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Archive for the ‘Nigeria’ Category

Imagining ourselves into existence: First ever Abantu Book Festival in Soweto a roaring success

Words and images by Thato Rossouw

My Own LiberatorUnimportanceSweet MedicineAffluenzaNwelezelangaThe Daily Assortment of Astonishing Things and Other StoriesRapeFlying Above the SkyNight DancerBlack Widow SocietyThe Everyday WifeOur Story Magic

 
“A conquered people often lose the inclination to tell their stories.”

These were the words of former Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke at the inaugural Abantu Book Festival, in discussion with readers about the importance of black people telling their own stories and having spaces where they can share them with one another. “We have stories to tell, they are important, and they are liberating in nature,” he said.

 
Moseneke’s words came as a preamble to compliment the authors Thando Mgqolozana and Panashe Chigumadzi, and the rest of their team members, for organising a festival that not only celebrated black writers, readers, pan-African book stores, and online platforms that celebrate African literature and narratives, but also gave them a safe space to speak freely about the issues they face in their struggle to liberate themselves.

The festival, which was themed “Imagining ourselves into existence”, came as a result of Mgqolozana’s decision early last year to renounce white colonial literary festivals. In an interview with The Daily Vox in May last year, Mgqolozana told Theresa Mallinson that his decision to reject these festivals came from a discomfort with literary festivals where the audience was 80 percent white. “It’s in a white suburb in a white city. I feel that I’m there to perform for an audience that does not treat me as a literary talent, but as an anthropological subject,” he said.

 
The three-day festival took place at two venues: the Eyethu Lifestyle Centre, which hosted free events during the day, and the Soweto Theatre, which hosted events in the evening. These evening festivities cost R20 per person and featured over 50 poets, novelists, essayists, playwrights, literary scholars, screenwriters, performing artists and children’s writers from across Africa and the diaspora. Some of the writers and artists who were present at the festival include Niq Mhlongo, Unathi Magubeni, Lidudumalingani Mqombothi, Thandiswa Mazwai, Pumla Dineo Gqola, Lebogang Mashile and Chika Unigwe, among many others.

 
The first day of the festival began with a discussion featuring four black female Fallist writers, Dikeledi Sibanda, Mbali Matandela, Sandy Ndelu and Simamkele Dlakavu, titled “Writing and Rioting Black Womxn in the time of Fallism”. The discussion covered topics ranging from the role of the body, particularly the naked body, in challenging old narratives, to writing and rioting as acts of activism. It was then followed by a highly attended talk with Justice Moseneke entitled “Land and Liberation”, a concert by the group Zuko Collective at the Soweto Theatre, as well as speeches and performances at the opening night show.

Some of the riveting discussions at the festival were titled: “Land and Liberation”, “Women of Letters”, “Writing Today”, “Cut! Our Stories on Stage and Screen”, “Ghetto is Our First Love”, “Creating Platforms for Our Stories” and “Writing Stories Across and Within Genres”. The festival also included seven documentary screenings, poetry performances, a writing masterclass with Angela Makholwa and Phillippa Yaa de Villiers, and performances every night at the Soweto Theatre by Zuko Collective.

 
Dr Gcina Mhlophe gave the keynote address at the festival’s opening night, which was preceded by the singing of the decolonised national anthem and a rendition of the poem “Water” by poet Koleka Putuma. Mhlophe reminded the audience that, while it is important for us to celebrate young and upcoming artists, it is also important to remember and celebrate those that came before them. She sang and told stories about people like Mariam Tladi and Nokutela Dube and spoke about their role in the development of the arts. Dube was the first wife of Reverend John Langalibalele Dube who was the first President General of the South African Native National Congress (SANNC) which was later renamed the African National Congress (ANC).

 
The festival ended with a sold-out event at the Soweto Theatre that featured a discussion on “Native Life in 2016” between Chigumadzi and I’solezwe LesiXhosa editor Unathi Kondile, facilitated by Mashile; a performance by Zuko Collective; and a Literary Crossroads session with Unigwe, facilitated by Ndumiso Ngcobo.
 

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The hashtag #AbantuBookFest was on fire for the duration of the festival and long afterwards:


 
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Abubakar Adam Ibrahim awarded $100,000 Nigeria Prize for Literature in glittering ceremony

Abubakar Adam Ibrahim awarded $100,000 Nigeria Literature Prize in glittering ceremony

 
Season of Crimson BlossomsAbubakar Adam Ibrahim: The man, his dreams and prize

Abubakar Adam Ibrahim, who emerged from Nigeria’s generation of “intellectual terrorists”, recently won the Nigeria Prize for Literature. The award ceremony in Abuja was nothing short of grand – Michael Jimoh was there

Soon after the Swedish Academy delighted Nigerians with news that Wole Soyinka had won the Nobel Prize in Literature in October 1986, a national tragedy followed to dampen whatever excitement there was to savour of that historic feat. Dele Giwa, a stylish journalist and one of the founding editors of Newswatch, was letter-bombed. His demise, Soyinka later mourned, turned “the euphoria of the Nobel Prize into ashes in our mouths”.

When Abubakar Adam Ibrahim, winner of the 2016 edition of the Nigeria Prize for Literature, met and spoke with the press on Friday, November 25 in a clinically-clean, modest meeting room at the Protea Hotel, Maryland, Lagos, he briefly experienced the same emotional low as his senior colleague 30 years ago. His father, the one person he would have wished to be around to share this one unique moment with him, had died eight months before. In recounting it, Ibrahim’s voice became understandably low, his mien more pensive; a few journalistic heads drooped on shoulders, an expression of collective grief shown to individuals in moments of distress.

Abubakar Adam Ibrahim awarded $100,000 Nigeria Literature Prize in glittering ceremony

 

But four days later, on Tuesday, November 29, this time in Abuja, at the NAF Conference Centre in Kado, part of the Federal Capital Territory, there was no such emotion. Instead, there was celebration, celebration and recognition of an achiever. It was a mood of unpunctuated happiness from the moment MC Richmond Osuji took up the microphone to start off the public presentation of the award to Ibrahim mid-morning. The location was ideal, a quiet and easily accessible part of Abuja, with ample parking and uniformed security on guard from start to finish. The decorated tables with real white roses could have made anyone conclude that a wedding reception was about to begin.

