Thursday, December 29, 2005

ela - alternative christ figure

How's this for seasonal offering of a different kind this Christmas?

This is Ela, one of the many sculptures to be found in the Osun Grove in Osogbo. Ela is the equivalent of Jesus Christ in the Yoruba pantheon of the gods.
Jesus might have favoured a
loincloth, but Ela as he stands in the Osun Grove, has a phallus that sticks straight out!

I tried and tried to get a camera angle that would show Ela in his full phallic glory, but I wasn't lucky. Oh well, there's always another day, another camera.

The Osun Grove is the site of the sacred river Osun on which the town of Osogbo (in Osun State, Nigeria) is founded. The grove is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. More pictures from Osogbo later...

mariah off her rocker?

Isn't this a sight to make you go: yuck? This photo of Mariah Carey was published in a column in the UK Guardian of Saturday December 17. "Good God. Even Nero held his own cup," the columnist commented. I looked and looked at this photo, and the more I looked, the more it disgusted me. That someone can be so famous, rich and so off-her-marbles as to require someone else to hold her own cup & straw - in public! And for her to think it's cool to do so. What more does one need, to convince us of how out of touch with reality some mega celebrities are? She has not only demeaned the poor woman who has to hold the cup, Mariah has disgraced herself. Watching a grown woman being helped to drink by another grown person, when she is not incapacitated... is not a pretty picture.

By last Saturday however, it appeared that 'Careycorp' had got wind of the photo's publication. They had apparently put a 'STOP' order on the pic. So in order to placate Careycorp & so that the photographer does not lose his/her job, the columnist published another photo of Mariah on 24th December. This time, it was something from the archives, showing Mariah posing prettily next to a homeless man she saw on the streets. It's supposed to be a better picture - as Mariah would see it - but not really. She and the broken man don't touch, and the prima donna just used the guy as a good photo opportunity... to show how fabulous she looks next to a wretched creature... what's the charity in that?

Mariah Carey is supposed to have made an amazing comeback from the brink this year but I'm unimpressed. I stopped being a fan a long time ago.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

best books of 2005: writers' choices

Nigerian writers have been looking back on the last 12 months and selecting some of the books that provided their best reading moments. Diran Adebayo (author of Some Kind of Black), Akin Adesokan (Roots in the Sky), Helen Oyeyemi (The Icarus Girl) and Odia Ofeimun are among those discussing their books of the year, below.

Diran Adebayo
I really enjoyed John Burnside's latest collection of poetry, The Good Neighbour (Faber). The rhyme and triggers of his poems always feel natural and unforced, their 'lessons' precise and never overblown. There are wise, warm thoughts here on love and intimacy, aloneness and landscape; our needs in the world.

One non-fiction book that was both strong and timely was American linguist John McWhorter's Doing Our Own Thing: The Degradation of Language and Music (Arrow). It argues that, since the countercultural forces of the sixties, a craving for informality in Americans' use of English has debased the language there to the point where their ability to think in complex ways and convey complex thoughts is threatened. He's a bit too sweetly nostalgic in some parts for my tastes, but I certainly agree with his main point: that the West is in danger of throwing some precious babies out with the bathwater.

Akin Adesokan
The Uninvited: Refugees at the Rich Man's Gate by Jeremy Harding - This small book by a British journalist (published in 2002) has a powerful argument in support of the migration of poor and desperate people to Europe. Harding writes with passion and a deep interest in the value of the human being, and he doesn't shy away from the fact that economic migration is motivated by political troubles. Although he's dealing with a subject that's sometimes harrowing to contemplate, the writer has a way with the elegance of commonsense. When you come across a sentence that says: "The racially diverse society is a deeply troubling notion in Europe," you know you're facing that rare thing - a good book.

