Kinna Reads

A blog of books, reading and world literature


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“Yaa” by Nana Nyarko Boateng

Libation pouring is a thing in my life. During my childhood, my grandfather poured libation (he was a chief); my mother poured libation (for special events and also when a new bottle of something was opened); my mother’s friends poured libations (lots of late night discussion on leftist issues and on no-vision leaders).  Ghanaians poured libations a lot more than we do now (Monotheistic beliefs have us abandoning a lot!).

These days, I pour libations whenever a wine o’clock means new bottle. I pour libations when the Black Stars are facing a tough match but even the ancestors despair, so…  We pour libations to pray.

I love Nana Nyarko’s “Yaa”. Its simplicity, its openness, its honesty; its supplication: everything.  “Schnapps and words”!

 “Yaa”

On the red soil
my feet are bare
with prayers
as I pour down
unto earth
spirit from a glass
to spirits
who make things fall
like rain
on a Thursday night
when schnapps and words
are everything I have left
to believe in.

- by Nana Nyarko Boateng

With permission from the poet.

The poem is published in The Prairie Schooner ‘s latest edition, Fusion #9: Libations, which features poets from Ghana.

 


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Jerome Reviews Alifa Rifaat’s Distant View of a Minaret

(This is Jerome Kuseh’s third review for Kinna Reads; his previous reviews are Buchi Emecheta’s Second-Class Citizen and Bessie Head’s When Rain Clouds Gather.  Jerome is a “Ghanaian who mostly blogs about politics and business. He is also a fan of literature and has sometimes written poetry. His business blog is ceditalk.com and for his posts about politics, social issues and his attempts at creative writing, visit readjerome.blogspot.com.”)

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distant_view_of_a_minaretDistant View of a Minaret is a collection of fifteen short stories by Alifa Rifaat (real name: Fatimah Rifaat 1930-1996,) written in Arabic and translated by Denys Johnson-Davies and was first published in 1983. This is the first book I’ve read by a writer from North Africa. This book also has the distinction of being in Kinna’s top 10 by African writers.

The title of the book, taken from the title of the first story in the collection, is indicative of the pervasiveness of the Islamic culture in the stories. The call to prayer, quotes of the Qur’an and the description of Islamic rites and beliefs give the stories an authentic Islamic Arab feel.
The stories are mostly told from the point of view of female protagonists. The issue of marriage is prominently featured, and a recurring theme is the giving out of girls to marriage by their family while they (the girls) are in love with other men.

The first story, ‘Distant View of a Minaret’, is about a sexually frustrated wife. Over the years, she got weary of the repeated refusal of her husband to attempt to satisfy her, as well as his infidelities, to the point where she was no longer bothered. The extent of her indifference is expressed in the closing scene, where she calmly drinks coffee and sends her child to call the doctor after her husband had died from a heart attack.

‘Bahiyya’s Eyes’, the next story in the collection, is a short but compelling portrayal of the life of a woman from childhood to old age. The story is an unhappy one, as the young protagonist is forced to undergo a clitoridectomy; forced to marry against her wishes; becomes a widow and is then left with the task of raising her children alone; and finally is overwhelmed by loneliness in her old age. Below are two quotes which nicely summarize the experience of the woman.

The fact is there’s no joy for a girl in growing up, it’s just one disaster after another till you end up an old woman who’s good for nothing and who’s real lucky if she finds someone to feel sorry for her. (AWS, 1987; Page 8)

Daughter, I’m not crying now because I’m fed up or regret that the Lord created me a woman. No, it’s not that. It’s just that I’m sad about my life and my youth that have come and gone without my knowing how to live them really and truly as a woman. (AWS, 1987; Page 9)

The story addresses the poor treatment of women in the society through the account of the woman’s life. Through the unhappiness of the main character, Rifaat shows the suffering of several other women who have been suppressed their whole lives.

The longest story in the collection, at 16 pages, is ‘My World of the Unknown’, a bizarre tale of a woman who falls in love with a djinn (spiritual being which can be good or evil) that appears in the form of a snake. In this story, the woman (who is married) has a sexual relationship with the djinn when it appears in two forms – as a snake, then as a woman.  Below are some quotes that reveal Rifaat’s brilliance in storytelling.

