Monday, September 30, 2013

Readers' Top Ten - Celestine Nudanu (of Reading Pleasure)

About Celestine Nudanu: Celestine Nudanu is an avid blogger; she blogs at Reading Pleasure. Her passions are books, reading and writing poetry, not necessarily in that order. She says also that she would rather buy books than clothes. When she is not doing any of these she can be found at the University of Professional Studies, Accra, Ghana, where she is the Administrative Systems Coordinator.

Below is Celestine's selection of books. Note that I have linked the titles and authors to posts within ImageNations, where available. My views and his might not be the same and so beware when reading and judging them.
The list of my top ten African Reads is long overdue and I can only apologise to Nana for the delay in submitting it. With that out of the way, as I know I'm forgiven, I can say that I have read many books, of African and non African authors long before I started blogging last year. I cannot even remember the contents and authors of quite a number of them. But all the same I will try and list the top ten of novels or books that I have read in the more recent past and in no particular order of preference:

The Concubine by Elechi Amadi
I read this ages ago but it has haunted me ever since. I believe strongly that Amadi meant it as a love story, not necessarily romance, but a love story all the same with an African flavour of the Igbo culture and traditions that ultimately lead to the tragic situations in the novel. It is a must read for lovers of authentic African love story and the .

Is it possible for a modern woman to want it all and have it all? Esi Sekyi, a modern career woman, highly educated, financially independent and liberated divorces her husband Oko because she is dissatisfied with her marriage. As she puts it, Oko does not give her space and make demands on her time. Ironically and sadly, Esi gets the space and freedom she craves but realises that these are not enough to give her happiness. She comes to the sad realisation that material comforts are not a substitute for a warm bed.

I've been quite lengthy here because in writing Changes the author did a eating-of-words; she had thought love stories were not serious stuff. And Changes is a love story; the story of modernity versus traditional expectations of the wife. It would be interesting to do an analytical comparison of Changes and The Concubine.

For me, this book was an eye opener to the Biafran war. Until I read Adichie's awesome novel, I had never read anything deeply about the war. Adichie masterfully props the war in the background as readers follow the life of two sisters, their loves, aspirations, and disappointments. The impact of the war on their lives is profoundly written; how each sister is able to cope with the stress and strife of their predicament is deeply woven into the fabric of their Igbo background and upbringing. I highly recommend Half of a Yellow Sun.

This novel had such a haunting effect on me. Throughout the novel, Buchi Emecheta makes good use of dramatic irony to point out the disappointments of Nnu Ego, the protagonist, in every aspect of her sojourns in life, including the betrayal of her children. The title of the novel itself, The Joys of Motherhood, is ironic, when viewed in the light of the story. 

A powerfully compelling tragedy and a Classic by the African Writers Series, . The Joys of Motherhood is the fourth novel from the Nigerian-born writer and is recognised as one of Africa’s 100 Best Books of the 20th Century.

Tales from Different Tails by Nana Awere Damoah
I simply love this collection of short stories! To simply say that Awere Damoah’s collection is campus-based love stories intended to send the reader through nostalgic journeys, or intended to make the reader wish that he had been in the university to taste of the experiences described would be an injustice to the author, because the stories are more than that. More often than not, couples who meet on university campuses and fall in love end up marrying after they leave campus and it is only fair to conclude that, Awere is justified in basing his love stories on the university campus

However, Awere’s collections also touch on compassion, hurt, betrayal, loyalty, trust, friendship poverty, evil and courage; these are traits or characteristics that drive the human will and actions. Beautifully lacing all these together is humour and fun.

Awere’s use of language relaxes the reader, taking him to familiar sites where they meet your everyday kind of person. The narrative is straightforward, yet deep, interspersed with rich proverbs and anecdotes reflecting the author’s deep insight and knowledge of the Ghanaian culture and traditions. The campus lingua in the narrative of the campus scenes is a bonus that had me reeling. 

Tales From Different Tails comes highly recommended for all, both adults and young adults.

Faceless is a well researched novel written by Amma Darko, about the horrific murder of a child prostitute. It is also the tragic, unfortunate story of a social canker in Ghana and indeed, the bane of developing countries, streetism in a metropolitan and urban environment. It is a powerful social commentary into the multifaceted issues underlying streetism, that is broken homes, rape, poverty, illiteracy AIDS, etc. 

The author leaves no stone unturned in exposing and analysing the characters for their various behaviours. The narration draws on real-life events and places/slums and the characters are real and believable enough. Though some, like Poison are stereotyped I do believe the portrayal of such characters highlight the predominant truth and nastiness of the whole streetism and gang phenomena.

Amma Darko is a force to reckon with and I recommend this book wholeheartedly.

Most Eligible Bachelor by Empi Baryeh
I do not know if the romance genre qualifies here, but seeing that I love that genre so well and almost all my writing go that way, I thought to slip in Empi Baryeh's Most Eligible Bachelor among my top ten. And my oh my! I could not stop when I started till I had read the whole piece of raw chemistry and thundering passion between Lord Mackenzie and Chantelle Sah. 

I think Empi is brave, yes, brave. As I said on my blog, she has broken through the myth surrounding romance and sex by coming out with a novel that freely highlights the relationship between a man and a woman in love who are not afraid to explore their attraction to each other and their sexuality, in vivid imagery. Empi’s description of the sex scenes in the novel is done in tasty yet simple language that is not offensive to the reader and her sensitivity to the Ghanaian culture is commendable. 

