Saturday, December 16, 2006

EXPERIENCE

I am a burden of brains.
I am like Experience.
Like a morning,
I dawn upon.
Never you can tell
Me completely,
My definite element.
Of my person always you learn.
As you go through life learning,
So also you go through me learning.
I am my kind.
I am an Experience.
I crawl upon.
And I am contagious.
You can hate me,
But on you I will be
Like a disease,
Because I am an Experience.

March '03

(c) UZEZI EKERE.

DISROBED

DISROBED

I got disrobed
And ashamed I am
To be called a woman

To the sex
Shame I brought
Mine,
Unable to uphold

Before the fall from grace
I was learnt in the school
Of thoughts surrounding
The woman

I was a believer
That for happiness
Pleasing thyself
Is first and foremost

I was a believer
That even in love
Your personality
Guard

I was a believer
In the free living spirit –
Live and let’s live
Most importantly
The independent woman

Then the story began …

I fell in love
With one I ought to
Have run from –
Like you once said
‘I should run from you
We are too similar’

I ought to have run
Because we were like
Of one make
And too common in nature

But this commonness
In it was sweet
That tied me
In it was safety
That I wanted always
In it was care
That all my life
I craved for
To make me, me

The journey resembled
That from the west
To the Niger Delta
The roads were smooth not
But a determined driver must try.

So I tried
At the right times
The brakes I used
At the wrong times
The accelerators
Coming in words
I used
The driver’s seat was
Too uncomfortable
And I thought
Probably I am the passenger

When the accident
Was about to occur -
The accident that woke me -
I was unprepared
And without the seat belts
A decision I had to make quick -
Like a doctor’s mind
Torn between saving a life
And police report for
The gunshot victim

I made a decision
Protect another’s heart
Just to
Not because I loved you less
But because
The bullet you pick
Was with venom watered
And in the recipient’s heart
Would have spread
Till life was taken

I couldn’t be a murderer of heart
Endured I have
What I wouldn’t have from another
To constant scrutiny
I subject myself
Because prove
I wanted to you
That I could be what you wanted

Myself I blame for that
Because I allowed it to happen
But I did it out of love
Don’t you see it?

I might have a thousand
Times lied
But with cause
After a reality of
Your inability to stomach my truths

My defenses are quick to rise
Just so I could protect my heart
When you come questioning
Because my heart have learnt
To fear when you question
Because my self esteem suffers
When you question
My confidence goes flying
Like demons cast out by
The Holy Power

In a matter of time
Named I was –
Slut, betrayer, double dealer -
Because already
You judged me
And I was condemned
Unfortunately
The defense rests its case
Because it never got its chance
Just before the gavel fell


I got disrobed
And ashamed I am
To be called a woman

Oct. '06

(c) Uzezi Ekere.

THE FATE OF AFRICAN LITERATURE

The article below has been previously published in National Mirror Newspapers, months ago

By Uzezi Ekere

African literature is going through dangerous times, regardless of the new discoveries of writers. The problems – publishing firms, bad quality of books, badly written scripts, poor reading culture, no recognition for writers etc - that have been spoken on about why literature seem to be bowing out of the stage, hangs still, dangerously, above all the stakeholders. Conferences have been held to find a lasting solution, but none seem to be forth coming. New writers have emerged to continue from where the older generation stopped, but the names and popularity of the older generation steals the day. Non Governmental Organizations have entered the stage to act their parts, still, African literature refuse to rise to its glory of the old days. And now, it seems that the time has come, when everyone who is concerned about the literature industry, sits down, and plan the way forward.

Just recently, in the city of Lagos, literature was the center of attraction, when another writer with a worthy work of literature, won an award, and made news. But unfortunately, like it always happen, the news will fade away to be replaced by nonentities, as literature gets shoved into the background.

Literature is our right. Maybe the government should be educated on this fact. Because what literature does for a nation, cannot be compared with any other thing. As Prof. Niyi Osundare once said, “What Achebe and Soyinka has done for the Nigerian image, a thousand diplomats cannot do, a thousands presidents in Aso Rock cannot do, unfortunately how are they recognized?”

Charity begins at home. If at home, our literature is suffering, how then is it faring in the Western world? African literature in the global setting isn’t as rosy as it used to be or as people want others to believe. In as much as Africa and Nigeria does have a place in the international literary scene, well recognized - according to Adewale Maja Pearce who said in a chat with National Mirror that Nigeria is still there.; “Nigeria is known and very well respected in the international literary scene” - its literature is suffering because the attention it is generating, is not enough to give Africa any hope.

