Friday, February 27, 2009

The Darker Side of Lagos...

I saw and heard Sefi Atta read from her two new books: Swallow and Lawless and other Stories. She read alongside Toni Kan, writer and author of Night of the Creaking Bed. The event which held at British Council was organised by Farafina. It was scheduled to start at 5pm but started rather late around some minutes to six, this 'African-time lateness image' was however redeemed as the event ended when it ought to and the time I spent listening to these writers was not wasted.

The event opened with Sefi reading from her collection of short stories Lawless and other Stories, a story about a business transaction between a female drug-trafficker and her 'boss'. Though she needs money for survival, she refuses to bring her son into this business eventhough using him be the easiest option. The little she read from the story showed that the economic situation in the country swallows up our values and plunges people deep into pits that they never planned getting into.

Toni Kan also read from his collection. The audience asked questions, most of which focused on their writing, influences and backgrounds. Their responses introduced us into their unique world as writers and the role Lagos plays in their writing.

Toni Kan introduces the next session of the reading by commenting on Sefi Atta's Swallow, he said that the novel has aroused controversies in reviews. Sefi took the mic with a word for her critics: 'they should work more on the crap that they write...' Permit me but this reminds me of Sheri, a character in Everything Good will Come...

She proceeds to read from Swallow, a scene filled with emotions and suspense. We are introduced to the world of Mrs.Durojaiye, a character in the novel that almost goes crazy because it is feared that her son lies dead in a caved-in soakaway. For me, this is representative of Lagosians, it was so sure that the boy would be dead yet they kept stirring with a stick-Lagosians know that Lagos eats up their humanity, yet they live consciously with the hope of a better tommorow.

The writers responded to another round of questions from their audience rather intelligently. One of the things I took with me from the reading was about the making of a writer: sometimes you as a writer can't really determine where a work ends because some stories write themselves. According to Toni Kan, they hold you by the neck and literally say 'oya begin to write'. Sefi Atta, on the other hand is a committed writer that contributes hours to her craft everyday. Writing is not easy, but believe me, it is worth it.

What's next for the writers? In response to this, Sefi calls her first three books the experimental phase of her writing, she is working on more novels. Toni Kan, on the other hand shows that he is a 'voracious' writer as he has a collection of poetry and another novel ready to be published.

What else can we wish these writers? 

May they continually itch to write...and that itch will not be cured.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

How narrow is the path?: A review of Tunde Kelani's 'The Narrow Path'

Produced and directed by Tunde Kelani
Year of Production: 2006.

Narrow Path is one movie that will not stop haunting me in a short time. Like most of Tunde Kelani’s movies, it focuses on an issue that the society likes to keep in the dark; in this case repressive culture and its effects on women. The movie, though an adaptation of Bayo Adebowale’s novel The Virgin, brings with it a unique beauty that can only be achieved when a good script is actualised by actors who know their onions, and by the expertise of a director like Tunde Kelani.

The story has its roots in the cultural practice of virginity tests among the Yoruba people. Awero, the main character is torn between her love for three different men—Dauda, her childhood friend and randy city boy; Lapade, the rich goldsmith; Odejimi, the hunter who finally stole her heart away. The conflict arises when she is raped by Dauda, who sees sex as a compensation for the city gifts she had received from him. Awero is torn between three worlds: cancel the marriage, confess to Odejimi, her betrothed or let the marriage continue. She chooses the last. On the night of the wedding the secret is laid bare: Awero is a broken pot, an empty carton, her husband did not meet her at home—she is not a virgin. The conflict gets knottier as Awero refuses to mention the person that deflowered her. She is given two options: Confess and get married to the man or dance round the village naked. It is now that she is unbridled; she finds her voice and is willing to dance round the village because she is already naked. This heaps more shame on her family and vexes the husband, his kindred and village, they were short changed, they thought. This fuels a war between both villages, and gives Awero, the image of Helen of Troy. The dénouement comes when Awero stands between the two troops and makes a remarkable speech of reconciliation that reveals the folly of the men and ends the war. The movie also has a subplot that is skillfully intertwined into the whole story.

Narrow Path is one movie that you will enjoy for many reasons: good story, the beauty of the costumes, good actors, well arranged scenes, properly delivered dialogue, suspense, the incorporation of music and dance, etc. Beyond these; it has very strong feminist leanings which are not usually seen in most Nollywood movies. However, there are still some lessons to be learnt. The conversations of the movie are executed in English; however, the translation is also in English, is this not mere repetition? It would have been better to have the translation in other languages, say French, Ibo, Hausa or even pidgin. How would that be, translations in Pidgin English? Some of the characters tried a bit too hard in their efforts to speak English, and you could hear the tension of being torn between two tongues in their delivery.

Timelessness is one important quality every work of art should possess. That is why I think this movie should be in every house, at least as a heritage of the past, yet with the beauty of the present. Perhaps, this is Narrow Path’s greatest beauty.

NB: Tunde Kelani's latest movie Arugba is screening in local governments in Lagos state, so watch out, the movie may be in your neighbourhood soon!

