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NUMBER 15

NORTH AFRICA SECTION: GUEST EDITED BY LAILA LALAMI

REMAPPING AFRICANNESS RECLAIMING NORTH AFRICA FOR AFRICA

FICTION EXCERPT FROM THE BOOKER PRIZE SHORTLISTED NOVEL,

IN THE COUNTRY OF MEN ECONOMY CHINA IN NIGERIA: WHAT’S THE AGENDA? FASHION MAKING MONEY FROM PAPER

SPORTS NIGERIA’S OLYMPIC DISASTER FARAFINA METRO EXPLORE THE MYRIAD ATTRACTIONS OF CITY LIVING

NIGERIA N800 • EURO ZONE €5 • EGYPT E£ 38 MOROCCO Dh 55 • UK £4 • USA $7


Telling Our Own Stories

®

FARAFINA is the Bambara word for Africa. Our goal is to Tell Our Own Stories by showcasing the best in contemporary African ideas

EDITORIAL Anwuli Ojogwu Azafi Ogosi Folarin Shasanya Igoni Barrett

INTERNS Temitayo Olofinlua Tolu Ettu

GRAPHICS Akeem M. Ibrahim

PHOTOGRAPHY Toye Gbade

ADVERTISING Babatunde Ajayi Rita Onwurah

SUBSCRIPTION & CIRCULATION Opeyemi Akintunde (Nigeria) Ogechi Ojiji (UK) Okwudili Okeke (US)

Contributing EDITORS Akin Adesokan, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Ike Oguine, Jide Bello, Laila Lalami, Molara Wood, Okey Ndibe, Petina Gappah, Toni Kan, Uzodinma Iweala

PUBLISHER Muhtar Bakare

Submissions are welcome by email to

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We prefer short stories, exposés, interviews, reviews, cartoons and photographs. Submissions should be original and topical Letters to the editor should be sent to

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Subscription [12 issues] including postage and packaging is N6,000.00 [within Nigeria] or $79.99 [all other countries] Visit www.farafinamagazine.com for the best of contemporary African ideas, online

Farafina is a registered trademark of Kachifo Limited, and published under copyright © 2008

All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without written permission is strictly prohibited The views expressed by contributors are those of the authors and not necessarily those of Farafina magazine All information in this magazine is verified to the best of the authors’ and publisher’s ability. However, Kachifo Limited does not accept responsibility for any loss arising from reliance on it ISSN 0794-4209

Photograph by Hoda Mana

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CO N T E N TS SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2008 NUMBER 15

Hassan II Mosque, Casablanca by Alex Yera

NORTH AFRICA SECTION GUEST EDITED BY LAILA LALAMI

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REMAPPING AFRICANNESS Anouar Majid

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THE SAHARA AND ITS MANY FACES Photography by Vlad Wojcik, Kelechi Amadi-Obi, Hoda Mana, Samarth Bhasin and Eileen Nicolson

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IN THE COUNTRY OF MEN Hisham Matar

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MOROCCO AND AFRICA: FROM BEN BARKA TO SEBTA AND MELILLA Karim Kettani

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ON THE RIVER: A NILE LAMENT IN TWELVE PARTS Matthew Shenoda

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THE LAST FILM Nouri Gana

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TAYEB SALIH AND THE WAD HAMID CYCLE Wa誰l S. Hassan

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DARFUR REPORT Fady Joudah

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Exhibit 15

Pg 44

Pg 21

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CO N T E N TS Pg 14

FARAFINA METRO 09 FASHION 45 PAPER DREAMS Ayoola Somolu

SATIRE 48 AN UNCOMMISSIONED SPEECH WRITTEN FOR MR. BARACK OBAMA Chris Ogunlowo Pg 11

SPORTS 50 A WELL-REHEARSED OLYMPIC DISASTER Bada Akintunde-Johnson

FICTION 56 A GRIM TASTE OF FATE Iheoma Nwachukwu

ECONOMY 59 Pg 45

A CONTINENT OF NON-WHINERS Oz Omoluabi

ENVIRONMENT 61 TRADING THE FUTURE Rory Williams

HEALTH 63 SAVING WOMEN’S LIVES Bosede Afolabi Pg 75

REVIEWS 65 UNFINISHED MATTER 82 BLACK COLONIALISTS: THE ROOT OF THE TROUBLE WITH NIGERIA (PART II)

Pg 80


CO N T R I B U TO RS Fady Joudah’s first collection of poetry, The Earth in the Attic, is a recipient of the Yale Series for Younger Poets for 2007. He is also the translator of Mahmoud Darwish’s most recent poetry, collected in The Butterfly’s Burden.

Iheoma Nwachukwu is a graduate of biochemistry from the University of Calabar. He was a participant in the 2008 edition of the International Creative Writing Workshop hosted by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

Waïl S. Hassan is an associate professor of Comparative Literature at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the author of Tayeb Salih: Ideology and the Craft of Fiction.

Bada Akintunde-Johnson is a sports writer and soccer analyst. He works as a copywriter in one of Nigeria’s leading advertising agencies.

Anouar Majid, a native of Tangier, Morocco, writes on issues of culture and religion in the post-colonial era. He also edits the online magazine Tingis.

Oz Omoluabi is a credit analyst living in New York. He is a partner at The GoodMan Fund.

Nouri Gana is assistant professor of Comparative Literature & Near Eastern Languages and Cultures at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Ayoola Somolu is a freelance writer and a school administrator.

Matthew Shenoda is the author of Somewhere Else, winner of the 2007 Hala Maksoud Award for Emerging Voice and a 2006 American Book Award. His latest collection of poems, Seasons of Lotus, Seasons of Bone, will be published in 2009.

Ernest Williamson III is a Professor of English at Essex County College. He has published poetry and visual art in over 120 online and print journals.

Simona Eva Schneider is a writer and photographer whose works have been featured in exhibitions in the US, Europe, Russia and Morocco and in several magazines. She has lived and worked primarily in Tangier since 2005.

Hoda Mana lives in Los Angeles and has a passion for photography. She enjoys experimenting with her father’s old Canon FTb, the first camera she learned to use as a child.

Featured Photographers: Samarth Bhasin, Eileen Nicolson, Uche Okpa-Iroha, Vlad Wojcik, Dominik Golenia, Clive Crook, Tope Kogbe and Kelechi Amadi-Obi. Cover Photograph by Samarth Bhasin Cover Design by Akeem M. Ibrahim

Hisham Matar was born in New York and spent his childhood in Tripoli and Cairo before moving to Britain. His first novel In the Country of Men was shortlisted for the 2006 Booker Prize.

Alex Yera is a writer and photographer in Los Angeles.

Karim Kettani is a lawyer in Rabat, Morocco, and one of the founding members of the French-language site minorities.org. Lalla A. Essaydi grew up in Morocco and now lives in the US. Her work has been exhibited in many US and European cities. She has worked in video, film and analog photography.

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LETTERS Dear Farafina: Although arriving on my desk slightly after the event, the “Kenya” issue was a real eye-opener. It articulated the Kenyan experience during the recent riots and xenophobic outbreak with great articles and editorials. Andia Kisia's “A Rude Awakening” underlined what we all assume are our modern idealistic tolerances about race, tribe, traditions etc. One that those in power are always ready to put to the test, and use as a political weapon. Illustrated with poignant photography, it is by far the best issue yet, in my opinion. It also serves as a timely reminder of how wrong and distorted everything can turn out, right under our noses. Not a milligram of left-over fat in this edition. Bravo. Papa Omotayo Lagos

WE WOULD LIKE TO BELIEVE THAT TRIBALISM IN AFRICA IS SIMPLY A COLONIAL INVENTION. THAT TRIBE IS A PASSIVE SOCIAL DIFFERENCE THAT IS ONLY OCCASIONALLY ACTIVATED BY CYNICAL, DEATH DEFYING “FATHERS OF THE NATION” FOR SHORT-SIGHTED POLITICAL ENDS. THAT YOUNGER, WEALTHIER, MORE COSMOPOLITAN AFRICANS ARE IMMUNE TO TRIBALISM. Dear Farafina: I just finished reading your Kenya issue and was struck by how pronounced the debate was between Kenyan writers as to whether the post-election crisis of this year was a reflection of class tensions or ethnic tensions or generational tensions in Kenyan political culture. The class argument is, of course, the most comforting and popular one because it holds the promise of a ready solution. Sure, we would like to believe that all things being economically equal, we

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would live together in happily ever-afterness. We would like to believe that tribalism in Africa is simply a colonial invention. That tribe is a passive social difference that is only occasionally activated by cynical, death defying “fathers of the nation” for shortsighted political ends. That younger, wealthier, more cosmopolitan Africans are immune to tribalism. And that Africa’s problem is that the members of this transcendent group are too few in number. I would like to take issue with the entire proposition and I would have liked to see some of the writers in this issue marshal the courage to do so as well. Wambui Mwangi’s “When the Nakumatts Close” probably came closest to facing the issue head on. Others seemed to be trying to rationalize the violence—it’s because people were poor, because their votes were stolen, because youth were disenfranchised. But tribe was beside the point. How can one seriously argue such a thing? Although I thoroughly “enjoyed” the personal reflections of some of Africa’s best writers on our latest tragedy, I would have liked to read a focused analysis of tribalism as a factor in African politics. Perhaps a pointed question from the editors, or better yet, a structured debate between proponents of different explanations for Kenya ‘08 would have focused the thinking on the topic of tribalism. I will definitely keep reading Farafina, because it is one of the more polished and progressive magazines we have on the continent today. But I would like to see a more conceptual structure to the submissions or more debate-style pieces so that the thoughtful dialogue Farafina provokes in theory could actually be performed on the page. Abosede George New York Dear Farafina: I just finished reading my first copy of Farafina and have no problem telling you that this is easily the African sibling of Harper’s or the London Review of Books. I have been waiting for a magazine like this since the day I busted out of my nappies. For all my non-Nigerians, quit

Sound Thinking. Select from our range of titles. Catch up on your reading by choosing books that inform, intrigue and inspire.

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waiting on crumbs from the table of The New Yorker—this is your chance to get in on the international literary scene while the getting’s good. Frances Uku New York Dear Farafina: I had seen previous Farafina issues but somehow just never got around to reading any. All this changed when I was compelled to buy an issue by a friend. “America” [Farafina issue 13, guest edited by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie] was a revelation. I wasn’t completely bowled over, but you definitely got my attention. I really loved the Kenya issue [Farafina issue 14], especially the cover, the use of pictures and the comic strips by Gado—who is by far my favourite contributor. I also enjoyed the article by Judy Kibinge—“No Laughing Matter”. It’s sad to realize that as Africans, we have been betrayed by our older, and usually richer, polity who have re-colonized us. It’s time for young people to set things right. Mann Obiora Lagos Dear Farafina: I was very happy to receive the last few editions of your magazine. As a new subscriber, I had only read one edition before deciding that I liked the freshness and direction of the magazine. Particularly, as a somewhat socially conscious Nigerian, I have always been disappointed of how little detail I knew of other African countries. Receiving the edition entitled "Kenya" was a pleasant surprise, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I hope in the future you will dedicate more editions to specific African countries or regions. I am sure many of us in Diaspora would appreciate the insight given through the stories shared. Chimezie Chidi San Francisco

TELLING OUR OWN STORIES, ONE EDITION AT A TIME

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Letters to the editor should be sent by email with the writer’s full name and address to letters@farafinamagazine.com. All other queries should be sent to info@farafinamagazine.com. The magazine reserves the right to edit submissions, which may be published or otherwise used in any medium. All submissions become the property of Farafina.

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COURTESY OF CENTRE FOR CONTEMPORARY ART(CCA)

FARAFINA METRO LIFE.STYLE.MUSIC.DESIGN.CULTURE FESTAC Rides Again Tales of FESTAC ’77 are still fondly retold by misty-eyed veterans who were there—it’s not uncommon to meet people in places like Jamaica who will regale you with tales of their first pilgrimage to the motherland to attend the event. The Center for Black Arts and Civilisation (CBAAC) intends to revive the ideology of this iconic event. As a precursor to Nigeria’s 50th independence anniversary in 2010, the CBAAC plan to rebrand October 1st using the brand identity of that event and reawaken some of that unique Nigerian and Pan-African spirit. www.cbaac77.com/index.htm Nigeria Fashion Week With international affiliation from the World Fashion Association and the endorsement of the Federal Ministry of Culture and Tourism and the Nigeria Export Promotion Council, Nigeria Fashion Week 2008 looks to break through its own creative and organisational boundaries this year. With 70 designers and exhibitors from Nigeria and abroad scheduled for the 3-day event at the Muson Center, along with the presence of

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international media coverage, will this event cement Nigeria as a true fashion destination? Nigeria Fashion Week September 1517 MUSON Centre, Onikan, Lagos The Elusive Adunni There were more sightings of that unlikely cultural touchstone, Susanne Wenger, as the Alliance Francaise (AF) screened Pierre Guicheney’s 2007 documentary, The Lady from Osogbo. Filled with heady images and imbued with the same intoxicating spirit that has kept the 93-year-old Ms. Wenger in Osun State for nearly five decades, this was not to be missed. Copies of the DVD can be bought by contacting the AF or the Nigerian Field Society. Madame Wenger was also scheduled to appear at the NIIT in Lagos at a symposium to be held in her honour as part of the activities that heralded August’s well-attended 2008 Osun Osogbo Festival. The Tireless NFS Activities continue apace at the Nigerian Field Society, now helmed by Charles Wheeler. From boat trips in search of endangered manatees to tours of Lagos’ stilt villages on the

water, it’s a great time to be an NFS member. Chief amongst these and one of the highlights of the cultural calendar are the upcoming Durbar Festivals of Kano and Katsina. Held to coincide with the end of the Muslim Ramadan period, the durbars feature great exhibitions of horseriding and musicianship and sightings of the fiercely proud northern Emirs. www.nigerianfield.org Masterpiece Cinema Fritz Lang was one of the most influential film-makers of the prewar era—his films are still viewed with reverence today as, even in black-and-white, the power of his story-telling and the fluency of his camerawork have stood the test of time. There’s a chance to review his classic film M, as well as W.Thiele’s Three Men and Lilian, at the Goethe Institute’s screening sessions. It’s a good opportunity to join the dots between the early lessons imparted by the German Expressionist movement, and the standards that prevail in Hollywood and of course, Nollywood today. www.goethe.de/lagos The Goethe Institute, 10 Ozumba

Mbadiwe Ave, Victoria Island, Lagos 01-4633416, 01-7746888 Lagos Book and Art Festival at the National Arts Theatre at Iganmu, Lagos From the 7th until the 9th of November, Toyin Akinosho and Jahman Anikulapo are at the helm once again at the Lagos Book and Art Festival. Themes of the symposium will include “The Moonlight Tale in African Fiction”, whilst Ahmadu Kourouma’s Allah is Not Obliged and Helon Habila’s Measuring Time are amongst the books under discussion. Communicating for Change In association with the World Wildlife Fund and Television for the Environment (TVE—a UK-based NGO) the CFC will be screening a series of developmental films called Child Survival in Africa. With seven short films taking close-up and widescreen views based on the theme of Child Survival on the Continent, and a promise of high-production values, the films will be brief, but hard-hitting. Check your local broadcast schedules. info@cfcnigeria.org www.cfcnigeria.org

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METRO DIARY 2ND INTERNATIONAL CREATIVE WRITING WORKSHOP

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For ten days in August, some of Nigeria’s most promising young writers took part in Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s International Creative Writing Workshop. With able assistance from the Antiguan writer MarieElena John, the Kenyan Caine Prize winner Binyanvanga Wainaina, and Dave Eggers, author of A Heart Breaking Work of Staggering Genius, many of the writers emerged from the workshop convinced that they had learnt invaluable lessons that would manifest in their future work. Some of the participants were Paul Ugbede, Faisal Wando, Chukwudi Eboka, Suzanne Ushie, and Desmond Udoabasi. At the Fidelity Banksponsored literary evening held to mark the close of the workshop, a mix of guests from the local and international media and publishing industries saw for themselves the results of this kind of literary mentoring—inspired and invigorated writers looking ahead to new challenges.

LAGOS INTERNATIONAL JAZZ FEST Nigeria’s Inspiro Productions and Esp Africa, organizers of the Cape Town Jazz Festival are working hard to put some hi-life era vibes back into the city. The 1st Lagos Jazz Festival, held earlier this summer at Studio 868, was more than a little overdue. Watching the legendary Courtney Pine (pictured left) and his crack team of guitarists, bass players and an outstanding female drummer share the stage with South Africa’s MTV Award-winning Freshly Ground and our own Yinka Davies, you had the sense that this 2-day event had the potential for crossover and to expand the audience for Nigerian and foreign soul and jazz bands. The Nigerian Jazz Club has for years extolled the virtues of the many talented acts that struggle to find outlets for their music; many of these names, such as the Nigerian guitarist Femi Temowo, will be lured back by events such as these. Studio 868, 868 Bishop Aboyade Cole Street, Victoria Island 0802-3044806

©STUDIO 868

ALLIANCE MAKES THE MUSIC At NTA’s Ahmadu Bello Way compound, the Alliance Francaise treated music-lovers to a feast of great live performances. Fete de la Musique ‘08 featured over 40 artists and dancers from across West Africa. Highlights included Fatai Rolling Dollar’s well-tempered guitar, the mellifluous flute of PMAN’s Tee-Mac, the crowd-pleasing energy of Sound Sultan; all in all, this was an event that honoured the spirit of the global Fete de la Musique movement. The event didn’t exactly replicate American musician Joel Cohen’s initial 1976 idea of a city-wide “open day” for amateur and nonprofessional musicians, but the loose, improvisational edge to the event that his idea fostered was certainly there. Alliance Francais, Lagos 01-8911341

EVENTS AT AF LAGOS

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The screening of Marjane Satrapi’s Oscar-nominated animated film Persepolis is just one of the Alliance Francais’ many attractions over the coming months. The young Iranian animator/director is revered in film circles for her touching and funny portrayal of the perils of modern Iranian life. There is also Afro-beat fusion from Seyi Solagbade, visual art from Emmanuel Ekefrey, and from the 9th to 11th of October, the Lire en Fete. This special Reading Festival features a special Book Day on the 11th of October, talks from authors, a Francophone book fair, and autograph signing sessions. www.alliancefrancaise-lagos.fr

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METRO DIARY THE KOKO FOUNDATION

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After a successful new album launch and a series of shows and media appearances, you could forgive some artists for needing a rest. Not D’Banj though, as the snake-hipped afro-hipster is turning his hand to a very personal CSR project. Many of the talks given at his star-studded Ocean View launch event (pictured left) touched on implementing social change and empowering young people, and it does look like his Koko Foundation have hit the ground running. The Koko Foundation for Youth, Peace and Development is D’Banj’s new not-for-profit NGO, and an ambitious undertaking for an artist who has already been a great ambassador for a resurgent urban music industry. Outreach programmes, disease prevention drives, and special appearances at schools for disadvantaged children are just some of what seems a very ambitious program. The new album is selling too. Good times and good deeds beckon for the “Koko Master”. www.kokofoundation.org

LA SAISON ©FARAFINA MAGAZINE

There aren’t many places in Lagos that can serve as refuge from the pressures of work, a respite from the rigours of the daily commute and still keep you wired, both in terms of caffeine and internet connectivity. La Saison underwent a refurbishment earlier this year, and now has even more space outside and upstairs to enjoy Tosan’s cakes, the great espressos, and the fast Wi-Fi. La Saison, 42 Raymond Njoku Street, Ikoyi 01-2706794, 01-471-0592

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THE LIVE REVOLUTION Since Starcomms and Colossal Entertainment first collaborated over 2 years ago, they have come a long way–the concerts, such as those held at The Vault in Victoria Island, are safe, vibrant, and feature a diverse pool of talent. They gave some burgeoning music acts a new audience, and fans of music early access to some of the stars of today, such as Soul-E and Ikechukwu. Colossal Entertainment acknowledges that the Nigerian music industry faces wider problems such as pervasive piracy and the lack of legal frameworks within which proper relationships can be nurtured and artists developed, and are active in seeking high-level corporate and legal resolutions for these problems. In the meantime, look out for more live events, and the Colossal roadshow in places as far afield as Kano and Maiduguri. The Vault, Idowu Martins Street, Victoria Island, Lagos Colossal Entertainment: 01-875-2369, 01-871-6763

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©CCA

A NEW CENTER FOR CONTEMPORARY ARTS The CCA Gallery has set about its mandate as a visual arts organisation and experimental media space with some gusto, holding some compelling exhibitions, talks and gatherings in less than a year of its existence. Visit this exciting new space in time to catch George Osodi’s exhibition on the Niger Delta or Ghariokwu Lemu’s irreverent Afro-infused artwork. In their end of year schedule are interactive sessions scheduled with industry doyens such as Toyin Bello, the photographer Andrew Esiebo, and the art historian and social entrepreneur Professor Sylvester Ogbechie from the University of California. Centre for Contemporary Art (CCA), 9 McEwen Street, Sabo, Lagos info@ccalagos.org 0702 836 7106

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METRO LIFESTYLE

THE STRATOSPHERE

SOFITEL LUXURY HOTELS

Lagos has major issues with urban sprawl–amongst many architects the prevailing wisdom is that in built-up environments, the only way to build is up. Look out then, for the Stratosphere, rising out of the reclaimed sands of Banana Island. One of the most ambitious projects ever undertaken in West Africa, this architectural Babel will house over 600 hotel rooms and luxury flats, with full-length windows for those eye-popping views and a helipad on the roof. www.brookviewinternational.com

The Moorhouse Sofitel has undergone something of an evolution over the past 18 months. A new wing, refurbished rooms and a new design aesthetic are part of a global upgrade that the Sofitel brand is undergoing. With the hotel due to be reclassified as a Sofitel Luxury Hotel, and with the Epe Resort being constructed along similar lines, early signs indicate that the brand should be able to reinforce the unique balance of French hospitality in a contemporary local setting that has been the hallmark of the Accor brand worldwide. With high-level entries from Accor’s major international rivals such as Intercontinental Group and Radisson Hotels expected in the next year, the bar is getting higher for Lagos’ growing hotel market. Sofitel —The Moorhouse, 1 Jide Oki Street, Ikoyi 01-4615409-20

By Anouar Majid

SUNBORN YACHT HOTEL By the end of 2008, Lagos’ many lagoons should be graced by a vessel with a grand difference. The Sunborn Yacht Hotel will surely be an incongruous sight berthed alongside the rusting wrecks and megatonne shipping tankers that adorn Lagos’ waterways. One of the world’s first custom-built yacht hotels, and formerly docked at the Royal Victoria Docks in the south-eastern part of London’s River Thames, the 105-room vessel was acquired by the Lagos State Government and Diamond Bank, and could cost as much as $3million dollars just to transport to Lagos.

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METRO FOOD&DRINK

EKO HOTEL'S THE SKY For a major hotel, Eko Hotel and Suites has always been enviably located in Victoria Island. It’s well-placed in the “business hub” that once-residential Victoria Island is becoming, and the Atlantic sea views are augmented by a constant sea breeze that

wafts through its triple-height lobby from the seaside lagoon. Whilst the new Sky Restaurant on the 12th floor has not answered any questions as to whether the hotel’s features will ever be affordable to anyone but business travellers and the suitably rich, the starkly modern

design has certainly reestablished this 5-star hotel as one of the places to see and be seen in, in Lagos. With a choice of “sea-side” or “city-side” views available at lunch or dinner, the views, especially at dusk, are stunning. The French manager Mr. Francois Puteau makes for

an affable host, and Eko Hotel has always been militant about the quality of its service. This one then, is worth saving up for. The Sky 12th Floor, Eko Hotel and Suites, Adetokunbo Ademola Street, Victoria Island, Ikoyi 01-2624600-11

There seem to be Buddhas sprouting their heads in several venues in Lagos at the moment. Back in 2006, when Bambuddha first opened its doors, it was amongst the first batch of venues to successfully integrate modern fusion elements into its interior design, and immediately proved popular amongst denizens of Lagos. Two years on, the restaurant/bar with the now much-imitated Buddha celebrates with a red-themed cocktail and special meal offers during the months of September and October. www.bambuddha-lagos.com

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BAMBUDDHA'S SECOND BIRTHDAY

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METRO FOOD&DRINK Expand your taste horizons (after hours of course) with this diverse selection of drinks.

Limonce (25% Trieste, Italy) – Like their champagne

Lancers Rose Table Wine (10%) – Portugal is

variant prosecco, limoncello has been a well-kept Italian secret for generations. A sublime liqueur produced from an infusion of Mediterranean lemons, it is served cold, but not freezing, and gives a smooth but intense citrus sensation. As an aid to digestion, it is often served from the fridge at the end of a great meal.

better known for its delicious ports than for its wine, but their winegrowers are experiencing a new vibrancy. This medium-bodied rose wine is a great accompaniment to many dishes.

Mouton Cadet Sauternes Reserve White (11% Baron Philippe De Rothschild) – This sweet white

mix, concoct, design or experiment in any way with cocktails, you should really arm yourself with the Sirop de Ronin range of flavoured mixers. Grenadine will be recognisable as the “secret” ingredient in one of our favourite national drinks, but the mint flavour is essential too.

wine is produced in limited quantities by the famous winemaker. Its beautiful autumnal colour hints at the sweet flavour of apricot, honey and blossom bottled within. A product of the “noble rot” tradition, the wine combines three grape varieties–Semillon, Muscadelle and Sauvignon.

Jan Van Riebeek Merlot Cabernet Sauvignon (13%) – This premium red wine has been bottled for over 350 years, so the vintners should be credited with a high level of expertise. This unusual blend of 75% Cabernet Sauvignon and 25% Merlot is recommended for both beef and poultry dishes.

Absolut Vanilla (40%) – What more is there to say about one of Sweden’s most iconic export? The bottle that has featured in thousands of ingenious advertising campaigns is still a hot favourite amongst fans of vodka. Don’t let the mellow vanilla flavour fool you–this still packs a weighty punch.

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Sirop de Ronin (Grenadine and Mint Flavour) – If you are going to

Amarula & Kahlua (17%) – These drinks seem to go through cycles of being in turn cool and sexy and then outdated and passé. But if you like your Baileys-style liqueur and you haven’t tried a “Caucasian” (White Russian) before, experiment with either of these two.

