Okay, maybe you have heard it or you are hearing it here first. Check everywhere and make a shout for Abubakar Adam Ibrahim has won the $100,000 NLNG Prize for Literature for his novel, Season of Crimson Blossoms. Yaaaaay! He clinched the prize ahead of his literary twin, Elnathan John (with Born on a Tuesday) and Chika Unigwe’s Night Dancer. We saw it coming! Matter of fact, when we got the news, Belle and I tried to make Abubakar to give us our share – or promise to do so when he collected the cheque but the guy has sense too much!
In 2013, while going for the Association of Nigerian Authors’ convention grand dinner, Abubakar and I discussed his travel writings (which I love best of his writings) and Chika Unigwe, who had been announced as the NLNG Winner for that year with her On Black Sister’s Street. Now, it is the turn of the literary Mallam to wear that crown.
Abubakar Adam Ibrahim is one of Nigeria’s foremost literary journalists and a committed writers + arts enthusiast who never tires to promote writing in every form. He is also the author of the celebrated collection of short stories, Whispering Trees. You can read more about him here or visit his blog here.
Congratulations Abubakar. And may this season truly be yours!
Yes, you have heard of the Ebedi International Residency… and there are spirits there. These spirits are rare in Nigeria – imagine it, electric power supply, water, peace, quiet! Shoot someone already! Yes, let me school you only a bit.
The Ebedi International Residency in Iseyin, Oyo state is one of the few residencies in Nigeria that hosts writers (three at a time) for a period of six weeks giving them time to work on any creative piece of their choice. Now, they also get a small stipend (about thirty thousand naira or so) in the period and are isolated from distractions.
The three writers featuring in the September/October 2016 edition are my people, Ehi’zogie Iyeomoan, Ikechukwu Nwaogu and the cool Servio Gbadamosi.
Ehi’zogie is from Edo state and has an enviable list of awards in poetry which I wouldn’t want to waste your time mentioning. Just know, the guy can write and he has written. Last year, in Jos, we were in a hotel together with Saddiq Dzukogi, Romeo Oriogun (there was a fourth person… Eh, okay, I was the fourth person) and reading through our collective verse, I couldn’t help but note, ah, this really is a poet to watch out for any time. We were at other events last year too but again, I wouldn’t bore you much. He has a published collection of poetry, Flames of Forest, which was written to some acclaim. He also has a considerable number of poems published online. The thing with Ehi’zogie is he gets better with every new verse… So, he is working on a new collection there at Ebedi titled A Spring of Endless Songs. I have seen some of the poems, and I liked most of them but wrinkled my nose at a few others 🙂 He is working on refining and redefining that collection. We wish him luck!
Ikechukwu Nwaogu… is a fiction writer and playwright. His work has appeared on different sites including www.naijastories.com (he is my brother for being here, I belong to the first generation of the Naija Stories family), http://www.mainlandbookcafe.com, http://www.shughar.com, http://www.elsieisy.com, and on http://www.facebook.com (well, almost everyone’s writings has appeared there, no? 🙂 ). Equally, his nonfiction pieces have appeared on http://www.mainlandbookcafe.com, and his personal blog, www.inkspilla.wordpress.com. While at Ebedi, Ikechukwu will be working on a collection of short stories and if God agrees, a novel. We can only pray for that. And him too, of course.
The third writer and certainly the baddest of them all, Servio Gbadamosi! (Blow the trumpet!) I handed over the ANA Poetry Award to this young man in 2015, after getting tired of being the ANA Award holder for 2014 🙂 … He won the award with his poetry collection, A Tributary in Servitude which I begged him to publish. Note that he didn’t give me a kobo when he won the award! Any way, we have enjoyed many drinks and meals since then so I think that is compensation. But who is Servio? Ah! He is a poet, and Ibadan based culture and development practitioner. He is the brain behind Winepress Publisher and one of the founding partners of the famous WriteHouse Collective. Servio is one of Nigeria’s leading publishing consultants and a book dealer of great note. He has been published in several journals and anthologies like Crossroads: Anthology of Poems in Honour of Christopher Okigbo,Fela’s Re-arrangement: A Collage of the Poetic Biography of Nigeria’s Folkhero of Afrobeat Music and The Sky is Our Earth: Anthology of Fifty Young Nigerian Poets.
Servio hopes to use the opportunity of his residency ‘to research, reflect and continue work on a new collection of poems titled, From Northwind.
All the three writers will also take part in the mentorship of secondary school students in Iseyin and environs in the area of creative writing, drama and public speaking.
Now in its sixth year of operation, the Ebedi Residency is a private initiative for writers to complete their creative works in an enabling environment at no cost. The Residency which has hosted about 75 writers from countries such as Kenya, Uganda, Nigeria, South Africa, Cameroun, Ghana and Ivory Coast since its inception has also produced several award winning writers. The writers have included our SEVHAGE author, Professor Dul Johnson, my good friend Professor Musa Idris Okpanachi and the satire King, Elnathan John whose book, BORN ON A TUESDAY shortlisted for the 2016 NLNG Prize was completed at the Ebedi Residency.