There was no doubt but that the secret of my passion for her, my preoccupation with her, was due to the excitement that had aroused, through intense fear, desire within myself; an excitement that was sufficiently strong to drive the blood hotly through my veins whenever the memory of her came to me, thrusting the blood in bursts that made my heart beat widly, my limbs limp. (AWS, 1987; Page 71)

An idea would obtrude itself upon me sometimes: did Cleopatra, the very legend of love, have sexual intercourse with her serpent after having given up sleeping with men, having wearied of amorous adventures with them so that her sated instincts were no longer moved other than by the excitement of fear, her senses no longer aroused other than by bites from a snake? And the last of her lovers had been a viper that had destroyed her. (AWS, 1987; Page 71)

But it is natural for you to be a man,’ I said in a precipitate outburst, ‘seeing that you are so determined to have a love affair with me.’

‘Perfect beauty is to be found only in woman,’ she said, ‘so yield to me and I shall let you taste undreamed of happiness…’ (AWS, 1987; Page 75)

This love story ends when the woman’s husband, who is oblivious to the affair, kills a snake. This breaks the treaty the woman had with the djinn, and she and her husband move out of the building in which dwells the djinn. This story explores the sexuality of a woman. The sexual pleasure the woman feels is in direct contrast to the woman in the first story,’ Distant View of a Minar’et, who has lived her whole life in sexual frustration.

Alifa’s writing is not critical of Islam. It does not also seem to challenge traditional gender roles. It appears to criticize the failure of a lot of the characters (usually husbands) to live up to moral standards. It highlights the neglect of wives and the society’s disregard for the aspirations of the women characters.

The thing about a collection of short stories is that everyone can have a different story which they feel was the most compelling. So which of the 15 stories is my favourite? Well, why pick a favourite when I have the whole book? This is a must read and a delight at only 116 pages. Go get a copy.


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Notes on Okwiri Oduor’s ‘My Father’s Head’

(The 2014 Caine Prize-winning story ‘My Father’s Head’ is this month’s assigned reading at Women Writers Forum, which is hosted by Mbaasem. I have notes,)

A story of loss, of grieving, of memory; ‘My Father’s Head’ begins with:

I had meant to summon my father only long enough to see what his head looked like, but now that he was here and I did not know how to send him back.

Then later in the story:

“I said to Bwibo, “We have to send him back.”
Bwibo said, “The liver you have asked for is the one you eat.”
“But I did not really want him back, I just wanted to see his head.”
Bwibo said, “In the end, he came back to you and that should account for something, should it not?”

Perhaps my father’s return accounted for nothing but the fact that the house already smelt like him – of burnt lentils and melting fingernails and the bark of bitter quinine and the sourness of wet rags dabbing at broken cigarette tips.”

1.  Weeks after my godfather’s death in Nairobi, I saw him in New York where I was living at the time. He first appeared to me in the living room of my Washington Heights apartment. I was watching TV.  One of my roommates had installed a 70s era furniture set and had placed a loveseat, brocaded in bluish-green to the right of the TV, in a nook. I can’t recall now what show I was watching. Perhaps it was lunchtime and as I lived a block from work, maybe I was home eating a bowl of my New York style Ghanaian pepper soup. In which case a repeat of Law and Order? Or it was in the morning and I was drinking tea while watching Teletubbies (an optimistic show to start anyone’s day in New York).  Anyway, I saw something move in the right-hand corner, I turned my head and there was Uncle Jonathan, sitting legs crossed in the loveseat, smiling one of his toothy grins at me. I just stared at him and turned back to the TV as though it had not happened. Not like I wanted to ignore or to unsee him. More like okay, there’s that.

Then he would appear next to me on one of my jaunts on Broadway. He just walked with me, with that strident stepping of New Yorkers meant to signal to those annoying pavement-hugging tourists that this here was our city.  I just accepted his presence and proceeded to brunch. Over a period of weeks, my godfather visited me several times. I gathered up enough nerve to tell my mother, who broke down in tears and asked if I needed to talk with someone. No, I don’t need a therapist, Mummy. Not for this anyway. I knew exactly what was happening. My grief was overwhelming and besides who doesn’t need more of Jonathan Kariara in their lives, alive or dead?

I don’t believe in ghosts; my mind was conjuring up his image in response to the loss and it was comforting indeed.  My godfather’s appearances stopped weeks later. Unlike the narrator in ‘My Father’s Head’, I didn’t summon my godfather; never talked to him; never offered him tea; never lived with him so the community around me thought the person was my lover!; never needed him gone since he never overstayed; and so never thought of asking a Catholic priest to give me protection.  I was, like the narrator, wistful and longing once I realized that he’d left.

