Friday, October 30, 2009

Commonwealth Awards

I read from The Bookaholic Blog that the winners for the Commonwealth Short Story Competition has been published. Once again, Nigeria, a country known for great literary talents such as Wole Soyinka, Chinua Achebe, Ben Okri, Christopher Okigbo, Immomotime Okara, E.C. Osondu, Chimamanda Adichie, Elechi Amadi etc,  dominated the awards. 

My belief in Nigerian writers has once again been affirmed by the confirmation of these awards. Nigeria abounds literary talents, and there are rich stories in Nigeria. However, just like any other country and any other profession, fame easily comes to the writer if he escapes the boundary of Africa and sojourn in an European or Western country, even if for awhile.

The Regional Winner for Africa: Kachi A. Ozumba of Nigeria for The One-Armed Thief

Winners of the Highly Commended Stories include:
Ayobami Adebayo of Nigeria for Dreams
Akiwumi Akinwale of Nigeria for LFO
Mbofun Carlang of Nigeria for The Father's Blessings

Read the rest here or there

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

An Almost 100 Books to be Read in 5 Years

After reading numerous blogs, I have decided to also challenge myself by assigning to myself 100 books to be read in 5 years, depending on availability and cost.

The first set of books comes from Africa's Top 100 books as researched by the Zimbabwe Library Foundation. If I should come across interesting translations from Francophone and Lusophone writers, I would read them alongside these. As it stands now, all these writers are from Anglophone countries (except Mahfouz Naguib, from Egypt). Since this list contains mostly the classic, new writers would be read alongside these.

Note: All books by the following authors would be read as and when they become available:
  • Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie 
Books I have read would be italicised;
Books I have read and reviewed on this blog would be italicised, crossed and linked;

Books from Africa's Top 100 Books by the Zimbabwean Library Foundation:
  1. Arrow of God by Chinua Achebe
  2. Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
  3. Anowa by Ama Atta Aidoo 
  4. The Beautyful Ones are not yet born by Ayi Kwei Armah
  5. A Dry White Season by Andre Brink 
  6. The Life and Times of Michael K by J.M. Coetzee 
  7. Nervous Condition by Tsitsi Dangaremba
  8. The Joys of Motherhood by Buchi Emecheta
  9. The Blood Knot by Athol Fugard 
  10. Burgher's Daughter by Nadine Gordimer
  11. A Question of Power by Bessie Head
  12. Bones by Chenjerai Hove 
  13. Living, Loving and Lying Awake at Night by Sindiwe Magona 
  14. The Cairo Trilogy by Naguib Mahfouz (I: Palace Walk; II: Palace of Desire; III: Sugar Street) 
  15. House of Hunger by Dambudzo Marechera 
  16. Indaba, My Children by Vusamazulu Credo Mutwa
  17. Chaka by Thomas Mofolo
  18. A Grain of Wheat by Ngugi wa Thiongo'o
  19. Labyrinths by Christopher Okigbo 
  20. The Famished Road by Ben Okri
  21. Song of Lawino by Okot P'Bitek 
  22. Woman at Point Zero by Nawal El Saadwai 
  23. Season of Migration to the North by Salih El Tayyib
  24. Third World Express by Mongane Serote 
  25. Death and the King's Horsemen by Wole Soyinka
  26. The Palm-Wine Drinkard by Amos Tutuola
  27. Butterfly Burning by Yvonne Vera 
Other books by African writers:
  1. Summertime by J.M. Coetzee 
  2. The Healers by Ayi Kwei Armah
  3. Osiris Rising by Ayi Kwei Armah 
  4. They Say you are One of Us by Uwem Akpan
  5. Tsoti by Athol Fugard 
  6. Toads for Supper by Chukwuemeka Ike 
  7. Mine Boy by Peter Abrahams
  8. Ake: The Years of Childhood by Wole Soyinka 
The second set of books consist of acclaimed translations:
  1. The Trial by Franz Kafka 
  2. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky
  3. The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky
  4. The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoevsky 
The third category of books are selected Booker Winners
  1. The Conservationist by Nadine Gordimer
  2. Disgrace by J.M. Coetzee 
  3. Life of Pi by Yann Martel
  4. Possession by A.S. Byatt
The fourth set of books is by Nobel Laureates (some have been covered already). Books for this set were taken from different Top 100s such as Modern Library Top 100 Novels; Readers' List and Boards' List; Times Top 100 Novels etc.
  1. Lord of the Flies by William Golding
  2. The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner 
  3. As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner 
  4. Light in August by William Faulkner 
  5. Absalom, Absalom! by William Faulkner
  6. Beloved by Toni Morrison
  7. Kim by Rudyard Kipling 
  8. A Bend in the River by V.S. Naipaul
  9. A House for Mr. Biswas by V.S. Naipaul
  10. The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing 
  11. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez 
  12. Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez 
  13. Buddenbrooks by Thomas Mann 
  14. the Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann 
The fifth set of books is other Classics by non-Nobel Laureates:
  1. 1984 by George Orwell
  2. To Kill a Mocking Bird by Harper Lee
  3. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
  4. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
  5. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
  6. The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
  7. The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood 
  8. The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood 
  9. White Teeth by Zadie Smith
The sixth set of books is those that some readers say are difficult to read:
  1. Gravity's Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon 
  2. The Crying of Lot 49 by Thomas Pynchon 
  3. Mason and Dixon by Thomas Pynchon 
  4. Vineland by Thomas Pynchon 
  5. Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace 
  6. Poker by Wittgenstein 
  7. Mistress by Wittgenstein 
  8. Tractatus Logico Philosophicus by Wittgenstein 
  9. Philosophical Investigations by Wittgenstein 
  10. Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison 
  11. Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert 
  12. The Great Gatsby by Scott F. Fitzgerald
  13. Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes 
  14. Moby-Dick by Hermes Melville 
  15. Ulysses by James Joyce 
This List is not up to 100. The categories add up to 82. Please add the remaining 18. Also if there are some mistakes please let me know. Note: Additions and Revisions have been done here