Zenzele: A Letter For My Daughter by J. Nozipo Maraire - Again, this isn't a new book; it was published in 1996, but I found out about it quite recently. It's written as a letter from a Zimbabwean mother to her daughter who's starting school at Harvard, the idea being to encourage this young woman to draw strength from her history as an African. Zenzele is not a conventional story. It's not an immigrant's story, and not a simple account of the liberation struggle in Zimbabwe. But if you're looking for an intelligent reflection on what it takes to be African and maintain your dignity in the world today, I highly recommend this book.

Isioma Daniel
Disgrace by J. M Coetzee: I read this on holiday and it almost ruined the holiday for me. It is a powerful, brutally honest book on the shifting balance of power in South Africa. It's the kind of book that wakes up all these ugly, nasty, lingering feelings we all have about race, women and politics. So it's not dinner table conversation. The best thing about the book is that it disturbed me and forced me to think about these very unpleasant facets of race relations, and of men. I didn't sympathise with anyone in the book, but why should an author create characters who seem like they are trying to win a popularity contest?

Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell is profound. It should have won the 2004 Booker Prize. I love the way the book is built up to resemble life's puzzle, with each page bringing you closer to the future or taking you back to the past so you can get the whole picture. I think the best books are the ones that leave you feeling like an omniscient God.

Zadie Smith's On Beauty and Edward P. Jones' A Known World were also memorable.

Ikhide R. Ikheloa
The World Is Flat by Thomas L. Friedman (Farrar Straus Giroux) is an essay on steroids. It's thesis is that the internet and related technologies are redefining traditional relationships and in essence "flattening" the world; for example, America and the West use the internet to access resources in India and China and produce goods and services in a cost-effective manner. The world is getting smaller and "flatter", relationships are traversing geographic boundaries and today's world is a far cry from the way things were before the coming of the internet. I recommend this book for one reason: the West sees Africa as a vast wasteland of disease and war with little redeeming value.

Home and Exile by Chinua Achebe: This ought to be required reading for all those who care about telling our story. It is clear that Achebe has thought long and hard about our story. My favourite line: "Until the lions produce their own historian, the story of the hunt will glorify the hunter.

Toni Kan
My two best books are: An Equal Music by Vikram Seth, which is not just one of the best books written about love but also about music. It was a soundtrack to my life at first reading. The feeling is still the same at second reading;

The Oil Lamp by Ogaga Ifowodo (Africa World Press), because it is an elegant dirge. A song about injustice but one that rings out in beauty. Reading Ifowodo is at once an uplifting and humbling experience. He is without doubt the best of his generation.

Niran Okewole
Roots in the Sky by Akin Adesokan (Festac Books) stands confidently in the rank of Gabriel Garcia Marquez (One Hundred Years of Solitude), Soyinka (Season of Anomy) and Arundhati Roy (The God of Small Things) - works in which the margin between fantasy and grim reality is blurred. The deft mastery of the author belies the context in which it was written. The end product is a credible sublimation and creative transmutation of an involved witness, an emphatic testament to the radical collective will.

Recent Nigerian fiction bears the magnetic imprint of women. None is more enchanting than Everything Good Will Come by Sefi Atta (Farafina) - a first novel in which the author explores with devastating control and disarming simplicity what it means to be a woman in the turbulent labyrinth called Nigeria. One hears echoes of Toni Morrison, Margaret Atwood, even Sylvia Plath; but the author still manages to stamp on our consciousness a crystal voice which is unquestionably hers.

Helen Oyeyemi
My books of 2005 are Smashed: The Story of a Drunken Childhood by Koren Zailckas (Viking) and Gilead by Marilynne Robinson (Farrar Strauss Giroux). Smashed combines acute prose, memoir and social critique in this story of being a girl and being out of control, and the way that sometimes these states of being feed into each other. Zailckas offers a beautiful, dizzying account of a search for womanhood in a fractured world of her own making where, in what she thought was the middle of the day, 'dusk lands like a 747.'

Marilynne Robinson's Gilead, a novel, consists of a quiet, letter-based dialogue between a pastor in the American Mid-West - now an old man on the brink of death - and his son, a boy who is too young to understand yet what struggles a person has to go through to know their own spirit and make a final reckoning for the ordinary acts of their life. This book is profoundly moving.

