1. Month of Sorrow
September left us all sad and bereaved. Kofi Awoonor died in the Nairobi Mall Shooting. Awoonor was in Nairobi for the Storymoja Hay Festival. He popped by the mall to do a bit of shopping with his son and was gunned down. I feel like a bit of my literary childhood is lost with his passing. Poems like “Songs of Sorrow” got me to fall in love with African literature in my teenage years. Wole Soyinka, Teju Cole, Kwani?‘s Billy Kahora, and Paula Kahumbu, who is the director of the festival, all expressed their grief at Awoonor’s passing:
Soyinka: We mourn our colleague and brother, but first we denounce his killers, the virulent sub-species of humanity who bathe their hands in innocent blood. Only cowards turn deadly weapons against the unarmed, only the depraved glorify in, or justify the act. True warriors do not wage wars against the innocent. Profanity is the name given to the defilement of the sanctity of human life. — Read More
Kahumbu: On Sunday morning it was confirmed that Kofi was among 65 dead. African has lost a great poet and the world is poorer. How do we make sense of this? — Read More
Read Teju Cole’s tribute to Awoonor, “Letter from Nairobi,” HERE.
2. Who is Adichie’s #1 Fan?
It’s James Eze! I revealed this man’s identity just last week. Eze is a Nigerian blogger who has mad love for the queen of African fiction and believes that she is nothing short of the fairy godmother of the contemporary African writing scene. Read the snippets below. Excessive much?
“No storyteller on the continent in the last ten years has gripped the imagination of Africa like Chimamanda Adichie.”
“During one of her recent readings in Lagos, a young woman broke down in tears at meeting her for the first time.”
“Adichie’s striking personality, speeches and media interviews have enthralled audiences across the world.”
“Her books are prescribed texts for secondary schools all over Africa. Scores of African PhD students anchor their thesis on her work.”
“For taking on the intimidating horror of the Biafran war, Chinua Achebe described Adichie as ‘fearless.’”
“Her seemingly fragile frame and striking beauty may not prepare an observer for her forthrightness. Those who know her well say that Adichie has no falseness or guile…” Read More
3. Literary Lotto and the 100,000 dollar Jackpot
Of the three poetry collections shortlisted for the 100, 000 dollar NLNG Prize for Poetry, only Tade Ipadeola‘s The Sahara Testaments is in circulation. Poetry collections by the other two contestants are not available in print or ebook. Yup…not a joke.
Here is what the Nigerian literary critic Ikhide Ikheloa has to say:
As things currently stand, this is not a literary prize; this is a lottery, a jackpot for one lucky writer. Let me just say this: It is quite simply appalling, no, disgraceful, that the NLNG Prize is in danger of being given to a book that no one else but the judges has seen.
It is a mockery of literature and a huge farce that the NLNG will spend $850,000 annually to honor what amounts to laziness on the part of book publishers and writers…It bears repeating: It is hard to justify giving $100,000 to an author for a book that only 20 or fewer people have read. Again, the NLNG prize costs $850,000 to administer yearly. We really need to have a conversation about how best to use that money to honor our writers – and to support our literature. The publishing industry could use some of that money. What is wrong with us? Read more.
4. Giving Back Creatively
Earlier in the month, Lauren Beukes hosted an art show inspired by her recent novel The Shinning Girls, a crime thriller about a time-traveling serial killer. The show was held in Capetown and raised close to 10,000 dollar, which Beukes says will go towards helping out with the South African rape crisis. Certainly a creative way to give back. The event creates publicity for her book, celebrates Cape Town artists who share their work, and supports a great cause.
See more photos: HERE.
5. Cape-Town Cole
Teju who has been everywhere in the last few weeks—Nigeria, Australia, Nairobi— made a stop at Cape Town for the Open Book Festival. A certified awkward moment in this City Press interview.
INTERVIEWER: You’re a star at this book festival. And your fans, your screaming fans, are genteel ladies with knitted scarves.
COLE: To be fair, I’ve got young black fans here as well. But the audiences are majority white. And that is uncomfortable. That is something that needs to be addressed…
INTERVIEWER: The room was just packed now, though. I mean, they’ve sold the tickets they needed to sell.
COLE: That’s right. But there’s much more to a book fest than selling tickets. Everybody knows that.
6. Lights. Camera. Adichie.
Biyi Bandele’s film adaptation of Half of a Yellow Sun premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival. Apparently, the audience loved it and even gave a standing ovation. [See Trailer]
As you can see from the photo, Adichie stormed the red carpet as a glowing, colorful diva. Was the choice of this very yellow dress inspired by the title of the book: Half of a YELLOW Sun?
Watch this video to see what Adichie looks and sounds like on the red carpet. See more premier photos HERE.
7. “Hey President Mugabe, No New Homies”
Should [NoViolet Bulawayo] win the Booker, it is not inconceivable that Mugabe will seek to congratulate her in person, as he once did a runnerup in the African version of television’s Big Brother. He will be disappointed. “Out of principle I wouldn’t,” Bulawayo said firmly. “I don’t think we’ll be seeing ourselves shaking hands any time soon.” Read more
The latest on her Booker Prize race is that she’s moved from the long list to the short list. We’re rooting for you love!