Monday, February 27, 2006

african tiata delights - all this week

Here's a chance for those who can make their way to the Soho Theatre in Dean Street, London, to catch week-long readings of New Theatrical Works by African writers resident in Britain. Six plays showcased as rehearsed readings with live music, each focussing on "the disparities and harmony existing within African and British cross cultures. All readings begin at 7.45pm.

Monday 27 February Buga Me by San Cassimally (Mauritius)
*Directed by Femi Elufowoju Jr; A modern play about colonisation. Two men wrangle over the ownership of an abandoned house.

Tuesday 28 February Ayo and Ade's Big London Safari by Segun Lee-French (Nigeria)
*Directed by Marissa Phillips; What would have happened if the great Nigerian Empire had colonised England?

Wednesday 1 March The Other Woman by Kofi Agyemang (Ghana)
*Directed by Michael Buffong; The lives of a young coupla are thrown into a tailspin when a foster parent from the past arrives on their doorstep.

Thursday 2 March You Get Me by Valerie Mason John (Sierra Leone)
*Directed by Hannah Quigley; A British widow and her sons from her interracial marriage face unexpected condemnation.

Friday 3 March Pure Gold By Michael Bhim (Zimbabwe)
*Directed by Clint Dyer; Can a man triumph over poverty in preserving love and dignity?

Saturday 4 March The Estate by Oladipo Agboluaje (Nigeria)
*Directed by Femi Elufowoju Jr; A powerful yet comic tale of explosive family secrets set in contemporary Nigeria

A full production of The Estate by Tiata Fahodzi will be at the Soho Theatre from 6 to 17 June.

'date movie' poster & the 'hottentot venus'

I've just received this email below from the 100 Black Men of London, an organisation that seeks to promote Black history through educational events and films. It complains about a poster for a movie, that I actually might have seen in passing in the last few days. I'll definitely take another look when next I see it.

Read about the last journey of the Hottentot Venus.

Obviously, Date Movie sounds like the kind of stock 'gross out' lavatorial humour movie we are bombarded with these days, the contents of which are bound to offend someone or other. The question perhaps, should be: how serious is the offence? I'll be checking the links out myself, but I'm interested to know what others think. The email, below.


Last year we screened a documentary titled Sarah Baartman, the Hottentot Venus.
It was a very popular film and over 450 people attended. The film was about how a South African woman was imported to Britain in 1810 and made to perform and squat in a cage so that Londoners could admire her buttocks and genitalia. The London crowd was particularly interested in the shape and size of her posterior which were seen as both an indication of her oversexed nature and her inferiority. To see an illustration of Sarah Baartman and appreciate her historical relevance, visit ...

On the Friday 24th February on page 7 the Metro published an advert for the Film Date Movie. The film is
distributed/advertised by 20th Century Fox. Front and centre of the poster is a black woman squatting on
heels with her behind to the viewer. Her face is seen in profile and the emphasis is on her behind. Her (padded out ) buttocks are inserted where the O in movie would be. Above the picture is a caption which reads : 'From wedding planners to wedding crashers, they all get it in the rear!'

To see a picture of the advert for yourself send a blank e-mail to,

To see a slightly different version of the poster visit 20th Centruy fox site. In this version the womans behind is made to vibrate.

In two weeks time it will be International Womens Month and we will be screening films that respect the achievements of African women from all over the world. Many women of African descent will have the kind of body shape which is caricatured and objectified in the poster and the film itself.

For an example visit
(you may need to copy the address into your adress browser)
It is clear that the woman's bottom is a major attraction and object of fun if not sexual interest for the viewers. Those of you who saw the documentary will appreciate that this portrayal is part of a history of the sexual objectification of black women.

If you view the advert as offensive, degrading, or poor taste please take the time to complain to the Advertising Standards Authority which investigates complaints of taste and decency and has upheld similar complaints in the past.

