Writings of the general word's body

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Bola Ige remembered, 10 years on

Last night at the Muson Centre, Lagos - children and grandchildren of the late Bola Ige - slain Attorney General and Minister of Justice who justice has so far eluded - on stage with the cast of Odia Ofeimun's dance-drama 'Nigeria the Beautiful' after a performance to mark the 10th anniversary of Ige's death. With them onstage are some of Ige's loyalists: Segun Osoba, Chief Bisi Akande and Prof Adebayo Williams.

Bola Ige was killed on December 23, 2001 in Ibadan, the city from which he once ruled as Governor of the old, larger Oyo State.

Activities marking the 10th anniversary continue till December 23, as follows.

- Lecture today December 21 at 11am at Premier Hotel, Ibadan, to be delivered by Rauf Aregbesola, current governor of Osun State. Title: 'Political Violence and Assassination: Implications for the Future of Democracy in Nigeria'.

- Performance today December 21 at 7pm at Trenchard Hall, University of Ibadan - Bola Ige's play, 'Kaduna Boy'.

Thursday December 22

- Candle light procession at Ibadan, Osogbo and Esa-Oke.

- An evening of Poetry, Dance, Drama, Music & Documentary at the Ige Compound in his hometown, Esa-Oke, Osun State. 8.30pm.

Friday December 23

- Rememberance Church Service at St. Pauls, Esa-Oke.

- Reception & Party featuring Bola Ige's favourite musician, Lagbaja.

Writers choose their books of 2011

Igoni Barrett's compilation of writers' books of the year, published in the Lagos Guardian, here. And here.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Life House Fundraiser & Benefit

This is Ugoma Adegoke of The Life House culture hub in Lagos, photographed while engrossed in Lola Shoneyin's reading last Saturday. She's also one of the few thoroughly modern women with whom I share an everyday iro-and-buba aesthetic.

Run by Ugoma with her husband Dayo, The Life House has provided sanctuary for many a culture vulture since its inception. The place is just lovely, and everything arty happens there, complete with delightful munchies and atmosphere. But like all great art initiatives, The Life House needs support, and is holding a fundraiser tonight. See the below, from Ugoma Adegoke.

Please accept this as a formal invitation to our fundraiser event taking place on Monday 19 December 2011 from 6pm.

We ask for your support and that of the wider c
ommunity as we have embarked on an enthusiastic fundraising effort which we are hopeful will succeed to enable us to sustain and improve our expansive programming —including quality theatre, dance, music, and film presentations, along with outstanding community and our planned education initiatives.

The Life House is a much-needed social enterprise and community concept and we need your support to enable us continuously deliver a unique programme of original contemporary visual art, independent film, performing arts, wellness, lifestyle, education and engagement activities, which has been enjoyed by more than 3,000 people in the last 22 months.

We shall be hosting a Benefit on Monday 19th December 2011 with a view to raising monies, support and further goodwill from the community at large and ask once aga
in for your usual and unwavering support to make this a success and join us in further developing a one-of-a-kind, culture, multi-arts, wellness and lifestyle centre in Nigeria.

Attached is an invitation (designed for free in support by Zahara Creations).

Please attend; keep us in your thoughts and do
invite your friends and other lovers of culture.

We look forward to welcoming you with your
usual open hearts and open minds!

Yours Truly,

Ugoma Adegoke


The Life House

Lola Shoneyin returns to The Life House

After the Unoma Azuah book launch on Saturday, it was a mad dash across Lagos to The Life House on Victoria Island for a set of readings by Lola Shoneyin. One session could be no more different from the one that followed, as the author engaged young ones first with her children's book, 'Mayowa and the Masquerades'. There were lots of whoops, dances and all sorts that kept the children interested as they interacted with the author. The real Mayowa, the author's firstborn after whom the protagonist is named, was also on hand to pull appropriate faces from the audience. It was a family affair as all her children were present and participated.

Then the session was over and the youngsters packed off home. Then commenced a more adult reading from Shoneyin's novel 'The Secret Lives of Baba Segi's Wives'. A reading that gave new meaning to the word 'intimate' - as she read to a small audience from Iya Segi's same-sex desire scene and Baba Segi's masturbation one. The reading lead to an unusually frank discussion about sex, sexuality, Nigeria's Same Sex Bill ("14 years," someone in audience said jokingly at this point, referring to the jail sentence attached to the law), men, women and octogenarians wanting divorce. You don't even want to know. If some of the men could blush, they would have.