Monday, October 26, 2009


From behind his
With the gods’ eyes
I caught a glimpse of his
And what would next
In his genes and bone

His seeds were on the
The room was without a
And the blank blanket
The fowls and the cold were
But to the cold his skin was

The seeds with the cold
But the fowls took a
And what was left wasn’t a
His last seed was left to
But all I could see was a

copyright 2007 by Nana Fredua-Agyeman

Friday, October 23, 2009

23. A Bend in the River: V.S. Naipaul (Not so African)

Title: A Bend in the River
Author: V.S. Naipaul
Publishers: Picador
Genre: Novel (Post-Colonial)
Pages: 326
Year of First Publication: 1979 (this edition, 2002)
Country: United Kingdom

APOLOGIES: Until the present post the objective of this blog has been to promote African writers. African in this sense was defined as 'SOMEONE WHO WAS EITHER BORN ON THE CONTINENT OR WHO BECAME A CITIZEN OF AN AFRICAN COUNTRY' either by adoption or naturalisation. It is based on this premise that I did not review Obama's Dreams from my Father and Kafka's Trial, though I would have loved to. However, I am breaking this rule for just this post. I am doing so because this book has been highly rated and was shortlisted for the 1979 Booker Prize and on the list of many Top 100 novels, including my own Top 100 books to be read in five years. It is also about Africa. 

Sir Vidiadhar Surajprasad Naipaul (born 1938) won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2001 and the Booker Prize in 1971. This makes him the second Nobel Laureate for Literature and the second Booker Prizer winner I am reading, following John Maxwell Coetzee.

A Bend in the River was set in the period immediately following the independence of a country (circa 1963), which Naipaul chose not to name, but which descriptions of its president or the Big-Man, as Naipaul called him, (especially the leopard-style caps, clothes and the staff he carries) together with academic discourse has named as Zaire or present-day DR Congo. The Big-Man with his long African name is no other than Mobutu Sese Sseko Nkuku Ngbendu wa Za Banga and the town located at the bend in the river has also been named as Kisangani.