Also send an e-mail to The Editor at stating your views on the imagery

To ask for the Fox vibrating behind to be removed e-mail visit

On the 11th March at our Heroic Black Women Day there will be a report on how many people took the time to complain and the results

1810 Saartjie Baartman (1789-1816) --19th century icon of racial inferiority and black female sexuality; known as the "Hottentot Venus" . In London and Paris, as crowds gazed at the bare bottom and vagina of Saartjie Baartman, observing its supposed excessive size with prurient interest. She was supposedly a "Hottentot," a vivid European construct which sought to place a kind of super-barbarism, an ultra-"negro" savagery, on this perversion of the unfortunate Khoisan of South Africa. Full article

Sunday, February 26, 2006

roots to reckoning

Charlie Phillips (left), Armet Francis (right) - today @ the Museum of London

I saw the Roots to Reckoning exhibition at the Museum of London earlier today. It celebrated the lives of blacks in Britain, as captured on camera by 3 Jamaican born Londoners - over 20 to 30 years. Roots to Reckoning opened in October and ended today, so my attending the exhibition was a last gasp thing. And I'm glad I did, because there were events taking place around the exhibition, with a reception for visitors and organisers, and 2 of the 3 photographers taking part in a talk about issues raised by the show. It was the first exhibition hosted by a major organisation in the UK entirely focused on the works of black photographers, namely: Charlie Phillips, Armet Francis and Neil Kenlock.

Poet Benjamin Zephaniah was there

Francis was already known to me. Our paths crossed countless times during Africa 05 for which he served tirelessly as the official photographer. He also covered FESTAC '77 in Nigeria - and some of his images from that landmark event in black cultural history were on view at the exhibition. Other famous subjects on whom the 3 have trained their lens on - as seen in the show - include: Muhammad Ali, C.L.R James, Stokely Carmichael, Omar Sharif and Bob Marley.

Zephaniah, Phillips... Francis is 4th from left. Diane Abbott MP, one of the most prominent black parliamentarian in the UK, was also there.

postcard from bamako

The OMM magazine (see post below) came with lots of meaty stuff, including a piece investigating the alleged link between Rap Music and the recent African immigrants riots in Paris. There are reviews of Damian Marley's gig in Las Vegas and 'The Cellar Door Sessions' - new Miles Davis issue CDs. There's also an article tracing back to the birth of Punk with the arrival of the Sex Pistols in 1976 (haven't read that yet!). Then there is the above, a delightful 'postcard' of Malian music. Ali Farka Toure, Tinariwen, Salif Keita, Oumou Sangare and others are mentioned - as encountered in their own backyard, literally.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

prince's purple reign continues...

Thot I'd better blog this before another Sunday checks in. Above is Prince as he appeared in the Observer Music Monthly magazine (OMM, Feb edition, published last Sunday). Titled 'Genius in Short', it is Barney Hoskyns profile of the 5'2" enigma that is His Royal Purpleness - Prince. If the writer is to be believed, Prince has finally "shaken off his purple albatross", clocking in as the highest earning ($56.5m) performer in the US in 2004, and with his eagerly awaited new album, 3121. The stylish video of the first single off the new CD - Black Sweat - is already playing on MTV.

Watching Prince's first appearance on Saturday Night Live in 25 years earlier this month, Hoskyns saw the musician walk away with "the cockiest smirk you ever saw on a pop star's face... The smirk says: 'I killed them again'" The writer first saw the smirk in February 1981 at the Ritz Theatre. "That night... I saw rock'n'soul's future: a devastatingly assured set of taut new-wave funk from a kinky genius who made Michael Jackson look like the buppie next door." The writer and the singer have met up many times over the years. Here are some of Prince's utterances over time, as recorded in the article:

"Why does everyone think I'm mad?" he once asked a British Press assistant. She replied: "Because you do weird things and you dont explain them."

"All these non-singing, non-dancing, wish-I-had-me-some-clothes fools who tell me my albums suck; why should I listen to them?"

"The only person who knows anything about my music [pause for very pointed effect]... is me."

The last quote above is quite similar to a line in Purple Rain the movie, and comes to as near a truth about Prince as many will agree with, I think.

The article runs '10 Essential Albums' as recorded by Prince. The list got me thinking about my favourite Prince tracks. It's difficult and I'm bound to leave something out, especially as I'm only listing 5. So here goes.