Just try Most Eligible Bachelor and you will not be disappointed!

The Beggars Strike by Aminata Sow Fall
The Beggars' Strike details a society where beggars discourage tourism by their filthy appearance. The government decide to rid the city of begging and a policy is implemented through police tactics of harassment, physical abuse, and imprisonment of the beggars. This unbearable situation prompts the beggars to organize a strike in which they refuse to return to the city streets to beg for alms, an integral part of the society's Islamic structure. The beggars are disgusted that they have to pay the price for tourism and economic progress. What happens next is like a comedy of errors that lead to deaths and more deaths of the beggars.

I found this book to be short ( about 99 pages), easy to read, fun and yet deep and powerful. Don't miss it. 

I believe better commentators have said it all about this wonderful book and there is not much I can add. Yes, it had such a profound impact on me that I cannot forget. Okonkwo's pride, bravery, inner conflicts and struggles in the face of the loud footsteps of the Whiteman on his beloved land; his inability to be in command of situations as all that he holds his dear, his culture, heritage, family seem to slip from his grasp, make a powerfully poignant and haunting read. I can only say he was a man in the true sense of the word. A true tragic hero. 

Things Fall Apart is a Classic that all should read

Arrow of God by Chinua Achebe
Arrow of God describes the downfall of a traditional leader, Ezeulu, at the hands of colonialism. The central conflicts of the novel revolve around the struggle between continuity and change, In the end it seems as if change won the day as even the son of the chief Priest, Ezeulu, goes to join the Whiteman's religion. Another moving narrative by the late Achebe, Arrow of God was masterfully written and I recommend it to all Achebe fans and many more.
I have linked some of the titles to posts within ImageNations, where such reviews are available. Note that my views on these books may differ from Nana Yaw's and so this must be borne in mind when reading them.

Friday, September 27, 2013

IV. A Tribute to Kofi Awooonor by Yaayi Aawa: Souffles by Birago Diop

Let me say that when the idea of providing a platform for those who want to pay tribute to the renowned poet, Kofi Awoonor, was introduced to me I never thought it will go beyond the first day. Today's entry, the fourth in the series, is from Yaayi Aawa, a Senegalese poet. Yaayi's tribute to Kofi Awoonor is a poem by Birago Diop, a renowned Senegalese poet and part of the Negritude movement. The poem is in its original French; however, for the sake of other readers, I have searched for its English translation. The title Souffles is translated as 'Spirits' in English.

According to Yaayi,
I did not know about Kofi Awoonor before this tragedy, and this is truly sad, but I do feel it is a great loss not only for Ghanaians but for the whole continent. So, that piece ... is my tribute to him.

Ecoute plus souvent
Les choses que les êtres,
La voix du feu s'entend,
Entends la voix de l'eau.
Ecoute dans le vent
Le buisson en sanglot:
C'est le souffle des ancêtres.

Ceux qui sont morts ne sont jamais partis
Ils sont dans l'ombre qui s'éclaire
Et dans l'ombre qui s'épaissit,
Les morts ne sont pas sous la terre
Ils sont dans l'arbre qui frémit,
Ils sont dans le bois qui gémit,
Ils sont dans l'eau qui coule,
Ils sont dans la case, ils sont dans la foule
Les morts ne sont pas morts.
Ecoute plus souvent Les choses que les êtres, La voix du feu s'entend, Entends la voix de l'eau. Ecoute dans le vent Le buisson en sanglot: C'est le souffle des ancêtres.

Le souffle des ancêtres morts
Qui ne sont pas partis,
Qui ne sont pas sous terre,
Qui ne sont pas morts.
Ceux qui sont morts ne sont jamais partis,
Ils sont dans le sein de la femme,
Ils sont dans l'enfant qui vagit,
Et dans le tison qui s'enflamme.
Les morts ne sont pas sous la terre,
Ils sont dans le feu qui s'éteint,
Ils sont dans le rocher qui geint,
Ils sont dans les herbes qui pleurent,
Ils sont dans la forêt, ils sont dans la demeure,
Les morts ne sont pas morts.

Ecoute plus souvent Les choses que les êtres, La voix du feu s'entend, Endents la voix de l'eau. Ecoute dans le vent Le buisson en sanglot: C'est le souffle des ancêtres.

Il redit chaque jour le pacte, Le grand pacte qui lie, Qui lie à la loi notre sort; Aux actes des souffles plus forts Le sort de nos morts qui ne sont pas morts; Le lourd pacte qui nous lie à la vie, La lourde loi qui nous lie aux actes Des souffles qui se meurent.

Dans le lit et sur les rives du fleuve, Des souffles qui se meuvent Dans le rocher qui geint et dans l'herbe qui pleure. Des souffles qui demeurent Dans l'ombre qui s'éclaire ou s'épaissit, Dans l'arbe qui frémit, dans le bois qui gqmit, Et dans l'eau qui coule et dans l'eau qui dort, Des souffles plus forts, qui ont prise Le souffle des morts qui ne sont pas morts, Des morts qui ne sont pas partis, Des morts qui ne sont plus sous terre.

