Subscribe to Newsletter
Monthly Newsletter: Join more than 3,000 African literature enthusiasts!
Subscribe for African literature news, and receive a free copy of our "Guide to African Novels."

a-packed-hall-for-the-sensuality-panel

Abeokuta, our venue for Ake Arts and Book Festival, is a town founded by defeated warriors who had found succor from invaders beneath its rocks. Maybe that was why I felt at ease from the moment I arrived Kuto roundabout. Maybe it was the reassuring manner of the first volunteer who attended to me. She wore her braids over her head in a large bun resembling Olumo rock itself. Maybe it was NoViolet Bulawayo exchanging ideas on dialogue as if we were peers, Helon Habila’s quiet but frequent nods of approval, or Sarah Ladipo Manyika’s reckless passion. It could have been any or maybe even all of the above. But at the end of the first day, I had forgotten I was a defeated warrior.

Over the next four days, I met many like minds. We would sit in on intellectual conversations through the days and ravage ofada rice with alcohol through the evenings, like I assumed the founding warriors of Abeokuta did. During these four days, every book chat and panel discussion was a hit; back to back, iyalaya aneebodee! Our idols, formerly inaccessible, became humanized before us and our phone cameras, as Teju Cole and Tendai Huchu would agree. And mere mortals ascended to deity status, as Panashe Chigumadzi and Chinelo Okparanta would also agree. More importantly, in our common love for all things books, we all saw ourselves as worthy warriors of the same cause; none greater than the other.

I struggled to understand how I had come into Abeokuta feeling defeated and left possessing the aura of the greatest warrior that ever lived. It was similar to what I felt, albeit a long time ago, when I used to create bewildering literature while reading through acceptance mails, when I first possessed my greatness. And I drifted further, wondering how the great warrior in me first died.

As always, I let literature teach me, and I discovered that great warriors often died tragic deaths. Regardless of the place — whether as north as Beowulf’s Scandinavia or as south as Kurunmi’s Ijaiye — and regardless of the time — whether as ancient as Julius Caesar’s era of bloody conquests or as recent as Okonkwo’s era of ideological warfare — greatness was never impermeable to the blows of tragedy.  Tales of great warriors greatly differ, but generally, we could simplify things and assume that great warriors often get lost in the proverbial sauce of their glory and fail to notice the rise of other great beings around them.

Literature is like war. The only way to greatness is by creating stories that would defy time. African writers, the great warriors, have legends told of our incursions into the valiantly guarded gates of world literature since the middle of the last century and our heroic exploits in the battles against imperialist agenda in African thought and culture all through the next decades. Our arrows of fiction classics from our quiver full of literary genres have trespassed every border. Literature is also like war in the sense that victory is a result of constant evolution of thought. If you are not aware of the evolution going on around you, it would be difficult to evolve with it. If you fail to evolve with it, you would be left behind to die a tragic death.

The great warriors I met at Abeokuta were at the forefront of evolution. They were aware of the world around them; rich in knowledge and opinion. They were aware of the other great beings rising around them in every part of the continent and followed each other’s stories; they were constantly learning and so constantly evolving. I quickly realized the great warrior in me had died because I had failed to do the same. The world had not sung ballads of my greatness just yet, but I had gotten lost in the sauce of my initial glory. I was trying to quickly replicate this glory by doing too much writing and doing too little learning; learning of knowledge and opinion, learning from the evolution around me.

Through the festival, we discussed knowledge and opinion on all sorts of sexuality and on the throes of prison, on the wide influences of speculative fiction and the broad spectrum of horror, on the war crimes in Chad and the strokes of magic being created by the new generation of culture curators in Zimbabwe. Falana sang to us in Spanish and the language of the Cajun and Brymo reminded us that even the dearest of pricks no get shoulder. And if I ruled the world tomorrow, my first decree would be to command a worldwide viewing of Marquerite Abouet’s Aya de Yopougon, so the world would laugh and learn as I did.

The great warrior, Andre Gide, wrote, “If one does not absorb everything, one loses oneself completely. The mind must be greater than the world and contain it.” Ake Festival is where the literati came to absorb everything great in the world and contain it. I am a witness. But then again I might be mistaken in my analysis; it might have nothing to do with evolution of thought. Maybe it was the beautiful volunteer who wore Olumo rock on her head that made the festival worthwhile.

 

************

About the Author:

20161010_171642Nnamdi Ehirim is a frequent reader and occasion writer. His lofty achievements are still buffering, but meanwhile, his short fiction can be found on Afreada.com.

Tags: ,

2 Responses to “How I Found My Greatness: Reflections on the 2016 Ake Arts and Book Festival | by Nnamdi Ehirim” Subscribe

  1. Master Yaoki 2016/11/28 at 11:35 #

    I can relate Nnamdi. Lol its not just the beautiful volunteer.

    I had the best conversations and I enjoyed being around people.

    This is profound & entertaining and you’re absolutely right – we need to keep absorbing, we need to keep moving. Everyday.

    Welcome back, warrior!

  2. Fatima 2016/11/29 at 00:48 #

    Hail the conquering hero.

    Akè was all this and so much more.

Leave a Reply

I hold a doctorate in English from Duke University and recently joined the Marquette University English faculty as an Assistant Professor. I love teaching African fiction and contemporary British novels. Brittle Paper is the virtual space/station where I play and experiment with ideas on how to reinvent African fiction and literary culture.

Monthly Newsletter!

Subscribe for African literature news, and receive a free copy of our
"Guide to African Novels."

Archives

Cameroonian Novelist Patrick Nganang Details His Experience at Kondengui Central Prison

patrick nganang (1)

A few weeks ago, we reported that Cameroonian novelist Patrick Nganang was remanded in prison, following an article he wrote […]

Zahrah Nesbit-Ahmed Charts an Epic Adventure into African Books

Zahrah Nesbit-Ahmed

Zahrah Nesbit-Ahmed truly has a heart spellbound by books. The brilliant curator of Bookshy blog recently shared the road map […]

Angels and Muse | Artsy Co-working Space Opens in Lagos

Ehikhamenor angels and muse (1)

Award-winning artist and writer Victor Ehikhamenor has always given us the gift of beautiful art. But his latest project, Angels […]

WATCH | Nnedi Okorafor in HBO’s Afro-Futurism Documentary

nnedi okorafor afrofuturism black panther

For the past few months, fans have been connecting the dots between Afro-futurism and the Black Panther superhero movie. So […]

Adichie’s New Nigerian Publisher, Narrative Landscape Press, Is Releasing Box Sets of Wax-Print Cover Designs of Her Books

The Thing Around Your Neck

Dear Nigeria-based Adichie fans, this news is for you! Your favorite Adichie books are being reissued in iconic Ankara (wax-print) […]

“What Keeps Girls from Knowing the Power in Them?”: Mona Eltahawy on the Importance of Female Rage

Mona ELTAHAWY

Egyptian writer and outspoken feminist Mona Eltahawy is asking important questions about the necessity and possibilities of female anger. In […]

Thanks for signing up!

Never miss out on new posts. Subscribe to a digest, too:

No thanks, I only want the monthly newsletter.