Odia Ofeimun
Sefi Atta's first novel, Everything Good Will Come and Ogaga Ifowodo's third collection of poems, The Oil Lamp were, for me, the highpoints of creative writing in 2005.

Atta delves into familiar territories of urban experience in a manner and language that cuddles instant mythmaking. It is the growing-up story of a young lawyer, Enitan, and her friend, Sheri, two young women in the Lagos of the early into the fourth decade of Nigeria's independence. They cope with a city and a country in which parents fail their children and leaders savage the led. There is, in the novel, a feminist or if you like, a post-feminist inclination to see women against the choices, that they, on their own, must make, or do make, in a world that is not just a man's world. Everything Good Will Come is an exciting fabulation of how the future begins today in the modes in which the young grow.

Ifowodo's The Oil Lamp is a consummate, far-reaching poetic interrogation of the tragedies and absurdities that have plagued the people of the Niger Delta in the hands of corporate and 'military' pacifiers. In Madiba, his last collection of poems, the travails and triumphs of a durable freedom fighter provide keys to the rendering of affirmative memories; in The Oil Lamp, the endless run of disasters, genocides and biocides in the Niger Delta are strung together to reveal a collapsed sense of humanity in the world controlled by greedy pacifiers. Ten years after the judicial murder of Ken Saro Wiwa, the poet asks: "Can anyone think of the Niger Delta / and not feel an ache in his heart?"

This year saw the publication of a non-fiction book which was set at an angle to this question. The Next Gulf: London, Washington, and Oil Conflict in Nigeria (Constable, UK, 2005) , is co-authored by journalists and environmentalists - Andy Rowell, James Marriot and Lorne Stockman. The book points to the growing, oil-induced, economic and strategic importance of the Gulf of Guinea against the background of the over-heated situation in the Middle East. The next gulf is presented as a zone of savage exploitation, barefaced robberies and brazen swindles, which hark back to the devilries of the transatlantic slave trade. The book sends up the G8 countries, all of them do-good countries in the world's media that they control, for what they are: they are given a finger but they take the whole hand with the collaboration of greedy local elites. The rapacity and callousness of the coalition between native greed and corporate insensitivity is seen in the light of the cover provided by the home states of the multinationals, so-called developed countries. They arm-twist poor developing countries to bow to moribund notions of free trade and free enterprise which they don't apply in their own economies.

Although not intended to, The Kiss of Death - Afenifere and the Infidels by Olawale Oshun (Josel Publishers, UK, 2005) explains why it is easy for the multi-nationals to get away with murder. It narrates the unconscionable self-immolation and self-distracting behaviour of one of Nigeria's principal political families, and, how goal-orientation has been sacrificed to the worship of inflated egos. The book touches upon core-issues in the shameless and feckless pursuit of irrelevance that have marked out Nigeria's political class as a tribe of wastrels, wasting a golden legacy.

Next Week: More Writers' Choices.;

Reader's Books of the Year
Which book did you enjoy reading most during the year and why? Was it a work of fiction, non-fiction or poetry? Send us your choice of ONE book, not forgetting the author's name - and tell us in no more than 100 words why you recommend it to other readers. A selection of reader's chosen books will be featured on this page. Please send your contribution to Molara Wood at: - by Friday 6th January.

*Published today in The Guardian, Lagos

Saturday, December 24, 2005

the immigrant - poem by wole oguntokun

I’m trying to lose this accent
trying to blend into my surroundings
like insignificant wallpaper
I’m trying to smile when you laugh at my mistakes.
Trying to be a good sport.

I’m trying to appreciate John Keats
and William Butler Yeats
I’m trying to put up a jolly good show
I’m trying to sit in this blood-red bus
and act as if I know this city
and I’m trying to look inconspicuous.

I’m trying to be dismayed
when you catch a corrupt official
Trying to forget
he’d be a lord in my land
Trying not to think of those I left behind
Trying to forget
how I almost didn’t make it out.

