image Reading Uneasy Vastness

By Tade Ipadeola

  • Title: Writing Namibia: Literature in Transition
  • Editors: Sarala Krishnamurthy and Helen Vale
  • Publisher: University of Namibia Press
  • Number of pages: 379
  • Year of publication: 2018
  • Category: Essays

Namibia hosts pristine terrain, geologists and biologists tell us, holding vital clues from the time the planet became the right temperature to support life. The country is also host to perhaps the oldest desert in the world – more than 50 million years old, with life hidden in crevices as cyanobacteria amidst apparent aridity. The Namib Desert inspired the name of the country. Colonised since 1884 and known for a long time thereafter as South West Africa, becoming independent in March 1990 and by then known as Namibia, she would be renamed ‘Nambia’, twice, by a not-so-literate head of a foreign superpower in September 2017. What does the literature of Namibia have to say to us once we step out of the prehistoric Namib and the range of malapropism’s microphones in America? More…

image A Review of An Orchestra of Minorities

By Vuyo Mzini

  • Title: An Orchestra of Minorities
  • Author: Chigozie Obioma
  • Publisher: Parrésia Publishers Ltd
  • Number of pages: 512
  • Year of publication: 2019
  • Category: Fiction

The film, Joker, released in 2019 and starring Joaquin Phoenix, portrays the descent of a simple and harmless man into madness. The primary reason is the ugliness with which the world treats him. In one of the most profound scenes marking a crescendo in his self-expression, he turns a joke into an epic political statement about the fate of minorities:

What do you get when you cross a mentally-ill loner with a society that abandons him and treats him like trash? I’ll tell you what you get! You get what you fuckin’ deserve!

[Joker shoots Murray in the head, killing him instantly]. More…

image The Waves Bring Back Memories

By Tọ́pẹ́ Salaudeen-Adégòkè

  • Title: Questions for the Sea
  • Author: Stephen Symons
  • Publisher: uHlanga Press
  • Number of pages: 81
  • Year of publication: 2016
  • Category: Poetry

‘The waves bring back even things we haven’t lost’, a line from Yehuda Amichai’s poem ‘The Seashore’, is the epigraph that opens Questions for the Sea by Stephen Symons. This line is to be taken both as act and setting for Symons’ debut collection of poems. The sea is the motif in Questions for the Sea, the poet’s metaphor for self and country, South Africa. The reader is invited, as a surfer or beachgoer, to share in the memories brought back by waves. In this volume, Symons is a performer – because remembering itself is a conscious act – awash with both cherished personal moments and social, dark history. More…

image War: What Is It Good For?

By Vuyo Mzini

  • Title: The Forest Dames
  • Author: AdaOkere Agbasimalo
  • Publisher: Parrésia Publishers Ltd
  • Number of pages: 303
  • Year of publication: 2014
  • Category: Fiction

AdaOkere Agbasimalo’s book, published in 2014 and titled The Forest Dames, is a fictional rendition of events that occurred during the Nigerian Civil War. A reader not resident in Nigeria (and not in touch with continental politics) may initially question the relevance of a depiction of a war from more than four decades ago. Scenes from the book, depicting Igbos fleeing from the northern part of the country to the South East, on account of being persecuted, seem far removed from the ‘woke’ culture of post-2010 consciousness:

The train spilled over with people looking harassed and frightened… They were on their way home. They had escaped from the killing in the city and were now trying to tame their fear.

The train moved on. The next station…fierce-looking men jumped into the coaches and pointed at some of the passengers.

‘You, you, you, come down’.

The men pounced on them, pulling them up forcefully and pushing them out. They never returned… Later, stories were told of how their heads were shattered with heavy iron rods, their brains spilling on the ground. According to the stories, their bodies were dragged to some location and, before long, vultures began to hover around (p 43). More…

image Enemies Within: A Review of Kọ́lá Akínlàdé’s Ta L’olè Ajọ́mọgbé?

By Ayodele Ibiyemi 

  • Title: Ta L’olè Ajọ́mọgbé?
  • Author: Kọ́l Akínlàdé
  • Publisher: University Press PLC
  • Number of pages: 151
  • Year of publication: 1992
  • Category: Fiction

