Thursday, May 27, 2010

Fiction Workshop at the University of Ghana

The Writers Project of Ghana is organising a series of workshops to promote writing in Ghana. Last week's section focused on Poetry and participants learnt different methods of writing poetry and the use of metaphor. It really was interesting and refreshing to discard what we have come to call the 'Calabash Problem'. 

Coming from the back of this success, the workshop continues this week with the focus now on fiction. Our resource person is the American writer  Laban Carrick Hill, co-founder of the Writers Project of Ghana. The venue is the Legon Hall reading room of the University of Ghana Legon. The workshop would be a day and a half beginning from 9am to 12 noon and 1 pm to 4 pm on 29th May 2010 and from 1 pm to 4 pm on 30th May 2010.

Come and learn different methods of writing and expand your scope.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Who Fears Death? A Novel by Nnedi Okorafor

Nnedi Okorafor (full name: Nnedimma Nkemdili Okorafor) is a Nigerian-American science fiction/fantasy novelist and a professor of creative writing at Chicago State University. She has also written under the pen-name Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu. She writes both Adult and Young Adult novels.

Books and Awards
Nnedi Okorafor has written several books, which have gone on to win numerous awards. She received the Hurston/wright Literary Award for her Story 'Amphibious Green' in 2001. She is also the winner of the Wole Soyinka Prize for Literarture in Africa with ZahrahZahrah was shortlisted for the 2005 Carl Brandon Parallax and Kindred Awards and a finalist for the for the Garden State Teen Book Award and the Golden Duck Award. He novel, The Shadow Speaker was a winner of the Carl Brandon Society The CBS Parallax Award, it was also a Booksense Pick for Winter 2007/08 and a Tiptree Honor Book. The Shadow Speaker was also a finalist for the Essence Magazine Literary Award, the Andre Norton Award and the Golden Duck Award and an NAACP Image Award nominee.

Who Fears Death
Nnedi's first Adult novel, Who Fears Death, would be released by amazon on June 1, 2010. According to the award-winning author, this novel was written after the death of her father in 2004. She stated that "I was very very close to my father and writing was my way of staying sane. ...". As always, this novel promises to interesting and go ahead to win numerous prizes. Read the full article here...

Writing is the medium through which writers communicate their  ideas and thoughts with their readers. It is also a way of getting to know the personality behind the author. Thus, reading is the only way of entering a writer's mind. Support Nnedi by purchasing her book on amazon.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Boakyewaa Glover's Book Launch

Once again, a literary milestone is about to be chalked by one of Ghana's finest young writers, Boakyewaa Glover. I am one of the few pessimist who has always questioned whether Ghana is trailing behind other African countries in terms of literary talents. But the answer is fast blowing in my face (forget the cliche), if it hasn't already. 

Boakyewaa Glover is an Organizational Psychologist working as a Consultant in Atlanta, USA. However, he had both her primary, secondary and first degree education in Ghana. Whilst at the Wesley Girls' High School, Boakyewaa Glover was a member of the Writers and Debaters Club (I was also a member but was in Adisadel College, both of these schools are in Cape Coast). At Wesley Girls (popularly called Wey Gey Hey) she completed her first novel titled 'Basic Reality'. This was followed by 'Tendai' after she completed Gey Hey. In Tendai, Boakyewaa pitted science with tradition. The story explored the repercussions of a bio-genetic experiment gone wrong, when science is pitted against black magic. Here, Boakyewaa dealt with topics that are less written about in Ghanaian novels. 

After her first degree at the University of Ghana, She worked for TV3, though this wasn't her first time being in the media after having worked for Metro TV as a presenter for their smashing entertainment show Smash TV. 

Boakyewaa's short story, Unspoken Words, was published by StoryTime, a registered e-magazine whose first anthology, African Roar, has been published by Lion Press. 

Tomorrow 21st May 2010, Boakyewaa Glover is launching her third complete novel, Circles, at the African Regent Hotel located at the Tetteh Quarshie interchange at 7pm. 

The novel has variously been reviewed and ImageNations would do its best to review it. However, in the mean time, follow the link to read some reviews...

Her Book is available on the world wide web through amazon; however in Ghana copies could be obtained from the Silverbird Bookstores located within the Accra Mall, Legon Bookshop, KNUST bookshops, Shell Shops and Kingdom Bookshop.

Visit her webpage by clicking here...