I’m trying to be you, curse this clumsy tongue.

© Wole Oguntokun

*The Immigrant is reproduced by permission

naija tiata - wole oguntokun's blog

Here's a new blog - a must for those interested in current happenings in Nigerian Theatre. Wole Oguntokun, a poet & playwright whose poem, The Immigrant, appears above has started the blog - laspapi. There are wonderful behind-the-scenes snippets & images from his productions in Lagos. It's shaping up to be a poetry corner as well.

Oguntokun directs a production of Wole Soyinka's Camwood on the Leaves - at the Muson Centre, Lagos, on December 30.

1st olaudah equiano prize - chielozona eze wins

Chielozona Eze has won the 1st Olaudah Equiano Prize for Fiction. Eze, an assistant professor of postcolonial and Anglophone African Literature at North-Eastern Illinois Universisty, Chicago, won the $1000 prize for his short story, Lessons in German.

The judges describe Lessons in German, as "a swan song to, and of, all that was, and is, beautiful and enduring but utterly corrupted by humanity. It is an awakening of consciousness to the binding contract of sublimation, the pristine glory of nature that is bound for decay, an ennobling song in our hearts that is the beginning of manic depression."

Chairman of the judges, Obiwu, called the winning story "a narration about music and language, sex and sexuality, love and hate, art and artifice, knowledge and ignorance, light and darkness, genocide and communality, affirmation and denegation. Eze pours his body and soul, not unlike the enmeshed wine and flesh of his interracial protagonists, into a narrative that is one of the most consuming commentaries on contemporary dialectics of migration, globalization, and the return of beauty."

- 2nd prize goes to Anietie Isong who wins $300 for the story, How Great Thou Art.

- Chika Unigwe wins 3rd prize and $100 for her story, Confetti, Glitter, and Ash.

The prizewinners are from an original shortlist of 5 including Chibo Onyeji for The Professor, and Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu for her short story, How Inyang Got Her Wings.

* All stories submitted for this year's competition will be considered for publication in an anthology of short fiction devoted to new voices of Africans abroad. The judges were Okey Ndibe, Wale Adebanwi, and Obiwu. The prize was initiated by writer/essayist Rudolf Okonkwo of CEO of Iroko Productions. Entries for next year's competition will open on July 1, 2006

my trousers are longer than yours - an anthology

Chika Unigwe, meanwhile, has had a busy 2005. Her first novel De Feniks was published this year in Belgium - in Dutch; English version is in the works. She will be busier still in the new year. Unigwe is the editor of a forthcoming anthology on the shifting gender roles in the Nigerian family, titled My Trousers Are Longer Than Yours. It will be published by Easter Light EPM International and will include 10 short stories of no less than 3000 words - 5000 words maximum.

The call for submission says it will be : " an anthology of short stories written by Nigerian authors on the real, hypothetical or imagined shifts in gender roles in the Nigerian family. The subject families could be resident in Nigeria or abroad. Authors may approach the story in any way they like: is the Nigerian family still dominated by men or have women taken over and now call the shots? Does an equal partnership exist between Nigerian men and their wives? If authors believe such equal partnerships could build a better society or destroy it, let them explore the themes according to their convictions. Writers are encouraged to be prophetic. Based on current state of affairs in the Nigerian family, what might the typical Nigerian family look like in 10 years time? Is there any thing as a typical Nigerian family? If a story manages all at once to provide a glimpse of the past, the present and the future of the Nigerian family, it could be exceptional."

- Submissions should be typed, double-spaced and sent as a Microsoft Word attachment to: Deadline is July 30, 2006.

Nigerian writers based at home and abroad are eligible to submit stories for consideration. Every author included shall be paid a one-off amount of £50.00 + 2 copies of the book in the first two years, and a royalty of 2% of the list price for any copy of the book sold from the 3rd year onwards. Royalties shall be paid half-yearly. If a second or revised edition appears within the first two years, then the royalties will apply before the 3rd year. Copyright: Eastern Light EPM International shall retain copyright and reprint rights to the stories from the moment they are accepted for publication until March 31, 2008 when the rights should automatically revert to the individual authors.

