Posted in EVENTS, FICTION, THRILLER

ABUJA WRITERS’ FORUM HOSTS SEVHAGE AUTHOR, DUL JOHNSON; JIDE BADMUS AND AUSTINE OROKO ON 29TH APRIL 2017

The Abuja Writers’ Forum, one of Nigeria’s premier literary organisation is set to host Dul Johnson, incredible writer, scholar and film maker alongside poet Jide Badmus and the sensational musician, Austine Oroko.

If you are in Abuja, do make out time to go to Nanet Suites (beside Bayelsa House, down the road from Federal Secretariat) by 4:00pm for an offering of this great event. SEVHAGE Author, Dul Johnson will be reading from his latest novel, ACROSS THE GULF, a book on the civil war written from a new angle as would leave readers intrigued. This is the third book of Dul’s we have worked on and one of his finest. We had an argument on it – considering he prefers DEEPER INTO THE NIGHT, which is more literary. In his office a month or so ago, I told him that ACROSS THE GULF was a finer read considering it is more entertaining, thrilling and grasping. Being the fine scholar he is, he prefers the one with more lessons.
‘Well, it isn’t as if THE GULF doesn’t have a lot of lessons. But can you imagine that I edited the book and kept smiling all through!’
It is like a continuation of part of the stories in SHADOWS AND ASHES. I am always glad when I come across new narratives, especially when they are engaging. Across the Gulf is a book like that and I think we set the bar with the production of that book’s cover. I will be uploading it soon. But let me not talk too much.
Dr. Emman Shehu​ has done a good job of consistently hosting writers and artistes every month to a thrilling reading where the public can interact, have fun and get a feel of good literature. I have been a beneficiary of the event – as an invited artiste and as a member of the audience. I think – I don’t think, I know – that it is a place worth going to. IF you can make out time to be there, it would sure be worth the hours.
Did I mention that there is usually great music, a conducive cool (AC chilled) environment, great gifts from raffle draws, amongst other amazing things? Don’t say I didn’t tell you…

For a limited time, Dul Johnson’s book will be selling for a thousand naira at the event. Don’t forget,
Saturday 29th April, 2017; 4:00pm; Nanet Suites. Be there or be square – or whatever they say.

In conclusion, here is the writeup for the event by Ibrahim Ramalan, for Blue Print newspaper… Do share:

The Abuja Writers Forum (AWF) will on Saturday host Jide Badmus, Dul Johnson and Austin (Aush) Oroko for the April 29th edition of its Guest Writer Session which holds at the Aso Hall, Nanet Suites, Central Business District, Abuja by 4pm.
According to a statement signed by the Forum’s scribe, Edith Yassin, in Abuja, one of the guests, Jide Badmus was born and bred in Ilorin, and hails from Omido in Irepodun LGA, Kwara State. The first of four children, he studied Electrical Engineering at the University of Ilorin and bagged a Master’s degree in Information Technology Management at Binary University, Malaysia. He is a practicing Electrical Engineer in building services.

Badmus has had a flair for creative writing as a child and started writing poetry in 2002. He has a wide range of collections on various themes and shares his short stories, critical opinions and poetry on his blog http://www.inkspiredng.com. Some of his works have been published in national dailies and online platforms.

His debut book collection,There Is A Storm In My Head, appeared this year on the imprint of  Words Rhymes and Rhythm Ltd (WRR). The poems depict a storm of emotions as a result of life’s uncertainty, disparity between dreams and reality, and the thin line between love and lust. The author’s writing style is defined as simple and deep; his poems are usually brief and fast-paced, the readers are left out of breath and asking for more. He is inspired by nature and beauty.
Jide is married to a beautiful wife, Linda and has an adorable daughter, Nora. He is a Christian and a soccer lover; he is a Manchester United fan. Watching soccer, reading, writing and watching movies are his hobbies. He lives and writes from Lagos.

Dul Johnson is a filmmaker and author from Plateau State and currently lectures, as a Professor of Literature, at Bingham University, Karu. He began his career as a drama director with the Nigerian Television Authority, Jos, and worked for many years before retiring into Independent Filmmaking and teaching. He has won national and international awards with his films and dramas, including There is Nothing Wrong with my Uncle (a cultural documentary), The Widow’s Might (a feature film), Against the Grain, Wasting for the West, Basket of Water, and many others.
Johnson began writing in his undergraduate days, trying his hand at drama, poetry, journalistic writing and short stories. From the mid- to late 1970s he wrote plays for radio (Rima Radio, Sokoto) and for the stage – some of which were produced in his undergraduate days.