I said, “Maybe you could stay here for a couple of days, Baba.’

Maybe stay, definitely not die, live always. The longing never stops.

2. There’s food all over this short story. I went googling, after reading ‘My Father’s Head, and found that Oduor had entered the story in the 2013 Short Story Day Africa’s Feast, Famine and Potluck story competition;  and that she had actually won the contest. So then I saw.  But at first reading, I was smacking my lips, swallowing my saliva on encountering mentions like:

Ghee (even if a sentence later it “went rancid”)
Bread slices dipped in tea (my 8 year old calls that fabom)
Street-roasted maize
Chapati
Fried eggs and sour cream
Cane juice
Butternut squash and melons
Garlic, salt and pork
Groundnut soup and pumpkin leaves
Chicken bone

Look. ( I could speak here about how great a cook Uncle Jonathan was. About his sumptuous breakfasts; of juices made with five to ten fruits, of curries and stews; of conversations around dinner tables. But one JK story is enough for these notes.)

Mostly this food themed story works well. But then you read a paragraph like -

“Let me tell you: one day you will renounce your exile, and you will go back home, and your mother will take out the finest china, and your father will slaughter a sprightly cockerel for you, and the neighbours will bring some potluck, and your baby sister will wear her navy-blue PE wrapper, and your brother will eat with a spoon instead of squelching rice and soup through the spaces between his fingers.
And you, you will have to tell them stories about places not-here, about people that soaked their table napkins in Jik Bleach and talked about London as though London was a place one could reach by hopping onto an Akamba bus and driving through Nakuru and Kisumu and Kakamega and finding themselves there.”

-  and think to yourself: well, where did that come from? Perhaps you’ll wonder at the nameless, odd characters; the sometimes macabre descriptions and the mysterious pronouncements from Bwibo. You may puzzle at the puzzling happenings. Ask yourself, whatever happened to plot development? Because maybe you forgot that ‘My Father’s Head’ is a story that shows how we mourn and remember. How in our grief, we gather disparate, unrelated groups of things and make them cohere as we attempt to rebuild, grasping on whatever comes. Where else, but in a story about death, can we admit to others that we’ve thought out the dying of our parents and mourned them while they slept in the next room, alive and well?

3. Maybe like me, you also feel this: there’s no making sense of some deaths.  Some of us, here in Ghana, are enduring the first full week of a loss that can’t be explained neatly. I have found in the prose poetry of  ‘My Father’s Head’ a sort of acknowledgement of the mess, of the puzzle, of the grief.

4.  ‘My Father’s Head’  is among my three favorites of Caine Prize stories that I’ve read. The other two are Billy Kahora’s ‘Urban Zoning’ and Lily Mabura’s ‘How Shall We Kill the Bishop’.

5. Read the story, please. Okwiri Oduor is apparently working on her ‘first full-length novel’ (her first book, The Dream Chasers, is listed as a ‘novella’ and what is a novella but a short novel?  Some novels owe their existence to novellas. Let’s stop shading the novella).

6. Okwiri Oduor is from Kenya. And so was Jonathan Kariara. See? (lol, it’s fun reading stories, ain’t it?)

7. Read the ‘My Father’s Head’!


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Link Gems : Kahora on writing, anti-Oppressive SFF, typos and other things of interest

(Link Gems is a round-up of interesting articles and essays from around the web)

I’ve been hoarding links so you’ll find some oldish articles mixed in with newer ones.

This One Ghana, One Voice’s interview with Billy Kahora, Managing Editor of Kwani? if for nothing at all, this section:

Mawiyoo: What are your greatest concerns as an editor and writer?

Kahora: The general lack of [literary] tools in the material we receive. When present, those with these tools seem disconnected from local realities, narratives and expressions. One specific technical question I’ve being trying to grapple with for the last few years is the dearth of ‘honest’ voice – that which brings forth a real subjective experience located in our idea and experience as a space but understands literature as an artistic register with aesthetics, technical rules and a larger vision. It is often ‘either, or.’ Many writers have access to interesting subjective experience but hardly understand the aesthetics of literary narrative. Those who seem to grasp the latter might well be writing from Mars – which is actually fine – if you are in Mars. (Please understand that my comments are written with a certain bias for literary mimetic representations).

