ktravula – a travelogue!

art. language. travel

Book Signing for Sefi Atta’s “Selected Plays”

Save the date! On on Sunday, May 7, 2017, Nigerian writer Sefi Atta will be signing her new book of Selected Plays at the Art Gallery, Freedom Park, Lagos.

Those familiar with her work will know that the author has been known mostly as a novelist. Her third book Everything Good Will Come won the 2006 Wọlé Sóyínká Prize for Literature. Yet, her work credit includes a number of stage plays most of which have been produced and staged in Nigeria and overseas.

Credits for her work in drama include both for the stage and for radio. The Cost of Living (2011) and The Last Stand (2014) were produced at Terra Kulture in Lagos while An Ordinary Legacy (2012) and The Engagement (2005) were staged at MUSON Centre. The Naming Ceremony (2012) and Hagel auf Zamfara (2011) were both staged at the Theatre Royal Stratford East London and Theatre Krefeld Germany, respectively.

She has also done a lot for radio, including The Wake (2013) for Smooth FM radio, A Free Day (2007), Mákinwá’s Miracle (2004) and The Engagement (2002) all for BBC Radio.

The public book signing will take place from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.

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A Walk to the Zayed Mosque

The Sheik Zayed Grand Mosque on the outskirts of Abu Dhabi was completed in 2007 after about 11 years of construction efforts, and about $545million to become the 21st largest mosque in the world by crowd capacity. On a typical Friday, it can host about 41,000 worshippers.

From my room at the Ritz Carlton where I was spending about a week, the view of the mosque dominated the evening, with specialized lighting constructed to reflect the phases of the moon. Luminescent from afar, inviting through the otherwise irregularly lit night, the Zayed Grand Mosque sat resplendent in the distance, refusing to be ignored.

So on one evening, on the day when dignitaries like the former US Secretary of State Madeline Albright were feted in an open ceremony on the lawn of the Ritz Carlton, with the outside temperature dropping significantly to a level familiar with an African’s skin, an opportunity presents itself for an evening walk.

From that hotel, where the security official at the gate merely saluted the stranger as he headed out by himself into an unknown town, the path to the main road was barely lit, but it lacked any overwhelming feeling of fright as guests returning from town drove back into the hotel and taxis headed out into town, occasionally taking a look at the walking traveller as if to offer a better option than walking in what seemed like evening heat. Lagos weather is typically more humid, so this was a more tolerable atmosphere.

On either side of the road were sprinklers that kept the grasses fresh and green, something that must cost a fortune to maintain all through the year, not just in water supply but also in electricity. In an off-site parking lot on the left side were a few cars that I wondered contained plain-clothed policeman awaiting orders about any skirmish in town, or lovers too shy or too broke to book a space in the hotel just a few feet away. To the right of the junction where the road from the Ritz met the highway was the Memorial Park, built to commemorate the death of soldiers who died defending the country in the March 2015 war with Yemen. On the Park is an imposing steel and concrete monument by Idris Khan, a British-Pakistani artist.

At the road, cars flew by towards various destinations. A few feet away to the left is a pedestrian bridge, lit on all sides to solidify the ambiance of security. At the foot of the bridge, built into its base, was an elevator, for elders, children, and the infirm. It looked like it hadn’t seen too much action.

Once on the other side of the road, the mosque emerged within reach. But it was only on getting to its southern steps that one realizes that visitors are not allowed entry through there, even though there are no gates. The security officers there, Indian by their looks and accents, were firm but polite. “Walk all the way”, they said, “by the wide ornamented fence of the premises as if navigating the whole circumference of the mosque grounds. You’ll get to the visitor’s gate, also called ‘the northern parking entrance'”.

To get into the mosque itself, I had to pass through a metal detector. Not knowing better, I tried to take off my shoes as well, and the security man laughed at me. “This isn’t America, my friend.” I found it funny and asked where he was from. “Morocco”, he said.

“What about you?”

“Nigeria. Know about us?”

“Yes. Football.”

***

My feelings on entering the mosque itself have not found easy expression within words. But I concede now that an unfair collision of a perfect weather, full moon, and a highly anticipated contact with this building may have added too much to the most perfect first experience. resulted in so perfect an evening.