  1. I Wish You Heaven
  2. Alphabet Street
  3. When Doves Cry
  4. The Most Beautiful Girl In The World
  5. Purple Rain

*I'm asking blog readers for their favourite 5 tracks by Prince, so please remember to list them here before you go.

Friday, February 24, 2006

tagging you tagging me

e Well, I've been tagged, folks. Yup, tagged by a fave blogopal of mine, good old Renegade Eye. And so now I'm required to tag 4 other bloggers... but not before I answer certain questions. And they aint easy! Here goes...

1. Black and White or Color; how do you prefer your movies?
**Gotta be technicolor

2. What is the one single subject that bores you to near-death?
** Film stars telling us: 'oh it's terrible I'm divorcing my husband/wife but I'll alway love him/her' - really?!

3. MP3s, CDs, Tapes or Records: what is your favorite mediumfor prerecorded music?
** I'm tactile, I love things I can touch. So, much as I'd like to say: iPod, it's gotta be CDs, really.

4. You are handed one first class trip plane ticket to anywhere in the world and ten million dollars cash. All of this is yours provided that you leave and not tell anyone where you are going … Ever. This includes family, friends, everyone. Would you take the money and ticket and run?
** Easy, Zihuatanejo... ever seen The Shawshank Redemption?

5. Seriously, what do you consider the world’s most pressing issue now?
** That elusive peace

6. How would you rectify the world’s most pressing issue?
** Remove a couple of smug, powerful, belligerent fools, and then I'll get to thinking...

7. You are given the chance to go back and change one thing in your life; what would that be?
** Another answer came to mind but, I'll just take Renegade's lead and say: too many things. And aint that the truth.

8. You are given the chance to go back and change one event in world history, what would that be?
** So many so I'll just take a dip: I'd have prevented the killing of Che Guevara

9. A night at the opera, or a night at the Grand Ole’ Opry –Which do you choose?
** The Opera of course, what do you take me for?!:)

10. What is the one great unsolved crime of all time you’d like to solve?
** What exactly happened with Diana in that tunnel in Paris.

11. One famous author can come to dinner with you. Who would that be, and what would you serve for the meal?
** Gabriel Okara, I'd serve Iyan & egusi, with lots of palm wine to help me hear The Voice.

12. You discover that John Lennon was right, that there is no hell below us, and above us there is only sky — what’s the first immoral thing you might do to celebrate this fact?
** Some immoral thing others would enjoy doing too... (is this a trick question or what?!)

Phew! Those questions sure weren't easy. Now, I'm tagging these 4... check them out... you'll like them... you'll see.

Now these 4 will have to each answer the above questions on their own blogs - and also tag 4 other bloggers.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Ofeimun on yesterday's Chinweizu Forum

An evening of readings and performances honouring Chinweizu, co-author of Toward The Decolonisation of African Literature and other works - was held yesterday at the Muson Centre in Lagos.

Poet Odia Ofeimun writes in about the event, below.

Odia Ofeimun, photographed at home in Lagos, Sept 17, 2005

Dear Molara,

One of those events for which every Nigerian should want to be in Lagos on a weekend just ended at the Muson in Lagos. It was called The Chinweizu Forum - organized by Friends of Chinweizu in the Arts. Chinweizu was billed to and delivered a lecture on LUGARDISM AND THE PROSPECT OF AFRICAN POWER which ranged over the usual Chinweizu territory - but more concerned about the survival of Nigeria and Africa in a vein more hair-scraping than the usual Afrocentric stuff. Lugardism I am sure you can pre-figure without much trouble. And African Power you wont need over-defining if you are familiar with Marcus Garvey. But Chinweizu added something to the concept of race war at the heart of the usual Afrocentric stuff when he showed, yes, he showed how Nigeria has taken 45 years to arrive where it took Haiti more than 200 years to reach -that is a land of plenty, happy and disciplined people, reduced to a beggarly, confused, self-destructive state by slavery, colonization, imperialism and neo-colonialism. I hope you are not one of those Africans who think these concepts are old-fashioned in the globalized connundrum that the world is now supposed to be. Chinweizu, with a dash of hysterics, which i dont consider inappropriate, proves that they are concepts that describe where we still are.

