Archive for the ‘Nigeria’ Category
Nigerian playwright, novelist and poet Wole Soyinka, the first African to be awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, turned 80 on Sunday.
Being the first black Nobel laureate, and the first African, the African world considered me personal property. I lost the remaining shreds of my anonymity, even to walk a few yards in London, Paris or Frankfurt without being stopped.
In an interview with Deutsche Welle, Soyinka explained where his love for literature came from:
“I suspect that I probably come from a long family of ‘word spinners’. I mean that in the sense of an extended family, because ‘family’ as we use it is a very large one. I was constantly surrounded by aunts, uncles, my father’s intellectual companions. All of them were raconteurs of some sort or the other,” he said.
As part of his birthday celebrations, Soyinka personally presented this year’s Wole Soyinka Prize for Literature in Africa to fellow Nigerian author Akin Bello recently.
The winner of this years Wole Soyinka Prize for Literature in Africa was announced at a grand ceremony at The Civic Centre, Victoria Island, Lagos this past Friday night. His name is Akin Bello and the work that won him the award is the play The Egbon of Lagos beating the two contenders Toyin Abiodun and Othuke Ominibohs. He went home with the prize money of $20,000.
Soyinka, who was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1986, has always been vocal about political and social injustice, and has been outspoken on Nigeria’s Boko Haram kidnapping crisis this year. However, in an interview with The Guardian in 2011, Soyinka appeared to announce his retirement from political life. In an article for Nigeria’s Premium Times, Tolu Ogunlesi offers his sympathies to the man for the “random act of pre-existential allocation” that twinned him with Nigeria, a country that “delights, more than most, in numbing its people with unoriginal frustration”.
Ogunlesi quotes Soyinka’s interview with The Guardian:
“I’m getting a little bit bored with this Sisyphean struggle. I’m not exhausted; I can drop down dead tomorrow, that’s irrelevant, I want be around to witness the event. At the moment I do not feel I’m devoid of energy; [or that] my energy is diminished, whether mentally or physically. No. But something in me is getting very weary. And that is the burden of repetition; that it is possible in my own state for someone to sit down and try and turn a town house meeting into his own thuggish platform. It’s over fifty years now, I’ve been marching, I know the number of times I’ve been tear-gassed and of course gone through trials, a prisoner without trials, and so on and so forth. I don’t mind any of that. Mandela spent one entire generation of his life in jail; so I don’t grudge any of that. But if I feel inside me that I’m getting bored on a subject or theme or endeavour I become less creative and I don’t want that to happen to me.”
Tributes to the great man flooded in on Twitter:
Image courtesy of Victor Dlamini
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Good Morning Mr Mandela
Zelda la Grange (Penguin Books)
From her beginnings as a self-confessed Afrikaner racist to her professional apogee as the right-hand woman of the greatest statesman of our times, this is a pretension-free, no-holds-barred yet poignant account of how Zelda’s relationship with Madiba changed her fundamentally. As she said at her book launch, the good stuff in the book far outweighs all the negative things that happened at the end of his life. If there is just one other book to read about Madiba besides Long Walk To Freedom then this is it.
- Jennifer Platt @Jenniferdplatt
Robin Black (Picador)
“A painter looks. That’s what she does. But she doesn’t always look in the right direction.” Life Drawing is the shifting portrait of Augusta and Owen’s marriage. The seductive prose peels back the skin of apology and excuse, exposing how tragedy can be created by the smallest of mistakes, misunderstandings and misplaced good intentions. For it is a myth that marriage is kept alive on love alone.
– Tiah Beautement @ms_tiahmarie
Nnedi Okorafor (Hodder & Stoughton)
It is difficult to imagine a fresh type of alien invasion story when there are so many that have already been written, but Nnedi Okorafor has created just that. Set in the ordinary chaos of Lagos, her book tells the story of three extraordinary people and the aliens who descend on them – and their city. Soon, Lagos is burning, monsters like Mami Wata walk among soldiers, and the streets are more alive and dangerous than ever. Lagoon is the most original novel (African or not) that I have read in some time.
– Bontle Senne @BontleSenne
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The new issue of Chimurenga‘s Pan-African gazette, Chronic, features Binyavanga Wainaina meeting Youssou N’Dour; Willem Boshoff; Lesego Rampolokeng’s interview of Mafika Gwala; Mogorosi Motshumi on the lack of Black Consciousness in South African comics; and an insert containing the lost issue of Zebulon Dread’s Hei Voetsek!