Ecoute plus souvent Les choses que les êtres.
In English


Listen to Things
More often than Beings,
Hear the voice of fire,
Hear the voice of water.
Listen in the wind,
To the sighs of the bush;
This is the ancestors breathing.

Those who are dead are not ever gone;
They are in the darkness that grows lighter
And in the darkness that grows darker.
The dead are not down in the earth;
They are in the trembling of the trees
In the groaning of the woods,
In the water that runs,
In the water that sleeps,
They are in the hut, they are in the crowd:
The dead are not dead.

Listen to Things
More often than Beings,
Hear the voice of fire,
Hear the voice of water.
Listen in the wind,
To the bush that is sighing:
This is the breathing of ancestors,
Who have not gone away
Who are not under earth
Who are not really dead.

Those who are dead are not ever gone;
They are in a woman's breast,
In the wailing of a child,
And the burning of a log,
In the moaning rock,
In the weeping grasses,
In the forest and the home.
The dead are not dead.

Listen more often
To Things than to Beings,
Hear the voice of fire,
Hear the voice of water.
Listen in the wind to
The bush that is sobbing:
This is the ancestors breathing.

Each day they renew ancient bonds,
Ancient bonds that hold fast
Binding our lot to their law,
To the will of the spirits stronger than we
To the spell of our dead who are not really dead,
Whose covenant binds us to life,
Whose authority binds to their will,
The will of the spirits that stir
In the bed of the river, on the banks of the river
The breathing of spirits
Who moan in the rocks and weep in the grasses.

Spirits inhabit
The darkness that lightens, the darkness that darkens,
The quivering tree, the murmuring wood,
The water that runs and the water that sleeps:
Spirits much stronger than we,
The breathing of the dead who are not really dead,
Of the dead who are not really gone,
Of the dead now no more in the earth.

Listen to Things
More often than Beings
Hear the voice of fire,
Hear the voice of water.
Listen to the wind,
To the bush that is sobbing:
This is the ancestors, breathing.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

III. Tribute to Kofi Awoonor: Awoonor The Spirit Man Is Gone by Kwabena Agyare Yeboah

This is the third in a series of tributes dedicated to the memory of Kofi Awoonor, the poet, academic, novelist, and politician who died during the terrorist attack of the Westgate Mall in Kenya. Kwabena Agyare Yeboah, the author of this poem, is a young poet and a blogger.

ImageNations is providing a platform for people who want to pay tribute to Kofi Awoonor in the form of poems or even essays.

the night speaks of the cousins
who mat at the shore
in a howling silence

rekindling the voice of the flute
that adorns glorious dirges

the day is sleeping
your sail has seen darkness
and Keta's wall is maimed

ferry the eagle home

as times merge as memories
that fade journeys
into a cast eternity
on this path called home

mortals will gather tears
and trail your walk

mention us to the forebearers
and sleep not on our struggles

adieu, son of the land

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

II. Tribute to Prof Kofi Awonoor: When Meaning Eludes Us by Celestine Nudanu

The series continue with the tribute to Kofi Awoonor with a series of poems from Celestine Nudanu of . I will create a space for anyone who wants a platform to share their tribute to Awoonor.
Reading Pleasure

When Meaning Eludes Us

winds of death
sweep in a convulsing arc
we strive for meaning

we strive for meaning
in a world of blood and tears
frozen in our hearts

frozen in our hearts
grief blurs with unspoken words
nation mourns her son

nations mourn her sons
as Africa kills her sun
we strive for meaning

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

I. Tribute to Professor Kofi Nyiᶑeʋu Awoonor: The Hippo Turned our Cannon by Edzordzi Agbozo-Hero (#RIPAwoonor)

The death of Ghanaian novelist, poet, politician, and academic Kofi Awoonor in the Kenya Westgate terrorist attack by al-shabab is no longer news. Several news outlets have talked about this eminent Ghanaian poet.

ImageNations is offering a platform for those who want one to share poems of tribute to Kofi Awoonor. Edzordzi Agbozo-Hero begins this series with The Hippo Turned our Cannon. This series will run as long as there are submissions.

The Hippo Turned our Cannon
Nyiᶑeʋu meᶑea keʋu o

The hippo does not overturn
The canoe with sandload

Nyiᶑewu meᶑea keʋu o

This hippo overturned it
This hippo overturned it

We are the snake
Whose head Al-Shabab caught
We only wag our tails defenceless
The hippo overturned our canoe
But never it’s content
For the sand is too light to sink
Your voice, too loud to sink

In this corner of our common fate
Fire in a neighbour’s farm
Consumes all farm-huts
A dirge from a distant drum
Splits the tear-bag in our brains
The blast of toy-guns
Mould fireballs, dispersed across all souls

Indeed, yours is a great journey
So let not the children mourn
The transition of a pathfinder
And his voice, the path-adder

Let monuments rise
Lift up the anthems
Sound is mother to words

And let the great ancestor
March on into eternity
To remain
Eternal father of modern Ghanaian poetry

Nyiᶑeʋu meᶑea keʋu o

The hippo does not overturn
The canoe with sandload

Nyiᶑeʋu meᶑea keʋu o


Monday, September 23, 2013

Readers' Top Ten - Ndeye Sene Mbaye (of Under the Neem Tree)

Book blogging has introduced me to several individuals I would not otherwise have met, either in person or in this virtual world. One of these individuals is Ndeye Sene Mbaye who blogs at Under the Neem Tree. As a bilingualist, Ndeye's blog has several interesting reviews including books which have not yet been translated from French.

