Thursday, 18 January 2018

Literary club announces contest for African writers

The Africa Book Club Short Reads Competition has begun accepting submissions for a literary contest.

The Africa Book Club Short Reads Competition features short stories drawn from contributors across the African continent. It accepts unpublished fiction and creative non-fiction submissions, not exceeding 3,500 words, and whose setting and context are primarily set in Africa, or written by African authors, a statement on its site said.

It said after the competition is concluded, it will be giving out $250 for 1st Prize, $150 for 2nd Prize, and $100 for 3rd Prize.

Also, the top three works and 27 other entries will be compiled for an anthology, for which contributors would receive $25 per entry. Submissions must not have been previously published. There is also no entry fee.

The organisers say the contest is open to non-Africans, provided their submissions are set in Africa.

The deadline for entries is June 30 according to the statement. Winners will be announced on or before July 15.

The statement also announced0 some changes:

”After a hiatus, we are pleased to relaunch the Africa Book Club short story competition. We have made a few changes.

”We have changed the format from a monthly to annual competition, we have increased the cash prizes. Submissions will be considered on an annual rolling period, starting January 1 and closing on June 30. Winners will be announced on/before July 15.

”We welcome entries that celebrate Africa’s diversity and rich story-telling traditions – anything from fiction and non-fiction stories that reflect life on the continent to childhood memoirs and travel stories.

”In addition, the top 30 stories from all submissions received in the submission period (January 1 – June 30) will be considered for our annual short story anthology, to be published in the fall. The winning stories will also be featured on the Africa Book Club website under a special “Short Reads” section.

”Unlike many other contests, we take no entry fees. This is because we want to encourage all eligible writers out there to submit their work for consideration.”
Visit here to submit

The Case for Lusophone African Literature

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Award-winning Angolan writer José Eduardo Agualusa

A few years ago, I was at an African literature festival that was being held, ironically, in London. Important debates and discussions were buzzing around me. African literature was not yet “mainstream,” but that year, “translations” and “languages” had again become buzzwords. There was a renewed interest in exploring Francophone (French-speaking) and Lusophone (Portuguese-speaking) works of literature and bringing them into the wider conversation. As an Afro-Lusophone myself from Guinea-Bissau, I waited eagerly. Years later, I’m still waiting.

Afro-Lusophone writers, in contrast to Anglophone and Francophone writers, remain conspicuously absent from the world literature scene. Anglophone writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is now a global star, with her latest book, Americanah, on everyone’s lips and her speech “We should all be feminists” on Beyoncé’s Flawless. Publishers and editors from the West were scurrying in search of African writers, feverish not to miss the opportunity to bank on the Chimamanda effect. Similarly, Francophone writers are gaining currency with Fiston Mujila winning the Etisalat Prize and Alain Mabanckou long-listed for the Man Booker Prize. However, Lusophone writers remain absent from panels, festivals, discussions and debates. Whenever I confront people about the absence of Lusophone writers, they laugh nervously and say, “It’s the language.” But if books in other languages have been translated, why not books from Portuguese-speaking Africa?

    Afro-Lusophone writers, in contrast to Anglophone and Francophone writers, remain conspicuously absent from the world literature scene.

The dominance of colonial languages in the African continent has created barriers between neighbors. So much time is spent perfecting the English language in Ghana that one does not learn Kwa languages or even French to communicate with French-speaking neighbors in the Ivory Coast. These barriers have extended to the literary market. Furthermore, African writers are still more interested in being published in Europe and the U.S. rather than across Africa. A Senegalese writer will not think of publishing in South Africa; Paris will be the first thing on his mind. A Kenyan does not seek literary agents in Angola; he will go to London before anywhere else. A Mozambican will prefer to go to Lisbon’s Book Fair instead of the Lagos Book Fair.

Operating in these language silos means that the African literature market is open to few, and, in particular, the Portuguese-speaking Africans — some 70 million in total — are left out. There are six African nations where Portuguese is the official language: Angola, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique, São Tomé and Príncipe and Equatorial Guinea.