Abubakar Adam Ibrahim awarded $100,000 Nigeria Literature Prize in glittering ceremony

 

Indeed, there was a union – not of man and woman, but of business and literature. And the result of that joint effort was evident before all by way of large posters in the lobby and in the hall: A medium shot of Ibrahim welcomed guests, his winning novel, Season of Crimson Blossoms, published by Lagos-based Parresia Publishers, beside him with the sponsor’s logo, a stylised NLNG, in smaller letters at the top.

Abubakar Adam Ibrahim awarded $100,000 Nigeria Literature Prize in glittering ceremony

 

Season of Crimson Blossoms is Ibrahim’s first novel and won the gas company’s $100,000 prize easily, trouncing 171 other entries by Nigerian authors home and abroad. In its tradition, NLNG had come all the way from Port Harcourt to honour the laureate publicly at a venue of his own choosing.

Though he was schooled and once lived in Jos, Ibrahim has resided and worked in Abuja these past years, where he is Arts Editor of Daily Trust. Fortyish with a contemplative look reminding one of F Scott Fitzgerald’s brooding visage in one of his rare sober moments, Ibrahim has said that nothing took him to writing, “I grew into it. The only thing that came naturally to me, almost as natural as breathing, was writing.”

From that first love, the Mass Communication graduate from the University of Jos has never looked back. A collection of short stories and a novel later, Ibrahim has, in the words of an acquaintance, “consistently developed himself”.

At various times an electrician and a football wannabe, he never deviated from his avowed métier. If anything, he has lived the dream of writing, thus bringing to reality what the incomparable Frenchman of American history, Henry David Thoreau, once said of dreams. “If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavours to live the life which he has imagined,” Thoreau mused centuries ago, “he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.”

The gathering of literati, diplomats, company execs, politicians and common folk in Abuja that Tuesday morning confirmed Ibrahim’s “success unexpected in common hours”.

Abubakar Adam Ibrahim awarded $100,000 Nigeria Literature Prize in glittering ceremony

 

The ceremony was scheduled to begin at 10pm, but the capacious hall was packed to the rafters in no time, and late arrivals had only standing space. After a mandatory frisk by security at the entrance, guests arrived in pairs and in groups or alone, filled the chairs, most of the women in hijab setting off their well-defined faces, the men in babban riga with caps caved in on one side. Female children with beaded hair and lale-designed hands complemented the northern ambience of the event.

“This is the first time a writer from northern Nigeria is winning the prize,” a longtime resident of Abuja, and president of Association of Nigerian Authors, Denja Abdullahi told me. To Abdullahi, therefore, Ibrahim’s prize is “an affirmation of so many writers in the north who have been writing without the opportunity of promotion.”

Abdullahi’s veiled comment alludes to the fact that writers in the north get far less traction than their southern counterparts whose proximity to Lagos, culture capital of Nigeria, gives them more exposure and publicity. However, the presentation more than made up for whatever publicity mileage Ibrahim may have been denied in the press. It was the most attended and most high profile literary event in recent memory in the Federal Capital Territory.

The MD of NLNG, Tony Attah, led a retinue of senior staff, including Dr Kudo Eresia-Eke, the GM External Relations. Dr Bola Afolabi, Group General Manager of the gas company, represented the GMD of NNPC, Dr Maikanti Baru. The British High Commissioner, Peter Arkwright, sat all through the event, just as two diplomats from the US and Spain did. Minister of Information and Culture Alhaji Lai Mohammed filled in for the Federal Government, calling Ibrahim “my friend” several times even though he may only have heard of him days before. It helped no more when, in his well-delivered acceptance speech, the laureate swiped at the Federal Government, declaring that “no civilisation or people achieve anything without imagination. The dire state of the Nigerian nation is a testament to this fact. We are not only conditioned to abhor imagination and creativity but to stifle it.”

Ibrahim’s creative spirit was momentarily stifled some time in Jos where, after a sectarian clash in 2008, his house was razed – along with all his books. Despite that, his dedication to writing only got stronger. “He is particular about his craft,” Mallam Denja Abdullahi recalls of the author.

The president of the writers’ body insists he is not surprised Ibrahim won the most prestigious literary award in Africa. Equally not taken unawares is the laureate’s younger sibling, Abdulkadri Adam Ibrahim.

Anyone could easily mistake him for the writer, the same visage and height, and even build. Abdulkadri has followed his sibling’s writing career closely, right from the beginning. “I wouldn’t say this is a surprise because he has been winning other competitions before. I had my fingers crossed that he was going to win and when it came, I wasn’t surprised.”

The winning entry itself, Season of Crimson Blues, published by Parresia Books under the competent headship of Azafi Omoluabi-Ogosi and Richard Ali, is a riveting love tango between a notorious, dope-dealing, hard-eyed criminal, Hassan “Reza” Babale, and a middle-aged widow, Hajiya Binta Zubairu. Though these two dominate the story, others come alive with the realism of Flaubertian characters. Mallam Haruna, a comical figure dying of suffocating jealousy, is one.

He it was, burdened by unrequited love, who hastened to Munkaila, son of Binta, with gossip about his mother’s fornication with a loathed neighbourhood crook. From then on, nothing could avert the tragedy that wound around Binta’s family like a soiled turban.

Ibrahim has a mastery of language and he deploys it expertly. In one scene, the author describes Reza and Binta, spent after making love: “the lovers lay on the bed watching the ceiling fan turning, slicing the air like an indolent scythe”. In another passage, we read of “memories eddying in little swirls around” Binta’s mind.

Season of Crimson Blossoms comes across as one of those ancient oriental tales by moonlight, complete with djinns, fragrances, incense and perfumes, sometimes used to cover up the “objectionable stench of fornication clinging” to the long-suffering widow.

It is not for nothing that the panel of judges wowed with deserved praise for Ibrahim’s novel. By a unanimous decision, they plumped for Ibrahim’s gripping tale of romance and tragedy.

