Monday, December 31, 2007

Mista Fanutastiki & Me

Apologies are in order.

I have been sick (malaria plus flu plus basic body crash as a result of the incessant traveling). And I am in Lagos, as are a number of the (few) people in this world that I would give an arm and/ or a leg for. It was also my mother's birthday (think embarassing and downright hilarious karaoke party planned by yours truly), Christmas day, and my birthday (3 days ago. Yes, do feel free to sing "Happy Birthday" to me in your mind!) in the space of one week.

Before the year is up though, I want to blog about something. And have only just been hit by what feels to me like the best way to blog about the issue that I have now decided I am ready to blog about (in as discreet and non tongue-twisting a manner as is wise of course).

One thing I have never done, in my year and 4 months as a blogger, is share a work of fiction (however small) that is mine i.e. that I wrote, and then edited, and then ripped, and then re-wrote. And tonight, I have decided to copy and paste a small section from an as yet unfinished short story that I churned out sometime in the summer this year.

If you know me personally, or have been a regular (of sorts) on my blog, you will know that for a long time I thought being a writer of fiction, that is, adult, contemporary, cultural, and more specifically Nigerian, fiction, was the only way to go. Why? Because it is the form of literature that I connect best with, that inspires me the most, and that is able to (literally) blow my mind when it is done right. (You can see my 'A Nigerian, Afropolitan, African Brit' post if you're curious.)

But this year, I discovered (slowly and painfully) that, though fiction is where my heart is (and probably always will be), it is not the form of literary expression that comes easiest to me. In fact, you could say that, because I love (and desire to be) an afficionado of fiction (pardon the poor pun), it is the one area of expression via the written word that I find excruciatingly painful whenever I (after a long and tedious process of gearing myself up) decide to dive into it.

Before I go on and on (as I am always wont to do), I will stop myself from going into a detailed breakdown of the excerpt below's history. I will not talk about the (now abandoned) short story it was supposed to be a part of. Neither will I tell you about the day I forced myself to hack at it to the point where I felt (for the first time ever in my life) ready and content enough to read it aloud to a room full of talented (and inspiring) writers, at the head of which sat Chimamanda Adichie (whose 'Half of a Yellow Sun' was one of the above-described works that did (seriously) blow my mind). I know some of you will probably disagree with what I have just said, and whilst you are very much welcome to, [please insert Paris Hilton voice here] whaaaat ever!)

What I will however say about this excerpt is that I am putting it on my blog because I have finally met my own real life Mista Fanutastiki. And whilst he has nothing whatsoever in common (aside from his 'fabulousity', in my eyes) with the Mista Fanutastiki of the piece below, I wanted and (in a weird way) needed to put this scene up here. Perhaps because it will help him get to grips with how I feel about him (even though he knows it, because he literally does blow my mind, my heart and my everything)? Perhaps because it will help him understand why this razzo has gone from calling him "Mr. Fantastic" (in those cheesy moments) to calling him "Mista Fanutastiki" all the damn time (even in public!!)? And perhaps because in some weird way, it could potentially force me (especially as the New Year approaches) to grab hold of this talent I know I possess, but am as yet at a loss as to how best to turn into a fruitful, satisfying and seriously lucrative (kerrching!) career.

In exchange for this however, I must ask that you, as always, let me know exactly what your thoughts are (be honest, be brutal) about the blurb below. Perhaps I am a sicko, but because I truly am my own worst enemy, there is nothing I revel in more than a word or sentence of (constructive) criticism that points my attention to something that I hadn't even noticed in myself! :) I really do live for such moments.

Have a fantastic and blessed New Year everyone! And I'll be seeing you in 2008.


B. Xxxx


Still Without A Title, Or A Home, Or Even A Short Story To Call Its Own

At the centre of the hall, the bride was being plastered with filthy naira notes. Her groom danced beside her, sweating profusely, enduring similar torture.

