Kinna Reads

A blog of books, reading and world literature


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“We promise we shall build the new cities over your bodies” – Kofi Awoonor. It’s his birthday!

Kofi Awoonor 1

Today would have been Kofi Awoonor’s 79th birthday.

Dela, of African Soulja, and I will celebrate the poet on our blogs and on Twitter.  The hashtag is #Awoonor79.

I begin with an excerpt from  “In Memoriam”, the opening poem of Awoonor’s The Latin American and Caribbean Notebook (1992). The poem begins with a “single line honor roll”:

For friends gone ahead: Joe de Graft, Ellis Komey, Paa Kayper, Camara Laye, Chris Okigbo, Alex La Guma, Robert Serumaga, and Geombeyi Adali-Mortty, all the brothers who sang our song,  and went home to the ancestors.

The promise in the last stanza of the poem resonates with me as I hold on to the hope that one day, we will do all this over, do it right, this African Project.

And who said that the drama of the dying
wipes out the consequences
and the central theatre of death?

Brothers, your tombs are the verses you carved
on granitic memories;
oh, how I grieve over the tempests
that blew away the young poets
singers of all our songs in this land of fetters.
We promise we shall build the new cities
over your bones,
that your mortuaries shall become the birthplace,
that our land and people
shall rise again
from the ashes of your articulate sacrifices!

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, UNCLE KOFI!


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Jerome reviews Buchi Emecheta’s Second-Class Citizen

(I’m grateful to Jerome for writing this review since I am being quite lazy about writing.  Jerome Kuseh is a “Ghanaian who mostly blogs about politics and business. He is also a fan of literature and has sometimes written poetry. His business blog is ceditalk.com and for his posts about politics, social issues and his attempts at creative writing, visit readjerome.blogspot.com.”)

Intro

After failing to participate in both 2012 and 2013, I decided to take part in his year’s Africa Reading Challenge. This March has been reserved for books by African women authors only, to make up for my deficiency in that regard. I have just read Buchi Emecheta’s Second-Class Citizen and I’m halfway through Bessie Head’s When Rain Clouds Gather. Not being a book blogger myself, I have taken up Kinna’s opportunity to share my review of Second-Class Citizen on her blog. I would like to thank her for the opportunity and for getting me to explore African Literature after I had spent the better part of 2013 reading European classics.

Second-Class Citizen by Buchi Emecheta

It had all begun like a dream. You know, that sort of dream which seems to have originated from nowhere, yet one was always aware of its existence. One could feel it, one could be directed by it; unconsciously at first, until it became a reality, a Presence.

Second Class Citizen

Jerome sent the African Writers Series cover but I just can’t deal with some of those covers – they’re so bad!

So began the story of an Igbo girl from Ibuza, who was born and raised in Lagos. A young girl named Adah who did not know her age because her parents had not seen the need to record the date, seeing as she was a girl when they had wanted a boy. So she guessed her age as eight, and was certain she was born during World War II.

The “Presence” described in the opening passage was her determination to go to the United Kingdom, a dream inspired by the adoration given to an Ibuza native who had just returned from the UK after earning a qualification as a lawyer. The “Presence” was so strong that it drove her to find her way to school on her own, against her mother’s wishes and even after her supportive father’s death. The “Presence” drove her to earn a scholarship to Methodist Girl’s school, to marry a man, Francis, in order to have a home for her studies (since a woman living alone would be regarded as a prostitute), to earn a high-paying job at the US Consulate and to pay for her husband’s trip to the UK to chase his elusive dream of qualifying as an accountant to pave the way for her dream to be fulfilled. One cold morning, after a long sea journey with her two children, the quest of the “Presence” had been fulfilled.

She had arrived in the United Kingdom. Pa, I’m in the United Kingdom, her heart sang to her dead father.

One would think that the iron will of this young Igbo girl who overcame all hurdles to achieve her dreams would be enough for one story. However, the UK (England specifically) was not what Adah had hoped it would be. Perhaps, she should have been warned by the cold that greeted her. England was cold in every possible way.

As her husband explained to her, she was a second-class citizen there because she was black. That means she had to give up her class privilege (that she had worked hard to earn) and accept the same jobs people with the education of her maids back home would do. Perhaps, if Adah had just accepted this role that had been carved for her, the story would’ve been simpler. But she was who she was, and she had to go get a job at a library and refuse to let her children be taken to foster homes. She was trying to live like a white person. She had broken the unwritten laws of her Nigerian neighbours and irked the childless landlady, so they were thrown out of their meagre apartment and had to rent a room in the house of an old Nigerian man and his white wife.

Now her husband, Francis, felt entitled to all the privileges of an Igbo man over his wife, while not feeling obliged to undertake any responsibility whatsoever. He cheated on her, he beat her, refused contraception on the basis of Roman Catholicism and refused to work on the basis that as a Jehovah Witness, the world was transient and that he had to only focus on the kingdom of God in the afterlife. So he fed fat on his wife’s wages, making no effort to study properly even though he had no work and kept failing his Cost and Works accounting examinations. In time, he became jealous of his wife’s achievements and was determined to thwart all her efforts.

