Monday, November 27, 2006

Ponder On This

From my inbox, forwarded to me. I am supposed to forward it also, but I am extremely lazy at doing that.

1. There are at least two people in this world that you would die for.
2. At least 15 people in this world love you in some way.
3. The only reason anyone would ever hate you is because they want to be just like you.
4. A smile from you can bring happiness to anyone, even if they don't like you.
5. Every night, SOMEONE thinks about you before they go to sleep.
6. You mean the world to someone.
7. You are special and unique.
8. Someone that you don't even know exists loves you.
9. When you make the biggest mistake ever, something good comes from it.
10. When you think the world has turned its back on you take another look.
11. Always remember the compliments you received. Forget about the rude remarks.

So............If you are a loving friend, send this to everyone, including the one that sent it to you. If you get it back, then they really do love you. And always remember....when life hands you Lemons, ask for tequila and salt and call me over.

Friday, November 24, 2006

The View From a Balcony

Okay. So what if I am not Kelechi Amadi or Uche Iroha.

I can still take some pictures. All I was doing was storing memories of that day, you know. Just like my Mya sang:

I wanna take a picture, so I can remember this moment forever.
I wanna take a picture so I can show my children someday.

This picture was taken from the balcony of the building where the Framemaster is located.

I cannot see the front of that skycrapper, so I cannot tell you the name of the building. And because I am not so good with names of bridges on the Island, I can't tell you which is by the building. But of course, that is Peak Milk's advert.

I guess my skills are getting better with the camera. I am not the Agama Lizard.

The Kids In Action

My camera actually got working inside the gallery, before it came outside, and I said I wanted to take pictures of a nice view from the balcony. This is what I took, and it isn’t so pleasant, but it is part of Lagos.
The building on the other side of the dead fence (forgive my English), which is uncompleted is the popular mama put joint on King George V road. A pity I didn’t go in there to eat. We were in a hurry to return to the mainland. That was when the kids’ action began.

The Kids In Action - Two

When my friend and I were leaving the building where an exhibition was holding, we saw two little girls on top of this uncompleted building (Mama Put joint) and started yelling for them to get off else they fall. We were wondering who left them unattended to go upstairs. But they knew what they were doing, as they got a mat and dragged it to the position that you can see. My camera couldn’t zoom more for a clearer picture, but I am sure you can make out what is there.

The Kids In Action - Three

With their mat arranged, they stood, deciding on what to do.

The Kids In Action - Four

Suddenly they sat down and the one on the left began the gist. Let me tell you one tory.

The Kids In Action - Five

Then the one on the right responded with her own gist.

The Kids In Action- Six

Obviously, the one on the right had better gist because soon, she was demonstrating to her friend.

The Kids In Action- Seven

Is it laughter on the part of the baby on the left, or just another demonstration?

Then we got noticed and they were distracted.

The Kids In Action - Eight

What could they do but look at me and wonder what is wrong with me for disturbing their gist.


Do you know that one of the beauty of an artwork is the additional makeup? What I am talking about is the frame used on an artwork. Like Alex Nwoloko, an artist said to me on the day of his maiden edition of miniature artfair, 'frames are like clothes, they bring out the beauty.' And he was right. Frames help to define the tone of the painting and helps to bring out its beauty.

This work here is of mixed media. The artist used wooden combs, popularly called cutting combs, to send across a message

An Alex Nwokolo work. Paper collage is how it is described.

Alex Nwokolo is a framer. According to him, because no has done an exhibition like this, he decided to give it a shot.

All the works were miniature. From mixed media to etching, sculptures, paper collage, acrylic etc.

This here is a work done by Ndidi Dike on leather.
She used wood and wooden fibres to do magic.

From all his works at the gallery, I wouldn't be wrong to say that Oliver Enwonwu is taken with women, because paintings like this one were much. What's more, he likes this deep colour.

The show is on till December 3. If you go, you will come out with a nice piece of work. They are small and lovely and affordable.

Address is Framemaster, 13, King George V Road, Onikan. Not far from Race Course.

Friday, November 17, 2006


Taken From National Mirror Newspapers.

He is simply known as Mr. Kool and has being in the music industry for over a decade. With his second album which is about to be repackaged, Mr. Kool has shown that indeed, he has arrived in the industry, and intends to stay.
Wanted by both girls and guys, Mr. Kool is the guy with that cool voice who sings to bring peace to people’s hearts and lives.
In this interview with UZEZI EKERE, over a plate of fufu and Egusi soup in a restaurant at Maryland, Lagos, where he spotted a blue body hug top and jeans, Mr. Kool spoke on his work, his love and passion for it and women. What’s more, he reveals the fact that guys actually chase him and that it is embarrassing.