Lamb & Watt Cherry Brandy (24% Liverpool UK) – For a long cool cocktail, try pouring a measure of gin and cherry brandy over crushed ice. Then top it up with some soda water, and add a silly straw. But please, always drink responsibly.

All these and more available in the Wine section at Super Mega – Mega Plaza, 14 Idowu Martins Street, V/I, Lagos

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METRO REVIEW

PATTAYA

T

Pictures courtesy of Toye Gbade

hai cooking has become renowned for its subtle, harmonious pairings of ingredients and flavour combinations– lemongrass with galanga, or sweet chilli with coconut oil for example. What Thai cooking has done so well is to assimilate many influences over a period of years. Chinese or Siamese recipes, the adoption of certain favoured Western eating styles (traditional Thai cooking eschews large servings of meat for example), and a little of Japan’s flair for “cooking as theatre” all combine to create what we see and taste at a restaurant like Pattaya. In the same way that many Nigerians may not be able to taste the offerings of a “luxury” restaurant like Pattaya but thrive and rightfully revere the roadside bukka, so it is in Thailand—the capital Bangkok is famous for its outdoor stalls and fastfood cafes where the emphasis is on good, cheap and spicy servings. It’s the “Fusion” version of Thai cuisine that Pattaya represents, and although hard to compare (there are only three Thai restaurants in Lagos), it’s hard not to be impressed. There’s a visual poetry to the presentation in the way fruits are carved and stuffed—the dishes are very easy on the eye. The restaurant inhabits a simple but elegant space, adorned with oddly charming portraits of the King and Queen of Thailand which echo the ubiquitous

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portraits of our own rulers. From the uniquely flavoured starters to the frankly stupendous Thai Iced Tea, the culinary experience is always a rich one. The Chicken Satay and the Thai Green Curry were excellent, but the stir-fried beef was almost too rich in taste and did not complement the simplicity of the starters. Sweet Thai desserts usually combine some form of exotic fruit, a benefit attributable to Thailand’s geographical location and the abundance of fruits like mangos, papayas and sweet pineapples. The choice of taking desert or not is not left to you though–the Thai ethos dictates that as you balance chillies with coconut milk you must also balance your savoury main course with a meticulously designed and plated dessert. Besides, the exceptionally courteous Thai chef and manager Noi Netthip frowns upon any refusal of his dessert menu. So a dessert arrives. It’s one of those you don’t quite want to eat straight away because a fork would destabilise the elegant design, but you can’t quite take home either, for the same reason. It can be something of a dilemma.

Pattaya Thai Restaurant, Upper Floor, 13a Musa Yar’adua Street, off Idowu Martins Street, Victoria Island 01-874 3696

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METRO DESTINATIONS

STONETOWN, ZANZIBAR

by Toks Alalade

©TOKS ALALADE

How do you get there? You can Fly Kenyan Airways from Lagos via Nairobi to Stonetown. What was the reception like? Warm and welcoming, even though my luggage was sent on a later flight! Within a couple of hours of being in Zanzibar I’d learnt a whole sequence of greetings. What senses did you use the most while you were there? Sight, as it was so incredibly beautiful. Was there anything peculiar you liked or disliked about the place? I loved seeing the Maasai people in full traditional gear as it was so unexpected. How do you rate the beach life there? Great! The northern tip of the island has some of the best beaches in Zanzibar, Kendwa and Nungwi. You can go diving and snorkeling. One of Zanzibar’s many glorious sunsets is a must see, either out on the water in a dhow or whilst beachcombing for shells (I threw all mine back). What was your most memorable meal? Dinner under the stars at a small makeshift restaurant on one massive communal table right on the edge of the water. We chose from a wide selection of fresh fish and shellfish (barracuda, red snapper, tuna, king fish, octopus, squid, prawns, lobster laid out fish-stall style) caught just hours earlier. What did you bring back from your travels? Lots of kikois (a kind of wrap or sarong), for friends and family.

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PROFILE

would have existed for thirty-eight years. Steven Bankole Omodele Rhodes was born on the 8th of April 1926, to an Equatorial Guinean mother and a Nigerian father. His mother had a passion for playing the piano and his father, who was a lawyer, was a classical music enthusiast. The young Steve and his two sisters were enrolled for music lessons in Lagos, and while at Enitonna High School in Port Harcourt, Steve Rhodes, already displaying a natural gift for music, joined the school band.

STEVE RHODES COM POSED THE THEME SONGS FOR THE NIG ERIA TELEVISION AUTHORITY’S HEADL INE NEWS PROGRAMMES NEWSL INE AND NEWSWEEK. Steve Rhodes proceeded to Germany and then to Oxford to complete his education, and only returned to Nigeria in 1955 when the Nigerian Broadcast Service offered him a job. At the NBS, he formed the first radio orchestra in Nigeria. He was so passionate about the success of his new ensemble that, when faced with the challenge of finding instrumentalists—quite a predicament in 1950s Nigeria—Steve Rhodes, to keep his orchestra alive, turned to using voices for those parts where the instruments were lacking. In the late 1950s, Steve Rhodes left radio for television: he became the first Nigerian Head of Programmes for Africa’s first television station—the WNTV at Ibadan. It was during his stint in Ibadan that he ventured into film production, directing “The More Excellent Way”, which was the first television drama in 1926–2008 Nigeria. After many years in the broadcast n the last quarter of 1970, there was a industry, Steve Rhodes left to set up sharp fall in the attendance of young private business as an independent worshippers to the Christ Church producer of concerts. Amongst the Cathedral, Marina. The Provost came up many international musicians he with a novel idea: a choir would be formed brought to Nigeria were Herbie Mann, that would have the same impact that pop Millicent Small and the late soul singer, music services in Britain had in attracting James Brown. During this period, young worshippers. The new group wasn’t Steve Rhodes, who was trained as an going to be a part of the church’s regular administrator, also held various choir and would only perform at specific positions in Phillip Morris Nigeria, services, with the hope that these culminating in his assumption of the appearances would bring young worshippers R DES WITH HIS MOTHE post of acting managing director of the YOUNG STEVE RHO to the church. The man who was chosen to company. spearhead this project was the musician and composer, Steve During his time as a broadcaster, Steve Rhodes composed the Rhodes. theme songs for the Nigeria Television Authority’s headline news And so Steve Rhodes gathered together his wife, his programmes “Newsline” and “Newsweek”, tunes which are still in daughters, his sisters and the members of another family, the use on both programmes. He also wrote the theme song for the Lawrences. The first public performance of the group, called the popular Nigerian sitcom “Second Chance”. More Steve Rhodes Voices, was on Christmas day 1970. Before long, Nigerians—though most of them don’t know it—have listened to large numbers of worshippers began attending the cathedral for his compositions than to the music of Fela (whose manager he was services. There were so many requests to join the new choir that, at one time). to accommodate applications, the decision was taken by Steve Steve Rhodes, broadcaster, composer and concert Rhodes to expand his small group into a professional choir. In impresario, worked in the Nigerian music industry for over half a 1975, the choir took first prize at the Llangollen International century, most times behind the scenes. He passed on in June Musical Festival at Eisteddfod in Wales—the first of their many 2008, at the age of 82. –By Azafi Ogosi awards. On the 25th of December 2008, the Steve Rhodes Voices

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IN MEMORIAM Some of the leading lights in the arts and media industry who passed away recently

Youssef Chahine, 82: one of Egypt’s most lauded filmmakers. His films reflected his deep interest in Middle Eastern history and society. He directed his first feature film, Baba Amin, in 1950, while the last, Chaos, was shown at the Venice Film Festival in 2007. He is widely credited with discovering the actor Omar Sharif, who played the lead role in his 1954 film, The Blazing Sun. He was awarded the 50th Annual Cannes Film Festival Lifetime Achievement Award in 1997.

Sonny Okosun, 61: popularly known as the king of “ozzidi” music. He found fame across Africa with his sociopolitical “liberation” lyrics. In 1985, he joined other international musicians—Bruce Springsteen and Miles Davis amongst them—to produce a benefit record in support of the fight against apartheid. Okosun later became an evangelist. He produced more than 40 albums in his lifetime.

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Babatunde Jose, 82: doyen of Nigerian journalism, who joined the Daily Times of Nigeria as a technical trainee in 1941. Jose rose to become the Chief Executive and Chairman of the newspaper group. He is reputed to have turned the Daily Times into a formidable institution and a successful business—which at one time sold as much as 500, 000 copies daily. The paper’s eventual collapse is associated with his exit.

Oliver de Coque, 61: singer and guitarist, who became popular in the 1970s with his band, The Expo 76 Ogene Super Sounds. His music inspired the “ogene” dance style in Nigerian highlife. Such albums as Identity, People’s Club and Nmbiri Kambiri were very popular and made huge sales. Weeks before his death, he was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Nigerian Music Awards.

Bernie Mac, 50: feisty and frank American actor and comedian. Mac gained popularity as a stand-up comedian and had his own successful TV series, the Bernie Mac Show. At the time of his death, Bernie Mac had finished working on the film Soul Men with Isaac Hayes, who, coincidentally, died a day after him.

Isaac Hayes, 65: a self-taught musician, who was one of the dominant black artists of the early 1970s. Hayes’s Black Moses album established him as a black leader, and he was involved in the campaign for black civil rights. In 1971, the theme song from Shaft topped the Billboard Hot 100 for two weeks and earned him an Academy Award for Best Original Song. He won a total of 3 Grammys in his 39-year career. He was married to a Ghanaian at the time of his death and had 12 children.

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BASTION ARCH

Hoda Mana


Laila LALAMI

Guest Editor’s Note

I I

have often noticed that whenever one hears about “Africa,” whether on the news, or in music, or in arts, or in literature, the inevitable focus is always the portion of the continent that is geographically south of the Sahara desert. For instance, the “plight of Africa,” that favourite headline of European and American newspapers, usually refers to AIDS or child soldiers or foreign debt or whatever new cause hipsters find fit to embrace at the moment. When African music is written about outside of the continent, it is usually in terms of Youssou N’Dour, or Fela Kuti or Miriam Makeba. African art, as curated in places like The Metropolitan Museum in New York, means only artwork produced south of Senegal to the west and Sudan to the east. I have also noticed that those of us from the Northern parts of the continent are regularly thrust under the headings of “Arab” and “Islam,” to the exclusion of all others. For example, many political problems in North Africa are explained entirely in terms of the rise of Islamic fundamentalism. The art of North Africa can be found generally in the Islamic or Middle Eastern sections of museums. The music is talked about exclusively in terms of its Arab influences. I once heard a TV commentator bemoan the phenomenon of Moroccan hip hop and proclaim Umm Kulthum’s melodies to be the only ‘real’ music. As for North African literature, it is usually placed under the heading of Arab literature in any library or bookstore. So it seems that North Africa is excluded—and occasionally also excludes itself—from considerations of Africa, in all its wondrous ethnic, religious, linguistic, and cultural diversity. In this issue of Farafina magazine, I want to reclaim North Africa for Africa. In his article “Remapping Africanness”, the novelist and academic Anouar Majid shows how North African and sub-Saharan novels in fact share many common themes and concerns. The Rabat-based lawyer and activist Karim Kettani writes about a forgotten chapter of African history—a time when people across the continent shared the same political goals. I am also delighted to include Nouri Gana’s review of Nouri Bouzid’s Akher Film. Professor Waïl Hassan has kindly allowed this magazine to reproduce his introduction to the new African Writers Series edition of Tayib Salih’s masterpiece, Season of Migration to the North. The featured fiction in this issue is an excerpt from Hisham Matar’s novel, In The Country of Men, which was shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 2006. Mathew Shenoda has contributed a lovely poem, and Hoda Mana, Simona Schneider and Alex Yera have supplied the many photographs. Lastly, I am thrilled to include work by the artist Lalla Essaydi, whose pictures rework Orientalist clichés in order to challenge the stereotypes they present. I hope that these contributions serve as an introduction or a re-introduction to the art, culture, and literature of North Africa.

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©Samarth Bhasin

REMAP 21

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By Anouar Majid

D

uring the most recent African Cup of Nations, a soccer tournament held this year in Ghana, Arab audiences were able to watch Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt and Sudan (all members of the Arab League) compete for the title of best soccer team in Africa. All games featuring any of these nations were dutifully broadcast in the United States by the Saudi-owned TV station, ART. Arabs in America needed to watch their fellow Arabs and perhaps join in the prayers of the Tunisian Issam Shawali who, I was told by a Tunisian friend of mine, is a world-renowned sportscaster. He is a man whose narrative of the game fuses the best and worst of Arab culture—unabashed displays of patriotism when Tunisia is on the field; poetic praise for Arab nationalism when any of the other teams are playing; and fervent prayers for all on all occasions. I didn’t see the final triumph of Egypt in the tournament, but I can only imagine what outbursts of ecstasy the Arab audiences must have been invited to participate in. Arab nationalism is well and alive on satellite channels. It can be sweet and comforting, but it can also be fuzzy, forcing the sportscaster to find the right words to separate Arabs from Africans in a tournament that is officially African. The language of African solidarity allowed the speaker to blur the very boundaries by his unambiguous displays of Arab nationalism. Overall, he did an excellent job being the Arab nationalist and proud African, but the

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FEATURE

©Uche Okpa-Iroha

fault lines of culture, if not race, were never entirely erased. A Africa. Like America, and even Europe, Africa is also a place non-black, Arab North Africa and a black, sub-Saharan Africa defined less by the skin color of its inhabitants than by the were natural assumptions to make, although this simple blackdiversity of its cultures and religions. To the extent that and-white scenario got complicated during the Egypt vs. Sudan Moroccans, Senegalese, Sudanese and Nigerians who are Muslim, match. are closer to one another than a Muslim Moroccan is to a Christian FIFA, the world federation of soccer, doesn’t divide the Syrian, although both could be considered Arab. By the same continent into northern and sub-Saharan zones, but here, too, the token, a Muslim Senegalese is culturally closer to a fellow Muslim ideology of race is not entirely absent. Many believe that FIFA’s Egyptian than he or she is to a Christian South African. Islam, in president, Sepp Blatter, was swayed by the notion that the real fact, allows us to see that Africa, like many other parts of the world, Africa is black when he chose South Africa over Morocco to host is divided along religious lines more so than it is along the barriers the 2010 soccer World Cup. I am not sure what my children’s of race or language. teachers think when they invite me to talk about Africa in classrooms decorated with masks and images from Kenya. I just One might say that all Africans—except for the handful of elite wear my djellaba and fez and blend right in. If soccer officials and who benefit from the schemes of corporate exploitation—are American teachers do their part to bridge the arbitrary lines of united by the suffering and painful marginalization in the age of culture and race in Africa, they could help reverse the impression globalization. When I examined a few African novels written by of the vast majority of people who Muslims in the second half of the 20th stubbornly believe that North Africa and century—whether such novels were the rest of the continent are not equal parts authored by Moroccan, Senegalese, or of the whole. Sudanese writers—the common theme was I almost got in trouble when I first came their protagonists’ attempts to survive the to New York in 1983 for insisting to an debilitating effects of European offended Jamaican that I was African. colonialism. These protagonists were all Obviously puzzled that a non-black could privileged members of their make such a claim, the Caribbean man societies—talented, educated in colonial became openly hostile, even though we schools, and sent to the capitals of Europe were in an academic setting. But I was no to finish their studies. If the ultimate of less confused by his response—a native of Muslim travel in the past had consisted of FIFA DOESN’T DIVIDE THE Jamaica, a country on the American the arduous pilgrimage to Mecca (a feat that continent, was denying me the right to be bestowed spiritual wholeness and CONTINENT INTO NORTHERN from Africa, the landmass that includes my significant social prestige on the traveller), AND SUB-SAHARAN ZONES, native Morocco. It was, to say the least, an then today, the Europe-bound traveller odd scene. Bystanders, mostly white, were BUT HERE, TOO, THE IDEOLOGY comes back mutilated before eventually amused by the dispute because they, too, OF RACE IS NOT ENTIRELY dying alone. And those who stay in Europe had their own understanding of Africa don’t fare much better. ABSENT. based on their own history with race. Take, for example, Driss Chraibi’s Africa, whether by its defenders or Algerian character Yalaan Waldik (which, detractors, was, and still is, cast in black by a projection of minds literally, means “a curse on your parents”) in his 1955 novel Les who can’t see the blinding reality of diversity on that richest of Boucs (The Butts). Waldik’s trip to Europe leaves him tortured continents. and wounded; it turns him into an angry man speaking for fellow I first started thinking about the issue of race in Africa when I alienated Arabs—the “Butts”. He does time in prison and quickly realized how Arab-centric my fellow Moroccans could be. In the realizes that the promise of Europe is a mere “mirage”, one, early 1990s, the renowned Moroccan writer Tahar Ben Jelloun however, from which the traveller never returns. For going back declared that, as a Moroccan, he didn’t feel African at all. Instead to one’s native land ends up being too little, too late. The Europeof considering Moroccans, along with other North African states, bound African is on a trip to nowhere. as African Arabs, since such Arabs constitute at least three Cheikh Hamidou Kane’s African classic, Ambiguous quarters of the entire Arab population, he simply “ignored the Adventure, further dramatizes the experience of the young ground on which he stood” by favoring a mythical concept of African’s displacement. The novel opens with an emergency identity, one that emerged fitfully in the wake of European meeting in a Senegalese village on how best to resist “the assault of colonialism. He privileged, in other words, the fiction of Arab strangers [who have] come from beyond the sea.” The charismatic nationalism over the reality of Africanness. Most Royal Lady realizes that there is no escaping To be sure, Africanness is a fiction, too, or at least a word with Europeanization, and there is also no alternative but to school the a long and changing history. But if we accept geographical younger generation in the European ways. designations of continents, then we must at least acknowledge Samba Diallo, a promising religious student from a prominent that such a place as Africa exists. Europeans live in Europe, family, is chosen to spearhead this survival strategy. Unlike many Americans in America, and Africans are those who hail from of today’s Muslim extremists who study science and technology,

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Samba studies philosophy. He does as much as he can to resist Western influences, but he eventually begins to absorb Western values. His father senses his son’s “disquietude”, and, fearing for his perdition, calls him back. It would be too late. By that time, Samba has already lost his uncomplicated faith. The village fool (whose stories about his experiences in war-torn Europe and the wounds he suffered there sound so extravagant to the other villagers that they dismiss them as fanciful accounts), greatly alarmed by Samba’s inability to pray, kills Samba in order to save his soul. Death, the novel tells us, turns Samba into the infinite, not the nothing he had become in his exile. Death is, in fact, the “found” kingdom of no ambiguity. The same sort of fate hounds the Sudanese “prodigy” Mustafa Sa’eed in Tayeb Salih’s masterpiece, Season of Migration to the North. Like Samba Diallo, Mustafa enrols in the European school system (English, in this case) and eventually makes his way to Cairo, “a city at the height of English rule”, where Mrs. Robinson awakens him to his sexuality. Sexual desire is thus, from the start, associated with Western women. Once in London, the young man immediately steels himself for a war against the British, planning to seduce their women and even kill them in order to avenge a deep-seated grievance against Europeans, who, in Mustafa’s view, have waged violence against others—as well as among themselves—for centuries. He describes himself as a “colonizer” and “intruder”, “a drop of the poison which [Europe has] injected into the veins of history.” He lies constantly and invents an identity that conforms to British stereotypes of Africans, yet he remains painfully aware that he has internalized much of the West he strongly despises. So he kills his English wife, Jean Morris, in a final but futile attempt to exorcise Western influences from his being. Only after returning to his native country to live with his new Sudanese wife and children does he realize that his situation is hopeless. His schizophrenic mental state becomes intolerable, and he drowns himself in the Nile. More than two decades later, another Senegalese writer reminded us that the same problems continue to haunt a new generation of Muslims. Marietou M’Baye, who writes under the pseudonym Ken Bugul, published Abandoned Baobab in 1982. It is an autobiographical account of a promising student who expects to be liberated by French culture. Yet upon arriving in Belgium on a scholarship, she is quickly disillusioned by the social alienation and cold materialism of a society where only shopping seems to confer an identity. No one greets or pays attention to her. Although Bugul identifies with the predicament of all women, she also rejects Western feminism’s claims to a universal sisterhood. Cultures are truly different, she realizes. Confused and disoriented, she seeks unfulfilling sexual relations, gets pregnant and goes through an abortion performed by a racist doctor, after which she begins to use drugs. She puts up pictures of her nude body in the room she shares with a male American G.I., starts providing massages to men, models for artists and photographers, and dances in nightclubs before finally prostituting herself for the sake of a moment of attention. Throughout her rapid descent into this marginal existence, she becomes increasingly suicidal. Mustering all the willpower she can, she returns home to Senegal, only to find out that the still-

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standing baobab tree—a symbol of local stability that has sustained her throughout her travails in Belgium—has long been dead. With nothing left, Bugul pronounces a eulogy for the tree that might as well be the eulogy of her life and, indeed, the entire African continent. The same agonizing ruptures afflict young North African men. Many of Tahar Ben Jelloun’s early novels and accounts of immigrant life in France are, in some ways, the chronicle of a steadily mounting despair felt by Muslims all over Europe. Young Muslim men and women who had hoped to escape the economic and cultural constraints of their native villages and towns find themselves coping with rejection and social marginalization. Disillusionment with Europe’s promise of a better life, cheerfully peddled at home by sweet-talking colonialists and missionaries, takes on the dimension of a timeless conflict; the one pitting Islam against “infidel” Christians, or a human Africa against an exploitative Europe. Feeling betrayed and lonely, they succumb to a despondency that threatens to explode into violence. Over the course of more than fifty years, African literature has repeatedly shown us that the African’s legal journey or illegal crossing into Europe doesn’t discriminate between North Africans and sub-Saharan ones. Today, migrants may take off from a Moroccan city like Tangier, but the zodiacs or pateras that carry these fortune seekers contain the full spectrum of African colours and languages. They travel to reclaim the lives they have been deprived of by the usurious and exploitative schemes of capitalism. One day we read an account of African immigrants being hunted down by law enforcement agents at the border zones; the next day we are treated to accounts of seabedscrubbing trawlers emptying African waters of fish to satisfy the demanding palates of rich nations. With their natural resources snatched away by the voracious appetite of the West, many African fishermen end up on Spanish shores as lifeless bodies. The African—whether from the north, the middle, or the south of the continent—is as much an object of consumption as his or her resources are. When I was a teenager, I attended a poetry reading in Tangier that has haunted me ever since. The poet was Cuban, and his subject was the coffee bean. It was an account of the common fate of the two, travelling from their birthplace in Africa and ending up together in the New World, with the African serving coffee to the white customer. This is now the fate of all Africans, serving bits and pieces of Africana to customers lured by the exotic. Africa is one in its destiny and diversity. Those who divide it along artificial lines would do better to listen to its voices. Africa’s annals of history bespeak a complex but, quite often, common fate. African literature continues to uphold this sensibility, affirming the invisible but robust kinship between the likes of late Driss Chraibi and Marietou M’Baye.

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THE

SAHARA

©Vlad Wojcik

©Vlad Wojcik

AND ITS MANY FACES

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FROM THE ATLANTIC OCEAN TO THE RED SEA “Sahara” is gotten from the plural of the Arabic noun sahra, which means “desert”. The Sahara Desert stretches over 3,200 miles from the Atlantic Ocean to the Red Sea. From the Mediterranean Sea southwards it varies in width from 800 to 1,400 miles across. It encompasses about 3.5 million square miles, approximately onethird of Africa's land mass, and traverses more than eight North African countries. The Sahara, however, is not one large desert, but several, distinct and different both in nature and landscape.

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©Kelechi Amadi-Obi

THE LIVING SAHARA The Sahara is a desert on the move. Some countries, like Algeria for example, have lost close to 80 percent of their land mass to desert encroachment. Even large swathes of Northern Nigeria are being encroached into. Experts agree that an estimated 35 percent of land that was fertile 50 years ago has been lost to desertification across 11 states in Northern Nigeria, with the major causes of the desert expansion being global warming and deforestation. The FADE organisation, led by Dr. Newton Jibunoh, recently undertook a 16,000 km journey from Lagos to London to raise awareness about desert encroachment in the Sahara region.

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©Hoda Mana

CITIES OF THE NORTH

©Vlad Wojcik

Cairo, Marrakech, Tangiers, Agadir, Casablanca and Algiers are amongst the largest cities in North Africa. The port city of Agadir, which is a popular “winter sun” destination for tourists, lies on the north coast of Morocco. The ancient city of Algiers has history dating back to the 6th century, when it was a part of the Byzantine Empire.

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©Vlad Wojcik ©Kelechi Amadi-Obi

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THE TRADE HUB

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ŠEileen Nicolson

ŠKelechi Amadi-Obi

Trans-Saharan trade has existed for centuries, with the means of transportation (horses, camels, donkeys and motorized vehicles) and articles traded (from gold and slaves to ivory, salt, beads, cloth and metal goods) changing over time. Trading activities have served as a unifying force among the different races and tribes of the Sahara, such as the Berbers and Tuaregs of Tunisia, but it has also been the source of much conflict. The Sahara is used as a pathway by some Africans to migrate into Europe, often with tragic consequences.

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ŠSamarth Bhasin ŠKelechi Amadi-Obi

THE SAHARA MEETS THE SAHEL

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The eco-region where sub-Saharan Africa meets the Sahara desert is known as the Sahel. Apart from a few plateaus and mountainous regions, the Sahel is symbolized by a flat topography. Several centuries ago, this once-fertile land was part of the Sahara and had many deep lakes teeming with aquatic life; what remains of these vast water bodies are drying lakes such as the Lake Chad. In the past, armies from the north of Africa were repelled from aggressive advances southwards into the northern territories of kingdoms such as the Yorubas of Nigeria and the Ashanti of Ghana because their horses, camels and people could not cope with the forests and diseases of this region of the Sahel.

