I feel so baaaad! Been away for so long that I don’t even remember my password not even my username! No excuse is good enough. But I’m back now! Yaaaay!
Few things surprise me these days. Like the manipulated Presidential media chat, GEJ suspending Sanusi, Chimamanda supporting gay rights etc. I was taken aback when people kept writing and castigating the President’s suspension of SLS like it wasn’t expected. Might be unexpected if you are a foreigner to Nigeria’s unusual politics but otherwise we all knew it was coming.
In similar vein, I found it quite interesting that some Nigerians are unhappy that Chimamanda has lent her voice to the call for gay rights in Nigeria. Question is what did you expect?! That she begin writing articles and short stories on how disgusting homosexuality is and how it is not an option? Or she tell the world that it can be unlearned as many other social vices? Of course not! If you are a follower of Chimamanda, this really should not surprise you.
But really what does Chimamanda stand to gain by opposing gay rights?! Conversely, she stands to lose a lot if she does. She reminds me of Obama who, unenthusiastic about gay rights in his first term became pro-gay just before his second term. What changed? He needed votes and it was politically correct. Chimamanda is also politically correct. But does political correctness mean you are doing the right thing? Well, that’s gist for another day. Think about it, the Nigerian literati, to which she belongs, support gay rights. Her best friend, Caine prize winner, Binyavanga Wainana recently announced he was gay (me thinks that guy is straight but did that to draw attention to his cause, just my opinion though.) Chimamanda’s publishers and readers abroad would have her head if she dare oppose. Why erase all the goodwill she has enjoyed so far? Opposing gay rights would rile people so much that the film adaptation of her awardwinning book, Half of a Yellow Sun (which by the way, I await eagerly) would fall flat at the box office and same fate may befall every other book she’s gonna write. In totality, what is left of her writing career if she opposes? Little or Nothing!
So really if you were Chimamanda, wouldn’t you support homosexuality?!
Been a way from this blog for sooooo long! Sincere apologies to my readers, I’m back now! Happy new year to y’all! How was the holiday? Hope you had fun.
I came across this article by Binyavanga Wainaina; a satirical piece about Western writers and journalists who always portray Africa as the dark ‘country’ to score cheap points. I read it for the first time a few years ago and loved it. I thought to share it with you. Please let me know what you think. Enjoy!
Always use the word ‘Africa’ or ‘Darkness’ or ‘Safari’ in your title. Subtitles may include the words ‘Zanzibar’, ‘Masai’, ‘Zulu’, ‘Zambezi’, ‘Congo’, ‘Nile’, ‘Big’, ‘Sky’, ‘Shadow’, ‘Drum’, ‘Sun’ or ‘Bygone’. Also useful are words such as ‘Guerrillas’, ‘Timeless’, ‘Primordial’ and ‘Tribal’. Note that ‘People’ means Africans who are not black, while ‘The People’ means black Africans.
Never have a picture of a well-adjusted African on the cover of your book, or in it, unless that African has won the Nobel Prize. An AK-47, prominent ribs, naked breasts: use these. If you must include an African, make sure you get one in Masai or Zulu or Dogon dress.
In your text, treat Africa as if it were one country. It is hot and dusty with rolling grasslands and huge herds of animals and tall, thin people who are starving. Or it is hot and steamy with very short people who eat primates. Don’t get bogged down with precise descriptions. Africa is big: fifty-four countries, 900 million people who are too busy starving and dying and warring and emigrating to read your book. The continent is full of deserts, jungles, highlands, savannahs and many other things, but your reader doesn’t care about all that, so keep your descriptions romantic and evocative and unparticular.
Make sure you show how Africans have music and rhythm deep in their souls, and eat things no other humans eat. Do not mention rice and beef and wheat; monkey-brain is an African’s cuisine of choice, along with goat, snake, worms and grubs and all manner of game meat. Make sure you show that you are able to eat such food without flinching, and describe how you learn to enjoy it—because you care.
Taboo subjects: ordinary domestic scenes, love between Africans (unless a death is involved), references to African writers or intellectuals, mention of school-going children who are not suffering from yaws or Ebola fever or female genital mutilation.
Throughout the book, adopt a sotto voice, in conspiracy with the reader, and a sad I-expected-so-much tone. Establish early on that your liberalism is impeccable, and mention near the beginning how much you love Africa, how you fell in love with the place and can’t live without her. Africa is the only continent you can love—take advantage of this. If you are a man, thrust yourself into her warm virgin forests. If you are a woman, treat Africa as a man who wears a bush jacket and disappears off into the sunset. Africa is to be pitied, worshipped or dominated. Whichever angle you take, be sure to leave the strong impression that without your intervention and your important book, Africa is doomed.