For the new issue of Chimurenga’s pan African gazette, the Chronic, the focus is on graphic stories; comic journalism. Blending illustrations, photography, written analysis, infographics, interviews, letters and more, visual narratives speak of everyday complexities in the Africa in which we live.
Chronic, a quarterly publication which was launched in March last year, was born out of “an urgent need to write our world differently”. It is funded by the German Federal Cultural Foundation and the Goethe-Intitut. The print edition is available at selected stockists, or direct from Chimurenga’s online shop.
Read an excerpt from Chronic’s interview with Mogorosi Motshumi:
Graeme Arendse: After the end of apartheid much of the cultural activity that accompanied the struggle dissipated…
Mogorosi Motshumi: That’s right. Some of the casualties included what was known as the alternative media. I think there was the mutual belief among both funders and activists that certain objectives had been achieved and that the road to the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow had been cleared. There was so much hope for, and anticipation of, new beginnings. Suddenly there were no publications like Learn and Teach and Upbeat and Staffrider and New Nation. I ended up doing sports cartoons for City Press and Daily Sun. For me, the transition from pre- to post-apartheid cartooning and general cultural activism matter is as basic as right versus wrong. Evil cannot be right simply because it wears a black face.
Chimurenga Chronic New Edition – Preview! by Books LIVE
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Nigerian American Science Fiction author Nnedi Okorafor has expressed “anger” at being left off a recent New York Times list of what it called the “New Wave” of African authors.
The article, entitled “New Wave of African Writers With an Internationalist Bent”, mentions Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Dinaw Mengestu, Helen Oyeyemi, NoViolet Bulawayo, Teju Cole, Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor and Taiye Selasi, among others, and outlines what are perceived to be the main trends in African and African American writing.
The newspaper quotes Adichie on the subject of different categories of black. “In the US, to be a black person who is not African-American in certain circles is to be seen as quote-unquote, the good black,” Adichie said, adding that people may comment: “You’re African so you don’t have all those issues.”
The article also highlights the new international inclination in African writing, with books beginning to feature more characters who are “citizens of the world”. Manthia Diawara, professor of comparative literature and film at New York University, comments: “Now we are talking about how the West relates to Africa and it frees writers to create their own worlds. They have several identities and they speak several languages.”
According to the article, apart from certain exceptions such as Wole Soyinka and Ben Okri, who broke through in a “fallow period” for African literature, publishing tends to follows trends: “Women, Asian-American, Indian and Latino writers have all been ‘discovered’ and had their moment in the sun”, with African-Americans currently in vogue, and more ‘authentic’ African voices even more preferable.
But for all the different themes and kinds of writing, the novelist Dinaw Mengestu said that he saw a thread. “There’s this investigation of what happens to the dislocated soul,” said Mr Mengestu, 36, the author of All Our Names and a MacArthur “genius” award winner, who was born in Ethiopia but left at age two and grew up in Illinois.
The novelist Okey Ndibe, 54, said for his part, “My reflexes are shaped mostly by life in Nigeria, but so many aspects of me are in the American mode.”
However, it seems the “different themes and kinds of writing” do not stretch to the corner containing the science fiction and fantasy genres.
Writer and publisher Sheree Thomas, who edited Dark Matter, an anthology of African-American science fiction and fantasy that won the World Fantasy Award, was incredulous, and took to Twitter to protest: “I’m trying to figure out how an article on the new wave of African writers does not include Nnedi Okorafor…smh @ the separation of genres”.
Okorafor replied, thanking Thomas, and admitting that she felt “angry” at her omission, but declining to expand too much on the subject:
Do you agree with the New York Times’ summation of current African writing? Do you think genre fiction should be included in a discussion about African fiction? Let us know on Facebook, Twitter or in the comments below.
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The film adaptation of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Half of a Yellow Sun will not be released for viewing in Nigeria until edits demanded by the National Film and Video Censors Board have been made to it.
According to ABC News, the censors want cuts to the movie, set partly during the Biafran War, because it could “undermine national security”.
The article further states: “It comes as Nigeria is threatened by an Islamic uprising in the northeast, jeopardising unity between the mainly Muslim north and predominantly Christian south.”
Bella Naija reports that the NFVCB has sent a letter “requiring the distributor to expunge or edit some clearly stated objectionable aspects of the movie”. Caesar Kagho, NFVCB’s acting head of corporate affairs, has defended the move, saying: “The actions of the board are a routine procedure … it is underpinned by the superior logic of safeguarding overall public interest.”
Meanwhile, Adichie had expressed her dissatisfaction with the board’s decision in the New Yorker, saying: “the censors’ action is more disappointing than surprising, because it is part of a larger Nigerian political culture that is steeped in denial, in looking away.”