“The novel moves from its evocative and passionate first sentence,” the Professor Dan Izebvaye-led panel of adjudicators commented, “through a web of anxious moments to a tragic and painful conclusion with hardly a moment of respite”.

Abubakar Adam Ibrahim awarded $100,000 Nigeria Literature Prize in glittering ceremony

 

Ibrahim comes from a generation of writers who senior journalist and writer Uzor Maxim Uzoatu classifies as “intellectual terrorists”. All of them are graduates of the University of Jos or have association with the city of Jos – the Helon Habilas, Obi Nwakanmas, Tony Kans, Dave Njokus, Richard Alis and others. So formidable is their intellectual prowess, it is said, that a UJ grad is almost always likely to win in a literary competition in Nigeria. At one time in a national poetry competition in the same year, Habila and Kan came first and third respectively.

Now teaching at George Mason University, Fairfax, Virginia, Habila was the first Nigerian to win the Caine Prize for African Fiction, after Aboulela, a Sudanese writer and the first African to be so honoured. Ibrahim himself has been shortlisted for the Caine Prize. He has won the BBC African Performance Prize as well as the Amatu Braide Prize for Prose. And now, the Nigeria Prize for Literature.

Tony Attah put it aptly for both the winner and the sponsoring company in his speech as the number one man in the NLNG gas company. “With respect to the prize, wherever possible, it has been the tradition to celebrate the winner of the Nigeria Prize for Literature in the author’s homestead. By so doing, we believe that we bring the celebration to the people who contributed to making this author, to those who helped shape the experiences and personality of the winner, and to the place where his creativity was fueled. In addition to that, how best could we give today’s celebration its peculiar flavour other than to have it with family and friends of both the winner and Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas.”

The highlight of the presentation came much later, when Kudo Eresia-Eke asked to recognise the mother of the author. As she stood up, wearing a brown hijab, Ibrahim strolled dramatically from the stage for a long embrace with his mother. The ovation was loudest at this time. His wife also got an ovation, the woman who stood by the author all the way through.

Abubakar Adam Ibrahim awarded $100,000 Nigeria Literature Prize in glittering ceremony

 

For every seated guest, young and old, man and woman, literate or not, there was a copy of Ibrahim’s novel gifted by the gas company as a gift, some with Ibrahim’s autograph. Giving out copies of winning entries is a long-standing tradition of NLNG. At a similar reception two years ago in Lagos, Tade Ipadeola’s poem, The Sahara Testaments, was passed out freely to guests.

The reason, according to Eresia-Eke, is for educational purposes. “For anyone serious about building people, whether ordinary individuals or communities or nations, the most important gift is education because it is what makes the individual, he becomes master of his own destiny … education is extremely important to us because a people denied education is a people denied all rights.”

Michael Jimoh is a Nigerian journalist living in Lagos. He has worked with some of the major newspapers in Nigeria but now freelances.

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2016 Morland Writing Scholarship shortlist announced

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The Gonjon Pin and Other StoriesFeast, Famine and PotluckIncredible JourneyStationsThe Myth of This Is That We're All in This TogetherThe Daily Assortment of Astonishing Things and Other Stories
Mr. and Mrs. DoctorSeason of Crimson BlossomsSaturday's ShadowsReading the Ceiling

 

Alert! The Miles Morland Foundation has announced the shortlist for the 2016 Morland Writing Scholarships.

There are four South Africans on the shortlist this year: Amy Heydenrych, Lidudumalingani Mqombothi, Nick Mulgrew and Bryony Rheam.

Of the 22 names, 11 are from Nigeria, four from South Africa, two each from Somalia and Kenya, and one each from Gambia, Ghana, and Zimbabwe.

There are two Caine Prize winners on the list, 2016 winner Lidudumalingani and 2014 winner Okwiri Oduor.

Lidudumalingani was also awarded the 2015 Short.Sharp.Stories Judges’ Choice Runner-Up Award.

Mulgrew is deputy chair of Short Story Day Africa and the man behind uHlanga Press, and has had a productive 2016, publishing both a collection of short stories and a poetry collection.

Bryony Rheam had a short story featured in Where to Now? Short Stories from Zimbabwe in 2011, and her debut novel This September Sun was published in 2012.

Other published authors on the list include Julie Iromuanya, whose debut Mr. and Mrs. Doctor has just been longlisted for the Etisalat Prize for Literature; Abubakar Adam Ibrahim, who recently won the $100,000 Nigeria Prize for Literature for his debut, Season of Crimson Blossoms; Ayesha Harruna Attah, author of Saturday’s Shadows, who was also shortlisted last year; and Dayo Forster, whose debut Reading the Ceiling was published in 2008.

Miles Morland says: “The standard of the shortlist is always high but this year we had an even greater depth of talent than before, making the choosing of a shortlist particularly difficult.

“We had over 500 entries, up from 385 last year and they came from 37 countries, compared with 27 last year. We have two Caine Prize winners on it, and a number of writers who have received global recognition. We are pleased also to have writers early in their career who show terrific promise.

“We have been blown away by the talent, imagination, energy, and humour that characterises African writing. Our only disappointment is that, although we had a number of non-fiction submissions, only one made it to the short list. We are actively trying to encourage non-fiction, Africans telling Africa’s story.”

This year’s judging panel is Ellah Wakatama Allfrey (Zimbabwe, chair), Femi Terry (Sierra Leone) and Muthoni Garland (Kenya). The judges will meet on 12 December to select the five 2016 scholars. The winners’ names will be announced shortly afterwards.

The scholars each receive £18,000 (about R310,000), paid over the course of a year, to allow them to take time off to write the book they have proposed.

