Wednesday, 16 May 2018

Nigeria has produced some of the world’s best authors—so why is its reading culture so poor?

A woman buys a book at a book store in Lagos, Nigeria.

Back in February, Nigeria’s Guaranty Trust Bank announced the launch of The Dusty Manuscript, a contest for Nigerian crime and romance fiction writers with finished but unpublished novels.
The top three authors from the contest will get a publishing contract with Kachifo, one of the country’s renowned publishing houses. Kachifo distributes some of the Nigeria’s best known authors, including Chimamanda Adichie, Jowhor Ile, and Eghosa Imasuen.

Over the last decade a number of literary prizes like these have helped support Nigeria’s literary fiction circles. They include the 9Mobile Prize for Literature, backed by the telecommunications company formerly known as Etisalat, the Nigeria Prize for Literature, sponsored by the NLNG gas company, and the Miles Morland grant, which supports authors working on a novel for a year.
While these prizes will help up and coming writers gain exposure as well as the chance to sell their work, it’s important to ask what kind of market their books will be entering.
  
The reality on the ground is that demand for literary fiction in Nigeria is low. Nigeria’s rich literary history includes some of the world’s most respected authors, such as Chinua Achebe, author of Things Fall Apart, which has been translated to more than 50 languages; Wole Soyinka, Africa’s first’ Nobel laureate for literature, and Florence Nwapa, who is often referred to as the “mother” of modern African literature. In the current era, Nigeria boasts one of the world’s best known authors in Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, whose literary success has been amplified by her commentary on everything from feminism to African politics.

Despite that rich history and the current growth and interest, the reality on the ground is that demand for literary fiction in Nigeria is low.

It’s unclear if it’s about people not wanting to read for leisure, or in fact not having access to fiction. Books have become increasingly expensive in the country as bookshops have shuttered, and with an adult literacy rate of 51%, it’s not surprising that some supporters of literature in the country are concerned about how novelists might fare once their books are published.

“Forget the number of books you see being sold in traffic and our global acclaim for excelling—Nigerians read only when they have to.” Wale Adetula, the founder of The Naked Convos, one of Nigeria’s popular youth-oriented blogs, is one of those people. He conducted an online poll surveying over a thousand users of his site on their reading habits, and found that many said they only read one book a year. These results inspired him to launch the TNC Stories app, which carries the disconcerting tagline, “Reading is dead.” This app allows contributors to create and share stories using text video, audio and music—Adetula’s attempt to keep Nigerians reading, albeit in non-conventional forms.

“The reading culture in Nigeria is poor,” Adetula says. “Forget the number of books you see being sold in traffic and our global acclaim for excelling—Nigerians read only when they have to.”

Adetula believes a culture of reading is not being written into Nigeria’s educational system. “Students see it as some sort of necessary evil. And it becomes harder when you have to deal with the many distractions and challenges that come with being an adult and living in a country like Nigeria.”
Indeed, most of the sales for Farafina Books, an imprint of Kachifo, and one of the country’s most popular publishing houses, come from religious or educational texts, not fiction, according to a senior editor there.

Okada Books, one of the sponsors of the Dusty Manuscript contest, also makes much of its money selling educational, self-help, and motivational titles, but is similarly trying to cultivate a love of reading amongst young Nigerians. The free reading app publishes ebooks written by Nigerian authors covering a host of genres, from memoir to comedy to thrillers. Customer support representative Karo Oforofuo says that authors from the diaspora have reached out to discuss potentially distributing their books to an African audience on the app.

Oforofuo believes Nigerian reading culture “is getting better by the day, given the computer age and advent of ebooks.” Nigeria has a limited number of bookshops, and printing books domestically is a difficult and expensive process. Ebooks are easier to distribute, as people only need the app to download as many books as they want, Oforofuo says.

In 2011, academics from Lagos State University released a paper titled “Poor Reading Habits Among Nigerians,” which cited the benefits of reading for self-improvement and mental and emotional health and hypothesized that Nigeria’s reading culture had suffered from widespread poverty, corruption, deprioritization, and a dearth of dedicated quiet reading spaces like libraries. “A reading nation is an informed nation,” the authors write. “Nigeria can not be regarded as a reading nation because the younger generation of Nigerians does not consider reading a leisure activity.”

The Nigerian literary canon will keep expanding and developing, thanks in part to the interest expressed by private institutions. But it won’t get far if it doesn’t spread to the offices of elected representatives, or if people don’t view reading as a enjoyable hobby. If new genres continue to be supported, books redistributed and reoriented as multimedia content, and the government takes an active role in the refurbishment of existing libraries and the redesign of the school curriculum, some things might change. For now, the players in the small, but growing industry keep fighting to keep reading alive.

Can Literary Imports Change Chinese Perceptions of Africa?

The continent’s best-loved texts are increasingly being translated into Chinese, but publishers are skeptical of their wider influence.