Is there any particular reason why you like dressing in white in your videos?
Yes, I’ve always loved white, because it signifies purity. I’m not saying I’m pure, but I’m pure in spirit. I think I’m almost a perfectionist and when you are talking about perfection, it doesn’t mean you are perfect, but you smell perfection. And when something is spotless, it’s got to be white. So I think that’s what inspires my dressing in white.

Why do you always shoot a movie in your music videos?
I like to build a little level of suspense, something you probably wouldn’t think would come, until it starts to unfold. When you watch the new video Trust, you wouldn’t start to imagine what would come at each stage. That song talks about a relationship between a guy and a girl who are constantly suspecting each other, but at the end they find out it was about nothing, because when it unfolds, the viewer would actually see the distrust. You will see the doubt and distrust, things you believe are like this and at the end of the day it’s not. The fact about my movies in the videos is that I write a lot. I develop stories, scripts and I always try to build a little bit of intrigue, a little bit of suspense in everything I do.

You said you write a lot. What do you write?
Stories. I write scripts for my videos, I write concepts for commercials, I write a whole lot of stuff I have not started to use yet. I’ve been writing a movie for a while now but I have not had the time to finish it because when you are a deep person, you get so much stuck trying to break your own puzzle, like you plan and plan and it runs into a jam. I just keep writing and I have a gallery where I put them. Somebody I’ll need them.

From what you are saying, I can tell you give your director advice on what you want in your videos.
Yes. Word for word; I mean he brings in his own interpretation I must say. Sometimes I bring mine and tell him to play around with it, but when I’ve got a message to deliver, I conceive it. We have to understand too, at times that when you are doing something, you are the one who has got a strong passion for it. The director might have been working on some juju or gospel video before yours, so he is not as dedicated to your work as you are. He may not be able to interpret it the way you would, but when you explain to him what you want, you’ll get the best, because it is his interpretation of the story that makes the video.

You have a second album in the market now right?
Yes. My second album – Still Kool.

How would you rate the success of your first album?
Then, I was trying to make my impression felt. I think very successful. Market place, Alaba arrangement – not very successful. But first of all, my first album never got into the market. It was just in some strategic shops. It was an album that established that certain things could be done in Nigeria. I made videos back then that people didn’t believe where shot in Nigeria. And today, we have a lot of these very good videos which people thought were impossible back then. To convince reporters that my videos were shot here, I had to tell them to watch, that they would see a molue passing. So most of the time, my focus is on longevity. Like they say, it’s not how quick you rise, but how long you last. The second album is doing better and I’m so happy for that, despite the fact that the songs in the first album are friendlier. I’ve never been a runaway commercial artist, whose songs are chanted to all and everyone sings along with. No, that’s not me. What I try to express most of the time is have patience, sit down, and make music. I write words you can learn from and not just chanting for people to repeat what I’m chanting without knowing what it means. Though I have nothing against those who do it, but this is who I am and what I do.

That means you are not doing music to make money, right? Because commercial music sells like the spread of fire?
First of all, I’m doing music to make money, but I don’t want to compromise the art. There is something you call the art of music, but because so many people have broken all rule, sang off key and sold, does not mean everybody should sing off key. I am here to make money from music without compromising the art. Besides that, I do other things that bring in money.

Let’s look at the music industry. How have you contributed to the growth of Nigerian music, and how has the industry affected you?
Okay. To all those that know and those who don’t, we had a group – two Nigerians and two Americans – and we released the first hip hop album ever made in this country. The group was Sound on Sound. Back then, there was nothing like hip-hop. Rapping was like a crime; nobody thought it would work. So far, we cleared the path, suffered the rejection and all, but people followed the path. It’s like you cut through a bush, but people coming behind you walk through a path which is a lot easier.
And also, I’ve always been into R&B. Four years ago, people didn’t R&B had any place. When I came out with breaking ice in 2001, people were like, why do R&B in Nigeria when everybody likes Pangolo music? But today where is R&B? Artistes are doing R&B and people are listening. So I don’t think you will rightfully talk about the story of Hip-Hop and R&B without mentioning Mr. Kool somewhere. Even at this moment, I have many young artistes who bring their work to me. There are loads of people who come to me that they like my work and want to be like me, and follow my footstep. Then I ask ‘are you persevering, would you endure the stress of being who I am?’ It hasn’t been easy, but I have contributed and inspired other young artistes. And I advice them to be themselves, unique no matter what that’s what Mr. Kool has succeeded in being for a long time. He’s not the best, he’s not the worst but he’s different.