Gele and aso oke-decked bodies, gyrated and towered over them. Men in their white, crease-free agbadas. Buxom women readjusting their red and gold, or blue and gold, aso ebi (that indicated whether they were with the bride’s or the groom’s family). Their faces, plump with good food, champagne, London’s Dry Gin, betrayed their complete oblivion to the sweat trickling down their necks, mingling with coral beads, gold, and diamond necklaces.

Loud drumming and music, courtesy of Ibadan’s finest Fuji band, filled the room. Onstage, the self-acclaimed Fuji Fantastics shimmered in silver shirts and tight black trousers, the drummer and saxophonist sported crew cuts and sunglasses, the guitarists, an array of Afros, of varying heights and widths.

The lead singer, resplendent in a white waistcoat and matching trousers, bellowed into the microphone. “Wo n pe mi, Mista Fanutastiki. Patty people, I say, Gerron Down! Oyaaaa! Jo fun mi!”

His back-up singers wriggled their waists and hips in short silver dresses, the sparkling tassels on their wrists flaying in time with their long black hair.

“Jo, jo, jo…” came their reply.

Ceiling fans, swiped lethargically through the air, displacing balloon bouquets and streamers, doing little to quell the damp on the foreheads and underarms.

The room was like an oven, already preheated. Poised, to brown a chicken.


You may, at this juncture, feel free to rain a tirade of insults on me (for making all that noise, or for being a lazy bugger), because it really and truly does end here ;) Xxx

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Oh My Goodness, I Can't Think Of A Title! This Has Never Ever Happened Before!

I have been doing something that I rarely do, but which I enjoy immensely whenever I get the chance to do it. I have been reading my old posts. Posts which were written not too long ago, but which were generally (heck, always) conditioned and influenced by whatever I was going through at the time.

It's been a long while since I wrote a post like 'Boys Can't Cry' which got all my favourite blog people thinking and talking and sharing their own experiences, and doing what I love them for --> eventually changing my perspective. I have been feeling for a while now that my style as a blogger has changed. I couldn't quite put my finger on what it was, but today I think I have. Hardly any of the posts I've put up since the summer have been thought-provoking. Why? Because I began to keep my thoughts to myself, without really realising it. And even though I was still giving a lot away about my life and the way I live it, I was merely retelling events without really providing any insight into them, into how they affected me, or how they changed me. With my old posts, I always gave some insight into my personal perspective. Even when I was strong-headed, as with 'Boys Can't Cry' and when I was remorseful and humbled, as with 'Boys Can't Cry Part Deux'. (Can I just add that I am an equal opportunities employer on the boo hoo front these days?)

I can't say for certain why it is that I stopped sharing the part of my personality that (before you accuse me of bragging, scrutinise the evidence abeg) was easier to connect with and more popular than the part I currently focus on right now (my sense of humour and my ability to laugh at absolutely everything that happens to me). Perhaps I thought I was giving away too much and that it was dangerous? Well it was a bit. I learned that lesson very hard and very fast when I saw the impact my addiction to the "self sharing" opportunities provided by my blog had on the relationship I was in at the time. Perhaps I also haven't really been allowing myself to mull over my emotions, thoughts and perspectives of late, as I was wont to do in the past? I have found recently that whenever I sit down to blog, I can't help but throw all the personal bits out the window. Literally! Like with my posts on India and on France, there were so many thoughtful observations I wanted to make (and share) but just never did. It was like I just couldn't bring myself to get personal, and I didn't know why!

When I sat down to write the previous post, I actually wanted to talk about how impressed I was with India, how moved and inspired I was to see a country with such a similar history to ours forging ahead with the full effort and support of its people. I wanted to talk about all the things I learned about Hinduism and the impact that's had on my personal approach to Christianity, the immense respect I have for this much-ignored faith (well in the West anyway) which is probably primarily responsible for the huge sense of morality that pervades every single Hindu and the way he lives his life. This by the way I really believe is so closely connected with the fundamental differences that I noted between Nigerians and Indians. There is a strong strong sense of right and wrong in India, which we have completely lost in Nigeria. I felt safe when I was there, in a way that I would never have thought possible given its status as a 'developing country', and in a way that I so desperately crave to in Nigeria. This is not to say that Indian tour guides do not use their sway with tourists to extract extortionate sums by way of commission from shop sellers, or that there is no corruption in India. Far from it! But there is a difference between their (mental and moral) corruption and ours, and I don't know if I have been able to put my finger on just why that is, not since I came back, and definitely not now in this post.