What WonderMondo described as the scope and ambition of the construction as “a structure that would unite the cultural diversity of the Islamic world with the historical and modern values of architecture and art” lived up to its expectation but much more in the way it carried the dignity of the faith it represented and the expectation of awe that its imposing nature adds to one’s contemplation of solitude while within its embrace. I still haven’t found the right words, but if the intention behind the construction included creating a serene space for contemplation of a version of paradise, then it is a successful experiment. I assume, thinking about it now, that most places of worship across cultures have aspired to that physical architectural effect

I have experienced this feeling before, at one time while observing the mosaics inside the ceilings at the Cathedral Basilica in St. Louis . The difference here is the scope of the ambition and the archetypal spread that Muslim prayer grounds have typically worn to maximize the smooth passage of breeze. Add to that, a reflecting pool, columns with Arabic calligraphy, marble carvings that go all around the face of the building, and a sense of serenity that surrounds the expectation of piety from worshippers and visitors. It was perfect.

But I was a visitor, and not a worshipper. My agnosticism stood me out, at least in my mind, as an outside gaze into a least familiar space. But like others, I took off my shoes where necessary, and took a tour of the inner chamber where prayers are done every Friday, where all and sundry gathered weekly to submit as the prophet instructed. At that innermost chamber was a rug, the world’s largest carpet, believed to measure 60,570 sq ft,  created by around 1,200-1,300 carpet knotters, and weighing 35 tonne. Without shoes, its soft soothing face massaged my feet as it did others. A security man stood around a rope line preventing visitors from going too far into the centre of the room where, perhaps, the lead Imam led the prayers from every Friday. I imagined too, that this must have been where Sheikh Zayed Al Nahyan, the founding father and first president of the UAE, and in whose honour the mosque was built and named, prayed every week.

He died in 2004, leaving a progressive Islamic country with a culture of (or at least a genuine aspiration to) openness and multiculturalism. Many other structures in the country, and in the hearts of his subjects and children, bear his name. At the Culture Summit where I first encountered his name, an anecdote was told of him having to, some time ago at the founding of the country, park by the side of the road in order to correct someone who had climbed a date palm tree in a way that he, Sheikh Zayed, felt was harmful to the tree. A conservationist, then.

Outside of this mosque, in a small mausoleum constructed for the purpose, lay the rest of him, many feet under the ground. Into the air above where his body lay beneath the marble grounds, loudspeakers blared sequences of Arabic prayers in perpetuity, and a small camera stayed trained on a good view of the small enclosure.

You shouldn’t take pictures here, I was told, much too late.

The mausoleum of Sheikh Zayed Al Nahyan, the founding president of the UAE.

***

The walk back to the hotel was filled with calm recollections of whatever else the night held in store. One of the other random thoughts that entered my head asked why only religious centres benefited from this kind of architecture that invited meditation and reverence. What if, it wondered, bookstores and libraries were also built with this kind of spacious and elaborate architecture in which one could spend many hours just longingly gazing into images of marble and the sentences of Shaw or Chaucer?

I had not taken a book along to the mosque, and suddenly I wished that I had.

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Art at the Guggenheim

Abu Dhabi, from distant (and ignorant) estimation, didn’t seem like the most natural place to find a Guggenheim Museum. It’s in an Arab country appearing, at least from preconception, to be necessarily hostile or at best reticent. True I’ve heard great things about Dubai and the progressive nature of that society. But like most things not encountered in the flesh, they remained in the realm of hearsay, hovering around the globally pervasive perceptions of all Arab countries as just one thing: conservative.

But all misconceptions eventually meet reality and knowledge happens. It must be what Mark Twain meant by travel being “fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.” And so, on my week-long visit to the country to participate in the inaugural Culture Summit, I found myself in the embrace of a Guggenheim Museum. This museum project, and the other involving the Louvre Abu Dhabi, is a collaboration with the government of the United Arab Emirates and prominent culture centres around the world to make Abu Dhabi a cultural centre in the Middle East.