But the lecture was not what i was looking forward to. It was Segun Adefila's and Crown Troupe of Africa's interpretation of Song of Lawino and Ocol based on Chinweizu's adaptation of Okot p'Bitek's two long poems for the stage. It was simply magical, mesmerizing. With two Ocols and two Lawinos on stage at the same time intermeshing in speech and movement and yet able to convey a composite image of the original characters, there was something to say for why some money-miss road Nigerian should strive for self-redemption by sponsoring the arts. Well, this one was made possible by the Nigerian Liquefied Natural Gas Company. You know them. They made it possible last year to bring Ezenwa Ohaeto's body home from Cambridge. And they made me sentimental in their favour when they sent out the two winning poetry collections Okara's and Ohaeto's, as part of their Christmas hampers last year. I wish they or some serious sponsor would take on Segun and his Crown Troupe on a tour. Anywhere that play would be a hit. Not so much for what it says but how it is presented.

Antjie Krog, author of Country of My Skull, in conversation with Ofeimun, The Jazzhole, Lagos, 8 Sept, 2005

Well, if you heard that the Chinweizu forum was organized by those of us who wished to identify with him as he was recovering from a stroke, that is just part of the story. By the way, Uche Nwosu who was helping to organize the event had a stroke while he was at it. It added a dampener to the event in a way I cannot describe. Spooky. Thank Goodness, Uche is recovering fast. the whole picture added up to the point made by one of our novelists who texted me this morning to say we need 'paranoid perceptions' like Chinweizu's to keep all of us on our toes. Even at the risk of all of us being in trouble, it is good to give ourselves the opportunity to debate, to argue, about our literature our future, our country our continent. The point really is that Chinweizu's thesis is beyond Afrocentrism. It is good economics when you come to think of it. Those who fail to industrialize, those who fail to learn from the West or from wherever, the weapons with which our people have been conquered will not survive the travails of this century.

I did not mean to review the evening. But that's to tell you that you missed something. Next time be rich enough to get invited to watch a play in my city by the lagoon.


Friday, February 17, 2006

story by crispin oduobuk

Well, I've heard of 'posh totty' but a literary hottie in the shape of a man! Well... Pictured above is the writer about whom we speak in the post below - Crispin Oduobuk himself.

And here below is something courtesy of his pen, King M. Enjoy...

King M

By Crispin Oduobuk

Hey friend, I tell you a story. A good story. With a moral in it.

I tell you about a king. I tell you about King Mmefiokmma. See, King M, he living long time ago with big kingdom. Lots of land and people. Just not enough water on one part of his kingdom. So he has like a desert, see?

King M; he a good king. So one day, God says to him: "Mmefiokmma, you're a good king, so I’ll give you the one thing you really need. I'll give you a river so you won’t lack water so much. Good, eh?"

King M says, "It's good," and, "thank you, God," then he sits back and waits for the river.

Soon enough the river comes flowing though. But it’s flowing on the side of the kingdom that don't need it so much.

So King M figures to himself, maybe God forgot which side of the kingdom really needed the river. So he puts up army of workers and they spend a lifetime diverting the river to the side of the kingdom that really needs it.

Problem is, not long after they finish this tedious work, the whole river dries up.

So King M, now wasted by age and disappointment, cries up to God. "God, why have you taken back the river?"

"I didn't." Says God.

"So where's it gone to?" King wants to know.

God chuckles and says, "My son Mmefiokmma, you gave it to the desert, didn't you? That desert been thirsty long before your time. I knew that, but you didn't."

Again King M cries up to God sadly: "God, since you knew the desert was going to drink up the river, why didn't you warn me when I was diverting it there? And since you can do everything, why didn't you just sate the desert so it wouldn't drink up all the river?"

God sighs heavily and King M's whole kingdom trembles. Then God says, "Mmefiokmma, that's the problem with you humans: you just don't get it."

Now, friend, you know the story; you can figure out the moral -- I'm not sure what it is so I can’t tell you. I can tell you though that I like this story and I'd like to try and dramatize it. You think maybe you can play King M and I play God?