An Evening with the Greats

Yesterday evening was an evening to remember. It is the dream of every budding writer to meet other writers who have published their works and whose name is common to all. Yet, greater joy comes from not knowing who the person only to be told that he is an award-winning writer. 

Yesterday evening, at the American Corner of the Legon Centre for International Affairs (LECIA), I had the privilege of meeting two great writers of our time: Kojo Laing, whose latest novel, Big Bishop Roko and the Altar Gangsters, I reviewed on this blog and the Kenyan author Binyavanga Wainaina.

Binyavanga Wainaina
Binyavanga Wainaina is a Kenyan author, journalist and a 2002 Caine-Prize winning author of Discovering Home. He is also the founding editor of Kwani?, a literary magazine in Kenya. He is also the Director of the Chinua Achebe Centre in New York.

Binyavanga read from his yet to be published memoir. His reading captivated us all and left us laughing with its humour and character descriptions. Before Binyavanga entered the room we were discussing the issue of identity in writing. Should the author projects his identity in writing or should he allow his creative imagination to wonder wild even if it would lead to some Enid-Blyton-like stuff being produced. Binyavanga summed it all up by saying that it is difficult to appreciate what you have and mostly others see more in your surroundings than you would see yourself. Also, it is good to allow your creative imagination to rule you. Kojo Laing commented by quoting Wole Soyinka: "The tiger does not advertise his tigritude".

Presently, whilst writing this blog, I just realised that I have shared with my friends on facebook Binyavanga's essay 'How to Write About Africa'. This piece is one of the most interesting piece I have ever read and it portrays the stereotypic mentality of people concerning Africa.

Kojo Laing
At the end of the reading questions were asked by the audience and it was through this Q&A that I got to know the reasoning behind Kojo Laing's Big Bishop Roko and the Altar Gangsters. I know if I had met him earlier and heard his responses my reactions to the review would definitely have ben different.

All in all it was a great evening. However, a copy of Kojo Laing's book could be obtained at Amazon.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

'Africa's Best Stories' for 2010

A new anthology has been published and released. This anthology, titled Africa's Best Stories, is a collection of short stories by Africa's best story writers, most of whom have won various awards. Authors included in this anthology are the Nobel Prize winning author Wole Soyinka, the Orange Prize winning author Chimamanda Adichie, Caine Prize winner E. C. Osondu, Caine Prize finalist Sefi Atta and many other upcoming writers.

Some of the stories included in this anthology are Why Husbands who Love their BMWs should avoid High Hairstyles by Muthoni Garlan, The Guitar by Kingwa Kamencu, The Time Story by Chimamanda Adichie, and A Place Called Hope by Jude Dibia. There are 18 stories from different writers in this anthology.

This book has been selected and endorsed by Oprah Winfrey for the Oprah Book Club. 
'Every story is carefully crafted, distinctively told with unique voice of the author. The book contains stories that will make the reader laugh, grin, cry, curse, hope and dream. The stories will move your hearts to the heavens'--Mfonobong Nsehe, StoryAfrica founder and Editor.

'Africa´s best stories is a refreshing read. Indeed, Africa´s got some really gifted storytellers. We love how African culture was distinctively brought out in these stories. African literature is the future'--Oprah.

NOTE: ImageNations objective is the PROMOTION OF AFRICAN LITERATURE, however when such publication or work seems to be of dubious source, ImageNations would not participate in its promotion. Ever since I posted this article, a lot of stories have come to my attention that the people at StoryAfrica who claimed to have published this masterpiece of an anthology, did it without the consent of the story owners. Thus, though some of the writers have given them the consent LATER ON, most of the have not. They then promised to pull it down from Amazon but this has not yet been done. Hence, NOTE THAT IF YOU PURCHASE THIS BOOK YOU ARE CONDONING A CRIME. Please help us to protect the Intellectual Property of writers. The following are internet sources to support this claim.

ImageNations would however continue to promote African Literature and as such if the editors or publishers or the people at StoryAfrica do come out with any new collection or publication, which is certified to be original with no lingering illegality, we intend to promote it. However, ImageNations would not condone in illegal acts. ImageNations apologize for this inconvenience and we hope that you would keep visiting this blog. HELP PROMOTE AFRICAN LITERATURE.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Shortlist for the 11th Caine Prize

On April 26, 2010, the shortlist for the 2010 Caine Prize for African Writing was announced. The Caine Prize, widely known as the ‘African Booker’ and regarded as Africa’s leading literary award, is now in its eleventh year

Chair Judge
The Chair Judge for this year's award, The Economist literary editor Fiammetta Rocco, said: "Africa has much to be proud of in these five writers. Not only are their stories all confident, ambitious and skillfully written, each one boasts an added dimension – a voice, character or particular emotional connection – that makes it uniquely powerful."