Nigerian censors say parts of the movie “Half of a Yellow Sun” could undermine national security and they want cuts to allow the film, partly set during Nigeria’s 1960s civil war, to be shown in its home country.
A statement Wednesday says the board has not received a response from the exhibitors to a May 27 letter “requiring the distributor to expunge/edit some clearly stated objectionable aspects.”
As fans of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie‘s novel – Half of a Yellow Sun in Nigeria, continue to wait for a screening date to watch the movie adaptation, NFVCB is speaking out on reports that the board banned the movie.
On Wednesday, the National Film and Video Censors Board shut down speculations that they have banned the million dollar production.
Image courtesy One News Page
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Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie has written a moving piece about taking her family to watch the film adaptation of Half of a Yellow Sun, although the movie is still being withheld from the Nigerian public by censors.
Nigeria’s National Film and Video Censors Board recently released a list of 35 films approved for release in May, but Half of a Yellow Sun – which deals with the Biafran War – was nowhere to be seen:
The still-snubbed Half of a Yellow Sun — starring Oscar nominee, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Thandie Newton — was scheduled to be premiered in Nigeria on April 25, 2014, but NFVCB denied the movie certification, claiming that “certain aspects of the film have some unresolved issues, which have to be sorted out in accordance with the law and laid-down regulations”.
Prominent Nigerian filmmaker Tunde Kelani even took to Twitter to appeal the censorship:
In response to the censorship of the film, Adichie wrote a piece for The New Yorker, in which she called the action a “knee-jerk political response” in the context of upcoming elections and the Boko Haram crisis. But she insisted: “we cannot hide from our history”.
On a personal level, however, Adichie admits she found this difficult. Writing for The Telegraph, the author describes her trepidation in taking her mother and father, and extended family, to the Lagos premier of Half of a Yellow Sun.
Despite not suffering much in the way of “material deprivations”, Adichie lost both of her grandfathers in the Biafran War, and it was a harrowing time for her family – although it was rarely spoken about afterwards. Adichie says before she began asking questions about the war, while writing Half of a Yellow Sun, her parents’ memories “had long lay untouched”.
But after watching the film Adichie says parents “referred to Biafra more often in a week than they had in years”. In addition, the film jogged her siblings’ memories of the war, and even brought some new, untold stories to light:
In the new version of the story, told in the aftermath of the film, my mother added that the soldiers had threatened to beat her, and that my father, to protect her, had jumped on one of the soldiers, and that she begged him to stop, terrified that they had survived the war with their three children only to have her husband killed at a checkpoint. I was surprised. I had never heard this before. I turned to my father. He mumbled something, an acknowledgement of the memory, and looked away. He said nothing else. I tried to imagine him, tired and worried and afraid, lungeing at an armed soldier. What had been a story about soldiers doing what soldiers have done at the end of many wars – harass civilians – now became something entirely different: the specific story of a husband keen to protect his wife, of a wife keen to preserve her family.
The film rights for Adichie’s most recent book, Americanah, have been snapped up by Kenyan actress Lupita Nyong’o, who won this year’s Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her role in 12 Years a Slave.
Image courtesy of nupeoplemagazine
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What Nigeria does about the abduction of 276 girls by Boko Haram will determine the nation’s future, award-winning author Ben Okri writes in a powerful plea to the country of his birth in The Guardian.
Okri notes that the Nigerian government has been slow to react, despite international outrage at the abduction, supported by Michelle Obama, for example.
He says that this should be a wake-up call for the country that has failed to live up to the promise it showed at independence in 1960. While there are many reasons for this, including the colonial division between north and south, a failure to heal as a country after the civil war and “the endemic poverty, the politics of inequality, the politics of corruption, that have been eating away at the nation’s heart”, Nigeria must now, with its response to the abduction, choose a new path.
“There are only two roads to take. Either more of the same, which will inevitably lead to further outrages and eventual fragmentation, or Nigeria wakes to the call which sounded at independence, and begins again on that road towards its destiny as one of the great nations of the world,” Okri says.
This may be the most critical moment in Nigeria for a generation. The threat of Boko Haram has been a fuse burning away in the powder keg of Nigerian political life for the last seven years, and has been largely unconfronted. The political class, with a few distinguished exceptions, has long been in a state of smugness, complacency, and collusion. A kind of informal high-grade corruption has become part of national life.