Crispin Oduobuk resides in Abuja, Nigeria. His work has been published in many journals and anthologies, including, Eclectica, BBC Focus on Africa, and Spoiled Ink.

Photo courtesy of the writer.

going telugu with crispin oduobuk

Here's the cartoon version of a short-short story by Crispin Oduobuk - as translated into the Indian language, Telugu. Originally titled The Great Bell in English, the story has become Rakshasa Ganta in Telugu. It appears in this month's edition of Vipula, a Telugu monthly. The translator is Lakshmi Latha.

Don't be surprised if one day you read that Crispin Oduobuk's work 'has been translated into 30 languages of the world'. Already, The Great Bell alone has been translated into Spanish, Portuegese and Dutch. Oduobuk also has a real knack for short-short stories - and is a dab hand at longer pieces also. A writer to watch.

turning heads 2

Here's a cross-section of stupendous Nigerian females working their headties at the party.

For a split second, if you are willing to imagine, these geles (headties) could pass for flowers.


Beautiful Lola was at the wedding. Who'd believe she's a proud mother of four kids?

turning heads

Here are dancing ladies crowding round the musician at a Nigerian weding in London last month. The red sack held by one, is for packing the dollar notes sprayed on the bride, as is the tradition.

The hall where the wedding's night party was held. They sort of went all out decorating the place...

Friday, February 10, 2006

africa reading group

The Africa Reading Group has been going on for sometime at the Africa Book Centre in Covent Garden, London, coordinated by a nice lady called Saara. With the books now done as mail order from Bristol, things are changing at No.38 King Street, and the Reading Group is now meeting at new venues - still in the Covent Garden area.

The Africa Reading Group meets once a month to discuss an African related book. Here are details of the next few meetings:

Non Fiction Meeting: Monday 13th February, 6:30pm - discussing The Green Belt Movement By Wangari Maathai, Winner of the 2005 Nobel Peace Prize.

Fiction Meeting: Monday 27th of February, 6:30pm - discussing The Icarus Girl by Helen Oyeyemi.

Helen Oyeyemi

Venue for these meetings will be in the Progresso Coffee shop in Tomas Neal's Centre (downstairs in the mall), Covent Garden, London

Upcoming books for discussion by the Africa Reading Group include Graceland by Chris Abani, The In-Between World of Vikram Lall by M.G Vassanji, King Leopold's Ghost by Adam Hochschild and The Wretched of the Earth by Frantz Fanon.

commonwealth writers' award

The Commonwealth Writers' Prize Best Book Award (Africa Region) has been awarded to The Sun by Night, a novel by Benjamin Kwakwe. The Sun by Night (Africa World Press) centres on the death of a prostitute in Accra and is described as " a well-structured tale of human weakness and strength with the attendant intrigues and political chicanery as well as the palpable social conflicts of a post-colonial society."

The Best First Book Award (Africa Region) went to Ugandan Doreen Baingana for her short story collection, Tropical Fish: Tales from Entebbe ( University of Massachusetts).

Doreen Baingana

Kwakwe and Baingana win 1000 Pounds cash prize each. In the Euroasia Region, Zadie Smith won the Best Book Award for her novel, On Beauty. The three, and other regional winners from Canada & the Caribbean, South East Asia & the Pacific - all qualify to enter the final stage of the 20th Commonwealth Writers’ Prize, the international award for outstanding fiction, to be announced 14th March 2006. The overall winner gets 10,000 Pounds.

and so to the readers...

This is a bit late coming, considering the article was published on the 15th of January, but better late than never...

Readers’ Books of 2005
Compiled by Molara Wood

Thirteen contributors feature on our list of readers' books of 2005, in a modest improvement on a similar initiative from one year ago. Among the 13, are some readers-who-write, including Anthony Olaniji, a student of English at the University of Lagos who is already working on his first novel. Our readers recommend their choices of new and not-so-new works of fiction, non-fiction and poetry - below.

Lyndah Achom
Freeport, Bahamas
I would like to recommend Graceland by Chris Abani (Farrah, Straus and Giroux). I absolutely loved the storyline. The books is so funny in parts, it had me in stitches.