The narrator, Salim, is a migrant from an Indian Ocean country referred to only as the Coast, who has come to the town at the bend in the river to establish and man a business concern. Later he was joined by Ali or Metty his family slave.

Salim's description of the inhabitants of the bend in the river was brutal and without understanding, criticising them at every chance and likening them to animals, though he never fraternise with these inhabitants to understand them. He never spoke their local patois even though Metty came to speak and fraternise freely with the locals.

According to Salim sex at the town at the bend in the river was as loose as anything one could think of. You could just walk to and knock upon a woman's door and without much talk have sex with her. However, early on, Salim's sex life revolved around prostitutes in brothels. He never saw a stable relationship with the local women possible or even sensible and tried keeping it secret whilst he bedded them. Later, Salim was to have a brutal and awkward affair with the wife (Yvette) of a History professor (Raymond) whose presence he came to enjoy. Salim's chauvinistic attitude was so bad that he had to beat and manhandle Yvette when he thought the relationship had to come to an end. There were times that he likened Yvette to the prostitutes after she has made such harmless comment as praising his sexuality. Salim considered his friend, Mahesh, as stunted by his relationship with Shoba, his girlfriend.

During the upheavals and the radicalization decree by the Big Man that saw most of the enterprises owned by foreigners taken over by the locals, Salim became an ordinary worker in his own shop and decided to deal in illegal activities including gold and ivory to generate some money and leave the town and country. Salim was later to be arrested for dealing in ivory but was set free by an African, Ferdinand, to whom he was to be a mentor.

Life at the bend in the river was pathetic and almost mournful. It had a sinusoidal appearance with a boom followed a depression and famine and upheavals. People became distracted and this distraction and abjection was well observed and captured by Ferdinand:
Nobody's going anywhere. We're all going to hell, and every man knows this in his bones. We're  being killed. Nothing has any meaning. That is why everyone is so frantic. Everyone wants to make his money and run away. But where? That is what is driving people mad.... (page 319)
What I didn't like about this novel is his bundling together of all the people and labelling them as Africans. Africans are a diverse group and it is this sort of novels that make people think that Africa is a country rather than a continent. One town in a given country cannot represent Africa. If Naipaul wanted not to name the country and the town, all he could have done was to state 'the people of the bend in the river...' or 'the people of the country' rather than using Africa as an umbrella description.

My worries and disappointment by this novel has nothing to do with his description of women or the bundling of the inhabitants under an African umbrella. It had more to do with the literary presentation. The monologue nature of the narrative is dull and, though it reads well, it lacks plot. It is more like a rant and reads like a diary entry and could have gone on and on and on without reaching a peak.

I would not want to recommend this book. If you want to read Naipaul, a celebrated author, read a different book as I am going to do. I would be reading, but not blogging, A House for Mr. Biswa.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

I will Dance into the Darkness

I posted a poem titled 'Into the Darkness' yesterday, October 21, 2009. However, just as I was reading it something clicked and I was moved to rewrite it. This is the revised version.

After I have searched beyond your haunting eyes
behind that pile of smiles
through the several turns and bends
deeper into your soul
I will dance into the darkness

After you have pushed through my virginal thoughts
coiled within a box of cries
brutishly breaking the cranial lid
far into my cognitive bed
I will dance into darkness

Your embrace is no more you
flushed with conceit and fiery countenance
it would not let me have my space
but after I have pulled my self from your shadows
and my ears from your lips
after I have unwound my hoary heart from your clad
I would dance silently into the darkness

It has been said:
only death must do us part
but you parted your legs for that bull
and suspended your ass so he can swing
and scream and swing like a mad swine

So I would dance silently into the darkness
for should you consistently
entwine your vines around another
when on each market day
she shrewdly discount your manhood
selling it to the lowest bidder?

Or should you shamelessly shoulder such agony
in primordial love
when men you sire or could
seed their corn in your farm?