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NAGUIB MAHFOUZ

“It’s clearly more important to treat one’s fellow man well than to be always praying and fasting and touching one’s head to a prayer mat.” 30

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In The Country of Men ©Hoda Mana

By Hisham Matar

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am recalling now that last summer before I was sent away. It was 1979, and the sun was everywhere. Tripoli lay brilliant and still beneath it. Every person, animal and ant went in desperate search for shade; those occasional grey patches of mercy carved into the white of everything. But true mercy only arrived at night, a breeze chilled by the vacant desert, moistened by the humming sea, a reluctant guest silently passing through the empty streets, vague about how far it was allowed to roam in this realm of the absolute star. And it was rising now, this star, as faithful as ever, chasing away the blessed breeze. It was almost morning. The window in her bedroom was wide open, the glue tree outside it silent, its green shy in the early light. She hadn’t fallen asleep until the sky was grey with dawn. And even then I was so rattled I couldn’t leave her side, wondering if, like one of those hand-puppets that play dead, she would bounce up again, light another cigarette and continue begging me, as she had been doing only minutes before, not to tell, not to tell. Baba never found out about Mama’s illness; she only fell ill when he was away on

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business. It was as if, when the world was empty of him, she and I remained as stupid reminders, empty pages that had to be filled with the memory of how they had come to be married. I sat watching her beautiful face; her chest rise and fall with breath, unable to leave her side, hearing the things she had just told me swim and repeat in my head. Eventually I left her and went to bed. When she woke up she came to me. I felt her weight sink beside me, then her fingers in my hair. The sound of her fingernails on my scalp reminded me of once when I was unlucky. I had thrown a date in my mouth before splitting it open, only discovering it was infested with ants when their small shell-bodies crackled beneath my teeth. I lay there silent, pretending to be asleep, listening to her breath disturbed by tears. During breakfast I tried to say as little as possible. My silence made her nervous. She talked about what we might have for lunch. She asked if I would like some jam or honey. I said no, but she went to the fridge and got some anyway. Then, as was usual on the mornings after she had been ill, she took me on a drive to pull me out of my silence, to return me to myself again. Waiting for the car to warm up, she turned on the radio, skipped through the dial and didn’t stop until she heard the beautiful voice of Abd al-Basit Abd al-Sammad. I was glad because, as everyone knows, one must refrain from speaking and listen humbly to the Quran when it is read. Just before we turned into Gergarish Street, the street that follows the sea, Bahloul the beggar appeared out of nowhere. Mama hit the brakes and said ya satir. He wandered over to her side, walking slowly, clasping his dirty hands tightly to his stomach, his lips quivering. “Hello, Bahloul,” Mama said, rummaging in her purse. “I see you, I see you,” he said, and although these were the words Bahloul most often uttered, this time I thought what an idiot Bahloul is and wished he would just vanish. I watched him in the side mirror standing in the middle of the street, clutching the money Mama had given him to his chest like a man who has just caught a butterfly.

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he took me downtown to the sesame man in the market by Martyrs’ Square, the square that looked on to the sea, the square where a sculpture of Septimius Severus, the Roman

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FICTION

Emperor born all those years ago in Lepcis, proudly stood. She bought me as many sesame sticks as I wanted, each wrapped in white wax-paper twisted at either end. I refused to let her put them in her bag. On such mornings I was always stubborn. “But I have some more shopping to do,” she said. “You’re bound to drop them like this.” “No,” I said, curling my eyebrows, “I’ll wait for you outside,” and walked off angrily, not caring if I lost her or became lost from her in the big city. “Listen,” she called after me, attracting people’s attention. “Wait for me by Septimius Severus.” There was a large café on one side that spilled out on to the passageway. Men, some faces I recognized from before, sat playing dominoes and cards. Their eyes were on Mama. I wondered if her dress shouldn’t be looser. As I walked away from her I felt my power over her recede; I began to feel sorry and sad how on such mornings she was always generous and embarrassed, as if she had walked out naked. I wanted to run to her, to hold her hand, latch on to her dress as she shopped and dealt with the world, a world full of men and the greed of men. I forced myself not to look back and focused instead on the shops set within arched bays on either side of the covered passageway. Black silk scarves billowed gently above one,

I LEANED AGAINST THE COOL MARBLE PEDESTAL OF SEPTIMIUS SEVERUS. THE ROMAN EMPEROR STOOD ABOVE ME, HIS SILVER-STUDDED BELT CURVING BELOW HIS BELLY, POINTING HIS ARM TOWARDS THE SEA, “URGING LIBYA TO LOOK TOWARDS ROME,” WAS HOW USTATH RASHID DESCRIBED THE POSE. columns of stacked red caps stood as tall as men outside another. The ceiling was made with dark strips of fabric. The white blades of light that pierced through the occasional gaps illuminated the swimming dust and shone still and beautiful on the arches and floor, but darted like sparkles on the heads and down the bodies of passers-by, making the shadows seem much darker than they were. Outside, the square was flooded with sunlight. The ground was almost white with brightness, making the dark shoes and figures crossing it look like things floating above the world. I wished I had left the sesame sticks with her. Small needles were now pricking my arms. I told myself off for being stubborn and for letting her buy me so many. I looked at them in my arms and felt no appetite for them. I leaned against the cool marble pedestal of Septimius Severus. The Roman Emperor stood above me, his silver-studded belt curving below his belly, pointing his arm towards the sea, “Urging Libya to look towards Rome,” was how Ustath Rashid described the pose. Ustath Rashid taught Art History at El-Fateh University and was my best friend Kareem’s father. I remembered our Guide standing in one of his military uniforms like this, waving his arm as the tanks passed in front of him on Revolution Day. I turned towards the sea, the shining turquoise sea beyond the square. It seemed like a giant blue monster rising at the edge of the world. “Ghrrr,” I growled, then wondered if anyone had heard me.

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I kicked my heel against the pedestal several times. I stared at the ground, into the heat and brightness that made me want to sleep with my eyes open. But then, not looking for but falling directly on my target, I spotted Baba. He was standing on the edge of the pavement in a street opposite the square, looking both ways for traffic, arching forward as if he was about to fall. Before he stepped on to the road he motioned with his hand then snapped his fingers twice. It was a gesture that I knew. Sometimes he would wave to me like that, as if to say, “Come on, come on,” then snap his fingers, “Hey, wake up.” Behind him appeared Nasser, Baba’s office clerk, carrying a small shiny black typewriter beneath his arm, struggling to keep up. Baba was already crossing the street, walking towards me. For a moment I thought he might be bringing Nasser to Septimius Severus, to teach him all the things he had taught me about the Roman Emperor, Lepcis Magna and Rome. For Baba regarded Nasser as a younger brother, he often said so himself. “Baba?” I whispered. Two dark lenses curved like the humpbacks of turtles over his eyes. The sky, the sun and the sea were painted by God in colours we could all point at and say the sea is turquoise, the sun banana, the sky blue. Sunglasses are terrible, I thought, because they change all of this and keep those who wear them at a distance. At that moment I remembered how, only a couple of days ago, he had kissed us goodbye. “May God bring you back safely,” Mama told him, “and make your trip profitable.” I had kissed his hand like he taught me to. He had leaned down and whispered in my ear, “Take care of your mother, you are the man of the house now,” and grinned at me in the way people do when they think they have paid you a compliment. But look now, look; walking where I could touch him, here where we should be together. My heart quickened. He was coming closer. Maybe he means me, I thought. It was impossible to see his eyes. I watched him walk in that familiar way—his head pointing up slightly, his polished leather shoes flicking ahead with every step—hoping he would call my name, wave his hand, snap his fingers. I swear if he had I would have leaped into his arms. When he was right there, close enough that if I extended my arm I could touch him, I held my breath and my ears filled with silence. I watched his solemn expression—an expression I admired and feared—caught the scent-edge of his cologne, felt the air swell round him as he walked past. He was immediately followed by Nasser, carrying the black shiny typewriter under one arm. I wished I was him, following Baba like a shadow. They entered one of the buildings overlooking the square. It was a white building with green shutters. Green was the colour of the revolution, but you rarely saw shutters painted in it. “Didn’t I tell you to wait by the sculpture?” I heard Mama say from behind me. I looked back and saw that I had strayed far from Septimus Severus.

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felt sick, anxious that I had somehow done the wrong thing. Baba wasn’t on a business trip, but here, in Tripoli, where we should be together. I could have reached out and caught him from where he was heading; why had I not acted? I sat in the car while she loaded the shopping, still holding on to the sesame sticks. I looked up at the building Baba and Nasser

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FICTION

had entered. A window on the top floor shuddered then swung open. Baba appeared through it. He gazed at the square, no longer wearing the sunglasses, leaning with his hands on the sill like a leader waiting for the clapping and chanting to stop. He hung a small red towel on the clothesline and disappeared inside.

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n the way home I was more silent than before, and this time there was no effort in it. As soon as we left Martyrs’ Square, Mama began craning her neck towards the rear-view mirror. Stopping at the next traffic light, she whispered a prayer to herself. A car stopped so close beside us I could have touched the driver’s cheek. Four men dressed in dark safari suits sat looking at us. At first I didn’t recognize them, then I remembered. I remembered so suddenly I felt my heart jump. They were the same Revolutionary Committee men who had come a week before and taken Ustath Rashid. Mama looked ahead, her back a few centimetres away from the backrest, her fists tight round the steering wheel. She released one hand, brought it to my knee and sternly whispered, “Face forward.” When the traffic light turned green the car beside us didn’t move. Everyone knows you mustn’t overtake a Revolutionary Committee car, and if you have to then you must do it discreetly, without showing any pleasure in it. A few cars, unaware of who was parked beside us, began to sound their horns. Mama drove off slowly, looking more at the rear-view mirror than the road ahead. Then she said, “They are following us, don’t look back.” I stared at my bare knees and said the same prayer over and over. I felt the sweat gather between my palms and the wax-paper wrapping of the sesame sticks. It wasn’t until we were almost home that Mama said, “OK, they are gone,” then mumbled to herself, “Nothing better to do than give us an escort, the rotten rats.” My heart eased and my back grew taller. The prayer left my lips. The innocent, Sheikh Mustafa, the imam of our local mosque, had told me, have no cause to fear; only the guilty live in fear.

I was walking around the house looking for something to do when the telephone rang. I ran to it before it could wake her up. It was Baba. On hearing his voice my heart quickened. I thought he must be calling so soon after I had seen him to explain why he hadn’t greeted me. “Where are you?” “Abroad. Let me speak to your mother.” “Where abroad?” “Abroad,” he repeated, as if it was obvious where that was. “I’ll be home tomorrow.” “I miss you.” “Me too. Call your mother.” “She’s asleep. Shall I wake her up?” “Just let her know I’ll be home tomorrow, about lunch time.” I didn’t want the conversation to end so I said, “We were followed today by that same white car that took Ustath Rashid. We were side by side at the traffic light and I saw their faces. I was so close I could have touched the driver’s cheek and I wasn’t frightened. Not at all. Not even a little, I wasn’t.” “I’ll see you tomorrow,” he said and hung up. I stood for a while beside the telephone and listened to the thick silence that seemed to descend on our house during those hours in the afternoon, a silence edged by the humming of the

EVERYONE KNOWS YOU MUSTN’T OVERTAKE A REVOLUTIONARY COMMITTEE CAR, AND IF YOU HAVE TO THEN YOU MUST DO IT DISCREETLY, WITHOUT SHOWING ANY PLEASURE IN IT. fridge in the kitchen and the ticking of the clock in the hallway. I went to watch Mama sleep. I sat beside her, checking first that her chest was rising and falling with breath. I remembered the words she had told me the night before, “We are two halves of the same soul, two open pages of the same book,” words that felt like a gift I didn’t want.

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didn’t help her carry the shopping into the house as was usual. I went straight to my room and dropped the sesame sticks on the bed, shaking the blood back into my arms. I grabbed my picture book on Lepcis Magna. Ten days before I had visited the ancient city for the first and, as it turned out, last time. Images of the deserted city of ruins by the sea still lingered vividly in my mind. I longed to return to it. I didn’t come out until I had to: after she had prepared lunch and set the table and called my name. When she tore the bread she handed me a piece; and I, noticing she hadn’t had any salad, passed her the salad bowl. Midway through the meal she got up and turned on the radio. She left it on a man talking about farming the desert. I got up, said, “Bless your hands,” and went to my room. “I will take a nap,” she said after me. My silence made her say things she didn’t need to say, she always took a nap in the afternoons, everyone did, everyone except me. I never could nap. I waited in my room until she had finished washing the dishes and putting away the food, until I was certain she had gone to sleep, then I came out.

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MOROCCO & AFRICA: FROM BEN BARKA TO SEBTA AND MELILLA By Karim Kettani

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hen Patrice Lumumba was assassinated, my father, then still a teenager, went out to demonstrate in front of the Belgian Consulate General in Casablanca. Thousands of students joined him, and were severely beaten by the riot police. That same year, my mother, a Swedish au pair in Brussels, felt the brunt of some Belgians’ hostility towards her country, which was fuelled by UN Secretary General Dag Hammarskjöld’s perceived, but in fact imaginary, bias in favour of Lumumba. Insults were hurled and tyres flattened. I grew up hearing these family recollections, so I’ve always felt connected to Africa; a statement ludicrous in itself as I am Moroccan and thus African, but nevertheless necessary in view of the mental and ideological distance that some discourses have managed to place between North Africa and sub-Saharan Africa. What strikes me about these family stories is that in 1961 —which is to say, not so long ago—thousands of young Moroccans spontaneously took to the streets to protest the murder of Congo’s prime minister. The common struggle against colonial oppression and an abstract though vividly felt affinity with tiers-mondisme, meant that young Moroccans could, and did, feel directly and personally concerned by the murder of Patrice Lumumba at the hands of Congolese accomplices of Belgian and American powers. But the relationship between Morocco and Congo would turn less idealistic: while Patrice Lumumba gave way to Mobutu Sese Seko, King Mohammed V gave way, that same year, to King Hassan II. Ideology and solidarity between colonized people gave way to Cold War realpolitik. Alignment with Western powers led to diplomatic and military solidarity between regimes and rulers, rather than between peoples. In this context, it is perhaps no coincidence that the tiers-

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mondiste Patrice Lumumba died in Congo, while the pro-Western Moise Tshombé and Mobutu died in ignominious exile in Algiers and Rabat, respectively. Nor is it coincidental that the spontaneous outbursts of popular protest in Casablanca in January 1961, were to give way to the Franco-Moroccan military intervention in the Shaba in 1978, aimed at quashing an antiMobutu uprising. This sketch of the recent history of Morocco/Congo relations epitomizes the evolution from popular solidarity to élite realpolitik between Northern and Southern Africa—because Moroccan history is not specific in its estrangement from Southern Africa. Algeria and Libya, despite having had a distinct socialist and tiers-mondiste political orientation, are as much aloof from the rest of the continent as is Morocco. But it began differently: under King Mohammed V, Morocco was a founding member of the Accra and Casablanca groups, which united like-minded African progressive countries and leaders, including Gamal Abdel Nasser, Sékou Touré, Kwame Nkrumah, Modibo Keita and King Mohammed V. When the king died in 1961, his son and successor Hassan II opted out of his father’s progressive and non-aligned foreign policy. This was deliberate. The break from his father’s legacy extended to the domestic scene, where the charismatic and internationally minded leader of the Union Nationale des Forces Populaires (U.N.F.P)—Morocco’s then main leftist party—Mehdi Ben Barka, was keen on pursuing a comprehensive reform of Morocco’s economy and institutions as he was on fighting against colonialism in its different shapes and colours, be it in Palestine, South Africa, Cuba or Vietnam. The more Hassan II began to close ranks with Western

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From left: Dag Hammarskjold; Moise Tshombe; King Hassan II; King Mohammed V; Kwame Nkrumah; Mehdi Ben Barka; Patrice Lumumba; Mobutu Sese Seko

powers, the more Mehdi Ben Barka stressed the need for Third World unity against Western imperialism. In 1963, he became secretary-general of the Organisation de solidarité des peuples d’Afrique, d’Asie et d’Amérique latine (OSPAAL), also known as the Tricontinental, where he rapidly became a world figure on a par with the likes of Fidel Castro, Gamal Abdel Nasser, Ho Chi Minh or Nelson Mandela. Incidentally, this international and progressive profile contributed to his death, as Moroccan authorities were able to count on French, American and Israeli complicity to rid the international scene of his inspiring presence—he was “disappeared” in Paris on October 29, 1965. One of Ben Barka’s last contributions to the Tricontinental was to attend the Wenneba conference in Ghana in April and May of 1965. That meeting, which was attended by four hundred people, comprising of Asian, African and Latin American delegates, was held to prepare the first Tricontinental Conference and was recounted by Otmane Bennani, his assistant. His aim was to strengthen the international solidarity with the help of movements in Asia and Africa fighting against colonialism and neo-colonialism—a solidarity manifest in his many travels to over thirty African countries in 1963, for instance. At the Wenneba Conference—dubbed by Bennani “the most important one in the history of the Tricontinental”—the Latin Americans joined their African and Asian brethren and elected Ben Barka “president-to-be” of the first Tricontinental Conference in Havana in 1966, with Ghana replacing Morocco. Ben Barka then went on to Beijing to try and mend the Sino-Soviet rift, which deeply divided the non-aligned African and Asian countries. He returned to Europe and Paris in 1965, where he was abducted and has never been seen again. As we all know, things haven’t evolved as Mehdi Ben Barka or Kwame Nkrumah would have hoped. Ideological solidarity across the continent was soon replaced with heightened national, ethnic and religious tensions. The thought of thousands of Moroccan students taking spontaneously to the streets, to protest against the murder of a Congolese prime minister, now seems surreal. In fact, the most salient phenomenon linking the average Moroccan to sub-Sahara Africa is, besides the periodic disappointment after each African Nations Cup, the increasing presence of sub-Saharan migrants in Morocco, desperately trying to slip into a fortress Europe present on Moroccan soil through the Spanish enclaves of

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Sebta and Melilla. Enduring heavy-handed treatment at the hands of Moroccan authorities, they symbolize the division of the group of countries formerly known as the Third World. It is only once they reach European soil that Moroccans and other Africans face a common fate as potential and equally unwanted illegal migrants. Sharing a common hope in the 1960s, they now share common frustrations and hardship.

Morocco was a founding member of the Accra and Casablanca groups, which united like-minded African progressive countries and leaders, including Gamal Abdel Nasser, Sékou Touré, Kwame Nkrumah, Modibo Keïta and King Mohammed V.

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On The River: A Nile Lament In Twelve Parts By Matthew Shenoda I We’ve only just begun Grasp the twisting mire of this history On the road to criminal ancestry A sheath gone wander Expose the blade to human gully Trenched by libations Vital flow Run thin

But we are also of water And need not the passage Born with fire on our tongues We breathe our children’s repose Arrived in a place so strange The trees lean wrong

II Imesti Jar with a head like mine Hold the liver of a brother thieved Qebehsenuef Trade your contents for cash Sudan’s organs Like blood diamond Money for the caliphate war III Lord, this yoke This tailored refuse We’ve tasted with our tongues Driven with our spirits Sung with our limbs Resurrected with our eyes Sequestered your tally and vowed That deliverance will come IV The bridges have been burned Brethren

V There is power in a single act Resistance in a bearded man A woman who walks this earth Knowing her strength And somewhere across the Atlantic Bones—bones—bones Covering the ocean floor Like sand granules VI No one speaks the story of the woman Who cut her hair in pine


Let each strand go Down river

IX Young boys float So as not to disturb the fallen

No one tells the truth of the man Who only dreamt to feed his children

Feet suspended in air The earth a graveyard

Gave his dignity for bread And entreated the sun for blindness

Soldiers for twisted desires Troopers for power lust

VII And their eyes still scourge us Buried beneath our skin

They dream of balancing bread on their palms Pedaling bicycles in a new direction

Frayed like a fern leaf We are torn between two lines

X Roadways skirt the farm Too close to spire and mortar

Migratory foot paths Leading to a new haunt

Drag stalk to earth Make bails in the shadow of bricks Up river there is a tumbling Down the bank like billowing smoke Children live in liquid contour Edfu and electrical towers XI Race to grace the Nile Salve from heat Lily expanse in the crane’s path Island marsh, in the center of this river One push from shore One paddle to touch

Refugee tents where dreams are made Hair parted by blood VIII The minarets curve like dandelions Uneasy in their own tendency A bird of the sky, recluse in haze Dots the horizon like satellite dishes The men on their knees, aiming towards space Touch concrete to root ground Prayers take flight And find their home in elevated ears

Doum shade points Haven in the right direction XII East from here, Moses split the sea in two In the country of waiting Made the crag peaks into home In the land of duality Serket, stone-memory Hold the rock as evidence Make your children to feel their weight Compass their spines towards rectitude


THE LAST FILM By Nouri Gana

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ince its release in late 2006, Nouri Bouzid’s Akher film (which literally means “The Last Film”), has received broad acclaim in the Arab world, Africa, Europe and North America. After winning the Tanit d'or (Gold Tanit) in the 2006 Carthage Film Festival, it went on to take the Best Screenplay Award in the 2007 Tribeca Film Festival, and more recently, the Ibn Rushd Prize. The latter is named after the Andalusian Muslim philosopher, Ibn Rushd or Averroës, and is awarded annually by the Germany-based Ibn Rushd Fund for Freedom of Thought. Insofar as the 2007 Ibn Rushd Prize was to be awarded to a filmmaker whose work promotes freedom and democracy, and tackles the problem of social and political taboos from a fresh perspective, there cannot be a more deserving candidate than Tunisia’s versatile and veteran filmmaker, Nouri Bouzid. Perhaps, because of his firsthand experience of prison and torture for five years under the ancien régime of Habib Bourguiba, Nouri Bouzid’s cinematographic passion has centered on staging defeated and broken individuals in search of human dignity, societal justice and political reckoning. For example, in his 1986 début feature film Rih essed (a.k.a Man of Ashes), he tackles the issue of child molestation; the way a sexually abused apprentice carpenter grows into adulthood stigmatized by the scandal of homosexuality and the claim of lack of manhood, which prompts him, at the end, to avenge himself against his molester, the boss carpenter. Similarly, Akher film chronicles the fate of another defeated and broken individual (a street break-dancer and a crook), whose pursuit of an illegal passage to Europe turns into a misguided quest for paradise and martyrdom. This story is set at a time when the 2003 British and US-led military campaign against Iraq—which ignited feelings of shame, humiliation, and anger throughout the Arab world—was well under way. The disoriented 25-year-old Bahta (Lotfi Abdelli) falls into the hands of a clandestine fundamentalist faction, and is gradually indoctrinated into believing that the best thing he could do with his life is literally blow it up for the sake of a guaranteed paradise and dozens of voluptuously beautiful houris, or young women. Perhaps, the brainwashing scenes are the least convincing part of the film; they might mislead some people into thinking that Bouzid is, indeed, playing into the hands of US foreign policymakers and corrupt Arab regimes. But while the

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brainwashing scenes might unduly foreground religious fundamentalism as the root cause of Bahta’s radicalization, the scenes do not appropriate our attention away from the gamut of factors presented in the film: familial (abusive father); personal (betrayal and abortive romance); educational (no degree); economic (unemployment); social (poverty); civic (constantly chased by state police); psychological (shame and disgruntlement) and international pressure (the American invasion of Iraq and the clampdown on illegal immigration to Europe), amongst others. All these elements combined contribute to the making of a terrorist. Religious indoctrination by itself is an insufficient tool. For instance, when Bahta turns out to be too careless and slippery for the underground fundamentalist group, they decide to lock him up in a deserted wine factory. When he finds his way out of his captivity, Bahta punishes one member of the group. Thereafter he is chased by the police and runs to a nearby port, where he detonates himself in a metal container on which the word CAPITAL is written in block letters, thus implying that global capitalism is to blame for the emergence of the Kamikaze mentality in Arab youth culture. Be that as it may, for Nouri Bouzid, Islam ought to be kept apart from any form of ideological or political struggle; be it against US imperialism or Israeli occupation. Akher film hammers this point home through a thoughtful sequence of interruptions whereby Bouzid intervenes in his own film to convince the mortified lead actor, Lotfi Abdelli, about the good intentions behind the film—that far from waging a campaign against Islam, a religion he loves, it unmasks the hypocrisy of fundamentalist groups in which Islam is exploited to advance various political agendas. Thus, Akher film becomes as much a film about the making of a Kamikaze as a film about the making of a film about the making of a Kamikaze. While these meta-filmic scenes might awake spectators to the fictional nature of the film—and allow the director to anticipate and respond to the criticisms of his detractors—they paradoxically threaten the credulity of the film, which hinges on the fictional relation and willing suspension of disbelief. The point that the film makes is that truth itself might not be obtainable if it can no longer be discernible through the visual or fictional.