When Osundare spoke on how the West treats literature that comes out of Africa, he wished that the question had been put to him twenty, or twenty-five years earlier.
“I would have been more enthusiastic about it, because in recent lectures I’ve given in the West, I’ve asked this question – why the west is losing interest in Africa literature/culture, and I remember particularly a lecture I gave in Harare, Zimbabwe about three years ago, and if I can remember properly, my topic was African literature in the global setting. And I have to say in a non flattery way that interest of the West in African literature is shrinking because of the situation in Africa. Poverty doesn’t sell books; the condition of Africa is terrible. AIDS, war in Somalia, the anomy in Sierra Leon, and until recently, restlessness in Liberia, the pogrom in Rwanda, the debilitating genocide in Daffur, all these have given African such a heavy footed kind of bad press, so rather than read of Africa, people pity Africa, people are tired of Africa. Africa seems to be the misery of the world. Anytime Africa is mentioned, it is with children having flies all around the mouth, or dead bodies lying all over. Only few people want to read literature from places like that, because they feel they have seen all they want to know about Africa on TV. Africa today is bad news; that is why countries in Asia have taken over. I meet people (colleagues) from this region during reading engagement and I know people buy their books a lot. When you hear of their technology wonder, you will want to see how these wonders reflect in their literature. Somehow, something prepares you for reading that literature. Nothing prepares you for reading African literature. The years immediately after independence, the struggles we were experiencing, the political experimentation and all, prepared people for African literature; it seemed something was always happening.”

Should it be true that the West have lost interest in African literature, what then does that spell for the industry a lot of people are trying to lift?

The stakeholders probably understand this situation and that might be part of the reason why they come together to conference and find a solution to these huge problems.

Over the years, conferences are organized in Africa and the theme of these conferences had not been very far from relating to Nigeria, Africa, and its literature, and issues relating to it.

Most recent of these conferences, is the ALA conference in Ghana, and before that, the ICALEL conference in Calabar, and coming up soon, is another conference, an international colloquium on twenty years after the Nobel prize: literature governance and development in Africa, which the Association of Nigerian Authors ANA is organizing. It will feature big shots in both the Nigerian and African literature scene.

With literature gathering so much attention, would it then be right to assume that Nigerian and African literature is indeed in trouble? How long would it take the world and Africans to award recognition to our new writers when names like Soyinka and Achebe, Ngugi, Armah etc, still carry the light away from the writers of this generation who are trying to carry the flag of continuity. More problems for African and Nigerian literature, if all the West sees is African literature of that day. With today’s literature, how is it accepted?

Tom Inyambri, a member of the organizing committee of ICALEL said that the answer to literature being in trouble, could be both ways. “It is just normal for healthy people to come together to conference,” he said on the conferences on literature. “It is normal for scholars in a particular region, who have that kind of fellowship, kingship to gather once in a while, to conference as the name implies, on issues that bothers them, on issues that interest them, not really because it is in trouble. But there is a sense where we could say it is in trouble, if you have to consider the problems of publishing and reading and writers not having the kind of attention the older generation had. I think that problem has to be addressed. It has to be made an issue, has to be problematised to see that there is continuity, because if there is no continuity, there’s no society. Who will discuss this generation, if not a conference of people who have an interest in the generation? So, on the one hand it has some problems, on the other hand, it is an interest for kins and kings.”

These problems have to be solved. “I’ve met people from the West that are ready to embrace literature from Africa, if the literature is well presented and circulated,” Osundare said. “One other serious problem is collapse of publishing, not just in Africa, but in the world over. Soyinka and Achebe, Ngugi, Ayi Kwei Armah became very famous because their works were distributed by multinationals publishing firms. Heinemann, Longman, Oxford, University Press, Evan, Macmillan etc, had branches all over the world and whatever book they published got known throughout the world. And most of these companies have stopped publishing African literature. The few publishing firms we have though are doing well, though they don’t have the reach.
African Book Collectors, ABC, as it is called is doing a lot of work, I wish it had more money and support, because it does not only make books published in Africa available to the rest of the world, it also make sure that the idea that generated those books also follow these books by organizing intellectual theme everywhere. Now when we talk about the reception of African writers and literature in the West, we have to qualify it a little bit. Chimamanda Adichie, Sefi Atta, Helon Habila etc, have done a lot to popularize African literature, yes, I have to pay them their due respect, but this is not enough. If you have to compare those four titles with hundred that are being published here at home alone, you will know that it is really not enough. So a lot of work has to be done to make them
(1) acceptable
(2) sellable
(3) readable
(4) keepable
(5) Truly international.