Madhu Krishnan’s Interview of Okey Ndibe at Africa Writes

Black Life, Annotated  -  Christina Sharpe’s brilliant review (and commentary on the perils of urban ethnography) of Alice Goffman’s On the Run (The New Inquiry)

On the dispute between radical feminism and trans people – such amazing writing from Juliet Jacques (from NewStatesman)

Ben Okri on the State of African Writing (at Books Live)

No Selasi, African Literature Exists

Schulz: The 5 Best Punctuation Marks in Literature

What’s Up With That: Why It’s So Hard to Catch Your Own Typos (Wired.com) 

 At The Awl:  The Book I didn’t Write

 14 African Countries Forced by France to Pay Colonial Tax For the Benefits of Slavery and Colonization

Another World Waits: Towards an Anti-Oppressive SFF

The Mundane Afrofuturist Manifesto

The Literature of Uprootedness: An Interview with Reinaldo Arenas

Do We Need So Many Re-translations of Classics?

Coverage of Ta-Nehisi Coates’s “The Case for Reparations”

 

 

 

 


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Top 10s: Authors whose Books Overrun My Shelves

toptentuesdayI’ve decided to participate, probably irregularly, in blog memes in an attempt to jumpstart this blog. I’ve known of The Broke and Bookish’s Top Ten Tuesday for some time. Most times, when I was inclined to participate, that particular week’s topic didn’t interest me. This week’s though is one I know I could do.  So here is my Top Ten Tuesday on this Friday. The topic is

Top Ten Authors I Own the Most Books From

 

which favors those favorite authors who have also written a lot of books.  Some notes before the lists:

  • Though I own all of Shakpespeare’s plays in single editions, he’s not on the list.  Just not that much fun to include the Bard!
  • I’ve also then omitted playwrights. So like no Soyinka. It’s a list of the other genres. Don’t query further, lol.
  • Africans, especially Ghanaians, who can but don’t read are fond of lifting Chinua Achebe’s books off my shelves. At some point I owned all of Achebe’s novels, most of which have now disappeared. I’m restocking but keeping the new copies away, far away from the eyes and hands of the un-reading.
  • This list has twelve authors. My cutoff number for books by a single author is 6 so I’ve included all the authors who made the cutoff. Besides, what’s the fun in a top 10 list that actually ends at 10?

 

Now to the list:

Jose Saramago –  (11 books) Fitting that he should top the list. He wrote a lot and I love his work. I keep coming back again and again to Saramago.  For a ranking of my favorites among his oeuvre, please read Saramago’s Best Five.  His books on my shelves are: Baltasar and Blimunda; The Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis; The Stone Raft; The History of the Seige of Lisbon; The Gospel According to Jesus Christ; Blindness; All The Names; The Cave; The Double; Seeing; Death with Interruptions.

Toni Morrison –  (9 books) Of course, it wouldn’t be a library without a Morrison book and it would be a desolate reading life indeed! I own: The Bluest Eye; Sula; Song of Solomon; Tar Baby; Beloved; Jazz; Paradise; A Mercy; Home

Naguib Mahfouz -(9 books) My journey through Mahfouzland began with Palace Walk (the first of the Cairo Trilogy) but it was Midaq Alley that defined the land as home. A great storyteller. I have: Midaq Alley, Palace Walk, Palace Desire, Sugar Street, Children of the Alley, Miramar, Adrift on the Nile, The Harafish, The Day the Leader was Killed

Virginia Woolf –  (9 books) Mrs Dalloway gets most of the attention but To the Lighthouse is my favorite. I own: The Voyage Out; Jacob’s Room; Mrs Dalloway; To the Lighthouse; Orlando; The Waves; Between the Acts; A Room of One’s Own; A Haunted House and Other Short Stories

Gabriel Garcia Marquez – (9 books) In a room filled with lovers of Marquez’s big novels, I’m the one in the corner waving my hands and screaming ‘The Novellas, but the novellas’.  I have the following (please note the novellas):  In Evil Hour; One Hundred Years of Solitude; The Autumn of the Patriarch; Love in the Time of Cholera; The General in His Labyrinth; Of Love and Other Demons; 3 Novellas – Leaf Storm, No One Writes to the Colonel, Chronicle of a Death Foretold; Strange Pilgrims; Collected Stories

Nuruddin Farah – (8 books) I’m amazed and surprised that I’ve not talked about Nuruddin Farah on this blog and I will remedy that. Maps (the first in his second loosely-connected trilogies) got me hooked and I’ve been a fan since. Just the way he writes about Somalia and its people, his characters – that old man in Close Sesame, the boy in Maps, the woman in Gifts, well… I have: From a Crooked Rib; Sweet and Sour Milk; Sardines; Close Sesame; Maps; Gifts; Secrets; Links