What I find intriguing about Second-Class Citizen is the way in which Emecheta questions religion without drawing any conclusion – from the question of Jesus’s status as son of God to whether it was man’s rib that a woman was fashioned out of.  Adah continuously sees the hypocrisy of her husband’s religion and yet in many parts of the book she had turned to God in distress. God had become a personal helper as opposed to the head of an organised religion.

Another intriguing phenomenon is how much Adah wishes her husband would love her and treat her kindly and how hard she worked to save her marriage. Reading the book, there were times when I was outraged and wished I could speak to Adah to get her children and leave the useless man. Her desire for nothing more than love and appreciation of her extraordinary efforts from her husband is just like Mara in Amma Darko’s classic Beyond the Horizon.

From reading the book, one also comes across the tensions between the Igbo and Yoruba people of Nigeria. I recently read Chinua Achebe’s There Was a Country: A Personal History of Biafra and this book mirrors the levels of distrust between the two major ethnic groups of Southern Nigeria, that is exhibited even in the United Kingdom.

I am in no doubt that Second-Class Citizen is largely based on Buchi Emecheta’s on life. Like Adah, she also went to the UK from Nigeria, left her husband with her children, and became a writer. I have recently acquired her autobiography, Head Above Water and I am anxious to see if there are similarities to the events of Second-Class Citizen. In further proof of my new-found admiration for Emecheta, I have bought, arguably, her most famous work The Joys of Motherhood.

Second-Class Citizen is a great start to my month of reading African women writers, however it should not be kept in such a narrow context. It is raises philosophical questions that transcend the African context. It would make a great read for anyone from any background and I highly recommend it.

AWDF


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Call for Applications: Creative Non-Fiction Workshop for African Women

Let me crow a bit before getting to the details of the workshop.  I had the most delightful International Women’s Day Ever.  I took part in Yewande Omotoso’s Creative Writing Master Class which was organized by AWDF and Mbaasem Foundation.  It was fantastic!. I learnt a lot. Yewande is an engaging and generous tutor so I’m pleased that she, together with Male Kabu, will facilitate this non-fiction workshop.

Here is the announcement from AWDF:

“The African Women’s Development Fund (AWDF) will be holding a creative non-fiction workshop in Kampala, Uganda, organised by FEMRITE Uganda Women Writers Association from the 21st to the 31st of July 2014. The lead facilitators for the workshop will be Mamle Kabu, and Yewande Omotoso.

This workshop is targeted at writers and activists who wish to use the power of the written word to highlight issues around women’s rights and social justice. Participants taking part in this workshop will be expected to read widely from assigned selected texts, and to complete daily written exercises.

The organisation of this workshop forms part of AWDF’s efforts to raise African women’s voices. Writers who participate in this workshop will be supported to have their articles placed in a range of local, regional and international media. In line with AWDF’s ethos, efforts will be made to ensure that at least 20% of the writers selected for this workshop will be women from existing grantee organisations and activists from civil society spaces.

Accommodation and a travel grant will be provided for all accepted applicants who are able to attend for the duration of the workshop.

Application Guidelines

Deadline for submission is 23rd March 2014. Only those accepted to the workshop will be notified by 30th May 2014.

To apply, send an e-mail to writing@awdf.org
Your e-mail subject should read ‘Workshop Application’

The body of the e-mail should contain the following:
1. Your Name
2. Your Address
3. A short bio (maximum 200 words)
4. A sample article addressing an issue around women’s rights or social justice (of between 500 and 1000 words)

* Please state in your email if you are a member of an AWDF grantee organisation or network member

* The sample article could be either published or unpublished”.

The entire announcement includes bios of the facilitators.

African Writers Trust


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Call for Applications: Editorial Skills Development Workshop

From the African Writers Trust:

“African Writers Trust in partnership with Commonwealth Writers will conduct an Editorial Skills Development workshop in Kampala, Uganda, from 16th to 20th June 2014.

Led by Ellah Wakatama Allfrey, a book editor with over fifteen years experience at Penguin, Random House and Granta in the UK, the training will target editors from the East Africa region: Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania and Rwanda.

This course is meant for mid-level and more experienced book editors and proof readers working as freelance or within publishing houses. This will be a residential workshop. Air travel expenses, accommodation and meals will be provided to successful candidates.

If you want to be considered for this training, please send a Letter of Motivation not exceeding 1,000 words to gorettiATafricanwriterstrust.org  and mildredbaryaATafricanwriterstrust.org  stating:

  1. Name, nationality and gender
  2. Contact information: Email address and telephone number
  3. How long you have been working as an editor/proof reader
  4. What you find most challenging in your work as a book editor/proof reader
  5. What you hope to achieve from participating in the workshop

The deadline for receiving applications is 4th April, 2014. Applications received after this date will not be considered.

