Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Under the Udala Trees by Chinelo Okparanta

Under the Udala Trees

Under the Udala Trees, Chinelo Okparanta’s debut literary novel, set in South-Eastern Nigeria during and after the civil war, explores themes of same-sex love, religious bigotry, betrayal and abandonment through the eyes of Ijeoma, the young, star-crossed female protagonist.  

In the second year of the war, Ijeoma’s father dies in an air raid, leaving his wife, Adaora, to raise their preteen daughter alone with little means. Despondent and determined to shed all reminders of her husband, Adaora relocates from Ojoto to her late parents’ house in Aba but not before dropping Ijeoma off with the grammar school teacher, an old friend of her father’s living in Nnewi. She explains to Ijeoma the arrangement is temporary, promising to send for her as soon as possible. Read more here.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Everything That's Wrong With Your Accent

Photo: Pixabay.com
If you listen to Nigerian radio programs, especially those broadcasting from major cities, you'd have heard some radio presenters and guests adopting fake American or British accents. Sometimes, both accents make their way out of a person's mouth. While elucidation is important for a TV or radio career, one must understand elucidation has nothing to do with sounding foreign. A Nigerian accent is fine as it is. Read more here.    

Sunday, December 4, 2016

A Tale of an African-Only Bookstore

I've had to use a Kindle to read African literature since bookstores in Nigeria, if you find them, barely stock books by African Authors
Photo: Shayera Dark
A recent story by The New Yorker about an all African bookstore in Kenya sent tempers flaring on the magazine's Facebook page. Some readers, mostly non-African, accused the bookstore owner of racism, questioning the rationale in selling only books by black authors. While others welcomed the idea, arguing most bookstores on the continent peddled Western literature.

Read more here.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Americans And The Menace of the PC Culture

What Political Correctness is Starting to Look Like
Photo: Creative Commons
The Atlantic recently published a piece I wrote on political correctness in American society and the desire to take offence at inconsequential matters. With Donald Trump's take-no-prisoner style and zero regard for decorum, many wonder if the rise of PC culture is to blame for his win. 
The article is split into two parts. The first briefly addresses Trump's win and what it means for Nigeria; the second focuses on political correctness. 
As a woman, Hillary’s loss was a great disappointment. She came prepared but lost to an egomaniac. I believe Trump’s win only reinforces toxic masculinity and meanness. You can be a straight shooter without being odious.
The day after the election, I did a vox pop [an interview with members of the public] in a cafe in Lagos. Most people were surprised and disappointed that Trump won, but they didn’t think his presidency would affect Nigeria substantially. They had a let’s-wait-and-see view. Read more here.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

When Surreality Became Reality

Photo: Shayera Dark
Do you recall what you were doing this same time eight years ago? I do. Vividly.
I was sick as a dog from eating tainted food the night before, lying in some hotel room on the outskirts of town, thinking my end was nigh. I drifted in and out of sleep, and on occasion heard my mom scolding the receptionist for changing the channel from CNN to Movie Magic. For some strange reason, the receptionist had control over guests’ TVs.

I remember somewhere between 3 and 4 am, feeling much better and then bam! He won! He won! Barack Obama, a dark-skinned biracial man with unmistakably African names, a relatively unknown senator from Chicago, a man who grew up with an absent father was president of the United States of America. Almost immediately, my phone began beeping from text messages from friends and families, thrilled at what was a historical moment. Later that day, I would change my Facebook status, slightly altering a line from Tupac’s Changes from ‘We ain’t ready to see a black president’ to ‘America is ready to see a black president.’

In 2012, I remember finishing a blog post titled Four More Years, the popular refrain to Obama’s re-election bid. I couldn’t watch the debate because I had to go to work the next day. Ok, I lie. Actually, I couldn’t bear to see him lose to Mitt Romney, that’s the main reason I chose to go to bed. The pain of having to witness Obama become a one-term president was too much to handle, so I turned out the lights.

Yet, it was the first thing I wanted to know the minute I woke up. Quickly, I went online and once again, he had won.

Fast-forward to 2016, and I’m here, sitting on the floor, willing my heart to be still. The impending mood almost seems like a replica of the 2012 race, where Romney gave Obama a run for his money. But unlike election night in 2012, the stakes today are tremendously high. You can read more here.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Art X Lagos: A Visual Paradise

Photo: Benediction of Eve/Sokari Douglas Camp 
This weekend, 30 exhibitions by 65 artists and galleries from 10 African countries and the diaspora converged at The Civic Centre in Victoria Island, Lagos. From 4th to 6th November, the new contemporary art fair presented by Art X Lagos captivated African art collectors and connoisseurs as well as those with no inkling of art.

Visitors wishing to relive childhood memories or simply try their hands at art were treated to Karo Akpokiere’s seven-metre long colouring wall—a metonymic depiction of Lagos’s social class via references to the Island and the Mainland.

While the fair’s theme Conversation Starters seemed broad if not redundant, since works of art generally evoke conversation, it freed artists from having to choose a particular subject matter or form of art for their exhibition. Different media such as wood, Photoshop, metal, mosaics, water colour and concrete were featured, with some artists like Obiora Anidi combining two or more media to bring their ideas to life. Read more here.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

When the American Dream is an Illusion

Recently, I read Imbolo Mbue's Behold the Dreamers, a riveting page-turner that tells the tale of African immigrants in America. So moved was I by the story that it compelled me to do what I've never done before: write a book review.

Imbolo Mbue’s impressive debut novel, Behold the Dreamers, is one of those books that truly lives up to its hype. It’s a superbly written, evocative and a riveting read that centres on the illusion of the American dream, a term I’ll use lightly in this piece since the ideals of freedom, equality and financial independence are not inherently American but universal.

The story unfolds through the eyes of the protagonist, Jende Jonga, the pragmatic and good-natured Cameroonian immigrant living in Harlem, New York, and his smart, determined wife, Neni, detailing how their lives become entwined with that of a wealthy white American family after Jende is employed to chauffeur a Lehman Brothers executive. Both Jende and Neni are enamoured with the idea of the American dream and set about doing what they can to achieve it, while fervently hoping that Jende’s application for asylum is accepted. You can read the rest here.