Every once in a while, stories come along that surprise critics and readers who claim to know African literature. Jalada’s recent compilation about sex strikes me as that kind of work.
Jalada Africa is a literary collective committed to reshaping the way writing is published and circulated within the continent.
Their recent collection titled Sext Me Poems and Stories proves their open and risk-taking approach to literary projects. I spent the last few days browsing through the collection, floored by how delightfully raw and honest most of the pieces are.
The project is also a small but bold step towards filling up a gaping hole in African literary culture. To the annoyance of readers like myself, African authors are not always keen on what their characters do in the bedroom. Under pressure to write about things of world historical importance like colonialism and poverty, African writers have always made short shrift of sex. Sex is perceived as indulgent.
But a projects such as Jalada’s Sext Me Poems and Stories tells us why sex is not superfluous in narrative.
Sex is the true story of the body told from a place of pleasure, pain, and radical uncertainty. Sex is about putting the body in a place where traditional ideas about gender, shame, violence, and loss are interrogated.
Besides, this collection is not just about sex. It’s about how Africans do sex.
Scrolling through the collection is like walking through a sex-toy shop, dazed by the sheer inventiveness put into assembling a world built on pushing the limits of sexual pleasure.
Akati Khasiani’s “Coming Down” and Aisha Ali’s “The First Time” are vignettes sketching out a scene of female masturbation. Both stories put the female body up on display but as something capable of generating the most profound experience of pleasure, entirely on its own.
The language in both pieces is as raw as it is lyrical. Sex in these two stories is not about conquest or consuming bodies but about exploration and discovery. Ali’s character speaks of the vagina as “that small wet place” that the “fingers” goes “searching, exploring, looking for answers.” Pretty intense and exciting stuff.
The first of two parts closes off with Orem Ochiel’s “Miss Fucking You.” Odd, but the title does not prepare you for the obscene goodness of the story. It’s framed as a man asking a woman, pleading more like, to have another go with him. To make his case, he recounts all the impassioned and kinky sexual encounters they’ve had without sparing the dirty details. Every other word in the story is “fuck” or “fucking.” Don’t click on the story while you’re in church!
“The Oink in Doinker” by Tuelo Gabonewe is a comical tale about a “half-widow,” Haroldette, who encounters a penis cut off from its owner. She takes it in, bathes its, feeds it, and names it Phineas McPhallus. Unlike many of the other stories in the collection, this one is not strictly an erotica. It is something you’d imagine Gogol or Kafka would write. In fact, I couldn’t help noting the striking resemblance between Gabonewe’s story and Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky’s “Runaway Fingers.”
“Sext Me” by Aleya and Dorothy Kigen’s “Inbox (1)” are fun at the level of form. Aleya’s piece is entirely a dialogue that takes place via text messaging. A man and a woman set the stage for their sexual encounter by expressing what they imagine the encounter would be like—a textual foreplay as it were.
People complain that it’s hard to convey complex emotional states via emails. Not so for Kigens’ character who details her illicit sexual experiences in an email message.
Sext Me Poems and Stories is titillating storytelling at its funnest. And its free! Download HERE and start reading!
The featured image is part of a pinup poster series by Cape Town based Studio Muti via African Digital Arts. See more images HERE.