Only successful applicants will be notified by 30th April 2014.”

Golden Baobab


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Golden Baobab Dedicates $20,000 to African Children’s Literature

From Golden Baobab’s nlog:

“Golden Baobab has launched the 2014 Golden Baobab Prizes for African children’s literature and illustrations. In this 6th year of the prize, the Ghana based literary social enterprise Golden Baobab and its supporters will be awarding 6 distinct prizes worth $20,000. These 6 prizes are:

  • The Golden Baobab Prize for Picture Book
  • The Golden Baobab Prize for Early Chapter Book
  • The Golden Baobab Prize for Rising Writers
  • The Golden Baobab Prize for Illustrators
  • The Golden Baobab Prize for Rising Illustrators
  • The Golden Baobab Lifetime Achievement in Children’s Literature Award

Golden baobab 2014_Literature-PrizesMarking the 6th anniversary of the Golden Baobab Prizes, its coordinator, Nanama B. Acheampong states, “we are excited this year to be presenting 6 prizes. For 5 years we have successfully run 3 prizes for literature. As we enter our 6th year, we are thrilled to be able to transfer the expertise we have gained to illustration in Africa and to recognizing lifetime contributors to African children’s literature. The new prizes we are launching this year are: the Golden Baobab Prize for Illustrators, The Golden Baobab Prize for Rising Illustrators and the Golden Baobab Lifetime Achievement in Children’s Literature Award.”

2014 Golden Baobab Prize winners will receive cash prizes worth $20,000, opportunities to be published, invitations to the Golden Baobab Award ceremony, mentorship, press opportunities and participation in exhibitions.

Commenting on the launch of the 2014 Prizes, Deborah Ahenkorah, Co-Founder and Executive Director of Golden Baobab said, “I’m thrilled that as we mark the 6th anniversary of the prizes, we are doing more than we ever have to champion the work of African writers and illustrators of children’s stories. For example, we have increased cash prizes from an annual $3000 to an annual $20,000. This increase reflects the value we place on the work created by incredibly talented writers and illustrators of African children’s stories. This is only the beginning of our aspirations for this space.” “


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‘Meet the Writers’, ‘Paroles de Femmes’ Exhibition and The Afro Soul Concert to Celebrate International Women’s Day

Meet The Writers

March 8 is International Women’s Day and there are a number of events lined by the African Women’s Development Fund, in partnership with Alliance Francaise, Brand Woman Africa and Mbaasem Foundation.

First, I will moderate a conversation between writers Boakyewaa Glover, Alba Sumprim and Yewande Omotoso, who will all read from their most recent works.  This “Meet the Writers‘ is free to the public and will take place at Alliance Francaise at 7pm on March 7th, 2014.

Boakyewaa Glover is the author of The Justice, Ghana’s latest political thriller (might be the only one too); Alba Sumprim has published two non-fiction books – The Imported Ghanaian and a place of beautiful nonsense; and Yewande Omotoso’s book BomBoy was shortlisted for the Inaugural Etisalat Prize.  I’m going to do my very best to make the conversation thought-provoking (as the saying goes) and fun.  Please do come along if you are in Accra.

Also on March 7th at Alliance Francaise are:

- ‘Paroles de Femmes’ Exhibition Launch at 6pm:  “Featuring painting, photography, installations and illustration by visual artists Kis Kenya, Sena Ahadji and Zohra Opoku”

The Afro Soul Concert at 8pm: This concert is a tribute to the most extraordinary Nina Simone.  French/Haitian songwriter Cae, Nigerian musician Diana Bada and several Ghanaian vocalists will perform.  It’s Ghc10 (adults), Ghc 5 (AF students and members) and free for children below the age of 12.

Art, literature, music all in one night.  Most fab way for “Celebrating Women and Inspiring Change

CWIC flyer


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The Atlantic’s Twitter Book Club, 1book140, will pick an African book for its March Read

I don’t know how many of us are aware of 1book140, The Atlantic magazine’s Twitter book club?  I heard about the initiative around its launch but promptly lost interest – I think I was underwhelmed by their choices or something. Anyway, it seems they’ve kept it going and interest is strong.

1book140 will focus on the “stories of Africa” this March and are asking readers to vote for one of these four books:

Ibook140 Africa

  1. One Day I Will Write About This Place by Binyavanga Wainaina
  2. We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo
  3. Zoo City by Lauren Beukes
  4. Open City by Teju Cole

Here is the link to the articles and voting page:  Vote for 1book140′s March Read: Stories of Africa

I have 3 of the books listed, so I voted and will participate.

Head over to vote if you want to influence the selections. Voting closes on Monday March 2, 2014.

Follow 1book140 on Twitter at @1book140

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