Image result for china

Western media frequently depicts China as a neocolonial power that seeks to import Africa’s natural resources at fire-sale prices, with precious little interest in the continent’s people or culture. At the same time, certain Chinese media outlets have recently come under the spotlight for their representations of Africans, while many black people in China complain that interactions are rife with racist stereotypes.

While economic considerations drive much cross-cultural exchange between China and Africa, the latter’s cultural exports have the potential to profoundly shape the ways Chinese people view the continent. The translation of African literature, for example, may give Chinese readers valuable insights into the sheer diversity of human culture and experience across the region.

Few avid Chinese readers of fiction can name an African author or novel, and those who do often cite “Things Fall Apart,” the highly acclaimed novel by the Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe that portrays the tragic encounter between the Igbo tribe and British colonialism. It was first published in Chinese in the 1960s and has been reprinted countless times since. While literary circles in Africa no longer worship at Achebe’s altar, China’s literary establishment continues to trumpet him as the reigning “father of African literature,” almost to the exclusion of emerging authors.

Since the founding of the modern Chinese state in 1949, there have been three waves of African literary imports. The first, which emerged in the 1980s, was ideologically driven. Empowered by Beijing’s policy of promoting solidarity with the Third World and newly independent nations, state-run imprints like the Foreign Literature Publishing House translated and published a substantial number of African works such as those by the Nigerian writer Wole Soyinka, the Kenyan novelist Ngugi wa Thiong’o, the Senegalese poet (and former president) Léopold Sédar Senghor, and the Algerian writer Mouloud Mammeri. Anthologies of translated African folktales for children even appeared.

During the ’90s and 2000s, imported African literature was top-heavy with winners of globally recognized awards such as the Nobel Prize in Literature. Imports slowed and tended to focus less on the works of socialist-inspired thinkers in favor of high-profile Nobel laureates such as J. M. Coetzee and Nadine Gordimer, both with South African roots, and Egypt’s Naguib Mahfouz.
 
Sellers of African literature say that Chinese publishers have expressed interest in a number of other fictional works, but are quick to mention that perplexing attitudes by Chinese publishers hamper understanding.

Today, the popularity of a generation of young African writers is changing that picture again, although barriers to import remain. In particular, a Chinese translation of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s “Americanah” launched early this year, the fifth of her books to appear in Mandarin including last year’s “Purple Hibiscus” and the controversial “We Should All Be Feminists.” According to the online bilingual database African Writing in Chinese Translation, only two other black African writers have five or more of their works available in Chinese: the abovementioned Soyinka and Achebe.

Arguably, 2017 saw a sizable batch of translations launched in China — the database records eight new titles, four from the prestigious People’s Literature Publishing House. Prominent among them is “Tomorrow I’ll Be Twenty,” a novel by renowned Francophone Congolese author Alain Mabanckou, who is now based in the U.S. and thus a so-called African diaspora writer. Two others are translations from Algerian writers who also write in French: Boualem Sansal’s dystopian novel “2084: The End of the World” and Kamel Daoud’s retelling of Albert Camus’ “The Stranger,” which is titled “The Meursault Investigation” and for which Daoud received death threats in the form of a fatwa.

Sellers of African literature say that Chinese publishers have expressed interest in a number of other fictional works, but are quick to mention that certain rather perplexing attitudes and practices by Chinese publishers hamper understanding and impact sales to the “China black box.”

“There seem to be far more hurdles in accessing the Chinese market than the already immense difficulties of an African publisher accessing the European, North American, and Arab markets,” says Richard Ali, chief operating officer of the Lagos-based publishing house Parrésia. He points out that currently, there are almost no platforms where African and Chinese publishing professionals can easily interact. Take the industry’s largest global event, for instance. “At the Frankfurt Book Fair, I didn’t encounter a single Chinese publisher, literary agent, or translation agent. So, how does the conversation start?”

Meanwhile, China-based publishers often seem to be on a single-minded quest for a blockbuster.
Says Pierre Astier, founder of the Paris-based literary agency Astier-Pécher whose stable includes several African Francophone authors: “I’ve been to China three times in four years to understand the market and meet people. We haven’t done much business with China up to now, though it is constantly developing. But I have not yet perceived a serious interest in African literature, except for very big names and best-sellers.”

This preference is affirmed by the Nanjing-based publisher Yilin Press, which has built its reputation on translated literature. Between 2011 and 2013, Yilin published three novels by Man Booker Prize winner Ben Okri, but has not ventured further into the market for African fiction. “We will continue to keep our eye on African authors,” says Danielle Yang of Yilin’s international cooperation department, “and if there are any winners of major awards, books that possess best-seller potential, we will consider buying the rights.”

Among African publishers, Black Tower Publishers is perhaps the most proactive in marketing its writers internationally. It opened a subsidiary in London in 2016 and, according to founder Bibi Bakare-Yusuf, is represented by the Intercontinental Literary Agency (ILA) in China. “ILA attended the Beijing Book Fair in August [2017] and had meetings with over 40 publishers,” Bakare-Yusuf notes, adding that Cassava Republic also met with Chinese publishers at the Sharjah International Book Fair in the UAE in 2015 and 2016.