From the side of the writer, don’t just rush your work off to press. On the side of the publisher, make sure you can vouch for the quality of the book you are turning out, and it’s a book you can hold anywhere in the world and say yes, this is a book that was published in Nigeria, Africa. Nobody wants to buy trash.”

Friday, December 15, 2006

Drowning In Confusion

For quite some time now, I have been thinking seriously of what I am doing, and what I still want to do.
Confusing is the fact that I cannot even gather my thoughts and plan straight. There are too many things struggling for attention in my little head, that I just ignore everything. And I am at a lost, because I have to face other stuffs so that I don't get bored to dead with this routine journalism work.

I have had two different job offers that has given me an insights into what to do next as per starting my own company, but my head is refusing to let me think. I sit with friends and discuss on how to market their books, things that must be done to help books sell like pure water, and make sure people read them, and the next thing is, Uzezi, why don't you handle that part for me. You have it all planned out, you can actually do this for us.

And I stop to think, that is true. Management or PR, which is it called?
But I am so freaking confused I don't know where to start from. I need help please.

From My Inbox

Another forwarded mail from my inbox

What would you do?....you make the choice. Don't look for a punch line, there isn't one. Read it anyway. My question is: Would you have made the same choice?

At a fundraising dinner for a school that serves learning-disabled children, the father of one of the students delivered a speech that would never be forgotten by all who attended. After extolling the school and its dedicated staff, he offered a question: "When not interfered with by outside influences, everything nature does is done with perfection. Yet my son, Shay, cannot learn things as other children do. He cannot understand things as other children do. Where is the natural order of things in my son?"

The audience was stilled by the query.

The father continued. "I believe that when a child like Shay, physically and mentally handicapped comes into the world, an opportunity to realize true human nature presents itself, and it comes in the way other people treat that child."

Then he told the following story:

Shay and his father had walked past a park where some boys Shay knew were playing baseball. Shay asked, "Do you think they'll let me play?" Shay's father knew that most of the boys would not want someone like Shay on their team, but the father also understood that if his son were allowed to play, it would give him a much-needed sense of belonging and some confidence to be accepted by others in spite of his handicaps.

Shay's father approached one of the boys on the field and asked (not expecting much) if Shay could play. The boy looked around for guidance and said, "We're losing by six runs and the game is in the eighth inning. I guess he can be on our team and we'll try to put him in to bat in the ninth inning."

Shay struggled over to the team's bench and, with a broad smile, put on a team shirt. His Father watched with a small tear in his eye and warmth in his heart. The boys saw the father's joy at his son being accepted. In the bottom of the eighth inning, Shay's team scored a few runs but was still behind by three. In the top of the ninth inning, Shay put on a glove and played in the right field. Even though no hits came his way, he was obviously ecstatic just to be in the game and on the field, grinning from ear to ear as his father waved to him from the stands. In the bottom of the ninth inning, Shay's team scored again. Now, with two outs and the bases loaded, the potential winning run was on base and Shay was scheduled to be next at bat.

At this juncture, do they let Shay bat and give away their chance to win the game? Surprisingly, Shay was given the bat. Everyone knew that a hit was all but impossible because Shay didn't even know how to hold the bat properly, much less connect with the ball.

However, as Shay stepped up to the plate, the pitcher, recognizing that the other team was putting winning aside for this moment in Shay's life, moved in a few steps to lob the ball in softly so Shay could at least make contact. The first pitch came and Shay swung clumsily and missed. The pitcher again took a few steps forward to toss the ball softly towards Shay. As the pitch came in, Shay swung at the ball and hit a slow ground ball right back to the pitcher.

The game would now be over. The pitcher picked up the soft grounder and could have easily thrown the ball to the first baseman. Shay would have been out and that would have been the end of the game.

Instead, the pitcher threw the ball right over the first baseman's head, out of reach of all team mates. Everyone from the stands and both teams started yelling, "Shay, run to first! Run to first!" Never in his life had Shay ever run that far, but he made it to first base. He scampered down the baseline, wide-eyed and startled.