So how has the industry affected you?
The industry has influenced me to carry on. That the industry can come of age and be what it is today means there is room for greater things to come. It has helped me reposition myself in that I put in extra effort to still hold my own.

Tell us about yourself?
I am Alex Ibeh. Simple and sophisticated and I’m in my thirties. I like intelligent conversation because I’m a deep person. I like to know everything about everything. I am from Imo State; from a family of a lot of academic people who believe in if you are not sound, you are not sound; no room for half measure. My dad is late. My mum is living. I’ve got brothers and sisters. I am married with three incredible children. I think I am a very blessed man and I’m easily content because I don’t need to have everything in the world, but I am happy and basically, my soul is music.

The artiste who braids his hair, has a tattoo, wears an earring. Why does some fraction of the society spell that as irresponsibility?
I wouldn’t say that is irresponsible. Maybe I was too responsible and needed something to burn me up a little. It is the same way people look at the entertainment industry and term it an irresponsible one. It is so because we are in the spot light. My braided hair, my tattoo, my earrings changes nothing about who I am. It’s an image, just an outward appearance. I know people that are totally irresponsible but they are in the noble profession. First of all, people look at artistes and they have an already set impression. Some girls would never date a musician or marry one, but it is who you are that matters. What you are does not make who you are. At a time when I was younger, I was always looked at as the cute little one, so I rebelled. I wanted to look nasty and rude and wild, I had to do something and that’s when the braiding of my hair came, then the tattoo. I was getting bored with the smooth cool look and wanted to be a little bit rugged.

There has been this talk about Mr Kool being gay?
Okay. You can make it your headline I am not Gay and never have been. Its unfortunate that a lot of bad come with the good, like they say about the blessing and the curse. Sometimes you look a particular way and people say all sort of things. Guys send me text messages, I can show you, so I know we have them in Lagos and it puts me off.

Girls admire you a lot don’t you feel flattered that guys admire and want you too?
No! I don’t feel flattered, I feel stupid. There’s been someone actually on me for a very long time. I don’t know who he is and he’s embarrassed to show himself and I ask him if he is sick? I am too much of a male but they don’t want to know. I mean there are too many beautiful women to be gay. When I get all these messages from guys, I really feel embarrassed. They say this guy is very fresh and all that like you are some toy. So it goes back to what I said about when I was younger and having people look at me in a certain way and I’m trying to find a way to put it off. So, if there are people out there who are hoping I’m gay – I’m sorry. I feel their pains.

At the end of your new musical video ‘Trust’, you kissed a girl, and there is this talk in town that it is causing problems in your home?
That’s another source of controversy. Some people have listened to the song and they say it’s a personal experience. Some say maybe I was having problems in my relationship about trust. But that song is about everybody who has been in a relationship at one time or the other, who has been in a situation of distrust. Actually, it’s partly about an experience, so I was writing as an artist and out of experience. It’s a deep song and it had to be interpreted well. People ask me what inspired the song, because it’s about love and all of us. It’s a whole lot of issues concerning love and relationship in any album because I always say that even if it is good to talk about bad road, bad government, stealing money etc there are people whose major problem is being happy; how their emotional life can be fixed, find a good partner that can last. So I’m trying to feel that little gap of healing the heart.

How does your wife react to all this?
She knows that a job has to be done. When I did A Man’s Cry, she saw the rushes before anyone else. What she saw is actually more than what the public saw; because we had to do it again and again and edit for the Nigerian market. We actually cut when the lips touch, we don’t let it go all the way, but I believe everything has to be real. When you have a job to do, you have a job to do and you interpret the script, and she understands me. She knows who I am and the fact that I have a lot of female fans, and even her own friends. I’ve known her for a long time you see. I entered the industry quite young and started getting the female attention at an early age, so I don’t get carried away now. It’s not a big deal anymore. And I most say: I love my female fans; I swear, because they are very reliable. You can depend on women any time. I dedicate all I do to them, I’m sorry but that’s the truth. They can bring their husbands and boyfriends along, but it’s all dedicated to my female fans.

Inside SOS Village

These pictures show part of the SOS village. The environment is really so cool, calm and clean.

I bet you had no idea that the children in the village live a very structured family life, just like you and I and those who grow up in the same family house cannot marry each other because they are siblings.

Imagine such open grounds, beautiful field.

What's more, the children are divided into family houses. Each family house has a mother who stays with them always. She goes home once in a while to see her own family. There is a primary school in the premises, but according to our escorts, for secondary education, they go out to mix up with the world. I bet you didn't know a medical doctor has materialised from there. She works abroad.

This here, is a family house. Sorry no pictures of some of the lovely children we visited. It isn't allowed because people use them to collect donations that never get to SOS.