Eastern Light EPM was set up by Nnorom Azuonye, founder of the Sentinel Poetry Movement.
Further information:

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

african love poems

Jimanz Publishers are calling for love poems from all over Africa and Africans in Diaspora. The poems are for a planned anthology to be published in the first quarter of 2006.
Contributors may send in their poems by:
post: Jimanz Publishers, P. O. Box 5681 Festac, Festac Town, Lagos, Nigeria
Enquiries: tel- 234-01-9\8033009539.
*Translations of traditional love poetry from all over Africa are also welcome.
*All contributors must include their bio-data and full forwarding address.
Deadline for entries: January15, 2006.

Poems for submission must be on or about any aspect of love. Any submission outside this will not be considered.

camwood on the leaves - a play

Wole Soyinka’s Camwood on the Leaves
The Stage Play
Erinjobi and Ishola… Father and Son… The meeting ofthe irresistible force and the immoveable object.
Professor Wole Soyinka’s Camwood on the Leaves is the thought-provoking story of two families in a small town and the resulting incidents that bring them in conflict with one another. Camwood, explores the mind-sets of the old and the young, the dogmatic versus the “unbeliever”, and the chaos that sometimes, is the result of inflexibility between these parties.
The play, produced by Jasonvision and directed by Wole Oguntokun will be performed live on stage
Date: Friday the 30th of December 2005 at 4pm and 6.30pm.
Venue: Agip Recital Hall of the Muson Centre,Onikan, Lagos.
Tickets: N2000 each / N1000 for Students (with Identity Cards).
This drama, first performed in 1960, is part III of the Legend Series, in which evergreen plays written by some of Nigeria’s best are showcased at one of the most important Arts venues in the country.
Past Productions include: Once upon Four Robbers (October 2004) and The Trials of Brother Jero (July 2005) were Parts I and II of the Series.
This performance of Camwood on the Leaves is supported by Legacy Realties Ltd.
*For enquiries and Ticket Delivery at no extra cost, please call 0802 301 3778, 01-813 6229

owambe belles

Wedding Guests, Lagos, May 2003

lagos lass

She's on the way to a society wedding
Taken in Surulere, Lagos, May 2003

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

readers' best books... last call

Tomorrow 15 December is the deadline for getting your Best Books contributions in... let's have them. It's a trickle at the moment, far from a deluge. So please send them in.

sola idowu aka weird mc

They were giving out free copies of the Evening Standard in London's Victoria today. Called 'Lite Standard', I flicked through my copy distractedly... until I saw the above and payed attention. It's about Nigeria's leading female rapper, Sola Idowu aka Weird MC. She will be performing in the Purcell Room on London's South Bank on December 18 at 7.45pm. Also known as Da Rappatainer, the rapper has a new CD out, titled Da Storm. Weird MC stormed Lagos some years back with the smash hit, Allen Avenue. A new single from Da Storm, titled Ijo Ya, is already playing on the music channels.

weird mc - here's one I made earlier...

Weird MC - Coming Back at You
By Molara Wood

It was the Black President jamboree at London’s Barbican Centre, and a well-attended talk on Fela Kuti ended just as the free-stage came alive in the main foyer. Here, a line-up of Fela-influenced artists would perform for the crowd, ahead of the main concerts in the evening. In the laid back, indoor carnival atmosphere, men, women and children gathered to watch the artistes. The highlight was a one-hour set by Nigerian female rapper, Weird MC.

Also known as Sola Idowu or the Rappatainer, Weird MC has been setting the pace as a female rapper in the male-dominated world of Nigerian Rap now, for many years. A major player on the UK Afro Hip-Hop scene, not undeservedly was she introduced as “one of London’s Afrocentric secrets.” Watched over by a giant floor-to-ceiling poster of Fela, Weird MC mounted the stage all pumped up and ready to go. Clad from head to toe in white - hat, shirt, slacks and the ubiquitous sneakers - she, and the expectant crowd, found they had to wait for some members of her six-piece band to be found. “Sam, if you’re there, you are in this band,” the announcer called out to the drummer, who eventually took his place on the drum-kit. Such was the unpredictability of the free-stage, but Weird MC took it all in her stride.