India has so many of the problems we have! We (Nigerians) often feel cool about the fact that we have 250 ethnic groups or whatever the figure is. We often use this as an excuse when talking about the leaps and advances made by our neighbours in Ghana for example. But our differences are nothing when compared to the differences (ethnic groups, kingdoms, languages, religions) that prevail in India. And just as we are, Indians are VERY much victims of the colonial experience. In fact, in my opinion (shoot it down if you will, you're more than welcome to because I am no professor) they were changed and affected a hell of a lot more than we were. Walking around the Colaba and Fort areas alone in Mumbai, was enough to convince me of this. I would look up at the top of a beautiful beautiful Victorian building like Bombay University or whatever it's called, which could easily be planted amongst the colleges of Oxford and Cambridge, and would stand out only because of its exotic Mughal features and little else! And I would feel like I was in England, but in a dirty, rundown, faded and unkempt England that had brown rather than pale people running all over the place. The architectural and other (now rundown) remnants of their colonial era are still very much a reminder of just how strong a presence the British had in India. Imagine how angry, repressed and altered they must have been! Fine, this applies especially to Mumbai and not at all to areas like Udaipur (that were never touched by the British), but it made me think!

In a lot of the traveling I have been doing, I haven't just been meeting Italians, and stuffing my face, and fending off mosquitos. I have been learning. Learning so much about myself and thinking so much about my country. Making comparisons all the damn time, pissing people off with my incessant observations, and becoming more and more determined to connect better with the place that I call home and with its many many MANY problems. And it has been amazing!

Gosh! This wasn't supposed to be this long. I had planned to stop 3 paragraphs ago with a sentence or two promising to make the effort to share more of myself. Blogging just hasn't been the same for a long while and I have been feeling very dissatisfied and disconnected. But I'm just glad I have finally begun to work out what was missing. Now this doesn't mean you'll be getting any insights into topics like the amazing, wonderful person I have recently let into my life in a way that I am not yet able to define (apologies to any nosy parkers). But I am definitely going to try and give more of me. Xxx

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Coconuts, Cows, Mosquitoes & Geckos

Each time I had the urge to blog, it was impossible to get to a computer, or to get to one with an internet connection at least. In India, there was so much to tell, but no bloody internet anywhere, and even when there was internet, I was charged an arm and a leg for it and would have been foolish to do anything other than check my email and spy on friends on facebook. The problem now though is that I possess the memory of a gold fish, and have been in hibernation for the last 3 days doing nothing but watching Friends and Frasier re-runs and my X-Factor (Go Rhydian!) recordings over and over again, so my recollection of events might be somewhat... ummm... warped.

One thing I remember wanting to talk about was the "animal situation" in India. As one who hails from the tropics, I am not unfamiliar with mosquitoes, neither am I unfamiliar with a sighting or two of goats or cows in allegedly 'urban' areas. What I am unfamiliar with though, is fearless animals, animals who don't give a shit (or a rat's ass) about humans. Mosquitoes that dive nose-first into your eyes when you are wide awake and staring right at them, dogs that attempt to cross the road without looking left or right, goats that refuse to heed to a driver's loud horns, crows that steal food from restaurant tables in broad daylight, pigeons that quench their thirst in swimming pools, and cows that do whatever the hell they want whenever they bloody well want to. The cows were unbelievable! Not only did they take strolls on busy roads in city centres, they took up prime car-space on the motorway. And on narrow country roads, they wouldn't budge, not even when they were hit by the hard, metal body of a car. Slowly, we grew accustomed to the following sounds: car door + cow trunk (oomp), car door + cow horn (boonp), and car door + cow snout (donk): neither of which was very pleasant.