2016 Morland Writing Scholarships shortlist

Abdul Adan – Somalia
Jekwu Anyaegbuna – Nigeria
Ayesha Harruna Attah – Ghana
Rotimi Babatunde – Nigeria
Dayo Forster – Gambia
Amy Heydenrych – South Africa
Abubakar Ibrahim – Nigeria
Nneoma Ike-Njoku – Nigeria
Julie Iromuanya – Nigeria
Hamse Ismail – Somalia
William Ifeanyi Moore – Nigeria
Lidudumalingani Mqombothi – South Africa
Nick Mulgrew – South Africa
Otosirieze Obi-Young – Nigeria
Okwiri Oduor – Kenya
Adeola Oeyemi – Nigeria
Olawale Olayemi – Nigeria
Troy Onyango – Kenya
Mary Ononokpono – Nigeria
Koye Oyedeji – Nigeria
Bryony Rheam – South Africa
Sandisile Tshuma – Zimbabwe

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The extraordinary incident of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s BBC Newsnight interview

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Half of a Yellow SunWe Should All Be FeministsAmericanahPurple HibiscusAmericanahThe Thing Around Your Neck

 

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie says she felt “upset” and “ambushed” by her recent interview on BBC Newsnight.

The interview, which took place just after the United States election, made international headlines, as Adichie was horribly mismatched with Donald Trump supporter R Emmett Tyrrell, and made some strong remarks about the president-elect, racism and privilege.
 

 
In a statement on her Facebook page, Adichie reveals that she was given no indication that she would be pitted against a Trump supporter.

In a comment on the post, BBC Newsnight give a half-hearted apology, saying they are “terribly sorry” Adichie “felt ambushed by the encounter”, claiming that it was “an honest mistake” and expressing the hope that the author will return for a one-on-one interview “some time”.

The programme’s intentions with the match-up were made clear, however, by the simple fact that they couched the title of their initial YouTube video of the encounter in antagonistic terms: “Is Donald Trump racist? Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie v R Emmett Tyrrell”. As Adichie says, “It is about entertainment.”

(This is not Adichie’s first unfortunate run-in with the British press. In February 2015 The Guardian erroneously published a very personal piece by Adichie on depression, and had to “apologise unreservedly” for the error.)

Tyrrell, who is editor in chief of the American Spectator, was equally perturbed by the encounter, and wrote a piece for The Washington Times that is nothing short of bizarre. In it, he refers to Adichie and Newsnight presenter Emily Maitlis as “two apparently intelligent English-speaking women” – being sure to emphasise their gender – speaking “incomprehensible” “gibberish”. “They showed no sign of drunkenness or of drug abuse so I left the studio perplexed,” he writes.

He refers to Adichie by her first name throughout the article and calls her a “so-called novelist”, “a Nigerian lady of supposedly great gifts”.

“I had never heard of her, and for decades I have kept an eye on the intellectual vistas as editor in chief of The American Spectator,” he trumpets, before switching to misplaced wry amusement and 1920s flapper slang:

“Why on earth she was appearing before a British audience to discuss an American election I have no idea. If the BBC wanted to explore creative writing I suppose she was their gal, but then what was I doing there?”

Tyrrell writes that he even contacted his very good friend and distinguished historian Andrew Roberts, who hadn’t heard of her either.

It is a mystery why Tyrrell did not simply type Adichie’s name into Google. If he had done so, he could have read about her academic and literary background, he would have seen a (very long) list of awards, and would have learnt that she has been based in the United States for 20 years. Further Googling would have revealed that earlier this year Adichie wrote a short story about Donald and Melania Trump for The New York Times Book Review (clearly not enough of an intellectual vista for Tyrrell).

Repeating what was his biggest gaffe in the Newsnight interview, he again refers to Adichie as “highly emotional”, and paraphrases two of the farcically illogical points he made that day as if they prove that he won the debate.

He tops it all off with a gloriously ironic reference to Adichie’s “invincible ignorance”.

Tyrrell hits so many stereotypical notes one would be forgiven for suspecting that he was a very good actor hired to play the part of Fuddy Duddy number one.
 

 
Adichie, meanwhile, showing the same composure and eloquence she did in the Newsnight interview, has written a response on Facebook criticising the BBC’s handling of the interview, reiterating her statements about Donald Trump and racism, and specifically taking issue with Tyrell’s problematic use of the word “emotional”:

He didn’t say my name. Perhaps he didn’t know it because he had not paid attention when we were introduced. Mine is not an easy name for languid American tongues anyway. But that word ‘emotional.’ No. Just no.

Normally I would not think of ‘emotional’ as belittling. Emotion is a luminous, human quality. I am often emotional – gratefully so. But in this context it was coded language with a long history.

To say that I responded ‘emotionally’ to the election was to say that I had not engaged my intellect. ‘Emotional’ is a word that has been used to dismiss many necessary conversations especially about gender or race. ‘Emotional’ is a way of discounting what you have said without engaging with it.

 

Read the full piece, as shared on Adichie’s Facebook page:

ON THE BBC NEWSNIGHT INTERVIEW

By Chimamanda Adichie

Two weeks ago, BBC Newsnight contacted my manager to ask for an interview with me. I would be interviewed by the presenter, they said, and would broadly be asked about the election. I said yes.

When I arrived at their studio in Washington DC, the show’s producer casually said, “You’ll be on a panel with a Trump Supporter. A magazine editor who has supported Donald Trump from the beginning.”

“What?” I said. At no time had I been told that there would be anyone else in the interview, never mind being pitted against a Trump Supporter.

I felt upset and ambushed.

I wanted to walk away, but decided not to. I was already there. And I did want to talk about the election, which I had experienced in a deeply personal way. I was still stunned and angry and sad. I still woke up feeling heavy. Not only because I am an enthusiastic supporter of Hillary Clinton, but also because, with Donald Trump’s win, America just didn’t feel like America anymore. The country that grew from an idea of freedom was now to be governed by an authoritarian demagogue.

“I’m sorry you didn’t know it was a panel,” The producer said. “There must have been some mistake somewhere when your manager spoke to the people in London.”

Some mistake somewhere. My manager had simply not been told.

“We want to have balance,” he said.

But sneakily pitting me against a Trump Supporter was not about balance – we could have easily been interviewed separately.
It is a deliberately adversarial strategy that news organizations use in the pursuit of what is often called ‘good television.’
It is about entertainment.

I told the producer that my condition was that I not be asked to respond directly to anything the Trump Supporter had to say.
We could both air our opinions without being egged on to ‘fight it out.’