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Nouri Bouzid


©Hoda Mana

Tayeb Salih and the Wad Hamid Cycle By Waïl S. Hassan

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he back cover of the first Heinemann edition of Tayeb Salih’s Season of Migration to the North, published in English translation in 1969, featured the following statement by Edward W. Said, one of the most influential literary and cultural critics of the second half of the twentieth century: “Season of Migration to the North is among the six finest novels to be written in modern Arabic literature.” Almost two decades earlier, another critic, Albert Guerard, wrote in his introduction to the 1950 New American Library edition of Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness that it was “among the half-dozen greatest short novels in the English language.” In praising Salih’s novel, Said was quoting almost verbatim Guerard’s famous appraisal of Conrad’s classic. Said was himself an expert on Conrad, having published a book on him in 1966, so what he wrote about Salih’s novel was calculated to equate its importance to that of Conrad’s within their respective literary traditions: just as Heart of Darkness is a masterpiece of English literature, so is Season of Migration to the North an equally great classic of modern Arabic literature. Later on, in his major book Culture and Imperialism, Said argued that Salih’s novel reverses the trajectory of Heart of Darkness and in effect rewrites it from an Arab African perspective. If Conrad’s story of European colonialism in Africa describes the protagonist’s voyage south to the Congo, and along the way projects Europeans’ fears, desires, and moral dilemmas upon what they called the “Dark Continent,” Salih’s novel depicts the journey north from Sudan, another place in Africa, to the

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colonial metropolis of London, and voices the colonized’s fascination with, and anger at, the colonizer. Both voyages involve the violent conquest of one place by the natives of another: Kurtz is the unscrupulous white man who exploits Africa in the name of the civilizing mission, while Mustafa Sa’eed is the opportunist black man who destroys European women in the name of the freedom fight. Both novels also depict a “secret sharer” or a double—Marlow in Conrad’s tale and the unnamed narrator in Salih’s—who are at once obsessed and repulsed by Kurtz and Mustafa Sa’eed, respectively. This way of reading novels from former European colonies as counter-narratives to colonial texts is one of the strategies of postcolonial literary criticism. Postcolonial critics have argued that narratives of conquest by writers such as Daniel Defoe, Rudyard Kipling, Ryder Haggard, Conrad, E.M. Forster, Joyce Cary, and others are crucial to understanding British culture. Even the seemingly insular and domestic world of Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park depends for its sustenance, according to Said, on the existence of the British Empire in general, and on slave labour in Antigua in particular. Postcolonial critics also emphasize those literary texts from formerly colonized countries that portray the ravages of imperialism and directly challenge the authority and the claims of colonial discourse. In some instances, postcolonial writers have done so by rewriting canonical texts of conquest. In A Tempest, for example, Aimé Césaire rewrote Shakespeare’s The Tempest from the perspective of Caliban; J.M. Coetzee’s Foe is an alternative version to Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe; and several

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ESSAY

late nineteenth century, and especially after writers, including Chinua Achebe, Ngugi wa World War I. Arabs had joined forces with the Thiong’o, V.S. Naipaul, and Salih have Allies against the Ottomans in exchange for the responded in various ways to Conrad’s novels, promise of independence, a promise that was especially Heart of Darkness, which has broken after the war. Moreover, the Balfour emerged as the single most important, Declaration of 1917 promising the controversial, and influential narrative of establishment of a Jewish national home on empire, in addition to being a key text of British Arab land and European support for the State of modernist fiction. Of the novels that rewrite Israel deepened Arab resentment. Thus, by the Heart of Darkness, Season of Migration to the 1950s, the secular ideology of pan-Arab North is the most structurally and thematically nationalism became dominant, and the Nahda’s complex, and the most haunting. vision of cultural synthesis gave way to an If postcolonial criticism, a phenomenon that OF THE NOVELS THAT REWRITE antagonistic stance toward the West. The emerged in US and British universities in the collapse of that ideology in the 1967 war with 1980s, has enhanced the reputation of Salih’s HEART OF DARKNESS, SEASON Israel spelled a profound identity crisis that novel in its English translation, the Arabic OF MIGRATION TO THE NORTH resonated at all levels of Arab consciousness original, Mawsim al-hijra ila al-shamal, IS THE MOST STRUCTURALLY AND and called for new ways of conceptualizing the became an instant classic as soon as it was THEMATICALLY COMPLEX, AND past, present, and future, even while it further published in Beirut in 1966. Although this was solidified essentialized notions of Self and THE MOST HAUNTING. not Salih’s first novel, he was still relatively Other, East and West. Not surprisingly, it was unknown at the time. The impact of the novel on during the following decade that the militant ideology of Islamic the Arab literary field was such that in 1976, a group of leading fundamentalism emerged to fill the void. critics compiled a collection of essays in which they hailed Salih as Begun in 1962 and published in 1966, the novel diagnosed the “abqari al-riwayya al-‘arabiyya” (genius of the Arabic novel). The Arab predicament during that turbulent decade by stressing the novel appealed to its Arab readers, first of all, because of its violence of the colonial past, of which Mustafa Sa’eed is a product; aesthetic qualities—its complex structure, skilful narration, announcing the demise of the liberal project of the Nahda, unforgettable cast of characters, and its spellbinding style which championed by Western-educated intellectuals like the narrator evokes the wide range of intense emotions displayed by the who failed to account for imperialism in their vision of cultural characters as it moves gracefully from lyricism to bawdy humour synthesis; condemning the corruption of postcolonial to searing naturalism and the uncanny horror of nightmares, and governments; and declaring the bankruptcy of traditionalist from the rhythms of everyday Sudanese speech (captured in conservatism hostile to reform, represented by the village elders. literary Arabic rather than in the Sudanese dialect as in some of The final scene of the novel, and especially its last words, forecasts Salih’s other works) to poetic condensation, and from popular the state of existential loss and ideological confusion that many in song to classical poetry and the lofty idiom of the Qur’an. Indeed, the Arab world would feel in the wake of the 1967 war. Salih remains one of the best Arabic stylists today, a quality inevitably lost to non-Arabic speakers, although Denys JohnsonDavies’s English translation is outstanding. The second reason why the novel created such a stir on the Arabic literary scene in the mid-sixties was the radical way in which it responded to Arab liberal discourse on Europe. That discourse began with a movement called the “Nahda” (revival or renaissance) that sought, from the mid-nineteenth century onwards, to rebuild Arab civilization after centuries of decay under the Ottoman Empire and to confront the threat of European imperialism. The Nahda attempted to weld together two elements: Arab Islamic heritage on the one hand, and modern European civilization, especially its scientific and technological achievements, on the other. Far from conceiving the two as contradictory or incompatible, the second seemed to Nahda intellectuals to be the natural extension of the first, in view of the great advances in scientific and humanistic knowledge that medieval Arab civilization had produced, and which contributed in no small measure to the European renaissance of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Therefore, the project of the Nahda consisted in selectively synthesizing the material advances of modern Europe and the spiritual and moral worldview of Islam. However, this conciliatory vision became more difficult to sustain as Europe began to colonize parts of the Arab world in the

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ost of Salih’s novels and short stories are set in the fictional village of Wad Hamid in northern Sudan and form a continuous narrative cycle—the Wad Hamid Cycle—which spans the period from the mid-nineteenth century to the 1970s. The main narrator of the Wad Hamid Cycle appears as a child in the early short story “A Handful of Dates”, then again as the narrator in Season of Migration to the North, as a young man who has just returned from England with a Ph.D. in English literature shortly after Sudanese Independence in 1956. He does not appear in The Wedding of Zein, which has a third-person omniscient narrator, but returns as a middle-aged man in Salih’s 1976 short story, “The Cypriot Man,” and as a disenchanted and nostalgic old man in Bandarshah. He is identified as Meheimeed in that novel, but remains unnamed in the other works. Like Season of Migration to the North, several of Salih’s fictions deal with the impact of colonialism and modernity on rural Sudanese society in particular, and Arab culture in general. In his highly acclaimed short story, “The Doum Tree of Wad Hamid”, the attempts of both colonial and postcolonial governments to impose modernization programs threaten to sever the villagers’ ties to their spiritual world. Set a few years after Sudanese independence and narrated by an elderly villager,

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ESSAY

the story registers the bitterness and resignation novel’s central allegory is broken. of the elders who find themselves unable to In the turbulent decades that give the Wad preserve their way of life as their children, Hamid Cycle its temporal frame, the contours of educated in modern schools, eagerly set the personal, cultural, and national identity shift, village on an irreversible course of sometimes violently, within a complex matrix of modernization. values, traditions, institutions, power relations, Members of this younger generation become new ideas, and social and international the village leaders in The Wedding of Zein. They pressures. Colonization and decolonization oversee the introduction of modern schools, involve the redrawing of boundaries, within and hospitals, and irrigation schemes into the village across which human beings suffer the traumas SEVERAL OF SALIH’S and manage most of its other affairs. They of continuity and discontinuity. FICTIONS DEAL WITH present themselves as benign, responsible, yet In tackling the questions of cultural memory THE IMPACT OF shrewd politicians who are capable of and identity, the impact of colonialism on Arab COLONIALISM AND harmoniously integrating traditional culture and African societies, the relationship between with “progress,” as they conceive it. They MODERNITY ON RURAL modernization and traditional belief systems, befriend and protect the protagonist, Zein, a SUDANESE SOCIETY IN social reform, political authority and the status village idiot regarded as a saintly fool in the of women, Tayeb Salih’s fiction vividly portrays PARTICULAR, AND ARAB tradition of Sufi dervishes. Zein’s marriage to the those dislocations and enables a vision of CULTURE IN GENERAL. human community based on greater justice, most desirable girl in the village represents the spiritual unification of the community as well as peace, and understanding, rather than rigid the leaders’ ability to bring together the sometimes contentious boundaries jealously guarded by antagonistic communities. factions within the village. As such, the novella constructs a utopia in which, despite the shortcomings of the central government, the new nation succeeds at the local level in fulfilling its material and TAYEB SALIH was born in 1929 in the village of Debba in northern spiritual potential. Sudan. He attended schools in Debba, Port Sudan, and Umm Such idealism is shattered in Salih’s next novel, Season of Durman, before going to Khartoum University to study biology. Migration to the North, which depicts the violent history of He then taught at an intermediate school in Rafa’a and a teacher training college in Bakht al-Rida. In 1953, he went to London to colonialism as shaping the reality of contemporary Arab and work in the Arabic section of the BBC, and during the 1970s he African societies. A naïvely optimistic, British-educated worked in Qatar’s Ministry of Information, then at UNESCO in Meheimeed confronts his double, Mustafa Sa‘eed, a Kurtz-like Paris. Since then, he has lived in London. figure who uses the power of racist stereotypes of Africans as Salih’s enormous reputation rests on relatively few works of fiction. In addition to Season of Migration to the North, he has hyper-sexual and of Arabia’s exotic appeal to Europeans to seduce written a novella, Urs al-Zayn (1962, in English The Wedding of and manipulate English women, who for him stand in metonymic Zein), another novel, Bandarshah (first published in Arabic in relationship to the British Empire, ruled over as it was in its two parts, Dau al-Beit in 1971 and Meryoud in 1976), and nine short stories, two of which appear in the Heinemann edition of heyday by a mighty woman, Queen Victoria. One source of the The Wedding of Zein & Other Stories (1969). In 1988, he began novel’s power is its dramatization of the ways in which colonial writing a column in the London-based Arabic weekly magazine hegemony is inextricably mixed with racial and gender Al-Majallah; those articles on literary, cultural, and political hierarchies, an explosive mix—the destructiveness of which is topics were collected under the title of Mukhtarat (Selections) and published in nine volumes in Beirut in 2004–05. graphically illustrated in the novel. As the story continues in Wad As a Sudanese, Salih came from a liminal place where the Hamid, an unprecedented murder-suicide shocks and enrages Arab world merges with black Africa, and he wrote as an the villagers and unveils the violence of traditional patriarchy, immigrant in London. His fictional village of Wad Hamid in northern Sudan represents the complexities of that location: linking it in kind to sexualized colonial violence. In this way, the situated between the fertile Nile valley and the desert, inhabited novel shows that the synthesis of traditional culture and modern by peasants but a frequent stop for nomadic tribes, it is a meeting ideas envisioned in the liberal discourse of the Nahda and given place for several cultures. Its religion, “popular Islam,” is a such poetic expression in The Wedding of Zein cannot succeed in mixture of orthodox Islamic, Sufi, and animist beliefs. The village is beset by tensions that have defined Arab modernity since the the shadow of colonial and patriarchal hegemony. nineteenth century: between old and new, science and faith, The crisis of Arab consciousness, ideology and leadership in tradition and innovation. Because he was an immigrant, Salih the late 1960s and 1970s, which led to the rise of Islamic could write about the colonial metropolis from a vantage point inaccessible to Levantine Arab intellectuals of his and earlier fundamentalism, is the subtext in Salih’s third novel, generations, even those among them who had studied in Europe Bandarshah, which centers on the relationship between past, for a while then returned home, often dazzled. He also felt the present, and future; or, in the mythical-allegorical scheme of the predicament of the native more intensely than they did, both as novel, grandfathers, fathers, and grandsons. This problematic an African and as an Arab. Such a unique perspective ensured that his enormous talent would produce the most powerful relationship is depicted as a vicious cycle in which the past repeats representation of colonial relations yet in Arabic literature. itself: grandsons are ever in conspiracy with grandfathers (of – By Waïl S. Hassan whom they are the split image and whose first name they always bear) against fathers. The novel suggests that the vicious cycle can be broken only when the rigid patriarchal order reflected in the

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By Fady Joudah

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n March 2005, I went to Darfur as a member of Doctors without Borders. The initial massacres and carnage had been completed—what remained was a horrific juxtaposition of presence and absence along the one dirt road that split the desert in the Western province: few, but large, concentrations of whitetarp towns that had sprung up overnight, each located down or up the road from charred villages. This classic representation of displaced peoples was visible from the propeller plane that flew us from Khartoum to Genineh, the capital of the western province. From a low altitude, I could easily see the black outline of vacated villages. On the ground a truck tyre, with two acacia limbs sticking out of it, announced each obliterated village on the road and served as the centerpiece of a checkpoint. These checkpoints were manned by young men in army fatigues who sought shelter from the sun under trees or collapsed walls by the side of the road. Their identity was vague—whether militia or government fighters—but they were stationed to either prevent repatriation or annex territory as leverage for “peace” negotiations. In Darfur, a mother asked me to change the pills a “blue” man had prescribed for her son two days prior. The “blue” man was Paolo, a physician assistant who worked with us and who is from the south of Sudan—a Dinka. People, as it turned out, are categorized as red, green, or blue in Darfur. Inhabitants there—“African” or “Arab”—as in many other parts in Sudan,

By Fady Joudah

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share the red or green skin (and intermarriages are not uncommon). “Blue” generally indicates someone from the south of Sudan and can often be derogatory. When I returned to the US to meet the media frenzy over the Darfur situation, I was appalled by the extent to which the suffering of others had been institutionalized (and sensationalized) into a classification system that exploits racial politics more than actual concern for the victims per se. If Darfur is now the world’s “capital of suffering”, then what has the Democratic Republic of Congo been, and how does one codify the suffering of the Angolan people before their “civil war” ended in 2003? I have also been mystified by how a large number of the American “audience” still do not know that Darfur is not in the south of Sudan, and its inhabitants are not Christian, but Muslim. This blurring, or confusion, of identities might be a good thing if it were aimed away from the masses of displaced people suffering under extreme conditions. It is indefensible that a human being’s despair over food, health, shelter and basic dignity and security are toyed with on the grand scale of international politics. Darfur, for me, has come to spell the end of genocide as an “act of codification,” which Theodore Adorno foresaw in his Minima Moralia more than sixty years ago. Perhaps, Darfur will become a whistleblower in the court of world consciousness, and expose the institutionalization of suffering as manipulated and conducted by the nation-state.

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EXHIBIT 15

Lalla Essaydi

CONVERGING TERRITORIES N0 1


By Ayoola Somolu

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he name “Akin Beads” may not mean much to you yet, but by the power of God almighty, whom Akin Sobola, creator of this fledgling accessories line, mentions every other sentence, it should soon—once Akin can figure out how to properly incite the buying impulses of the public with better packaging and branding for his paper jewellery. Yes, he makes jewellery from paper, but it’s not quite what you might be thinking. Akin uses an interesting technique that involves transforming strips of cut-up paper into a variety of curiously shaped, heavily lacquered beads of different sizes, which he strings together to make an assortment of necklaces, earrings and cuff links. The beads certainly don’t look like they have been made from paper, thanks to the waterproof glossy finish that causes them to resemble beads made from more popular materials like glass, plastics or ceramics. Akin made his first paper-bead necklace for a lady friend a little over ten years ago as an SS 2 student at Moremi High School in Ile-Ife, Osun State where he grew up, when he didn’t have any money to buy her a “proper” necklace. Since then, the craft has stuck, growing by experimentation and finessed techniques into the business that it is today. He makes about a hundred beads a day and works 6 days a week for 6 hours on average, which would be more if he didn’t have his day job working with the live sound and multimedia arm at the Redemption Camp of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, along the Lagos–Ibadan expressway. He now compulsorily takes Sundays off so he doesn’t burn himself out. He works in a makeshift studio, a mostly vacant dorm room within the Electronics Department at the camp, which only gets slept in when there are events at the campground and tech hands need to spend the night. He lives two rooms down from his workshop with his roommate “M.O.G.”, an old school friend from his hometown of Ife (which he left last December to make an attempt at his own Nigerian dream in Lagos). Akin is very excited to talk about his jewellery; specifically, the part about their being made from paper. Just by listening to him wax on about his work, how he stumbled upon it and his current reluctance to teach others the technique (lest they consider “hijacking it”), it is evident he sees it as his own ingenious idea (though he does admit to being introduced to the concept of producing other decorative objects from paper as a young school

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boy). However, using paper as a base material for bead creation has been around for centuries—likely as far back as there has been paper. But perhaps that is beside the point. As far as Akin is concerned, from his ten years of experience as the only paperbead maker in these parts and hearing sufficient numbers of people go “Wow!”—apparently his favourite word—when he reveals that his beads are made from paper, it might just as well be a novel idea. “Normally, right from primary school, I’ve been restless,” he traces air quotes over “restless”, “I can’t just sit down without doing anything. I’d cut sticks, drill holes into it and create a pencil. By the time I got to secondary school, I think SS 1, I was making sirens, different things in electronics. Anytime we came back from [the holidays], the first thing people would ask me is, ‘So Akin, what’s the next thing?’ People were always expecting. They knew that I would have designed something.” On the day we meet at his workshop-cum-living quarters, that restless energy shows up, not so much as restlessness, more as an unbridled eagerness to show me his work that sends him darting all over the room offering up trays of beads for my viewing pleasure before I am fully in the door. He shows me some beads that he has just made, in different colours, molded round a broomstick. “They are still slightly wet,” he warns as he hands them over to me. “All these multi-coloured ones are made from materials like this.” He shows me strips of a cutup Celtel poster then points to another cluster of beads that are made from plain white sheets but painted over in a variety of bright hues. I make a comment about the lacquer I smell on them, calling it by name, but Akin quickly shushes me with a finger to his lips. “I don’t want you to mention that,” he says. “It’s supposed to be a trade secret.” I point out that I can clearly smell the substance the beads are painted with and that it’s a commonly recognizable scent but no matter, Akin Sobola

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it’s to be kept under wraps. Akin looks the way I imagined he would, judging by the sound of his voice over the phone—a little high, like a teenager’s, belying his 29 years. He stands at about 5 feet, 7 inches tall with a cheerful face and an easy smile, and he talks simply and trustingly. Generally, he looks like an innocent schoolboy, and sort of comes across like one too. The broad, well-cut chest and muscular arms, likely builtup in part by the daily runs he does around the camp, were a surprise though. My presumptuous imaginations of a short and cheerful t e e nag e r h ad s o me h o w

up,” and “Maybe we should do something together” throw-away comments from one or two fashion stars for his business to grow. “What is most important to me is seeing my work on people,” Akin says. “Even though I have business books I am not too good at the business. I behave like an artist. I prefer to see my work on you, so even if I see someone that loves my work and the person can afford it, I won’t mind giving it to the person.” “For free?” I ask incredulously. “For free,” he confirms. A sentiment begins to form in my mind about how naïve that seems but before it can fully crystallize, Akin says, “Because, don’t forget, the business started from giving…. I love giving a lot.” By his own admission, he has a phlegmatic personality: “I am the kind of person that needs someone to really push me.” He discovered this from one of the many motivational books he loves to read, which evidently inform his opinions on many issues including his potential to do well in Akin uses an interesting technique life and business despite not going to that involves transforming strips of university. The fact that he didn’t cut-up paper into a variety of curiously pursue a higher education is equated to him having a soft, shaped, heavily lacquered beads of surprising considering his father was skinny body. different sizes, which he strings together the deputy registrar at the University to make an assortment of necklaces, of Ile-Ife, where he and his family fter making that first earrings and cuff links. lived. Like almost every other necklace for his lady secondary school graduate, Akin tried to get into university but friend back at Moremi High, he made another one and gave it to a after five failed attempts at the national matriculation exams, he neighbour who was into fashion. “She saw them and she was like decided to just focus his energies on what he enjoyed and was ‘Wow! Do you know you can sell this?” I was like ‘Sell this?’ I didn’t good at—his budding business. say it out loud but I myself, I [couldn’t] buy it let alone sell it.” “What I don’t like about school is that, one, you have to learn a But sell them he did—or at least tried to—amid the suspicions lot of things that you don’t really need. And when you get out of of schoolmates, many of whom at the time regarded beads in school again, they have to retrain you because—most [university general as fetish objects. There was also the case of a particularly graduates], they are good people but a lot of them, if they don’t disparaging comment from a female classmate who bluntly cheat, they would have crammed to pass exams. In fact, they declared that she could “never wear paper in the new year.” “That encourage cramming in school and I find that cramming kills the really discouraged me,” Akin said. talent in you. So I found that a lot of things were dying in me and What kept him going, however, was the regular stream of then I was like ‘I’m not going to bother myself about going to foreign visitors to the university campus, who from their school.’ The best thing would have been if you had the university purchases of his jewellery and sometimes complete buy-outs of offering the degree in fashion designing, in craft. I would have his stock (and on one occasion, a monetary donation from one tried my best to make sure I got into such a school but since we especially enthused gentleman after purchasing all of Akin’s don’t have that in Nigeria, I was like ‘Let me learn what I can on my stock) showed a higher appreciation for his work. “That’s how God own.’” encouraged me because initially, if left for our people…” he shakes Aside from creating and selling his jewellery, which earned his head despondently as his voice trails off. him a decent enough living in Ife after he left school and on which At this point in his career, Akin seems to have achieved an he sustained himself without needing his parents’ financial encouraging level of recognition and support from his support, he spent his years after secondary school apprenticing compatriots as loyal customers from Ife, Lagos and other parts of with different masters and taking a couple of computer and Nigeria continue to spread the word about his jewellery, and even multimedia technology courses, which are what he intends to use model his jewellery for free for his promotional photographs. He to build upon another dream of his. That dream is to create an even counts among his fans such notables in the Nigerian fashion online platform through which university course notes can be world as Data Okorodudu of the couture line JD–7; Mrs. made available as a sort of distance-learning program. Now that Folorunsho Alakija, owner of the house Rose of Sharon and he is in Lagos, he’s begun doing the rounds of trendy Africana former president of the Fashion Designers Association of Nigeria, boutiques around the metropolis and has caught the interest of and Remi Lagos, who he says expressed interest in using his beads quite a few prospective buyers. “I’ve been to some shops at on some of her clothing designs. Silverbird Galleria and some of them are so proud that the things But let’s face it; to succeed in the ultra-competitive Lagos they have on display are imported. It’s sad. So that’s another scene it’s going to take a whole lot more than free modeling challenge I have.” services from customers or some “Wow! Interesting work. Keep it I ask him where he sees himself in another 5 years.

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“My dream is to make it, to become the way Gucci is a household name. I met an Italian [lady] and one thing she told me that really touched me—it was as if she knew what was going on in my mind—she was like, Gucci started the way I started; that she didn’t see this as a small work.” A comparison to Gucci, even if in a very small and indirect way, certainly can’t hurt one’s ego at all, but Akin still has other issues on his mind to figure out. “I need someone to get me a better packaging concept… at some of the seminars I’ve gone to, they tell you that 90 percent of your business is your packaging. When my jewellery was in Quintessence (probably the most well-known of the Africana boutiques), before they could sell ten, it took almost a year and I know it was because it wasn’t well packaged. It was just in this ‘nylon’.” He points at one of his finished pieces lying on the table sealed in a clear plastic bag. “It didn’t even have a label…. Presentation is important and that’s where I’ve been having challenges—in packaging, branding, marketing. I can’t brand it myself because I’m not into branding.” When Akin says this, I can’t help thinking that his words are very telling of what his real challenge is, which is that his issue is

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not simply to do with the presentation of his work but more likely with what appears to be his limited understanding of what it will really require for Akin Beads, or any start-up for that matter, to “become like Gucci.” But in the end, after one considers his lack of professional training, his admitted to need for better business insight and his arguable over-reliance on the fact of his jewellery being made from paper as his key selling point (beyond the actual beauty of the pieces themselves), an encouraging philosophy behind what he does is the knowledge that he’s making fine use of perfectly good resources that others might consider useless, and recycling them into something worthwhile. Most of his materials are improvised and in a society where many feel that they need a whole lot of expensive capital to get started, Akin is proud of the fact that he just got started with what he had—old calendars and posters, glue, a cardboard cutter, two sets of pliers, wire, some broomsticks and relatively cheap metal bits and bobs (professionally known as findings) to finish off his jewellery. “People throw calendars away. I will never buy calendars. People are happy to give me calendars,” he states firmly, adding that God promised him so. “Making beautiful things from something people see as a waste… has a message for Nigeria; it has a message for people that even the mad man you see on the way—it’s just unfortunate—but he still has potential, he’s still worth as much as God sees him.” So all things considered, perhaps what Akin Sobola really needs to make that leap from being a relatively ordinary arts and crafts man to becoming a business mogul extraordinaire is a savvy business partner to show him how to do all those things that he cannot yet do, and perhaps loads of calendars with which to perfect those skills. I think he can do it, with God on his side.