“We do believe there is a market for our authors in China,” Bakare-Yusuf concludes. “We know that there are growing business links between China and the African continent, and we are keen to make works by African authors available in Chinese. We hope that when the Chinese audience is able to read and see the diverse representation of African humanity, it might allow them to recognize its complexity.”

Wednesday, 11 April 2018

This Is Why You Should Get The Mosquito Colony by Uduak Nkang




Out of the books we have come across this year, The Mosquito Colony by Uduak Nkang happens to stand out. First it has the best message about malaria, and how it’s crippling our continent, Africa. The author did amazing job by portraying different types of mosquitoes, their effect on human, and their cure, in a way that’s very entertaining and will definitely keep the reader glued to this book.
Below is what the book is really about.

The Mosquito Colony is a blend of fantasy and facts. It blasts into the inner circle of governance and let bear it intrigues, glamour and challenges. It pursues fundamentally the ideology that government is the father of a nation, and must lead in a nation’s quest for greatness. It also x-ray factors militating against the advancement of contemporary African society, from Cairo to Cape Town, from Dakar to Darfur; the soaring scourge of malaria, the glaring realities of imperialism, the weakness of the citizenry and the gains that lies beyond of gate mediocrity, nepotism and greed. This book is intended to spur  all Africans, particularly the young generation towards self-mastery. In a rather subtle but profound manner, The Mosquito Colony pushes for a more united nations of Africa. It is a compendium literary expressions, and perhaps, the first African prose of its kind.

Friday, 30 March 2018

Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o: 'Resistance is the best way of keeping alive'

‘If you really think you’re right, you stick to your beliefs, and they help you to survive’ ... Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o
The Kenyan author was jailed without trial for a year in 1978 and as his prison memoir is reissued, he discusses the need to resist injustice

Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o believes in the imagination. Perhaps that seems obvious for the decorated Kenyan novelist, scholar and playwright, who’s been publishing for over 50 years. But imagination, and all art, for him, is not just a form of creativity; it’s a form of resistance. In his case, once imprisoned for his political beliefs, it was his most important possession in a brutal environment meant to break him.
His memoir, Wrestling with the Devil looks back at his year-long imprisonment in 1978, when, after being arrested in the middle of the night, he was held without trial, in a maximum-security prison. The memoir is a trimmer version of the original work, Detained: A Writer’s Prison Diary, published in 1982. Asked why he chose to publish this updated version now, he replied, “The theme of resistance, and writing in prison, is eternal.” 
  Despite decades of exile, I still feel the pull of my homeland
He committed many acts of resistance while he was jailed, but the memoir deals with the most significant one: the writing of his novel Devil on the Cross on thick, scratchy, prison-issued toilet paper. The legend of the book has become as much a part of its story as the plot itself, about a young woman dealing with racial and gender oppression in neocolonial Kenya.
Because Ngũgĩ was never charged, tried or sentenced, he had no way of knowing how long he would be held. The novel was “a form of spiritual survival”, he says.
“It’s hard to say how I would have reacted after 10 years. But I was scheming as to how I’d survive. I was thinking I’d write the novel in Gikuyu. I didn’t know how long that would take. If it took a year, I thought I’d take another year translating it into Kiswahili or English. I was planning ahead, even then.”
The state’s goal in jailing him, he surmises, was to make an example of an outspoken intellectual. He was arrested for his role in the writing and staging of a play, Ngaahika Ndeenda (“I Will Marry When I Want”), produced by and starring local peasants, who had no previous theatre experience, and limited economic means. For Ngũgĩ, who was openly opposed to the government, it was clear what his jailing meant. In the memoir, he writes, “If the state can break such progressive nationalists, if they can make them come out of prison crying, ‘I am sorry for all my sins,’ such an unprincipled about-face would confirm the wisdom of the ruling clique in its division of the populace into the passive innocent millions and the disgruntled subversive few.”
“They would come and ask me why I was detained. It was very annoying,” he says with a laugh. “They were seeking some kind of confession. They wanted me to confess my sins, and I had no sins to confess, in a political sense.”
He was advised early on in his stay by another prisoner, “Don’t let them break you.” Understanding how dire the situation was – he and others weren’t allowed books, radios, pen, paper; food was often bug-infested; they were kept in their cells 23 hours a day – it’s clear the particular importance for him of maintaining his psychic integrity and beliefs.
For him, those beliefs were rooted in Kenyan independence from the British, the right of the people to live on their own terms, instead of what had come to pass in the late 19th century: British settlers taking over the land and resources, hauling native Kenyans into detention camps, forcing Kenyans to give up their culture and replace it with theirs.
Over time, Ngũgĩ worked to decolonize his own mind – renouncing his baptismal James, and Christianity; ceasing to write in English. It’s that last decision that many people still question.
“If I meet an English person, and he says, ‘I write in English,’ I don’t ask him ‘Why are you writing in English?’ If I meet a French writer, I don’t ask him, ‘Why don’t you write in Vietnamese?’ But I am asked over and over again, ‘Why do you write in Gikuyu?’ For Africans, the view is there is something wrong about writing in an African language.”
For years, he’s advocated for African writers to write in their mother tongues, including in his seminal work Decolonising the Mind: the Politics of Language in African Literature, because he understands how integral language is to culture and identity.
“Remember that the first thing that happened to African people [in the Americas] was forced loss of language and names,” he says, speaking of the transatlantic slave trade. He says he’s gained great inspiration over the years from African Americans, in culture and politics. “The resistance of African American people is one of the greatest stories of resistance in history. Because against all those arduous conditions they were able to create … a new linguistic system out of which emerges spirituals, jazz, hip-hop, and many other things.”
It’s hard to hear the word “resistance” and not think of the current US presidential administration, the straining away from it that so many feel. But for Ngũgĩ, though he notes the “rightwing wind blowing over the world”, it goes beyond a single country or a single moment in time. Returning to language, he notes how ideas of Africa, “the so-called developing world” are shaped by western thought.
“Ninety percent of Africa’s resources are consumed in the west. But somehow the vocabulary has turned it the other way around – it’s the west that ‘helps’ Africa. A few things are returned and they call it ‘aid’,” he says. “Africa has been the eternal donor to the west.” He calls it “the way the world normalizes abnormality”.
In Wrestling with the Devil, he laments the Kenyans who sold out their own people to join the ranks of golfing, hunting, country-clubbing British settlers (he literally calls them “Draculan”), who came to Kenya to take over, and give back a pittance to the indigenous peoples. For some, that new, shiny pittance felt like a fortune.
“If you can control the psyche of a people, then in a sense, you don’t even have to have a police force,” he says.
It goes back to speaking one’s own language, practicing one’s own culture, investing in what is inherently yours, not what has been falsely given back to you. Or, what oppressed peoples around the world have learned: that colonial forces want what you produce, not who you are.
This investment in one’s own culture and resources is what he calls “securing the base” (He published a book titled Securing the Base: Making Africa Visible in the Globe in 2016). He makes it clear that he still believes in cultural exchange, including literature in translation, but that you have to ensure a stable foundation in your own culture first.
“We should be able to connect to our base … and then connect to the world from our base. Our own bodies, our own languages, our own hair. When you want to launch a rocket into outer space, you make sure the base is very strong and solid. As African people, we [must] make sure our languages, our resources – the totality of our being is the base from which we launch ourselves into the world.”
Wrestling with the Devil shows, in part, Ngũgĩ’s further awakening to this essential need for African peoples. He offers his literal imprisonment as a metaphor for the confining of the human spirit; art and imagination, he says, are a means of breaking free.
Though his imprisonment was one of his most challenging experiences, he shares some of the good he takes from it – that it’s the reason he committed to writing in Gikuyu; that the novel he produced, Devil on the Cross, was the first to be written in his language. Pressure makes diamonds, so goes the saying; and resisting tyranny creates something else: if you’re lucky, as Ngũgĩ describes himself, a chance at liberation.
“Resistance is the best way of keeping alive. It can take even the smallest form of saying no to injustice. If you really think you’re right, you stick to your beliefs, and they help you to survive.”
  • Wrestling with the Devil is out now in the US and on 5 April in the UK

Course examines African American literature and U.S. pop culture

Story image
Valerie Babb, who joined the Emory faculty in January as Andrew Mellon Professor of the Humanities, has spent a career deciphering the outsize role that culture plays in racial identity and interactions.

As a scholar, Valerie Babb’s research has focused on African American literature and culture, the mapping of communities and the constructions of race.
In “African American Literature and Pop Culture,” Babb weaves those topics together for two dozen Emory College undergraduates enrolled in her first course as Andrew Mellon Professor of the Humanities.
“I’m trying to get students to understand the impact pop culture has on shaping ideas of blackness,” says Babb, who holds joint appointments in African American studies and English. “At the heart of it is the question, how do we know what we think we know?”
The course name had some students expecting an academic critique of current books and perhaps some touchstones in music and film, such as “Black Panther.”
Instead, the course builds on the literary history of novels from the mid-1700s through today, examining everything from dialects to author perspective, to show how texts influence and draw from the broader culture.
As for movies, in one class session focusing on early black authors who used their writings to change racial notions, Babb showed segments from “The Birth of a Nation.” The overtly racist, if cinematically groundbreaking, silent film challenges the idea of equal rights and portrays members of the Ku Klux Klan as heroes.
“It was terrifying to me but also fascinating to see this idea — that black men in power would mean no whites had power — play out on the screen,” says Jard Lerebours, a junior in the course who is double majoring in creative writing and film studies.
“It hurt to see a talented guy using art for such evil purposes, but I realize there is a history of that happening in art and culture in the United States,” Lerebours adds. “You still see those images now, with the same message.”