The Trump Supporter arrived. A well dressed, well groomed elderly man. The producer greeted him, gushed a little. He introduced me to the Trump Supporter. “She will be on the panel with you,” he said.

The Trump Supporter barely glanced at me.

The producer wanted us to shake hands, and he gestured to complete the introduction. We shook hands.

“How are you?” I said. Something about the tilt of the Trump Supporter’s head made me think that perhaps he had hearing problems – and suddenly his standoffishness was forgivable.

I felt a kind of compassion, while also thinking: why would this man, editor of a conservative magazine, be willing to put America in the hands of a stubbornly uninformed demagogue who does not even believe in classic conservative principles?
We got on air. We were seated uncomfortably close. The studio itself was strange, a flimsy tent on top of a building that overlooks the White House. A strong wind rattled the awning.

The interview began. I was determined to speak honestly, and not be distracted by the Trump Supporter, and be done with it and go home and never again allow myself to be ambushed in a television interview.

Until the Trump Supporter said that word ‘emotionally.’

“I do not respond emotionally like this lady,” he said.

I thought: o ginidi na-eme nwoke a? [“Just what is wrong with this man?” - hat-tip to Brittle Paper for the translation]

He didn’t say my name. Perhaps he didn’t know it because he had not paid attention when we were introduced. Mine is not an easy name for languid American tongues anyway. But that word ‘emotional.’ No. Just no.

Normally I would not think of ‘emotional’ as belittling. Emotion is a luminous, human quality. I am often emotional – gratefully so. But in this context it was coded language with a long history.

To say that I responded ‘emotionally’ to the election was to say that I had not engaged my intellect. ‘Emotional’ is a word that has been used to dismiss many necessary conversations especially about gender or race. ‘Emotional’ is a way of discounting what you have said without engaging with it.

No way was I going to ignore that. Which, predictably, led to an interview in which I found myself, rather than talking about misogyny and populism, responding to a man who claimed that an anti-NAFTA, China-bashing, America-First Donald Trump would be an ‘internationalist’ rather than an ‘isolationist.’

Who presumed that he, a white man, could decide what was racist and what was not. And who insisted that Donald Trump is not a racist, even though the evidence is glaring, even though the House Majority Leader of Donald Trump’s own Republican party condemned Donald Trump’s racism.

So much for responding ‘emotionally’ to the election.

I left that interview still feeling upset. But it made me better see why America no longer feels like America.

 
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2 South African authors win the 2016 Golden Baobab Prizes for African children’s books

2016 Golden Baobab Prize winners and shortlist announced

 
Alert! Golden Baobab has announced the winners of the 7th edition of the Golden Baobab Prize.

Established in July 2008, the Golden Baobab Prize is often referred to as the “African Newbery Prize”, and is a prestigious award in the African children’s literature industry. Its aim is to support the development of children’s books by African writers and illustrators.

2016 Golden Baobab Prize winners and shortlist announced

 
The Prize invites entries of unpublished stories and illustrations created by African citizens irrespective of age, race, or country of origin. The Prize is organized by Golden Baobab, a Ghana-based pan-African NGO dedicated to “creating a world filled with wonder and possibilities for children, one African story at a time”.

The organisation’s advisory board includes renowned authors Ama Ata Aidoo and Maya Ajmera.

The Golden Baobab Prize received over 150 stories from 11 African countries this year. Submissions were judged by a jury from diverse backgrounds who brought nearly 100 years of collective experience in children’s literature to the selection of the 2016 winners and finalists.

The winning stories of the 2016 Golden Baobab Prize are:

  • Golden Baobab Prize for Early Chapter Books: The Ama-zings! by Lori-Ann Preston (South Africa)
  • Golden Baobab Prize for Picture Books: Kita and the Red, Dusty Road by Vennessa Scholtz (South Africa)

The winner of each Golden Baobab Prize receives a cash prize of US$5,000 (about R70,300) and a guaranteed publishing contract.

Those shortlisted were:

2016 Golden Baobab Prize winners and shortlist announced

 
The Golden Baobab Prize for Early Chapter Books

  • Maya and the Finish Line by Ayo Oyeku (Nigeria)
  • Lights and Freedom by Khethiwe Mndawe (South Africa)

The Golden Baobab Prize for Picture Books

  • A Dark Night for Wishes by Kai Tuomi (South Africa)
  • Mr Cocka-Rocka-Roo by Lori-Ann Preston (South Africa)

Golden Baobab Executive Director Deborah Ahenkorah Osei-Agyekum said:

For the past seven years, The Golden Baobab Prize has focused on delivering a quality annual literature prize that raises awareness about the need for more African literature for children. Now, the Prize is excited to enter a new phase where we will focus heavily on setting up more publishing partnerships and opportunities for our writers to get more African books into the hands of children. For the first time, this year’s winning stories are guaranteed a publishing contract. The longlist also receives publishing services from Golden Baobab that will connect their stories to leading African and international publishers.

Congratulations to the winners – and those shortlisted.


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Don’t miss La Nigritude – an evening of paintings, photography and poetry in Abuja, Nigeria

Don’t miss La Nigritude – an evening of paintings, photography and poetry in Abuja, Nigeria

 

Nigerian-German visual artist and writer Numero Unoma will be exhibiting at the Thought Pyramid Gallery in Abuja, Nigera.

The exhibition is entitled La Nigritude and will run from 28 November to 1 December.

The show takes its inspiration from Wole Soyinka’s quotation “a Tiger does not proclaim its tigritude”.

Don’t miss La Nigritude – an evening of paintings, photography and poetry in Abuja, Nigeria

 

Read the press release for more:

Abuja comes alive with art as the La Nigritude solo exhibition by Numero Unoma, the artist also known as No1, arrives at the Thought Pyramid Gallery from the 28th November to the 1st of December, 2016. Taking inspiration from those of whom Wole Soyinka once said “a Tiger does not proclaim its tigritude”, the Nigerian-German visual artist’s body of work is a huge roar, of laughter and expression, protest and pain. Tigers come from Asia, whereas in Africa we have lions, which, unlike tigers, can roar.