In the audience: Olajide Bello, scholar Doyin Teriba, Toyin Akinosho, Wana Udobang and Shoneyin's husband, Olaokun Soyinka. It was exactly a year since Lola Shoneyin's last Life House reading.

From the launch of 'Edible Bones'

Writer Unoma Azuah launched her second novel, 'Edible Bones' at the National Library, Yaba, Lagos on Saturday Decemer 17. The author of 'Sky High Flames' a novel, 'The Length of Light', a short story collection and earlier poetry collection 'Night Songs' - is over from the US for the publication of her latest book, published by Ogochukwu Promise's Oracle Books. In attendance were Azuah's fellow female writers Akachi Adimora-Ezeigbo, Ronnie Uzoikwe and Onyinye Ihezukwu. It was my first proper meeting with Ihezukwu, who is fresh from last month's Femrite workshop in Uganda. She is shown below, having her copy of 'Edible Bones' autographed by the author.

Compering the event was Ropo Ewenla, Secretary of PEN Nigeria. The body's president, poet Tade Ipadeola, was the reviewer but he was stuck someplace and couldn't come, so the review was read on his behalf by Sylva Nze Ifedigbo. Music was provided by Edaoto and Awoko. When the launch finally started (potential audience probably halved by another event going on at Debonair also in Yaba), the publisher lamented the poor turnout. "We are celebrating a writer who lives abroad, who has done a lot to promote literature," Promise said. One of the goals of Oracle Books, she informed, is to get people "to read not just for utilitarian purpose but also for pleasure... Good books are a complement to good living."

'Edible Bones' which I'm yet to read, is about the travails of a Nigerian immigrant in the US, Kaito, who has gone there in search of a better life that may not be all for the better. Chair of the occasion was Mallam Abdullahi Yerwa who was absent but nonetheless had his address read on his behalf - a sort of review-before-the-review, complete with spoilers. He also said at some point, "Most bloggers, as far as I'm concerned, should be flogged" - I don't remember exactly what for. His address led Ewenla to declare that Azuah's novel "will generate a robust discussion (about the issue of Nigerian's flocking to foreign lands)."

The Chief Launcher, Yemi Adebiyi shared his own experience of America. "I was in America for 17 months. I graduated on May 8, I ran back to Nigeria on May 12." Why? "Because I saw so much suffering among Nigerians there and I didn't want to be part of it." Adebiyi said the problem with Nigerians is that "we don't read." He recalled a KLM flight to Amsterdam on which about 15 Nigerians fiddling with calculators, while the Europeans on board nourished their minds by reading magazines and books. He also called for book launches to hold on days other than Saturdays, because there's too much going on the city and books cannot compete favourably with wedding parties.

An old school mate of Azuah's who was seeing her on Saturday for the first time in 24 years, spoke movingly of their secondary school days, clearly proud of what the author has made of herself. A lawyer, the old friend recalled that, "Unoma's uniform was the only one with two pockets" stuffed with poems. Also in attendance was Sister Ify, the Administrator of Holy Child College. You see, the friend went to HCC to enrol her daughter, looked in the school bulletin and saw to her astonishment, a piece about the author Unoma Azuah - her schoolfriend from 24 years before.

Photos: M.Wood.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

'World Of Our Own'

There's a new short story anthology out by FEMRITE the Uganda Women Writers' Association. Hilda Twongyeirwe, coordinator of Femrite, is the editor of the new book, titled 'World Of Our Own' afte:r one of the stories therein.

The editor's intro to the anthology begins: "FEMRITE presents herein African Women's voices, resulting from the second African Regional Women Writers' Residency held in January 2011 in Jinja, one of Uganda's most popular tourist attraction towns. The residency was attended by writers from six country; Mamle Kabu: Ghana, Ketina Muringaniza: Zimbabwe, Wame Molefhe: Botswana, Maliya Mzyece Sililo: Zambia, Elieshi Lema: Tanzania, and from Uganda: Beatrice Lamwaka, Lilian Tindyebwa, Constance Obonyo, Elizabeth Namakula Lenana and Linda Lilian. In addition to the residency stories, the anthology includes submissions from other African women writers."