About Ndeye: Ndeye Sene Mbaye is a Senegalese banker, blogger, fashion-lover, a fanatic of economics & development, politics, global affairs and whatever pertains to black people in general. She lives and works in the bilingual city of Montreal, Canada. Follow her on Twitter: @ndeyesene  and  follow her blog about African Literature @undertheneemtre

Below is Ndeye's selection of books. Note that I have linked the titles and authors to posts within ImageNations, where available. My views and his might not be the same and so beware when reading and judging them.
Choosing 10 books, out of the hundreds I have read so far, turned out to be much more difficult than I had anticipated. Since I love numbers my first thought was  that I should do this by scientific methods. But then, I decided on a much more easy way. I  stayed in front of my bookshelf (yes I purchase almost all my books ) and list the first ten books that came to my mind. The thinking behind this is quite simple, if I remember a book quickly enough it means it must have been very good. Simple, right? 

That is how I came up with my top ten books,  which is a mix of new and old, French and English. I love biographies very much, but I  have decided not to include them this time to keep things simpler.

I could write pages and pages of why I love this book. If I had to choose one thing though, I would say, Odenigbo the revolutionary, not as a person but his ideas. See, everyone is talking about pan Africanism and  unity, but he has a very interesting point of view on that question. He said he is not Nigerian but very much Igbo, and that, it was the British Empire who created Nigeria. Why  should he deny his tribal identity to satisfy a country that was not created by him? Also, Ms Adichie's storytelling talent is undeniable. I love all her books but this one is my favorite. My second best would be  Americanah.

Mariama Ba manages to capture in less than 200 pages, the dysfunctions of Senegalese society without frills and unnecessary drama. She did it in the 1970s while living in a very traditional society. She is not only very courageous, but she manages to do something even more important. Her book is the one of  the rare novel which achieves continent-wide reach. Indeed, it is fair to say that every pupil - who went to school in Africa - has read this book, sometimes in secondary school. It’s very unfortunate that she is not here today to witness her extraordinary achievement.

I love all the three books of the African Trilogy but No Longer at Ease have a special place in my heart. Obi’s story is much closer to my reality and time than the first two protagonists. I could relate to him on so many levels. Indeed as a member of the diaspora, I am very much sensible to the idea of going back to my country to save it. I call this feeling the “guilt syndrome”. We all left our countries, for the white man’s country, to earn an education and  we plan to go back at the slightest opportunity. Meanwhile, we see everyday on TV very disheartening things about Africa, which make us think that we should be there and not here.

Another trilogy that is absolutely amazing but quite voluminous (1300 pages in Total). I haven’t read a lot of Arab authors, but this one has definitely captured my imagination

Crossbones (series)   by Nuruddin Farah
Mr Farah is my favorite Somali author. His entire trilogy is awesome. But my preference goes to Crossbones the last novel of the trilogy (Links and Maps are the first two).  This trilogy summarizes very well Somalia’s stories for the last thirty years. Unfortunately, Somalia’s recent history is filled with war, civil unrest and terrorism. But it is really a great book especially if you want to understand the country’s political set up.

Broken Glass by Alain Mabanckou
I call this  novel an "experience". It is quite different from anything I have ever come across. Have you ever read an entire book without a single period? Well, Broken Glass doesn't have a single one. It is a very great story about immigration, life in a poor neighborhood and politics, told with great humor. You don’t read Broken Glass, you experience it!

Three Strong Women by Marie Ndiaye
I love the stories of these three Senegalese women because I could recognize every one of them.  The only minor issue is the literary style. If you can handle it, then this is definitely a great read. 

Half Blood Blues By Esi Edugyan
I read this book in late 2012. This author has created quite a stir in Canada. Even today as I write this post, I can’t find a word strong enough to describe how I felt afterward. This novel is the story of Jazz and German-born black people. Yes, you heard right Jazz and black people in Germany? Do read this great book, I loved it very much.

Daughters who Walk this Path by Yejide Kilanko
First of all, one of the characters is albino. Albinism is such a big issue in Africa, so just for that inclusion I loved this book very much. Also, it is a great novel about sexual abuse in Nigeria (both by a member of the family as well as an outsider). It is clearly shown in this novel that what is important for the victims are their family’s support. That’s why I recommend it highly; the end of the book is very optimistic. And we need all the optimism we can get.

We Need New Names by Noviolet Bulawayo
The author has managed to capture in less than 300 pages many of the contemporary issues faced by immigrants as well as those who stayed back in Africa. A lot of authors don’t include that aspect of the equation in their stories. The usual storyline is that the protagonist leaves his God-forsaken country for more green pasture. Except that once he reached his destination, reality catches up fast with him. Ms Bulawayo however, went the extra mile and touched on the relationship between the immigrants and their friends back in Africa.

