Writings of the general word's body

Monday, September 19, 2011

Rushdie's got us all a-twitter

OK. What could be more amazing than finding Ben Okri on Twitter and learning that "Ben will be here from time to time to share his poetry and writing, but otherwise this page is maintained by Rider Books"?

It's finding Salman Rushdie. The author of 'Midnight's Children' is on Twitter and rearing to go.

It began when @SalmanRushdie1 wrote on his twitter account, "With some trepidation, I am beginning to tweet. If you want to hear what sort of noise I end up making, please follow me."

Why 'SalmanRushdie1'? Well, because, there was already a 'SalmanRushdie' on Twitter, and Sir Salman said as much on his first profile, revealing that Twitter was refusing to verify that this indeed was him. One of his first tweets was to stare down at his own shadow, so to speak, to confront the man, woman or thing masquerading as 'Salman Rushdie': "Who are you? Why are you pretending to be me? Release this username. You are a phoney. All followers please note." [Update: Rushdie has since dropped the '1' from his handle, having reclaimed 'SalmanRushdie' from the imposter]

Twitter may have been refusing to verify, but readers recognised an original voice straightaway. Thousands signed up to follow Rushdie between yesterday and today alone. And they were amply rewarded. For where else will you have a great author chatting on tweeter with Kylie Minogue, Patrick French, Mia Farrow, Stephen Fry and Margaret Attwood ("Hi Peggy, I just joined the madhouse...")? Or refraining from going into the details of Christopher Hitchens' illness in public ("Allow me to not say more, please...")?

Rushdie racked up the excitement further by declaring that he was going produce a whole new short story, titled A Globe of Heaven, starting today, entirely on Twitter. Shrewd negotiator, the author noted this morning that he'd pulled in nearly 10,000 followers, and promised that once the magic number was reached, he would start tweeting the story. In minutes, 10,000 followers were in the bag, and the story began.

A thousand retweets, two profile images later, and Twitter verification almost almost a certainty, Rushdie posted his third bio in less than 24 hours: "...As Popeye the Sailor Man said, I yam what I yam and that's what I yam."

We know. We know.

This is going to be so much fun, and Rushdie no doubt is enjoying himself. No doubt whose fingers are tapping out those tweets, definitely not some publishing rep. It's the real article.

But for any writer tempted to stay glued to Rushdie's twitter account permanently, a note of caution from the man himself. As he said in one tweet to another author, "I've just handed in revised MS of my memoir, so I have time to waste here."

--Follow Rushdie on Twitter

--Update The Guardian: Salman Rushdie's Twitter debut

Teju Cole on twitter

"Of what import are brief, nameless lives to Galactus?" Teju Cole has the answer. The author of Open City, currently working on a non-fiction book on Lagos, has been reading Nigerian newspapers and found himself drawn to the little stories, the big and small tragedies of ordinary people. So, he started recasting the stories on twitter in the tradition of the fait divers, a project he has augmented with the tag: Teju Cole Small Fates.

Here he is on TCSF
"The stories I tell in the small fates are more tightly compressed than most fait divers (thanks to the limitation of length Twitter imposes) and often more laconic... Each tells a truth, a whole truth, but never the whole truth (but this is true of all storytelling). Details are suppressed, secondary characters vanish, sometimes the “important” aspect of the story is sidestepped in order to highlight a poignant detail."

The New Yorker took notice
"To a contemporary reader like Cole, fait divers also have another characteristic: they are eminently tweetable. As he began to compose his own versions, which he calls “small fates” to differentiate them from the French, Cole realized they’d do well on Twitter. He’s been at it for a few months, and the results are riveting, providing a snapshot of life in Nigeria that invites and repels at once:

With a razor blade, Sikiru, of Ijebu Ode, who was tired of life,

separated himself from his male organ. But death eluded him."

One of the many Small Fates that make you either go Yeepa! or Ouch!