A Visit to SOS Village

It was on Nov 11 when some friends and I visited SOS. After making some donations, we went on tour. Things happen in this world that we don't know, unless we are involved. Sit down to think of your life and things that you take for granted. Think of others who do not have your opportunity and put a smile on somebody's face. It will make a whole lof of difference. In the picture, from left to right: Ayo, the one who brought us all altogether. The others didn't turn up,due to some reasons. Next time, it will be all of us. Next to Ayo is Pat, who came there to meet up with me, and ended up being part of us. Then after Pat is yours truly. Next to me is beautiful Kudi, then Niyi, who didn't mind dropping off Pat and I at Maryland.

Death of Nigerian Theatre is Normal

This interview was published in National Mirror Nespaper in July

Other than the immediate past Director of the Nigerian Film Corporation, Dr. Hyginus Ekwuazi, there may be no other Nigerian academic that has done work on the phenomenon of the film and home video in Nigeria as Dr Onookome Okome, Associate Professor at the Department of English and Film Studies, University of Alberta, Canada. At the African Literature Association summit held recently in Ghana, Okome was there with a paper on “The African New Cinema.” UZEZI EKERE caught up with him in between engagements and extracted this interview from him.

What are you presently working on?
I am just concluding my new book on the video film. I’ve been interested in video film for a long time and I think it’s a very important part of our cultural history that we must not take for granted simply because it is mainly patronized at this moment by people we don’t consider intellectuals or people who don’t speak the intellectual vocabulary. I really think it’s a very important thing and we should deal with it as such, and we cannot hope to minimize the influence of the video film, or the importance of the video film for a large percentage of people in Nigeria.

Beyond films, you are also very much grounded in poetry. Is there anything new that is cooking here?
I’m working on a new collection of poetry. The working title for now is Roaming, though it may change when it goes to the publisher. It’s supposed to be a collection that reflects on my travel to Germany. Brazil, Switzerland, some West Africa countries I’ve been to, the United States, Canada, etc. It’s like a dialogue between these countries and myself as a black person, scholar and writer.

You have been out of the country for some years now. Have you at this time also been following the writing industry in Nigeria and how it is faring?
I have been following it quite assiduously. I think that the novel is doing very now, with a lot of fairly young writers doing some very good novellas. I remember that I taught Helon Habila’s Waiting for An Angel to my post colonial class, and they liked it a lot. I particularly like and appreciate the writings of Habila and Chimamanda Adichie. These are brilliant and talented young people coming up and writing very well. But, I think what is exceptional about what these people write, in my opinion, is more about how they are able to deplore in their narratives, the very debilitating, social conditions in the country. I am not sure that the emphasis or significances is in terms of style. I still will hesitate to say that the style of these novels is close to what we had before. One thing that is very clear to me is that the narratives are daring in terms of their deploring of the really harsh conditions in which writers and ordinary people live. In any case, even those people who are supposed to be big men and women that live in these societies also suffer because I’ve always believed that both the oppressors and the oppressed suffer almost equally in a very corrupt society. It is not just the oppressed that suffers, the oppressor also suffers and I think that’s the reason why these novellas are able to depict both sides of the coin.

Still on Nigerian writing, it is widely believed that poetry doesn’t sell. What is your take on this?
It’s true. People don’t read a lot of poetry, that’s why we don’t think about it as something that sells. But then, that’s only if you limit the definition of poetry to written poetry-a kind of poetry that intellectuals do, or poetry in English Language. But there are several kinds of poetry around us everyday. Everyday people, like the ones you find in polygamous home, etc. If you limit poetry to just written poetry, the kind people like us do, people don’t read much of that, but poetry is beyond that.

On the international scene, how would you rate Nigeria Literature?
Nigeria Literature is doing well, as far as I can tell. African Literature is doing well, but I think that Nigeria Literature stands out. I can give the example of Canada, where I have been for the past four years, teaching African Literature. Achebe is still at the top. But, he is at the top in the sense which it is only Things Fall Apart, is taught and listened to, and I have taught it since I went there. That should tell you how they understand it. And also, people know Soyinka, but lots of than have not read Soyinka at all. In the university where I teach for instance, this is the case. And it is not only because they say he’s difficult, but because he’s a master craftsman and you have to understand both the culture and the craft that he employs. But Achebe provides a very wonderful background to start with, so Things Fall Apart is a very clear and concise nature between the local, African societies, and international global enterprise, such as colonialism, makes it very effective for students. But one of the things I’ve done so far is to redirect attention from that, and to emphasise the plurality of African Literature, and even the plurality of Achebe’s literature itself. Achebe’s Literature is not just Things Fall Apart, you know. It’s more than that. Achebe is not only questioning the whole basis of colonial Africa. He is also questioning post-colonial Africa, and from time to time, he talks about the debilities of African modernity. African and Nigerian Literature are doing well. What I don’t understand, especially in Canada, is whether Africa Literature is still seen as a curiosity rather than a real existential idea focusing on different groups of people.