Johnson has published five major works: Shadows and Ashes, Why Women Won’t make it to Heaven (short story collections), Ugba Uye: The Living Legend (a biography), Deeper into the Night (a novel) and Melancholia (a play). The last two were presented to the public on 28 October 2014.
His latest publication, Across The Gulf, is a novel that explores  loyalty,resilence, nationhood, love and tradition bridging two generations and an entire nation.
Austin Oroko hails from Utonkon, Benue State and is a graduate of the department of languages and Linguistics Nassararwa State University, Keffi. He speaks French and Italian as well as a little German.

Born in Lagos, he likes to describe himself as growing up all over the world with his six siblings as they accompanied their father, a former diplomat, on his official postings.
At the age of fifteen he started writing and singing his own songs with a dream to become a star that will influence the world through his music. Although he owned a keyboard when he was younger, it was his love for the guitar that caught his fancy and has become his mainstay as a performer.

Oroko has been on several notable platforms including AM Express, AIT,NTA Entertainment among others. He spent a lot of time listening and studying classical musicians and the likes of Tracy Chapman and Stevie Wonder who have had a deep influence on him.
His music can be classified as Indie rock with a touch of soul and has recently released a single, Oxygen,
The Guest Writer Session which also features a raffle-draw for books, runs from 4-7pm and is open to the public.

 

 

SHARING IS CARING! CHEERS!

Posted in DEVELOPMENT, FICTION, FLASH FICTION, Health Matters, RAPE SERIES, TALES

HEALING by Debbie Iorliam

Just when you think you have heard it all, you hear something new and you wonder if you ever heard anything before…

 

He stares at her but feels no longing. Baba Cookoorookoo has advised that a virgin of rigorous innocence is paramount.He makes certain his wife has gone for her usual Wednesday vigil. To be double sure he doesn’t get caught he waits for thirty minutes after she is gone. He advances towards her bed and grips her by the shoulders. His hands tremble but the demon in him roars swallowing his soul. He throws apart her skinny legs and penetrates her tender pelvis forcefully.

Her scream drowns any pleasure he might experience. He runs out of the house allowing his legs lead him. He runs almost endlessly, disgust and shame eating his soul. So profound his pain he thinks of a noose.

The zeal for a cure losing its appeal. He rolls on the ground allowing sharp stones and shrubs bite into his skin. How could he face his community? How could he tell his wife he ripped their daughter’s innocence in hope he would get cured of HIV?

 

 

Debbie Iorliam is a script writer, editor and model who lives in Abuja. You can read her blog here. 

For whatever reason, rape and every form of sexual molestation is WRONG! Let’s speak out against rape and sexual molestation in every form. Spread the word and speak. Take action in every way!

Posted in FICTION

Tomorrow (A Short Story on Cancer) by Nana Sule

His voice was not what one should listen to, at least not when he was singing. But as he traced her sides with his fingers and picked words from Asa’s songs, he sounded less horrible.

They had found this place by chance; a spot in the community park that no one knew. They had since colonized the scenery and turned it to their getaway. The grass was greener and a big dogonyaro tree sat majestically with its branches forming a canopy to shield them. They had found each other by chance too, on too many occasions. Their first encounter was some ten years ago. She was fifteen and he was thirty. She had known at that age that he would be hers. The way around that was what she hadn’t figured then. She had walked into his office with her mother and he had smiled at her.

“Hello, I like your teeth,” she had said to him.

He had laughed. And she fell hard, but he didn’t. Then she went to India and from there, they changed location. She didn’t see him again.

But he was here, now, and all was in place. She snuggled closer into his embrace with the poor imitation of Asa’s ‘Tomorrow’ coming from somewhere in his throat, into her ears. He was perfect; except for the singing, he was perfect. Around them, the meadow stretched into the horizon. Except for a few birds chirping and his persistent singing, all was quiet. There was their rhythmic breathing and the gentle beating from the rise and fall of their hearts; but all was quiet.

He felt her move in closer yet. His wandering hands decided to form a cocoon around her. He stopped singing, “Cold?”

She shook her head but clung to him like a baby at a nipple. He took one palm in his and rubbed gently, sending soothing waves down her spine. He felt her relax in his arms. Then he cleared his throat, preparing to resume singing.

“We should leave. It’s late.”

“Just a little longer,” he urged, disappointed at the interruption. He buried his head in her clean, scanty hair.

“They would start to worry.” She disentangled herself from him and began to pick the empty plates into the basket lying in the corner. “And it might rain.”