A career examining race through an interdisciplinary lens

Babb, who joined the Emory faculty in January, has spent a career deciphering the outsize role that culture plays in racial identity and interactions.
That research has taken her to different places. She has been a professor and administrator at the University of Georgia and Georgetown University and taught in the Bread Loaf School of English at Middlebury College.
She has also brought history, art and law to bear on the study of African American literature in her book “A History of the African American Novel,” published in 2017, and on the creation and contemplation of white racial identity in “Whiteness Visible,” published in 1998.
“Not thinking narrowly allows you to be more aware of the world and of the subtleties of how we perceive the world,” Babb says.
White authors tended to be the first to tell African American stories, with the literature both shaping and not necessarily undercutting popular culture.
When black creators intervened in the 19th century, the voices and perspectives changed. But, Babb says, culture did not change as quickly.
“It’s not just about how the story was told,” she says. “It’s also about how it has been retold.”

Questioning the “facts” from pop culture

Students tackled that idea one recent morning, with a discussion of simultaneous readings of short stories by Joel Chandler Harris and Charles W. Chesnutt.
Harris, a white Georgian, told the “Uncle Remus” stories in the dialect he heard from slaves in his childhood. Chesnutt, a black northerner, used a similar dialect in his first book, “The Conjure Woman.”
But the stories had vastly different aims. Harris wrote for a white audience, using a black character’s words to portray the idea that African Americans were happiest during “de fahmin days,” his euphemism for slavery.
Writing two decades later for the same audience, Chesnutt is more subtle. He reserves the dialect for a former slave who, instead of celebrating history, reveals the brutal history of plantation life in folksy, sometimes mystical tales.
Maya Foster, a junior with a double major in philosophy and African American studies, spoke up about the differences, noting that Harris’ stories “promote Remus as the ‘good model,’ who can say that blacks don’t respect power and their freedom is going to their heads.”
Foster is well aware that such a conclusion is seen by some as a politically correct reading of “Br’er Rabbit” and what have become bedtime stories. She sees the benefit, though, in revisiting her earlier conclusions from it and other books she read — and the “facts” those works revealed — before she could analyze literary devices in the context of time and place.
Such analysis changed her understanding of the name of the lead character in “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” for instance. Frequently “Uncle Tom” remains a slur for an excessively subservient black man, especially toward whites. But Foster now sees Uncle Tom as a complex character, just trying to survive in the stark reality of slavery.
And the conventional wisdom that lighter-skinned slaves were better treated by working in owners’ homes? Such ideas betray the reality that those slaves, usually women, had countless household duties and were also subject to rape and abuse by their owners.
“I’ve thought about this very heavily, and I can see how these false ideas and ideologies get passed down,” Foster says. “I have to slow down and think. I’m slowly unpacking the ways I think or know about what society thinks.”
The course boils down to understanding how meaning is made. Babb is not surprised that students quickly grasp the concepts and are able to read critically by examining rhetorical devices, images used and other author decisions that shape the work.
Interrogating what they may not have questioned before enables students to examine and query what they read, or see, next.
“Pop culture educates us more thoroughly and widely than formal education, but we rarely question it,” Babb says, “even as it shapes the process of creating and defining our identity.”

Saturday, 24 March 2018

Art, love & life come together in 'Catching Feelings'

'Catching Feelings' writer and director Kagiso Lediga says he wanted to create a film set in Johannesburg about 30-something-year-olds grappling with relationships and general existence. Picture: United International Pictures.
The film stars Lediga, Pearl Thusi, Akin Omotoso & Andrew Buckland. It also features Loyiso Gola, Precious Makgaretsa, Ntosh Madlingozi, Kate Liquorish & Celeste Ntuli.





JOHANNESBURG - Set in middle-class Johannesburg, Catching Feelings is a story of how art, love and life come together. Written and directed by Kagiso Lediga, the film follows a jaded academic and his journalist wife, who have their lives turned upside down when a celebrated and hedonistic older writer unexpectedly moves into the home with them.
The film, which opened in South African cinemas on 9 March, stars Lediga alongside Pearl Thusi, award-winning Akin Omotoso and acclaimed actor and playwright Andrew Buckland. It also features Loyiso Gola, Precious Makgaretsa, Ntosh Madlingozi, Kate Liquorish and Celeste Ntuli.
I asked the guy at the counter when I was getting my ticket how the movie was doing and he said: “It’s a very busy movie.” Understanding this as: A lot of people are coming to see it.
Inside the cinema, I hear laughs within the very few first minutes of the movie. Kagiso is a comedian and this comes across in his writing.
Catching Feelings is packed with familiar faces, places and spaces. If you are a Joburger, you will recognise the Bannister Hotel in Braamfontein, 7th Street in Melville, Maboneng precinct, Soweto, Parkview and Joubert Park.
African music is heard at the right scenes throughout the film.
I asked the actors a few questions and below is what they had to say.

