ago. Oh – and by the way, thanks to his striking writing prowess, Omoseye himself was made a Chief of Ibadan in 2008!

All this, and much more can be ascertained from this new study, OMOSEYE BOLAJI.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Teju Cole in the Open City

Suddenly, it’s impossible not to feel the explosive impact of Teju Cole’s ‘Open City’ even all the way down here in Lagos, despite the fact that his new novel has only just been published all the way in America, on February 8, to be precise. And so there I was last week, doing some delicate bargaining with a writer-friend currently in the US; I had the upper hand in the negotiation until he pulled out the ace up his sleeve. He was bringing me a copy of a hot, brand new book that no one had seen anywhere in Nigeria. By the next day, I’d worked out that it could only be Teju Cole’s Open City, and I can’t wait to lay my hands on this, by all accounts, splendid free-form novel.

Meanwhile, I’ve just had a long, bedazzled read of James Wood’s review of Open City in the New Yorker.

Here’s an excerpt:
“Cole has made his novel as close to a diary as a novel can get, with room for reflection, autobiography, stasis, and repetition. This is extremely difficult, and many accomplished novelists would botch it, since a sure hand is needed to make the writer’s careful stitching look like a thread merely being followed for its own sake. Mysteriously, wonderfully, Cole does not botch it: “When I turned around, I saw that I was at the entryway of the American Folk Art Museum. Never having visited before, I went in”; “In early December, I met a Haitian man in the underground catacombs of Penn Station”; “The days went by slowly, and my sense of being entirely alone in the city intensified”; “At the beginning of February, I went down to Wall Street to meet Parrish, the accountant who was doing my taxes, but I forgot to bring my checkbook”; “Last night, I attended the performance of the Ninth Symphony, which is the work Mahler wrote after Das Lied von der Erde.”

Watching Simon Rattle conduct Mahler at Carnegie Hall, Julius is alive to the sorrow of the composer’s “long but radiant elegy.” He thinks of the strange fact that a hundred years ago, “just a short walk away from Carnegie Hall, at the Plaza Hotel, on the corner of Fifty-ninth Street and Fifth Avenue, Mahler had been at work on this very symphony, aware of the heart condition that would soon take his life.” Then, before the music has ended, an old woman rises from her front-row seat, and goes up the aisle: “It was as though she had been summoned, and was leaving into death, drawn by a force invisible to us. The old woman was frail, with a thin crown of white hair that, backlit by the stage, became a halo, and she moved so slowly that she was like a mote suspended inside the slow-moving music.” Cole prepares his effects so patiently and cumulatively, over many pages of relatively “flat” description, that the image of the old woman leaving as if for death, suspended like a mote in the music, seems not forced or ornamental but natural and almost inevitable.”

The New Yorker also has an extract from the novel here.

Then there’s the fascinating iconography that’s already being woven around the person of the author. The image accompanying most publicity about the book, shows Cole in profile, cap pulled to the forehead, a sports top zipped up to the chin, and a beard. It is mysterious and striking; and lends itself very easily to author illustrations, of which the New Yorker’s is just one of several.

When James Wood writes of a scene in the novel as one of the very few "in contemporary fiction in which critical and literary theory is not satirized, or flourished to exhibit the author’s
... it comes as no surprise to those of us
already accustomed to the effortless, unshowy brilliance of Teju Cole’s writing, the staggering breadth of his references.

Speaking of which, now is perhaps a good time to revisit Cole’s ‘Letter to a Young Writer’, dedicated to a certain Temitayo, who knows herself. The 8 letters are also downloadable as a single PDF document, here.

Photo: Publicity image.

Monday, February 07, 2011

On the Murder of David Kato, the Ugandan Gay Rights Campaigner

Press release

We the undersigned condemn in the strongest possible terms the murder of Mr David Kato the Ugandan gay rights campaigner. We wish to state emphatically that homosexuality is neither a sin nor a social or cultural construct. It is a biological given. Homosexuals are human beings like everybody else. Scientific research has been helpful in clearing the fog of ignorance entrenched by some religious texts in regards to homosexuality. Our opinions of homosexuality must change for the better just as our opinion of slavery has changed even though it was endorsed by those same religious texts. All violence against gays and people deemed to be gay in Africa must cease forthwith.