Kọ́lá Akínlàdé’s novel, Ta L’olè Ajọ́mọgbé? (Who is the Kidnapper?), was published in 1992, when Nigeria was preparing to return to democracy. Akínlàdé belongs to a generation of authors who wrote in their native Yorùbá language despite the dwindling fortunes of the publishing industry at the time. For the most part of General Ibrahim Babangida’s eight-year military rule, education in Nigeria grew worse and publishers’ operations ceased as a dwindling middle class meant that the book market also shrank. Books written in indigenous languages were hit the hardest and they are yet to recover. Kọ́lá Akínlàdé is one of Yorùbá language’s most prolific authors and he excels at crime fiction. One of his novels, Owó Ẹ̀jè, was adapted to a film by Remdel Communications in 2003. More…

image Papa Was a Rolling Stone

By Vuyo Mzini

  • Title: I Want to See the Sun Rise
  • Author: Sam Shakong
  • Publisher: Xarra Books Ltd
  • Number of pages: 208
  • Year of publication: 2019
  • Category: Autobiography

Fatherhood is tenuous. At the worst of times, a level of substantiating proof is required to know the true paternity of a child and claim fatherhood. At the best of times, the roles and responsibilities encompassed in fatherhood are merely equivalent to those of being a decent human being: being accountable to dependents; sharing the load of running a household; being a loving and caring individual. And as time has progressed and human societies have moved significantly away from gender normative practices, fathers (and mothers, to be fair) have had to redefine their roles and responsibilities. Sam Shakong’s autobiography, I Want to See the Sun Rise, is an attempt at adding to the contemporary lexicon of fatherhood. The book is equally a heart-warming depiction of Shakong’s discovery of his own parenting style and a moralising manifesto on what makes a good father. More…

image Tori Don Worhwor

By Adebiyi Olusolape

  • Title: Sozaboy
  • Author: Ken Saro-Wiwa
  • Publisher: Saros International Publishers
  • Number of pages: 186
  • Year of publication: 1985
  • Category: Fiction

At the end of the novel Sozaboy, the protagonist, the man-child named Mene, has become a ghost. He has become not a ghost of himself but a proper ghost, a proper wraith, an evil spirit. That is what the people of Dukana, his hometown, believe. More…

image Better than Anything: Sally Andrew’s Story of Love and Food

By Vuyo Mzini

  • Title: Death on the Limpopo
  • Author: Sally Andrew
  • Publisher: Umuzi
  • Number of pages: 414
  • Year of publication: 2019
  • Category: Fiction

The first verse of the duet between renowned songsters Natalie Cole and Diana Krall, titled ‘Better than Anything’, lists food items that are good but that do not quite measure up to the feeling of being in love. Alternating each line of the song, they sing:

Cole: Better than cream cheese and bagels, better than honey on bread.
Krall: Better than champagne and pretzels, better than breakfast in bed.
Cole: Better than chilli rellenos, better than chocolate eclairs.
Krall: Better than hot house tomatoes, better than fresh Bartlett pears.
Cole: Better than dining à la carte –
Krall: Or simply gastronomic art.
Together: Better than anything except being in love. More…

image Lady Na Master: A Review of Makwala, E E Sule’s Novel of Complexities

By Vuyo Mzini

  • Title: Makwala
  • Author: E E Sule
  • Publisher: Parrésia Publishers Ltd
  • Number of pages: 326
  • Year of publication: 2018
  • Category: Fiction

In a 2013 interview on YouTube with Commonwealth Writers, as part of the publicity for his winning the Commonwealth Book Prize for the Africa region, E E Sule describes the inspiration for his 2012 debut novel, Sterile Sky, as the traumatic background in which he grew up in Kano City at a time of poverty and religious violence:

I keep remembering, in a very dramatic way, in fact it kept coming to me as a nightmare, that [my family and I] were hearing the sounds of death around us.


image Of Tragedy and Comedy: A Review of Youssef Fadel’s A Beautiful White Cat Walks with Me

By Nureni Ibrahim 

  • Title: A Beautiful White Cat Walks with Me
  • Author: Youssef Fadel
  • Translator: Alexander E Elinson
  • Publisher: Hoopoe
  • Number of pages: 220
  • Year of publication: 2016
  • Category: Fiction

‘The production and consumption of text and discourse serve particular purposes. Apart from aesthetic ones, which are studied in poetics and stylistics, texts represent social values and traditions and relate to ideological positions [which] originate in extra-textual structures of reality and society’. – The Taming of the Text, Willie Van Peer

It goes without saying that the discourse of literature cannot be divorced from the discourse of the ideological constructs that shape or instruct the writer’s art. Every literary work is an attempt or a medium of expressing the socio-political and historical challenges of the society. In the discussion of North African literature, Sonallah Ibrahim, Waguih Ghali, Miral al-Tahawy, Tawfiq al-Hakim and Youssef Fadel are writers who reflect the social and political conditions of society in artistic works. In this regard, A Beautiful White Cat Walks with Me, written by Casablanca-native and novelist Youssef Fadel, could be read as illuminating the inhumanity of the war between Morocco and Western Sahara. More…