Friday, September 20, 2013

256. Taboo by Mawuli Adzei

The arts and its creators have since creation suffered from man's unrestrained penchant for categorisation. It is this attitude and reflexive thoughts that create good and bad with nothing in between; superior and inferior with destructive consequences. However, to writers and artistes, this Inherent Discrimination Syndrome (do not google this) could stifle creation, especially when the pot is binary or discrete with concomitant bipolar descriptions - negative for A and positive for B.

Most work of fiction is classified as either literary fiction or pulp fiction with the academics favouring the latter. Yet, there are several works that could not be easily classified as belonging to either camp. Today, that definite mark is gradually fading, thanks to authors like China Melville. 

Mawuli Adzei's Taboo (Kwadwoan Publishers, 2012; 247) belong to this loose group. The story itself could be described as postmodernist in its deconstruction of culture and its embedded religion; in that case it is a literary fiction. However, one will be totally wrong to describe it solely in such term for in this interesting  and easy read is an investigative subplot that one usually finds in such books considered as pulp fiction. In effect, Taboo is a story of many important parts, each a prerequisite for the survival and effective functioning of the other. 

In its deconstruction of culture and religion, this Catholic author, responded to that festering wound of an argument about what an African story should be. In Mawuli's book, an African story is just that, a story. And still he raised more questions than he answered. The story deals with a clash between the indigenous African religion and Christianity, more specifically Catholicism. Yet, unlike pastoral stories steeped in romanticism and the current Ghanaian-Nigerian movies and films where Christianity and Islam always win, in Mawuli's novel, none is the winner. He seems not eager to choose but to open it up to the readers to decide. Each has helped the people at each point. It was not as if the people were sacrificing each other until the advent of the Christianity and it was not as if its coming and establishment had denuded the people of their problems. As an interrogation of church doctrines, the question that begs an answer is: Who should be blamed when a catholic priest, from a traditional religion priesthood background, fails to adhere to the all-too important, but seemingly irrelevant, celibate laws? The Pope? His morals? His self-will? Rampant stories of priests who fail this oath from all parts of the world indicate that there is the need to look at this law, again. Through a series of inner arguments, Mawuli through Atakuma - later Father Shakana, questions the vow of celibacy.

However, what will hit the impatient readers is not a Father who broke vows; for delicate or fundamentalist readers, the peskiness will not even be that Father Shakana was embroiled in a serial murder (non)controversy; these readers do not care that much about those extras. What will cause the greatest irritation, heaving, hyperventilation, and the possible pouring of invectives and vitriolic curses on the author, even if virtually, forgetting that he is only engendering a larger debate, will be the deliberateness with which Mawuli seamlessly merged the two religions. He did something that had been talked about in smaller circles but about which hardly an attempt at putting it into popular debate had been made, that all religions are basically the same and each had serve mankind at different points in time.

Father Shakana, burdened with troubles, sought help from his traditional priest uncle. What? A pastor going back to Devil-worshipping? This will be the anguish reaction of such readers. But this is one of the functions of literature: to revolutionise. Not too long ago issues of sex and anti-God (questioning religion and existence of God) could not be put into books and authors who did so hardly ever got published. But with persistence they broke through.

In Mawuli Adzei's world - which is the real world, for the book is not based on fantastical tales - both religions provide solutions and non-solutions; they work and do not work in equal measure, so that when Father Shakana's father died and a struggle ensued between the Christian part of the family and the traditional religion part, both won at different points in time. In this way, the author showed that the character of people matter, regardless of the religion; so too are the laws under which they function or which bind them to act in a particular way. The irony in all these is that though Atakuma became Father Shakana, he was more of a traditionalist at heart than his twin brother Ata who had wished to follow his father's footsteps but failed utterly.

The argument that religion should reflect on the way of life of the people was also subtly made: the decline in the traditional religion occurred because the people found the new religion - Christianity - somewhat accommodating and flexible, not that all their needs were met. However, as typified in Father Shakana's life, and his struggles with the doctrines, the unwillingness of the church (Catholicism) to address some of these doctrines might lead to a decline of some sort.

Taboo is suspenseful and Adzei achieved this through the investigation into the serial killing of women in the book. And for the Ghanaian reader, the interest is likely to be more than double since this unfortunate incident actually occurred in the country between 1999 and 2000. Similarly, this segment of the story benefited from Adzei's deconstruction. Here he analysed the body politic and crime. Through the investigators he provided an insightful view of what has become the life of the ordinary person in this country: how problems are resolved not to its root but superficially to gain or counter political points leading to injustice, mostly against the poor and the powerless; how the poor are stifled out of living and the powerful always wins; the ignorant ascription of events to other causes except the actual cause; and the general refusal to reason when issues become politicised.

These subplots of the novel are stitched together beautifully by Mawuli's exactitude descriptions. For instance, this is how one of the rooms of a house in a village the investigating officer, Oduro, spent the night looked like:
A large hurricane lamp placed on top of a dwarf table lit the room generously. In one corner was a sideboard on top of which was an assortment of items arranged to impress. There was a large thermos-flask, a white plastic tray with six large beer jugs covered with a transparent white linen and a glass bowl full of cutlery; there was also a medium-sized radio cassette player and a stack of cassettes. Inside the sideboard were neat rows of Lux, Imperial Leather, Sunlight and Fa toilet soap, four tins of Exeter corned beef, about six tins of canned Geisha mackerel and a box of cube sugar among other items. They were for showmanship only; not for use. [102]
Anyone who has had an interaction, however brief, with village life, or have been alive in the 80s up or even the late 90s in the cities will know this and perhaps smile.

