The Sail is a collection of stories, poems, essays, artwork, and play written by students at Whitesands School.
The project is revolutionary for the simple reason that it carves out a literary space for very young writers—in this case students in a Lagos secondary school.
Working with Tade Ipadeola and Chika Unigwe—both award winning authors—Kola Tubosun, who is also an English teacher at Whitesands, assembled a strong suite of writings that are so beautifully crafted that the reader quickly forgets that they were written by students under the age of 16.
The collection kicks off with the illustration of an ebony skinned girl deep in thought. It is aptly titled Black Innocence and is one of two artworks featured by final year student Omedele Adefala. This young artist has undeniable talent, and his work exudes raw emotion and intellectual depth.
It’s no surprise that “Beserk,” written by Elton Odoemenam, was selected as the winning fiction piece. The story follows a white adventurer who visits an African jungle while ignoring warnings from his indigenous tour guide. Animals, Man-eaters, the thick jungle, and the African heat combine to conjure a mesmerizing tale of mystery and adventure.
Some of the stories are inspired by current events and topical issues. A worthy mention is a story about the Chibok girls told from the point of view of a parent. As you can imagine, the story is suffused with emotions. Another story titled, Nigeriancracy, captures a good bit of the underhanded practices that occur under a supposed democracy.
My favorite story in the fiction category would have to be The Sail, which also doubles as the title for the entire publication. It is such a breath of fresh air especially coming from such a young author. The story takes the form of succinct journal entries documented over the course of two weeks. A young man suffering from asthma is shipwrecked and struggles to survive at sea on limited medication and unpalatable food. Defying the elements and a nearly fatal shark attack, he is rescued by a Japanese boat crew. To the dismay of his rescuers, he elopes with the woman he falls in love with during his recovery period. I like how this story reminds me of Yann Martel’s Life of Pi and wouldn’t be surprised to discover that Fikayomi Olagbami, the 8th grader behind this piece is equally a fan.
The essays in the collection cover a wide variety of issues that includes racism, bullying, and ebola. In Tomorrow, Uche Chukwuejekwe looks at how the task of choosing a career is often complicated by parental expectations. He explores the conflict between his passion for football and his desire to please his parents. The humor in this piece balances out the heavy-handedness of some other essays in the collection.
The Sail is such an exciting project. We love the Adichies and Teju Coles of the world, but we also know that there is an untapped community of young, aspiring writers and that the future of African writing depends on them. This anthology provides the perfect platform where young writers can try their hands at writing, engage a literary audience, and gain confidence.
[You can read the 86-page collection HERE.]