You know me here as a blogger. But in my other life I am an academic, which means that I get sponsored to go to conferences where I listen to people say smart things while I sit there pretending to be smart. This past summer I was in Johannesburg for one such conference and decided to take the relatively short 5-hour flight to Nairobi to see a friend from college. What are the odds? Jeremy, the Cassava Man himself, was in Nairobi.
That’s Jeremy and I meeting in person for the first time, in Nairobi. We go way back. Remember the Nigerian blogosphere of the mid to late 2000s? That whole scene sort of dispersed, but we continued to be friends and he’s been very supportive of Brittle Paper. Jeremy believed in the project from the very beginning and is actually Brittle Paper‘s first ever twitter follower.
So even though I had not met Jeremy in person, meeting him felt like catching up with an old friend over excellent Chinese food and good wine.
Here’s a bit about Jeremy if you don’t already know him. Jeremy and his wife Bibi Bakare-Yusuf co-founded Cassava Republic. You could say they brought the indie press phenomenon to Nigeria or at least took it to the next level. Teju Cole, Sarah Ladipo Manyika, Lola Shoneyin, Ayodele Olofintuade are few of the many wonderful authors they’ve published. Jeremy’s Naijablog was a major hub in the Nigerian blogging community. I was chatting with the lovely Tolulope Popoola the other day and she talked about how Jeremy was always the first to link to a blog that just came on the scene. If you’re are a blogger, you’d understand how much of a big deal it is to have someone link to your blog and give you that kind of validation early on. The heated debates that took place on that blog, the insults, anger, the laughter we all shared on that blog, the conversations. Those were indeed good times.
Over lunch, Jeremy and I talked about what we always talk about whenever we get a minute to chat—the African writing scene. I learned about a few of the interesting projects cooking up in the Cassava Republic universe.
Of course, we talked about all of you…yes…bloggers and novelists alike, the established and the up-and-coming. Lots of gossip…lol…but our meeting ended with both of us raising our glasses to our contemporary moment, which we both believed to be the most exciting times in the history of African writings.
I met another African literary someone in Nairobi, but you’ll have to wait for my next post to know who it is and why I think he is both cool and strange.