I love this recent one below about rogue trader Kweku Adoboli, for drawing attention to the racism of Western media reports; a Black Briton is 'British' until they fall foul of the law, then comes overt, repeated referencing of their origin.

Almost always, as in the Abdullahi Ibrahim one above, there is an artful missing-of-the-point in order to tease out that "poignant detail."

According to Cole: "These pieces are generally not events of the kind that alter a nation’s course. They are not about movie stars or, with exceptions, famous politicians. They are about the small fates of ordinary people. The idea is not to show that Lagos, or Abuja, or Owerri, are worse than New York, or worse than Paris. Rather, it’s a modest goal: to show that what happens in the rest of the world happens in Nigeria too, with a little craziness all our own mixed in. In this odd sort of way, bad news is good news because these instances of bad news reveal a whole world of ongoing human experience that is often ignored or oversimplified."

Occasionally in square brackets, the author will 'come out of character' to break TCSF down some more, like when responding to complaints he referred to a man awaiting trial as a 'murderer'. "Feel free to google Arowolo. Is there a reasonable doubt?" he asked. The Small Fates, though drawn from reality, are far from straight news, legal transcripts or policy papers, he maintained. And in any case, "we poets, you know, are bastards, and will continue to be."

TCSF has been so successful that many have been getting in on the act, and Cole indulged them, by posting assignments: links to newspaper stories his followers could try their hands at turning into Small Fates, tagged '#tcsf' on twitter. The very best would be retweeted by Cole to his 2000-plus followers. Many tweeted their own Small Fates, but few got the distinction of being retweeted by the author, inspiring this priceless tweet below by
Ebuka Obi-Uchendu. So good, even Teju Cole retweeted it.

Teju Cole's tweets

Friday, September 16, 2011

Viva Riva! in Lagos tomorrow

VIVA RIVA! the stylish Congolese film that scooped 6 AMAA statuettes earlier this year, kicks off a new monthly screening collaborative project between iREP Film Forum and the Goethe Institut Lagos.

Set in Kinshasa, Viva Riva! was directed by Djo Tunda Wa Munga and stars Patsha Bay Mukuna, Manie Malone and award winning Marlene Longage. Violent and explicit, the film tells the story of Viva, a charming criminal who intercepts a lucrative cache of petrol in a fuel crisis; and a ruthless Angolan gang hot on his tail. The film has wowed audiences at festivals around the world.

Screening is on tomorrow at the Nigeria Film Corporation Office, Old Film Unit, by Radio Nigeria, Obalende-Ikoyi, Lagos. Time is 3pm.

Info from the organisers, below:


On Saturday September 17, the iREPRESENT Documentary Film Forum (iREP) and the Goethe Institut Lagos will formally begin a comprehensive relationship that will see the two organisations collaborating on a number of projects in the area of films. The projects will include a Monthly Film Screening session; Training and Capacity Building programmes; Festivals and others.

The core objective of the collaboration is to facilitate relationship between the German and the Nigerian film Industries through sharing of ideas and products; networking of personnel as well as exposure to the intricacies of each of the film cultures. The overall objective of the collaboration, however, is to help quicken the development of the nascent Nigerian film industry.

Monthly Film Screening

In particular, the Monthly Screening and Discussion session is conceptualized to facilitate elevation of film language and understanding of the artistic narratives of cinema in a way that empowers storytellers to explore more their intrinsic artistic voices. The screenings are being curated to push the boundaries of the Nigeria film industry’s appreciation for narratives that underscore the interconnectivity of the human experience even in a globalised culture.
The film screening which will consist of short and long films will be introduced by experts and the public will get the chance to discuss with film professionals after each session. Thesession will encourage a discussion on the film screened between professionals and the public.