What is your take on the Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA)?
ANA as an institution I think, has changed since the era of Odia Ofemu. It has done exactly what it ought to do, not as a fighting body, but as a body of intellectuals who talk about things they feel are significant in society and ANA may be somewhat disorganized, it is not a political entity, so it can’t enforce any of its desires to change society, other than to use literature, to do that. And many members, who are writers, are doing that. For me, I think one of the highpoints of ANA ever was in the support given by the body to Ken Saro-Wiwa before and after his death. That’s one of the highpoints of ANA as a body that can enable people to think beyond the ordinary. I remember I was at the Lagos edition of ANA in 1995, when Ken Saro-Wiwa was on trial, and it became a very big debate and I was in London, when I finally heard they hung this guy, and lots of people felt very bad and ANA didn’t make any bones about it. They made it very clear that this was the most heinous thing that happened in the country. But my argument about it, and I think this is the reason why I think that one of the finest times of ANA as a body in history of literary production was that period when Ken Saro-Wiwa was in control of ANA, and at the same time, showing what writers can do to elevate the problems of the people. I think he’s the best example since, probably Okigbo of a man who was able to combine the commitment of art and social justice, and ANA recognized this and actually, during that period, put this forward. That’s because Odia Ofeimun who was secretary then, I think believed in what Ken Saro Wiwa stood for, not just as an ethnic person, but also as somebody who had a thorough ground understanding of literature and the place of literature in the struggle of common people.

Given your interest in video films, let’s go to the famous Nollywood. There’s been a lot of debate about the movie industry and on its activities. There are so many unsatisfied people who think Nollywood is not doing things right.
I have been studying African cinema for the last 20 years. I did my Ph.d partly on cinema. Nollywood has been stigmatized by mostly, the intellectuals, mostly university people. But I think that is very wrong. If you understand Nollywood as a part of popular culture, then you will understand the importance of Nollywood in that respect, and begin to understand that it is a very important part of our cultural and intellectual history, and you cannot begin to minimize the significance of this. The question I always ask when they say Nollywood means nothing, it’s stupid, it’s full of fetish, whatever the question is - Is Nollywood telling the truth about Nigerian Society, and are we complaining about what Nollywood talks about or the style that Nollywood uses to talk about it? I don’t see how anyone can actually complain that Nollywood does not reflect the society - what we do. Those who are pan-Africanists for instance, or those who are interested in the curiosity of culture, would say, ok - let us ascend with what is great about our country or culture, not those things that are not great about our culture.
The idea for me is that, art is supposed to represent life, and I think Nollywood does that very well. Now the second point would be, if you say Nollywood is stupid, the style is hopeless, the narrative is stupid, the storyline is not always coordinated or whatever-my question here is, is the audience complaining? Nollywood is a very local phenomenon. It’s centred on local people, talks about local issues and does not bother so much about foreign people. So, the success itself is because it’s been able to carter for the need of these people for such a long time. That is what ought to be respected about Nollywood and the idea of saying it’s not stylistic, it doesn’t have the grandeur, is infantile. This is what I think people like us ought to be talking, but we are not condemning Nollywood on aesthetics, because for those who do, the question to ask is, whose yardstick are you using to judge Nollywood as an aesthetic category? Is it Hollywood, Bollywood or Continental European films? Now, if you use those aesthetic criteria to judge Nollywood, then you miss the point, because Nollywood is not producing films for Hollywood or wherever. They are producing films for the local people, and once the local people like what they are producing, then you don’t have any reason to complain.
Now there are of course certain shortfalls in Nollywood, and there are short falls in every cinema in the world Hollywood, Bollywood, Latin American cinema, Hispanic cinema, you name them. You find this all over. My response always to African Literary critics who denounce Nollywood as conveying nothing, is to remind there once again that in the 1950’s, there was a very vibrant form of popular culture in the country called the Onitsha Market Literature. This was exactly what was said about the Onitsha Market Literature. One of the most brilliant critics that I know of today, Emmanuel Obiechina wrote about the Onitsha Market Literature and made the point that whether you like it or not is not the case. The real case about popular culture, especially the Onitsha Market Literature, is that it meant something to people who produced and consumed it. Just like the medieval Literature in Europe meant something to the people who produced and consumed it. The reason we often condemn these things is because we always are looking towards Europe for some kind of medieval plays, and we neglect the real Literature happening around us, and I don’t see any justification for this at all.