The pieces are not shy of colour, or texture, or punch. Symbols and graphics are employed to convey messages that often seem vibrant and innocuous, whilst taking sniper shots at those things that invariably define our society and cultures. In this exhibition, money, marriage, status and power mirror their prominence in everyday Nigerian life. Philosophy, humour, and angst, as well as generosity and hospitality, also find their place in drawing parallels with the experiences of the ‘ordinary’ Nigerian. The prevalence of consumerism, the huge impact of technology and the desperation of migration, or even just immigration, all find expression in a satirical collection that takes the edge off introspection and self-critique.

The Thought Pyramid Centre, located in Libreville Crescent, in the Wuse II district of Abuja, has become the city’s highest profile exhibition space. Comprising an exhibition space and a restaurant, it has curated the work of Bruce Onobrakpeya, Diseye Tantua and other great Nigerian artists. Numero Unoma’s La Nigritude exhibition will open on the 28th of November with a centerpiece dedicated to Ken Saro Wiwa Jr (1968-2016) and his father, Ken Saro Wiwa (1941-1995). Ken Jr would have been 48 on the day of the opening.

Complementing and amplifying the paintings will be a series of intimate time-lapse photographs of recognisable locations, spoken word poetry and odes to Nigeria, as well as a celebration of the humble and ubiquitous bench. The wooden benches, on which our country and our continent are run, serve as central pieces, artworks on which to sit and rest while taking in the visual cornucopia of the exhibition.

Don’t miss La Nigritude – an evening of paintings, photography and poetry in Abuja, Nigeria

 

Notes on some of the featured work

Many of us will recognise ourselves, and our experiences in this series of paintings, which employs brands as idioms, colloquialisms as mottos and symbols as metaphors. Texture, colour and geometry feature heavily in concealing the gravitas of sociopolitical critique, whilst at the same time celebrating the indomitable spirit, humour and optimism of the Nigerian people.

Despite the lack of infrastructure, opportunity and economic stability, an “ordinary” Nigerian will never sit down to a meal without inviting one to join him or her, much unlike the corrupt power brokers, who actually do the big time ‘chopping’ with no regard for the next man, or the next generation (“Join Me I & II”).

In a city like Lagos where life is crowded and lean, the ordinary man and woman still stand tall with pride, turn themselves out flamboyantly and subject themselves, among a milieu of yellow cabs, molues and danfos, to a hectic daily grind which promises the hope of improvement (“Lagos Vida Loca”).

Nigeria is a country where it is normal to have multiple income streams, where payment for one’s service cannot be taken for granted, and where corruption is endemic at all levels of society. The question of where the money is, remains a perennial backdrop to the struggles and hustle of the average Nigerian (“Paperwork I, II & III”).

Marriage and sex are also major social vectors, and therefore also feature significantly in the series (“Privatised” and “Who Dash Monkey”).

About the artist

“My work comes forth from that space between the spaces. The proverbial message in the bottle, corked lovingly, and cast out in the hope that it will be found, engaged with and understood in the context of a timely, emotive and relevant narrative. The perspective is personal, and the gaze is a very subjective angle on universal themes pertaining to identity, displacement and sometimes just simply pondering the imponderable. My work is born of the vast wealth of energy and inspiration gathered from a life of travel, work and relationships in various parts of the world.

“I am mother, wife, sister, lover, grandmother, creator, friend, guardian angel and nemesis all rolled into one.

“I approach each work respecting the process, layering on texture, vibrancy and color to give life to the subject matter I am treating. Inherently, my method is organic in its development, and I would like to think that this lends itself to the raw messages therein. The work is sometimes visually misunderstood, as being of shock value, and subtleties are at times missed, simply because of my no holds barred approach.

“The media I use mimic the technologies of my lifetime, the analog and the digital, employing paper, or a tactile canvas as comfortably as an intangible digitally manipulated projection with audio augmentation. These are the building blocks of the creative world in which I have developed: vinyl LP’s, cassettes, mini discs, mp3s, mp4s, 35mm film, 6×7 medium format silver halide, jpegs and pdfs.

“I am that Nigerian – that mixed race Nigerian – who, having had the chance to hold German, British and American citizenship, have found my Nigerian passport, (more than a green card, it is a green book), the symbol of my belonging, to be more than enough to represent my identity. We Nigerians know that we cannot profess that deep and voluminous love we have for our country without the counterbalance of our pet hates and real resentments, those things that represent the other side of our relationship with our young troubled nation, indeed with our very identity. They are inextricable, and will remain so, along this trajectory of so-called development toward (again, so-called) civilisation on which we presently find ourselves.”


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2016 Etisalat Prize for Literature longlist announced – South Africans dominate again

2016 Etisalat Prize for Literature longlist announced – South Africans dominate again
Mr. and Mrs. DoctorThe YearningPiggy Boy's BluesThe PeculiarsBorn on a Tuesday

And After Many DaysDub StepsThe Seed ThiefNwelezelanga

 
Alert! The nine-book longlist for the 2016 Etisalat Prize for Literature has been announced, with South African authors dominating again.

2016 Etisalat Prize longlist:

  • The Yearning by Mohale Mashigo (Pan Macmillan, South Africa)
  • Piggy Boy’s Blues by Nakhane Toure (BlackBird Books, imprint of Jacana Media, South Africa)
  • The Peculiars by Jen Thorpe (Penguin Random House, South Africa)
  • Dub Steps by Andrew Miller (Jacana Media, South Africa)

 

The announcement was made by Helon Habila, chair of the 2016 judging panel. The longlist is made up of entries from first-time authors whose books were published in the past 24 months.

Chief Executive Officer of Etisalat Nigeria Matthew Willsher praised the carefully moderated selection process, saying: “The novels in this year’s longlist represent a good number of African publishing companies. Each novel reflects a very interesting and dynamic perspective that will provoke intense conversations about different personal and societal issues.”

The judging panel will now three authors for the shortlist, which will be unveiled in December.

The Etisalat Prize for Literature is a Pan African prize that celebrates debut African writers of published fiction. Previous winners are Zimbabwe’s NoViolet Bulawayo (2013), South Africa’s Songeziwe Mahlangu (2014) and Democratic Republic of Congo’s Fiston Mwanza Mujila (2015).