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AN UNCOMMISSIONED SPEECH WRITTEN FOR MR. BARACK OBAMA By Chris Ogunlowo

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nce again I’d like to show my appreciation for everyone who stood by us over the course of our campaign. Indeed it’s been a defining moment, not just for our party but for our country. I want to specially thank the men and women who have been walking with me in my journey to become the 44th president of the United States. I understand the importance of America’s democracy to the welfare of our planet. But I haven’t known until lately the extent to which the world has shown great interest in our affairs. Just yesterday, I watched on television the rousing ovation that accompanied the announcement of my nomination, not only in the United States but especially in the farthest regions of the world. What that tells me is that our neighbours, far and near, are interested in the kind of change sweeping across the American nation. What that means is that our message of hope resonates beyond the geographical boundaries of this country. And that is significant—because it also means the rest of the world endorses my candidacy. I’m humbled. But I must not pretend that I accept all the congratulatory messages without some misgivings. Pardon my impoliteness, but I wish I’d not received some messages from certain parts of the world. I love Africa. I love the Nigerian people. But certain observations call for serious concern. I’ve been reflecting over the probability of my emergence as

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president, if I’d been a citizen of the world’s most populous black nation. For obvious reasons, I’ve not been able to curtail my amusement at such misguided reflection, knowing well the odds stacked against such ambition. I will be 47 this August. And this November, I will be marching up to become the next Commander-in-Chief of the United States. If this were Nigeria, I would have been told to wait and allow older people to run, as though the amount of grey hair on one’s head translates to the person’s level of political or moral maturity. Moreover, the country’s president is, to the best of my knowledge, its first president to graduate from university since independence. More surprising is that his victory during the elections has become a classic illustration of fraudulent electioneering. It would be unfair to bother you with the fact that many Nigerians never know what their president looks like until the morning of

Will the Nigerian people ever speak of their country as that place where leaders make unselfish calculations that prepare them for the challenges of the global economy? Will they ever speak of a nation where every child, male and female, has a right to achieve his or her dream? www.farafinamagazine.com


SATIRE

inauguration day. American politics is not perfect. But the American people sure have a lot to teach the world in matters of politics. And the Nigerian nation has even more to learn. Our candidates here in America move from one constituency to another to woo voters, to sell a vision of leadership. But in that West African state, it is the responsibility of a powerful oligarchy, party chieftains, selfappointed godfathers and their band of thugs to impose candidates on the party and the people. The American people definitely understand that a nation is best governed by laws, not men; that we are all equal in the eyes of the law; that we can be free to say what we want, write what we want—after all, the law is there to defend our freedom of expression under reasonable conditions. Nigeria is a republic—at least that’s what the books say. Sadly, that’s where it ends too. One’s political success is directly related to one’s affiliation to established dynasties: tribal dynasty, family dynasty, business or religious affiliations. The significance of my candidacy has been highly trumpeted, and hasn’t been made any less phenomenal by the media: the son of a Kenyan father married to a white woman, a black man who is now riding on the back of the American Dream. Now, my dad has become a source of inspiration to all would-be immigrants to the United States. I guess the chase for the elusive US immigrant visa has just been heightened. However, let it be known now that a green card will not be any less easy to acquire when I become president. Mrs. Clinton has fought a good fight. Among other aspirants for the Democratic ticket, she has travelled the farthest. She has made history as the woman who almost did what no woman has done before. What would be her chances of coming this close to the presidency in her country if she had been a Nigerian? If she ever dared to announce such an aspiration she would have only succeeded in waking up the demons of sexism, and waking up the

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monster of a culture that says women are to be seen, not heard. She would have been reminded that women are to remain in the background because men, only men, have been destined to occupy the open space. Certain societies are averse to female dreamers. Mrs. Clinton proved to the world what it means to lose politically. She didn’t talk about joining another party or even registering one of her own. She is in possession of strong guiding principles and her declaration of support for my campaign is a demonstration of her bravery even in the face of defeat. I hear Nigeria makes a metaphorical claim to be the giant of Africa. That claim, I may boldly say, is not only unfounded but absurd. Forgive my observation, but that country’s claim of “gianthood” is only supported by the size of its population. Forty-eight years after bidding farewell to colonial rule, that nation is still struggling to get on its feet, like a toddler. Nigeria has clearly failed to become a beacon of hope for other African nations. Will the Nigerian people ever speak of their country as that place where leaders make unselfish calculations that prepare them for the challenges of the global economy? Will they ever speak of a nation where every child, male and female, has a right to achieve his or her dream? So long as people are trapped in poverty, so long as there is evidence of gross marginalization of certain regions, so long as opportunities are opened, but not for all—the dream of a true nation will remain out of reach. Not many nations are as religion-loving as Nigerians. But Nigeria also ranks high on the list of corrupt countries. I dissociated myself from my former pastor, Reverend Jeremiah Wright. I condemned the statements of Reverend Wright that have caused controversy; statements that have the potential not only to widen the racial divide, but views that denigrate the greatness and the goodness of our nation. But I still respect him. How many Nigerian clergymen, considering the size of the followership they command, can bluntly condemn the unpleasant activities of their government? Let’s leave Nigerian problems for the Nigerian people. The American people deserve change. They are tired of politics and policies that do not address their immediate challenges. They now have a choice to determine if they will recycle the same old faces or will bestow the leadership of this nation on a man who will give them a future—a man who embodies hope and change. I’m grateful for your attention. I’m also grateful to the writer of my speech. He sure deserves to be a part of my administration. Thank you. God bless you. God bless America. Chris Ogunlowo is a Lagos-based poet and writer

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Photography by Toye Gbade

A WELL-REHEARSED

DISASTER

By Bada Akintunde-Johnson


SPORTS

BEIJING’S OLYMPIC STADIUM

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eijing 2008 has come and gone. Even as the dust settles on the track where athletes competed for honours, the pain of another disgraceful outing is yet to leave the mind of the average sports fan on the streets of Lagos. While the 29th Olympiad will be remembered for the unprecedented number of world records broken in various events by athletes, Nigerians will predictably fast and pray to God or the devil (whichever of them answers such prayers), asking that they be struck with selective amnesia. As one angry viewer remarked after watching yet another Nigerian athlete crash out of her event disgracefully, it seemed that, during these games, while other sprinters were running forward, our dear Nigerian athletes were locked in reverse mode; such was the abysmal level of performance that characterized Nigeria’s Beijing 2008 Olympic participation. While athletes like Hussein Bolt of Jamaica and Michael Phelps of the USA held the world spellbound with electrifying performances in their various events, Nigerian sportsmen and women continued to exit the Olympics one after the other. Except for the sports ministry officials and their self-deluding cohorts who announced a target of eight medals for Team Nigeria ahead of the Beijing 2008 Olympics, every other Nigerian— including the so-called incurable optimists—knew we had no realistic hopes for medals. Not with the shambolic preparations of the various sports federations, coupled with the disappointing performances of our track athletes in various meets over the past three years. One can only wonder if great Olympians like Nojeem Maiyegun, Chioma Ajunwa, Peter “The Puncher” Konyegwachie, Sunday Bada, Mary Onyali, Falilat Ogunkoya, Chidi Imoh,

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and other sport stars who brought laurels and acclaim to Nigeria, will ever be produced again by the comatose sports sector; an industry so sick it has gotten used to being sick. Black nations at the Olympic Games with far less human resources and talent reservoirs than Nigeria—like Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, and the Bahamas—are fast becoming sports superpowers, while our country is retrogressing at top speed. The various sports in which we used to put up decent performances against the best of the best at the biggest stages, are now our

THE SPORTS EXCEPT FOR FICIALS AND MINISTRY OF DELUDING THEIR SELFANNOUNCED A COHORTS WHO IGHT MEDALS TARGET OF E ERIA AHEAD FOR TEAM NIG ING 2008 OF THE BEIJ ERY OTHER OLYMPICS, EV CLUDING THE NIGERIAN—IN CURABLE SO-CALLED IN NEW WE HAD OPTIMISTS—K HOPES NO REALISTIC FOR MEDALS. weakest areas. Athletics and boxing, which were our brightest medal hopes, are now the ones we perform most poorly at. Nojeem Maiyegun produced Nigeria’s first medal in boxing. Peter Konyegwachie, Duncan Dokiwari, Albert Eromosele, David Nzorieti, David Dafiagbon and the current world heavyweight champion, Samuel Peters, were also figures who did the nation proud as pugilists in past Olympics. Nigerian athletics produced medallists such as Falilat Ogunkoya and Mary Onyali, and also the male and female relay quartets in the 4 x 100 meters and 4 x 400 metres at Barcelona ’92, Atlanta ’96 and Sydney 2000. Boxing and the sprint races have together accounted for more than ninety-five percent of Nigeria’s all-time medal haul at the Olympics. Excluding the Atlanta ’96 soccer gold and Chioma Ajunwa’s golden

leap at the same event, virtually all other medals which Nigeria has won at the games since her first participation in Helsinki 1952, have come from the squared ropes or the lined tracks. Then along came Beijing 2008, and all our failures of the past disguised as successes (because of our occasional wins), came back to haunt us with unparalleled vengeance. A Nigerian boxer was beaten black and blue by a Ghanaian opponent—in fact, he was so thoroughly battered that we feared he was going to lose not just his teeth, but his life. It got so bad, one could almost hear him screaming for help before the bout was abruptly ended. As evidence of how outmatched the Nigerian boxer was, the score stood at 12–0 on the cards of the judges by the time the referee put a stop to the bout. Unbeknownst to many of his bewildered compatriots watching this debacle on television, the poor Nigerian boxer had been pummelled so much that his ribcage got broken. Our athletes didn’t fare any better than the boxers. Our medal hopeful, Olusoji Fasuba, crashed out of both the 100 and the 200 metre races as early as the heats, while Gloria Kemasoude, Damola Osayomi, Saul Weipogwa and Folashade Abugan ran their races in times only fit for local inter-house sports competitions in villages. On the African continent, our GOLD

SILVER

BRONZE

Kenya

5

5

4

Ethiopia

4

1

2

Zimbabwe

1

3

Cameroon

1

Tunisia

1

Nigeria

1

2

Algeria

1

1

Morocco

1

1

S. Africa

1

Sudan

1

Egypt

1

Mauritius

1

Togo

1

COUNTRY

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SPORTS

MICHAEL PHELPS

dominance in the sprint events seems to be coming to an end, especially with the sort of results recorded in recent events like the immediate past All-Africa Games. Our misadventure at that event should have served as notice of a greater catastrophe lying in wait for us at the Olympics. Ghana, Zambia and South Africa gave us a run for our money in the short distance races, while Kenya and Ethiopia further strengthened their stranglehold on the long distance races.

T

he US swimmer Michael Phelps won six individual gold medals and eight overall in a single Olympic Games. Nigeria, with over 100 sportsmen and women carrying her hopes and aspirations at the games, struggled to win even one medal. Mongolia, Panama, Estonia, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Vietnam, Bahrain and Togo were all listed on the Beijing 2008 medals table in the final days of the Olympics. The name “Nigeria” was conspicuously missing from this list. The most populous black nation in the world pinned its hopes for a single gold medal on a soccer team that didn’t prepare for the games, and whose saving grace was the doggedness and expertise of Coach Samson Siasia, coupled with the team spirit and cohesion the players had formed from last playing together in the African Youth Championships in January 2005. It is important that we review the resources committed to Nigeria’s failed campaign for “eight Olympic medals”. Nigeria sent a contingent of over 200 representatives to the games, comprising officials and the sportsmen who participated in about ten different sports. The country underwrote the cost of airfare to the Far East for this large group and the cost of hotel accommodation for officials who didn’t stay in the games village, amongst other expenses associated with preparations for the games. Putting a conservative figure to

the naira and kobo spent on the Beijing misadventure, one would be tempted to speculate that nothing less than 1.5 billion naira was spent. This is money that could have been better invested in sports infrastructure, funds that if put to wiser use, could have ensured that the country produces young talents who would be nurtured, over time, into world champions. Money that should have been invested in sports development projects right from the time the curtain was drawn on the previous summer games held in Athens, Greece. Nations like the US, Canada, China—and also some African neighbours like Egypt, South Africa and even inflation-struck Zimbabwe—started planning for the Beijing games four years ago, some longer still. Nigerian sports administrators, on the other hand, did not begin to prepare their sportsmen until the event was weeks away—a characteristic Nigerian approach to preparing for competitions.

M

aladministration, it is claimed, has always been the bane of Nigerian sports. Simply put, we do not take sporting activities seriously enough in this country to warrant exceptional performances at international competitions. It is a verifiable fact that appointments into the top levels of the various sporting associations are based largely on political affiliations. In other words, there are no positions open for seasoned technocrats and young, exposed professionals who know how these sports should be run. These greedy, self-serving politicians-posing-as-sportsadministrators corner monies released by the government to the various sports federations. They embark on personal spending sprees, leaving the sportsmen for whom the funds are meant to waste away. It is thus not surprising that our best athletes would rather compete wearing the colours of other countries.

NIGERIAN SPECTATORS

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Christine Ohuruogu won the 400-metre gold in Beijing while representing Great Britain. Philips Idowu also won a silver medal in the jumps for Great Britain, while at the previous games in Athens, Francis Obikwelu (who had previously represented Nigeria in Sydney) clinched silver in the 100 metres for Portugal. Gloria Alozie, another high profile athlete, turned her back on her fatherland after incessant frustrations at the hands of inept sports administrators. More defections seem inevitable in the future, given the level of neglect and ridicule the administrators subject our athletes to. Olusoji Fasuba, for one, must be cursing himself for choosing to represent his fatherland over his country of birth, Jamaica. The young man was well known for his outspokenness about the misery of athletes in this country. These days, there seem to be lessons

USAIN BOLT WINNING THE 100 METRE FINAL

to learn from Jamaica other than reggae music. The success of the Jamaicans in Beijing is worth taking a closer look at. The country swept almost all of the major medals at stake in the sprint events at the 29th Olympiad. This tiny Caribbean island is similar to Nigeria in terms of level of development, but is nothing close to Nigeria in terms of human resources. Jamaica has a population comparable to that of Ibadan—about three million people. But the Jamaicans have put structures in place aimed at discovering young sporting talent and exposing them to the best training obtainable anywhere in the world. These young athletes constantly attend international meets and gradually inculcate the salient lessons of competing against the best at the biggest sports stages. Little wonder the system has produced so many world-class athletes in recent times. Merlene Ottey, Asafa Powell and Shelly-Ann Fraser are some of the fine athletes who have done Jamaica proud at the Olympic Games in

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SPORTS

CHRISTINE OHURUOGU

recent years. Most notable of them however has to be twenty-two year-old Usain Bolt, who effortlessly won both the 100 and 200 metre events at Beijing 2008—setting new world records of 9.69 seconds and 19.30 seconds, respectively. He is the first man to win both the 100 and 200 metres events at the same Olympics since Carl Lewis in 1984. As if Bolt’s achievements weren’t enough, the Jamaican trio of Shelly-Ann Fraser, Sherone Simpson and Kerron Stewart did a clean sweep of all the medals at stake in the women’s 100 metres final—a great sporting achievement by all standards for any nation.

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If sports like archery, canoeing, fencing, rowing, curling, gymnastics and other “obscure” Olympic sports are taken off the lists at the games, one will discover that the games are dominated by black people representing nations who have planning cultures rooted in their psyche. That culture is simply alien to Nigeria. And that is the simple reason we will keep making up the numbers at the games, at least, until there are some drastic changes in the way we manage sports in our country. We have to adopt the proactive approach of the Europeans, the Americans and now, the Caribbeans. We must place a premium on developmental projects and programmes. We have to appoint, or better still, elect technocrats and ex-internationals into key positions in our sports federations. Till we do this however, let us keep celebrating our two gold medals won over fifty-six years of Olympic participation. Let our incompetent officials keep smiling to the banks while

the international community laughs at us. Who cares? After all, the IOC charter states that the spirit of the Olympic Games celebrates “participation” over winning. On that count, Nigeria should top the tables. I guess that’s in keeping with the Olympic spirit.

MARY ONYALI

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I want to show you the way to… plagiarize This article was submitted to Farafina as an original piece. Our editors discovered that the submission was original only in the extent and scope of the butchery that went into creating this textual Frankenstein. I want to show you the way to Sao Tome.... So goes the old Cape Verdian song and it is still very true. It is not the easiest thing in the world to get to Sao Tome but then again, who wants to go to Tenerife? Not many do. Good thing too. Scenically, Sao Tome suggests something out of a Gabriel Garcia Marquez novel: before your eyes, you'll see spooky yet magical sprawling Portuguese plantation houses. Derelict and desolate, after years of neglect they are wrapped in the rampant vegetation that covers Sao Tomé Island, in the Gulf of Guinea off the coast of West of Africa. A flight from Lagos takes you to the drowsy capital, Sao Tomé, where life unravels along pot-holed avenues lined with lofty palms and flaming red Erythrina trees. There’s a photogenic yellow cathedral, a garish pink presidential palace, a harbour-front of crumbling quays and cargo ships, and town houses with facades tiled in azulejos, the blueand-white Portuguese tiles. Time and again, you will be taken aback by echoes of the old country: the diminutive squares paved with black and white wavy shapes that would be perfectly at home in Oporto or the Algarve; the milky galao coffee served in long glasses, and the sticky pasteis de nata cakes at waterfront Passante café, part of Hotel Miramar, one of the largest hotels that serve the business travellers to the archipelago. Tranquility is a king on the island as it reigns throughout the environment. If the stresses of 21st century life are getting you down, then consider getting away—to a place where the most imminent threat, one poolside hotel sign warns, comes from falling coconuts. The tranquil scene is one of many to be had in the palm-fringed archipelago, a remote pair of volcanic islands smack dab on the equator whose attraction lies in what this undeveloped corner of the world lacks: No mass tourism. No traffic. No terrorism, at least not yet! With few flight connections and just a handful of embassies abroad, Sao Tome isn’t easy to get to. But for those who set foot here, that’s exactly the point. It’s a country without tourists. With billions of barrels of oil believed off its shores, Sao Tome may be on the verge of massive change. For now, though, its name prompts puzzled looks and blank stares, even among globe-trotting adventurers and travel agents. It’s a place that rarely makes the news, much less travel brochures. The first question people usually ask is, ‘Where is Sao Tome?’ The second question is, ‘What are you going to do there?’ For tourists intent on fishing, game-fishing for blue marlin and sailfish can be booked at most large hotels, as can whale-and dolphin-spotting tours from July to October. Snorkellers can head to the Lagoa Azul (Blue Lagoon), a turquoise bay at the foot of a small, savannah-grass swept hill, topped off with baobab trees and a lighthouse. In season, turtles lay their eggs on the stony shore. For trekkers, a two-day climb to the island's highest peak, 2,024-metre Pico de Sao Tome, beckons. At the top is the rim of an inactive volcano. Tours around the island by boat or car pass the Boca de Inferno or “Mouth of Hell”, a coastal blowhole where powerful waves spray skyward through a natural gap in the twisted black rock. Roads along the coast are magnificent, winding past spindly palm trees that hang over black-white sand beaches. In the interior, leafy banana, coffee and cocoa fields rise into lush hills that hide misty waterfalls. What is remarkable about Sao Tome is how overwhelmingly laid back the island is. You will see a minister cruising on a beachfront road on a motorcycle alone, without bodyguards. Across the street from the airport, another minister and a parliamentarian dines under the nose of a rusting plane that was converted into a makeshift restaurant after being grounded decades ago. In many parts of Africa, taking pictures isn’t easy. Authorities are uptight, concerned about security. Not so in Sao Tome. An Associated Press photographer who snapped pictures of a guard at the presidential palace was quickly set upon by an official inside. Bracing for a lecture on state security, the photographer was told the camouflageuniformed guard was, well, not dressed well enough. So he has to take another picture! Serious crime is rare. Police and guns, even rarer. The islands’ armed forces total only about 600 men. Pigs, chickens and dogs meander through the streets of tiny villages where the young and old sit out on front-porch stoops at sundown, playing checkers. Local houses are mostly simple, wooden structures, built from thin, painted planks elevated on stilts. For now, Sao Tome’s pristine beaches have been spared the stale high-rise hotels and tacky beach resorts that litter the mass-tourism age. Over the last decade, the number of visitors to the island—including tourists and businessmen—has hovered around 6,000 per year, mostly Portuguese but the government expects that number to rise to 25,000 visitors annually in 2010, boosted by a planned ad campaign and the construction of more hotels. That's a lot of tourists for a country with a population of just 150,000. Most Sao Tomeans, living on just over a dollar a day, are hoping a much-hoped-for oil boom will pull them out of poverty. The rights to a first field in the Gulf of Guinea were sold to Chevron Texaco and Exxon Mobil Corp earlier this year. Getting there! Getting there: From Europe, Air Portugal flies once per week from Lisbon. Within Africa, Air Sao Tome and Air Service Gabon run flights from Libreville, Gabon, several times a week. Aero Contractors runs a Flight every Saturday from Lagos, Nigeria while TAAG, Angolan Airline runs flights twice a week from Luanda, Angola. Elysian Airlines also runs twice a week schedule from Douala, Cameroun. Entry: Visas are required for most visitors, but can be had fairly easily (within 24 hours) at Sao Tome missions in Lisbon, Libreville and New York. [Company name deleted] can arrange for intending visitors from Lagos and Cameroun. For tour packages, ground handling, Business Trips, Meetings, Incentive packages, Team Building sessions and corporate retreats, [company name deleted] is the best company to talk to. They are the first choice for all you Sao Tome and the Gulf of Guinea travel needs.

Plagiarized from Navetur Travel Advice www.navetur-equatour.st

Plagiarized from Times Online www.timesonline.co.uk

Plagiarized from USAtoday www.usatoday.com

Plagiarized from Cyber Diver News Network (CDNN) www.cdnn.info

Plagiarized from The Globe and Mail www.theglobeandmail.com

Plagiarized from Inside Bay Area www.insidebayarea.com

This, evidently, is all theirs!


By Iheoma Nwachukwu

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H

armattan poured from the sky as if hurled by a giant hand. It gathered in the grooves of the rooftops and dribbled onto the dry earth. Dawn came hesitantly, limning the edges of the fog. Nwankwo turned from the window, hugging himself. The room was dark. His eyes, tired from lack of sleep, found the clock above the crucifix on the opposite wall. Quick steps brought his big toe against the side of his sister Adaku, who was sleeping on a thin mattress spread on the floor. “Wake up!” he said testily. “Wake up! Are you a corpse?” Adaku hung in that languorous swell between sleep and wakefulness, until the pain in her side forced her awake. She rose grudgingly and immediately began to fill a bucket for her bath. We must hurry, thought Nwankwo nervously, as he watched her get ready. If we catch an early bus we can finish our purchases before the area boys rise. Nwankwo was a licensed seller of medicine. But everyone called him a chemist. He liked that. The room he lived in was one-half of a medicine shop: two high shelves demarcated the cramped quarters, with a gap between them where a mottled curtain hung limply. The lights came on, and so did Nwankwo’s rage when his gaze took in the inert figure in the corner, huddled in sleep. Ararume was his apprentice. He had been for the past five years, after which time he still couldn’t tell a needle from a syringe. He should be the one going to the market with me, Nwankwo thought, struggling to control his fury. Since Nwankwo had found out that his apprentice had a “blunt” head he had begun to teach his sister about the pharmaceutical business. If Ararume noticed, it was not an occasion for sadness on his part. When Adaku was dressed and they were ready to leave, Nwankwo walked up to the sleeping figure and pulled off the wrapper which covered him. Ararume clutched at it in his sleep. Nwankwo let go and made a grating sound with the bucket in the corner. His apprentice sprang awake. “We are going to Idumota,” Nwankwo said with a harsh tone. “Open the shop on time, dust the shelves and tidy the place. We’ll be back soon.” “I’ll start now,” Ararume said obediently. Gerrout, he mumbled in his throat as he bolted the

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FICTION

door behind them, then crept back into his wrapper and curled up in sleep. They stepped off the bus at Idumota and began to wind their way through the bedlam to the pharmaceutical products section of the market. It was like being squeezed through a sieve. People were moving in all directions, shoving and pushing. Screaming hawkers crowded the road on both sides, interfering with traffic. Curses hovered. The smell of bodies mingled with the smell of soap and plastic which mingled with the smell of carbon monoxide. It was nauseating. daku was shaking a pack of something that looked like crayfish into a bag of garri she had bought. It was rat poison. “Do you seriously think any rightthinking rat would fall for that makebelieve?” sneered her brother as he watched her. “I’ve never known a rat to think,” she jeered, then continued in singsong Igbo,

He reached down furtively and thrust his wad of cash into his boxers. “Senior brother,” grunted the thinner of the two men to his companion, “I see rich soup.” The other man, who was no relation, smiled quietly. A scar ran under his nose where a moustache should have been. Both men were shirtless: they did not care about the cold, they were warmed by greed. Other miscreants had spotted Nwankwo and his sister, a band of six. “Look! Senior brother!” “Food!” “No slacking!” “No gawking!” This was the call to plunder. Within seconds the band had formed a tight ring round the frightened pair. Nwankwo felt drunk with fear. He reached inside himself for courage, but gave up as a barrel-chested youth grabbed him by the lapels. In his chest, his heart was a panicked bull, ramming against his ribcage.

trait in others, they began to pummel him in anger. “Thief!” “Hawker of curses!” “It’s your mother you’re lying to!” “Merchant of lies!” Adaku was also attacked—her purse was snatched from her and rude fingers grabbed at the bag of garri in her hand and the band of her panties. Then one of the hooligans turned and tore away. It was the one with the money, the lame one. Quick as a flash, they abandoned their assault on Nwankwo and his sister and charged after their hobbling colleague. He hadn’t run very far when his useless legs were swept into the air by a vicious kick. They converged on his sprawled frame. “Are you hurt?” Nwankwo hobbled over to his sister, a shaft of pain rewarding him for the effort. “I–I’m okay,” she lied and choked back a sob, avoiding his eyes as she packed a breast back into its twisted cup. They stood there for an eternity,

“You wait and see….” Nwankwo shrugged and made a face at her. She beamed. At home, rats had made toilets out of their bags of rice and garri and were slowly eating up the room and driving them crazy. She finished, and was washing her hands when a motorcycle appeared out of nowhere and knocked the sachet of water from her hands. The rider turned and let loose a string of abuse, bumped into a bus and shook his fist at the driver, all in one fluid motion, then was swallowed by the Harmattan mist. They continued on their way, used to this madness. They walked down a street where the storey houses were so close together that the balcony rails touched, and then turned into an alley with reeking gutters that served as a nursery for malaria. This path would lead them to the shops they sought. But the alley also harboured area boys. “Stamp your feet on the ground,” Nwankwo hissed at his sister, afraid. Then they walked into a nightmare. Two young men sitting on stools spotted them and began to rise. Nwankwo saw them and moaned under his breath.

The sun forced a path through the fog and stared down, rheumy like a goat’s eye. An elderly Chinese man turned into the alley, speaking rapid Cantonese into a cell phone. The wind picked up as if on cue and blew a rolled-up newspaper into his path. He kicked it aside absently, looked up, gasped out “Dew neh loh moh!” at the scene before him, then turned and fled. “Everything you have,” someone ordered in querulous Yoruba. Nwankwo emptied his pockets. “This one is a jester,” the hooligan who grabbed the money from Nwankwo growled, waving the four hundred and sixty naira worth of notes angrily. Nwankwo began to plead that he didn’t have any more money, then stopped, stunned as the words were sucked back into his throat by an explosion in his right ear—one the area boys had slapped him. “Search him!” ordered “scar-undernose”. They quickly found the money he had stashed away—it was one thousand two hundred and fifty naira. As crooks and cheats will look for every opportunity to lie but resent the

collecting their wits; then Adaku said, “They took all our money.” Her brother did not answer but took off his shoes and shook out the remaining money. Twenty thousand in all. He had hidden the bulk of his money in his shoes as a precaution against such a mishap. His shoes were oversize sneakers. Nwankwo’s mind strayed to the stolen bag of garri and he shrugged. Karma if they eat it, karma if they don’t. “Do you think they will eat that garri?” Adaku asked, mirroring his thoughts. “No,” Nwankwo replied, wishing they would.