He glanced at the sky, “Not for a while.”

 

“… a while. How have you been, Kyakkyawa?”

“I have been alive.”

“You look well, are you staying a while?”

“I can’t stay.”

“Only a while. Please.”

At that time, he had a conference in Lagos. She was heading to Awka. They had met at the airport in Abuja and they spent five days together in Lagos. Then she ran away; again.

 

Thunder clapped in jealousy above them. He looked up to the changed skies and sighed, then smiled.

“Have you ever danced in the rain?” She shook her head and he continued in the same breath: “Is it not one of those things that you always dreamed of?”

 

“… more than you can even dream of. All you need do is heal and you would have new ones. We would raise the money.”

“What if I don’t want new ones? Can I just heal and live?”

“Well yes, but so that you would look….”

“Normal?”

She was sixteen then and had lost both breasts to cancer. She had shown bravery even in her frail state. He had visited her in India. He didn’t have to but he did. Not many doctors followed their patients abroad. He had started to fall and she was to return to him in Kano.

She had convinced her mother she wanted a new environment. She escaped to Awka. He was supposed to forget her. He didn’t.

 

She shivered from the sudden pick of the wind. He knelt beside her to help fasten the process, his scent assaulting her again and she thought of how wrong she was for him. She closed her eyes briefly, then opened it and smiled sweetly at him.

“I love you.”

“If you change your mind about marrying this old man, we could have a wedding in a month.”

She thought about his beautiful wife at home, his three children and their smiles and laughter. She felt guilty for taking him from them.

“That’s if you don’t mind being a second wife.”

When she was twenty, he had asked her the same question. They had spent some days at a guest inn. His wife thought he was away at a conference. They spent days reading novels, eating and singing. He didn’t touch her; she liked him for it. She felt she had to preserve all they stood for. She left when he stepped out in the evening. They met again only after a year.

“Let me sleep on it.”

They stood at the same time. He walked her to her car.

“Would I see you tomorrow?”

“Yes,” she nodded and started the car.

“Good bye dear. See you tomorrow.”

The car began its slow journey home. She turned up the stereo; Asa’s Tomorrow was closing.

No one knows

No one knows

No one knows tomorrow

“See you tomorrow.”

And she had run away to Egypt for a year; something about being a cancer ambassador. She pledged not to return but she did.

So when I die someday

Will I be in heavenly places

“See you soon.”

And she had hid in Paris; learning French, or so she convinced herself in an effort to stay away from him. But she came back, didn’t she?

As tomorrow slowly passes

No one knows

But now she had to go. Nothing was more convincing than the confirmation of her brain tumor. She pictured the test result on her desk, in her room. It was decided then, she could not bear to see him see her forget him. She would go somewhere and probably die someplace. She stepped out of her car and looked up to the sight of the moon hanging in the sky, peeping through the branches of a tree.

Tomorrow. Maybe.

 

….

….

 

AFTERWORD:

This story talks about cancer and the anguish of love. It’s style is slightly different as memory and thoughts of the heroine are fused into the progressive narrative of the tale in addition to the infusion of the song, ‘Tomorrow’ by Asa. It is the kind of story that makes more meaning on a second reading. There are a lot of things we take for granted in life. Maybe, we should take time out today and smile at the sun. Really, no one knows tomorrow. Su’eddie

Posted in FICTION

OLD TIES by Me TSBG

It is only 2:00 in the morning. You wake up restless after failed attempts to fall back asleep since Mama’s call woke you up from that fascinating dream where you had been having a sun tan on the beach in Miami (PS: she had called to ask you if you still remember to say your prayers and read the Holy Book!). You decide to put a sound track to your life and indulge in some cleaning. You vacuum clean the room carpet, and dust the tables, change the bed sheet and oust the dishes into the dishwasher; you wash the toilet, and scrub the tiles, and once you’re done, you smile, feeling a tad more relieved and humane than when you woke up.

You re-arrange your book shelf as you intend to storm the bookstore later that day for some new addiction(s). Then, you stumble upon your old photo album snugged up tightly amidst a bunch of forgotten memories. That photo album had been given to you by your favourite cousin as your first birthday gift at the age of sixteen. You smile as you remember the look on Nlerum’s face when you hugged him and painted his cheek with a pink thank-you kiss; that is a one-too-sweet memory that always leaves you smitten.

Curiosity, boredom and a little too much time on your hands kick in and find you plucking the album out, and seating on your newly made bed to flip through its pages of a piled-up-and-stashed-away past. Every picture of you holds a bright bold smile that is not your own anymore. You remember indeed that the album hosts some of the best days of your life– with or about Nlerum. He had either been the one taking the picture, or the one bombing it, or the reason behind the smile. Nlerum.