I will dance discordantly into the darkness

Revised on October 22, 2009

Friday, October 16, 2009

Winners of ImageNations' Book of the Quarter

A poll was conducted for all books that were reviewed on ImageNations from July to September 2009 and which had ratings of 4.5 or higher. In all nine (9) books excluding a book on poetry, Dimples on the Sand, by Henry Ajumeze and a non-fiction political book, Kwame Nkrumah: Vision and Tragedy, by David Rooney were selected. The poll closed today October 16, 2009 at two o'clock GMT.

In all there were fourteen votes and Half of a Yellow Sun won with 60% of the votes. This was followed by Purple Hibiscus, which won 21% and Two Thousand Seasons (14%). There were two collection of short stories: The Thing Around Your Neck (7%) and Mr. Happy and the Hammer of God (7%).


Half of a Yellow Sun is ImageNations' Book of the Quarter. Half of a Yellow Sun is Adichie's second novel following Purple Hibiscus. It tells of the human side of the Biafra war. The novel won the Orange Prize for Fiction in 2007. Click to read my review of Half of a Yellow Sun.

Brief Biography of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie was born on 15th September 1977 in Enugu, Nigeria, the fifth of six children to Igbo parents, Grace Ifeoma and James Nwoye Adichie. While the family's ancestral hometown is Abba in Anambra State, Chimamanda grew up in Nsukka, in the house formerly occupied by Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe. Chimamanda's father worked at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. Her mother was mother was the first female registrar at the same institution.

Chimamanda completed her secondary education at the University's school, receiving several academic prizes. She went on to study medicine and pharmacy at the University of Nigeria for a year and a half. During this period, she edited The Compass, a magazine run by the University's Catholic medical students.

At the age of nineteen, Chimamanda left for the United States. She gained a scholarship to study communication at Drexel University in Philadelphia for two years, and she went on to pursue a degree in communication and political science at Eastern Connecticut State University.

Chimamanda graduated summa cum laude from Eastern in 2001, and then completed a master's degree in creative writing at Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore. It is during her senior year at Eastern that she started working on her first novel, Purple Hibiscus, which was released in October 2003. Her second novel, Half of a Yellow Sun, was published in 2006. In 2009, Chimamanda released her third novel, The Thing Around Your Neck, which is a collection of short stories.

Chimamanda was a Hodder fellow at Princeton University during the 2005-2006 academic year, and earned an MA in African Studies from Yale University in 2008.

Note: All three of Chimamanda Adichie's novels have been reviewed on this blog.


Though there were two collection of short stories and both had the same votes, ImageNations Rated Mr. Happy and the Hammer of God above The Thing Around Your Neck. Thus ImageNations Short Story Collection of the Quarter goes to Mr. Happy and the Hammer of God. Click here to read a review

Brief Biography of Martin Egblewogbe
Martin Egblewogbe presently lectures Physics at the University of Ghana and is also a PhD student. He is a poet, a novelist, an astronomist and many others. He is currently working on the Ghana Poetry project and a coordinator for the Talk Party, which is a fortnightly meeting of Poets and Literary folks. Martin has published numerous poems and short stories in different magazines and newspapers in Ghana and elsewhere. I interviewed the author Martin Egblewogbe on this blog. Click to read the interview.

Only one collection of poetry was reviewed. Dimples on the Sand is Henry Ajumeze's first published hard copy poetry collection. Before this he had published many other poems at different sites and anthologies. He is first an Anioma citizen and then a Nigerian. His poetry identifies with his roots, Anioma, with poems littered with traditions and symbols of his people. He is more of a speaker for his people and writes as a matter of necessity.

Read my interview with Henry Ajumeze here...

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

22. Duskland by J.M. Coetzee

Title: Dusklands
Author J.M. Coetzee
Publishers: Vintage
Genre: Novella
Pages: 125
Year: First Published 1974 (this edition, 2004)
Country: South Africa/Australia

This is my first reading of a Nobel Prize Winner and I wasn't disappointed. Duskland consist of two novelettes: The Vietnam Project and The Narrative of Jacobus Coetzee.