Joining Fiammetta on the judging panel this year are Granta deputy editor Ellah Allfrey, Professor Jon Cook of the University of East Anglia, and Georgetown University professor Samantha Pinto.

Selected from 115 entries from 13 African countries, the shortlist is once again a reflection of the Caine Prize’s pan-African reach. 

The winner of the £10,000 prize is to be announced at a celebratory dinner at the Bodleian Library, Oxford, on Monday 5 July.

The 2010 shortlist comprises:
Read the full article at the Caine website here...

PS: The award was won by Olufemi Terry (Sierra Leone) for Stickfighting Days... click here

Monday, May 17, 2010

Wizzy Mangoma--Published Poet

Wizzy Mangoma
Born in Zimbabwe, Wizzy Mangoma is a Writer, Spoken Word Artist, Storry Teller, Dancer/Choreographer, and Theater Director. She has travelled thoughout Africa teaching and learning different African cultures. Read more about Wizzy here...

According to Wizzy, she is inspired by life and she's influenced by sharing and acting in the now because tomorrow may never come.

Wizzy has published a book of poetry titled 'Moment Treasures'. The collection promises to be interesting, judging from her rich experience with songs and tradition... Click here to make a purchase.

Friday, May 14, 2010

29. The Wasp and the Fig Tree by Brian Chikwava

Brian Chikwava is an African writer. His short story Seventh Street Alchemy was awarded the 2004 Caine Prize for African Writing and Chikwava became the first Zimbabwean to do so. Brian is among the exciting new generation of writers emerging on the African continent. Although born in Bulawayo, Chikwava's formative years were spent in Harare, where he attended university and frequented the popular artistes' venue The Book Café.

The Fig Tree and the Wasp is a short story I read at the Granta online magazine. This short story is an interesting and thought-provoking piece. It defines the author-artiste and projects him very much. I have not read anything by Brian save this short story and I am very much impressed by his writing.
The freedom for independence, which led to freedom of indulgence, the contraction of the 'long-illness' disease and the death of the the victim, is the trajectory upon which the story travels. The lives of men and women, boys and girls in the new Zimbabwe was likened to the behaviour of the wasp in the fig tree. According to the author ' the fig-wasp world, when all the girls have flown away to lay their eggs elsewhere and propagate the species, the fig fruit only goes down with the boys. In the world of men, when the rot set into the compounds and townships, it spared neither sex. Big jawed or winged, they all came down in the silent darkness of their fruit', thus the title of the story.
Brian uses two characters Silingiwe and Screw Vet to represent the new generation of females and males, respectively, in the new Zimbabwe. The story also portrayed the hypocrisy in most African homes where any communication on sexual health is abhorred yet they live or dance away their sexual fantasies. This was aptly said in the story '...acting out their sexual fantasies but not talking about sexual health.' The acting was made prominent by the new wave of waist-twirling dance, iskokotsha, which took the new Zimbabwe by surprise leading to the new wave of sexual promiscuity and sexual indulgence leading to death and thus breaking the long-practiced tradition of children burying their parents. 

In its entirety, the story deserved to be acknowledged. Read the short story here at Granta.

ImageNations' Rating: 5.0 out of 6.0

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Today's Stories: Nana Awere Damoah and Nii Ayi Parkes

 Nana Awere Damoah
Nana Awere Damoah, the author of Excursions in My Mind, has published his latest book titled 'Through the Gates of Thought'. This book is a collection of stories, aphorisms, poetry and articles. Nana's literary exploit has taken him far and wide and his story 'Truth Floats' also appeared in the maiden edition of StoryTime's anthology African Roar

Nana receives his education in both Ghana and the UK. He is a chemical engineer at Unilever and still finds time to write. He is a family man whose closeness to his family led him to dedicate a whole blog just for his children. Through the Gates of Thought promises to be an interesting read. I would be interviewing the engineer, father, writer, author and man of virtues soon on this blog.

This new book is available on the world wide web through click here to purchase...

Nii Ayikwei Parkes
Nii Ayikwei Parkes's poem ballast: a remix is one of the six shortlisted poems from over 150 entries gunning for The Michael Marks Awards for Poetry Pamphlets. 