And that's how come my short story, 'Leaving Oxford Street' makes it into the anthology, as I wasn't actually at the residency. Philo Ikonya is another non-participant whose work is featured. I now have my contributor's copies and I'm very pleased with the published piece. Here's a review of the anthology; and Mamle Kabu's story is singled out for praise here.

"One of the aims of the annual regional residency is to get women writers on the continent to come together, compare experiences, share solutions and encourage one another to sustain longer writing projects," according to the editor. Femrite has just completed its 3rd residency, held last month, and another anthology will be coming out of that sometime soon.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Unoma Azuah launches 'Edible Bones' today

Yaba is staking its claim as another hub of literary activity in Lagos, on the Mainland as opposed to the island arts-monopoly to boot. There's the monthly Book N Gauge for a start. There are 2 events in Yaba this after and here's the one I will be attending. One has to attend of course, it's Unoma Azuah's launch event for her second novel, 'Edible Bones'. The launch is many months in the planning and I can't wait to lay my hands on a copy of the book.

Here's an interview of I did with Unoma Azuah, published last year - Writing as a way of relating to others.

Today's reading/launch starts at 2pm.

Venue: National Library, Yaba, Lagos.

Chistopher Hitchens 1949-2011

Above, the Christopher Hitchens memorial page by Vanity Fair, which announced his death from oesophegeal cancer yesterday. British Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg was quoted by the BBC as saying, "Christopher Hitchens was everything a great essayist should be: infuriating, brilliant, highly provocative and yet intensely serious."

My longish tweet, posted yesterday

Yes, Christopher Hitchens could be infuriating. I was a major Dianaphile. Yet, no more than about a year after her death, Hitchens had a programme on British television that ran against the mood of the time.

Unlike Camille Paglia's reverential, icon-making 'Diana Unclothed' aired before the death of the Princess of Wales - Hitchens tore Diana to shreds. He didn't stop there; he poo-pooed the outpouring of grief of the British public over the late princess as one of the embarrassments of the age, a new low in the culture.

Here I was watching this while still wearing my cloak of mourning for Diana. I couldn't believe it. I saw Hitchens' programme as one of the first strikes in the Diana Demystification project that held sway in British society in the years to follow, a not entirely unsuccessful one.

We were subjected to the revisionism that would have Diana's adoring millions believe that their affection for her was grossly misplaced. Dianaphiles became muted voices, the way was paved for the grudging acceptance, or indifference to Camilla Parker-Bowles. Diana had gone to her tragic grave. The world moved on.

But watching Christopher Hitchens marshall his argument all those years ago, I was astonished at the gall of the man. He even had the Bee Gees' song 'I Started A Joke' play in one segment. Diana started the world laughing, then crying; oh if only she knew that the joke was on her - was the point. What about respect for the dead? I kept wanting to ask.

Oh but the brilliance with which he argued his case. I hated Christopher Hitchens' argument, but I loved the way he argued it; and watched, riveted, to the end.

It's impossible to get round to reading all the worthy material that's been published on Hitchens in the last 24 hours alone. Of the few that I've read, I loved Ian McEwan's the most.

Christopher Hitchens: 'the consummate writer, the brilliant friend'

The next morning, at Christopher's request, Alexander and I set up a desk for him under a window. We helped him and his pole with its feed-lines across the room, arranged pillows on his chair, adjusted the height of his laptop. Talking and dozing were all very well, but Christopher had only a few days to produce 3,000 words on Ian Ker's biography of Chesterton. Whenever people talk of Christopher's journalism, I will always think of this moment.

Consider the mix. Chronic pain, weak as a kitten, morphine dragging him down, then the tangle of Reformation theology and politics, Chesterton's romantic, imagined England suffused with the kind of Catholicism that mediated his brush with fascism, and his taste for paradox, which Christopher wanted to debunk. At intervals, his head would droop, his eyes close, then with superhuman effort he would drag himself awake to type another line. His long memory served him well, for he didn't have the usual books on hand for this kind of thing. When it's available, read the review.

I shall.