Adeleke O Adeyemi
For an age in which gender relations have upstaged issues of race, along with the high-handedness and bigotry that attend matters of identity, I found Lisa McMinn's Growing Strong Daughters to be a veritable mine (not the type you can lose a limb to…!) for redressing things at source. Though didactic, it's peppered with many a culturally neutral, life-saving anecdote, endearingly rendered. (By the way, my quote of the year: "The stories people tell / have a way/ of taking care of them" -- Barry Lopez.). Wistfully, I imagine that, with this book, my father would have done a better job of raising my six siblings. Soon, it will be my turn…

Adewale Ajani
Delft, Holland
This House Has Fallen - Nigeria In Crisis by Karl Maier (Penguin) is a very incisive piece. It narrates a German journalist’s unbiased view of Nigeria’s political history - well-groomed with the present political landscape interlaced with a lot of controversies.

Tinuade Awe
New York
Toyin Falola’s A Mouth Sweeter Than Salt (University of Michigan Press) is an amazing book. The language is very descriptive and rich. You can almost feel and smell the streets of Ibadan. I grew up there in a different time and place from Falola, yet I connected with him as an Ibadan resident in a way that I still find difficult to explain. Falola takes you on a wonder-filled Ibadan journey, through the eyes of a young boy. He is telling you his story, but he is also telling you the story of the city and giving you a peep into the story of the Yoruba. He recounts the most out-of-this-world events in a very matter-of-fact manner, at times reminding me of Gabriel Garcia Marquez in "One Hundred Years of Solitude." Falola is a bold, unrestrained and very daring writer who is obviously proud of who he is and where he came from, so that every sentence dares you to come up with better stories than he has experienced. I am very pleased that this book is widely available outside Nigeria. I hope non-Nigerians read it for its entertainment value, but most importantly, because it is a great Nigerian story; a fascinating journey through Yoruba culture. I await the sequel, eagerly.

I like Sefi Atta’s Everything Good Will Come because it is so unapologetically feminist. It is ‘in your face' - and tells the story of strong, educated Nigerian women born after independence. We are taught to be independent yet we are taught to be dependent in many ways. Our lives are a contradiction but we don't talk about the contradictions. In Everything Good Will Come, Atta goes for the jugular. She talks about everything and anything. Her female characters have the pessimistic, unexpectant and resigned view of men that is so common among Nigerian women. But, I have never seen it portrayed so clearly. The characters are so familiar. My only concern is that the closeness of the story to the Nigerian experience may prevent non-Nigerian readers from fully enjoying this solid book. I await Atta's next outing, eagerly.

Teju Cole
New York
My book of the year is Suketu Mehta’s Maximum City. By confounding the categories of travelogue, autobiography and social criticism, Mehta points the way forward for those of us who chafe at genres. The many stories of Bombay contained in his massive book are fascinating - the gangsters, the cops, the bar girls, the film actors - and his language could hardly be more skilful or subtle. Maximum City is a justly celebrated account of the life of one of the world’s most complex cities. About time someone did the same for Lagos, but who?

Biola Giwa
Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago Iwoye
With a keen eye on the world's political temperature last year I stumbled on what in my mind was the best response to George Bush’s arrogance in his determination to play the whole lot of us for gulls. The New Pearl Harbor - Disturbing Questions about the Bush Administation and 9\11 by David Ray Griffin, not only made for interesting reading, it asks basic but probing questions about US claims that the war on "terror" was ‘justifiable’. Read this book then watch Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9\11 and wonder why one man is in the dock and another and his neo-con buddies treat us the way they do.

Ofonime Inyang
University of Uyo, Uyo, Akwa Ibom State
Of all the books that I read in 2005, I find Helon Habila’s Waiting For An Angel (Penguin) stupendously outstanding in its renderings. Built on the author’s award winning short fiction "Prison Stories" it resonates in vividly captivating and thought-provoking terms the neo-militarism of Nigeria’s civil life. Lomba, the lead character offers a characteristic representation of someone in search of society. Habila’s use of language is mellifluous and his ability to juxtapose the pro-democracy struggle of the Abacha years in a fictional docu-dramatization with the factualization of real scenarios, involving active players in the literary community, breathes a novel way of prose structurization. You cannot stop identifying with all his characters; from the idealistic adventurism and cerebral acumen of Janice to the morbid senility of the shamelessly brutish ‘culture’ usurper Muftau, specimens of the Nigerian environment especially during the June 12 years play out. A writer with an uncommon prowess for story-telling and dramatisation, Habila is a fulfilling read anyday.