Wait, why did Ebedi carry my friends and leave me? Hmmm, okay, maybe because I didn’t apply. But you can apply and should apply. To apply, visit http://ebedihills.com/how-to-apply (the link was down a while back but keep trying and go see what you can do). Best of luck to the residents at the moment and to all of you who would apply. For us all others, let’s keep writing, reading and being our very best. Cheerio!
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
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?
I 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 laughed.
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.
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
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”
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!
It was the Open Mic session of the Abuja Literary Society and yup, I had to be there. First people I noticed coming in were ElNathan John and Dike Chukwumerije. Okay, this was going to be fun. Usual hi’s to friends and acquaintances and I got to my seat. Smiling. This was going to be fun. The last time I had been at any ALS event was with Chuma Nwokolo Jnr when he had had his reading. That had proved a most entertaining evening.
After some time we got started with general introductions. I noticed immediately that there were lots of fine voices – trust me to catch that. Also noticed that there was this fine lady beside me who said something about being here in the country for one thing or the other. The MC (the Bookman) started the discussion session. We settled to discuss the topic ‘Excessive Force of the Military in Fighting Boko Haram‘. The talk went far beyond that o… Of course, I wouldn’t be boring you with that, so cool! I can only say that if you want a deep flow on the topic, you can still make out time (if you are in Abuja) to come for the ALS open mic session on 14th June 2013, same venue. We were promised that military experts would come to give their thoughts too so that we don’t keep moving about with our professionally unprofessional analysis… Hee hee hee. Oh well.
The performances started with two performance poets, Alfa and Bolaji who read ‘Black Gold Biva’ and ‘My Pain’ respectively. They were well received with little admonition on how to make their art better. Bolaji was notably more impressive in his ending than start. He seemed to be a poet who gathered air with time. He introduced his poem by saying ‘He was a virgin’… Okay… Now, he stopped there. Had some of us wondering the virginity angle he was coming from: metaphoric? Unlearned in the art of eating the bearded meat? As a performer? 😉 Oh well. Except for some ugly cliches here and there, his delivery was good:
‘Once I befriended fantasy
It was beautiful but I met reality
she defied me and became my pain
pain is gain/no pain no gain
so I rise from this cold floor stronger
to pick my gain’
Next, Azeezat read a short story ‘Apprehension’, set in a town near similar to Jos. Well, Jos came to mind. It was about someone running in a time of crisis, hiding, noticing evils and falling… First draft. Most of us agreed that it could have been better. Adeyemi read ‘Cheeter‘s buzz’, a poem which some people had some time fitting into the right genre. He wasn’t conversant with the poem and it could have been written better, and performed more beautifully. I have a feeling there’s more to that particular piece… Removing some forced rhymes, overt biblical allusions that were plain and the like. Elnathan John commented of the poem that the poet took the name of the Lord in vain! Hee hee hee. Oh well. Enough said.
I read a poem next, ‘Life’. Taken from Bring our casket home, a 9 lined poem that ends (minus one line) thus:
I stayed an eternity with you
But just as my heart counted a second
The night rolled its mat
Before the audience or I knew it, I was sitting again. Wow! Felt good reading that. Some people mentioned that I should join the slammers (performance Kings). I smiled. Well, compliments that would leave anyone fulfilled. The reading continued. A hip-hop poetic performer, Ogo, read ‘Pure’. The banker rhymed on like Jay Z and not a few ladies made catcalls… Na wa o! I need to learn some romantic rhymes too!
The Musicians took over. Afolabi and Isaac came on stage. Isaac was on the guitar, while Afolabi breathed lyrics into the air that had me change my camera from still shots to video mode. The song was ‘Trueness’ and the rendition truly from the soul. It came out lovely. Some people noted that Afolabi held back and could have done better. Left a few people behind me and myself too wondering what they meant… This guy was sooooo it. Wow! You should have heard him. It was fluid and to think it was without effects or anything? C’mon!!
A lady, Kelechi read ‘Sweet Seeder’ (a story/article/narrative/instruction). Suggested that she work on making it one. Material there but too undefined. There was a poem read by Banji and Egbuche Pope read a long undefined piece too, titled ‘Its 4pm’. He was told to rework it. There was a short story read by … Another musical presentation was done by Afolabi and three other friends. Hmm. Need I say more? I respect the guy jare!
The final presentation was a lovely poem ‘Battlefields of the Mind’ written by Busola Sosannya. For some reason she didn’t perform it (shyness abi? 🙂 )… It was performed by ace performer, Dike Chukwumerije. As it moved to closing, I remembered our Makurdi ‘Purple Silver’ group hosted by Anselm Ngutsav. Miss those readings…
It was real late, some long minutes past 21:00hrs or was it closer to 22:00? Several of the people had left. There were talks, catching up and making of new acquaintances. I did some on the spot editing of Busola’s poem and asked a few questions of why the poet had not performed her piece. Lots of more talk and in the end, there was a walk…
Ask me not where to… 😉
Meanwhile, there was a journey of some two hours to get to. Home called and more activities. Oh well.