Your African characters may include naked warriors, loyal servants, diviners and seers, ancient wise men living in hermitic splendour. Or corrupt politicians, inept polygamous travel-guides, and prostitutes you have slept with. The Loyal Servant always behaves like a seven-year-old and needs a firm hand; he is scared of snakes, good with children, and always involving you in his complex domestic dramas. The Ancient Wise Man always comes from a noble tribe (not the money-grubbing tribes like the Gikuyu, the Igbo or the Shona). He has rheumy eyes and is close to the Earth. The Modern African is a fat man who steals and works in the visa office, refusing to give work permits to qualified Westerners who really care about Africa. He is an enemy of development, always using his government job to make it difficult for pragmatic and good-hearted expats to set up NGOs or Legal Conservation Areas. Or he is an Oxford-educated intellectual turned serial-killing politician in a Savile Row suit. He is a cannibal who likes Cristal champagne, and his mother is a rich witch-doctor who really runs the country.
I decided to write about this when I remembered a story a girlfriend narrated to me. Her friend, Deji met this fine girl – emphasis on fine – girl was gorgeous plus she was intelligent as well and rich. Deji however, was just okay looking, graduated with a 3rd class and broke. Deji showed interest in the girl and your guess is as good as mine, she blatantly refused. In fact, she made a fool of him. So my friend called Deji and said to him, ‘This babe is way out of your league now, ahan’. And he gave her a puzzled look like she had gone bonkers and said ‘My dear, such a phrase doesn’t exist. Only two things matter, she’s a living creature and I like her!’ And she pressed further, ‘But she embarrassed you and she might do it again’, Deji said, ‘Well, I tried, better than keeping quiet’. Fast forward two years later, Deji and the girl were married. And it got me thinking, what if Deji had listened to her? What if he hadn’t stepped out in faith to pursue the object of his admiration?
That attitude, not being afraid to take risks, the willingness to step out in faith, to take a risk even if all details are not in place, to take a chance when you don’t know where exactly the road will end is one common attribute of achievers.
How many times have you come across people who have excellent skills and are in terrible jobs but refuse to move?! Even when better comes. Why? They are unwilling to take up a challenge; to leave their comfort zones. I see it all the time, people who cannot even imagine leaving the ‘comforts’ of their jobs; they get openings with great training opportunities, better exposure, maybe a pay cut and they turn it down. In the long run, they know they will be better off but they just won’t take that step.
Consciously or unconsciously, we limit our playing fields when we do not take risks; we create artificial boundaries when indeed there are none. I remember a while ago, I needed to change jobs. I had one, not fantastic at all. I worked long hours with little pay. And I knew I could get better with my skills. But there was a caveat; since the job took so much of my time, I had to resign and start a proper job search and study for entry tests. That meant sitting at home without a source of income. A lot of people told me not to resign. They said to me; a bird in hand is worth two in the bush. But I left. Guess what? I got a better job with better hours, better prospects and more pay.
So the question is why do we restrict ourselves? Why do we always confine ourselves? Why do we say things are impossible when we haven’t even tried?
For most people, the fear of failing keeps them from trying new things but in truth, you really cannot escape risk – especially in a nation like ours; by road, air, water or just walking in the street. What’s most important is deciding if the risk is worth it because the fewer risks you take, the higher your risk of failure. As John C. Maxwell said in his book, Failing Forward, risk should be evaluated not by the fear it generates in you or the probability of your success but by the value of the goal’. Amelia Earhart, the first female pilot to fly solo over the Atlantic Ocean said, ‘Decide whether or not the goal is worth the risk. If it is, stop worrying’.
Think about all the successful people we make reference to; Warren Buffet, Bill Gates, Richard Branson, Aliko Dangote, Strive Masiyiwa; they are all risk takers.
Now when I say take risks, I do not mean make rash and irrational decisions but hey live a little. Try something new. Put yourself out there. As Wayne Gretzky said ‘one hundred percent of the shots you don’t take don’t go in’. Plus you don’t win the lottery if you don’t buy the ticket.
So what’s that thing you always wanted to do? It could be as noble as achieving some career goals, starting a new business or as little as saying hello to that hawt guy or hawt guy who lives on your street, whatever it is, take a risk! You only live once. Really, what’s the worst that could happen?
Whoever came up with the idea of a soul mate? Who says that there’s just one person in the world you could be with? For so long, the media has promoted what I call ‘The Soul Mate Notion’. They would have you believe that there’s just one person in the world that’s a perfect blend with your personality; in essence you must do all you can to hook up with that person. They give all kind of names to it; The One, the yin to your yang bla bla blah! Consciously or unconsciously, we have imbibed this and live by it. One question, what if your supposed soul mate is in some far off place like Iraq or Myanmar or even China?! What happens? Are you to go looking for him or stay single and hope and pray daily that he finds you? What about if he dies or becomes a Jihadist?!