Such discreet borders can and should be diminished, and I have seen the importance of this in my own life. I was born in Lisbon to Bissau-Guinean parents and spent most of my life in Francophone Africa. My eager parents spoke only “Victor Hugo’s” French to me and my siblings. In my grandfather’s house, we spoke Portuguese with all the “R’s” sometimes interrupted by my grandmother’s Crioulo. My mother’s brothers, two suave hipsters who wore Doc Martens before it was cool, mixed Spanish and Italian while teaching me and my sister the delights of lasagna and cannelloni. At the age of 6, I added to my growing world of languages: American English, courtesy of Cartoon Network. I have grown up mixing, playing and inventing languages.

Now I want to unite the different African-speaking countries and showcase to the world that there is more to African literature than meets the eye. Currently, only one Lusophone writer is well known around the world — the Angolan writer José Eduardo Agualusa, who won the International Dublin Literary Award, but there are many more worthy of note.

Recently, Abdulai Silá’s The Ultimate Tragedy was the first novel from Guinea-Bissau to be translated into English. Set in colonial Guinea-Bissau at the cusp of independence, it tells the story of young Ndani caught between tradition and modernity, power and freedom. The novel was published in England to much acclaim. Meanwhile, from Angola, Kalaf Epalanga published a fascinating first novel, Também os Brancos Sabem Dançar (White People Can Also Dance), heavily inspired from his years touring with the kuduro music group Buraka Som Sistema. And from São Tomé and Príncipe, Alda Barros’ book of poems, A Flor Branca de Baobá (The Baobab’s White Flower), was published in 2017.

There are even more Lusophone writers to be discovered and translated, which makes this an exciting time for the future of African stories. Agents and publishers would do well to look toward Lusophone writers this year — they just might discover their next global star.

Saturday, 13 January 2018

Nigerian Author Lola Shoneyin Voted 'Literary Person Of The Year'


'Shoneyin tirelessly advocates for a culture of creative and critical thought,' judges said.

Nigerian poet and novelist Lola Shoneyin has been named the Literary Person of the Year by African literature portal Brittle Paper.

Shoneyin, who is the third recipient of the prize, was named for her extraordinary contribution to the growth and development of "creative culture" on the continent.

"Both in her writing and her work as a community leader, Shoneyin tirelessly advocates for a culture of creative and critical thought," says Dr. Ainehi Edoro, founder of Brittle Paper.

"In 2017, Shoneyin, more than anyone else out there, has worked the hardest to provide platforms where communities of readers and writers are empowered to think, do, and create," Edoro adds.

Aside from her own writing, which has been internationally lauded, Shoneyin was also one of the founders of Nigerian indie publishing house Ouida Books, which has made the works of Nnedi Okorafor and Ayobami Adebayo available to Nigerian readers.

""This is for all the people doing the important work of promoting, developing and celebrating the arts (especially literature) on the African continent. I see you. Thank you!" Shoneyin said on Twitter after receiving the award.

Authors Will Get Due Payment For Their Intellectual Properties – ANA President

Nigerian writers have been assured that henceforth, they will be duly compensated for every bit of their writings. Giving this assurance recently, Denja Abdullahi, National President, Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA) stressed that the association will collaborate with Nigeria Copyright Commission (NCC) and the Reproduction Right Society of Nigeria (REPRONIG) to ensure that the menace of piracy and allied crimes are curbed in the society.

Abdullahi said the writers’ fraternity is working with various organisations to ensure that authors get due payment for their intellectual properties, saying more efforts would be made to ensure that pirated literature do not get into circulation or onto book-stands.

“We are cooperating with NCC and Reproduction Right Society of Nigeria to check piracy in 2018.
“We are working seriously with these organisations to checkmate piracy alongside with other stakeholders,’’ the ANA president said.

He said the NCC which had presented a draft bill before the National Assembly is awaiting its passage soon.

“Nigeria Copyright Commission already has a draft bill which is sealed and good, and we are collaborating on it. They have just amended the copyright bill and we contributed to the amendment.

“It will soon be passed by the National Assembly and when that it is signed into law, the issue of piracy will also be addressed completely,’’ he said.

The ANA president said that the association would focus on carrying out contemporary criticism of new literature in circulation in 2018.

Sunday, 7 January 2018

Ngugi at 80: The gradual changeover of a radical

Novelist Ngugi wa Thiong’o has had a huge impact spreading African literature to the rest of the world, argues Prof Chris L. Wanjala. PHOTO| FILE| NATION MEDIA GROUP
One of the black voices that the famous Caribbean literary critic, Winifred G.O. Carter, introduced to the world in his famous work, Black Voices (1970) was that of Ngugi wa Thiong’o, who turned 80 on Friday.