Taboo is that story which could be read in a sitting but could remain with the reader for a while; it is one of those that interrogate life and yet provide no definite answers, leaving the door open for the reader's mind to do the work. However, at most places the tutorship - the author lectures Post-colonial literature and Creative Writing - in author rears its head making the reader all too conscious of the author's presence with his super-fine sentences. And the publishers could have used a better font. Apart from these two perhaps flimsy points, this is a book that should be enjoyed by most.
About the author: Mawuli Adjei is a British Chevening Fellow who has taught English in Nigeria, Libya and Ghana. Currently, he is a Senior Lecturer at the Department of English, University of Ghana, Legon, where he teaches African Literature, Post-Colonial Literature, Popular Literature, Practice in Criticism, Creative Writing, and other courses.

Writing under the pen name of Mawuli Adzei, Dr Adjei's creative career started in Keta Secondary School. He won he Southern Volta Poetry Competition for secondary schools under the auspices of the Ghana Association of Writers (GAW) for FESTAC '77. In 1996, his collection of poetry, Testament of the Seasons, received the Valco Fund Literary Award for Meritorious Writing (Unpublished Poetry Category). Some of his poems have since appeared in The Mirror, The Daily Graphic, and on radio (Citi FM, Accra). Mawuli's poems have been read at various poetry readings and recitals, including at events at the University of Ghana, University of Lome, Togo, the Nubuke Foundation Literary Night series and the Splendours of Dawn World Poetry Day workshop (2011).

Mawuli has also served as a resource person for the Writers Project of Ghana, Mbaasem Foundation, and Splendours of Dawn.

Mawuli has three books to his credit - the novels The Jewel of Kabibi (Infinity Publications, in press), Taboo (Kwadoan Publishers, 2012) and the poetry collection Testament of the Seasons (ERASKA Print). He is currently working on a third novel, Unchained. (Source)

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Quotes from Mawuli Adzei's Taboo

A traveller who asks for direction to his destination does not lose his way. [13]

A dog does not chase after a fowl that picks its bone; it knows the fowl does not eat bone and will eventually drop it. [17]

[I]t is in the groove of the back and the synchronicity of the dancers' arms and elbows, as they enact their intricate embroidery of styles, that you know who the master drummer is. [20]

[W]hen a club strikes the forehead, the victim does not enquire of blood. [26]

Two pots, our elders say, do not spoil liquor. If one does, the other will not. [34]

According to the sages, good and bad news often travelled together in the same boat. Whichever disembarked first held the audience captive. [41]

It's from the elders that the youth must pick their honing further. Life is the same. The difference between the elders and the youth is that the elders are the forerunners and have garnered enough valuable life experience before the youth tasted the breath of life. [42]

It is the glitter of the ripe pawpaw that entraps the monkey. [43]

Crime is a complex phenomenon. Yes, when society talks about criminality, it is in the classical sense - criminality of little men as against criminality of the powerful. Criminality of the powerful - white-collar crime, organised crime and crimes of the state itself against its own people whom it is legally and morally obliged to protect - causes the greatest damage to the state and the body politic. [94]

He realized through that shadows were our flimsy second selves, cast by light hitting against any concrete matter, animate or inanimate, and that every shadow was dark, no matter how white the substantive object was. [134]

No one drinks medicine on behalf of a sick person. [141]

We all do sin. Your father used to say sinning makes us human, and I want to add that sinning helps us renew ourselves. You see, all life is birth, death and renewal. Watch every dunghill closely, where there's an accumulation of dead matter, that's where vegetation thrives best. It's all in nature. [157]

[I]f the father crocodile dragged you home to the depth of the river where he held sway, you were a toy in the hands of even his grandchildren - they could subject you to all kinds of indignities, including massaging your testicles. [171]

What kind of freedom, anyway? Look, prison is like a corn mill; even the hardest grain is eventually pulverised into flour and chaff. [202]
Read the review here

Monday, September 16, 2013

Readers' Top Ten - Casca Amanquah Hackman

I have known Casca on Facebook for sometime and I guess we became friends because after scanning his profile I saw we share a lot of things, a lot. He loves to read and to talk about them. Then we met at one of the monthly Writers Project of Ghana's book discussions for the first time.

About Casca Amanquah Hackman: Casca 'Comrade' Amanqua Hackman is a graduate of the Universtiy of Ghana, a former school teacher and past editor of the Golden World Magazine. His short stories and articles have been published in Daily Graphic and Mirror.

Below is Casca's top ten African books. Note that I have linked the titles and authors to posts within ImageNations, where available. My views and his might not be the same and so beware when reading and judging them.
Yes, a good book is a good book, and it’s enjoyed anywhere; yet it's enjoyed better by persons who find the setting, characters and themes familiar. There are good books from Africa too. And so, as an African, reading African stories are most convenient to me, primarily because the environment, challenges and events are familiar, and so I find it easy to adopt the story as mine and also understand the messages naturally. 

There is a vast array of African books. I know that as I read more, the list is likely to change, but for now these are my top ten in no particular order. 