The winner of the 2016 Etisalat Prize will be announced in March 2017 and will receive £15,000 (about R265 000), an engraved Montblanc Meisterstück pen, and an Etisalat-sponsored fellowship at the University of East Anglia, to be mentored by renowned Professor Giles Foden, author of The Last King of Scotland.

 
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‘Racism is an objective reality’ – Watch Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie dominate a debate on racism, Trump and privilege

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Half of a Yellow SunWe Should All Be FeministsAmericanahPurple HibiscusAmericanahThe Thing Around Your Neck

 
Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie hit the international headlines recently when she made some strong remarks about Donald Trump, racism and privilege on BBC Newsnight.

The interview was hosted by Emily Maitlis, with Adichie and the editor in chief of the American Spectator, R Emmett Tyrrell.

Tyrrell tries a number of bullying tactics, but Adichie was having none of it. The highlight of the interview is Adichie’s remark:

I’m sorry but if you are a white man you don’t get to define what racism is. You really don’t. You don’t get to sit there and say [Trump] hasn’t been racist when objectively, he has. And it’s not about your opinion. Racism is an objective reality and Donald Trump has inhabited that reality.

We’ve created some gifs of her brilliance for you to share, so scroll down for those.

The full discussion has now been made available, and you can watch it at the end of this post.

Adichie begins by saying that she believes the demands being made by many of Trump’s supporters are valid, but criticised the “dark”, “ugly” nature of his populism:

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For me what I think this has shown is that there are different kinds of populism. I think that the underlying idea to this election has been that a certain group in the US feel that they have been economically disadvantaged and ignored, and I think that’s valid and true.

I also think that’s really a result of a larger capitalist system that both parties have embraced. But I think what is very troubling to me is that we can find that idea valid without accepting other ideas that have propelled Trump to his success. And so, populism doesn’t have to be as dark and ugly as it has been with Donald Trump.

Bernie Sanders rode a wave of populism; it wasn’t dark, it wasn’t ugly, it didn’t involve misogyny and racism.

When asked for his views on Trump, Tyrrell chooses emphasise how he believes Hillary Clinton was found wanting by the American public and “lied repeatedly”.

“Does it feel to you America has changed?” Maitlis asks Adichie, who responds:

I feel quite numb. I have felt quiet numb since the elections. And I think I felt numb because I was genuinely surprised. And I wasn’t surprised because I live in some sort of liberal bubble. I was surprised because I felt that people would reject the package in which Donald Trump’s message came.

The populism, the idea that there are people who have been neglected and we need to look out for them, I think it’s valid.

But what is shocking to me, and what has made me feel so numb, and sad, and angry, is that it seems that people who have accepted this idea also accepted the other things. We can talk about lying, and talk about a person who has consistently been shown to lie about big things and small things …

Adichie adds that to suggest Clinton was not honest is not a strong argument, and points out that she was voted for by more Americans, numerically.

Tyrrell is then spotted “raising his eyes” by Maitlis, and she asks him to respond.

“I don’t really respond to an election the way this lady does,” he says. “I don’t respond to it emotionally, I look at the evidence. And the evidence suggests that there was a reason for this.”

Maitlis asks him if he is at all worried by the protectionist, isolationist rhetoric of the Trump campaign.

“No,” he replies, saying he doesn’t believe it is protectionist or isolationist, and adding: “I believe Donald Trump is going to be in the great line of American internationalists.”

At this point Adichie can’t disguise a grin:

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… and is invited to respond:

No, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, this is absolutely absurd. We can’t create an alternate universe where the real Donald Trump doesn’t exist. He campaigned as a man who is protectionist, who is isolationist, who actually doesn’t abide with many of the traditional conservative values. So to suggest he is going to be some kind of internationalist doesn’t make sense.

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And can I say that I find it patronising to be told that I respond to things emotionally, and that somehow doing that means that I don’t respond to things in a way that looks at evidence. We are talking about Donald Trump, who has been shown to lie over and over. There is evidence for that. So to say that to point that out is to be emotional I think is really absurd.

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Maitlis then points out that the first black president will be followed by a president who is endorsed by the KKK.

Tyrrell dismisses the significance of this, and says – pointing his index finger at the presenter – “it’s inappropriate to talk about the KKK in the same sentence of Donald Trump or any republican. They’re utterly marginal.”

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Adichie is again invited to respond, dub as she does Tyrrell interrupts her, saying sneeringly “go ahead, let me hear what you have to say about that”.

With good grace, in very diplomatic passive voice, Adichie says: “You know, I find it really interesting; there seems to be a refusal to accept reality. [Maitlis] has asked a question about the KKK and it hasn’t been engaged with … the point is the KKK exists, the KKK endorsed Donald Trump, the KKK stands for white supremacy, and that has to be acknowledged, that has to be pushed back on.”

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An inkling of concern seems to cross Tyrrell’s face at this point, but he tries to keep his spirits up – and possibly deflect attention – by abruptly yelling “Balderdash! What balderdash!”

Maitlis asks Tyrrell: “Was there nothing that Trump said on the campaign trail about race that hit you? Did you worry about any of it?”

“No, in fact you people keep magnifying it,” he says. “[Trump] talked about a lot of other things. Those things get through too. I mean this is ridiculous!”

Maitlis then points out that a fifth of Latinos and Hispanics voted for Trump, and asks Adichie whether that indicates that race was not a major issue in the election.

Adichie says:

I find that argument to be very troubling. The idea somehow that if people of colour vote for somebody who’s racist it means he’s not racist. Every system of oppression has people who are in the group of the oppressed who somehow contribute to that oppression. So it’s not even a valid argument to make.

I think we should look at Trump for who Trump has told us and shown us that he is. So let’s look at what he’s said on the campaign trail. The only way we can judge the kind of president he will be is based on the campaign that he ran.

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Maitlis says, “But maybe he didn’t believe anything he said and maybe that’s how you win a primary.”

Adichie responds:

But then, that’s the problem because on the one hand we’re told that Trump’s appeal is that he says what he thinks and the says it like it is, and then on the other hand we’re told that somehow he doesn’t really mean it. So which is it? There’s something very troubling about that.