Everyone yelled, "Run to second, run to second!" Catching his breath, Shay awkwardly ran towards second, gleaming and struggling to make it to the base. By the time Shay rounded towards second base, the right fielder had the ball ... The smallest guy on their team who now had his first chance to be the hero for his team. He could have thrown the ball to the second-baseman for the tag, but he understood the pitcher's intentions so he, too, intentionally threw the ball high and far over the third-baseman's head. Shay ran toward third base deliriously as the runners ahead of him circled the bases toward home.

All were screaming, "Shay , Shay, Shay, all the Way Shay"

Shay reached third base because the opposing shortstop ran to help him by turning him in the direction of third base, and shouted, "Run to third! Shay, run to third!"

As Shay rounded third, the boys from both teams, and the spectators, were on their feet screaming, "Shay, run home! Run home!" Shay ran to home, stepped on the plate, and was cheered as the hero who hit the grand slam and won the game for his team.

"That day", said the father softly with tears now rolling down his face, "the boys from both teams helped bring a piece of true love and humanity into this world".

Shay didn't make it to another summer. He died that winter, having never forgotten being the hero and making his father so happy, and coming home and seeing his Mother tearfully embrace her little hero of the day!

AND NOW A LITTLE FOOTNOTE TO THIS STORY: We all send thousands of jokes through the e-mail without a second thought, but when it comes to sending messages about life choices, people hesitate. The crude, vulgar, and often obscene pass freely through cyberspace, but public discussion about decency is too often suppressed in our schools and workplaces.

If you're thinking about forwarding this message, chances are that you're probably sorting out the people in your address book who aren't the "appropriate" ones to receive this type of message. Well, the person who sent you this believes that we all can make a difference. We all have thousands of opportunities every single day to help realize the "natural order of things." So many seemingly trivial interactions between two people present us with a choice: Do we pass along a little spark of love and humanity or do we pass up those opportunities and leave the world a little bit colder in the process?

A wise man once said every society is judged by how it treats it's least fortunate amongst them.

You now have two choices:
1. Delete
2. Forward


May your day, be a Shay Day.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

The Ghost of Zina

Reading through the poems in this collection, The Ghost of Zina, made me look at poetry differently.
The author here is someone I would call courageous, because poems to me have always been a window into the poet’s mind, and I have not built enough courage to allow me show some very personal poems to others, let alone publish them. That is because, I view my poetry as the chapters of my life in segments. That aside, I write according to how I feel at a particular time, but people might read it and recognize themselves and feel hurt or something. I really need to toughen up.





Charles Ayo Dada, the author lets his reader into his mind, to see the pains he felt at losing his love. Very interesting book and I strongly recommend it.




Apart from being a writer, Charles Ayo Dada runs The Sholman Gallery in Ikeja Lagos.

Monday, December 04, 2006

The Brides


They were the bride of Jesus Christ one sunday, when they had to dress in white and lead the congregation during Corpus Christi.
I told my kid sister, Keno, the taller one in the picture that since she is so taken with church activities, probably she would want to become a reverend sister. Guess what she said?

***********************. Exactly.

Our Consolation

Once upon a time, a friend and I went shopping, during the last Lagos International Trade Fair. We came across a stand where disc man was on display. I wanted one and she wanted one. They weren’t new ones. When we inquired the prices, we were told N2,000. we exchanged looks, because we knew they were cheap. But still, we said we wanted to pay N1,500.
The trader accepted. After making sure they worked properly, we paid up. After paying, we both caught sight of another guy selling what we just bought. And his were brand new, and in packs. Again we exchanged looks and asked ourselves what we had just done. We should have waited to go round the fair, before making any buy.
Just for record, we approached the guy, who was selling to two others, and asked him the price of is disc man.
“N1, 500,” he said.
Unbelievable. My friend and I started laughing. That was the exact amount we paid of a used one.
He had two different types, the other one, according to him, plays MP3 and was N300 more expensive. That was cheap. We laughed harder at our foolishness. But, when we checked the functions, what we bought was better. Had shock absorber amongst other. With that, we consoled ourselves and left.
When we got one, my younger brother saw the two disc man and hissed.
“It is not new,” he said. “My friend just bought one for N1, 500. And that is what you paid for this. You were cheated.”
Thirty minutes later, he came to collect a disc man.
“Go and use your friend’s own,” I said.
He hissed. “That thing is useless. If it is playing, take one step and it stops playing.”
Our consolation.