He was your second Cousin– the son of your mother’s first Cousin. You had met him occasionally at family parties (PS: Grammy’s birthdays were kind of made in Heaven) where he inspired your heart with his shy familiar smile, and afterwards, you had attended the “family school” and been entrusted to his care. You saw him as a big brother, although he was just three years older than yourself. And he loved you, oh he did. You had known; yet, you had thought it was just as a brother loved a sister– deeply, protectively, and that was that. But it had been more- a rippling-staggering-overfilling more. Nlerum had spoken love to you in all the languages that there were, but you had been too naive to hear it; or maybe you had just been an ardent ignoramus? It doesn’t matter. Hearts are made to be broken, and his had been broken by you.

“The heart was made to be broken” -Oscar Wilde.

You flip the old album cover close now, and rid your eyes of the droplets of water waiting to fall. Nlerum. You remember you had seen the last of him about ten years ago, during his final year in school. You had bathed him with a dozen more pink kisses as you wailed about how you would miss him. That much had been true. He had asked you not to worry, as he would come check on you as often as he could. You saw his eyes, squinted in that manner that said he was dead serious about what he had just said. You had believed him. A few weeks after, Mama had called to tell you he died in a ghastly accident on his way to your school. You had wept, bitterly. At the funeral, and even days long after that. But now, as you remember, your sorrow is deeper. Something unnamed, and immeasurable.

You stare into bright nothingness, wondering if perhaps, there was something you could have; and in fact, should have done differently. And as you wonder, you rock yourself to Birdy’s Skinny Love, as it plays in your head in Nlerum’s voice.

 

 

…………….

Me, the Short Black Girl blogs at Miniscule Diary

Posted in BOOK THOUGHTS, BOOKS, FICTION, TALES

OF A BLACK ASS, ELNATHAN JOHN’S TWIN AND A REVIEW by Su’eddie Vershima Agema

Did I tell you that I now do reviews for that lovely website, http://wawabookreview.com? I do, and they are great guys there. Somehow, Belle got to be reviewing after getting the contract from the editor, the deeply intellectual Biyi Olusolape. I decided to join the train and it has been fun. My first book of review was The Road to Mogador. I named the review there ‘Of Transitions, Agendas and Bad Balls.’ You can go take a look.

Now, I was given two books to review for December and yes, don’t envy me. It was Elnathan John’s Born on a Tuesday and A. Igoni Barrett’s Blackass. I have known ElJo since the early Abuja days and he has remained one writer that leaves me smiling, always – whether he’s criticising, lashing his satire or just writing. Only problem with my affection for him came in the person of Abubakar Adam Ibrahim, another talented writer who has come to be a friend and troublemaker who I respect and honour. Abubakar and ElJo write alike such that sometimes when I read one, I feel like I have read the other. Their lives also seem to be going in the same circles. Any surprise that they have been to a lot of workshops together? Okay, you didn’t know that one, abi? How come they were first shortlisted

abubakar eljo
Elnathan John and Abubakar Adam Ibrahim

for the Caine Prize in the same year? And read the Caine collection, A Memory This Size and tell me where one’s story starts and the other ends. Any surprise now that Born on a Tuesday and Season of Crimson Blossoms came out at the same time? Wait for the next one. Cassava Republic is also publishing the UK version of Abubakar’s books. Ah! But let me not talk much about their similarities; a scholarly paper will be better than this my plenty grammar abi? Na you know. Sha, the thing is, when I read Abubakar first – and I get to do that usually, him being closer and all, then I get to read something similar in ElJo’s hands, I feel like I have read the tale before, so it feels one kain. That’s the feeling I got with ‘Bayan Layi’, the Caine 2013 shortlisted tale. My friend, Pever X, wouldn’t let me be because of the tale. He was head over heels for that tale. I like it, but I had read a similar one in Abubakar’s book. There are times when I am lucky to read Elnathan John first and wow! If you have read him, you know… but…

Now, Bayan Layi has been turned into a book and I have been forced to review it! Chai! What do I do?

born on a tuesdayI started reading the book with some fear… There was no need for the fear! It is as if, finding its spirit into a book, Bayan Layi transformed into something else. I enjoyed it this time around. By the time I got to Chapter Two of the book, the stress of the road overcame me. I was on the sixth leg of my journey. I had gone for the ANA convention in Kaduna, then gone to Nasarawa, then Abuja, Lagos and to Abeokuta for the Ake festival with Belle. We were on our way to Benin from Ibadan. There was road stress, work stress, and they played with my emotions too. 😉 I decided not to let the book waste. Haba, such a fine book. Oh! I should mention that at the festival El Jo and Abubakar were given 200k for their books alongside three other fine Northern female writers.