Visit the Mainframe Website here:

The Kenyon Review Short Story Contest

The Kenyon Review will publish the winning short story in the Winter 2010 issue, and the author will be awarded a scholarship to attend the 2009 Writers Workshop, June 20th to the 27th, in beautiful Gambier, Ohio.

Submission Guidelines

* Writers must 30 years of age or younger at the time of submission.
* Stories must be no more 1200 words in length.
* One submission per entrant.
* Please do not simultaneously submit your contest entry to another magazine or contest.
* The submissions link will be active February 1st to February 28th. All work must be submitted through our electronic system. We cannot accept paper submissions.
* Winners will be announced in the late spring. You will receive an e-mail notifying you of any decisions regarding your work.

The final judge will be Richard Ford, acclaimed author of the Frank Bascombe trilogy, including the novels The Sportswriter, Independence Day, and The Lay of the Land. He is also the author of numerous short story collections, including the seminal collection Rock Springs, and editor of The Granta Book of the American Short Story.

For more information, visit:

You can read winning entries for the 2008 Contest here:

LAURA HIRD now accepts submissions

Submissions of previously unpublished short stories (4,000 words max), flash fiction, poetry (send 6-8 poems at a time), film / book / music / best tunes (300 words on a favourite song) / gigs / exhibition / lit mag / chapbook reviews (send samples of previous work), interviews and articles (send brief proposal) are now welcome for Issue 21 (submission deadline 1 May 2009). These should be sent within the body of an e.mail with 'SUBMISSIONS' as the subject heading. If you would like your magazine / small press / writing group / event mentioned, or wish to submit books or magazines for review, please email, Website:
$5,000 Prize for Human Rights Article

INFINITY JOURNAL (IJ), a “global affairs journalzine”, is seeking creative and innovative research papers from graduates and young professionals specifically on HUMAN RIGHTS.

Please note that we are looking for articles for the 4th edition, which will launch in August 2009. Please see the website (submission guidelines) for more details.

Awards of up to $5,000 will be given January 2010 for best pieces.

Please note: those with a degree of PhD or higher are not eligible to submit work (only graduates, e.g. those with or currently obtaining maters level education and young professionals.

For more information, rules, and submission guidelines, pleases visit or contact Adam at

Friday, February 20, 2009

Sefi Atta Reads in Lagos

Sefi Atta will be in Lagos reading from her latest books, Swallow and Lawless and Other Stories.

Toni Kan, author of Night of the Creaking Bed, and Karen King-Aribisala, author of Our Wife and Other Stories, will also be reading from their latest works.

Sefi Atta is the author of the bestselling work of fiction, Everything Good Will Come, and the recepient of the first Wole Soyinka Prize for Literature (2006).

Date: Wednesday February 25th, 2009

Venue: Multimedia Suite, British Council, 20 Thompson Avenue, Ikoyi, Lagos

Time: 5-7pm

"There is a sense of emptiness, a certain kind of loss, grief even, that one feels when the last page of a good book is turned and the cover is shut. That's what I felt when I came to the end of Sefi Atta's new novel, Swallow."
Read more of Toni Kan's review of Swallow at:

The Fall of a King...

Yes, I watched a Nigerian play recently. The venue was National Theatre; the host, Crown Troupe and the play, Ahmed Yerima's The Fall of A King.

There was a poetry performance of 'Ajani', a passionate love poem from Jumoke Verissimo's new anthology I am Memory by the troupe. There was Fulani dance by some children which made me know that there is hope for the arts sector in Nigeria. There was also a maiden dance that focused on the upliftment of the traditional African values. And guess what? That was just the appetizer.

Now to the main dish, the performance was captivating. The play was very well acted: a blend of traditional dance and contemporary Nigerian dance (Alanta, yahooze, for those that know them!)the use of pidgin English, chants, songs, masks and tatoos. The play itself was a political satire about the love of power and the things humans do for power. The setting was the animal kingdom at a time when animals were living in peace without any leader, then, there was an hunter who missed his way and taught the animals how to have a ruler through democracy. The crux of the play focused on the gamble for the throne by the Elephant, Lion and Tortoise. The in-between is why you will get hold of the book and read or pray that Crown Troupe performs the play again...One more thing, Tortoise Inauguration Speech was an adaptation of Obama's Inauguration speech, that was really it for me...he was giving his speech punctured by fast paced music that as I remember was 'Oya Tortoise quote Obama', that was very hilarious...

A very well told and dramatised play with allusions to past dictators in Nigeria (Abacha, Babangida) and a warning to politicians in general: the people put you there, they are the ones you should serve. And the use of animals, maybe we are all animals in a way, particularly when we let the animal instincts in us rise, when we let the 'dog' in us eat another 'dog' in the chase for a 'bone' called power.

There was also the dessert: a dance by Nefertiti, a traditional dance troupe. What else could I ask for to make my week lovely?

It was however pathetic that the audience was not big enough for that kind of presentation, we were not up to fifty in the hall. Imagine!

NB: Crown Troupe presents plays at the National Theatre every month. The next production is on March 1, 2009 with Ayo Arigbabu's adaptation of Moremi.