MATIGARI (Ngugi wa Thiong'o). I am fond of the main character of this book, Matigari ma Njiruungi. Personally, I share his conviction for justice and his abhorrence for oppression. It has a strong message for the capitalist system that has made indigenous people slaves in their own land. 

HEAD ABOVE WATER (Buchi Emecheta). Of course Buchi Emecheta has always written from her personal experiences and in this autobiography she delves deeper into her roots, to the extent of even going as far back as the period before she was born. From her native town of Ibuza, through her luck in getting admission at the Methodist High School, her marriage at sixteen and sojourn to England, she has chronicled her life in 33 beautiful chapters. I can only say her life has been a miracle.

DIPLOMATIC POUNDS AND OTHER STORIES (Ama Ata Aidoo). Released just last year, this book contains twelve thoughtful short stories.  Women are at the center as usual. It’s a blend of the success, challenges and expectations, whether reasonable or not, that stare at women both home and abroad.

NO LONGER AT EASE (Chinua Achebe). Obi Okonkwo, the grandson of the famous Okonkwo of Things Fall Apart, is not able to escape the trap that Africans who had returned from studying abroad in pre-independence Nigeria had set for themselves. The economic and social expectations that welcomed him back home to Nigeria from studying in England, corrupts him against his own stance on morality. Although, it lives under the shadow of Things Fall Apart, its prophetic occurrence is not invisible.

MY FIRST COUP D'ETAT (John Dramani Mahama). It’s great to have political leaders writing their stories. Objectively, it helps the follower to know who their leader is and better assess his actions and ideas. Eighteen compelling chapters under different titles make this fine book. Mahama takes us through a tough and unforgettable journey from Damongo through Accra, Tamale, Nigeria and Russia. It’s an autobiography with very serious historical, social and political information that has either been hidden or misquoted all this while.

NEIGHBOURS (Lilia Momple). Have I heard any good thing about apartheid? This sad account of innocent people caught up in a bloody conspiracy they have nothing to do with adds up to all the evil of apartheid. In a quest to destabilize Mozambique, where ANC exiles were operating from, the South African government launches vicious campaigns, and peaceful people like Narguiss are caught up in the conspiracy they have nothing to do with. It’s an emotional story with a straight lesson; the fact that you don’t want trouble doesn't mean trouble wouldn't come your way.

THE THING AROUND YOUR NECK (Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie). Twelve nice short stories set in both Nigeria and USA, in which the complexities of love, career and many others are exposed to unexpected minds. The messages are straight and binding.

SO LONG A LETTER (Mariama Ba). It’s the most moving and emotional book I have read. This book can be placed alongside Buchi Emecheta’s Head Above Water, because of its candidness and emotional evocations. The style is skillful and the language is like music to the mind.

THE MEMORY OF LOVE (Aminatta Forna). Even in times of war and quagmire, people always fall in love. The difficult decisions to make and the complications in such situations are strongly highlighted by Aminatta in this lengthy novel. The style is subtle yet the theme is terse.

GATHERING SEAWEED (Jack Mapanje). All what we need to know about African freedom fighters are in this book. Even knowing the personal account of people like Kwame Nkrumah, Nelson Mandela, Ngugi wa Thiongo and many others is gratifying enough. In this collection, we have deeper insight into the challenges of fighting to free natives and lands from oppression and foreign rule.   

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Readers' Top Ten - Amma Konadu

About Hannah Amma Konadu Anarfi: Amma Konadu is blogger - at Amma K's Outlet - and a final year student at the Department of English at the University of Ghana, focusing on advanced creative writing and African/African-American literature. She is the current president of the department and a founding member of the Creative Writers' Club (CWC). She prefers to describe herself as a developing writer and poet.

Below is Amma's Top Ten. Note that I have linked the titles and authors to posts within ImageNations, where available. My views and hers might not be the same and so beware when reading them.
I’m almost ashamed to say, I have read more books from foreign writers than from African writers. But thankfully I have read enough to list my top ten. I must thank Writers’ Project of Ghana for introducing me to amazing reads. School has also helped. Alright so here goes...

It is my number one, because my, oh my! I have read that book about 4 times now and you should see it now…with notes made on almost each page! I love, love, love the read, the characters (God knows I fell in love with Father Amadi) and the emotions it triggered in me. I was angry at a point, frustrated at a point, sad, I wanted to kill Eugene with my bare hands, I tell you! Simply beautiful!

Let me first start by laughing out loud! I rise and salute this man for his witty humour! It blew me away. The richness of the book in terms of language…it is a sad story he tells. But he does so in a much laid back way, you just take the story in cool. I loved the second diary best and that particular character too. He was fiery enough for my liking. It was sad that he died too. 

The Ghost of Sani Abacha – Chuma Nwokolo
It’s him again, yes. I loved this one too. Again for the humour and particularly because he raised very important issues that we see in the present. I still remember this part, to paraphrase..
If I had grown a beard and bleated through my campaign speech, I would still have won the election because I was in the ruling party.
You can’t help but laugh at the raw truth. Just candid and I love it!