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short distance away, six hoodlums stood waiting near a tap with a stolen bag of garri while another filled a large aluminum bowl with water. Another hoodlum appeared with some sugar tied in nylon bag. They mixed the garri and sugar in the aluminium bowl, then headed for a nearby uncompleted building. They piled into one of the rooms, eager to begin their feast of death.

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By Oz Omoluabi

T

he city of Beijing in China is undergoing an industrial revolution unlike anything the world has ever experienced. In per capita terms, China is not wellendowed with natural resources. This has led her to look beyond her borders for raw materials to fuel her growth. With a population of 1.3 billion—300 million of whom belong in the freshly minted middle class—there has been an unprecedented increase in their demand for global commodities. It is estimated that China’s consumption of oil will increase 800% by 2030, and, iron ore by 500% at the end of the same time period. The resourcerich continent of Africa has become a natural partner in China’s quest for economic growth. Africa, although heavily endowed with natural and human resources, has through the years remained a continent in dire need of public infrastructure and an infusion of capital. Beijing declared the year 2006 as “The Year of Africa”. Since then, it has become a common sight to see Chinese public servants schmoozing with African leaders; striking deals for technical and financial support in exchange for access to Africa’s vast natural resources. Landmark deals include a $9 billion loan package for the Congo and a $40 billion line of credit to fund exports in Nigeria. China’s trade with Africa in 2007 hit $73 billion with a $2 billion foreign direct investment in Africa. Presently, there may be as many as eight hundred Chinese state-controlled firms operating in Africa, with China’s Export–Import Bank (EXIM Bank) funding over 250 projects in at least 34 countries in Africa. There are also thousands of Chinese entrepreneurs fanning out across Africa, seeking investment opportunities in retail, hospitality and commodities. From textile mills in Kenya, mining uranium in Zimbabwe, mining for cobalt in the Congo and harvesting timber in Mozambique, they have even delved into Africa’s upstream sectors by launching a satellite in Nigeria and investing in mobile phone networks in Ghana. Regardless of what elements of the Western mainstream media may want one to believe, the China’s agenda is unequivocal and precisely thought-out. China’s survival depends on her ability to aggressively acquire resources that will fuel her growth, while

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placing minimal demands on the local governments—an economic agenda fuelled by the demand of her enormous population and the visions of her leaders. But what do African governments want in return from the Chinese? What are they actually getting? And are these objectives in line with the goals of their citizenry? China’s foray into the African continent should be welcomed with open arms, particularly considering the alternatives from the West and their track records on African involvement. China’s presence ushers in an era of new opportunities for the mother continent. Some competition for Africa’s resources is better than no competition at all. Although accurate figures of China’s total investment in Africa are not readily available, it is believed that Chinese aid to Africa may have surpassed that of the World Bank. Local governments once blacklisted by Western governments and the United Nations now have access to new markets for their natural resources. One of the most damaging aspects of this however, has been the resultant weakening of sanctions placed by the United Nations on rogue regimes. The net effect of sanctions on countries like the Democratic Republic of Congo and Zimbabwe has been debatable. There is very little evidence to show that these sanctions have put adequate pressure on these regimes, while plentiful evidence abounds documenting the negative impact of these same sanctions on the struggling populations in these African countries. In terms of the impact of Sino-African relations at groundlevel, Amos Malupenga, managing editor of The Post, one of Zambia’s top newspapers, says there is evidence that Zambians have been maltreated by their Chinese employers. “There is a feeling our people are being exploited by these Chinese investors, and there is a feeling that these Chinese investors receive preferential treatment from [the] government at the expense of other foreign or local investors.” There is a widely held opinion that a Chinese businessman can get further than local businessmen can. There have even been allegations that Levy Mwanawasa, Zambia’s late president, took sides with Chinese business owners during a textile workers strike in which workers complained of poor working conditions and inadequate compensation for long hours of laborious work. These imbalances

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ECONOMY

play out day after day, from Senegal to Ethiopia, wherever Africans meet Chinese workers. In July 2007, Liberia’s minister counsellor Mohammed Kenneth announced that Chinese officials routinely denied West African traders from Liberia and Nigeria access into Guangzhou, one of the most important trading centres in China, even though they possessed valid Chinese visas. Closer to home, there are already more Chinese living in Nigeria than there were Britons at the height of England’s colonization of Nigeria. In some cases, Chinese businesses, due to their access to cheap capital, hold natural advantages over their Nigerian colleagues. This may not be a fair image of the new economy; although such artificial obstacles are not meant to be a characteristic of globalization, they are becoming increasingly common. Mrs. Onabolu, the owner of a supermarket chain in a major city in south-western Nigeria, is on the verge of closing the doors of her business, which she spent the last twenty-five years building. She now believes her once thriving business was crippled by the government’s uneven policy landscape and the fact that business owners have minimal access to working capital. This situation is particularly galling to her, because she believes that her chains carry superior lines of products to that which is sold by the Chinese chain. In July 2008, Standard Bank Group Limited, in partnership with the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, announced that the groundwork had been laid for a deal which would surpass any other one till date. This package will further enable the Chinese to gain access to Africa’s natural resources and even move further into new areas such as banking, telecoms and power generation. Beijing expects annual trade with Africa to top $100 billion by 2010. China’s culture of secrecy, poor record keeping and practice of not disclosing the true extent of its investment in Africa have seen her come under some fierce criticism. These factors, already prevalent in Africa’s public sector, make many deals difficult to quantify and measure on a project-by-project basis. Regardless of the true or hidden levels of investment and outflows of resources, domestic business operators will continue to feel the pinch.

them to take a stand? This must become a long-term national objective, which must address our cynical view of the public service fallacy. China’s $40 billion spent on the 2008 Beijing Olympics was primarily spent to showcase a new and more open China. This new China places a high premium on her image and how she is perceived by the rest of the world. Unlike situations in the past, where some Western media houses treated Africans as if they weren’t present at the most important debates that affected their lives, Africans now have a unique opportunity to speak out and speak up about the vices of investors offering us unfair deals. This will be achieved by an effective use of all forms of new broadcast and online media. The Chinese may have a plan for dominating the continent; for this plan to work, they will have to win the PR fight with the rest of the world. In the new media, barriers to entry are almost nonexistent. The voice of one person on one computer can be heard across the world. Local businessmen and women in Africa should play the public relations game, as often and as hard as they can. China ought to be welcomed into Africa and greeted with strict codes by which business will be conducted on the continent. Until then, local business owners should perfect the ability to whine and complain digitally to the rest of the world. We also should not form expectations about the morality of China’s activity in Africa in comparison to that of Western countries active here—it should be formed against the bedrock of our expectations for ourselves.

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here does not appear to be a concerted effort from the Nigerian government to address the grievances of business owners, who feel short-changed by their representatives and bypassed by Chinese competitors, though it can be argued that an increased level of trade and inflow of foreign capital will result in the general good. In spite of this, the gains from trade are almost never evenly distributed. This justifies the cynicism with which a small business owner greets the advances of the business men from the East. Furthermore, public office holders also appear to have policy targets which are not properly aligned with those of the populace. It is not the fault of the Chinese; self-interest is still the common denominator amongst public office holders in Nigeria. The disadvantaged parties need to effectively lobby their local representatives and motivate their various governments and public office holders to take a more equitable stand. They also need to ensure that foreign investors are judiciously policed while at the same time working towards eliminating hurdles that give undue advantage to foreign-owned or controlled companies. How then do we motivate Nigerian officials? How do we force

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By Rory Williams There is also a practical concern. The world is already on track to exceed the level of carbon in the atmosphere that will result in global warming of two degrees above pre-industrial levels, ith all the talk about carbon trading as a way to slow according to scientists reporting to the UN Intergovernmental global warming, one would think there must be lots Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Beyond two degrees, they say, of opportunity to get involved. we are at risk of catastrophic consequences. Regardless of what we The Climate Group estimates that the global carbon market is do now, there will be a continued warming effect not only from the worth 20 billion euros a year, and that this could grow 20 times by existing fixed investment in industries that will continue emitting 2030. But how much of this is happening in Africa? Precious carbon well into the future, but also from the carbon already in the little. In January 2008, there were 908 certified emission atmosphere—and targets for atmospheric reduction projects worldwide registered carbon concentrations are only aiming to under the Kyoto Protocol’s Clean reduce the rate of increase, not actually Development Mechanism (CDM). Only 24 SOON, THERE ARE ALSO LIKELY decrease current levels. of these were in Africa. TO BE TARGETS SET FOR On its own, carbon trading won’t Before we get into the challenges Africa address this problem because at best it DEVELOPING COUNTRIES, faces in joining this market, it should be simply shifts the source of emissions from said that the concept of buying and selling WHICH MEANS THAT AFRICA one place to another, which is why it is carbon credits is a controversial one. WILL HAVE TO JOIN THE EFFORT. generally seen as a strategy to be applied The very idea that dirty industries in together with limits on emissions for each developed countries are allowed to country or industry: a cap-and-trade continue polluting—even if they mitigate system. So far, only industrialised countries these emissions by investing in clean that signed on to the Kyoto Protocol have projects elsewhere—is considered by many carbon emissions targets to meet. Soon, people to be contrary to the spirit of there are also likely to be targets set for environmental stewardship. This is a moral developing countries, which means that issue. Will the global community come Africa will have to join the effort. Exactly together to address climate change, when what those targets will be is a matter for some countries can pollute with impunity? negotiation, and there is some contention As this nascent market grows, we can around this issue even among developing expect stronger geopolitical fault lines.

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countries. South Africa, for instance, has benefited from a relatively carbon-intense economy and has more resources than countries like Liberia or Sierra Leone, and may be expected to reduce its emissions commensurately. Once targets have been set, each country will have to establish its own strategy for meeting them, and this will require concerted effort at all levels of government and appropriate responses from the private sector. Whatever carrots and sticks are used, it will be difficult to reach 100% compliance with targets, simply because some communities and industries won’t reduce their carbon footprints, and the rest will struggle to make up for others’ noncompliance. This is a tough challenge, and carbon trading may help if it emerges as a significant source of funding for clean projects; but Africa can only take full advantage if the continent’s leaders are prepared to support investment in renewable energy and greater efficiencies in its use, and not pursue carbon-intense industries. There are many reasons for a lacklustre carbon market in Africa. One is the immaturity of the market itself; another is inappropriate pricing of carbon credits; and yet another is lack of awareness among project developers. But addressing all of these will mean nothing unless governments—individually and as collective rule-makers for the market—provide an environment that enables businesses to tap into it. If carbon is to become the currency of climate change mitigation, then it must become a cost of doing business. Like any currency, it will only work if it is trusted, broadly accessible and easily traded. None of these criteria are currently met. At present, many small project developers are excluded, either because the administrative or financial burdens are too high, or because the type of project makes it difficult to gain certification of emission reductions. Some of the smaller projects that have benefited from CDM funding have only been able to do so with the support of external financial aid—a form of intervention that must change if the carbon market is to be self-sustaining. With many small African countries lacking the resources needed to manage the complexities of the carbon market, it will be interesting to see whether regional trading blocs emerge to pool resources, perhaps along the lines of the Southern African Development Community, which is already facilitating activities such as the coordination of energy supply in the region. This may be what is needed to ensure that poorer nations can grasp the opportunity. By the end of 2009, the UN negotiations should have arrived at key decisions that will determine the shape of the carbon market. Whatever it takes to get it operating effectively, this may be one way to provide foreign investment of a kind that actually improves sustainability performance in regions that are vulnerable to outside influence and the vagaries of the global economy. Whether political negotiations actually achieve an arrangement that is beneficial for Africa is an open question. The outcome is sure to be less than ideal, but it is worth remembering that we are looking for an effective mechanism for reducing global emissions, not another quick buck. A lot is at stake, and the future depends on what individuals and nations do now.

quick facts KYOTO PROTOCOL Under the Kyoto Protocol, there are two project-based mechanisms that may be used by industrialised countries to fulfil their targets for emission reductions. Joint Implementation is essentially trading (between industrialised countries) of emission reduction units resulting from projects that reduce emissions or remove carbon from the atmosphere. Right now, developing countries are not required to meet any emission reduction targets. Consequently, they are not eligible to trade emissions directly. The Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) is the second project-based mechanism, and this provides for industrialised countries to meet some of their emission reduction targets by investing in projects in developing countries that reduce or offset carbon emissions and help the recipient countries to achieve sustainable development. CERTIFIED EMISSION REDUCTIONS For the Clean Development Mechanism, Designated National Authorities set up in some countries are involved in authorising potential CDM projects and will endorse project submissions to the CDM Executive Board. The CDM Executive Board has nominated organisations that are authorised to validate information submitted to the board. The Board issues carbon credits in the form of Certified Emission Reductions (CERs) that are verified under the rules of the Kyoto Protocol. After a project has been approved and registered with the Board, the project can go ahead—but verification doesn’t stop there. Once the project is operating, it will be audited to see that the claimed benefits of carbon emission reduction are actually achieved, and based on the results of this audit a recommendation will be made to the Board before CERs are issued to the developer. When the CER is sitting in a project operator’s trading account, it can be traded for money. VERIFIED EMISSION REDUCTIONS Verified Emission Reductions (VERs) are part of a voluntary market for selling carbon emission offsets. As the name implies, the emission reductions are verified, but not certified in terms of the CDM. As a result, the process for trading VERs can be less onerous than for CERs under the CDM, and may be more suitable for small projects.

Rory Williams blogs at www.carbonsmart.com

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SAVING WOMEN’S LIVES A

bout half a million women die as a result of childbirth every year. 99% of these deaths occur in developing countries. Worldwide, the maternal mortality ratio is 400 women per 100,000 live births. In sub-Saharan Africa, the figure is 1000 per 100,000 women and in some parts of Nigeria, it reaches 1500 per 100,000. To put these figures in perspective: in Sweden, the lifetime risk for a woman to die in childbirth is 1 in 30,000; in sub-Saharan Africa, it is 1 in 16. In Nigeria, a woman dies every 3 minutes from childbirth—so between 2 and 5 women would be dead by the time you finish reading this piece. Add to this the fact that for every maternal death, there are 30 morbidities—serious, long-lasting, near death ailments—and you can see why being a woman in Africa is a high-risk matter. WHY IS IT SO BAD? For the same reason that so many other industries and businesses in Nigeria are so bad: poverty, ignorance, lack of basic infrastructure such as roads, electricity, water, access to health—the list is endless. The difference with the health sector, however, is that these deficiencies translate directly to illness and death. Every single time there is a power cut, or the taps dry up, or there is a major traffic jam, there is a life on the line, usually a woman’s, often a mother’s. The reality is that the women who die are most often the poor and the ill-educated, or as we refer to them in the medical world, women of low socioeconomic group. The causes of these deaths go far beyond what happens in hospitals. They are diverse and complex—however, I will try to simplify them as follows: Poverty and ignorance. The poorer you are, the less likely you will be able to access appropriate health care in Nigeria. Unfortunately, a lot of women and their families are poor, as roughly 70% of the

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©Simona Schneider

By Bosede Afolabi population earn less than the equivalent of one US dollar a day. Coupled with this is the fact that poverty is often linked with ignorance: most of the same people are also uneducated, particularly about their health needs and their bodily functions. They are therefore unaware of signs of illhealth and of appropriate preventive measures, often have poor hygiene and

nutrition, and are also unable to afford good food, drugs and hospital care. Access to health care. Partly due to poverty and ignorance but also because of their subordinate role in society, women’s access to healthcare is even poorer than men’s. Oftentimes, when a pregnant woman who arrives in hospital in a severely ill state is asked why she did not come earlier, her answer is, because her husband travelled, or he was not at home

and she did not have sufficient money or transportation to get to the hospital. This is a common, unfortunate occurrence as the time of delivery can often not be predicted. Other barriers to healthcare access are bad roads and poor security. In the rural areas for example, the closest health institution can sometimes be as far away as 50 kilometres from the town and the access by road is so poor that getting there takes even longer. Thus, even when the need to be referred is known, the ability to get to the referral hospital is limited. In the urban centres such as Lagos, because of security concerns at night, for example, getting out of one’s residential area to the hospital through ad hoc gates constructed at the end of many streets can be a harrowing task. Despite being registered at a good hospital, many women end up delivering at home, or at a nearby church with a “nurse” (usually not a qualified one) attending, or in mediocre private hospitals without the skills or infrastructure for emergency obstetric care. By the time they are eventually referred to the tertiary centres, they are already at death’s door. Inadequate healthcare facilities. The vast majority of medical facilities in Nigeria are grossly inadequate. The problems range throughout the health sector, in both public and private concerns. Even the public hospitals, particularly the tertiary ones, are too expensive compared to average earnings, too unpredictable in services such as electricity, availability of blood, oxygen and water. The private hospitals have these same problems, and, in addition, they are even more expensive than the public hospitals and often provide incompetent services due to lack of regulation and monitoring. The poor morale amongst staff in the public institutions compounds the issue and as a result, the staff are sometimes hostile to the very people they are meant to be

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HEALTH

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helping. Pregnant women are particularly sensitive to this and as a result, they sometimes prefer to stay home and deliver their babies with the help of trusted and often unqualified relatives or traditional birth attendants. With all of this, it is a wonder that more women do not die of childbirth in our environment than is quoted. However, nature has made it the case whereby approximately 80% of pregnant women will deliver without any significant problems. HOW CAN IT BE IMPROVED? The ideal thing would be to address all of the above issues. Educate and empower women financially. Make them aware of their bodies from early on and teach them basic survival skills. Fix all the roads and other infrastructure—electricity, water, equipment—and create an effective health plan to encompass both the rich and the poor. Fix the hospitals, remunerate health professionals adequately and make the rural areas attractive enough for midwives and obstetricians to want to practice in. But the reality is, if we wait for all these, it would be like the wait for Godot in Becket’s play. We have known the problems for a long time but there has not been much difference in maternal mortality over the past 30 years. The immediate practical solutions, whilst working on the ideal, are as advocated in the recent Lancet Maternal Survival series. All women should deliver in healthcare institutions with skilled healthcare personnel. This is because most deaths occur during delivery and most also occur in hospitals, after the woman has been poorly managed elsewhere by some unqualified person and referred too late. On average, in Nigeria, 58% of women deliver at home with the figures reaching 85% in the northeast of the country. In advanced countries, home deliveries can be planned, during which transfer to a hospital is easily arranged if complications arise. In our environment this is not feasible because of the poor infrastructure, thus the need for health centre delivery.

Delivery should be free or highly subsidized. Many women do not go to hospital because they have to pay when they get there—even in the public institutions—and instead stay at home to deliver, in spite of the risks involved. If delivery were free, women would come to hospital in droves, (even with the present cost it has been found that most Nigerian women access antenatal care at least once). I am not positing this view from leftist, “welfarist” leanings—I realise that it is not always feasible for government to pay for everything. However, given the desperate reality that is Nigeria today, I would argue that free maternal healthcare is the only way to go. Approximately 42 million women need this provision. Economists have done the math and found that free or subsidised delivery is doable even without taxing other sector of the economy, and it is extremely cost effective when you look at the hard fact of the direct contribution of women to the economy if they are kept alive. One immediate thing that can be done is to improve blood donation. The commonest cause of maternal death in Nigeria is haemorrhage. If blood is made available to the centres where women deliver, there would be a significant reduction in maternal deaths, and all other deaths for that matter. Most adults are eligible to donate blood; all they would have to do is make a decision and find the time. It is safe in every way: no infection can be passed to the donor as new, sterile needles are used—and this can easily be verified—and every adult person that is not anaemic can donate blood as regularly as every 6 months without any adverse effects. For nonmedical persons reading this piece, I can imagine the feeling of frustration at the myriad issues that appear insurmountable even by experts in the health sector. But we are all stakeholders, nonetheless. We thus have to pledge to do something, no matter how small. The problem of maternal mortality in Nigeria is a huge one; but like all other problems in the country, it can be solved by a collective effort and by deciding to do something now. Bosede Afolabi is an obstetrician and gynaecologist in the public health sector

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REVIEWS

THE CITY IN SWALLOW By Toni Kan

© Uche Okpa-Iroha

Tolani visits Violet at Simpatico, the salon run by the latter, we hear Violet say to Tolani in true Lagos fashion: “I have to eat right now. My ‘Ghana High’ is getting cold.” Further in the book, after Violet has finished eating, she looks at Tolani and says, “Why are you so quiet? You look haggard. Have you lost or what?” And by lost she means lost weight. This ability to capture everyday speech with verisimilitude makes the novel evocative of time and place, imbuing the narrative with an authentic and natural feel.

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here 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. Now, let us begin by dispelling some wrong notions about this novel. Award-winning Zimbabwean writer Tsitsi Dangarembga gets it wrong in her blurb for the book. This book is not about Rose and Tolani. Sure, it does focus on their tempestuous relationship as flatmates and colleagues, but limiting the powerful narrative of Swallow to the two women is to do the novel a disservice. It is more the story of another set of women—one old, one young—connected by circumstances of birth and yet held apart by secrets, which in true Sefi Atta fashion ensures that at the end nothing is ever what it seems. And this fact is made clear by the narrative structure employed in the novel, with two narrators telling the story on two different levels and tableaux—the contemporary setting of Lagos and the bucolic setting of rural Makoku. The second notion which we need to dispel is the belief that the tittle Swallow refers just to the act of swallowing cocaine. The term “swallow” is at once symbolic and physical. Physical in the sense of the actual swallowing, but symbolic in the sense that the nation is like a huge python with bared fangs swallowing all the dreams and aspirations of the people—from Tolani to Rose, Godwin to Johnny Walker, Mama Chidi to Mrs Durojaiye. Tolani captures this well in her narrative when she says in reference to Mama Chidi, “I was so sure she would have been an academic anywhere else in the world. Here in Lagos she was a housewife

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who loved reading so much she forgot reality and burned her meals.” Sefi Atta’s brilliantly controlled, assured and endearing narrative of the city is reminiscent of Ben Okri at the height of his powers in novels like Flowers and Shadows, The Landscapes Within and even The Famished Road—novels in which he is the most adept chronicler of the angst and anomie of city dwellers. No contemporary Nigerian writer is better than Sefi Atta at evoking the smells, sounds and the sheer madness of this sprawling cosmopolitan city of Lagos. The portrait of 1980s Lagos in Swallow is an unforgiving one, and every attempt to ameliorate the hardness, to seek for softness is rebuffed and repudiated without mercy. You “see” it in the hard, weather-beaten and careworn faces of the characters that inhabit the pages of the novel. This portrait is markedly different from the face of Lagos which we saw in Sefi Attah’s debut novel Everything Good Will Come, a novel which was in many ways and on many levels a love song and a panegyric of sorts to Lagos. But the Lagos we see in Swallow is no love song: it is a keening dirge for the death of dreams, the atrophying of values and moral degeneration. The Lagos we encounter in Sefi Atta’s Swallow is a carnivorous wasteland that devours dreams and aspirations. Her characters speak and sound like people you would meet if you stood for five minutes at the nearest bus stop, and they say things you would only hear if you lived in a tenement house and eavesdropped on your neighbours. When Tolani tells Rose about the trouble she is having at work with Mr. Salako, Rose says to her, “He is doing this to pepper you.” When

ecause Lagos is a microcosm of Nigeria, tribal sentiments frequently bubble to the surface of the narrative, but Sefi Atta is adept at avoiding the ever-yawning trap of appearing to favour one tribe over another, as her words are placed in the mouths of characters thus limiting authorial intrusion to the barest minimum. In Swallow, almost every ethnic group receives some bashing, but these pills are sugar-coated with humour. Here is the character Rose describing her impression of one of the ethnic SWALLOW by Seffi Atta Farafina N1000.00, 268 pages Sefi Atta’s Swallow is fierce and unapologetic in its ‘Nigerianess’. You can see, smell, hear and taste Nigeria in her lush prose. The author weaves the story of Nigerian society through the lives of three women as they swim through the murky waters of corruption, male chauvinism, drug trafficking, poverty and economic instability. The use of the episodic plot in the novel is quite effective. There are several sections in the story where the reader could easily be confused by the sudden change in period, but thanks to the printer’s convention of using different font types for different periods, finding the string of the story is made easier for the reader. However, in a bid to make her characters speak in the tongue of the 1980s, the author tries a bit too hard. Though the end of the novel is somewhat ungratifying (Ms. Atta seems to insist on ending her novels in a fashion that leaves the readers lifted high for the drop, and then left hanging), it is the boldness of these women as they face and challenge reality that stays with you. The novel could have been a more rewarding experience, but it will definitely prod you to start asking questions. TO

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BOOKS

groups. “They never forgive,” she said about the Igbos. “They can’t forget about Biafra. They will sell their people for money. Oh yes, and they listen to country music.” Though Sefi Atta regurgitates tribal stereotypes—Hausas getting by on nepotism, Yorubas as fawning cowards, Igbos as money lovers—there is no sense of offence because of the absence of malice. Narrative-wise, Sefi Atta scores a stylistic coup in the successful telling of two stories as one: the urban and contemporary story of Tolani and the rustic and pastoral one of her mother,

Arike, two women who beat different paths to arrive at almost at the same terminus. The problem with the narrative however, is an apparent lack of chronological fidelity. The setting is obviously 1983–84 and early 1985, marking the winter of Buhari’s regime and the ascent of the Babangida era. This is easy to place because of the austerity measures: the War Against Indiscipline drive of the government, the queues, soldiers flogging civilians to maintain “discipline” and the execution of drug pushers (under Buhari, drug pushing, not “419”, was the crime de jour). Chronological fidelity

READING THE CEILING by Dayo Forster Simon & Schuster £11.99, 288 pages

Dayo Forster’s first novel is divided into three stories—or, rather, three different choices made by a young girl about to start her life. As I read through the first story I am reminded of a Bildungsroman. I can’t help but feel sorry for the protagonist, a young woman with such complicated feelings for her body, her mother, her friends and the world in general. The complex relationship between mothers and daughters is definitely an issue the author explores throughout the novel. When a young female character defies the ways set by the older women, the author writes, “It seems as if she’s defying life itself, as if the choice has been hers all along. She’s able to brush off what my mother and probably hers might think. She started to claim life her own way.” By the second story the novel takes on a voice of its own and I delve into the protagonist’s second choice with a lot more enthusiasm than the first story. Perhaps this is because Dayo’s writing has taken a whole new rhythm and confidence of its own. I enjoy sentences such as “conversation steers towards topics that do not heat up tempers” and I am as frustrated as her characters get when they discuss world politics and events. The third story, while totally different from the first two, is similar in one issue. It seems the modern African woman cannot escape marriage whatever choice she makes (I am left wondering if this was done on purpose by the writer). As I reach the end of the novel I cannot help but feel that the definition of home has somehow managed to slip through my fingers and I am overpowered by the recurring themes of exile and distance. However, unlike the novel’s protagonist, I am sure of one thing. Dayo Forster certainly knows the path she has chosen: she is a writer. Sylvia Ofili WAITING FOR THE HATCHING OF A COCKEREL by Tanure Ojaide Africa World Press $19.95, 168 pages

