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Right! That's a wrap of our #ManBooker2014 coverage. Congratulations to Richard Flanagan

Archive for the ‘Nigeria’ Category

Binyavanga Wainaina’s Twitter Outburst: “Dear Caine Prize, U Made Nothing, Produced Nothing, Distributed Nothing”


Binyavanga Wainaina took to Twitter this weekend, and this morning, to bash the Caine Prize, again, saying African writers should be asking more questions about the sponsorship of awards.

“Do you all remember that the literary magazines like Transition that pubished Ngugi, bessie head, Soyinka were sponsored by CIA?” he tweeted (sic).

One Day I Will Write About This PlaceThe Gonjon Pin and Other StoriesAmericanahAfrican Violet

The Kenyan author hit the headlines in early September, when he criticised the Caine Prize in an interview with This Is Africa, saying: “I am going to take this first to another road because I think all you Nigerian literati are way too addicted to the Caine Prize. I give the Caine Prize its due credit, but it just isn’t our institution.”

It was not the first time the “African Booker” has come under fire from writers who consider it too big for its boots. Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, who was shortlisted for the Caine Prize the year Wainaina won it, 2002, caused an uproar in July last year, when she told Slate that she considers it “over-privileged”:

[...] what’s all this over-privileging of the Caine Prize, anyway? I don’t want to talk about the Caine Prize, really. I suppose it’s a good thing, but for me it’s not the arbiter of the best fiction in Africa. It’s never been. I know that Chinelo is on the short list, too. But I haven’t even read the stories—I’m just not very interested. I don’t go the Caine Prize to look for the best in African fiction.

AB: Where do you go?

CA: I go to my mailbox, where my workshop people send me their stories. I could give you a list of ten—mostly in Nigeria—writers who I think are very good. They’re not on the Caine Prize short list.

Wainaina revisited the topic on Friday in grand style, sending a flurry of tweets saying that the Caine Prize award money should not prevent winners from “asking questions” and calling out fellow writers Elnathan John, who was shortlisted for the prize in 2013, and Mehul Gohil, who took part in the Caine Prize workshop in 2012, as well as Caine Prize administer Lizzy Attree.

“It is a season of mad beautiful ideas, not safe career bum lickings,” Wainaina tweeted. “Our continent is ripe, dangerous and renegotiating everything, do not sell your literature for small scholarships.”

This morning Wainaina said his argument was not with the prize itself, but with the attention it gets from Africa, while local institutions with the same aims are given “no credit” by their literary community: “I have very little to say about the Caine prize. I have lots to say about what we have chosen to make of ourselves in it. It speaks loud.”

John responded to Wainaina’s goading by insinuating he had been “drinking”, and criticised “African professionals”:

Wainaina is no stranger to controversy this year. In the midst of a wave of anti-homosexual legislation across the continent, he decided to come out on his 43rd birthday in January, in a “lost chapter” from his memoir, One Day I Will Write About This Place, entitled “I am a homosexual, Mum”. He was subsequently named one of TIME magazine’s 100 Most Influential People.

Read Wainaina’s tweets:

Monday, 13 October:

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Image courtesy of Truth and Fiction

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Shortlist Announced for Short Story Day Africa’s 2014 Anthology, Terra Incognita


Feast, Famine and PotluckAlert! The final six stories have been chosen for this year’s Short Story Day Africa competition, with three South Africans making the cut.

SSDA, the brainchild of Rachel Zadok and Tiah Beautement, has proved itself to be a reliable talent scout; both Efemia Chela and Okwiri Oduor’s Feast Famine and Potluck stories were shortlisted for the Caine Prize, with Oduor taking the honours, for “My Father’s Head”.

The 2014 anthology, Terra Incognita, will be a collection of speculative fiction – horror, fantasy, dystopian, sci-fi, alternative history and magical realism. SSDA received a whopping 104 entries, and 18 were chosen for publication.

Now judges Richard de Nooy, Jared Shurin and Samuel Kolawole have whittled that list of 18 down to six:

“Leatherman” by Diane Awerbuck (South Africa)

“I am Sitting Here Looking at a Graveyard” by Pwaangulongii Benrawangya (Nigeria)

“In the Water” by Kerstin Hall (South Africa)

“Ape Shit” by Sylvia Schlettwein (Namibia)

“Swan Song” by Jason Mykl Snyman (South Africa)

“The Corpse” by Sese Yane (Kenya)

According to SSDA: “The judges commented that ‘Leatherman’ was ‘dark, twisted and visceral’. ‘Swan Song’ disorienting and memorable with lines like ‘Evil dreams and evil waking were blended into a long, nightmarish cocktail of bewilderment and terror’.

“‘Ape Shit’ was praised for its weirdness and bizarre climax, while ‘In The Water’, was called pure horror at its best. ‘The Corpse’, stood out for its brave use of stream of consciousness and interesting premise and ‘I am Sitting Here Looking at a Graveyard’ hit hard from the first line and captured the reader’s attention.”

These shortlisted stories will be passed on to Nnedi Okafor, who will choose the top three. The winners will be announced in November.