I am not a visual artist. Not since primary school anyway. My contact with and appreciation of the visual arts have stayed consistently close to the familiar activity of gawking, collecting, and critiquing – the latter only in my head and among like-minded friends. I have found solace, many times, in the warm presence of a well-stocked museum or well-curated art exhibition. The environment for meditation that they provide and the visual stimulation guaranteed in a well-lit studio space while observing mounted artworks are unquantifiable pleasures of middle-class life, at least for those to whom that is a worthwhile activity.

And so, when I got a chance to spend some time at the exhibition space holding the temporary collections of the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi at Manarat Al Saadiyat, I needed no convincing. This location, on the famous cultural district of Saadiyat Island which hopes to also host other venues of cultural significance like the Louvre previously mentioned, is where much of the activities for the Culture Summit was taking place. One open door away and we were face-to-face with timeless pieces of art as Jacques Villegié’s Quai des Célestins (1965) or Tanaka Atsuko’s Painting (1960).

On the first wall to the entrance was Chiinsei Botaichui (Female Tiger Incarnated from Earthly Shady Star), oil on canvas, by Shiraga Kazuo, a work created with “bold swathes of sombre colours with tactile density”. The work, we were told, was created with the artist’s feet, seeking “to liberate his work from the constraints of academic-style painting” and “in order to re-conceive the process of painting as an experimental encounter with materiality and surface.” What appears on the board at times resembles a flying bat, and at others an angel of death. But an amateur art critic – me – projecting his impressionistic sentiments on a modern experimental work offers no new value to what the work already presents. The artist was born in 1924 and died in 2008.

Through the museum space, there are other exhibits, like work by Motonaga Sadamasa, another Japanese artist (1922-2011) whose work used poured paint, depending on gravity to “replace the paintbrush and foregoing the precise and deliberate meditation of the artist’s hand.” The third and final Japanese artist exhibited was Tanaka Atsuko (1932-2005) whose work of Vinyl paint on canvas “evokes the incandescence of the dress (and) intricate network of wires and bulbs reflect (an) interest in (the) technology of wiring systems and lights.”

At the centre of the opening space are two kinetic works by two German artists. Gunther Uecker’s New York Dancer evokes the African egúngún without acknowledgment. It is a work “consisting of a piece of cloth draped over steel rods and covered with long outwards-facing nails.” The other, by Jean Tinguely (1925-1991) is called Baluba, a dancing piece of scrap metal “meant to portray a certain craziness and rush in this technological civilization”. Both of them, though not activated at the time but shown through a small television in their kinetic elements, felt familiar in a visceral way that most of the others didn’t. A walk through the Polytechnic Ibadan, or the Yaba College of Technology, will bring the traveller in contact with many similar kinetic and scrap metal artworks of like impression.

New York Dancer

Other artists whose work were on display included Niki de Saint Phalle, Jacques Villeglé, Julio Le Parc and Rasheed Araeen. For a temporary exhibition space, it was an impressive introduction. Outside of the museum space, at the reception area where participants in the Summit gathered, there were other artists, from Adéjọkẹ́ Túgbiyèlé (Nigeria/New York) to Jalal Luqman (Dubai) and Cristina del Middel, among others. Here at the Guggenheim, however, very little (except the age of the displayed collection, and a small reception desk) tells the visitor that s/he has crossed over into a new art space.

The most surprising, and most breathtaking work in that museum, however, was Anish Kapoor’s My Red Homeland, an installation that filled a whole room. It was a wax “sculpture” simulating a mound of red garbage stirred continually by a centralized mechanical arm. The description situates the concept of the piece in both the image of blood as well as the colour of saffron, an iconic symbol in India, from where the artist hails. For art enthusiasts to whom Kapoor’s most famous work is The Bean in Chicago, My Red Homeland was a welcome reprise, more impressive at close range, and equally awe-inspiring to the breadth of the artist’s vision and ambition.