Waiting for the Hatching of a Cockerel is Nigerian scholar–poet Tanure Ojaide’s sixteenth collection of poetry. The poems in this collection share with readers the voice of a sensitive intellectual grappling with disparate strands of his own existence, history, Africa-centered philosophies and a plethora of relationships that crisscross human and non-human conditions. Meticulously built around memory and high-level craft, this collection is stylistically more ambitious than Ojaide’s earlier works. Gone are the over-dependence on numbered sections and abundant use of traditional verse. Now freer in his experimentation with form, Ojaide’s images are sharper and more immediate. Waiting for the Hatching of a Cockerel sheds light on the poet’s identity and alerts his readers to a myriad of events, human conditions, and historical ruminations that shape his personal landscape and political vision. I recommend this book to those familiar with Tanure Ojaide’s writing, and also to those encountering the brilliance of his poetry for the first time. Dike Okoro

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aside, Sefi Atta’s novel is a literary snapshot of the 1980s, capturing for posterity the anomie, angst and atrophy of the period. Even though the end of the novel leaves us without a clear-cut answer to the truth Tolani had come home to seek out, we find joy just knowing that Sefi Atta’s narrative is a lyrically evocative tale of hope and defiance, with characters who move from mere spectators on the fringes of the city and life’s feast to become active participants in the unravelling madness. Toni Kan is a Lagos-based writer

THE NEW GONG BOOK OF NEW NIGERIAN SHORT STORIES The New Gong N1000.00, 207 pages

The most striking thing about the stories in this book is the recurring themes and tones, the biting cynicism and the wicked, often macabre, humour. It is evident from this collection that Nigeria is a fecund breeding ground for some of the most amazing and powerful short stories. However, with such rich material, some of the stories were disappointing in that they made no impact, you could read and forget them. I was disappointed by “On a Night with two Friends and an Empty Oil Drum” by A. Igoni Barrett, where two friends try to steal petrol from a station owned by one of their fathers. In one tense moment, they have opened one of the tanks and Saamekpe drops the keys in the tank. They consider finding a rope and climbing down the tank to fetch it…. The potential of the story to unfurl thrilled me but instead the story rolled through a scene with policemen who catch them and a journey in the back of a van ending with a bribe. It seemed like a ripe opportunity was missed to tell a story only Nigeria could breed. Interestingly, the two stories on either end of the collection, “The Front of the Past” by Omale Allen Abdul-Jabbar and “Written in Stone” by Molara Wood, are quietly powerful and profound. In particular “Written in Stone” seems to offer delving into the stories of our ancestors as a means of gaining clarity regarding the dilemmas of the present, and being empowered. The humour in stories such as “The Ram” and “New Generator: ‘I pass my neighbour’” is enough to make one laugh out loud. The stories poke fun at our superstitions; the things we believe are the truth. The story that left the greatest impact, a deep sense of unease, was “Waiting for the Messiah” by Tolu Ogunlesi. It paints the picture of what happens when greed and witchcraft become bedfellows, revealing the underbelly of desperation and depravity. Ultimately, I salute the principles behind the New Gong project. The publishers cast an expert net across Nigeria, caught a pocketful of talents and then put them into an aquarium for us to admire and inspect. Yewande Omotoso

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10 RECOMMENDED

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From the art of branding to the science of architecture, dip into this book lover’s choice... By Ekanem Konu

New Hotels 3 By Agata Losantos The third and most recent edition in this popular book series showcases some of the most inventive projects by the greatest names in hotel design.

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Sense (The art & science of creating lasting brands) By Lippincott Mercer A ‘must have’ for anyone concerned with the concepts and processes of branding. Amongst others, it explores such topics as: bridging the gap between reality and perception, figuring out what to do after a merger, establishing a new identity, struggling for distinctiveness, and managing brand risk. With a mixture of visual case studies and theoretical narrative, this is a substantial book on this speciality. Critical Regionalism By Liane Lefauvre, Alexander Tzonis Architecture and Identity in a global

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DEVELOP OR DIE?

over issues of methodology that circulate in the academies: should we read a poem like this, or like that, for example? Ultimately, such questions don’t affect the price of bread in Zimbabwe. But within the social sciences, where we know that we act in the real world with, as and for real people, theoretical debates and their ensuing enactment have tangible consequences for the lives of communities and individuals. However, a whole numinous industry seems to have been erected in the social sciences, within the discipline itself, and from the MISSIONARIES, MERCENARIES AND MISFITS: academies out into the unsuspecting world. It is that vast industry, AN ANTHOLOGY that myth, that Great Modern Missionary Project that has been Edited by Rasna Warah wrapping its sweaty fat hands around the world since perhaps the AuthorHouse Publishers £12.49, 199 pages 1940s: Developmentalism. That is, the belief that development in its traditional form is achievable, always brings benefits, is good for us. “As usual, in every scheme that worsens the position of the poor, Developmentalists are generally clever, active and wellit is the poor who are invoked as beneficiaries” – Vandana Shiva intentioned people. I would never suggest that our contemporary developmentalists are like medieval bishops or their inquisitions, negatively interfering in the lives of folk as surely as the Pope hindered Galileo, but I might contend that they are very similar, if not the exact hen in late 18th century Europe the postcolonial equivalents, of those equally well-intentioned Christian two chemists, Joseph Priestley and missionaries and anthropologists of the colonial era who came to “do Antoine-Laurent Lavoisier, good”, but who unwittingly found themselves to be the soft and smiling inadvertently isolated oxygen for the first time vanguard that enabled the imperialist boots and guns to enter and during haphazard experiments with combustion, occupy British East Africa. neither of them had any idea what exactly they Frankly, I have come to believe, as have an increasing number of had done. Initially, both believed that they had younger and older thinkers in the southern hemisphere—or the socollected something called “phlogisticated nitrous air”. This was not because the two great scientists were fools, or because their equipment was inadequate—they weren’t, and it wasn’t. Rather, it was because RENOVATION OF INTERIORS DECORATIVE FITTINGS the prevailing Combustion Theory of the earlier 18th Century was the MARBLE/GRANITE PORTAKABINS MDF “Phlogiston Theory”. WOODEN FURNITURE METAL GLASS According to the Phlogiston Theory, all combustible materials contain “phlogiston”, a type of inflammable matter that sort of mists into the surrounding air when a flame is introduced to the larger combustible material. And that was that: the oxygenated air itself CONCEPT INFINITE Craftworks didn’t—pardon the pun—matter. Giggle as even present-day schoolchildren might at such a theory, it was popular and accepted. Conventionalist historians and philosophers of science such as Thomas Kuhn might suggest that Priestley and Lavoisier could not identify or articulate their new gas, oxygen, because the prevailing paradigm was simply irresistible. Ultimately, we might say that Lavoisier’s chemical revolution, which was brought about by his and others’ final identification of oxygen as a distinct elemental gas, was delayed by over a decade not by a lack of technological skill, but rather by a mindset, an ideology that couldn’t be thought beyond. Simply, the idea of oxygen—as a gaseous component within the air—being the combustible element was just outside the truth of the time. But how had the Phlogiston Theory gained such a powerful hold? Clearly, it wasn’t because it was true. It was because of the power of circulation: it had been repeated endlessly in scientific literature over decades by reputable scientists, who simply accepted it and perpetuated its truth status. Science, then, has its powerful myths, as well as its own ability to fall victim, even today, to religious or political myths and prejudices—think of Copernicus and Galileo, yes, but also of those stem cell scientists in the US who are legislated against by the neoconservative religious right.

By Stephen Derwent Partington

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long anecdote this, but one that will serve to support a point. You see, all disciplines have their myths, their arrested developments, from History and Literature to Astrophysics and Chemistry. The world is not fundamentally damaged by nice debates

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called developing world—who have had their lives intruded upon by development, that we now, before the paradigm is entrenched forever in the policies of the world, need to reflect profoundly and honestly on whether Development Theory isn’t our Phlogiston Theory, our arrested development, the very discourse and practice that, ironically, makes impossible the “improvements” in people’s lives that it seeks to effect. If the little people from India to Brazil to Kenya who receive aid or who find themselves, to their surprise, being developed, are increasingly aware of the need for a rethink here, perhaps it’s time for the rest of us, especially those who think and work in the field, to sit up and listen. This is never an easy thing. Priestley and others were unwilling to relinquish their faith in the Phlogiston Theory, and it took much of the rest of the international scientific community years to accept the conclusions that Lavoisier eventually reached. But 18th century Euro-America became, perhaps, a better and more interesting place for the chemical revolution, for the fact that certain scientists

A sort of village-as-lab-rat experiment, with real people suffering the tiresomeness and cultural upset of endless and unsuccessful development from above. came to take the difficult step of letting go of fixed theories and timedishonoured arguments from authority.

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here is now a new anthology of East African essays that will surely grease the cogs of our conscience, forcing us all to think about development and its negative consequences for the folk who are to be developed. It is a book that should go some good way toward forcing us to realise the need for a paradigm shift, a Copernican revolution within the development establishment, a move toward a post-development world and away from development or foreign investment that is little more than planned poverty. The essays in Missionaries, Mercenaries and Misfits come from various writers, all of whom are either based in East Africa or are part of its Diaspora, or who have worked, often as developmentalists in their own way, within East Africa. Consequently, this collection doesn’t attempt the grand sweep, raging aimlessly against the machine with general complaints that fail to hit their mark. Rather, it is a focused peep into the regional and the local, into what development and its brother, capitalist globalisation, means for us Kenyans. This local focus of the anthology doesn’t mean a narrow parochialism, but rather it means specifics and relevance, and means that in itself as a project it has something about it of the shift in our thinking that postdevelopmentalists desire: a move from the global to the particular and local, where real people live. Missionaries, Mercenaries and Misfits strikes me as a local companion to the vastly important The Post-development Reader, published in 1997. That book hit an immediate nerve for me, articulating certain heresies, if you like, that I had been confusedly thinking about from a left-wing perspective for a while. And yet, it went further than simply following the ideologically-stuck critiques of (neo-) colonialism found in such excellent canonical texts as Walter Rodney’s somewhat dated 1972 publication, How Europe Underdeveloped Africa. Instead, it eclectically mixed leftist critiques of postcolonial developmentalism with libertarian critiques, with guilty reflections and confessions from liberal developmentalists, and with heart-rending testimonies from folk in place.

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Rasna Warah’s wonderful anthology does something very similar for East Africa, but something that is then more immediate and more directly pertinent to us, and consequently it has some claim to be not only the most interesting book that I have read on developmentalism in the last ten years, but also the most urgent and important. In it, we discover, as Warah—a respected columnist in the Kenyan national press—states in her editorial introduction: an eclectic mix; here, among others, you will find a leftist scholar who exposes the lies perpetuated by donor-funded African NGOs, a banker who urges African governments to “grow up” and stop begging for more donor aid, a BBC correspondent who critiques the lifestyles of development workers in Africa and an investigative journalist who uncovers the post-colonial machinations of Kenya’s political elite against the Maasai community. All the contributors to this anthology approach the notion of development through their own worldviews and experiences. Many are convinced that it is time to declare the death of development as an idea, as an ideology, and as an industry. So, as the old Family Fun Parks used to tell us, there’s something for everyone. But this eclectic range is, to my mind, a wise and vital approach for an editor of such a book to attempt, in this case so successfully. This is because development of course affects so many different people in so many different ways, with so many different negative consequences. As a reader, we might find that some of the individual contributors’ criticisms somewhat fail to convince us, and are even churlish or romantic, or are perhaps written for too exclusively Western a readership (important in many ways), or for too specific a Kenyan audience (important, also, in other ways). And yet, the diversity of the anthology ensures that there will be other arguments and approaches that do make us think that something’s not quite right in the world of developmental aid and assistance, that make us say, as a good poem can, “Yes, that’s right! That’s it exactly!” Although virtually all of the pieces in the anthology strike me as valuable and at times excellent, there were some that struck me as particularly interesting. Firstly, there is a gently journalistic piece by Victoria Schlesinger, a sort of reformed developmentalist, who from the professional’s end of the debate articulates what she perceives to be the failings of a particular model village project in Western Kenya that could be ungenerously viewed as nothing more than a rather stressful (for the villagers) research project for the renowned economist, Jeffrey

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Sachs. A sort of village-as-lab-rat experiment, with real people suffering the tiresomeness and cultural upset of endless and unsuccessful development from above. Another interesting piece is by Bantu Mwaura, who argues that creative theatre, drama writing and, by implication, other creative enterprises in Kenya have been stunted and redirected away from the concerns of real people by NGOs and other patrons who have specific ideas of what “Third World” creativity is and should be about. The strong implication that I get from this piece is that foreigners with good intentions, set agendas and fat wallets dictate to some great extent what Kenyans should be watching: Aids-themed theatre only, for example, or endless skits on FGM. It is not perhaps that such theatre is totally unimportant; rather, that it’s all there is as our best artists are, often against their own better judgement, co-opted and redirected. For Mwaura, this is no better than the political or religious artistic-interference and indoctrination of the past, and certainly as boring. There is a semi-academic piece by the excellent Parselelo Kantai on Maasai land rights and the denigration of the Maasai and “their” territory by both the colonialists and Kenya’s post-independence” governments. (I add the scare quotes because Kantai would probably want them stressed here!) My only concern with this fine, new-leftist piece is that it at times seems to imply that imperialist brutalities and other injustices stem from the white skin colour of the settlers and colonials. The incomparable Onyango Oloo writes with a knowing, thoughtful and lamenting wit about the hypocrisies, farces and excesses of the recent World Social Forum, which, to simplify his rather more subtle view, came in the form of NGO-ers who camped in Kenya for quite a while to engage in some communal navel-gazing. He reminds us that not all NGOs are the same, with the same generosity or conscience. But there are others who I haven’t mentioned here because many of their names should already be known to us, and we can consequently be assured of the quality of their writing: Kalundi Serumaga, Binyavanga Wainaina, Isisaeli Kazado, Lara Pawson, Achal Prabhala, Sunny Bindra, Maina Mwangi, Issa Shivji and Firoze Manji. Missionaries, Mercenaries and Misfits is a book that will make us reimagine our world and our place in it, and reconsider the comparative value of anonymous development and very real, humanfaced people. People who know that they matter, but who equally

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know that they are either spoken down to and/or ignored. People very much like you and me, our families and our friends, who might want to reject certain “improvement” projects and instead think of alternatives—that’s the next stage, beyond the covers of this collection. Rasna Warah’s anthology, then, begins to demystify our contemporary, phlogisticated theories of developmentalism, and provides some oxygen for those Kenyans who weren’t necessarily suffering before in many ways, but who nevertheless today find that they are succumbing to the sometimes noxious gases of progress. Stephen Derwent Partington is a Kenya-based teacher and poet

ed which was first publish a Social Studies textbook ols in Nigeria. ited reproduction from scho ned y u ar m an is pri t y ac man extr in The below wide use 1997) and which is in in 1975 (revised edition,


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NNEDI OKORAFOR-MBACHU

Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu was born in the United States to Nigerian parents. She has degrees in English and Journalism, holds a PhD in English and is a professor at Chicago State University. Her debut novel Zahrah the Windseeker was published in 2005 and her second novel The Shadow Speaker was published in 2007. An illustrated version of Zahrah the Windseeker was published in July 2008 by Farafina. She lives in Chicago with her daughter.

What time of the day do you write most? The early morning. What books are currently on your bedside table? I Refuse to Die: My Journey for Freedom by Koigi wa Wamwere and a comic book series called Castle Waiting by Linda Medley. What are you scared of? Absolutely nothing. Ha ha. I wish. My fears include sudden unpleasant change, large black spiders, and a lack of control. What would you change about yourself? Absolutely nothing. Not even my imperfections. I am what I am. Well, I wouldn’t mind my feet being the same size. One is a full size bigger than the other. Makes it hard to find shoes that fit. Ha ha. What will you call your kind of writing—science fiction, magical realism or fantasy? I call it mine. Categories annoy me. Too often, they are incorrect, incomplete and limiting. Editors and publishers call my work African fantasy and science fiction. Magical realism is just a subcategory of fantasy. How has your life influenced your writing? In every way. My Nigerian background, my American background, my experiences with otherness (such as racism

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and sexism), my love of the sciences and the flora and fauna of the earth, my own odd sense of humor, my athleticism, etc., all these manifest themselves in my writing whether I like it or not. My writing is who I am. Books contain centuries and generations, yet can be carried around; they keep you up at night; they incite change, hilarity, tears, rage, joy; they bring things to life right behind your eyes; they show you death; they give you deep experience without having to leave your home; they affect children and adults; they can show you different planets and worlds; and they live on long after you are gone. Books are priceless.

How does your writing influence your life? It gives it purpose and focus. It’s often therapeutic. For example, when my father passed, I channeled all my pain into a novel. I literally started writing it right after he passed. That novel is the best and most painful thing I’ve written to date. I don’t know how I’d have gotten through that time without that

novel to write. What is the strangest research you’ve done? I was doing a story with a main character who was a stripper. I was having a very hard time getting into her head because I just found the practice of stripping so disgusting. So I called up the owner of a strip club and asked him if I could interview some of his dancers. To this day, I cannot believe I was able to do this. I spent two hours talking to those women and then I got to see what they do. Stripping is more awful in real life! And those were some of the angriest women I’ve ever met! But they were also really kind, insightful and very down to earth. All (except one) were single mothers supporting their children through dancing. Needless to say, I had all the information I needed for my story. What inspires your writing? Everything. All people, incidents, beasts, creatures and things I encounter have a chance of making it into my stories. Honestly, this earth we live on is

a grand inspiration. How would you introduce your child to literature? I read to her every night and whenever she wants me to read to her. I take her to the library and bookstore. I put books in her room. I talk about books. I teach her to read. And I buy her books. I make books seem more important and more magical than television and music. Who would you most like to sit next to at a dinner party? The director of Pan’s Labyrinth and the Hellboy series, Guillermo del Toro. I swear he and I share part of the same mind, plus I hear he’s far from boring. What is the worth of a book? Books contain centuries and generations, yet can be carried around; they keep you up at night; they incite change, hilarity, tears, rage, joy; they bring things to life right behind your eyes; they show you death; they give you deep experience without having to leave your home; they affect children and adults; they can show you different planets and worlds; and they live on long after you are gone. Books are priceless.

Zahrah the Windseeker by Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu is published in Nigeria by Farafina

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J. P. Clark’s AMERICA By Anderson Brown

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Samosa Beef kebab Spring Rolls Chicken Barbecue Asun Waiter Meatballs Fish-in-Batter No 12, Manual Street, S.W. Ikoyi, Lagos. Tel: 08023236999

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America, Their America, a satirical account of author John Pepper Clark-Bekederemo’s year in the US, was first published in 1964. It was written after he spent eight months studying at Princeton University. The book created controversy because of its attacks on American life, values and manners. Its publication is believed by some to have damaged the writer's reputation by alienating a large western audience.

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y friend Beverly Nieves and her husband Henry owned a bookstore on St. Thomas for a number of years, and a couple of years ago when she moved, she was kind enough to let me have a shelf of volumes from the African Writers Series. The legendary series started with the publication of Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart in 1962. Then last year, a friend gave me a box of books from his years in Africa that also included a number of editions from the series. I’ve been sampling them and have found all sorts of delights and curiosities, needless to say. I read J. P. Clark’s America, Their America, his account of his year spent in the US on a fellowship to Princeton in 1963, when he was twenty-six years old. Mr. Clark is a Nigerian, educated at the University of Ibadan, who worked in the information ministry in Nigeria, and also as a journalist. He is well-regarded today principally for his poetry. The present book is not a work of fiction, but an account of his impressions and

experiences as he visits the US for the first time. Through his fellowship, he meets many people in the highest walks of government, journalism and the theatre (another of his own specialties). I found this book quite challenging. At first it was too easy for me to patronize him as the stereotypical angry young black man. He was on a mission to defy the generosity of his hosts, to reject America before it rejected him, to prove to everyone (but especially to himself) that he, the young radical, saw through the smug hypocrisy of provincial America. He throws the most innocent conversationstarters back in people’s faces, and repeatedly reports to the reader the ensuing uncomfortable silence, and the fact that he never spoke to so-and-so again. He is the poetry slammer on a mission to shock—the tedious antiAmerican who imagines that no one has heard these criticisms before. As I stuck with him though, he gradually won me over, and that process of getting to know this difficult person

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through the medium of his journal turned out to be the pleasure of the book. He is in fact learned and worldly, quoting Pound’s Cantos from memory, making easy classical allusions, critiquing productions of Bertolt Brecht. More than that, he turns out to be a serious student of the US, more familiar with New York geography than even I who grew up in Rochester: he is not just some angry victim of culture shock, as he must have seemed to many of the people he encountered. He has made a serious intellectual investment in

A substantial point of Clark’s is that the American concept of foreign aid is classically imperial—the idea is that everyone ought to be civilized through assimilation and absorption into American ways. He has a perceptive discussion of the drawbacks of bringing Africans to the US for their education, at the expense of developing higher education back home. His anger is unavoidable as no one will appreciate him for his African self; they only appreciate him when he “assimilates.” What is

A substantial point of Clark’s is that the American concept of foreign aid is classically imperial—the idea is that everyone ought to be civilized through assimilation and absorption into American ways. He has a perceptive discussion of the drawbacks of bringing Africans to the US for their education, at the expense of developing higher education back home. understanding the United States. Then there is the historical context of Cold War America, circa 1963. The Parvin Fellowship he has been awarded is transparently a propaganda arm of government policy, but then, so is virtually every international initiative of the government. The Kennedy brothers sit astride Washington; the Democratic Party leads the struggle against the “Reds” with liberals as the chorus. It is the time of the Cuban missile crisis, and Clark’s observation that the US has the USSR ringed with missiles is decidedly unwelcome. Most of the people Clark meets ask him leading questions that invite him to recite to them how wonderful America is, and much of his rejection is because he refuses to perform. The US in 1963 does not appear to this educated Nigerian to be much different from South Africa (and it isn’t that much different, something we Americans conveniently forget). His friendly guide tells him about all of the things that “we” are doing for “the blacks,” who are being concentrated into apartment towers through “urban renewal.” From his perspective in 1963, the civil rights movement looked like something just taking off; he’s aware of it, and hopeful about it (he wants people to learn to fight for themselves), but barely mentions it.

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remarkable is how true this rings today, forty-four years later, both in terms of how Americans view foreigners, especially “Third World” foreigners, and in terms of the emotional challenges confronting African Americans who are moving into professional communities. And then there is “JP” himself. After a while, one comes to see that his style is a kind of humorous sarcasm that aims at everything and everyone. He is forever praising and thanking people, only he insists in doing it in a back-handed way. He is completely even-handed in his treatment of whites, blacks, and people from other parts of the world. Finally booted out of the fellowship and sent packing home, his transgression is that he never attended any classes, which is indeed grounds for washing out. But equally obvious is the fact that he has alienated the cold warrior administrators and their auxiliary society hostesses, who are now angry at this ingrate African. One is glad to find, on researching him a little more, that he subsequently returned to the US as a speaker and a teacher some number of times. He’s the kind of visitor that we could use more often. Anderson Brown is a professor of Philosophy based in the US

G r a m ma One short, simple word recurs in ‘Nigerian-English’ talk. It can fall at the end of virtually any statement. It flows easily with almost every question. It most often follows injunctions and orders, the more strident the better. The word: ‘now’. The Nigerian ‘now’ is not the same as the English ‘now’. It sounds different. You could think of it as having an upward accent: nów. Nów and now also mean different things. Now refers to time, and nów? Well, perhaps the two words are not as unrelated as they may first seem. We use nów for emphasis, and its tone often implies a certain hurry and impatience, an unwillingness to wait or explain further, and so perhaps a desire for... now. Think about it, nów.

Greeting: How nów? Reply: I’m fine nów. Question: Why nów? Affirmative: Eeeh nów. Negative: No nów. Plea: Please nów. Impatience: O ya nów. Apology: Sorry nów. Complaint: Ooo nów. Time: On Monday nów. Truth: It’s true nów. Command: Stop nów.

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ASA in CONCERT An attendee’s review of Asa’s concert at the Carling Academy, London, on 12th May, 2008

Photo by Tope Kogbe

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ondon was hot that day: skirts were short, spirits high and the fans turned up en masse to hear Asa in concert. Ben Onono opened for her and the crowd appreciated him (probably because he “hailed” the 95 percent Nigerian crowd), but by 9 p.m., chants of “We want Asa!” filled the room. She emerged from behind the stage delivering the first line off “360 degrees”, the number two track on her album. Her velvety voice was distinct but poor thing, she got as far as the third line before the crowd went wild and pretty much sang the rest of the song for her. She seemed taken aback by how well we knew her lyrics and possibly had to change tack for the rest of the concert. Dressed simply in white top and black pants—and with her guitar across her chest—she launched into her second song of the evening, the hauntingly soulful and reflective “Subway”. She closed her eyes and concentrated on taking us on a journey of emotional disappointment, accompanied by her four-piece band. Asa took a while to warm up to the crowd, even declaring how she preferred a quiet atmosphere and “did not like to shout”, but I think she gave up trying to do it her own way and simply let the love and energy in the room set her free to truly work the songs. The

storytelling of “Àwé” was as ingenious as the song itself, drawing screams of laughter at her suggestion that Wahidi (the main character in the song) was getting busy every chance he got. From this moment on, it was one crowdpleasing song after another: “No one Knows Tomorrow”; “Bibanké”; “Fire on the Mountain”; with a near-riot breaking out at the opening chords of “Jailer”, one of her more popular singles. She even broke into a dance during the uptempo sections of “You’re Beautiful”, a song that flaunts her skill in fusing the Yoruba language and style with English, to produce a unique folk music sound which is hard to describe, but may be imagined as an ethnic and soulful Corinne Bailey-Rae with the sunshine simplicity of Jack Johnson. As far as gigs go, it was an applaudable effort, and Asa has great staying power on stage. Sailing through her songs, she gave the crowd exactly what it wanted—a full set, and then some, after the encore. However, she did pick the right day with the right weather and a good location; without all this in place, she might have been left with only the true followers, her hardcore fans. I have a feeling that’s how Asa probably would have liked it. –Sade Abiodun


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NNEKA

Nneka Egbuna was born in Warri, Nigeria in 1981. She moved to Germany at the age of nineteen to pursue her education while also advancing her musical career. Nneka’s album Victim Of Truth was released in September 2006. She lives in Hamburg, Germany.