According to NAP he comes from Ghana and writes poetry, short stories, articles, songs and, sometimes, rap for all ages. 

In its second year the award celebrates the importance of the pamphlet form in introducing new poetry to readers in the internet age. Read about the award here.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

ImageNation's Widening Focus

This blog has been in existence for almost two years. Over this period its objective and agenda has metamorphosed from just a place of literary posting to a place of promoting African Literature and my poems. In promoting African Literature I tended to post reviews of books (novels, short stories, non-fiction, collection of poetry etc) I have read. Thus, every book that was posted were reviewed by me. In doing so, I have tended to be slow and therefore this slowness has seriously affected the zest with which I wanted to promote African Literature. Again, interviews have been far and between and this is not what I envisaged at the beginning. 

Therefore to bring verve into this blog and to make this blog a place for the promotion of African Literature as a whole I have decided to include the following:

1. Review of African Books (poetry, fiction, non-fiction etc) at various sites
2. Literary competitions available for Africans
3. Literary awards earned by African writers
4. Newly published books (reviewed or not-reviewed)

It is my hope that with these I would be able to largely achieve what I set off to do. If you have any idea of how to make this blog a success please don't hesitate to leave it in the comment box.

Monday, May 10, 2010

The Memory of Love by Aminatta Forna--Review at the Guardian

I have been a little busy in recent times and my reading has largely been affected. I would pick up from where I stopped perhaps tomorrow and slowly chew my way through the novels. However, in remaining true to promoting African literature I hereby link you to a novel, The Memory of Love, written by Aminatta Forna and reviewed by Helon Habila.Though I have not read this novel, if the review is anything to go by it is likely to be a good read. 

Excerpts from the review:
Aminatta Forna's brilliant new novel takes an oblique look at the Sierra Leonean civil war of the 1990s. Instead of focusing on the gruesome details of killing and looting and the sectarian politics behind it all, the novel examines in clinical and psychological detail how people survive the memory of war. Despite its horrors, war at least provided some certainties; people survived from day to day. Now the future lies before them and they are uncertain, filled with memories of loss and shame, often pushed into a state of fugue. Forna describes this as a "dissociative condition in which the mind creates an alternative state. This state may be considered a place of safety, a refuge." It is a coping mechanism, often involuntary. Some characters, such as the retired university professor Elias Cole, try to review their history for posterity, hiding the dark moments, emphasising the good ones. Some, including the idealistic young doctor Kai Mansaray, would escape to America – if only he could drop the heavy baggage he is carrying.

Read the full review here...

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

28: African Roar--A Reader's Review

Title: African Roar
Genre: Anthology of Short Stories
Publishers: Lion Press
Pages: 156 (e-copy)
Year of Publication: 2010 (Coming Out Soon)
Country: Zimbabwe, Ghana, Nigeria, Diasporans etc

My reading this year has not not been as I expected and so I was glad when I found an ecopy of this upcoming book in my inbox for a possible review and having been a follower of StoryTime, a registered magazine/ezine, where all these began, I became even more happy to realise that the electronic versions of the stories have, finally, been put into print.

African Roar is a collection of eleven (11) short stories written by Africans or individuals who have lived in Africa for at least 10 years or who are Africans by naturalisation. The stories ranged from domestic abuse to political vendetta to ruings about love and the cycles of life. It covers many aspects of life as Africans.

The anthology opens with the story 'Big Pieces, Small Pieces' by Novuyo Rosa Tshuma. This is one of the pieces I had read before at the blog. BPSP deals with the abuse of a family by the husband and father of that family. It reminded me of Adichie's Purple Hibiscus, yet it was strangely different from this. For in BPSP little innocuous things like a Che Guevara T-Shirt or a Jacaranda flower soon becomes noxious and forebodes evil. The fall of a beer jug leads to the death of a mother, the arrest of a father and the disintegration of a family. The imagery of the story is sharp and it etches itself into the reader's mind with a force that matches no other. BPSP is a chilling piece told in a chilling way without it being too emotional but good enough to draw emotions and goosebumps from the reader. The writing addresses the reader and places him at the very spot where the action is taking place.

The next story after BPSP is Behind the Door by Kola Tubosun. Behind the door is a story about someone who wants to know his HIV/AIDS status. Though the events in the story could have happened in less than 10 minutes, the writer packs enough suspense in the story to such an extent that you begin to feel you were the one testing for your status. It paints the exact picture of the torments an individual goes through when the news he is about to receive has equal probabilities of being bad or good and more so when his very actions points to the former.