Kagiso Lediga
Q: Your main characters are a professor and a journalist. As the writer, why did you give them those professions?
A: I thought the university environment would be a great setting. And I wanted it to be a lot about characters with different ideas and opinions that are not set in stone. Academics and writers tend to have strong opinions that are not permanent.
Q: Did you write with the “person you are going to cast” in mind?
A: Mostly yes, but then other people ended up being better than who I had in mind.
Q: You have said this is "dark" comedy, why is it classified as that?
A: Compared to other rom-coms it is not as lighthearted, funny yes, but not lighthearted.
Q: I am also interested to know what birthed the concept of the film.
A: I Wanted to do a film set in Johannesburg about 30-something-year-olds grappling with relationships and general existence.
Q: The professor struggled with getting back to his writing. I know the film ended … but sometimes the characters continue to live after the movie, for some people, such as those with overactive imaginations, like, ahem. Ok, fine. Yes, like some of us. Or maybe just me. So is he going to stay home and write or is he going to join his wife at the concert?
A: After the concert, his wife will go to Asia and he’ll spend most of his days writing in coffee shops and being a guest columnist for newspapers. We hope he finishes his next novel.
(I see I’m not the only one who thinks some characters in certain movies continue to live even after the movie has ended. The style of writing and the story also contribute a lot to this belief.)


Precious Makgaretsa
Q: Tell us about your character. Who is that woman and why is she so angry?
A: Her name is Lazola Yoko. She is a feminist poet, writer and enthusiast of African literature. She is angry about child abuse, particularly paedophiles, rapists and parasite men who prey on vulnerable women and girl-children.


Andrew Buckland
Q: What was your best part (which you were in) in the film?
A: I think my favourite scene in the film to play was the final confrontation with Max which culminates with him punching me in the nose. Fantastic writing.

Akin Omotoso
Q: What made you wear your actor’s hat for this film?
A: Kagiso shared the script with me and I loved it and loved the character and was excited about working with him and the wonderful cast and crew. It was a lot of fun.

Motheo Moeng (Director of Photography)
Q: There were quite a lot of creatively captured shots. I picked up a love for nature there.
A: Yeah, I love nature. I’m into natural products overall. But the idea of the shots was to display the versatile side of Johannesburg as a city. So we shot the green suburbs, the concrete bustling CBD as well and the vibe of the locations.
Q: Tell us about your experience working on the film.
A: My experience on working in the film was pretty profound. I moved into Kagiso’s house for the period of the shoot just so we could discuss things every chance we had - even after we wrapped. We also shortlisted every shot in the film because we knew we had to do intense preproduction to achieve the visual style we wanted, which is something I hadn’t done on other films I made. Overall, I felt a huge responsibility too because the director was also the lead actor so he relied extensively on me to be his eyes during takes where he was on screen.
Q: You went to film school, right? How was that like for you?
A: Yeah. I was fortunate enough to go to film school immediately after photography school. I really enjoyed film school as I feel I learnt the basics that gave me a base to try different things out later. Also doing treatments helps you overstand visual language in a more educational manner so that you can justify easier when you break the rules.
By 22 March, the film had made R871 720. Let’s admit, it seems a lot of South Africans still have a long way to go when it comes to watching and appreciating our own stories and SA-made films.
After seeing the film, arts writer Kgomotso Moncho-Maripane said: "There are local films that mirror Hollywood inspirations unintentionally. Catching Feelings in its contemporary milieu aspires to be nothing else but a South African film. Its romantic visuals of the Johannesburg metropolis are charming. And although the political content feels like what Kagiso Lediga would deliver in his stand-up comedy act, it still resonates."
Catching Feelings will show in cinemas for as long as people are watching it. Three words: Go see it.
Apart from the spirit of "supporting local", seeing the film will show you how far SA filmmakers have come, paving the way for even more brilliance to come.

The problem with referring to African literature as a genre

https://www.news24.com/imagecache.axd?url=https%3a%2f%2fgraph.facebook.com%2fv2.8%2f1157866947612353%2fpicture?type=large
“You are not a country, Africa
You are a concept,
Fashioned in our minds, each to Each,
To hide our separate fears,
To dream our separate dreams”
- Abioseh Nicol

My greatest fear, I finally admitted to myself recently, is erasure. The thought that my footprint on the earth and the people in it will one day be erased by time, loss and the constant birth of newness terrifies me. So much so that every day since this realisation, I have looked for ways and means to allow myself to live a little longer than my body is destined to.

Ways for the memory of me to survive what I have come to call the tragedy of the century - the fact that time stops and mourns for no one, it just keeps going on and on until people and events become rapid passing thoughts and eventually nothing. The solution, for me, was in writing. It was in painting memorable portraits using simple words that struck the chords of people’s hearts.

Writing is much an act of protest as it is a saving grace- it’s my insurance to having the memory of me survive my inevitable departure from this planet. However this insurance, only means something if we know for certain that it is archived in a storage unit that will be cared for. Not one that finds itself drowning in an identity crisis because it is burdened with carrying much of what it shouldn’t.
If something spends a bulk of its existence believing that it is one thing, it is bound to live forever as that thing- even though it was not destined to. Let me be less cryptic, if the writings of Africans are always thrown into the ‘African Literature’ section and no attempt is made to identify the author’s area of focus in the context of African literature then we run the danger of treating a broad body of work as a sub-specie when in reality it is an entire canon.