Octavia Butler – (7 books) That Octavia Butler did live and did write is a fact. Her books are a dream. Read Kindred or Wild Seed, then come back and let’s talk. I have: Wild Seed; Patternmaster;  Dawn; Parable of the Sower; Parable of the Talents; Kindred; Fledgling

Ngugi wa Thiong’o – (7 books) As I keep saying, all his previous wonderful books were preparation for the phenomenon that is Wizard of the Crow. On my shelves are Weep Not Child, The River Between, A Grain of Wheat, Petals of Blood, The Trial Dedan Kimathi, Matigari, Wizard of the Crow

Maryse Conde –  (6 books) At some 500 pages, Segu was the first thick historical fiction (late 1700s) on Africa that I read.  It was so astonishingly fabulous that I vowed to follow and read Maryse Conde forever; a decision with benefits.  Because Tituba. I have: Segu; The Children of Segu; I, Tituba, Black Witch of Salem; Tree of Life; Crossing the Mangrove; The Last of the African Kings

Bessie Head –  (6 books) Head is just essential and required reading for me. I own: When Rain Clouds Gather; Maru; A Question of Power; Looking for a Rain God; Tales of Tenderness and Power; The Cardinals

Italo Calvino – (6 books) You will see it written that Calvino is one of ‘Italy’s best postwar writers’ but that doesn’t say much at all. In fact, Calvino defies description, for me at least. His work encompasses everything – ancient, new, experimental, science, romanticism, mystery. Look, find his classic  if on a winter’s night a traveler and enjoy the trip! I have Italian Folktales; if on a winter’s night a traveler; The Baron in the Trees; The Nonexistent Knight; Cosmicomics; Invisible Cities

AS Byatt –   (6 books) Possession did it for me and I marvel always at even the energy it took to sustain the strands of storytelling in that book. I own – Possession: A Romance; Babel Tower; The Virgin in the Garden; The Biographer’s Tale; Sugar and Other Stories; The Matisse Stories

That’s my list but before I conclude, an acknowledgment of some of the translators who make it possible for me to access those writers who write in other languages. Here’s to Gregory Rabassa, Margaret Jull Costa, William Weaver and Richard Philcox.

Now share your list, please?


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Jerome reviews Bessie Head’s When Rain Clouds Gather

(This is Jerome Kuseh’s second review for Kinna Reads; his first was on Buchi Emecheta’s Second-Class Citizen.  Jerome is a “Ghanaian who mostly blogs about politics and business. He is also a fan of literature and has sometimes written poetry. His business blog is ceditalk.com and for his posts about politics, social issues and his attempts at creative writing, visit readjerome.blogspot.com.”)

A writer’s first published novel sometimes sets the tone for subsequent novels. Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart introduced us to the pre-colonial Igbo society that was re-visited in Arrow of God. Ayi-Kwei Armah’s The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born announced the arrival of the post-colonial Ghanaian existentialist struggling to stay afloat in a sea of corruption that had already drowned the rest of society. A task made more difficult by the anchor of family expectations weighing down on his neck. Such a character was also the protagonist of his second novel, Fragments.

Bessie Head’s When Rain Clouds Gather (1968) can similarly be seen as a precursor to the seminal A Question of Power (1973). The novel, just like A Question of Power, is set in a rural community in Botswana, a country in which Bessie Head lived as a refugee for 15 years before being granted citizenship in 1979, 7 years before her death in 1986 at the early age of 49. Both novels also describe the agricultural practices of the rural Batswana.

raincloudsWhen Rain Clouds Gather is a story about a political refugee from South Africa, Makhaya Maseko, who enters Botswana illegally and settles in the rural town of Golema Mmidi. The town is inhabited almost exclusively by women for most of the year, as the men take their cattle to graze for extended periods away from the town. The villagers are aided in agricultural development by an Englishman, Gilbert Balfour, whose attempts to modernise agriculture and get the people to abandon subsistence farming are frustrated by the ineffectiveness of the local government, by the “prejudices of the Batswana people” and by the chief of the town, Matenge.  Matenge bears a grudge against Gilbert for destroying his cattle speculation business through the establishment of a co-operative for the cattle farmers.