Masimba Musoda' Yesterday's Dog is one of my favourite (and Quarterback and Co). YD portrays the cyclic nature of life and the ever-changing positions we enjoy in life. It also asks a universal question, one that begs to be answered: are our politicians and our actions, presently, better than those of our colonial masters? YD tells of how in the sacking of the whiteman the freedom fighters became the fighters of freedom, doing unto the citizenry what they accused the whiteman of doing. It reminds me of a statement by Kamau in Ngugi wa Thiong'o's 'Weep Not Child': "Blackness is not all that makes a man. ... a blackman trying to be a whiteman is wicked.." (to paraphrase). After Stanley was falsely accused of spying for the whiteman he became a freedom fighter and when independence came was rewarded for his part in the struggle as an interrogator employing the very methods that were used on him on his victims. This story was set in Zimbabwe and I believe it is more of an allegory to the present situation in Zimbabwe. In the story both Stanley and the man who whipped him claimed 'they were doing their jobs'. Thus, though the tides have changed the conditions remained unchanged.

In Nestbury Tree (by Ayodele Morocco-Clark) there is the meeting of fate and faith. This story would keep you thinking especially those who see everything as divine. Yet, can the prayer of a church cause a tree, which has wrongly been accused of harbouring witches, to fall prostrate and even lead to the death of its owner? In the end I didn't know what to believe.

Cost of Courage by Beaven Tapureta is also set in Zimbabwe. It tells the tales of unemployment, youth dissatisfaction and frustration in that country but one that is representative of many African countries including Ghana and I can bear witness to this. Energy without direction. Potential without work.

Lost Love by Ivor W. Hartmann is one lovely story. Together with Nana Awere Damoah's 'Truth Floats' and to some extent Ayesha Harruna Attah's 'Tamale Blues', they remain the only direct love story in the collection. Thus, there is some sort of symmetry in the collection. Distress and Love; Dissatisfaction and Satisfaction. In Lost Love, a man in a home for the aged recollects the memories of a loved one, one he never held or had. It really is a lost love for at that point you begin to wonder what else can you do. 

A Cicada in the Shimmer by Christopher Mlalazi has a psychological feel to it. It presents a daily occurrence in an interesting way. I have always heard the trills of cicadas in my ears, especially when I am in my room. I have closed my ears and tried as much as possible to determine if it only exists in my mind or it is real but I have never had the mind to put it into words. Are they the works of witches? This is a wonderful piece.

Chuma Nwokolo's Quarterback and Co is one of the very few stories I read on the blog page and it was one that I loved instantly. Emmanuel Sigauke compared it with Kafka and I disagree less with that comparison. QAC is one hell of a story. It is psychological and thrilling. In this short story, an insect sucked a quarter of a worker's brain. Get it? It tells of the stress that most Africans and many workers go through in Europe and the Americas to make ends meet or live a comfortable life. A life whose supposed comfort they never enjoy, for how can one enjoy life if one has to work 7am to 7pm Monday to Saturdays.

Emmanuel Sigauke's Return to Moonlight hits my heart and hurts me most. Most of the time after our sojourn in Europe we pick up behaviours that significantly differs from where we came from. For in this story a man, who has been cared for by his mother, refuses to live in his mother's house for fear of germs. However, the story is more than that. It also shows how later he began to realise the beginnings of his greatness, the period where he learnt by the moon light.

In Truth Floats (by Nana Awere Damoah), the dangers of friendship is brought to bare. Or better still the importance of being truthful is brought to bare. This story borrows a lot from our tradition and it is interspersed with proverbs and wise-sayings. The story is a quick read and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Truth Floats is a modern version of stories told by the fireside. Nana intricately wove the story and the final outcome is a story that would hold you to the end. You knew, whilst reading, that somehow this is what would happen but expect a surprise.

Tamale Blues by Ayesha Harruna Attah is a story that deals with the innocence of youth. In this short story, a city girl makes the tortuous and painful journey to Tamale to visit her grandparents amidst protestations only to realise that there is more to life than city living. This lovely piece ends a lovely collection.

This maiden anthology by Lion Press, which is going to be an annual affair, would have a place in your mind. It is an interesting collection and one whose stories we have all experienced in one way or the other and consequently is bound to live with us for a very long time. It is a good read and would recommend it for all no matter the age group.

ImageNations Rating: 5.5 out of 6.0
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