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Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie Featured in Video of Official Theme Song For Half of a Yellow Sun Film

Half of a Yellow Sun Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie has been featured in the music video of the official theme song of the film based on her highly acclaimed novel, Half of a Yellow Sun.

The song, “Let’s Live Together”, is sung by the Nigerian R&B group Kush and is a remake of their 2002 hit. Flavour N’abania and Morell, two other big names in the Nigerian music industry, accompany Lara George and Emem Ema – the only two members of Kush to work on this new version of the group’s greatest singles.

The video features scenes from the movie, clips of the glamorous premier held in Lagos and a short message from Adichie saying:

Our diversity is our strength. Let’s live together.

Watch the music video:

YouTube Preview Image

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Taiye Selasi Pulls Out of 2014 Open Book Festival

Taiye Selasi

Ghana Must GoIn an unfortunate turn of events, author Taiye Selasi will no longer be appearing at Open Book Festival in Cape Town this year.

The news was confirmed to Books LIVE by festival co-ordinator Frankie Murray.

Selasi, who is of Ghanaian and Nigerian parentage, published her debut novel, Ghana Must Go, in 2013, to much critical acclaim. It was chosen by both the Wall Street Journal and The Economist as one of the 10 Best Books of 2013.

Selasi was scheduled to take part in a “Great Texts, Big Questions” event on Thursday, 18 September, as well as a reading on Friday, with Kader Abdolah, Rabih Alameddine, Tiah Beautement and Philip Hensher; an event on “Writing the Next One”, with Thando Mgqolozana and Ivan Vladislavić on Saturday; and a discussion on the diaspora with Sefi Atta and Mandla Langa on Sunday.

We do have some disappointing news unfortunately. Taiye Selasi is no longer able to join us for Open Book due to a family emergency. With the wealth of authors joining us however, we know that the festival is going to rock regardless!

However, there is still much to look forward to at this year’s festival, including authors such as Geoff Dyer, Billy Kahora, Tony Park, Philip Hensher and Raymond E Feist.

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Image courtesy of Open Book

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Bulawayo, Oduor, Huchu, Kahora and Chela Tackle the Tricky Subject of African Writing, and Hail the Rise of Afro-futurism

NoViolet Bulawayo, Okwiri Oduor, Tendai Huchu, Billy Kahora and Efemia Chela have all been in the news recently, contemplating the controversial topic of African writing.

Feast, Famine and PotluckThe Gonjon Pin and Other StoriesWe Need New NamesAmericanahGhana Must Go

Zimbabwean Bulawayo, whose debut novel We Need New Names won the Los Angeles Times Book Prizes’ Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction and the the inaugural Etisalat Prize for Literature, was a guest at the Writivism Festival in Kampala recently.

Bulawayo took part in an event hosted at the FEMRITE Readers and Writers club, alongside Abubakar Adam Ibrahim and 2014 Writivism regional winners, Kelechi Njoku and Ssekandi Ronald Sseguja. On the question of African literature, Bulawayo said that despite seeming reductive the classification still has an important place. Bwesigye bwa Mwesigire, who chaired the event, describes the conversation:

Abubakar tells us that whether African Literature exists or not is not important. He thinks that the debate is exaggerated. He says that when he is writing, he never tells himself that he is writing an African story. He just writes. The rest is the business of the academics. Kelechi agrees with him. He is not bothered by the debate. Any position is fine. NoViolet takes a strong stand on the matter. African Literature exists to her. She is interested in where literature comes from. She notes that African literature was never recognized by gatekeepers of so-called ‘human’ literature. Its existence is thus in itself a protest against what was essentially ‘European’ literature masquerading as universal ‘human’ literature. She adds; “Literature does not become less of literature because it is African. I am Zimbabwean and so everything I produce is African”. Ssekandi agrees. I am pleased. How can literature, cultures of a whole continent disappear? I want to thank NoViolet for spelling out why African Literature will never disappear, but I restrain myself. I must remain a balanced moderator.

In a recent article by CNN, entitled “These are the African writers you should be reading right now”, the very African writers quoted emphasise the problems and pitfalls associated with the term.

Oduor, winner of the 2014 Caine Prize, said: “I don’t know what ‘African Literature’ means, but I think there are many ways of thinking about it. I would hope for it to diversify – I’d like to read more science fiction, multiculturalism.”

Zimbabwean Huchu, Kenyan Kahora and Zambian Chela, who were all shortlisted for the Caine Prize, agreed that there is a need for experimentation with genre fiction, and argued against the over-simpiflication of the idea of African literature.

“I would hope for more diverse literature – by this I’m saying a lot more stuff in different genres,” he explains. “There’s the pulpy, entertaining stuff that goes to the masses but at the moment, we have a situation in which you do a story and someone says: ‘What does this tell you about Africa?’ which is problematic.”

For Zambian writer Efemia Chela, also shortlisted nominee, just talking about African literature is “a bit of an absurd idea.” She explained: “You could say European literature is like talking from Russia all the way to the Hebrides – no one really does that and it’s a bit tricky with African literature. It’s 54 countries and so you know, there’s so much scope and range of voices.”