Life is nothing without you. People may run away from you, despise you, but in their hearts they know, they need you. You are the one who saves the day: the woman stranded with an overheated car in a hold up, the lover whose car threatens to truncate his hustle, the transporter who needs his cars back on the road to make money. You get the desperate calls, you see their worried faces. You arrive and gaze like a prophet into the engine. You spend more time than it actually takes, but you get it done. Like magic, the car comes back to life. People don’t think about you unless they are in trouble. I am here to give you the prominence you deserve and teach those who intend to learn the trade just what they must do.
You need to appear dirty. A mechanic gains nothing by having presentable work clothes. How else will the car owner know you have worked on his car if he doesn’t have grease stains on his seats, steering wheel, dashboard, everywhere?
As a mechanic, you must prefer women. Not the restless, jobless ones who pretend to be men and try to truncate your hustle by coming to sit with you in the workshop and ask, “this one, na wetin; that one na wetin; show me wetin you change”. Not the ones who want to follow you to where you bought the spare parts. Those ones are bad market. You must avoid them like a debtor avoids his creditor. When they come tell them you are busy. The women you must prefer are good trusting women who call you to take their car. Those ones call to monitor progress only asking: “dat one na how much?” And that is all you need to hear, “how much?” That is what puts a smile on your greasy face. That is when you invent parts and problems that do not exist and inflate the prices of the ones that do. This is not wrong; your conscience must not judge you. She is only paying for the ease with which she does business with you. After all do people not go to hotels and buy a bottle of beer for as much as 1,000? Why don’t they complain? God will judge those who sit in their offices and say bad things about you.
The people who come for regular checks or servicing, these ones are not your main target. You do not make much from the engine oil and oil filter. People who are very careful about their cars like that are usually stingy. But you need that steady flow of money, so keep them. However there is a way to deal with the really stingy ones. Just notice a problem. Tell them that, it is not so serious, but in the near future it will need to be worked on. Even though you have told him that it is OK for now, you have already planted the seeds in his heart. Forget to tie some bolt or tie it loosely. In about a week it will come off and his car will stop on the way. He will call you and describe the problem to you. This is when you will remind him that you had mentioned it before. He will feel guilty and foolish. And when a stingy man feels guilty, he temporarily stops being stingy.
If you finish fixing a car in the evening, never call the owner. Try all you can to make the car stay overnight. Especially on a Saturday. Especially when Sikirat, the daughter of the woman selling agbo, who is your new girlfriend has told you of this gbedu she needs to attend. You need a car for this. The customer will understand when you tell him that you do not like to rush your work. The problems of the car were so much that you had to ‘drop engine’. He may grumble, but Sikirat will get driven to her gbedu and will show her gratitude afterwards. Try not to bash the car or forget Sikirat’s things in the back.
Spare parts are where to make a killing. Nnamdi your favourite spare parts dealer knows how this works. He knows that you have certain customers who always demand to see receipts. He knows to ask you how much to write, or even give you a blank receipt. Nnamdi and his boy Emeka don’t care as long as they get paid. You laugh when the receipt-demanding customers stare hard into the paper to make sure they have not been cheated.
When a customer complains about how expensive the spare parts are, tell them, if they like they can go buy it themselves. Tell them where they can get it, all you want is to fix the car. Say that in fact if he buys the spare parts he will lighten your burden. Most people will be satisfied that you are not trying to cheat and just give you the money. But some are stubborn and will visit the spare parts dealer. Don’t panic. Nnamdi and Emeka know how to deal with those ones. They will have so much problems that eventually they will realize that they were kobo wise Naira foolish. You don’t like Nnamdi and Emeka, but they understand the business and you get along fine.
To keep a new customer, especially the ones you think will not be stingy, you must impress them. Fix their problem quickly and tell them that in fact you noticed that three bolts were missing which you replaced. Tell them the implication of those missing bolts. It is God who made them come because it might have caused bigger damage. But you are not charging for the bolts, just being a good mechanic. As they struggle to count the cash, tell them how some mechanics are shoddy like that, forgetting to put back bolts and all. You are not like that. You take your time and solve both seen and unseen problems.
When a customer comes the first time and you want to keep them, never tell them how much your ‘labour’ or ‘workmanship’ is. Tell them, “Oga, just gimme anything”. He is bound to be grateful for all the extra things which you emphasize you did for free; for saving him from his last evil mechanic. He is bound to be generous. Even if he isn’t, you have already made a killing from the spare parts.
As you work, I pray that God will intervene in your greasy hustle and bless it, immensely.