THE VIETNAM PROJECT: This novelette was written or narrated in the first person and set during the Vietnam war. A psychologist Eugene Dawn developed a novel psychological war strategy to be used to win the remaining phases of the war. Having been asked by his supervisor, Coetzee, to revise his propaganda, Eugene criticised himself so much that he was overtaken by the stress of the work and finally ceded to a mental breakdown.

It is an interesting novelette and shows that the casualties of war are not only those whose bones fill the belly of the earth but include those whose mental constitution succumbs to the stress of war. Coetzee's (the author) narrative is compelling filled with reality to such an extent that the reader would keep guessing whether what is being read is real or fictitious.

THE NARRATIVE OF JACOBUS COETZEE: This Coetzee is different from the Coetzee in the first novelette and from J.M. Coetzee the author. The Narrative of Jacobus Coetzee was set in the year 1760. Coetzee (the character) narrates his travels through the territories of the Namaqua Hottentots with his cattle, horses and slaves. 

This is a story that shows or put into perspectives man's love for savagery and for oppression. As Coetzee came upon the Namaqua Hottentots he presented them with the gift of tobacco and copper as he had heard many such travellers who have travelled through the region do. Yet, the Namaquas' reaction to his gift and the fascination with which he was held was so unexpected and out of the order of 'human' life that Coetzee perceived them to none other than barbarians and savages. He therefore treated them as such, threatening to shoot to kill if anyone touches his wagon. His description of the people showed no respect and he put them on equal footing with animals.

Yet the novel clearly shows that it was Coetzee who was a savage for after the people of Namaqua had treated him of his sickness and him showing no respect to them, they cast him out to go his lonely way. Losing five of his six slaves infuriated him most and increased his resolve for vengeance. As he made his journey back home and Coetzee reflected on what has happened to him and realised that he has retrogressed from a 'well set elephant hunter to a white Bushman'; yet to him this retrogression was insignificant and insignificant also was his treatment by the Namaqua people. It was on the journey back with Klawer (the remaining slave) that the bond and respect between master and slave dissolved, for when Klawer the slave fell sick Coetzee carried him on his back for most of the journey back; but in the end he left him to his fate promising to come back for him, which he never did or was not recorded.

Coetzee travelled back to the Great River to execute his vengeance by savagely killing all his slaves who deserted him and some of other Hottentots. The way and manner in which he ordered them to be killed or were killed by him and the happiness and satisfaction he derived from these killings fit  his own definition of savagery as 
"... a way of life based on disdain for the value of human life and sensual delight in the pain of others."
It was interesting to note that the Afterword and the Appendix (which was an exposition by the Councillor) both highlighted the positive parts of Coetzee's adventures leaving out his massacre of the Namaqua people. This is a way of saying that such people do not matter.

The narration is different from most narratives I have read. I can't point out what it is I liked about it but it was really a good read but it was also short and the plot was not tight. The climax was not as sharp as it should have been. It was a terse narrative. I would recommend this to all. Though the first novelette has nothing to do with  Africa the second does.

ImageNations' Rating: 5.0 out of 6.0

Please take a second to vote for your favourite book of the quarter. Thanks.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Of Awards, Protests and Book Clubs: Flying from Sweden to Nigeria

Over the week, two prestigious literary awards were announced, the Nobel Prize in Literature and the Booker Prize, and both were won by women whose initials were coincidentally identical. The Nobel Prize in Literature was won by Herta Muller, a German Romanian. Her choice has caused a stir in the literary circles as people are perceiving the awards to be too Eurocentric judging from the fact that the last time an American won it was in 1993 and Asians hardly ever win. On the other Hilary Mantel has won the Booker Prize for her novel Wolf Hall, which had J.M. Coetzee's Summertime in the shortlist. This award has been accepted by all and none has as yet complained.

You can read also read about these at here and there...