When Boko Haram began its campaign of cultural, religious and educational separatism – decrying western education and trying to bring Nigeria under the shadow of sharia law – it was seen as a small outfit, a ragtag band of fundamentalists, not to be taken seriously. At the time the nation was distracted by the fallout from the Niger delta protests in the south-east, the sabotage of oil pipelines, and the rash of kidnappings that made the area particularly dangerous. The protests were due to the extreme environmental pollution by oil companies that had devastated farmlands, rivers, whole villages and towns. The execution of Ken Saro-Wiwa in 1995 was the last outrage during the long Nigerian sleep.
Image courtesy The Guardian
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Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Donna Tartt lost out as the 2014 Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction went to first-time novelist Eimear McBride, for A Girl is a Half-formed Thing.
McBride was awarded the prize by best-selling novelist, and co-founder of the Baileys Prize, Kate Mosse. She receives £30,000 and the “Bessie”, a limited edition bronze figurine.
Adichie was shortlisted for her new novel, Americanah, for which Oscar-winner Lupita Nyong’o recently acquired the film rights.
The shortlist comprised McBride, Adichie, Jhumpa Lahiri (The Lowland), Hannah Kent (Burial Rites), Audrey Magee (The Undertaking) and Tartt, who recently received the Pulitzer Prize for The Goldfinch, who was not in attendance at the awards.
This year’s judges – Mary Beard, Denise Mina, Caitlin Moran, Sophie Raworth and chair Helen Fraser – had the unenviable task of narrowing down the six shortlisted books to just one winner.
Helen Fraser, chair of judges, says of McBride’s startling debut: “An amazing and ambitious first novel that impressed the judges with its inventiveness and energy. This is an extraordinary new voice – this novel will move and astonish the reader.”
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Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Wole Soyinka and Nadine Gordimer have been named on the National Geographic’s list of Africa’s Greatest Innovators in Arts and Sciences, as part of the Innovator’s Project.
Singer and anti-apartheid activist Miriam Makeba also makes the list, which is completed by Samir Amin, Kwame Anthony Appiah, Louis B Leakey, Wangari Maathai and Babatunde Olatunji.
The list of innovators was compiled by Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jnr, director of the WEB Du Bois Research Institute at Harvard University, which was established in 1975 with a mandate to assemble a “world-class team in Afro-American Studies”.
Gordimer, who turned 90 years old last November and announced her retirement from fiction writing recently, is included for her political writing, as well as her stoutly apolitical writing. However, the composition of the list does seem to reinforce Ben Okri’s recent comments on Books LIVE that African writers are “invisible” to the rest of the world if they are “just writing well”. In the context of Binyavanga Wainaina being named one of Time’s 100 Most Influential People after publicly coming out as homosexual, Okri said: “Even if you write as well as Tolstoy you have to be seen in relation to causes, you have to be seen in relation to issues.”
By far the youngest on the list, Adichie is praised for her “brilliant storytelling skills”, but more specifically for her “penetrating discourse on what it means to be black and how views of identity differ between African Americans and American Africans”. National Geographic also mention the Nigerian author’s recent foray into “the realm of politics” with reference to her TED Talk on feminism, which was sampled by Beyonce; her outspoken stance on anti-homosexual legislation in her home country and her comments on the Boko Haram kidnapping crisis.
Read the Africa’s Greatest Innovators in Arts and Sciences biography of Gordimer:
This South African writer won the 1991 Nobel Prize in literature. The Nobel committee said that Gordimer, “through her magnificent epic writing, in the words of Alfred Nobel, ‘has been of very great benefit to humanity.’” A daughter of white, middle-class Jewish immigrants, Gordimer developed an early interest in racial and economic inequality in South Africa and wrote about this injustice in her books. In an interview with the Paris Review in 1980, however, she took pains to minimise the role of politics in her work and underscore that the larger goal of a writer is “to try to make sense of life. I think that’s what writing is.” Her works include The Soft Voice of the Serpent, a collection of short stories; The Lying Days; July’s People; and her most recent, No Time Like the Present. Gordimer was active in the anti-apartheid movement, joining the African National Congress after it was banned.
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I became interested in Adichie this semester when I watched part of her TED Talk, “The Danger of a Single Story,” in a comparative literature class. In her TED Talk, Adichie discusses the problems with only considering single aspects of a person’s identity, and the harm this can bring them as an individual. Adichie’s nuanced views and articulate expression made me want to hear more from her, leading me to look toward Americanah for more of Adichie’s thought-provoking words. Americanah seems to deal with similar themes, as her characters face what it means to be black once they leave Nigeria for the West—a similar phenomenon to what Adichie herself went through when she came to America for college, as she described in her TED Talk.
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