At some point, I decided to pick Blackass after an encounter with Igoni, the author at Ake. The guy is cool sha. I didn’t like his other book, Love is Power or Something Like It (a collection of short stories) which most people especially Belle think is all that. So, I was wondering what lay behind the covers of this new one. When the book sold out thrice at Ake, I had to go like ‘Wow! Okay o!’

Long story short, I read the book and I can say it is one of the quickest books I have read. The 300 or so pages melted away as my thumb pushed one page over the other in sharp succession. I laughed and laughed and blackass_igoni-barrettlaughed.

Summary of the story is this: a dude, Furo Wariboko wakes up on the day of his interview to discover that he is now a white man. He has some adventures and gets to meet Igoni (the author o!) and a lovely lady who takes him in and discovers his black bumbum. A lot of adventures happen and we see Naija proper. Igoni takes us on a tour of Lagos through the eyes of a white man who has a Nigerian soul. We see the way Nigerians behave towards their fellow blackies and to the whites. A lot of people have this set view that we all behave in one way towards the fair skinned guys but going through this book gives you an idea of how it really goes. Igoni also takes us to Abuja and gives us a tour. In several instances, we are introduced to certain aspects of our culture gaining grounds that we might not readily read or know about: transgender, the use of whites to our whims, the feeling of helplessness that lies within a lot of people who we think great and the like.

I will be reviewing the book shortly and yes, I will share the link. With this tale, I think Igoni has found a space in my heart. I will try to read past those few ten pages of that Love is Power book again. Whatever feeling I get from there, I know that the guy is truly gifted. If you get the book, please read it. It is one I will recommend over and over again. How many books can take your mind away from your boo? Okay, don’t answer that. Even your boo geti boo! Hee hee hee.

Have a lovely week ahead and in all you do, make every second count.

Cheers!

Posted in FICTION, LIFE

BETRAYAL (A Short Story) by Su’eddie Vershima Agema

“Bomboy!!”

The simple sound of my name jolted me back to the present. Whoever complained of issues? I was sweating like several troubled people that harmatan morning. A Christmas goat would have been looked at as mild compared to me. I was in deep shit and knew it. The puzzle, to be or not to be, suddenly made sense. I looked at Nnezi, the tears in her eyes, and wept. How could she say I impregnated her? I remembered all the symptoms of pregnancy that I had seen in her before. Curse those sweet thighs that I thought were free!

“My friend, are you not the one I am talking to! She is six months pregnant. What do you know about it? Anything you want to tell us?” Aunty asked.

I had been accused of being an accomplice to this same girl before. I had not been able to defend myself then. Now, I didn’t know how to mention that I had already seen the symptoms of her pregnancy before. Yes, I had done it but therein lay my

Got from HERE
Got from HERE

dilemma. How could I tell them that I had actually slept with her but had used a condom? Now, the evil Judas had betrayed me! I mentally took note of all the things I would miss in the city. I looked at Uncle Anmant, he was sweating, looking a bit worried. I felt bad that I had caused him so much pain. I had sure disappointed him. I looked at Nnezi. Her face was to the wall. There was no way she was going to look at me. Judas had kissed Jesus at least … I was going to be a man and confess.

“Uncle, I slept with her but…”

The shock on their faces never allowed me complete my statement. Nnezi’s voice went up in a wail. She put her head down in tears. What now? Aunty looked at me for a short while then turned to Nnezi.

“Nnezi, I thought you said that he never slept with you?”

I didn’t wait to hear any more. No one urged me to pack my things. My eyes couldn’t look up to any of the three, six. I wondered who was hurt more. With the back of my eyes, I noted Uncle Anmant’s head down too. As I left, I sheepishly added in a whisper: “I used a condom.”

I got downstairs with my things. Something pulled me back to the door. I decided to go and beg. I prayed all the prayers of my youth and quoted all the verses in the few steps to the door. I heard their voices as I climbed up. I reached the door as my heart pounded. There was some argument. Nnezi sounded defiant while my Uncle’s wife’s voice was laden with what sounded like tears of betrayal(?) She had expected much of her niece. I only wondered what my Uncle would think of me. He was silent all through. Perhaps, he was too disappointed and hadn’t, couldn’t… surely, wouldn’t find his voice. I imagined his face still to the floor.