So, how does a busy person like you manage two homes in Canada and Calabar?
It’s stressful. That’s why I come like thrice in a year. But one good thing is to understand that taking a job in a Northern American University makes it very possible for you to do this, if you have the will, because the facilities and pay, makes it possible for you to visit you family anytime. And the flexibility of the teaching schedule also makes it possible, and that is the good part of it. The other good thing is, I’m able to keep in touch with what is happening in Nigeria and Canada. The really bad part of it is that most African scholars and writers, then give the best part of their youth to the outside world, not to Africa, but had I stayed here I wouldn’t have had the resources to go back and forth like that.
But, even after, we all go to Canada this summer. I will have to make adequate contacts with my country, because my research is based here. I have worked primarily in cinema and my interest is to document the video film from the very beginning, and that’s what my new book is about. From the beginning, because Nigerian journalists and scholars don’t always get it right, the video film came from two very different strands of cultural production. One is the Traveling Theatre Tradition, and then the entrepreneurship of Igbo Traders. There’s the third one which comes from television also. I have been called to edit two special editions on the video film in Nigeria. The first is going to be published this summer in an on-line journal called Post-Colonial Text, and the second is going to be published by a journal in Sweden, and both will be based on the video film in Africa. My sense is that, this will open up, the debate further in order to show exactly the significance, not only of the video film, but also of popular culture.

You talked so much on the video film, the cinema. What about the theatre, the stage? It is almost non-existence anymore, that some believe it is dying.
Well, some will say actually that it is dead, but this is in my view only a period shift in cultural production. It happens all over the world, not only in Africa. Sometimes, it will be the television that will be at the top. In the 1950’s and 60’s, it was radio. Things move from the margin to the territorial, and from the territorial, to the margin. At other times, it was cinema. Culture production moves from one margin to the other. People cry about this, but I think culture has a way of dealing with this and if tomorrow, the people of Nigeria find out that they don’t like this thing called video film anymore, it will die off, just as all other cultural productions have died off. I don’t see any need to worry over this.

Friday, November 10, 2006

When Chimamanda Adichie Spoke

I conducted this interview over a month ago with the author of Purple Hibiscus, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, who has just released her second novel, Half of a Yellow Sun. The interview was published in National Mirror.

What are you working on presently?

Some short stories

What writer living at home did you read recently?

I think Tolu Ogunlesi is very talented.

Have you been following the prizes available for literary works in Nigeria? What's your take on them?

I have not been following them.

You were in the country on a book tour, to promote your first book. How well did it go, and how were you received?

I think it went well. I was very happy to see that people were genuinely interested in literature.

When you left the country, what did you really go to do abroad? Work?

I left Nigeria to go to college. I wanted an opportunity to study something that was not a science as I had started off studying medicine at Nsukka.

When you were in Nigeria, were you writing then?

Yes. My first published work was in Nigeria.

You write short stories, and have won several prizes, when are you going to put together a collection of short stories for publication?


Do you think you can live in Nigeria again as a writer?

I don't think anybody could make a living in Nigeria from fiction writing. But I certainly intend to continue to spend part of my time in Nigeria.

How connected are you with (1) Other Nigerian writers in the Diaspora, (2) African writers in the Diaspora?

I have a few friends who happen to be writers. However they are my friends because they are kind and loyal people and not because they write. The only relationship I think is essential to have with otherwriters is simply as a reader of their work.

Do you think African is doing enough in the international literature market?

I'm not in a position to speak about the international literature market.

How do we improve our literature and our reading culture?

By first starting with our education. And by changing the mindset we have about reading.

What is the number one problem you feel that is affecting our literature?

There are a number of complex problems. We do not value reading as much as we should and, even if we did, we don't have access to much reading material.

I know this question has been asked a lot of times, and I ask it again. How much of your novel, Purple Hibiscus, is autobiographical?

Very little. The story is not mine. My family is nothing like the family in the book.

What inspired you to write that book? I've heard a lot of times, and have experienced it. You set out to write a story, you know the whole story in your head, how it will begin and how it will end, but most of the times, than not, the story turn out differently, by writing itself. Did that happen to you?

Yes, my characters often surprised me.

Why did you decide to have your book published locally for West Africa, by Farafina?

Because Farafina is remarkable. Because I deeply admire Muhtar Bakare's commitment to literature and doing things right. Because I wanted my book to be available in an edition that would be affordablefor many Nigerians.

Chimamanda is branded. Or maybe not. Why the corn rolls?