My Red Homeland by Anish Kapoor

I purchased a few fridge magnets on my way out. Something to impress friends and family with. Something not necessarily representative of the scope of the ambition and inspiration of the exhibition just witnessed. Merely representative. The New York Dancer on a fridge magnet is certainly less bewildering as a work unconsciously derivative of ancient African masquerade experiences. But like others, it will mark my refrigerator as a symbol of another place I’ve been, another mind-enlarging artistic experience, not less, not more, than previous others in other parts of the world. But having experienced it in Abu Dhabi, an emerging cultural capital of the world, adds a new dimension not experienced anywhere else.

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Invisible Borders at Photography Museum of Amsterdam

Over recent years, in all kinds of places around the globe, collectives have been formed that are not tied to specific institutes or to ways of organising activities that are imposed from above. There is a growing tendency among photographers and artists as well to join forces and organise themselves. Many such collectives are based on do-it-yourself principles of ‘cut out the middleman’.

Although their points of departure, artistic strategies, processes and visual end products are extremely diverse, they have in common an enthusiasm for interdisciplinary collaboration and an open view of the world. The collectives differ in organization and form: some are no more than loose associations of varying composition without an agenda, while others operate as far more business-like undertakings. One collective might present itself as an auction house, another as a shop, digital flower-power movement or tirelessly travelling caravan.

The digitalisation of photography and the rise of social media have unleashed a huge flood of images. The immense quantity and the transience of photos may make it hard to attribute more significance to photography than is intrinsic to a quick glance at yet another picture on Instagram. Working together to attach value and meaning to images is the central theme of the exhibition Collectivism. Collectives And Their Quest For Value. Some collectives investigate the mechanisms and distributions systems that cause financial values to be attributed to images. Others operate as social agents, bringing people together by means of images and creating communities, online or otherwise. The exhibition also presents collectives that concern themselves with the value of images in the media and the organisation of dissenting voices to challenge the mainstream media.

In a world obsessed with artefacts – the physical, final object – as the preferred form of artistic outcomes, Invisible Borders shifts the gaze to emphasise the never-ending, evolutive nature of Process. No distinction, hence, is made between the value of images showing the work-process and images showing the outcome; they are complementary. The artist’s presence on the road is as important as the work that commences from that presence.

Central to the Invisible Borders Installation in the exhibition Collectivism. Collectives and Their Quest For Value is the idea of the collective as a platform for the nurturing of mindsets and perceptions that offer alternative methodologies and ways of being in an increasingly narrow and enclosed notion of place, territory, and identity. As such, we shall employ as a metaphor the Road ‘s unending nature. The project will be presented as a work-of-process, an interminable voyage so to speak.

Thus, the works of the participating artists will be presented as a complimentary association between process and precipitated outcome, consisting of images, texts, sound, and videos.

Artists whose works make up the Invisible Borders exhibition are: Ala Kheir, Amaize Ojeikere, Jídé Odùkọ̀yàLilian Novo IsioroTeresa Meka, Tom SaaterVanessa PetersonJùmọ̀kẹ́ Sanwó, Charles Okereke, Uche Okpa Iroha, Emmanuel Iduma, Ray Daniels Okeugo, Uche OkonkwoLucy Azubuike , Yínká ElújọbaEmeka Okereke. 

Contributing collectives of the entire exhibition are 8Ball Community (USA), Dead Darlings (NL), # Dysturb (FR), The Eternal Internet Brother/ Sisterhood (GR), De Fotokopie (NL), InvisibleBorders (NG), and Werker Magazine (ES/NL).

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For more information, visit: https://www.foam.org/museum/programme/collectivism

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“Like Listening To An Aunt” | Sefi Atta’s Tribute to Buchi Emecheta

The first time I met Buchi Emecheta in person was in 2005, just after my debut novel Everything Good Will Come was published. I had contacted her through an old college mate, Kadija George, to ask for an endorsement, which she very kindly agreed to give. To paraphrase her endorsement, she wrote that reading my novel was like listening to an old friend talk about Lagos.

That was the same year she was awarded an OBE for her contribution to literature, and Kadija organised a celebratory dinner at a Caribbean restaurant in North London, to which I was invited. At the restaurant, she signed a copy of her book Head Above Water for me, with a message: “To Sefi, good luck with your publication, love from Auntie Buchi”. I read an excerpt from the book at today’s memorial event, not just because it’s autographed, but because it’s a testimony of what it means to be a writing mother, and because it’s good storytelling: entertaining and informative, guileless and revealing, intimate, and rendered in the meandering fashion of Igbo oral history, which, by the way, bears some resemblance to that of the American South, where I’m based most of the year.