Whilst I have consistently insisted on the abundance of literary talents in Nigeria, the Nigerian Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG) Awards for Literature held this Saturday October 10, 2009, saw no winner. The reason? According to the organisers of the awards none of the entries was worthy enough to have been awarded. Funny huh? However, there was a long-list and a short-list of entries. The annual literary award which rotates among the three genres of literature: Prose, Poem and Drama, was to have gone for poetry this year.

Why was there a long list and a short list if none of the entries meet the criteria?
Which criteria were used to obtain the long list and short list?
Was it political?
Was it an intentional humiliation?

Read about it here...

On the other hand Chimamanda's Half of a Yellow Sun has been chosen by the Guardian Book Club as the book of month. There is an article by John Mullan about the book here...

So whilst there is no winner for the NLNG awards worth US$ 50,000 a Nigerian novel, set in Nigeria and written by a Nigerian had been selected by the guardian as their book of the month.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

21. African Trilogy (3): Arrow of God by Chinua Achebe

Title: Arrow of God
Author: Chinua Achebe
Genre: Novel (Religious, Life, Dystopian)
Publishers: Heinemann (African Writers Series)
Pages: 230
Year: 1964 (this edition 1986)
Country: Nigeria

This is the last of the African Trilogy by Chinua Achebe. Unlike Things Fall Apart and NoLonger At Ease , Arrow of God was set in Umuaro in the years of the colonial period but some years after the Okonkwo era. It has very little to do with Okonkwo, except with the mention of the novel The Pacification of the Primitive Tribes of the Lower Niger, written by the District Commissioner and a slight reference to some incidents during  Okonkwo's era. All the same, one common thread that runs through all these novels is the clash between the coming of Christianity and the Traditional beliefs system and the complicity of the people in the former.

However, Arrow of God tells more than just the clash between beliefs. It tells also of how one man's quest for vengeance led to the destruction of a whole community (and the turning away from their gods) and to the madness of the Chief Priest. Ezeulu (Chief Priest of Ulu) felt his position as the Chief Priest of Ulu (the great god that is above all the individual gods in all the six villages and that has protected his people against the incessant conflict from the people of Abam) threatened when he was consistently challenged by some of the elders of Umuaro concerning certain decisions he makes. One of such challenges was when Ezeulu rejected  the idea of Umuaro fighting the people of Okperi over a plot of land that he (Ezeulu) considers rightfully belongs to the latter.

Hurt, confused and feeling challenged, Ezeulu schemed his vengeance against the people of Umuaro by refusing to name the day for the New Yam Festival implying that yams could not be harvested  and hunger would come upon the people of Umuaro. This headstrong attitude created an opportunity for the new Christian group led by Mr. Goodcountry to win members to his church promising them protection from Ulu and the chance to harvest their crops to overcome the hunger that has been wreaked upon them by their false gods.

To such extent did Ezeulu take his decision that his own household suffered the most as they became famished and had to also bear the brunt of the people's taunt and insults. Though Ezeulu claimed that he is only an Arrow in the Bow of God and that he cannot go against the will and decisions of the gods (which has resulted in the famine), the people of Umuaro blamed him fully for their woes; hence, his family became isolated and he himself became even more isolated. In his isolation he became internally broken and finally psychotic.

How was Ezeulu able to refuse to name the date for the yam festival? (Read to find out...don't want to spoil your reading).

In narration, Achebe made sure not to take sides and this is also seen in the earlier novels. There is  almost nowhere that one could see the narrator supporting this religion or the other. He just left things to take its course. However, the author seem to suggest that religion itself is very deceptive. Thus, most of the occurrences in the novel which were claimed by both religious sect were mere coincidences; such as the attribution of Captain Winterbottom's sudden sickness to his mistreatment of Ezeulu and the increase in church attendance which Mr. Goodcountry claimed was his effective pastoring. This deception was very conspicuous in the first two books of the Trilogy, especially in Things Fall Apart.

I enjoyed this book very much. The mixing of Igbo words with English words and the many proverbs; the beauty of the language in which the story was written; and the blatant portrayal of ignorance make this book a must read.

ImageNations' Rating: 5.0 out of 6.0

Please vote for your favourite book of the quarter. Thanks!