Ngugi is one of Africa’s fiction writers, essayists and playwrights whose works are full of African sagacity that acted like a calabash of wisdom which crashed and spread its content, making it available to people all over the world.

Like his counterparts, Camara Laye, Chinua Achebe, Eskia Mphahlele and Sembene Ousmane, Ngugi used his early works to immortalise the villages of Africa, using them as the setting for his fiction. Indeed, he and his contemporaries introduced Africa’s landscape, sea, valleys and ridges into the topography of world literature.

They also introduced Africa’s spirit world into literature. Ngugi’s early novels are fraught with creation stories, the role of ancestors to their offspring, man and nature, beast and trees.

They show the African belief that the child is close to the ancestors and it can communicate with the spirit of her father, and the spirit of her father’s father. Ngugi’s works are treated alongside works by writers from the rest of the continent, including West and Southern Africa where themes of culture conflict and the movement of the elite from their land for social, cultural, economic and political reasons.

Writers who were incarcerated in their home countries fled to countries like Ghana, Tanzania and the Diaspora where the values of Pan-Africanism were appreciated. But herein lay the trap. These writers celebrated African traditions and dreamt about the unity of their continent to the risk of being idealistic and primitively romantic.

Ngugi, like most writers of his time, dealt with such important issues as religion, education, the politics of liberation, health and spirituality.

Matters of religion exposed the conflict between  traditional African religion and Christianity. Ngugi was himself a baptised Christian and attended Alliance High School, Kikuyu, one of the top Christian schools in the country.

But on being critical of Christian missionaries and the Church in colonial Kenya, especially at a Christian conference in 1970, and on being reminded that he owed his education and intellectual growth to Christianity, he renounced his name, James, and opted for Ngugi wa Thiong’o.

He deals with the issue of education in the ouvre of his works. Weep Not Child and Dreams at a Time of War go deeply into a young African’s educational career and for the first time in the history of African culture, show how the acquisition of an education for an African child meant an acquisition of political consciousness.

Makerere University was for him a period in his life as a passive recipient of the coloniser’s values  enshrined in English literature. But as he graduates, works with the Daily Nation as a journalist, and joins the University of Leeds as a post-graduate student, there is a dramatic change in his views.

The works that he writes afterwards show his maturation as he becomes more critical of nationalist politicians in his country even as he celebrates radical Pan-Africanists around the world and radical humanists in Europe and the Third World.

The whole world witnessed Ngugi’s search for academic freedom when he resigned his lecturer’s position at the University College, Nairobi, and moved to Makerere University in 1969 to protect academic freedom.

He returned in 1972 and in 1973, took up the leadership of the Department of Literature as its first African chairman. He led the team of literary intellectuals that finally abolished the English Department and in its place created the Department of Literature with African literature – written and oral — as its core.

So radicalised is Ngugi in the mid 1970s, especially after the brutal political murder of the populist politician J.M. Kariuki in March 1975, that he publishes Petals of Blood. In it, he puts behind the liberal values enunciated in his earlier trilogy: The River Between, Weep Not Child and A Grain of Wheat.

He becomes one of the most vociferous critics of kleptomania and moral debauchery that characterised African regimes between 1977 and 1980.

Petals of Blood has since become the Bible of post-colonial activism. As many people said at the time of its publication, the only gift that the Kenya government gave Ngugi on the eve of the New Year (1978) was to detain him at Kamiti Maximum Security Prison.

For sometime, they had tolerated his views when he co-authored  The Trial of Dedan Kimathi with Micere Githae Mugo, which became Kenya’s showpiece at FESTAC 77 in Lagos Nigeria.

But the authorship of I Will Marry When I Want with Ngugi wa Mirii marked the final rise to critical consciousness that characterised intellectuals from Third World countries, led by Latin American thinkers of the late 1970s, like Paulo Freire.

But now as I look back to Ngugi’s career as a novelist and a thinker at 80 years of age, I want to identify his major contribution.

In my book For Home and Freedom (1980), I rate Ngugi’s novel, The River Between, as the best study of cultural alienation in East Africa.

