It is always a delightful treat to hear African writers in conversation with each other. A few weeks ago, I was fortunate enough to attend such a dialogue. On April 30, Politics and Prose bookstore and Young African Professionals DC (YAP DC) co-hosted Nigerian authors Abubakar Adam Ibrahim and Sarah Ladipo Manyika to discuss their respective award-winning books, Season of Crimson Blossoms and Like a Mule Bringing Ice Cream to the Sun.
Local lovers of African literature gathered at the bookstore’s intimate Busboys and Poets location in Washington, DC to hear Caine-Prize winning author Tope Folarin moderate a rich discussion between the two brilliant, innovative minds. Prominent Nigerian literary critic Ikhide Ikheloa was also there. Zachary Rosen of Africa is a Country and Karen Attiah who is the Global Opinions editor of the Washington Post were in attendance, including artist Victor Ekpuk.
Ibrahim’s debut novel, Season of Crimson Blossoms, tells the story of a controversial affair between 55-year-old widow Binta Zubairu and 25-year-old weed dealer and political thug Hassan “Reza”, set in conservative Hausa Northern Nigeria. Manyika’s Like a Mule Bringing Ice Cream to the Sun, follows Morayo Da Silva, a cosmopolitan Nigerian woman in her seventies who experiences a devastating fall from her glamorous, independent life and, as she works to pick herself up, reflects on her past lovers and desires. Manyika describes the novel as “a nuanced portrait of the erotic yearnings of an older woman.”
Ibrahim and Manyika shared excerpts of their books, reading with an animation and poignancy that left the audience already craving the audio book versions. The talk covered many topics, ranging from the inspirations behind the authors’ female protagonists to their drive to write the stories that they are not seeing. Folarin also asked Ibrahim and Manyika if they try to write from a certain literary tradition. Manyika responded that while she is influenced by the oral tradition growing up in Nigeria and the UK, she does not consciously try to write in one tradition. Instead, she writes what she wants to read. Ibrahim shared that he tends to surrender himself to his characters and his stories rather than a tradition.
The event was held, in part, to celebrate the U.S. launch of Cassava Republic Press, a prominent Nigerian publisher. At the event, founder Bibi Bakare-Yusuf spoke of Cassava’s vision for Africa to own its means of literary production. She especially emphasized the importance of Africans shaping the stories that are told about the continent. Bakare-Yusuf praised the two books, saying that they change how we think about Africa. The authors also shared their excitement to represent Cassava Republic. Ibrahim said that writing for a publisher that looks inwards rather than outwards to draw their stories is amazing. Manyika described Cassava as a publisher that is not following the path of what is expected but instead thinks out of the box.
Here are some of the photos from the event:
Image sourced from Abubakar Ibrahim’s Facebook page.