I remember my first year at Uni; I met someone I really liked. I went through all the phases; you know, think about him a lot, wait for him to call, get excited when you see him bla bla blah! Guy was a TDH- Tall, Dark, Handsome; you know the kind of bloke that gives you the shivers! *wink* But after a few weeks, we differed on a fundamental issue; our beliefs. We would have long arguments and never come to a meeting point. As a young naïve Christian, I started to pray for him to ‘see the light’. I prayed and prayed and then one day, I heard God say clearly to me (not through anyone cos I wouldn’t have believed), that I was wasting my time. I was shell-shocked and so I held on, for years. Why? I strongly believed He was ‘The One’.
But how and when did I get to thinking he was my soul mate? We attended the same university, that’s how we met, but what if I had attended UNILAG instead, would he still have been my soul mate? Some would say we were destined to meet. These same people believe who you end up with is more a function of destiny than choice. I beg to differ; who you date is influenced by your environment, where you schooled, your circle of friends etc. In essence, you are dating that guy or girl because you two share similar beliefs and connect on several levels. When you no longer connect, it all goes wrong. Question is do you connect with just one person? Of course not. Think about it for a sec, wouldn’t God be unfair if He gave each one of us just one ‘soul mate’? Me thinks there are several people one can be with and be happy. As long as the basic principles of respect, trust, friendship and love are in place, dazall!
Truth is dating and relationships are risky affairs even with a supposed soul mate. Why? People change. A soul mate at 21 could become a monster at 50. But if you base your decision on the basic principles, and not singing he’s my soul mate, she’s my soul mate, at least you stand a better chance of choosing right.
So quit waiting around for some non-existent soul mate, look closely you just might find love and happiness right before you. As someone said, love is lurking at all corners, maybe you just ain’t checking out the right corner!
Photo credit: barbarajpeters.com
So I attended the Americanah book launch at Terra in May. I was excited because I love Chimamanda and her works. Until she made those comments about human hair (Brazilian hair weaves et co for those unfamiliar with the term). Those comments that didn’t respect that some in the audience had human hair on. Those condescending comments that made it seem anyone without natural hair was invisible. Suffice to say, I left that gathering without buying the book and I haven’t gotten around to even reading a borrowed copy.
That was in April, fast forward to July, Chimamanda gives a Boston Review interview calling ElNathan John ‘her boy’. I read the interview and my jaw literally dropped, she didn’t just say that! I was disappointed at best and shocked at worst. If she had stopped at that, it might have been excused as a slip but she went on to express her dislike for the Caine prize. Juxtapose that with her comments about not being interested in the stories to read them and asserting that the best fiction was in her mailbox, you get the idea of a conceited Chimamanda.
Some may argue that Chimamanda was just trying to deemphasise the ubiquitous notion that to be an African writer of note, you must have won some foreign prize. Maybe, but did she have to diss other writers in the process?? Though that notion is so wrong, truth is, that’s the reality on ground and even Chimamanda is a product of that stereotype; she won the British Orange Prize, and became an internationally known literary figure. So how about being happy for a fellow writer and a fine one at that, and not make such unfair comments?!
Of course, ElNathan’s response on his blog was very sarcastic. I can identify with him when someone you respect and admire deeply becomes a source of hurt and pain. Anyways, he got free publicity, even if in the most unlikely of ways.
I like Chimamanda and her smart retorts to questions, I still do but this path she has chosen; a destructive one won’t lead her anywhere. So easy Chimamanda, lest this gift of yours becomes your Achilles’ heel. Enough said!
Entries are being received for the first ever Etisalat Pan-African Prize for Literature.
The Prize, which aims at celebrating African fiction and writers, empowering members of the literary society and rewarding excellence in literary writing, will be awarded to the best full-length debut novel by an African writer published in the last 24 months.
Criteria for Entry
- Submissions will only be accepted from publishing houses
- The book must have been published between 01 May 2011 and May 31 2013 and must be at least 30,000 words
- The book was first published in English
- The author must be of African citizenship
- All books entered must have a registered ISBN number or equivalent.
- Entries for fiction books will be submitted by publishers who have published a minimum of ten (10) authors
- Deadline for submission is 30th August 2013
The panel of judges for the Prize, include Associate Professor of African Literature at the University of Witwatersrand, South Africa, Pumla Gqola; writer, Sarah Ladipo Manyika among others. The winner of the Prize goes home with £15,000, a Samsung Galaxy Note and a Montblanc Meisterstuck. There will also be a sponsored book tour to three African cities, and a place on the Etisalat Fellowship at the University of East Anglia where the winner can meet with other writers, publishers and work on his/her second novel (as always!). Other shortlisted writers will win a Samsung Galaxy Note each and go on a book tour to two major African cities. In addition, Etisalat will buy 1000 copies of all shortlisted books which will be donated to various schools, book clubs and libraries across the Africa (Now that’s generous!)
To top it all, an online flash fiction prize will be announced later in the year.
It’s a welcome development that Etisalat is celebrating African fiction. Although, the criteria are kinda stringent, considering that a lot of young writers self-publish, it’s a step in the right direction. So kudos, Etisalat!