PS. Read interviews with Ayo Arigbabu and Segun Adefila, the Director of Crown Troupe soon.


Friday, February 13, 2009


Are you a young writer? Do you need ways to get your writing out there?

Maybe this is your opportunity. Enter for the Commonwealth Short Story Competition. Here are some details:

About the competition

The Commonwealth Short Story Competition is an annual scheme to promote new creative writing. The winner receives a prize of £2,000 and there are regional prizes of £500.

How to enter

The competition is open to all people who are citizens of a Commonwealth member country.

There is no age limit or requirement to write about a particular theme. Entries may be made by both amateur and professional writers.

The deadline for entries is 11 May 2009.

The following are the rules of the competition.

• All entries must clearly state the author's name, date of birth, full contact details and country of citizenship.

• The stories must not exceed 600 words. Entries over 600 words in length will be disqualified. The word count should be stated on the entry.

• The stories must be original and should not have been previously published anywhere in full or part. Entrants must confirm this in writing as part of the application.

• All entries must be in English.

• A maximum of three stories may be entered per person.

• Entries must be made by email to, either as an attachment in a mainstream software format or in the body of the email. All entries must use the subject line 'Commonwealth Short Story Competition'.

• The competition administrators reserve the right to disqualify any competition entry which does not meet the conditions outlined above. No correspondence will be entered into in this regard.

For more information, visit:

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

BLAST FROM THE PAST: Peter Abrahams 'Tell Freedom'

Literature and the society cannot be divorced from each other; the society influences literary works which in turn reflect, refract and more often than not, try to correct the vices in the society. Literary works that are rooted in the apartheid South African society usually reflect the socio-political realities present then; Peter Abrahams’ Tell Freedom is not left out.

This is not just an ordinary book; it is, in a way the autobiography of the writer, a kind of memoir that casts deep glances at the effects of social fascism on his life. It tells the story of his life from childhood to adulthood-from the slums of Johannesburg to the country around it and finally to the England. He relates how he won education against all odds, and his journey on the road to becoming a writer. This is the immediate background from which the reader gets a peep into the lives of South Africans during the apartheid.

The novel is divided into three books (sections). Book one revolves around the South African experience of the boy child: Peter Abrahams. He was born to impoverished parents of mixed nationality: his father is an Ethiopian and his mother, a Coloured South African. From here, he gives a peep into the configuration of South Africa as a rainbow society, melting pot of Indians, Black Zulus, Boers, Whites, and Coloureds, among others. His colour affected his education, acceptability in the society, his humanity.

Book two focuses on the effects of education on him, it awakened his consciousness, politically and literarily. He observed that everything good he longed for was labeled in capitals:

The familiar mood that awaits the sensitive young who are poor and dispossessed is a mood of sharp and painful inferiority, of violently angry tensions, of desperate and overwhelming longings… that mood took possession of me. My three books fed it…
(Page 164)

These signs increased the struggle for existence. He was a ‘boy’ for the Whites in the market, where he had an encounter with a Red Head who was a particularly nice woman. He later got a job that almost sucked life out of him in a hotel. There he met a black man named Jim who gives him a peep into the world of passes. There were different kinds of passes: the trek, identification, six-day special, monthly, traveling. All these passes served different purposes but one major one: a restriction to the movement and activities of Blacks. His years at the Bantu Men’s Social Center are remarkable; he was baptized into the world of literature and activism as he read the works of Negroes like W.E Dubois, Weldon Johnson, etc. The content of their works made him remark:

The negro is never free… I remembered those reserved for Europeans only signs… no White boys ever carried at the market…Jim’s passes…Auntie Mattie going to jail…spittle on my face… the negro is not free’

The novel, although with stints of the Marxian philosophy, is written in the critical realist mode. It presents the persona and the realities around him without any revolutionary attempt to change it. The novel is equally subtle in its engagement of racism. This is also seen in Athol Fugard’s Sizwe Bansi is Dead. The Blacks faced the apartheid system from beneath a mask and pretended as if they are fools for the Whites to ride on. This is a medium of expressing the self through the serf. Peter Abrahams finally sets to discover an existence outside racism:

‘Perhaps life had a meaning that transcended race and colour. If it had, I could not find it in South Africa. Also there was the need to write, to tell freedom, and for this, I needed to be personally free…
(pg. 311)

Consequently, the novel was born out of his commitment to his society: to express the inhuman inequality based on colour.

The issues in this novel arouse questions in one’s mind: how civilized is a civilization hinged on racism? Does the colour of the skin truly judge the content of one’s character? Is racism dead in the world or has it advanced into new forms? The answers to these questions are resident in the minds of all humans: the oppressor and the oppressed.


Tuesday, February 10, 2009

What We're All About....


Welcome to The Bookaholic Blog a.k.a. TBB where we discuss everything books from a fun but intelligent perspective.
In addition, we will be bringing you the latest in the literary world with exclusive interviews, short pieces and some light hearted trivia...occasionally some magazine stuff might find its way to the blog!

Happy Reading!

Bella & Ebuntemi