Friday, July 27, 2007

Welcome to the World Baby Girl!

Enyimba, Aba, Warri, Ibadan, they've come from all over the place.

They are doctors, geologists, structural engineers, lawyers, consultants, university undergraduates, and freelance journalists, and they all want to write. Even if Binyavanga and Chimamanda hadn't impressed me, I'd have gained so much just by being in the class. I didn't know so many people wanted to be writers too, or that there were people who would take a series of buses for 2 days all the way from Maiduguri just to meet and learn from established authors.

To be perfectly honest, if the workshop wasn't in Lagos and the email had said to come to Abuja, I would've decided I wasn't going, even though I would've been able to afford a flight there and wouldn't have had to get on one of those Ifesinachi or whatever they're called vehicles just to get there. And if like some of the others who live in Lagos, I didn't have a car, and an okada or danfo was the only way to get to the venue in Ikoyi, I'm not sure I would wade through horrid mud-clogged potholes and the unending, torrential rain we've been having in Lagos, just to sit in a circle in a damp room, talking for hours about my craft.

Does this mean I don't want to be a writer?


But that I am a spoilt brat?


The glossy film reel is fading. I am seeing more clearly now.

Monday, July 23, 2007

The Silver Lining in my... uh... 18th Century Cloud?

Now that legal education is done, and the 9 month holiday has begun, my appetite for literature has returned. And I'm soooo pleased it has too! Unfortunately, it's made me even more of a hermit, and in the 3 weeks I've spent in Lagos, I have been only to the following places - the hairdresser, the Nail Place, and church. I haven't even once been tempted to go hunting for carrot cake in Chocolate Royal, or duck curry in Pattaya. My books have kept me well-fed. Tis sad, but true I'm afraid. As such, I have had absolutely nothing to blog about!!

People, I have passed day after day in 'Casa Flamingo' (my bright pink home). Every morning I have devoured a splendid platter of the thinnest, most divine crepes known to mankind (courtesy of our in-house pancake whiz), injured my shoulder/wrist/groin/french manicure playing tennis, and then passed the rest of the day in a haze, with a book pressed up against my nose.

I have been in heaven!

I chose to blog today, firstly because I didn't want to be seen to be neglecting my blog (which saw me through many a boring/lonely day this past year) and secondly, because I have only just finished reading a truly fabulous book and decided I had no choice but to share my excitement.

Simi Bedford, she of 'Yoruba Girl Dancing' (which I am still to read) fame, has produced a novel timed to coincide with this year's 200th anniversary of the abolition of the slave trade. 'Not with Silver' is what it's called, and it is an epic tale (believe me, it's more than bloody epic, the thing is the size of an encyclopaedia)!!

It starts in Oyo, in the 18th century, heads to America (the homes and farms of slaveowners), and then returns to West Africa in the period running up to formal abolition. And it is spectacular!! Never having been one to pore over movies like Roots or whatever that other one with that Djimon Honsou guy was called, I couldn't believe how quickly I got into it, and how I just kept rolling along from place to place with the characters. Okay at times it might've dragged a little and become a tad preachy, but it was so incredibly detailed, and so alive, that I could not but continue.

If I'm being honest, I think what really hooked me was how well Ms Bedford seemed to know the architecture, speech, rites, custom, culture, history and personalities of Old Oyo. I confessed to be a geek a couple of posts ago, and will be a bit more specific now - I am a history geek! The true nature of my geeky interest is seldom revealed, as I am loathe to get into discussions centred on my beloved subject for the simple reason that my memory is a sieve... It's more than a sieve... it's a bottomless bucket! I can never retain anything, facts, details, nothing! And so I habitually conceal the breath of topics and periods I've covered in my academic life, simply because I muddle them all up, forget which crusader did what to which saracen, and which pope did what to which king, which king to which general, etcetera etceteroo.