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QUOTE Can you match the song lyric with the artiste? Answers

©Youri Lenquette

When did you know you were going to be a musician? It was never really my intention to become a musician. I would say music found me when I got to Germany for the first time. I experienced a world I had never seen or known since I’d never left Nigeria before, and I had to face new trials and obstacles. Music strengthened me; it helped me in times of loneliness and pain. I felt closer to God through music.... So I began to develop passion and love for what I was doing. Where and what time of the day do you compose music best? It varies, sometimes in the night, at times in the day; at times I am not inspired at all. It all depends on how I feel; if my soul is at ease or not. What song changed your life? The song titled War by Bob Marley. The lyrics were adapted from a speech by Haile Selassie I, the Emperor of Ethiopia. What will you call your kind of music? I love Afro beat and hip hop. I mean real Afro beat and real hip hop, heartfelt and not superficial unconscious stuff. Who is your perfect audience? The Nigerian audience, because

at the bottom of the page

1> “Bone animosity, I be the great one”

I guess they connect the most to what I sing about, especially on themes such as corruption, Music strengthened me; it helped me in times of loneliness and pain. I felt closer to God through music.... So I began to develop passion and love for what I was doing.

bribery, oppression and of course, the happiness that one can still find despite the suffering one is confronted with day by day. What inspires your music? The things I see, the people I meet or have met, my experience, especially my past back home in the Niger Delta, my school life, my work, my family and the Almighty God. Which famous musicians do you admire? Fela Anikulapo-Kuti. For his courage and the fact that he never spoke too much grammar; he spoke in the language of a common naija person, he hit the nail on the head.

What is your greatest regret? For now, nothing. I just have to face the fact that I have made mistakes I have to learn from and, therefore, everything I experience is a lesson. No regrets. What is the last song you listened to that made you cry? Ben Harper's Picture of Jesus. What is the value of good music? Timelessness. Have you ever bought your own album? Excuse me? No!

2> “If you want to criticise me talk small-small, 'cos you no holy pass my brother” 3> “We don't have to go the 360 degrees, now it's time we go the 180” 4> “I dey see well-well but they tell me love is blind” 5> “Hilary wey you been promise to marry, still dey wait, o boy she don tarry” 6> “They can't fire extinguish me”

Nneka’s debut album Victim of Truth is available in stores

A> Asa B> Sound Sultan C> 9ice D> 2face E> Naeto C F> D’banj

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FILM

CLOUDS OVER CONAKRY (2007) Directed by Cheick Fantamady Camara

Clouds over Conakry (also Il Va Pleuvoir Sur Conakry) was the winner of the People’s Choice Award at FESPACO 2007. The film captures the difficult yet necessary task of balancing tradition, religion and education. BB, the son of an influential Imam, is chosen as his father's successor over his more fanatical brother. However, BB leads a modern life as a cartoonist for a local newspaper which his father, the Imam, is unaware of. BB is caught between respecting his father's wishes and following his own path in life. His choice is made even more difficult by his girlfriend Kesso, who does not understand why BB is afraid of facing up to his father. If Camara's mission was to show the contrasting lifestyles of the traditional versus the modern man, then he succeeded with this movie. The importance of women in African society is also a major theme. Despite the fact that religion seems to hold sway over the people, tradition, it seems, might even have stronger hold. Though Camara deals with the themes and subjects familiar to African cinema, he has managed to do so with humour, depth and wit. The film is definitely worth seeing and while you might find yourself nodding and smiling at much of the dialogue, a tear or two will also be shed. Sylvia Ofili

MAD MONEY (2008) Directed by Callie Khouri

Bridget Cardigan (Diane Keaton) is a middle-aged, middleclass woman whose life of domestic normalcy is shattered when her husband Don (Ted Danson) loses his job. Faced with bankruptcy and on the verge of losing their home, this homemaker decides to seek employment. With the help of her housekeeper she lands a job as a janitor in the city’s Federal Reserve building. Not long after she takes up her new job however, the mildly neurotic Bridget figures out a way to steal old money meant for the incinerators. She enlists the help of two co-workers: Nina (Queen Latifah), a black, single mother who is in charge of the incinerator and Jackie (Katie Holmes), a high-spirited hippie who mops the floors. Looking at the cast members, one might be tempted to think that Mad Money is a chick flick. Wrong. The movie is hilarious right from the opening scene. Diane Keaton, as Bridget, carries you along, as you are curious to know what the sheltered, middle-aged lady at her wits end would do to get herself out of a sad situation. Recent Academy Award winner, Queen Latifah (much reduced in size, I must say) plays the part of the rational one in the trio. Katie Holmes’ character, Jackie, is the happy-golucky, childlike personality who answers “Why not?” to the question as to why they should steal from the bank. With some good acting and a string of great one-liners, Mad Money is a take on the incipient greed (and capabilities) resident in each of us. Or—as others may argue—it is simply a story of the quest for a better life. TJ O’karo

IDERA ALAKO (2007) Directed by Tunji Bamishigbin Idera, a well-to-do young lady, learns that her childhood friend, who travelled overseas has “made it” and returned home to acquire a luxurious property in a highbrow area of Lagos. She is inspired to do the same. She then embarks on a desperate adventure to travel out of the country but meets obstacles in the process. I wish I could say more about the movie but the truth is, there’s nothing more to the plot. Going by the dialogue, I could wager a guess that the movie had no script. Also, the dialogue was in Yoruba and had no subtitles. The comic relief scenes were more annoying than funny. There were many scenes that weren’t necessary and had nothing to do with the story. Many characters were poorly developed and were not strong enough to represent their roles. The only character worth mentioning was Yemisi (played by Foluke Olumide), and this only because she was less plastic than the others. Camera work in the movie was sloppy and poorly handled. The sound was bad, especially in scenes where there were confrontations. The soundtrack was unimaginative: there was this awful song—which was more of a continuously looped chorus that chanted the movie’s name: a lazy sound trick. Idera Alako fails to meet up with the standard that a number of other good Yoruba movies have achieved. It isn’t a movie that I’d want to watch a second time. ‘Lolu Kusimo

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DRUM (2004) Directed by Zola Maseko

The film tells the real life story of Henry Nxumalo, a journalist in 1950s South Africa. The young journalist, played by the Hollywood actor, Taye Diggs, is portrayed as a happy-go-lucky young man, who enjoys his time in Sophiatown, the decadent town for fun-loving blacks and whites. His carefree days come to an end when he realizes that he has a voice and he can use it to expose the evils of the apartheid government. He does this by going underground and gathering evidence and materials, which are subsequently printed in the magazine, Drum. Whilst this film seemed to have a powerful and inspirational story to tell, I was disappointed. There was something missing—perhaps it was a sense that the actors where not passionate enough? Or was it the fact that Taye Diggs seemed so unconvincing in the role of a journalist? I expected him to switch into his American accent at any moment and sometimes, he did. Even an appearance by the legendary Nelson Mandela (played by Lindani Nkosi) did nothing to uplift this movie. There were however many unforgettable characters, such as the schoolteacher turned writer, a German photographer and a lowlife criminal, who all managed to give the movie its few entertaining moments. Also, the soundtrack of the movie was very good; definitely worth buying. All in all, Drum is a well made movie that had huge potential but failed to live up to expectations. Sylvia Ofili IN THE NAME OF THE KING: A DUNGEON SIEGE TALE (2007) Directed by Uwe Boll

This is the movie adaptation of the popular “Dungeon Siege” video games. An evil Sorcerer, Gallian (Ray Liotta) is bent on taking over the kingdom of Ehb. With the aid of the king’s nephew, the sorcerer amasses an army of beastly creatures called Krugs and starts a war. Caught in the middle is the mysterious, boomerang-wielding Farmer (Jason Statham), his wife (Claire Forlani) and their son. During a raid by the Krug, Farmer’s son is killed and his wife captured. Together with two friends, he tracks down the Krug in order to rescue his wife and the others. After a failed rescue attempt, Farmer is encouraged by the king’s sorcerer Merick (played by John Rhys Davies) to join the King’s forces to defeat the Krug army and Gallian. With a popular cast of actors—Jason Statham, Ray Liotta, Burt Reynolds, Claire Forlani, Leelee Sobierski and John Rhys Davies, amongst others—it looked like Uwe Boll would land his first big hit. Unfortunately, In the Name of the King failed to impress. The storyline was exceedingly weak and the special effects actually put me to sleep. The movie offers nothing new and is a big disappointment and a waste of time. TJ O’karo

www.farafinamagazine.com


THEATRE

By Wole Oguntokun

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here has been resistance in some quarters over the emergence of upstarts in the realm of Nigerian stagecraft. Impostors who, without artistic pedigree—according to their critics—have risen to hold theatre by the scruff of the neck and have made the direction it faces in Nigerian culture their business. In the opinion of the opponents of the “new theatre”, these greenhorns are not ideal artistes, because they do not obey the traditions set by the masters of old. Through the 1990s and early this millennium, many people who considered themselves theatre practitioners, including the famed Abe-Igi school (“under the tree” fraternity at the National Arts Theatre), pondered on the demise of theatre culture in Nigeria. After the glory days of practitioners like Hubert Ogunde, Duro Ladipo, Wole Soyinka, Ola Rotimi, Femi Osofisan, Zulu Sofola, Wale Ogunyemi, Fred Agbeyegbe, J.P. Bekederemo-Clark and a few others, bigbudget theatre practice in Nigeria was not comatose, but dead, and what was left of the faithful (those not driven to the home video ranks and other forms of industry in search of better pay and greater opportunities) kept faith by warding flies off its lifeless body. About two decades ago, financial institutions (like NAL Merchant Bank and Citibank) supported theatre productions in Lagos. This sponsorship did not result in the production of many plays, but it served in

assuaging the thirst of theatre practitioners and theatregoers in a season of severe drought. However, even the support of corporate bodies dwindled after a while and for many years there was nothing but silence. All that was left as evidence that theatre existed was the yearly National Association of Nigerian Theatre Arts Practitioners (NANTAP) Festival, which usually lasted less than ten days. Then “the outsiders” came on board. Individuals who had a love for the theatre as consuming as that of any person formally trained in stagecraft, came together and established theatre houses which did not play by the rules of the past. They did not wait

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for sponsorship from the Ford Foundation, the government or the many unwilling banks, but used personal funds, resources and whatever goodwill they had acquired to rejuvenate theatre in Nigeria. They did not choose dilapidated halls or decrepit structures to present stage plays,

Terrence featured Richard Mofe-Damijo and Genevieve Nnaji in his plays, while I have featured Taiwo Ajai-Lycett, Joke Silva, Kate Henshaw Nuttal and Stella DamasusAboderin in different plays I wrote and directed. I was commissioned to direct the Muson Festival Drama in 2006, then created the annual “Season of Soyinka” in 2007, and partnered with Terra Kulture in the production of the weekly “Theatre @ Terra” that same year. I was also head-writer and director of the first Nigerian version of “the Vagina Monologues” in March 2008.

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Wole Oguntokun

but consistently staged their productions in some of the most prestigious (and therefore expensive) venues in Nigeria such as Terra Kulture and the Muson Centre in Lagos. These choices were strategic. Consistent and competently packaged theatre productions at such high-profile venues caused the corporate world to take notice and consider the possibilities of how they could participate; and, after an absence of many

years, theatregoers began to show up in numbers when it dawned on them that there was a re-awakening. Now, in 2008, “the outsiders” continue their innovative onslaught on all factors that had previously obstructed the growth of theatre in Nigeria (to make a point, my theatre outfit has produced more than fiftytwo plays at Terra Kulture and still holds the record for the largest number of plays produced at the Muson Centre). They have played a major part in placing theatre production back on the map of cultural events, taking the initiative by inviting celebrities to participate in their plays so as to revive public interest in theatre. Tyrone

he way forward for Nigerian theatre, in my opinion, is to see how the new wave of producers can be used for the advancement of good theatre. The techniques used by these innovative practitioners in raising funds to produce stage show after stage show, even in the midst of an ailing economy, must be learnt by those who wish the theatre well. Many have praised the quality of productions from “the outsiders”—the highlevel acting and the quality of the scripts produced. Theatregoers, especially, have accepted them with open arms and have supported their courage through the purchase of tickets, and sometimes, outright donations. They do so because of the consistency of these dramatists and because they know that “the show must go on”. Many

of the new plays that are staged in Nigeria are the works of these new people. It is best to accept that there is enough space in the skies for all the birds that desire to fly. All sides of the Nigerian theatre world must begin to integrate and learn from one another, each side utilizing strengths that the other possesses. One thing that is certain though, is that regardless of whatever direction theatre may face in Nigeria from now on, “the outsiders” have come of age, they have a say, and are here to stay. Wole Oguntokun is a Lagos-based lawyer, playwright and theatre director

www.farafinamagazine.com


THREE-MINUTE GUIDE TO CATFISH FARMING Only two major species of fish are reared on a commercial basis in Nigeria. These are tilapia and the African giant catfish. Catfish is the more commonly reared and commercially preferred of the species because of the high demand for it. Some farmers even rear tilapia purposely to feed their catfish stock. There exists a market for catfish, irrespective of season, and it constitutes the market traders, hoteliers and eateries, as well as domestic consumption. Catfish are farmed in either earthen or concrete ponds. Earthen ponds are however limited to land areas where the soil has a high clay content. The stocking capacity for earthen ponds is low—about 10 fish per square meter. Fish given intensive care in earthen ponds usually reach good market weight in their 6th month. In stocking earthen ponds it is best to stock jumbos, as cannibalism is greatly reduced due to the evenness of their sizes. The major concern with concrete ponds is that water is needed in great quantity. It is however the most economical system for small and

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medium scale farmers. In a conservative estimate, 70–80 fishes can be stocked per square meter. They can reach an average of 0.8 kg in 4 months. Juveniles are best stocked in this system. Water reuse and re-circulatory system is a high-tech method of fish production that requires heavy capital input and in turn yields massive returns for investors. The gadgets in this system include aerators, distribution plates, ultraviolet light, air balls, bio-filters, sedimentation filters and automatic

feeders. It is the most advanced system in terms of water efficiency, stocking capacity and water quality. It is also the most expensive system to construct. A standard re-circulatory system that can house up to 18000 fish and 3 harvests are easily achievable per annum. This system is however heavily dependent on power supply, which makes it an unrealistic option for the small and medium scale farmer in Nigeria. Catfish seed production is the most difficult business area in catfish production. Hatching technology has continued to evolve as an industry, and it is fast taking over the artisan and inshore fishing industries which are considered laborious and expensive. Fingerling production is considered a quicker approach to breaking even with investment capital if operations are properly managed. In hatching fingerlings, wooden vaults can be used (this can be improvised and it is cheaper) or the more effective re-circulatory system can be employed. Recent surveys for demand and supply of catfish fingerlings show that catfish hatcheries in Nigeria are only striving to supply 45 % of national demand. Nutrition is one of the cardinal aspects of catfish farming as it gulps about 50% of the total cost. As a rule, it’s best to use floating feed for the

first 2 months after stocking the pond before switching to pelletized feed. Before entering into catfish farming it is advisable to consider contacting an expert who will guide, advice and provide training about processes. The expert also serves as consultant to the enterprise and monitors occasional activities like sorting, water treatment and harvesting. He could also help the farmer to find markets for the first harvest. Marketing is however not a problem for the Nigerian catfish farmer as the demand for catfish at present is greater than what is being produced. Sola Fagorusi studied Agriculture at the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife

CATFISH JUVENILES

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The 2009 Mitsubishi Ralliart is a sight to behold. Think of it as the Lancer Evolution on a diet: plenty of performance, a chiselled design and driving dynamics that anyone can appreciate. It takes full advantage of the “bin” engineering that takes strong aspects of other Mitsubishi models and creates one supercar out of it. The Ralliart’s engine—a 2.0 MIVEC—comes out of the Evo X; the throaty exhaust is all Evo X; while the chassis is from the award winning Lancer GTS. The drive train is from the Evo IX and the hood is from the Evo X. The Lancer Ralliart fills the gap between the regular FWD Lancer 2.4 GTS and the balls-out rally car Evo X. The Ralliart seeks to put Mitsubishi on the shopping list of folks who might consider, say, a Subaru WRX but not a full-bore STi. It is evidently a guy’s car, yet it is a car that the missus can live with. The Ralliart is blessed, depending on how you look at it, with a dual-clutch manumatic as its only gearbox. Mitsubishi calls its system Twin-Clutch SST, and it returns quick, positive shifts. However, it is

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not a 6-speed stick. It comes equipped with Mitsubishi’s Formula 1 style paddle shift, an uncommon feature for a car of that price range. You will have to look to Maserati and Jaguar for paddle shifters. The interior is unremarkable, but adequate for anyone used to compact cars. The material is mostly hard plastics with a dull sheen. The interior is comparable to the Toyota Corolla. Unlike the Evo IX, this car will thrive on challenging Nigerian roads. It is a road car on steroids. It performs well as the car to get you to and from the office, and on weekends it sits pretty comfortably on the open road. It plays soft and tough while looking pretty at the same time. This is a ride for a young executive who is into rally cars. Overall, the performance of the Ralliart is what you’d expect from a car that combines everyday commuting with the occasional burst of speed on the Lekki Expressway. Balance backed up by a high level of equipment, including Bluetooth, an MP3 input and almost everything else you can imagine by way of entertainment features. The Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart, I think, is a pretty complete package for an estimated three million naira. – By Oz Omoluabi

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UNFINISHED MATTER

Chinweizu answering questions from Paul Odili on the 3rd of September, 2006 What in your view is the problem with education in Nigeria? The so-called education in Nigeria is not really education; it is neo-colonial brainwashing. It is a type of Bantu education for the Nigerian Bantustan: a process for grooming and recruiting black comprador colonialists to manage the Bantustan for imperialism. It is, like black education in apartheid South Africa, an “organized mis-education” which taught, as Biko said, that “the white man was some kind of god whose word cannot be doubted”. It, likewise, disparages the black African, his culture and civilization. It, therefore, produces black persons who aspire to whiteness and accept white behaviour as their norm. It produces persons that are loyal to Europe or Arabia, but not to black Africa or even to Nigeria. Politically, Nigerian education is a dangerous miseducation system. It teaches nothing about the centuries-old race war between black Africans and the whites, Europeans and Arabs. It doesn’t teach about imperialism, or about the European expatriate colonialism that “independence” allegedly ended—which is partly responsible for people not knowing the value, however limited, of the “independence” they celebrate on October 1; it doesn’t teach about the Black comprador colonialism that has replaced European expatriate colonialism; and it doesn’t teach anything at all about the Arab colonialism in black Africa that is still going on in places like Sudan and Mauritania. These omissions leave its products profoundly ignorant about their history and the dangers in the global political environment. They don’t know, and resist the idea, that black Africans have any enemies in the world, despite centuries of being enslaved and colonized. This failure is like sending children into a forest without telling them about the snakes, scorpions, leopards and other predators that live in the forest. No wonder Nigerians, like other black Africans, accept the NEPAD nonsense that the imperialists are their “Development Partners.” And no wonder they accept the continentalist lie that the Arabs are their “African brothers.” No wonder, despite the facts of our history, we refuse to see that Europeans and Arabs are our racial enemies. Which is why black African governments, lacking a sense of danger, allowed the WHO to come into their countries, unsupervised, and vaccinate 97 million black Africans in 11 countries with AIDSinfected smallpox vaccines, making black Africa the epicentre of the AIDS pandemic. This fundamental mis-education is tragic and suicidal. Furthermore, the skills it teaches are not suited to the needs of Nigerian communities. It is simply a certificate-spraying mill. It does nothing for the physical, moral and intellectual improvement of the students and society. It does not train people for the rigorous and comprehensive thinking required to solve problems. It spews out mobs of certificated but incompetent

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barbarians; unemployables with slave-minds and with a selfrighteous sense of their entitlement to the highest standard of consumerism in the world. And to grab the money to enjoy that entitlement, they are selfishly and amorally determined to loot the treasury, extort from the public or rob their neighbours, as opportunities arise; or to even import toxic waste from Europe and dump it in their own village in exchange for money to build a mansion in their village or buy a house in London. After all, they do not learn or care about the Ten Commandments or any other ethical code: these not being emphasized in school or by the ubiquitous prayer-and-miracles hustlers plaguing the land. In short, it is a mis-education system that breeds a highly certificated and amoral lumpen-proletariat—with all the usual vices of a lumpen-proletariat. Not being raised in a milieu of production, they lack the skills, discipline and outlook of the productive classes—the peasantry and industrial workers. So, with their certificates, they know only how to breed, shout “hallelujah”, and loot and consume. If each Nigerian was given a PhD certificate at birth and let loose on society, he would be no worse than he is after going through the Nigerian education system and getting all manner of paper degrees. Nigerian education is wrong basically because it was fashioned to create mental slaves. The British colonial masters founded an education system to enslave us mentally, so that we look up to them, obey them and do whatever they tell us to do. And that is the slave-making system that Nigerians are still voluntarily continuing with, long after “independence”. If Nigerians want to change Nigeria, they must first define what Nigeria should do in the world, its national purpose, and do the hard work of figuring out the kinds of citizens it would take for Nigeria to do it. And then design an education system that would produce those kinds of citizens. All that mental work has not been attempted, not even recognised for 50 years. So it is no wonder that Nigerian education is in the peculiar mess in which it is: no political education, no historical consciousness, no nationalist consciousness, no moral code, no sense of the citizen’s social responsibility for society is being inculcated by the schools. The universities are a special disaster area. They are infested with armed criminal gangs that misleadingly call themselves “cults”; they are busy robbing, raping, shooting and killing fellow students. Is that what universities are for? The university authorities pamper these campus criminals, the state authorities tolerate them. This campus gangsterism cannot be stopped until the authorities, if and when put under intense public pressure, have the gumption to prosecute, convict and hang at least a few as a deterrent. Those who started and still secretly head the entire set of evil gangs go about parading themselves as the “wasted generation”. They are the generation that wasted Nigeria, but they get your sympathy by calling themselves “the wasted generation”.

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UNFINISHED MATTER

But let’s leave aside its decay and perversions: even at its best, Nigerian education is a disaster because it is simply a ladder for potential black comprador colonialists to climb into the system and exploit the population for their imperialist masters. There are many things wrong with the education system, and we could spend two full days talking about them. What do you think should be Nigeria’s national purpose? Let’s put it bluntly: If Nigeria is to serve its population rather than imperialism, its national purpose must be to help build, in the next 50 years, by say 2060, a black African power that would do what Garvey stipulated, or do at least an African equivalent of what China did after 1949. Your history, if you know it, dictates what your objectives should be. Since our problems in the last one thousand years are because of our inability to defend our territory, our population, our civilisation and our culture, the only reason for us to tolerate and live under any political structure is that it provides us security from all enemies—Arab or European invaders who come to loot our resources and brainwash our population with their self-serving imperialist religions and ideologies. The minimum purpose must be to create structures and policies that defend our land, people and culture from foreign

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invaders and enslavers. Now, all the things Black Africans have suffered from—slavery, conquest, colonisation, neo-colonialism, underdevelopment, poverty, the AIDS plague—are as a result of the fact that we could not defend our borders. Those who can defend their borders do not go through such disasters. Therefore, that should be the cardinal purpose of Nigeria, South Africa, Congo, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the Southern African Development Community (SADC), or whatever political structure Africans organise. You have to start from the premise that that is the fundamental problem you must solve; without that you cannot industrialise, you cannot be prosperous because other people can take away your resources, which you should be using for yourself, and you will remain poor. All the things on your wish list stem from your inability to defend your land or population against anybody who comes to take them—whether it was the Arabs and Europeans yesterday, or the Americans and Arabs today, or the Chinese and Indians tomorrow. If you cannot do that, whatever else you do is as nothing. So I would say that is the yardstick people should use to measure what anybody is trying to do in Nigeria or any of these glorified Bantustans. And if these entities are not doing that, then they are not the countries we should be perpetuating.

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What is your idea of perfect happiness? Is there such a thing as perfect happiness? Which living person do you most admire? My mum. For her ability to find laughter in spite of the challenges life has thrown at her. What is your treasured possession? My family. Although that’s not a possession, is it? What is your greatest extravagance? Books and magazines. What is your greatest fear? Losing my sight.

EUGENIA ABU Eugenia Abu is a seasoned newscaster and the Head of Presentation with the Nigerian Television Authority. She is also the author of In the Blink of an Eye. In this chat with Farafina, she gives insight into her extravagances, her ambivalent admiration for Nelson Mandela, and a talent that skipped a generation. 85

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Which world-renowned figure do you most identify with? I have to say Nelson Mandela for his forgiving spirit although I have issues with his views on religion and his treatment of Winnie Mandela. What talent would you most like to have? Singing. But my daughter more than makes up for it. Sings like a bird. What do you consider your greatest achievement? My first book, In the Blink of an Eye. Who are your favourite writers? Nigerian writers have to be in the lead. And Chinua Achebe of course tops the list. I read a lot, from Zadie Smith to Anthony Bourdain, from Isabelle Allende to John Updike, from Naguib Mahfouz to Nadine Gordimer, from Ngugi wa Thiong’o to Arthur Golden. Difficult to pick. Who are your heroes in real life? Everyday Nigerians who are suffering and smiling. And also selfless persons worldwide who give of themselves to put a smile on other people’s faces. What is your greatest regret? I have very few regrets and they are not great ones. www.farafinamagazine.com

REPARTEE


Hair Salon

Simona Schneider


Farafina 15  

Farafina 15 had a section on North Africa which was guest edited by Laila Lalami.