Makhaya finds a father figure in the village in the person of Dinorego, who is the father of Gilbert’s love interest and eventual bride, Maria. Makaya, shares with the very religious Mma-Millipede,  a deep resentment of all the years of living under apartheid. Mma Millipede tries unsuccessfully to drain Makhaya of his bitterness by preaching the gospel to him from her Tswana Bible.

The novel takes its title from the strange phenomenon of rain clouds that regularly gather in Golema Mmidi although no rain falls, and the town suffers a drought for most of the year.

When Rain Coluds Gather is centred on Makhaya’s integration into the way of life in Golema Mmdii. He becomes a reliable assistant to Gilbert and struggles to help improve their standard of living while contending with the villainous chief, Matenge. He also falls in love with Paulina Sebeso, a single mother of two whose independence and strong will makes her standout from the other women of the town. When Matenge summons Paulina to his dwelling, apparently to punish her, the whole village accompanies her in solidarity, and Matenge reacts in a way which no one could have predicted.

The detailed description of the agricultural practices of the people in the novel is reminiscent of Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina and is probably inspired by Bessie’s own gardening.

Bessie shares some of her views in When Rain Clouds Gather. Through Makhaya, she expresses her inability to accept Christian doctrine due to the way in which it had been used as a justification for oppression.

“The philosophy of love and peace strangely overlooked who was in possession of the guns…The contradictions were apparent to Makhaya, and perhaps there was no greater crime as yet than all the lies Western civilization had told in the name of Jesus Christ. It seemed to Makhaya far preferable for Africa if it did without Christianity and Christian double-talk, fat priests, golden images, and looked around at all the thin naked old men who sat under trees weaving baskets with shaking hands. People could do without religions and Gods who died for the sins of the world and thereby left men without any feeling of self-responsibility for the crimes they committed. This seemed to Makhaya the greatest irony of Christianity. It meant that a white man could forever go on slaughtering black men simply because Jesus Christ would save him from his sins. Africa could do without a religion like that.” (AWS Classics, 2008; Page 140)

In all honesty, I preferred reading this book to A Question of Power. It may not be avant-garde or remarkably original, but it is a lot easier to read and I totally loved it!  If you’ve not yet read Bessie Head, I recommend that you start with When Rain Clouds Gather.

 


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Wole Soyinka At 80

Wole Soyinka

Africa’s foremost writer and the World’s greatest living dramatist is 80 years old today!

Happy Birthday to Wole Soyinka!

Long may he live!

Essays Soyinka at 80

This is UK Edition of book

Soyinka was in Accra last week for the launch of Crucible of the Ages: Essays in Honour of Wole Soyinka at 80.  The book is edited by Ivor Agyeman-Duah and Ogochukwu Promise.  Contributors include Ngugi wa Thiong’o, Nadine Gordimer, Ama Ata Aidoo, Ato  Quayson, Niyi Coker, Toni Morrison, Toyin Falola and many, many more.

The book launch itself was a presidential affair with both the Presidents of Ghana and Rwanda, Governors of two Nigerian states, Commonwealth leaders, members of Ghanaian Parliament in attendance.  Of course, anything in honor of Soyinka cannot possible be too grand.  It didn’t feel like a book launch at first, but by the end of the evening, the writers, readers, and bloggers in attendance had taken our event back.  Take back the book launch!

Abena Busia read her poem ‘The Lion Has Entered the House’ (her contribution to the festricht), which makes poetic use of the meanings of Soyinka’s names and has woven into it the titles of his plays and memoirs. It’s a longish poem so I won’t quote the entire piece here save for the last two stanzas:

“Such it has ever been, in the nature of the trials
Brother Jero, Kongi, Baabu and all the tricksters
Madmen, specialists and oh so vengeful gods or wizards
Require forceful interventions:
So the strong breed, swamp dwellers all
Who stride this Mandela’s earth
Assembled at your command,
To dance the dance of the forests
First as operatic interlude for a hope filled past
And then as requiem for a disappointed future,
In the unending dramatic rituals of poetic words and dance.

No, the dance for justice is not over.
The Lord entered the house
And whatever wizards rule,
The kings and all their eternal horsemen
In a kaleidoscope of death and beauty
Follow the imperative of the brave one come
That with enduring strength and resolution
We still set forth at dawn.”

———

I’ll end with a few pictures from the book launch.  (The Presidency of Rwanda has more official pictures on their Flickr page here.) Also, I’ll be reading Soyinka’s plays to celebrate his 80th. Details soon.

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