Meanwhile, Kahora, also shortlisted for this year’s Caine Prize, said that this desire for different styles and genres was already on its way – and growing.

“A lot of people now are very interested in afro-futurism,” he said. “A lot of sci-fi, a lot of fantasy, a lot of erotica, and then a lot of cross genre — a kind of cross pollination of genre,” added Kahora. “You will also see [more] forms — you will see some straying to visual storytelling online that attempts to do what a book does.”

But despite these complications, most Africans would not deny feeling a twinge of pride when a writer from the continent bursts onto the world scene. In this spirit, we share Flavorwire’s recent list of “50 Excellent Novels by Female Writers Under 50 That Everyone Should Read”, which includes three African novelists:

Americanah, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

If you haven’t heard of Adichie, you haven’t been paying attention. Hell, Beyoncé sampled her TED Talk, so you really have no excuses. Americanah is a breathtaking and dare I say important novel about race, identity, and love, and I know I’m not the first to tell you to read it, so, you know, go read it.

We Need New Names, NoViolet Bulawayo

A powerful debut novel — shortlisted for the Booker, no less — that tells the story of a ten-year-old girl’s journey from Zimbabwe to America, and all the things she didn’t expect when she gets there. Fierce and sometimes terrifying in her prose, Bulawayo is one to watch.

Ghana Must Go, Taiye Selasi

An elegant novel about a splintered family painstakingly stitching itself back together.

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New Excerpt from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s We Should All Be Feminists

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie We Should All Be FeministsRead an extract from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s new ebook short, We Should All Be Feminists, based on her TEDx Talk of the same name.

Adichie’s talk combined reflections on her personal experience growing up female in Nigeria with lucid and insightful observations about the nature and discourse of modern feminism. Part of the talk was sampled by American pop star Beyoncé in the song “Flawless” on her most recent album, Beyoncé.

Now, Adichie’s essay has been published as an ebook short by Vintage Books, and is available for download.

AmericanahHalf of a Yellow Sun Purple Hibiscus

Read an excerpt from the book:

The first time I taught a writing class in graduate school, I was worried. Not about the teaching material, because I was well prepared and I was teaching what I enjoyed. Instead I was worried about what to wear. I wanted to be taken seriously.

I knew that because I was female, I would automatically have to prove my worth. And I was worried that if I looked too feminine, I would not be taken seriously. I really wanted to wear my shiny lip gloss and my girly skirt, but I decided not to. I wore a very serious, very manly, and very ugly suit.

The sad truth of the matter is that when it comes to appearance, we start off with men as the standard, as the norm. Many of us think that the less feminine a woman appears, the more likely she is to be taken seriously. A man going to a business meeting doesn’t wonder about being taken seriously based on what he is wearing—but a woman does.

I wish I had not worn that ugly suit that day. Had I then the confidence I have now to be myself, my students would have benefited even more from my teaching. Because I would have been more comfortable and more fully and truly myself.

In an interview with Vogue, Adichie says she has become quite “bored” by the constant questions she receives about Beyoncé, but admits that she was pleasantly surprised by having her thoughts on feminism go “viral”.

What was it like to have your ideas about feminism go so viral?

It felt strange and surprising. I had done one TED Talk and I felt that I had already said what I could, in fact, say, and I didn’t think I had anything else worth talking about. But then I also realsed the one thing I cared about is gender, feminism. So I said, “Okay, I’ll do it.” But I thought, This is not going to be popular, because it’s obvious that feminism for many people is a bad word, even if you believe in it, the word is off-putting. I thought seven people would care. I was surprised, but pleasantly so.

What was your first thought when Beyoncé asked if she could sample the song?

I’m so bored by this question, but I will say that I’m happy that my thirteen-year-old niece calls herself a feminist—not because I made the speech, but because of Beyoncé. Having attained the status of “cool” to my niece is wonderful.

Watch the original TEDx video:

YouTube Preview Image

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Tributes Pour in for Wole Soyinka in Celebration of His 80th Birthday

Wole Soyinka

Nigerian playwright, novelist and poet Wole Soyinka, the first African to be awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, turned 80 on Sunday.

AkeHarmattan Haze on an African SpringOf AfricaWole SoyinkaThe InterpretersSelected PoemsYou Must Set Forth at Dawn

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:

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Image courtesy of Victor Dlamini

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Book Bites: 13 July 2014

Good Morning, Mr MandelaGood Morning Mr Mandela
Zelda la Grange (Penguin Books)
Book buff
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

Life DrawingLife Drawing
Robin Black (Picador)
Book fling
“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)
Book fiend
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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Read a Preview of the New Issue of Chimurenga’s Pan-African Gazette, the Chronic

One Day I Will Write About This PlaceHead on FireBurma BoyGirls at War

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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Should Science Fiction and Fantasy be Included in the “New Wave of African Writers”?

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.

AfroSFWho Fears DeathDark Matter

Purple HibiscusHalf of a Yellow Sun Americanah

CrossbonesAll Our NamesWe Need New NamesEvery Day is for the ThiefGhana Must GoDustBoy, Snow, Bird

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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