The idea behind the free-stage was to “keep Fela’s flame burning bright and to watch out for the people who follow his footsteps.” The rapper laid her claim to being one such person, with Palaver, which she recorded with Femi Kuti. Opening with the song, Weird MC defined it as: “Afrobeat meets Hip-Hop, no shaking!” Kween, a Nigerian singer with the appeal of a young, updated version of Tina Turner, walked barefoot onto the stage, full of verve, to partner the Rappatainer on Ijo Ya.

US based singer-dancer, Wunmi Olaiya, joined them on African Woman, a track praising the likes of Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti and Queen Amina of Zaria. Weird MC told her audience: “The woman needs to be eulogised. Ladies are bringing home the bacon these days.” One of the Ransome-Kutis, Yemisi, was feeling the vibe and danced along from side-stage. African Woman, the artist would later inform, was on a second album that never saw the light of day. She had put a lot of time and energy into the album which, according to her, “was going to be a monster.” Her former record label did not release the album.

Weird MC’s first album was the eight-track Simply Weird, released in 1997. The Nigerian music scene, she says, was not quite ready at the time for straight Hip-Hop. “People felt it was too foreign… not rootsy, or ‘African’ enough.” One sparkler on the album was the video-single, Allen Avenue. A fusion of Afrobeat and Hip-Hop, the track “did well” - and ended Weird MC’s stint on the free-stage. It made a modest statement too, about where the artistic heart of Afro Hip-Hop lies; with Allen Avenue, Lagos, and such places, whilst American rappers drop tracks about Westside or Compton.

Having bounced up and down the stage for the best part of an hour, Weird MC finished the show on her back, legs in the air, still rapping away. Every self-respecting rapper knows the importance of monikers, and Sola Idowu is no exception. Leaving the stage, she called out her signatures once more: “Weird MC, Sola, Rappatainer, anything, call me want you want. Peace!”

It all fits into her idea of the artist as a brand. The model for this is Sean Combs a.k.a P. Diddy, formerly known as Puff Daddy - he of Bad Boy Entertainment and the successful clothing range, Sean John. Like him, Weird MC wants to make her mark, not only as a rapper, but as a producer and entrepreneur. She now has own independent record label, 0907, for marketing her CDs as well as developing upcoming musicians. Future plans include a multi-media facility with a roster of artistes. “I want to be a brand, Like Puff Daddy. I love the idea of being self-made, especially being a woman.”

Sola aka Weird MC is happy to see that there are now many ‘sistas’ following in her footsteps. “I get emails from aspiring Nigerian female rappers all the time and I encourage them.” With her tomboy image, Weird MC hopes she is an example to other female rappers and musicians - that they do not have to serve the agenda of record companies. “You don’t have to strip down to be successful. You don’t have to be sexy.”

Weird MC started on her journey into Rap music by watching pioneering African American females like Queen Latifah and MC Lyte. “They were able to take control of the mic and the stage… it blew me away.” Hip-Hop, she declares, is more liberating than R’nB. “I love the freedom that comes with being a rapper. You can push the boundaries; that appealed to me a lot.” She is very proud of the Amen Hip-Hop Award - the first of its kind in Nigeria - given to her in 1997. “It was the first acceptance for me, for Hip-Hop, in Nigeria,” she says. “It was history in the making. I knew Hip-Hop had come to stay.” The award plaque has pride of place on Sola Idowu’s wall. A Benson Idonije article in The Guardian about her, is similarly displayed.