African authors have a variation of writing styles much like they have diverse narratives, yet all their work is always reduced unsophisticatedly in bookstores to just one thing - African literature. This ultimately means that there is a loss of valuable expertise simply because their work gathers dust in the African literature section when it should have been in the economics, politics or medical section of what should actually be Afro-centric bookstores and archives.

Africa is no stranger to being a victim of reductionism. Our languages, cultures, histories and entire existences have always been reduced to just one thing. At first we were just savages, barbarians then we became objects for sale, somewhere along the line we weren’t for direct sale anymore but we remained objects for use and disuse. Thereafter came the season where we became foreigners and terrorists in our own land and eventually human but not human enough to live like Caucasian humans do.

It is most unfortunate that African literature faces the same demise; it is treated as a genre even though it is a whole canon of work that works to represent African narratives. Like other literary collections i.e. the Western Canon (representing the culture of Europe and North America) it seeks to paint a broad picture of the continent through housing multiple disciplines such as political philosophy, fiction, non-fiction, religion, etc.

However, because it is ‘African’ it is being reduced and simplified to just one thing - a genre (i.e. a sub-specie) instead of being rightfully treated as the mother body. This means that if anyone seeks to enquire about, for instance, a romantic African novel they will be directed to the African literature section, just as the person looking for a history of sport in Zambia, or the political philosophy of C.L.R James will be.

Why is this a problem? Well, it means that our world as Africans will never truly be African because we will walk into libraries, bookstores and archives looking for ourselves and we will be told that we are somewhere in the back, or in a single bookshelf, or on a couple of rows but never ever the whole store or building.

Because the store and building still belong to the ones who erased us from history and reduced us to just one thing. We need to get to a point where we walk into an Exclusive Books and are able to ask the shop assistant where we can find an African mystery novel, biography or children’s book and be confident in the fact that these three different things won’t be located on a one bookshelf at the back of the store.

African literature is not a genre, it is a whole collection of work that houses various genres within it. African writers will of course always have a home in African literature, I am merely saying that that home should not be treated as one room where everyone squeezes in uncomfortably. It should be treated like the large mansion that it is. A large mansion with many rooms, each suited for every writer and their different style and narrative.

Tuesday, 13 March 2018

Nigerian breaks world record for longest reading marathon

Bayode shortly after he broke the Guinness record on Saturday.
A Nigerian, Bayode Treasures-Olawunmi, has set a new Guinness World Record for ”The Longest Reading Marathon (Read Aloud).”
Bayode set the new record at exactly 3:30 on Saturday, at the YouRead library, Yaba, Lagos.
The father of three began reading at 1:30 PM on Monday and set the new record of 120 hours over a period of five days.
He beat Nepali Deepak Sharma’s record of 113 hours 15 minutes set in 2008 reading mostly Nigerian literature by Toni Kan , Leye Adele, Sarah Ladipo Manyika and many others.
“This is the most adventurous thing I have ever done as an individual. It is not easy for an individual to sit down and decide to read for five days almost non-stop. The plan is to create awareness for reading and writing culture in Nigeria. I accumulated 20 minutes each day to eat, sleep and have my bath. I don’t even sleep very well but I am glad it is over and I have set a new Guinness World Record,” he told Premium Times.
Bayode, a brand specialist, read aloud for 122 straight hours and only took two hours break every 24 hours.
To ensure that he was in tiptop condition, a Lagos state ambulance was permanently stationed at the library premises while the challenge lasted.
His wife, Tosin, a financial services expert, also told this newspaper that she was taken aback when her husband informed her of his plan to read non-stop for four days.
“I had just returned from work one night when he told me he wanted to read for 120 hours and I just walked past. I told him what mattered most was putting cash on the table, settling the bills and not book reading. I told him to jettison the idea because it made no sense.
“A few days later he came back to me and repeated the same thing and as usual, I called his bluff. But one thing I can tell you is that my husband is so brilliant and focused. Our children have taken after him in this regard. Now, I feel very happy because this is a dream come
true and I am glad I finally supported him.”
Sponsors of the event included Guaranty Trust Bank, Tagheuer, Lagos state government ,among others.

