image Life and Living It: Reflections and Contradictions

By Kwabena Agyare Yeboah

  • Title: Life, Love, Lies
  • Author: Fonkeng E f
  • Publisher: Langaa RPCIG
  • Number of pages: 32
  • Year of publication: 2015
  • Category: Essays

Life, Love, Lies reads like a Twitter rant. What is contained in the book is the conclusion of a thought process, but we are not privy to the thought process itself. This makes the conclusion both difficult and easy to disagree with. At the end of it, the meaning-making of the book is subjective, just as our meaning-making, everyone of us, is subjective.

Life, Love, Lies is a book full of contradictions. The introductory note first warns that these ‘reflections are not presented as philosophy, nay theology’ and then it cautions the reader to ‘stay off the more or less mysterious path even if a number of reflections might end up projecting that (Socratic-Aristotelian-Platonic) aura’. More…

image The Event of Song of Lawino

By Benson Eluma

  • Title: Song of Lawino
  • Author: Okot p’Bitek
  • Publisher: East African Publishing House
  • Number of pages: 216
  • Year of publication: 1966
  • Category: Poetry

A popular event, yes. A great event? Yes. Since there is literary drought’. – Taban lo Liyong

But the text exists as linguistic, as historical, as commercial, as political event. And while each of these ways of conceiving the very same object provides opportunities for pedagogy, each provides different opportunities – opportunities between which we must choose’. – Kwame Anthony Appiah

Yes, of course, the text can exist as an event in any of those dimensions. Sometimes in all of them at once, thus ensuring that certain texts, for all the bravura they may display or conceal, confront us as multidimensional entities, larger than mere rhetorical projects. They exist, as it were, as assemblages of artefacts, as archaeological precincts inhabited by transactions of social life which may coalesce into a pattern. And they, according to established formula, may over time come to accrete into that complex of ruins which every literary archaeologist knows she has to preserve with the care of attentive criticism. Otherwise, what would be the point? More…

image Cruel Bites of Insanity

By Su’eddie Vershima Agema

  • Title: Bites of Insanity
  • Author: Nsah Mala
  • Publisher: Langaa RPCIG
  • Number of pages: 115
  • Year of publication: 2015
  • Category: Poetry

The African pen is a weapon of protest against societal ills. Many times, it seems that writers place the passion for their nations above other considerations.

In Bites of Insanity, Nsah Mala, a Cameroonian poet, reveals his fury at the rot of life, at evil and at the dehumanising drama of living in most parts of contemporary Africa. Indeed, he follows in the social commitment tradition of writers like Chinua Achebe, Oswald Mtshali, Servio Gbadamosi, hitting at government, religion, and ‘bad’ people. In the collection, there are tales of betrayal, disturbing tales like that of a boy who beheads his father. There is also a devotion to the environment, philosophy and blows struck at government’s inadequacy. More…

image Reassessing African Poetry Fifty Years after Song of Lawino

By Jumoke Verissimo

  • Title: Song of Lawino
  • Author: Okot p’Bitek
  • Publisher: East African Publishing House
  • Number of pages: 216
  • Year of publication: 1966
  • Category: Poetry

It is fifty years since the book Song of Lawino first got published. The volume of poetry by the legendary Ugandan poet was one of the first widely accepted attempts to authenticate African oral tradition in the language of the colonialists. It is also a product of the school of writers who experimented with the concept of mirroring themselves in literature, who grappled with creating conceivable bridges between the traditional oral forms and the acquired language of the colonialist, who would not wipe the stock of images with which they were familiar off the face of the earth but preferred to distort it. This issue of ideological distortion of the African experience, this discourse, the discourse, still hovers above literature written by Africans. More…

image The Purchase of Song: Ṣẹnwẹlẹ Lawino at Fifty

By Tade Ipadeola

  • Title: Song of Lawino
  • Author: Okot p’Bitek
  • Publisher: East African Publishing House
  • Number of pages: 216
  • Year of publication: 1966
  • Category: Poetry