We call on the government of Uganda to find and prosecute all those involved in the murder of Mr Kato, including the newspaper that called for the hanging of gays. We also call on African governments to learn from the South African example by expunging from their laws all provisions that criminalize homosexuality or treat homosexuals as unworthy of the same rights and entitlements as other citizens. African states must protect the rights of their citizens to freedom and dignity. Homosexuals must not be denied these rights.


1. Wale Adebanwi, PhD, University of California, US

2. Diran Adebayo, Writer, UK

3. Kayode Adeduntan, PhD, University of Ibadan, Nigeria

4. Biola Adegboyega, University of Calgary, Canada

5. Shola Adenekan, Editor, The New Black Magazine, UK

6. Pius Adesanmi, PhD, Carleton University, Canada

7. Akin Adesokan, PhD, Indiana University, US

8. Joe Agbro, Journalist, Nigeria

9. Anthony Akinola, PhD, Oxford, UK

10. Anengiyefa Alagoa, Writer, UK

11. Ellah Allfrey, Deputy Editor, Granta Magazine, UK

12. Alnoor Amlani, Writer, Kenya

13. Ike Anya, Public health doctor and writer, UK

14. Bode Asiyanbi, Writer, Lancaster University, UK

15. Sefi Atta, Writer, US

16. Lizzy Attree, PhD, University of East London, UK

17. Damola Awoyokun, Writer, UK

18. Doreen Baingana, Writer, Uganda

19. Igoni Barrett, Writer, Nigeria

20. Tom Burke, Bard College, US

21. Jude Dibia, Writer, Nigeria

22. Chris Dunton, PhD, National University of Lesotho, Lesotho

23. Ropo Ewenla, PhD, Obafemi Awolowo University, Nigeria

24. Chielozona Eze, PhD, Northeastern Illinois University, US

25. Aminatta Forna, Writer, UK

26. Ivor Hartmann, Writer, South Africa

27. Chris Ihidero, Writer, Lagos State University, Nigeria

28. Ikhide R. Ikheloa, Writer, US

29. Sean Jacobs, PhD, New School, US

30. Biodun Jeyifo, PhD, Harvard University, US

31. Brian Jones, Professor Emeritus, Zimbabwe

32. Martin Kiman, Writer, US

33. Lauri Kubuitsile, Writer, Botswana

34. Zakes Mda, PhD, Ohio University, US

35. Colin Meier, Writer, South Africa

36. Gayatri Menon, PhD, Franklin and Marshall College, US

37. Valentina A. Mmaka, Writer, Italy/South Africa

38. Jane Morris, Publisher, Zimbabwe

39. Mbonisi P. Ncube, Writer, South Africa

40. Iheoma Nwachukwu, Writer, Nigeria

41. Onyeka Nwelue, Writer and filmmaker, India/Nigeria

42. Nnedi Okorafor, PhD, Writer, Chicago State University, US

43. Ebenezer Obadare, PhD, University of Kansas, US

44. Juliane Okot Bitek, Writer, Canada

45. Tejumola Olaniyan, PhD, University of Wisconsin, US

46. Ngozichi Omekara, Trinidad and Tobago

47. Akin Omotosho, Actor and filmmaker, South Africa

48. Kole Omotosho, PhD, Africa Diaspora Research Group, South Africa

49. Samuel Sabo, Writer, UK

50. Ramzi Salti, PhD, Stanford University, US

51. Brett L. Shadle, PhD, Virginia Tech, US

52. Lola Shoneyin, Writer, Nigeria

53. Wole Soyinka, Nobel Laureate for Literature

54. Olufemi Taiwo, PhD, Seattle University, US

55. Kola Tubosun, Writer, Fulbright Scholar, United States

56. Uzor Maxim Uzoatu, Writer, Nigeria

57. Abdourahman A.Waberi, Writer, US /Djibouti

58. Binyavanga Wainaina, Writer, Kenya

59. Ronald Elly Wanda, Writer& Lecturer, Marcus Garvey Pan-Afrikan Institute, Uganda

60. Kristy Warren, PhD, University of Warwick, UK

French Version

lettre de pétition: Sur la Assassiner de David Kato, l'ougandaise des droits de Gay de campagne

Nous, soussignés, condamnons dans les termes les plus énergiques l'assassiner de M. David Kato de la campagne ougandaise des droits des homosexuels. Nous tenons à affirmer avec force que l'homosexualité n'est ni un péché, ni une construction sociale ou culturelle. Il est une donnée biologique. Les homosexuels sont des êtres humains comme tout le monde. La recherche scientifique a été utile dans l'élimination du brouillard de l'ignorance entretenue par certains textes religieux en ce qui concerne l'homosexualité. Nos opinions de l'homosexualité doit changer pour le mieux même que notre avis de l'esclavage a changé même s'il a été approuvé par ces mêmes textes religieux. Tous violence contre les gais et les personnes réputées être gay en Afrique doit cesser immédiatement.