In Kerala, farm animals were not as prevalent, perhaps because fish, crab and lobsters ruled the streets in that region. Oh and coconuts too! Kera La means "land of coconuts" and my goodness there were coconut trees everywhere! I was about 10 the last time I drank from a coconut - my brother and I begged our mallam to climb one of the trees in our backyard. He hacked at it with his huge dagger/sword thing, we stuck 2 straws in it, and after one or two slurps, our time was up. In Kerala though, coconuts are different. It took me TWO HOURS (slurp, pause, slurp, gasp, slurp, hold stomach to stop the swishing, slurp) to drain the coconut I was given, and after that I decided I was done. My struggle with the coconut was on a houseboat in the middle of nowhere, and I had nothing else to do, which was why I kept it up.

Gosh... the houseboat!! Yet another thing I wanted to talk about.

To get to the houseboat, we drove from Kochi to Alleppey, and into a yard with very exotic-looking bamboo houseboats. Within 5 minutes, our luggage was on board and we were off. The crew introduced themselves - there were 3, the driver, the engine-master, and the chef (who was skinny - that we took as a good sign). We were out in open water, on the backwaters of Alleppey, and it was beautiful, breathtaking in fact. There was nothing around but water, it was completely silent. I made a note in the sacred 'Where To Go On Honeymoon' notepad that I keep in my (insane) mind, (and am ashamed to say make regular amendments to). 15 minutes later though, 'Houseboat on the Backwaters of Alleppey' was scrubbed right off the list! There was nothing to do on the bloody boat! There was no way I could get online (duh!), the 3 books I had brought on board were non-fiction (dull), in French (I wasn't in the mood), and in pre-1890 French (hello?) and I was starting to freak out. Zozo on the other hand was ensconced in 'The God of Small Things' and I was kicking myself for having recommended it to her, as she had subsequently lost all interest in speaking to me. So I sat there, on the boat, watching the beautiful lake and the beautiful birds and the beautiful multi-coloured dragonflies go by, sipping my coconut and twiddling my thumbs.

We pulled into a narrow stream for lunch, I bargained with 2 fishermen who rowed up to the boat to sell langoustines, we set sail again, and then the SUN came out. By evening, I was blacker than night (the boat was shaded so I don't get how it happened), my allergies had kicked in (I am either allergic to nature/ water/ natural water because they showed up unannounced 2 days before when we swam under a waterfall in Kochi) and there were mosquitoes and geckos everywhere. It was incredible! The sun went down, we sat in the armchairs, and one by one, mosquitoes appeared, and as they did, so did the geckos. The highlight was when a gecko lost its balance mid tongue-stretch, and dropped onto Zozo's chair, which sent her flying and screaming and brought all of our 3-man crew running to apprehend the danger. Once dinner was over though (think sweaty, sticky, harassed Bitchy eating the most delicious langoustines ever with a drippy drippy nose! Yuck! Yum! Yuck!) we locked ourselves in our bedroom where thankfully we had air-conditioning, and then shivered all night long (because the sheets were too thin).

I should write a movie script about my time in India - it would put Ben Stiller and Will Ferrell to shame! It was so bloody funny! I'm afraid my re-telling of it hasn't painted quite as funny a picture as I would've liked. I want to write about Mumbai next, but I am going to stop here because this post is already very long and very dull. I seem to have lost my blogger's mojo!

Crap! Xxx

P.S. Both photographs are mine. I am no longer a pilferer (I don't think this word exists) of images from google!

Thursday, December 06, 2007

The Phoenix

Farafina is pleased to announce a reading tour by award winning writer, Chika Unigwe, author of The Phoenix.

The readings will be at:

Jazzhole, Awolowo Road, Ikoyi, Lagos (Saturday, 8 December 2007 at 5pm)

Quintessence, Falomo Shopping Centre, Ikoyi, Lagos (Friday, 14 December 2007 at 5pm)

Bookworm Bookstore, Victoria Island, Lagos (Saturday, 15 December 2007 at 5pm)

Cafe Salamander, Aminu Kano Cresent, Abuja (Tuesday, 18th December 2007 at 4pm)

Admission is free so there's no excuse. Go! Click on the flyer below in case I got any of the details wrong. Xxx