The poetry of Chijioke Amu Nnadi, especially the collection entitled The Fire Within sparks with life. One is thoroughly enthralled by the composite harnessing of corpulent "Love Poems" into a lethal grenade of revolutionary songs: "Come and listen my land/ as my song swirls / into a shout of revolt". Amu Nnadi’s poetry swells like the tsunami, pelts our conscience and leaves your mind loaded with questions about the many colours of the "Landscape of our Country". This is a poet to watch. He comes with a brand ‘new’, poetry, simple yet highly inflammable.

Remi Jacobs
London, UK
Waiting For An Angel by Helon Habila is one of those books you pick up and just have to finish before you can put it back down. It serves as a reminder of the political pressure and hardship faced by Nigerian journalists during the Abacha years. Grouping the book’s chapters by the main characters made piecing together the storyline all the more enjoyable.

Onyeka Nwelue
I enjoyed reading Uzodinma Iweala’s Beasts of No Nation, because it chronicles what happens in war. Simply written and most touching, it is a super sized romp of a novel, written in an awkward, but laughter- provoking language, that puts grim smiles on the face, when tragedy strikes the mind. It creates a little and passionate vacuum in the mind of the reader, as he uses his words in a way that a reader would want to re-edit it. It is striking and I am indebted to read Agu’s soldiering tale that provokes laughter and shows brutality. A richly written novel of abuses and teenage-soldiering.

Akin Oduola
Tunde Ajayi’s A Night in the Forest is a children’s novel that has inspired me as an adult. I didn't know a novel could be so gripping as to deny me my food and sleep, keeping my nerves awake and my heart palpitating until I find rest at a safe landing at the end of the story. The story is about the exploits of three human beings with the magical powers to turn to animals. Attempts are made to track down the animals - to no avail. That is until Ikugbe, an 18-year-old boy from a lineage of legendary hunters comes to the rescue of the village, in what appears to be the battle of one against three, the bigger against the smaller. Ajayi shows a mastery of the art of story-telling.

Funsho Ogundipe
My outstanding book for 2005 is Waiting For The Wild Beasts To Vote by Ahmadou Kouroumah (Heinemann), an Ivorien who lived and worked in Togo between 1983 and 1993. Translated from the French, it is basically a satire about Togo and its recently deceased president, Gnassingbe Eyadema. The book changes fact into myth, unmasks many home truths and along the way and educates us about our peoples and their collective histories.

Anthony Olaniji
Lagos State University (LASU, Anthony Campus), Lagos State
Reading through Prentice Hall’s The American Experience, I stumbled on Self-Reliance, a seminal essay by the legendary Ralph Waldo Emerson. His focus on inner powers as the sure path to self-fulfilment altered my blurry perceptions about the abilities I possess. I strongly recommend this essay to all because it exposes the greatest ruination of Man’s failure to recognize and optimize the real self. Emerson’s solution is sure to salvage many a life still wasting away, ignorant of their innate capabilities. Self-reliance is a must-read for anyone wishing to be useful to himself and the society in which he lives.

Anthony Olaniji

Oreoluwa Somolu
First published in 1937, Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston spoke to me like no other. Set in the 1930s, it centres on Janie Crawford, a black woman living in a tightly-knit Florida community, where fear of censure pushes people towards fairly unconventional life choices. Janie, a fiercely independent woman, deviates from this path by first choosing to leave an arranged marriage which led to a comfortable but stifling life; and then by following her heart into a relationship with a much younger man, after her emotionally-abusive second husband dies. Societies tend to have accepted ‘codes of conduct’, which form the template for the lives of many of its members. This story provides encouragement for anyone seeking to remain true to themselves and carve out their own path in life wherever that might lead.