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Advanced Lobotomy In An Infant Mind

In the Ice Age:
stone tool research; hunting techniques
fruit-picking technology; story telling
In the Nuclear Rage:
stem cell research; genetic engineering
space technology; nanotechnology
—the robotic lobotomy of our prefrontal brain
a manipulation of the mind away from reasoning

In the laboratories, a father fathers his daughter’s children
another slaughters his loins
and a mother murders her 6-month old baby
because the presumed father refused responsibility
or perhaps there is no father
the bridge, a suicide zone for teenagers
who would, some years ago be playing
ampe and hide-and-seek in the Town-Square
The skyscrapers tower our senses
and the bridge between sense and nonsense
dissolves amidst the cityscape
—a remnant of the mental mutilation
and the circumcision of the land

The limbic brain
has gradually been realigned with rage
and with our complex unfathomable selves
alone in the darkness
in line with the insidious shrinking of kinship
and the circumcision of the mind
and the civilisation of the land

Acute Psychiatric Distress:
no friend to share your problems
none to sit by you
beside the firelight
beneath the moonlight
to share your cola and palm-wine
and talk about the antics of the antelope
None to unwind the padded cranial cells
from their unromantic murderous formations soon the bridge collapses under its weight
and death is welcomed into the fold

The Columbine massacre;
The West Gate Bridge
The monster of Marquita
Indicators of a technological advancement
which has orphaned our infant minds
in time’s eolithic memory

Copyright 2009 by Nana Fredua-Agyeman

Please vote for favourite book of the quarter.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

13 Questions with Henry Ajumeze, a Nigerian Poet

Henry Ajumeze is a Nigerian poet and a proud citizen of Anioma. He was born in he Delta State of Nigeria and holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Theatre Arts from the University of Calabar. His poems have been published in art pages of most Nigerian newspapers and international literary journals and in anthologies such as 'For Ken, For Nigeria', an anthology that was edited by award-winning novelist E.C. Osondu.  Last month his collection of poetry titled Dimples on the Sand was published and has been reviewed on this blog.

Can you tell us something about yourself; your background both in literature and out of it...where you went to school and all that?
I was born in Ibusa, a town in Anioma region in the Niger Delta of Nigeria. I am enamoured of the history of my ancestors who fought the British and Royal Niger Company in the Ekumeku war for over 12 years. I am impelled to celebrate my ancestors, their chivalry in the Ekumeku Movement, my land--from the farm groove of Ngbotupke where I was born during the Biafran war to the cadence of Oboshi and the River Niger--in the face of our current marginalisation and injustice in the Nigerian State. This poetic bonding with my land has little to do with my study as a dramatist. It has everything to do with my Aniomaness--please let me use that word, the unique and deft manifestation of my people and our culture which I seek to celebrate. The Aniomas speak Igbo but with mellifluous dialect. It is Igbo language with rhythm. No wonder it has produced great griots and singers like Ugbogu Okonji, Nwalama, Agility and many others.

Are any of your parents in the literary circles or in an employment remotely related to what you are presently doing?
My late father was a flutist and oral performer. He was involved in all forms of 'griotry' with his akpele in oral performances like Okanga, Ogbu and other Anioma indigenous oratories. My father played Akpele with so much finesse, so much dexterity and passion that I regret my inability to receive that art. So I only console myself to say that my poetry is like adding written words to his repertoire.

Do you write any other genre in addition to poetry? Any publication (electronic or hardcopy) apart from your book 'Dimples on the Sand'?
I also write plays and have unpublished manuscripts which have been staged at some points. My poems first appeared in For ken For Nigeria, an anthology of contemporary Nigeria writing edited by E. C. Osondu, winner of the 2009 Caine Prize for African writing. I have also been published in Potomac, Journal of Poetry and Politics; Ibhuku, South Africa Literature News; Outsiders writers Collective and

Your poems sound serious (if there is anything like sounding serious), are very political, yet there are a lot of humour in them. Do you set out do write this way?
I think the humour in me subconsciously creeps into my writing. It is nothing deliberate. Otherwise I think I take my writing seriously on the things I feel strongly about. The humour element may be no more than a satire fortuitously injected through my creative process.
What do you intend to achieve with your poetry or writings? Do you intend to cause a revolution, change society's psyche, inform society, admonish people (including presidents), or just state your opinion?
While some of my poems are driven by a desire and urge to pen down my emotions, I seek mostly to preserve our time-threatened folklores, proverbs, fables, chants and other ritual arts of my Anioma ethnicity. If this can bring about the much sought after revolution, I would be glad.