A Spotlight on the Relevance of Nigerian themed Children Books

Children booksGrowing up in Nigeria is definitely interesting. Nigerians are natural storytellers, who pass tales, myths and fables across generations; shaping mentality, building morals and forming the unconscious blocks that help children decipher the difference between right or wrong.  The stories, however, are not self-generated content, they are developed from content written in storybooks and novels; while some were developed by the exaggerations of elders while telling tales by moonlight.
Research has shown that reading and listening to book readings play a key role in enabling early learning experiences. It is linked with academic achievement, mental retention and oral development for enhanced productivity in adult life.
Over the years Nigerian authors have written standard fictional storybooks, most of which have helped formed the basis of early child growth across most secondary and primary schools from different generations. Books like Chike and the River; Eze Goes to School, The Passport of Mallam Illia, The Drummer Boy, Ajapa the Tortoise, to name a few, are some of the books that resonate with children’s literature in the minds of Nigerians. While storybooks have continually remained in the market, it is pertinent to note that there has been little or no production of children-focused picture books for preschoolers.
The lack of flexibility and adaptability of elementary school curriculum has resulted in the same types of books being recycled. Nigerian children literature has therefore been limited to book sequences that have been written many years ago.
Oluwaseun Aina, Nigerian literary critic once said “there are myriads of challenges noticeable in children’s books. They are either not interesting, error-prone or feature poorly illustrated pictures.” It is important to change this because reading is the only foundation for knowledge acquisition and expansion.
As Nigerians, the need to portray our culture, locale and food through literature is important especially for children as the first form of learning for them is through books. While several authors like Wole Soyinka and Chimamanda Adichie have successfully told some of the stories from our history, cultural heritage, heroes past through books either serving as a means of entertainment, education or social reforming, these books are written for adults with no specifics to children.

Children in Nigeria often have to rely on oral legends and mythic narratives, rhymes and poems that have been handed down from generations on end. Others who have access to written literature have to read foreign books, limiting the opportunity to read stories that portray realities that they can identify with. Most Nigerian parents give priority to textbooks over books that do not fall within the curriculum.

It is important to emphasize that good children’s books contribute to the upbringing and can form a module for learning. It is also necessary for a child’s mental development because of the use of clearly and beautifully illustrated pictures which depict the content of the books. Authors like Olubunmi Aboderin Talabi who recently launched a series of Nigerian themed children’s picture books, show insights into the relevance of these books for children.

The writer and publisher through the launch of her three unique books; The Tobi Series, Diary of a Toddler and Kob the antelope, highlight family values and the need for children to understand the environment in which they live; food and the necessary health habits which children should cultivate.

The Tobi Series is about the urban adventures of a happy-go-lucky, three-year-old girl living with her parents, a dual-career couple, in modern-day Lagos, Nigeria. Kob the Antelope is a story about stranger danger and teaches children obedience, and to be cautious of the environment they live in. Diary of Toddler shows a day in the life of a city-dwelling preschooler. All books by Olubunmi Aboderin Talabi are simplistic and deliberately light-hearted and perfect for children. The books are also well illustrated in ways that will spark and strengthen visual thinking, and introduce children to the love of art.

The books convey succinct contemporary Nigerian themes that help create a mental picture of the immediate environment in the minds of the young readers, helping them discover themselves first as Nigerians, and familiarizing them with our culture, ideals and even delicacies. With these inspiring picture books, children are introduced to the concept of reading, even if they cannot read yet.

The author understands the importance of changing the perception in the minds of the younger generation, that reading is uninteresting because they have little or no access to exciting, inspiring and well-illustrated picture books, as opposed to textbooks.

In exploring ideas about what Nigerian literature is, it is important to look at some of the things that makes it important. Nigerian literature mirrors our society; it makes us think about ourselves and our immediate environment; allows us to enjoy our language and its beauty, and it reflects and changes ideology. It would make a lot of difference to have children in Nigeria experience all of these through literature, and help them understand that reading can be enjoyable.

Sunday, 11 February 2018

Why You Should Get This Book




Kingdom Tales is sometimes labelled a fairy story, but it’s far from that. It’s an allegory to the events that took place in Africa after most of the African nations were free to rule themselves. It was a time plagued with wars and coups, and the author of Kingdom Tales did an amazing job retelling those stories using animals.

It was written in an elegantly simple style, and the author, Charles, used the animal kingdoms as a metaphor for the African nations. The story started when King Hasha (Eagles’ king), the ruler of Mountain Kingdom defeated the Cave Kingdom (the Bats) in their quest for a legendary Dark Staff. In real life, this Dark Staff can be a total freedom or independence; because in African folklores, staffs always signify independence or having authority.

Then in the Mountain Kingdom (Eagles’ home), Charles made us to understand that even though the kingdom is strong, it still received support from the ‘creepy’ Falcons who aren’t part of the kingdom. This can be analyzed as the support most African nations got from their colonial masters, which they didn’t believe were genuine supports, rather as a way their masters hoped to exploit them more.

Also while the Mountain Kingdom, Cave Kingdom, and the Forest Kingdom were all searching for the Dark Staff (total freedom), they were also plagued with internal issues. King Hasha lost his throne to one of his soldiers, and was exiled to another kingdom for some time. Something of that nature also happened to the Bats’ king. This could be the time African nations were plagued with coups, civil wars and genocides.

Even though this novel is politically minded, it’s still very entertaining for kids to enjoy. The author has a good sense of humour and great writing style. When I first read it, I really enjoyed it as a fairy story about animals fighting for supremacy, not knowing it represented something deeper. That’s why I say it’s safe for kids to read too.

Charles was able to add African folklore and medieval feel to it too, so anybody from anywhere can totally enjoy the book. And it’s a quick read too. Very classic.Visit www.charlesumerie.com.ng