I'm not comfortable with the idea of being a brand. I think human beings just get used to something and then do it over and over. I love my natural hair and when I don't wear it in an afro, braids are the second best option. I started putting beads in them years ago and have come to feel strange when I don't have them on.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Young & Free

Just imagining the possibily of blogging my National Mirror column every week. It will mean some people who buy Tuesday Mirror because of that column won't buy, because they will get it free of charge. Nay!

I will blog Young & Free articles, but only when they are really old.

As per our Young & Free Club, the subcribers are much sha. I no no say people dey like this kind thing. Even some guys wants to be members.

We shall see.

Eh, before I forget, the shoe. I am imagining me in it. Got it from one of those Jessica Simpons adverts on internet. But I have finer shoes sha. And real stilettos. This girl is vain, but who cares?

The Activist by Tanure Ojaide

Kachifo Limited, the publisher of Farafina Magazine and FarafinaBooks, is proud to announce the release of an affordable, paperbackedition of Tanure Ojaide's novel The Activist. (N1,000)

The Activist is a thought-provoking novel about the Niger-Delta andits people. It is a compelling story that underscores the need forunity amongst the various peoples of the Niger Delta in order tosecure equity for themselves and all other nationalities withinNigeria. The novel dwells on environmental degradation, the antics ofthe oil companies and corruption among the local elites. The novelschronicles The Activist's struggle to set things right for his people.He leaves the comfort of his home abroad to join in the struggle toensure its success. It is a story of courage, sacrifice and defiance.It is a message for the need for change, set in a contemporary Nigeriasteeped in corruption and avarice.Exploring the political and social tensions of recent times, TheActivist probes the depth of the government's accountability to thepeople. Since the oil boom of the 1970s, The Niger-Delta has beenridden in crisis despite continued expansion in oil production. Thenovel deals with the need to have a government that works and isbeneficial to the masses.


The Activist is a headlong novel. We hurtle through the labyrinth ofcontemporary Nigerian life. One of the wonders of this fine book isthat its author never fobs off on the reader a routine plot, aprefabricated sentiment, or a serious lecture without ironicundertones. Ojaide refuses to be dull.

Colorful characters of every stripe intersect the growing tale—a proudlocal chief defending the indigenes, a co-opted and pompous Nigerianprofessor in the hire of the oil company, an area boy who rises towealth and power and lifts the Activist with him; but through them allthe figures of Ebi and the Activist predominate, finally triumphing,as figures of political savvy and good intentions. —Frederic Will, writer and Professor of Comparative Literature

The Activist is a monumental literary achievement and a passionateexploration of Nigeria's political complexity and social tensions ofrecent decades. The nameless protagonist, clearly a symbol of thepatriotic and visionary Nigerian, irrespective of ethnicity, tradesthe bliss of life overseas and joins the bandwagon to develop hisnative land in this deeply moving narrative linked by conflicting tiesof moral concern, human rights, environmental pollution, honor,courage, patriotism, love, betrayal, tragedy and triumph. A memorablenarrative, populated with characters so vital and real. A trulyriveting and startling tale enriched with colorful and highlysophisticated writing. Only a gifted writer could combine suchsophistication and passion. — Dike Okoro, University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee

Through the collective consciousness of three enigmatic characters—the Activist, a cosmopolitan and radical scholar; Ebi, a staunchenvironmentalist and womanist; and Pere, a carnivalesque agent ofchange and representative of the down-trodden in the Niger Deltasociety—Ojaide takes the reader into a masterfully woven web of localand universal issues. This novel is both a befitting tribute to thelate novelist, social critic, and environmentalist Ken Saro-Wiwa and awelcome addition to the fast-growing corpus of radical literature inAfrica. ---Lokangaka Losambe, Professor of English and Chair, University of Vermont.

In The Activist Nigeria's acclaimed poet, Tanure Ojaide, brings hissharp sensibilities and writing skills to prose storytelling. Theprotagonist, makes a reverse trip from America to a home whose youngand able are straining at the leash to escape to the perceivedcomforts of the West. The rest of the story is that of a singleindividual who joins ranks with the long suffering people ofNigeria's Niger Delta who (along with their beleaguered naturalenvironment) are caught in the impersonal cash nexus of Global Oil andthe collusive African state. Always aware of the complex links betweenbroad structural forces and the minutiae of everyday life, Ojaideweaves a compelling narrative that illuminates the contradictions ofstate and society in contemporary Africa. The Activist, however, ismore than testimonial literature. It is visionary and bold as itattempts to answer the eternal question: What is to be done? At thismoment in our densely interlaced world, this book could not be moretimely. —Dr. Joseph E. Obi, University of Richmond, VA

Thursday, November 02, 2006


This interview with Araceli Aipoh came out today in National Mirror. I hope her next novel will take us back 25 years to her high school days with Batch '81

I still find it difficult believing a foreigner wrote a book that is so Nigerian. How does that make you feel?
It makes me feel so Nigerian.