Literary writers have always had bad encounters with politicians. It happened to Soyinka and then to the late Ken Saro-Wiwa and Fela Kuti. What is the problem here and do you foresee a time when this tension or enmity would cease?
From the context of your question, and indeed generally speaking, our country has had a very unfair share of military government. We have also blazed the trail in transiting past military dictators into democracies. For the biggest nation in Africa, this is ugly, and can only incubate literature of agitation. And like Soyinka himself asserted, the man died in him who keeps silent in the face of oppression.

As I read your book I realised a whole part of the book is dedicated to Ken Saro-Wiwa (that's my observation, anyway), any ties? Why this?
I am greatly inspired by the works of Ken Saro-Wiwa, his poetry and his drama, more so the punching satire replete in his writing. After his execution by the government of General Sanni Abacha, I felt honoured to be part of the poets whose works were published in an anthology planned and edited by E C Osondu in his memory. That was when I wrote those poems.

'Dance softly, Baba' is one poem that cracked my spine, what inspired you to write? In general, what inspires you to write?
"Dance softly, Baba" came about during the third-term imbroglio of General Obansanjo’s administration in my country. It is a harmless advice to a power-possessed president.

I find you prominently in your poems. Is it because the poems are about you or is it because you identify yourself with the people you write about?
Indeed I have ‘stolen’ extensively from my life to feed my literature. And with regard to my Anioma works, there is a symbiotic relationship between my work and my land, in which I am equally a persona, not over-looking, as you have observed the bonding between me and my land. Yes, I am in most of my poems, and I also think it will be wrong to assume so at all times.

Which books did you read whilst growing up and even as an adult, and which are your favourite (if there is any) or have influenced your writings?
I have just mentioned Ken Saro-Wiwa, others are Wole Soyinka, Christopher Okigbo, Niyi Osundare, too many writers of that generation have shaped and defined my writing. While growing up I enjoyed reading the metaphysical poets, and today I celebrate fine writers of my generation that my country has produced like Nduka Otiono, Chiedu Ezeanah, Ogaga Ifowodo, Remi Raji, Esiaba Irobi, Olu Oguibe etc. These people inspire me a lot.

Nigeria has a lot of writers: Chinua Achebe, Wole Soyinka, Christopher Okigbo, Imomotime Okara, Niyi Osundare, Buchi Emecheta, Ben Okri, Chimamanda Adichie and many others...why do you think this is so and do you see the trend changing? In effect what is your view on the literary arts in Nigeria?
We are also a very large and great country and writers have fraternized in various literary clubs in the past like Mbari to enhance the development and growth of literature. Unfortunately, such inclinations are non-existent and we are witnessing these days a dearth of challenging literature. I believe arguably, in some quarters, people are still waiting for the next Achebe or Okigbo. There are no publishers willing to forage into a fast-declining reading culture perhaps, so writers are compelled to print their books. The so-called publishers are no more than printing contractors. It’s as bad as that…

Are you working on any new project that we should be aware of?
Presently I am promoting Dimples on the Sand.

Your last word to the literary world
Last word? This is just the beginning!

Thank you Mr. Ajumeze and I hope we would hear from you soon.
Thank you too, Nana

Please take a second to vote for your favourite book of the quarter.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Featured post

Njoroge, Kihika, & Kamiti: Epochs of African Literature, A Reader's Perspective

Source Though Achebe's Things Fall Apart   (1958) is often cited and used as the beginning of the modern African novel written in E...