Nous appelons le gouvernement de l'Ouganda à trouver et à poursuivre tous ceux qui sont impliqués dans la assassiner de M. Kato, y compris le journal qui a appelé à la pendaison des homosexuels. Nous appelons aussi les gouvernements africains à s'inspirer de l'exemple sud-africain par radiation de leur législation toutes les dispositions qui criminalisent l'homosexualité ou de traiter les homosexuels comme indigne des mêmes droits et avantages que les autres citoyens. Les États africains doivent protéger les droits de leurs citoyens à la liberté et la dignité. Les homosexuels ne doivent pas être privés de ces droits.

Portuguese Version

Carta de Petição: sobre o assassinato de David Kato, o Uganda Gay ativista de direitos

Nós, os abaixo assinados condenam nos termos mais fortes possíveis o assassinato do Sr. David Kato o activista dos direitos gays de Uganda. Queremos declarar enfaticamente que a homossexualidade não é pecado, nem uma construção social ou cultural. É um dado biológico. Os homossexuais são seres humanos como todos os outros. A investigação científica tem sido útil para limpar o nevoeiro da ignorância enraizada por alguns textos religiosos em relação à homossexualidade. Nossas opiniões sobre a homossexualidade deve mudar para melhor assim como a nossa opinião sobre a escravidão mudou mesmo foi aprovado por esses mesmos textos religiosos. Toda a violência contra homossexuais e pessoas consideradas gay na África deve cessar de imediato.

Apelamos ao governo de Uganda para encontrar e processar todos os envolvidos no assassinato do Sr. Kato, incluindo o jornal que pedia a suspensão dos gays. Apelamos também aos governos Africano de aprender com o exemplo Sul Africano por expurgando de suas leis todas as disposições que criminalizam a homossexualidade ou tratar os homossexuais como indignos de os mesmos direitos e os direitos dos outros cidadãos. Africano estados devem proteger os direitos dos seus cidadãos à liberdade e dignidade. Homossexuais não devem ser negados os seus direitos.

Swahili version

Mauaji ya David Kato - Mwanaharakati wa haki za wapenzi wa Jinsia moja nchini


Sisi tuliosaini hapo chini, tunashutumu vikali mauaji ya David Kato,

Mwanaharakati wa haki za wapenzi wa Jinsia moja nchini Uganda.

Tunasisitiza kuwa

mapenzi ya jinsia moja sio uovu wa aina yoyote, katika tamaduni zetu.

Hili ni jambo linalotokea kimaumbile na wapenzi wa jinsia moja ni binadamu tu

sawa na wengine. Utafiti wa sayansi umesaidia kuondoa kasumba hii mbovu

iliyowekwa na baadhi ya vitabu vya dini juu ya wapenzi wa jinsia moja.Lazima

tubadilishe maono yetu na mawazo tuliyonayo juu yao ili tuboreshe uhusiano


Lazima uhasama na chuki iliyopo dhidi ya wapenzi wa jinsia moja iangamizwe


Tunatoa wito kwa serikali ya Uganda kuwafungulia mashtaka wote waliohusika

katika mauaji ya David Kato pamoja na gazeti hilo lililotoa wito wa chuki na

mauaji ya wapenzi wa jinsia moja.

Pia tunatoa wito kwa mataifa mengine ya Afrika yajifunze kutoka kwa serikali ya

Afrika Kusini na kuondoa tamaduni zinazoakandamiza wapenzi wa jinsia moja na

kuwanyima haki zao za kibinadamu sawa na wananchi wengine. Mataifa ya Afrika

yanawajibu wa kulinda haki na uhuru wa raia wao. Na wapenzi wa jinsia moja pia

lazima wapewe haki hizi.