With the launch of the Africa39 anthology concluded at the Port Harcourt Book Fair, the Africa39 authors stay busy:
Lola Shoneyin (Nigeria), author of The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives is holding fort as the impresario of the Aké Arts & Book Festival which runs from 18-22 November, at the June 12 Cultural Centre, Kuto Abeokuta, Nigeria:
Themed “Bridges and Pathways”, the five-day festival will also bring to admiration a Liberian crime writer Hawa Golakai (Africa39, Liberia).
At a press parley to intimate journalists on the event, Coordinator Mrs. Lola Shoneyin said the theme would focus on building bridges between the African people along languages, ethnicity, gender and religious lines as well as chart new paths towards creative synergy and cultural cross- fertilization on the African continent.
According to Shoneyin, Nigerian Nobel Laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka will sit in a chat show with Jerome Okolo, while Patrick Okigbo will host Chief Olusegun Obasanjo in an event tagged “Muse as Memory” that defines a legacy.
She revealed further that this year’s festival would also feature nine other book chats. Her words, “At the book chat, we will be engaging Yetide Kilanko on her book Daughters who Walk this Path, Bernadine Everisto on Mr. Loverman, Barnaby Philips on Another Mans War, Okey Ndibe on his Foreign Gods Inc. and Chude Jideonwo on Are We The Turning Point Generation.
“Nnedi Okorafor will be telling us all about her new book, The Lagoon, Fred D’Aguiar’s will be talking to us about Children of Paradise, Zukiswa Wanner (Africa39, Zambia) will be discussing London Cape Town Joburg and Nike Campbell Fatoki will tell us all about her bestselling book, Thread of Gold Beads. She said
Shoneyin said that the festival would also witness master classes in science fiction writing, which Stella Duffy and Ben Aaronovitch will anchor the proceedings; while documentary making master classes with Emmanuelle Mougne and Devising Theatre from Page to the Naked Stage with Femi Elufowoju Jr. also form part of the litfest.
Shoneyin disclosed that there would be two photo exhibitions namely: “Vera Botterbuschs’s View” and “Secrets vom Abeokuta an Isara” and Victor Ehikhmenor’s “In the Lion’s Lair –intimate ortraits of Wole Soyinka in his home.
Source: The Sun
A set of wonderful photos from the Africa39 launch at Port Harcourt was posted on Brittlepaper.
Ukamaka Olisakwe (Nigeria) recounted her memories of the Port Harcourt Book Fair in “Where Do I Stuff These Memories?”:
In early February of this year, many weeks after the first draft of my screenplay was accepted for production, I received the email from Hay Festival informing me that I have been selected as one of the best 39 under 40 authors from Africa South of the Sahara and Diaspora. I sat, stunned. For hours, I read the mail over and over again, went through the publication agreement, wondered if this was a dream. Because success stories like this was what happened to other people– those who had spent years building their craft, those who began writing stories right from when they were four, those who travelled abroad for residency or fellowship or MFA programs to develop their craft. Not someone who really just started writing barely three years ago.
For days I did not know how to react. But by March, I beamed with the bravado of a child trying on an oversized dress. I would sit before my laptop, type a few words, string up a few thoughts, but thoughts gave way to wonder, wonder gave way to the frightening comprehension, as my mind struggled to make sense of things. By April, when the list was published and I saw my name squashed somewhere in between great names, I finally laughed.
And so I looked forward to October. October was when the Africa39 authors would congregate and bond in Port Harcourt. But I became worried. What would they be like? October was a long road to discovery, and a long time to wallow in worry (because I always worry) and so I returned to my movie series and small battles, and when I checked the calendar again, Port Harcourt World Book Festival was already knocking on the door.
In “Waiting For Departure In Port Harcourt”, Stanley Onjezani Kenani (Malawi), ponders the ‘What does that mean?’ of being an Africa39 author:
But the way the news was received showed that Africa39 meant different things to different people. To me, it meant going to Nigeria to eat jollof rice. My work as an accountant gives me few opportunities to interact with like-minded individuals. In Geneva, Switzerland, where I live, there is hardly any friend I could meet and discuss writing with.
