Nigerian writer and art critic Emmanuel Iduma is the editor of Saraba magazine and a faculty member of the MFA Art Writing program at the School of Visual Arts, New York. His first book, a novel, was published by Parresia in 2012 as Farad, and republished by The Mantle in 2016 as The Sound of Things to Come. Since then he has written essays on art and photography, done some traveling, won an Andy Warhol Foundation Grant to begin his blog A Sum of Encounters, been profiled in Africa Is a Country, done more traveling, and co-curated the Nigerian Pavilion at the 2017 Venice Biennale—involvements that come to play in his innovative second book, A Stranger’s Pose.
Forthcoming from Cassava Republic Press—globally on 16 October, 2018 and in the US on 7 November, 2018—A Stranger’s Pose is a mix of memoir, travelogue, and photography: an expansion of travel writing in African literature, a genre with little published in it so far. The book, already named by Electric Literature as “one to watch,” comes with a foreword by Teju Cole, who has memorably called it a “Dream of a perfect book, a ballad with all the lyrics remembered.”
At 208 pages, A Stranger’s Pose is a immersive journey, in assuredly paced, transportive prose and striking photographs, across more than 20 African cities. Its 40 black and white photographs are by acclaimed African photographers, including one of an encounter with the famed Malian photographer Malick Sidibe, in which a hand holds up Sidibe’s favorite photo with Sidibe’s face in the background. The photos include those by Siaka Traore, Tom Saater, Dawit L. Petros, Abraham Oghobase, Jide Odukoya, Emeka Okereke, John Jea, Adeola Olagunju, Eric Gottesman, Paul Marty, and Michael Tsegaye.
Based both on his experiences and the stories he heard on the road, Iduma’s observation of fleeting encounters captures the melancholy that comes from travelling alone, and in a time when, despite increased social connections, the world is heating up in conversations around loneliness. There are beautiful vignettes on the photographers, people, and migrants—including those making the treacherous journey to Europe—in search of home, safety and self-exploration. There are also illuminations of his difficulties travelling between different African cities, of his struggles to find visas, of his meeting with a Malian and perpetual intra-Africa migrant Idrissa, of the cost of intra-continental travel, and of the alienation of moving between languages—altogether an exposition of how divided Africa is. Iduma’s use of photographs extends his engagement of questions about love, life, migration, translation, heart-break, and personal tragedy. In the end, what we have is a reinvention of the notion of African travel writing: the continent through the eyes of a decolonised millennial.
“A Stranger’s Pose fills a glaring need for more travel literature by Africans travelling for pleasure and self-exploration,” says Cassava Republic’s Marketing and Publicity Manager Emeka Nwankwo via email. “It is a conversation about the difficulties of travelling within Africa and the plight of West African migrants making the treacherous journey to Europe in search of safety and self-advancement. Iduma’s encounters remind us that it is in fact within the continent that most African migration occurs, even as European nations call for stronger border control.”
A Stranger’s Pose comes with blurbs by poet-professor-novelist Chris Abani (“Emmanuel Iduma writes with lyricism and stunning clarity, a lush yet elegant style that resists categorization… Only one word can hold it all, beautiful. This book is beautiful.”), and David Levi Strauss, author of Words Not Spent Today Buy Smaller Images Tomorrow (“Iduma’s book is a marvel.”). Noo Saro-Wiwa, author of Looking for Transwonderland: Travels in Nigeria, Nigeria’s best known travel literature book, has also described Iduma as “a refreshing new voice in travel writing.”
It is another big splash by Cassava Republic, who this year published She Called Me Woman: Nigeria’s Queer Women Speak, the first anthology of LGBTQ+ women in Nigeria. The publishing company, co-founded in 2006 by Bibi Bakare-Yusuf, was this year named winner of the Independent Publishers Group’s and London Book Fair’s Excellence Awards. In 2016, it became Africa’s first publisher to open an office in the UK. Among its many award-winning books are: Yemisi Aribisala’s Longthroat Memoirs: Soups, Sex and Nigerian Taste Buds, winner of the prestigious John Avery 2016 award at the Andre Simon Food and Drink Book Awards; Abubakar Adam Ibrahim’s Season of Crimson Blossoms, winner of the $100,000 Nigeria Prize for Literature 2016; Sarah Ladipo Manyika’s Like A Mule Bringing Ice Cream to the Sun, shortlisted for the 2016 Goldsmiths Prize; and Elnathan John’s Born on a Tuesday, shortlisted for the inaugural Republic of Consciousness Prize in 2017.
For media enquiries about Emmanuel Iduma’s A Stranger’s Pose and interview requests, please contact Lynette Lisk at Cassava Republic Press via [email protected].
An earlier version of this feature wrongly stated that A Stranger’s Pose includes photography by Malick Sidibe. What it includes is a photo where a hand holds up Sidibe’s favorite photo with Sidibe’s face in the background. It was also wrongly stated that Emmanuel Iduma’s first book, The Sound of Things to Come, was published in 2016. The Sound of Things to Come is in fact a republication. The novel was first published in 2012 by Parresia as Farad.