Then I froze as I heard Nnezi’s defence of me:

“Aunty, I got pregnant a few months before I slept with Bomboy.” What?!!

“But you were grounded in the period leading to it. Do you want to say you conceived of the Holy Spirit? Hail Mary, full of gra…” sarcasm spat up to Nnezi’s interruption:

“During the whole period, I still had someone sleeping with me… It was Uncle Anmant – your husband.”

Posted in FICTION, FLASH FICTION

THE MAN WHO MOVES (Flash Fiction) by Gabriel Agema

T

HIS MORNING James took his time thoroughly in front of the mirror placed at the back of the door of his room. He put his red tie excellently like he had learnt in the video. On a navy blue suit and trousers with light blue shirt, he decided he had made a statement and everyone from the front of his house to his office would take note of “the man who moves.”

He goes to the table in the kitchen and sets his food down to eat. He made sure it was cereals with milk and sugar so he does not have to stain his cloth.  James swears that by the time he is done today, people’s heads would move. He eats and then leaves to stop a taxi. On his way, down the street to where he could get a taxi; he starts to feel something is wrong. After eating, he had gone to the toilet and came out, so what else could be wrong?

Anyway, he does notice people looking at him…some with eyes bulging, most especially the ladies. Bulge your eyes out, he says in his ears; you have never seen me kill like James Bond in a party at night. He wasn’t friendly with the neighbors so
 they only wave and he waves back, says some good mornings too.

He stops a taxi, enters, hoping for the taxi driver to turn around and look at what he wears or how good he looks. Nothing. Unserious driver he thinks. Drops and pays the demanded fair as said by the driver who seemed more concerned with the cleaning of the inside and outside glasses of taxi.

He enters the building and every lady coming ahead of him, have their eyes away from him. Some keep the stares, start adjusting their shirts and walk away quickly. James, James, you just are too handsome for your skins. He laughs and then…

‘James, can I have a minute with you?’ Finally, his female colleague who has been secretly admiring him now would tell him the truth.

‘James.’

‘Yes, dear.’

‘I like your outfit.’

‘Wow, thanks…’

‘You ate cornflakes with milk this morning right?’

‘Yes, how did you know?’

‘That’s what you bought yesterday evening and brought to the office before leaving…’

‘Okay, I bought that but still how did you notice that…’

His colleague becomes uneasy and decides to tell him what she really has in mind.

‘James…’

‘I know, I know…’

‘No, you don’t know anything; you don’t need a mirror to notice…’

James interjected ‘That I poured milk and cornflakes on my clothes instead of rice and stew?’

‘James, I wish…please try and fix or put your zip properly, no one wants to know if you wear sponge bob under pants!’ with this, his colleague, walks out shoulder high; at least she has done what his friends couldn’t do instead of laughing behind him.


(From A Basket of Tales: A Benue ANA Anthology which can be downloaded for free by clicking HERE)

Posted in EVENTS, FICTION

Sixteenth Caine Prize for African writing shortlist announced

The five writer shortlist for the 2015 Caine Prize for African Writing has been announced by Chair of judges, award-winning South African writer Zoë Wicomb. In a sign of the established calibre to be found in African writing and as the Caine Prize matures in its sixteenth year, the shortlist includes one past winner and two previously shortlisted writers.

Chair of judges, Zoë Wicomb described the shortlist as, “an exciting crop of well-crafted stories.​”

“For all the variety of themes and approaches, the shortlist has in common a rootedness in socio-economic worlds that are pervaded with affect, as well as keen awareness of the ways in which the ethical is bound up with aesthetics. Unforgettable characters, drawn with insight and humour, inhabit works ranging from classical story structures to a haunting, enigmatic narrative that challenges the conventions of the genre.”

She added, “Understatement and the unspoken prevail: hints of an orphan’s identity bring poignant understanding of his world; the reader is slowly and expertly guided to awareness of a narrator’s blindness; there is delicate allusion to homosexual love; a disfigured human body is encountered in relation to adolescent escapades; a

Elnathan John
Elnathan John

nameless wife’s insecurities barely mask her understanding of injustice; and, we are given a flash of insight into dark passions that rise out of a surreal resistance culture.”

“Above all, these stories speak of the pleasure of reading fiction. It will be no easy task to settle on a winner.”

Each shortlisted writer receives £500 and the winner of the £10,000 prize will be announced at an award ceremony and dinner at the Weston Library, Bodleian Libraries, Oxford, on Monday 6 July.