The choice film for the September 17 edition, is VIVA RIVA!, (98 min, DR Congo), directed by Djo Munga, with Patsha Bay, Manie Malone. It tells the story of Riva, an operator, a man with charm and ambition in equal measure who resides in Kinshasa. With petrol in short supply in DRC's capital, Riva and his sidekick pursue a plot to get hold of a secret cache — barrels of fuel they can sell for a huge profit. Of course they're not the only ones who want the stuff…

Screening starts at 3pm, and will be followed by Discussions among fil experts and the general audience. There will also be refreshment and light entrtainment.

OCTOBER: The monthly screening continues on the theme of Music and Freedom in the spirit of the yearly FELABRATION, designed to celebrate the life and times of Fela Anikulapo-Kuti. It will hold on October 15 as part of the finale of In-Short, the international Short Film Festival of the Goethe Institut with the International Film and Broadcast Academy, Lagos. Venue remains the old Film Unit, NFC office, ikoyi, Lagos.

NOVEMBER: The film ADOPTED will be feature, but screening and discussion session will have an international dimension with the possible presence of the filmmaker. This edition is designed to coincide with the 2011 Lagos Book and Art Festival (LABAF) November 17th-20th, the yearly art feast organized by the Committee for Relevant Art, CORA. Venue remains the Old Film Unit.

DECEMBER: The collaboration takes up an even keener ambition with the scheduled African premiere of the award winning film PINA, directed by renowned German film maker, Wim Wenders. The venue for this event is proposed to be one of the Cinema houses in Lagos. There is also plan to make provision for a 3D viewing of the film by the audience.

· Also in December the iREP and the GOETHE will be collaborating to participate in the British Council’s Creativity Fair, scheduled for the theme art centre, Freedom Park, on Broad Street, Lagos.

JANUARY: The 2nd iREP International Documentary Film Festival begins with a Pre-Festival Conference on January 17 – 18 on the theme: Is Nollywood Documentary? The Keynote is proposed to be delivered by Dorothee Wenner, producer of Peace Mission, the famed documentary on the fortunes and fate of the Nigeria film industry. The session will also have a panel of eminent Producers, Actors, Directors and Critics as discussants. Venue is Terra Kulture, Tiamiyu Savage Street, VI Lagos

FEBRUARY: Monthly Film screening and Discussion continues at the NFC Lagos office, Old Film Unit, Ikoyi Lagos.

MARCH: The second edition of the yearly iREP International Documentary Film Festival, holds March 21-24 with possible collaboration with MOKOLO, the film platform developed by Goethe and international partners. There is also plan to bring home Nigerian filmmakers working in Germany such as Bramwen Okpako and Adama Ulrich; and with popular German filmmaker, Marie-Hélène Gutberlet to be facilitated by Goethe Institut.

Jahman Anikulapo
For iREP

Christy Essien-Igbokwe goes home

Tony Okoroji holds a burial programme with the late Christy Essien-Igbokwe's image at the singer's funeral on Saturday September 10. Next to him is talk show host Bisi Olatilo.

Nigeria's 'First Lady of songs was buried with much pomp on Saturday September 10, after a week of commemorative activities including celebrity football match, a divas concert and a lying-in-state at the National Theatre. A funeral service was held the day before the burial, at the Archbishop Vinning Memorial Church in GRA Ikeja, Lagos, attended by the great and the good. She was laid to rest in Awka, Anambra State on Saturday September 10, and among those in attendance was the state governor Peter Obi, Akwa Ibom governor Godswill Akpabio and Senator Chris Ngige.

Some images from the 2 days below, courtesy of the Christy Burial Committee.

Funeral cortege for the 'Seun Rere' singer on the streets of Lagos, Friday September 9.

The widower Edwin Igbokwe in pensive mood as his late wife's coffin is brought into the Archbishop Vinning Memorial Church in Lagos.

Singer Onyeka Onwenu, Bisi Adeleye-Fayemi (wife of Ekiti State Governor) and Orelope Adefulire, Deputy-Governor of Lagos State at the Lagos funeral service.

Flautist Tee Mac, actress Clarion Chukwurah and singer Stella Monye in the church.