‘A song is a form of linguistic disobedience, and its sound casts doubt on more than a concrete philosophical system: it questions the entire philosophical order’. – Joseph Brodsky

In 1966, Okot p’Bitek, who wrote first in Acoli, then English – who made his mother his main muse – published Wer pa Lawino or Song of Lawino to wide acclaim, in Africa, by the East African Publishing House. At the time, there was no way of telling just how far Song of Lawino would travel. What was evident was that the poet had inaugurated a practice which defied easy categorisation and which ruptured the established conventions of poetry written in English or French or Portuguese and published on the continent. More…

image The Dissolution of the Fouries

By Agbonmire Ifeh

  • Title: What Will People Say?
  • Author: Rehana Rossouw
  • Publisher: Jacana Media (Pty) Ltd
  • Number of pages: 332
  • Year of publication: 2015
  • Category: Fiction

Rehana Rossouw’s What Will People Say? is primarily about the dissolution of a household. The book shows that every family is besieged by forces ready to destroy it, and it takes a large counter-force to prevent that from happening. In addition, the book shows that, sadly, the managing of a home can be a losing game. One may try very hard to be a good parent yet one’s children will turn out bad. More…

image The Spirit of the Desert and the Legend It Births

By Jumoke Verissimo

  • Title: Anubis
  • Author: Ibrahim al-Koni
  • Translator: William M Hutchins
  • Publisher: The American University in Cairo Press
  • Number of pages: 184
  • Year of publication: 2014
  • Category: Fiction

Anubis is a novel that needs to be read like a sacred text, which implies reading it more than once. First, for its density and layers of meaning – the book is like a rich archaeological site that must be revisited, again and again. Second, the reader will derive great pleasure from the beauty of the book’s language. More…

image How to Enjoy Poetry without Understanding It: A Review of The Hate Artist by Niran Okewole

By Richard Oduor Oduku

  • Title: The Hate Artist
  • Author: Niran Okewole
  • Publisher: Khalam Editions
  • Number of pages: 67
  • Year of publication: 2015
  • Category: Poetry

Reading Charles Bernstein’s essay on ‘The Difficult Poem’ is instructive before one begins interacting with The Hate Artist by Niran Okewole. ‘All of us from time to time encounter a difficult poem’. It may be from a friend, a family member, and sometimes it is a poem we have written ourselves’. As the author and frequent reader of difficult poems, Bernstein explores ways of making the reader’s experience with the difficult poem more rewarding and recommends strategies for coping with such poems. More…

image Lifting the Lid off Death: Review of A Slim, Green Silence

By Tọ́pẹ́ Salaudeen-Adégòkè

  • Title: A Slim, Green Silence
  • Author: Beverly Rycroft
  • Publisher: Umuzi
  • Number of pages: 239
  • Year of publication: 2015
  • Category: Fiction

‘God is a comedian to an audience too afraid to laugh’. – H L Mencken, A Book of Burlesques, quoted in the novel.

A ghost stalks her house and flows above her town, Scheepersdorp, where she has lived all her life. She does not understand why Dr Mkhaliphi, a mysterious boatman, rows her back to the town in the early morning. She cannot remember for how long she has been dead. But she must solve a puzzle from her past as the boatman says, and she has until half past six in the evening to solve the puzzle by observing the everyday lives of the loved ones she left behind. More…

image Conservation Practice in Africa: An Overview That Misses the Mark

By Adaudo Anyiam-Osigwe

  • Title: The Forest: An African Traditional Definition
  • Author: Ekpe Inyang
  • Publisher: Langaa RPCIG
  • Number of pages: 24
  • Year of publication: 2015
  • Category: Environment

In this short treatise, The Forest: An African Traditional Definition, Ekpe Inyang attempts to highlight certain cultural belief systems that can be exploited by modern, Western conservationists working in Africa. He notes that too often, modern conservationists adhere to a strict eco-centric approach at the expense of anthropogenic (cultural) considerations when dealing with the relationship between the conservation of nature and the livelihoods of humans. More…