The 2015 shortlist comprises:

  • Segun Afolabi (Nigeria) for “The Folded Leaf” in Wasafiri (Wasafiri, London, 2014)
    Caine Prize winner 2005 for “Monday Morning”
    Read “The Folded Leaf”
  • Elnathan John (Nigeria) for “Flying” in Per Contra (Per Contra, International, 2014)
    Shortlisted in 2013 for “Bayan Layi”
    Read “Flying”
  • F. T. Kola (South Africa) for “A Party for the Colonel” in One Story (One Story, inc. Brooklyn, New York City, 2014)
    Read “A Party for the Colonel”
  • Masande Ntshanga (South Africa) for “Space” in Twenty in 20 (Times Media, South Africa, 2014)
    Read “Space”
  • Namwali Serpell (Zambia) for “The Sack” in Africa39 (Bloomsbury, London, 2014)
    Shortlisted in 2010 for “Muzungu”
    Read “The Sack”

Each of these stories will be published in New Internationalist’s Caine Prize 2015 Anthology in July and through co-publishers across Africa, who receive a print ready PDF free of charge from New Internationalist.

Read a short biography of the five shortlisted writers here.

(From the Caine Prize website)… Go there for more updates. Cheers and best of luck to those on the shortlist!

Posted in BOOK THOUGHTS, FICTION, LIFE, REVIEWS

RAMBLES, ATONEMENT, HEALING AND RENEWAL: READING KHALED HOSSEINI’S THE KITE RUNNER

I was recently admitted into the new age spirit of an e-reader, a Kobo specifically. It took reading The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini to remind me that I still love that traditional smell of a fresh book that reaches to you like the smell of fresh fries on a hungry stomach.

In The Kite Runner, we are introduced to a certain present time by the lead character narrator. He talks of a phone call in 2001 that has changed him. Then by the next page, he takes us on a ride through his memory lane talking of his entire life from childhood to the time when he got married and that very time – 2001. It took some 150 or so pages to get there so you can imagine that with the excitement of Hosseini’s narrative and flowery diction, I had to trace my way back to Page 1. Now, the e-reader wasn’t fast enough to get me there – or I didn’t want to waste time – so I jumped to one of my bookshelves and picked the paperback. I read the two pages in seconds and was back on speed with my book (Page 175).

Oh! Did I mention that I am still reading the book? It is one you should. I think Khaled Hosseini is worthy of every praise he is getting. His story as I have read so far traces how we make decisions that haunt us. Our lead character out of childhood jealousy and a hope to impress his father betrays his best friend (Hassan) and does not stand up for his friend in a time of danger. This is despite Hassan being in that position because he had stuck to his ground

The Kite Runner
The Kite Runner

retrieving a kite for the honour of our lead character (Amir). Hassan forgives Amir and begs him to play but guilt strangles any joy that Amir might have had. In the end, he sets Hassan up and makes him to be driven away.

Okay, you don’t get the picture. There’s this caste system and Hassan is the son of the servant of Amir’s father. So, despite being born at the same time with Amir and sharing the breasts of a woman brought to suckle them (Hassan’s mother ran away and Amir’s mother died after childbirth), Hassan is to be Amir’s servant too. They become friends and Hassan is OVERTLY loyal. He is a strong boy who stands up for Amir always. Now, eventually Amir gets envious of his own father liking Hassan. He also wants to win the love of his father who doesn’t think much of children who prefer reading to playing soccer! Anyways, so, that is the point where this and that happens, Hassan still sacrifices a million times more for Amir and has to leave with his father breaking a relationship of many years.

War and instability comes to Afghanistan. Amir leaves his native Afghanistan and migrates to America with his father (his mother is dead, by the way). Time rolls on itself and a lot happens; his father dies, he gets married etc etc. He hopes to have fresh starts but he discovers; the past never really leaves us. It cannot be really buried. Perhaps ignored sometimes but never buried in entirety. Like our shadows, this past clings to us and when day shines we find it walking beside us. Well, that’s most of what I have made of his position.

As I read on, I think empathically of what Hassan’s life would be like at that point. How the pranks and nonchalance of the young Amir changed the destiny of Hassan and his father. I am thinking of how our acts of commissions and omissions end up being the decider on the making or breaking of people. I am thinking of my own childhood, decisions I have made and wondering if there aren’t holes to the past that I need to fill in whatever way. In some cases we have little or nothing to do but if we think deep we will discover that though we can’t right all wrongs, there are certain things we can do to make amends and be better.

As Hosseini says, there is a way to be good again.