When it comes to Nigerian history however, my ignorance is not feigned, it is in fact very genuine. I have never had the opportunity to study the stuff! That's the main reason why I was so taken with the Naij Documentary I blogged about aeons ago, as that was the first time the picture of modern Nigeria took on a form comprehensible to me. Ancient Nigeria, is even more difficult to access, partly because of the sheer lack of secondary sources (I am not geeky enough to try to grapple with dusty source documents, no thanks!). And so Simi Bedford's book, which literally fell into my lap (courtesy of my beloved Daunt Books - had to give a shout out to my homies there, you can find them on Marylebone High St in London), was a GOD send!!

Bedford's Old Oyo is steeped in conspiracy upon conspiracy, it's personalities are shrewd, fiercely proud people (who from her description of their kingdom, it's wealth and military prowess have every right to be so). And it is just such a phenomenal place!

Ever the lunatic, I saw myself in a silk wrapper, dancing and singing with the crowds at the wedding and few feasts she detailed, having my hair oiled and braided, and then being carried off on horseback by my tall, dark, warrior of a husband. The only thing my 18th century self took serious objection to (aside from the ritual, but not at all frivolous, killings) was the tribal marks she would've had to sport. Being of noble, and I'm sure, even royal, descent, I would have been marked at birth. And as I'm sure you know by now, Bitchy would rather die than allow any grandmother or wicked aunt scar her pretty face!

And I would of course have been far better looking than Benoist's Negress

My day dreaming aside, 'Not with Silver' was an incredible journey, and such a vivid one at that. My ignorant self learnt so much. Not only about Yoruba, but also about American, and then even Sierra Leonean (?) history. The egotistical (and inquisitive) Nigerian in me cannot but wish that Ms Bedford had devoted more than just a third of her novel to Old Oyo, and possibly even extended her reach to other Yoruba kingdoms at least (if not the entire Niger-area... hehe)! But I live in hope that someone else will, and soon too.

If no one does rise to the challenge, then me thinks I might just have to get on with it myself. Spurred on of course, by the excellent examples of Bedford, Achebe and Adichie (who by the way I'm meeting tomorrow... exciting or what?) who have gone before.

Woohoo! I'm on a high....

Monday, July 09, 2007

In My Other City

In two days, my bathroom has flooded (wrecking my favourite pair of shoes that I left in the dressing room next door), our tyre has burst on the way home from the airport, and my phone has been barred by Celtel for no apparent reason.

This all screams "Welcome to Lagos" really, as it's nothing new, but I just thought it uncanny that such petty things should occur so soon into my trip.

I left Beijing this time last week, and did something I never thought possible - I travelled for 24 hours straight! When I left B's flat, it was 3.30am Beijing time (8.30pm Lagos and London time) and when I walked into my flat in London, it was a few minutes to midnight. Oops forgive the bad maths, I travelled for even more than 24 hours!

The whole thing was a nightmare. From the weird gothic Spanish "fashion designer" who attached himself to me on the Beijing-Dubai leg and couldn't keep his bitterness about life and everything in it to himself, to the 5 hour wait in Dubai (where I was forced to watch a razz Naijaman scratching his crotch whilst using the computer beside me), to the broken seat Emirates expected me to pass 7 hours squidging my butt on, to the noisy crew of 18 year old Bengali boys desperate to impress with their tales of club-hopping and skirt-staring, to the drunk African man screaming at the top of his lungs about Britain's pillaging of Africa whilst we touched down in Heathrow, to the ride home on the frickin tube (The Heathrow Express was cancelled because of the stupid Glasgow men).

It's no wonder I fell ill on my arrival in London, but after some serious retail therapy on Friday I was miraculously cured of my ailment, and managed to catch my flight to Lagos on Friday night with little trouble.

I will be here for a long time, unless of course the opportunity to go to South Africa that I've been squeezing a certain person for presents itself. I may even go to the Bloggers' thing Jeremy and Toks are planning (unless it really turns into the '1st Annual Convention of the Confederation of Nigerian Bloggers' or other such formal event that it's beginning to resemble), or the Shakira, Diddy and John Legend extravaganza, or the 'Season for Soyinka' at Terra Kulture. Who knows where the wind will take this bitch? Teehee! Stay tuuuuuned!