This I know a lot of my peers will not agree with me when I say it’s a good read, because I have shared the book with a few of my friends and they couldn't even finish it. They were not getting the story. But I remember what one of my professors told me in a criticism class. He said; "The story, can sometimes start right from its front cover". And this book is one of such. The art on the cover page is in itself a story, before you even begin to read. What I loved about the book was its style. How she told the story in an almost poetic way. I have favorite lines from this book that reads like a poem. Take this for instance;
I do not understand this story that crosses my life diagonally, poisoning my existence and leading me towards hell. I do not understand this musty story…
 And this too
A hand in a half-lit cinema, a hand whose intention I could not fathom. It grabbed mine. Urgent. The music. The film. Voices. The dark. A moist penis. The man running away. An irreparable sensation.
What is there not to love?

Truly it is “a very funny satire”. Again, something we can easily relate to; the corruption in our governments and dirty politics. I loved the love story in there and especially how it ended.

Kongi’s Harvest – Wole Soyinka
The richness in proverbs, the humour in there -The elders just cracked me up! (By now you know I love me some humour). My best part of the book is the sexually suggestive dialogue between Daudo and Segi. Priceless!

This I read just recently and it was a good read. This book became personal to me because when my mother saw me reading it she was so happy, I had the longest chat with her and for the first time she told me many other fantastic tales. So this book I will forever remember. I admire the author for his determination to put his stories out there.

Faceless, Not Without Flowers, and Beyond the Horizon – Amma Darko
These three books I read a while back and I enjoyed. I think she did a good job capturing the true nature of things, especially looking at street life which she captured in Faceless. She did not exaggerate. What she wrote about are things that happen day in day out. I’d choose her books over Peggy Oppong’s any day (I must be candid here).

There are other books I've read and enjoyed including those from African-American writers like Toni Morrison (I love that woman). I have drawn lots of inspiration from her book, Zora Neale Hurston’s  “Their Eyes Were Watching God”, Du-Bois’ “Souls of Black Folk”…they are not African Writers but they do throw some light on the realities in the lives of Africans in the diaspora. 

Friday, September 06, 2013

2013 Golden Baobab Prizes Longlist Announced

The 2013 Golden Baobab Prize longlist has been announced. The prize, celebrating its 5th year, was set up to inspire the creation of enthralling African children’s stories. Golden Baobab offers three prizes: The Golden Baobab Prize for Picture Books, The Golden Baobab Prize for Early Chapter Books and The Golden Baobab Prize for Rising Writers. The Golden Baobab Prize for Picture Books and The Golden Baobab Prize for Early Chapter Books is open to all African citizens. The Golden Baobab Prize for Rising Writers is open to budding African writers under the age of eighteen years.

According to Nanama B. Acheampong, coordinator of the Golden Baobab Prizes,
Golden Baobab is really excited about this year’s stories and we are looking forward to growing further by publishing a collection of these amazing stories we have received. We are currently looking to partner with corporations that share in our vision to bring these stories to the doorsteps of African children everywhere.
The longlist had the strongest representation from Nigeria and South Africa. Other countries that featured were Zimbabwe, Ghana, Kenya and Tanzania. Philip Begho and Ayibu Makolo, both Nigerian, had two stories each on the longlist. Below is the full longlist:

Longlist for the Picture Book Prize
  1. Carol Gachiengo – Grandma Mimo’s Breakfast (Kenya)
  2. Mandy Collins – Dad Goes to School (South Africa)
  3. Philip Begho – The Princess with the Golden Voice (Nigeria)
  4. Liza Esterhuyse – The Little Hippo (South Africa)
  5. Nneoma Ike-Njoku – Elelenma (Nigeria)
  6. Philip Begho – The Two-Headed Monster (Nigeria)
  7. Regina Malan – The Butterfly Tree (South Africa)
  8. Ansie Nel - Thumisang and Pulane (South Africa)
  9. Ayibu Makolo– The Little Yellow Frog (Nigeria)
  10. Nahida Esmail – Bibo Learns to Speak the Truth (Tanzania)
Longlist for the Early Chapter Book Prize
  1. Fawa Conradie – Kay Cera Cera (South Africa)
  2. Sabina Mutangadura – Seven (Zimbabwe)
  3. Edith-Susan Uchenna – Christmas in Kemah’s Home Town (Nigeria)
  4. Richard Street – Rhino (South Africa)
  5. Sedem Abla Agbolosu - Kwame Gets a Job (Ghana)
  6. Tunji Ajibade – In the End (Nigeria)
  7. Karen Hurt – What’s Going on at 179 Jabulani Street? (South Africa)
  8. Ayibu Makolo – Madam’s Maid (Nigeria)
  9. Derek Lubangakene – Of Ghosts and Grave-Robbers (Uganda)
  10. Olorunfunmi Temitope – Grandma’s Hens (Nigeria)
Longlist for The Rising Writer Prize
  1. Jennifer Sarfo – Songs of Gods (Ghana)
  2. Kanengo Diallo – Pieces of Africa (Tanzania)
  3. Fego Martins Ahia – The Little Secret (Nigeria)
  4. Asantewa Owusu-Darko – The Busting of the Greedy Gangster (Ghana)
  5. Freda Sarfo – Making a Wish (Ghana)
The shortlist will be announced on 30th October and the winners will be announced on 13th November, 2013. Past winners of the Golden Baobab Prizes have included Joy Nwiyi from Nigeria, Jenny Robson from Botswana and South Africa and Rutendo Chabikwa from Zimbabwe who won the 2012 Rising Writer Prize.
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