Talking drummer, Ayan Ayandosu, featured in Weird MC’s Barbican performance. Weeks later, he was at Cargo, a popular Afro Hip-Hop venue in London, for the filming of Weird MC’s video of Ijo Ya. The rapper, and many of ‘the usual suspects’ of Nigerian Hip-Hop in London, perform regularly at Cargo. Wave-making JJC and the 419 Squad are also part of the club’s popular Out of Africa programme. “I love collaborating with JJC, just watching him is inspiring,” says Weird MC. A track they did together, What U Waiting For, will appear on her next album. Another joint effort, Da Way We Blow, will be a Double A Side to Ijo Ya.

Cargo opened specially on a quiet Sunday afternoon for the video shoot. With a flame-effect in the background, Sola Idowu performed for the cameras to the Ijo Ya playback. Two male dancers, dressed like the artist in black and red, joined her on stage. Soon, it was time for Ayan Ayandosu to film his scenes. “Ayan, sexy, you know?” Kween told the drummer. It was hard to imagine the amiable, ever smiling Ayandosu as a lean, mean sex machine. But, a change of outfit later and, leaping forward from the ‘flame’ to his drums - as the video director wanted - Ayandosu managed to channel something of the elemental spirit of the drummer. In another scene, the rapper and the talking drummer achieved a synergy of physical chemistry and genres which - with any luck - should be memorable onscreen, for its sheer innovation.

The ‘VIP scene’, a rap video standard, followed in a seating area. Populating the scene was Kween (who duets with the rapper on a forthcoming Gospel track, Tire Ni) and members of the ‘Naija Rap’ community. Rapper AY also made a guest appearance. His videos can be seen on UK-based Nigerian television station, BEN TV. According to him, the advent of the station allowed people to know “who was who”. But he had admired Weird MC long before. “She is a very inspirational person, someone I look up to.” ‘Outside car shots’ were to follow the VIP Scene; and no rap video is complete without ‘car shots’.

Weird MC has toured widely in Europe and Japan, and collaborated with the Plantashun Boys, Yinka Davies and Afrocelt, amongst others. The rapper followed her Barbican performance with shows at Ocean, a popular London venue, and the Afro-Hollywood Awards. The reception from Nollywood stars, she reports, was “overwhelming.” The stage is now set for the release of a new album; to be called ‘After the Storm’ or ‘Seven’, a number that represents completion for the artist. She is also in talks with record labels in Nigeria, and there are plans for shows in the country. The forthcoming album is expected to signal the re-emergence of Sola a.k.a Weird MC. Had she gone somewhere? “She went into her own space, chilled out.”

The ‘chilling out’ was due to the rapper’s disappointment at her unreleased second album. “It was a bit demoralising. I was putting a lot in and wasn’t getting much out. I went through a phase of not wanting to do it anymore.” She did a Music Technology Course during the hiatus and; thanks to the encouragement of some “brothers”, Weird MC returned to Rap. She declares that she is back, “re-energised”. And as she danced at her Cargo video shoot, one of her ‘posse’ hollered encouragingly: “Sola, it’s your time.”

4 Audio samples of Weird MC’s Double A Side single, Ijo Ya / Da Way We Blow, will soon be available on her website.

This article was published in The Guardian, Lagos, Nigeria, on 13 February, 2005.

Friday, December 09, 2005

dinner party game - let's play!

Here's an idea I stole from my new blog'o'pal, renegade eye. So, the rules:
- You can choose any 4 people from any time in history - living or dead.
- So please let's know which 4 people you'd invite.

Starting with me. My list, as already given on Renegade Eye's blog:

Che Guevara
Muhammad Ali
Angelina Jolie
Marlon Brando

*The above image is my old raggedy copy of an Arena Magazine cover from May 1999. I've kept it all this time, because of the god on the cover. Ali. The greatest.

tolu ogunlesi's bbc blog

I thought I'd share the BBC blog of writer & poet, Tolu Ogunlesi (L-R above: Ogunlesi, playwright Femi Osofisan & poet Akeem Lasisi - okay, this is not the best picture I've ever taken, in terms of photographic quality).
Ogunlesi's short story, Never Send Your Babies Out Nameless, is in the current Africa Special issue of Wasafiri Magazine. He is also one of 100 poets featured in Dance the Guns to Silence, a poetry collection published on November 10 in memory of Ken Saro-Wiwa.
Tolu Ogunlesi is the author of the collection of poetry, Listen to the Geckos Singing From a Balcony. You can read his poems and short stories all over the net.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

calling nigerian readers - best books of 2005

And so, as an act of faith in the Nigerian readership, we are calling for Readers' Best Books of 2005.