The vigour I noticed with which you started the book, weakened in the middle and picked up again before the book ended. Is it that you were unsure of the plot and almost got stuck?
There was never a time when I was unsure of the plot. Before I sat down to write, I already knew what was going to happen to all the characters from the beginning to the end. Besides, it’s not just possible to have at least one character get killed in every chapter. You will end up with an unrealistic story.

Why did you create Kate to be that kind of desperate woman who unfortunately lost it all?
I didn’t exactly create Kate. She exists in our midst, not just in Nigeria but in any place where you see women. All I did was to tell her story.

Don’t you think the story of Kate would have been more interesting if all ended well for her considering her hard background? It could have sent a kind of message across to the Kates in the society, that they can still have it right and good?
Yes, but I think it also sends a warning, though I didn’t have this intention when I was writing it, that if a woman does not have control of herself, she will end up like Kate. I don’t think there’s any point in killing yourself over a man. You must understand all the time that a man either loves you or he doesn’t, so you just have to either love him or leave him in return. Unfortunately, Kate didn’t know that. Maybe because nobody taught her. She never knew the love of a mother or a sister or even a friend. That’s the tragedy of her life.

Jide is every woman’s dream man, but don’t you think when it comes to his character, that you cheated your readers, considering the fact that he got away with his actions?
I don’t think Jide got away with his actions. When Victoria found out what he had done, she made her own decisions. And having an affair with his sister-in-law could be a stigma that would follow him for the rest of his life.

Elizabeth ’s guilt was like an open book to the reader because we saw her mind. The reader never entered the mind of Jide. He was among the lead characters whose mind was never written.
Yes, you are right. There was only a few scenes devoted to him. Not knowing all the answers – What was he thinking, for instance? – is very much a part of life. If you are a novelist trying to portray life as it is, you have to be realistic, you have to leave some questions unanswered once in a while. I see Jide as an enigmatic person, so an enigmatic person cannot be defined. You never know what they are thinking.

Now, let’s talk about the unknown Croker daughter. You ended the book with only Laura knowing the secret, but do people really keep that kind of secret considering coming in contact everyday with people that should know the truth? The normal scenario would be for her to disappear from their midst because of the burden.
Laura is a big surprise for me, too. She is not a major character in the book, but it seems almost every reader (judging from the question they ask me) becomes curious about her. The circumstances surrounding her birth are really mysterious because not even her father knew about it. Only the mom knew and she is dead. So who else would have known?

What were the challenges you faced in writing that book?
The usual challenges or questions that would face any aspiring novelist, I suppose: Can the story stand on its own? Have I covered all the loopholes? Can readers relate with the story? Can I sustain the plot…things like that. And another challenge was that English is not my native tongue. So I spent a lot of time agonizing over grammar, proper English usage, punctuation and all that. I still face the problem of language.

Who among your well crafted characters is your favourite?
You can’t have a favourite character if each of them is significant to the plot. Aside from Laura and her mother, all the rest are major characters in the book, in the sense that if you took one of them away, the plot would probably fall apart, or it would turn out in a different way. I didn’t just pick a character and planted him or her in the book. Even the driver may look insignificant, but his role is very crucial. Even the gravedigger. The choices that each of these people made – there are nine of them, excluding Laura and her mother – affected, in one way or the other, the lives of the rest of the cast, even if they didn’t meet face to face, or even after so many years. So to answer that question, Who is my favorite, then they are all my favourites. It’s easy to write the intertwining story of two people – any novelist can do that – but when you are talking of five or six characters, it’s a different thing altogether.

If you were to change something in the book, what would it be?
Absolutely nothing. There’s at least one person who has requested me to resurrect Elizabeth. But I can’t do that. She’s dead.

You are very fortunate that your very first book was well received considering that people don’t read. How does that make you feel?
I owe it to everyone who turned the pages. Definitely I feel honoured. When someone reads your book until the last page and then asks you when is the next one coming, as a writer, you feel great, but at the same time, it’s a humbling experience.

You’ve been here long enough to know the art industry. Do you think there’s hope for Nigerian literature?
Yes, absolutely. But I don’t think I’m the best person to answer that.

What book are you presently working on? When do we expect it?
I’m currently working on a children’s book. Hopefully it will be out by the middle of next year.

How can art associations help to move art and artists forward?
Everyone should understand the mechanics of promotion. You need to do a national campaign, and yet, you have to start somewhere, and I guess you could always start where you are, work with the nearest people near you, make do with the limited resources that you have.