Yes, there is a way to be good again. May the times give us the grace to be better each moment and work to right whatever wrong we can. We only live once, why don’t we make it worth it?

Posted in ESSAYS AND LITERARY JOURNEYS, FICTION, FLASH FICTION, INTERVIEWS, LIFE, LITERARY MISSIONARY

DUL JOHNSON: PERSONAL NOTES, SHARED MEMORIES AND A SUBTLE INTRODUCTION

As with most of my friends especially writers with whom I have grown a deep bond, I cannot exactly say the first time I met Dul Johnson… There’s been this contact for some time. One of my first memories with him was when he had a reading with the Abuja Writers’ Forum; he was to be a facilitator at their workshop and also a guest writer. I told my father where I was going and he smiled. He said he had worked with Dr. Johnson in NTA and that the man was a rascal. I smiled… I passed the greetings of my father to Dul and he took it with good humour and yabbed my father back. Since then, there were different meetings including a memorable talk at the Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA) convention in Minna in 2009. Other areas and yup, I attended his reading at the Abuja ANA where he read from Why Women Wouldn’t Make it  to Heaven alongside 2013 Caine prize shortlister, Abubakar Adam Ibrahim. IT was a fun read and the joyful noise in the air was testimony…

I remember when he became my client…The link was another good associate of mine, Salamatu Sule. She gave a referral and voila, I was in Dr. Dul’s office trying my best to sell our work. He had a work that had

Dul Johnsonbeen done, Deeper into the Night, which needed some rework. Well, long story short, SEVHAGE published the novel (Deeper into the Night) and a play of his, Melancholia (which was shortlisted for the Association of Nigerian Authors’ 2014 prize for Drama).

Dul Johnson is a man easily spotted with his huge beards, which sadly have been trimmed. With a rich voice and a joyful personality, he is almost always noticeable in any crowd. Did I mention his glasses? He has written much across the genres but there’s some history to him…

He started early life as a farmer, then apprentice blacksmith, something he carried to his school where he succeeded in at metal works. He was meant to go to a polytechnic but providence played its hand differently… Well, he ended up in the Abdullahi Bayero College, the Kano campus of the Ahmadu Bello University (which is now the Bayero University, Kano). Now, by 1976, Dul had started writing plays, with radio plays for a radio station in Sokoto called Rima Radio. It would take two years before his first play was performed on stage. In 1978, as an undergraduate, his first play was performed in the Abdullahi Bayero college. [I tried getting the title of the play from him many times but the man’s memory decided to play a game that didn’t produce it… So, we can be resigned to the fact that it is a title lost in the archives of forgotten memory] He wrote and produced many television plays for NTA Jos in the 80s and 90s before turning his attention to film.

The last time we had a major event together was the twin launch of Deeper into the Night and Melancholia. Professor Hyginus Ekwuazi — a mutual friend of ours who is a great poet, academic and film person – was meant to present the review for Deeper into the Night. For a million reasons, Prof Ekwuazi couldn’t make it and asked that I help him. So, I wore two caps; as reviewer and publisher. I presented the piece while tweaking some parts. I got positive reviews for the presentation and I was all smiles. I can’t remember now, but perhaps I thanked the heavens that Professor Ekwuazi couldn’t make it J

The launch was not as well attended as I would have thought – which is not to say people didn’t come, we had over a hundred people… But it was a great event. There were more than enough chops. People got free copies of the book in the benevolence of the Dul, and *coughs* his publisher. After the whole event, we had time to chat on a whole lot of things… I also got the chance to meet the Dul family; Chalya, the guy Duls and Mrs. Ruth Dul Johnson.

Dul Johnson
Dul Johnson

We laughed as I left that day, but I couldn’t forget the warmth that I felt in the office with Dr. Dul and his family.

But this isn’t about us or mushy stuff… Oh! I didn’t mention part of his creative writing publishing history:

Dul has published to his credit, two collections of short stories, Shadows and Ashes and Why Women won’t make it to heaven; a novel Deeper into the Night (SEVHAGE, 2014) and a play, Melancholia. Dul Johnson is also a seasoned scholar and academic who has taught at the University of Jos; the National Film Institute, Jos; the Television College, Jos and Bingham University, Karu.

I did an interview with Dr. Dul Johnson last year shortly after the shortlist for Melancholia. The deep man had much to say… His interview marks the first of our now to be regular SEVHAGE Reviews Interview that can be found at http://sevhage.wordpress.com…Specifically, find the interview by clicking HERE.

Enjoy him and please drop a comment… Many thanks and cheers!