- Which book did you enjoy reading most during the year 2005 - and why?
- We would like to know the title and author of the book - as well as the publisher's name, if known.
- You can choose a book in any genre - fiction, non-fiction or poetry.
- You may also choose a book in any language - books written in the indigenous languages of Nigeria are encouraged.

- So please let us have your choice of ONE outstanding book you read in 2005 and tell us in no more than 100 words - why the book appealed to you.
- The best 25 contributions by readers will be published in a national newspaper in Nigeria.
- The Best of the Rest will be published on this blog.
- Please include your name & the city where you live.

Please email your contributions to me at:

Please title your email Readers' Best Books 2005.

Deadline for contributions is December 15.

do nigerians read?

Around this time last year, Nigerian writers were asked to select the books that provided their best reading of 2004. These were mainly works then newly published, but also included older books that were rediscovered, through repeated reading. The responses were unveiled in a trio of articles titled 'Best Books of 2004: Writer's Choices' - published in January of this year (see one, on the left).

That went well enough. When it came to 'Reader's Choices' however, it seemed we had gone too far. Despite calling for readers' choices for 2 weeks in a row in a national newspaper, only 5 people contributed. Of those, 4 met the requirements. Of the thousands that probably saw the notice, only 5! This was baffling, and raised questions about the state of reading in Nigeria, some of which I grapple with in the piece below.

Friday, December 02, 2005

raise the red lantern

The Chinese leader made a state visit to Britain last month and, to mark the occasion, many London landmarks were bathed in the red hue of China. Well, on November 9, it seemed even the heavens wanted to be part of the act. These images show the view from my third floor office window in London's Victoria at around 4.30pm. A breathtaking sunset that made London in 2005 suddenly seem like medieval England.

The chimney stacks standing like shadowy sentries over this building added to the effect. I whipped out my camera and captured the scene. And good thing I did because by 4.45pm, the dull grey sky had returned. While it lasted however, it was quite something. The glass of my office building hampered the camera's eye somewhat, but still, you get the idea...

the national theatre wore red...

Then, arriving at the South Bank later that same evening for a Saro-Wiwa event featuring Soyinka, I looked up and seeing the National Theatre, I had this momentary feeling like I was in the film, Enter The Dragon. The Theatre truly resembled a red lantern glowing in the dark.

I made sure I got as many shots of the blushing National Theatre as possible, as it was a sight probably not to be seen again. I later bumped into a top official of the theatre in the Purcell Room during the Ken Saro-Wiwa event. What's with the red?" I asked. She'd just returned from holiday herself, and had only just seen the lantern effect too. But we both agreed we liked the Red Dragon look.

and the london eye was red too...

The London Eye was a red half-cirle in the sky over the South Bank too, all for China.

Here's the view just over the Royal Festival Hall.

helen oyeyemi & chimamanda ngozi adichie

Two bright literary stars - Helen Oyeyemi & Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie - appeared together on stage in the African Visions event at the British Library, London, on October 15. In the crush that followed, with the two being asked for autographs by book lovers right and left, I snapped this picture, which made the front page of the paper in Lagos, the following day.

Writer and journalist Aminatta Forna (left) moderating the discussion between Helen Oyeyemi (middle) and on the right - Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. British Library, October 15.

This is Linton Kwesi Johnson at the Chinua Achebe event on October 4. I walked over timidly to ask if I could take his picture and to my surprise, he was more than happy to oblige. He took off his trademark coat and struck several poses for my camera.