Fela's children: Femi and Yeni Kuti attended the service.

Saturday September 10: a young boy and his gong in Awka, as he prepares to sing for the late Christy.

Pomp and ceremony: procession in Awka, Anambra State, ahead of the burial.

Achebe floors 50 Cent

The literary world has been abuzz over news that novelist Chinua Achebe forced rapper 50 Cent to change the title of his new movie, Things Fall Apart – because it’s the same as that of Achebe’s celebrated novel.

On the inside, Nigerian writers argued over what many suspected to be a hoax. After all, you cannot copyright a title, or can you? Plenty of songs, short stories, books and yes films – with same title and unrelated content. E.C Osondu has a short story called Waiting, so does Chika Unigwe. There are at least 2 films called Relentless etc.

The story gained more credence, for me at least, when the Guardian (UK) reported it, informing that Fiddy offered Achebe one million dollars to hold on to the title, but the author took it as an insult. Achebe’s legal team retorted, "The novel with the said title was initially produced in 1958 (that is 17 years before [50] was born)... [It is] listed as the most-read book in modern African literature, and won't be sold for even £1bn." But as a commenter under the Guardian story observed, novelist Muriel Spark and Lawrence of Arabia actor Peter O’Toole both have books titled Loitering With Intent.

Was 50 Cent right to have capitulated by offering $1m in the first place, since we don’t know whether or not Achebe copyrighted his book’s title? If he did, it would have been a highly unusual move to pull off. Highly unusual to have scuppered 50 Cent in this way, although admittedly Things Fall Apart has a highly unusual reputation as a work of literature. Achebe himself got the title of his novel from a poem by W.B Yeats, The Second Coming, so how can he lay sole claim to it?

Of particular concern to writers, I suspect, is what this dangerous precedent portends for creative works, especially writing, from now on. Someone has just published a novel the title of which is strikingly similar to my planned collection of short stories; will I have to change my title? I hope not.

Whatever one makes of 50 Cent’s declaration that he’d never heard of Achebe’s book, particularly troubling is the fact that many of the rapper’s fans – even some of Nigerian descent – were not aware of Achebe’s existence until he clashed with 50 Cent. A bizarre situation that has a gangster rapper ‘validating’ one of the world’s greatest novelists. Still, the rapper is to be commended for writing a whole movie himself, a story about an American football player diagnosed with cancer, directed by Mario Van Peebles. Because of Achebe’s objection, the film has been renamed All Things Fall Apart, reports say.

Now, I hinted that I believed the story because the Guardian published it – a stance that comes with its own problematic, since the UK Guardian can be hoaxed. The paper did a further piece on the ‘title fight’ yesterday, crediting a Nigerian news website for breaking the story. This had the curious effect of leading some to hold on to the hoax theory – it’s a Nigerian website after all. Another problematic, since a story broken in the Nigerian media is not by definition a 419 scam.

The news did not strike me as a hoax; the Guardian has unimpeachable contacts with Achebe’s representatives, agents and so on, I’m sure, to verify its story. As for the Nigerian media, lots of people have direct links to the novelist’s inner circle. Besides, if a hoax, who stood to gain from it? Certainly not 50 Cent; extra publicity for his film is hardly worth the dent on his ego. And Achebe needs the column inches like he needs a million dollars.

There are reasons why Fiddy’s people would want to remain silent on the embarrassment. The unease among the literati also means that, demonstration of his might aside, Achebe does not come out smelling of roses either. “Hawkish” is how one observer described the novelist’s action over a title he would not have been able to use had Yeats taken a different view – a title he raised no objection to The Roots using for an album years back.

Meanwhile, further confirmation of the veracity of the story: Hip-Hop bible VIBE magazine has reported it, (referencing a Ghanaian website). And the Hollywood Reporter reports from the Toronto Film Festival that Image Entertainment has picked up US rights to 50 Cent’s movie. The title? All Things Fall Apart.