As an undergraduate, I studied the history of syncretism in Africa, arguing that the best religious ideas from the West should be married to the best ideas from Africa to create a wholesome synthesis.
But my reading of East African literature in the 21st Century, and such novels as The Switch by Mary Okurut and Henry Rufus ole Kulet’s Blossoms of the Savannah, is proving me and Ngugi’s thesis in The River Between wrong.

The subject of clitoridectomy has become a sensitive one in health circles. Ngugi swallowed Jomo Kenyatta’s thesis on female genital mutilation in Facing Mount Kenya (1938) hook, line and sinker and glamourised it in The River Between wholly and uncritically.

My present reading of cultural synthesis is that engagement of traditional practices with new medical practices does not lead to a marriage. Muthoni in The River Between is happy to go for female circumcision.
Culturally and spiritually, it seems to her as all fine, but medically it leads to her death. As one newspaper article commented recently, cicatrisation, as British medical practitioners call “female genital mutilation”, is “too sore to celebrate”.

Africans of the 1920s may have been amused and entertained by the FGM, but in today’s world, the idea of a girl being seized and operated on without an anaesthetic, an untampered knife, and without her will at that, is nothing more than a barbaric destruction of her body and her mind and it should never have been contemplated in a novel.

Nigeria: A new history of a turbulent century

Image result for Nigeria: A new history of a turbulent century
Author: Richard Bourne
Reviewer: Olutayo C. Adesina
Publisher: Zed Books
Pages: 353
Year: 2015

Since its founding in 1914, Nigeria has not ceased to confound a plethora of observers, commentators, political pundits and students of history and politics. Nigeria became ‘One’ country in 1914. But what did this mean for the disparate ethnic groups populating the country? The ‘Nigerian’ identity welding the groups together has remained blurred and inchoate.

Each group within the country has kept almost intact, its deep fears and insidious biases. It is the strength of Richard Bourne’s current book that it highlights and explains some of the causes and course of the problems and forces associated with the evolution, growth and development of the Nigerian state. In five richly supported sections, the author has taken us through the historical experiences of the country and its peoples.
Nigeria’s colonial experiences occupy a significant portion of Bourne’s attention, with nine of the eleven chapters in Sections 1 and 2 devoted to a detailed analysis of the effects of colonial rule on the state and society. Marshalling his considerable analytic and narrative skills, the author in ten other chapters spanning sections 2, 3 and 4 detailed the independence and post-independence experiences of Nigerians from 1960 to 2015. Section 5, which is the last section of the book is devoted to interesting reflections on the nature of politics, ethnicity, religion, oil, poverty, inequity and the possibility of the country staying together as one.

Since the country’s independence from Imperial Britain in 1960, the literature on Nigeria, has with few exceptions made it a clear vocation to trace the tempestuous history of one of Britain’s most productive and problematic colonies from its pre-colonial and colonial past. This approach has since allowed for a more perceptive understanding of the country’s structure, orientations, multiple loyalties and conflicting emotions that have come to suffuse the entire country.

Richard Bourne’s recent treatment of Nigerian history has followed this pattern. His book provides a comprehensive overview of the history of modern Nigeria leveraging on the country’s diversity and political power play.

Of course, the complexity of interfacing the different phases of Nigeria’s historical development within the present national context and the course of events over the years have yielded greater insights into the evolution of the Nigerian state and its people.

For instance, he demonstrates the colonial legacy that persisted in the post-colonial period in a vibrantly profound way. It is the author’s clinical treatment of the significance of the period from 1914 to 1960 about indirect rule, taxation, rebellion, the interwar years, wartime needs, unionism, the shift in elite opinion, constitutionalism, the politics of nationalism, regionalism, and the promise and failure of the first critical years of independence that distinguish this book from previous works.

The dexterity with which he treated the years of military rule and the damaging effects of this on the country’s body-politic is clear and formidable. Richard Bourne’s book, whether intentionally or not, serves more to substantiate and appreciate the capacity of Nigerians to survive and bond together in the face of adversarial politics and bad blood.

After all, he recognised this fact from several of his informants that Nigeria remains a “country that periodically looks over the precipice but that, except during the civil war, has never been in the most serious danger of falling.” (p.194). Can this still be replicated in the poisoned atmosphere of 2017? Only time will tell.