So I looked forward to interacting with all those wonderful people, colleagues I had known for a while like Rotimi Babatunde and Abubakar Adam Ibrahim, and lots of others I would be meeting for the first time, among them the brilliant Kenyan poet Clifton Gachagua, whose poetry collection, Mad man at Kilifi, I was reading alongside Kei Miller’s awesome The Cartographer Tries to Map a Way to Zion.
Throughout the festival, Chibundu Onuzo (Nigeria), had the lives of Nigerian women on her mind. In “What kind of Nigeria will the Chibok girls come back to?”, she contemplates the kidnapped girls of Nigeria:
The Chibok girls have become a symbol of everything that is wrong with Nigeria. They were abducted because the state failed to protect them. They have remained in captivity, first because their disappearance was not treated as an issue of national significance and then because despite pouring billions of dollars into defence, the army tasked with finding them is worse equipped than Boko Haram. Almost the entire population of this country can give instances where state neglect or state greed or state indifference has led to calamity in our lives.
The Chibok girls are our plights magnified – a twist of fate, and we could easily be them tomorrow. Their loss was our nadir as a nation and their recovery would mark, for many, a return to cautious optimism.
Source: The Guardian
Chibundu Onuzo is the winner of a Betty Trask Award and the author of The Spider King’s Daughter, a debut which has been described as a novel of “Shakesperean scope”:
Onuzo’s novel works best when it concentrates on the primary collision between a have and have-not, making effective use of Lagos as a dramatic setting to a love story turned thriller. It’s a promising debut work by a twenty-two-year old writer with the confidence to try out a story with such Shakespearean scope on these bull-headed teenagers. It doesn’t paint an attractive picture of the world that burns off their innocence, but it does leave an impression of the great changes that love can make and unmake in a life. (Review by Margaret Howie)
In his interview with Aaron Bady, Tope Folarin discusses, among other things, his forthcoming novel:
Q: Can I ask you about what you’re writing now? I’ve seen the title “The Proximity of Distance” floating around; is that a novel or—I also read somewhere that you have a collection of short stories. Is that right?
Yeah, the novel is a novel of stories, so everything you’ve read is part of the novel. I’m sure you’ve read it out of sequence, but yeah, I’m just finishing up that project.
Q: Are you at a stage where you like to talk about?
[Laughs] I can talk about it! It’s autobiographical, in certain ways, but in other ways it’s… You know, I was talking to Junot about this, about the character he’s kind of known for, in Drown, and This is How You Lose Her, and The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, how even if this character starts in an autobiographical place, the character inevitably makes decisions that separate the character from who you are. I’ve discovered that in my own work: there is stuff that happens at the end that clearly resembles stuff that happened my life, but it needs to happen for the book to exist in the world.
Q: Does it ever worry you that people will take it as more autobiographical than it is?
That isn’t so much of a concern for me. Again, reading Roth, or reading Mailer, or reading Díaz, these are all folks—reading Danticat—these are all folks who write from a very personal place. Or even Michael Thomas, who wrote a book a few years ago called Man Gone Down that received some critical praise.
I’ve been wondering why people are constantly asking me about that. If I’d written about a character that grows up in some urban center, and who has a more conventional trajectory in terms of culture, I’m not sure as many people would be asking that question. The question would certainly be asked, since writers are always asked about the autobiographical content of their work. But because I have such a unique and weird history, people think, okay, either this is the only thing he can write about, or this is about him, basically, and why is he calling it fiction.
Again, I think that my life places me in a position to write about identity conversations—about identity construction—in a way that I wouldn’t be able to if I grew up in a place with an established community. Like Roth, I emerged from this community that’s kind of ignored, that has been ignored, that hasn’t received much recognition in American letters. I’m talking about this group of people for the first time, here we are. The questions would be a bit more muted than they are, if I’m writing about traveling from one country to another, if the broad outlines of this story conform to the narrative about what it means to be an immigrant. Then perhaps people would be less interested in that story. Some people like it and get it, but other people are honing in on this autobiographical question, which is why I was asking before, “Is this all you can do?” If I started from a place like, I’m an Indian immigrant in New York, or something, I’m sure I could write that, but the amount of research it would take to get at that character in an honest way would be pretty, um… It would be a lot. So I’m relying on autobiography to establish basic things that enable me to kind of get at the meat of what I’m trying to get at.
Source: Post45 Yale research forum