Maitlis mentions the many republicans, including Speaker of the US House of Representatives Paul Ryan, who have accepted that Trump has been racist in his language, “‘textbook racism’ was the phrase used,” she says.

Tyrrell says: “That’s not true, he hasn’t been racist. I mean, let me tell you …”

At this point Adichie interjects, saying: “I’m sorry, but if you are a white man you don’t get to define what racism is. You really don’t. You don’t get to sit there and say he hasn’t been racist when, objectively, he has. And it’s not about your opinion. Racism is an objective reality and Donald Trump has inhabited that reality.”

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Racism is an objective reality and Donald Trump has inhabited that reality.

Adichie mentions how Trump referred to United States District Judge Judge Gonzalo P Curiel as a “Mexican” during his campaign, in an attempt to discredit him.

Tyrrell’s bizarre retort is: “I’m sorry but I looked at Judge Curiel and he didn’t look any other colour than my colour.”

He adds that he doesn’t believe Trump will govern in the same way that he campaigned, as proved by his “dignified, charming” acceptance speech.

Adichie says:

To says to us that we have to disregard everything that Donald Trump said and did during his long campaign and judge him just on the one day after he had won the election doesn’t make sense.

Watch the full video:

 
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Black to the future: Authors announced for the Abantu Book Festival

Authors announced for the Abantu Book Festival

 
Alert! The Abantu Book Festival has revealed a sneak peek of writers and performing artists who will be leading the inaugural event.

The Abantu Book Festival will be happening in Soweto, 6-10 December 2016.

The impressive lineup includes Angela Makholwa, Bheki Peterson, Bongani Madondo, Bontle Senne, Chika Unigwe, Dikeledi Deekay Sibanda, Duduzile Zamantungwa Mabaso, Don Mattera, Elinor Sisulu, Eusebius McKaiser, Florence Masebe, Fred Khumalo, Gcina Mhlope, HJ Golakai, James Murua, Khadija Patel, Khaya Dlanga, Khosi Xaba, Koleka Putuma, Lebo Mashile, Lesego Rampolokeng, Lidudumalingani Mqombothi, Malaika wa Azania, Mongane Wally Serote, Natalia Molebatsi, Ndumiso Ngcobo, Niq Mhlongo, NoViolet Bulawayo, Nozizwe Jele, Percy Mabandu, Phillippa Yaa De Villiers, Pumla Dineo Gqola, Redi Tlhabi, Rehana Rossouw, Sabata-mpho Mokae, Sihle Khumalo, Siphiwe Mpye, Siphiwo Mahala, Thabiso Mahlape, Thandiswa Mazwai, Thato Magano, Unathi Kondile, Unathi Magubeni, Vangi Gantsho, Xolisa Guzula, Yewande Omotoso, Zukiswa Wanner, and others still to be confirmed.

 
Panashe Chigumadzi, author of Sweet Medicine and the festival’s curator, says:

In this lineup we find depth and variety. Some of our authors have been telling stories for as long as others have been alive, while others have just begun but are bringing incredible innovations to the art. Together with our storytellers, we’ll be looking black to the future.

Black Widow SocietySigh The Beloved CountryPowers of the KnifeNight DancerThe Short Story is Dead, Long Live the Short Story!Memory is the WeaponWalter and Albertina Sisulu
Run Racist Run#ZuptasMustFall and Other RantsHave You Seen Zandile?The ScoreTo Quote MyselfThese handsIn a Ribbon of RhythmA Half Century Thing

 
“Abantu” is the Nguni word for “people”, and the festival’s mission is to be “the literature event that provides black writers and readers the platform and visibility they deserve”.

The first annual Abantu Book Festival will be a five-day experience of readings, discussions, music and other forms of storytelling, as well as workshops and film screenings.

Organised under the theme – Our Stories – the festival celebrates African stories through written and spoken word, visual arts, music and film. It will explore the ways in which our stories are told, and how these inform, or are informed by, our ways of being.

The Soweto Theatre (Jabulani) and Eyethu Lifestyle Centre (Mofolo) are the main venues, and African Flavour Books will be on site to make sure your favourite African and diasporan titles are on sale.

The programme will be published in November 2016.

Full author profiles are available at the Abantu Book Festival website!

The Daily Assortment of Astonishing Things and Other StoriesMemoirs of a Born FreeRumoursEat, Drink and Blame the AncestorsAffluenzaWe Need New NamesHappiness is a Four-Letter Word
The Everyday WifeRapeEndings and BeginningsWhat Will People SayGa ke ModisaAlmost Sleeping My Way to TimbuktuWhen a Man Cries
Ukuba MtshaThe Woman Next DoorLondon – Cape Town – JoburgSweet MedicineNwelezelanga

 
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Abubakar Adam Ibrahim wins $100,000 Nigeria Prize for Literature for Season of Crimson Blossoms

Fiction Friday: Forbidden Love in Northern Nigeria - Abubakar Adam Ibrahim's Debut Novel Season of Crimson Blossoms
Season of Crimson BlossomsBorn on a TuesdayNight Dancer

 
Alert! Abubakar Adam Ibrahim has won The Nigeria Prize for Literature for his debut novel Season of Crimson Blossoms.

The shortlist for the award was Ibrahim, Elnathan John for Born on a Tuesday and Chika Unigwe for Night Dancer. Unigwe won the award in 2012 for On Black Sisters’ Street.

The Nigeria Prize for Literature rotates yearly among four literary genres: prose fiction, poetry, drama and children’s literature, and comes with a cash prize of $100,000 (about R1.4 million).

A total of 173 entries for the prize were received this year. Next year’s prize will be for poetry.

The Nigeria Prize for Literature was founded in 2004. The first prose winner was Kaine Agary (2008) for her novel Yellow Yellow.

This year’s prize was judged by Professor Dan Izevbaye (chair), Professor Asabe Usman Kabir and Professor Isidore Diala. The members of the advisory board are Professor Emeritus Ayo Banjo (chair), Professor Jerry Agada and Professor Emeritus Ben Elugbe.

 
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