Anyway, that evening at the restaurant, I found Buchi Emecheta pensive. I imagined she was aware of her achievements and was proud of them: all the novels, plays and children’s books she’d written, the family she had raised, and the obstacles she’d had to overcome. People often mention the burning of her first manuscript, but the daily grind of being a mother to young children, while getting a university degree and writing, was hard enough.

I know this. I have one child, a daughter, much beloved, but I didn’t think I would be capable of giving her the attention she deserved if I had more. I was thirty-three when I started writing full time and she was three. I was working on Everything Good Will Come and had more stories to tell. I wanted to go back to school to get a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing. My husband, Gbóyèga Ransome-Kútì, a doctor, got a job in Mississippi, of all places, and we had just moved there. Before the move, I had worked as a Chartered Accountant and Certified Public Accountant. Following the move, I was not legally allowed to work in the United States until I had found an employer to sponsor my work visa. I was in two minds about living in Mississippi but Gbóyèga quite liked his job. He was supportive of my writing, to the extent that he would cook while I wrote, and thankfully, on the issue of children, we were both on the same page.

Buchi Emecheta often said she saw her books as children. I don’t look at mine that way. My daughter is my child, and my books are my work, though the time I spent writing them did take away from time I could have spent with her. She is graduating from college this year, after a four-year degree. At twenty-two, she is the same age Buchi Emecheta was when she had five children and was studying sociology at London University, and writing. So, to me, Buchi Emecheta was a child bride, child mother and child divorcee, who would later become a renowned writer published in journals such as Granta and the New Statesman, with television scripts produced by the BBC and Granada. And even though one of my first interviews in Nigeria, as a published writer, was titled “Sefi Atta following in the footsteps of Buchi Emecheta”, or something to that effect, my path has been quite different from hers. However, like most Nigerian women writers, we’ve had similar preoccupations with girlhood, womanhood and motherhood, with marriage and religion. For some of us, I would add the death of relatives and the state of being African overseas.

When Buchi Emecheta writes about missing her late father, so I have missed mine. When she writes about her children walking around in wet nappies, I admit, I was sometimes too busy writing to notice my daughter’s diapers needed to be changed. When she writes about racist or xenophobic employers and colleagues in London, I remember my experiences as an accountant in London and New York. She recounts details of difficult relationships with editors and agents; I can recall one or two. She takes a swipe at Enoch Powell; I immediately think of Trump.

What I find most interesting about her works are the paradoxes – of forging ahead from one generation to the next, yet returning to old positions; of her ability to be naïve and insightful at the same time. And judging from her autobiography, what sets her apart from most Nigerian women writers of her time, and mine, is that she was incredibly resourceful, industrious and tenacious. For a self-described small woman, Buchi Emecheta had enormous strength. She could also be stubborn. In Head Above Water, she tells us how she constantly defied people who tried to patronise or diminish her, and how she was reluctant to be labelled by anyone, feminists included. In a book titled In Their Own Voices, a collection of interviews with African women writers, edited by Adeola James, she expressed her frustration about feminists she encountered in the West, who took centre stage at conferences and overlooked her views.

Twelve years ago, when I met her, feminism was a lot more unpopular than it is now, and although I proudly called myself a feminist back then, whenever I was asked, I was reluctant to be labelled a feminist writer because my stories weren’t always in line with feminist narratives. Besides, if you’ve experienced conflicts solely because you’re a girl or a woman, and you write about them, that doesn’t mean you’re a feminist. It just means you’re female.

I was forty-one when I met Buchi Emecheta. I’m fifty-three now. These days, feminism is more mainstream, and commodified, and celebrity-driven. In fact, if you’re an actress announcing your next film, or a singer releasing your latest album, it helps to declare that you’re a feminist, even if you might face some backlash.

I must confess that although I still call myself a feminist whenever I’m asked, I’ve never seriously studied feminist thought. I’ve read about notable feminists like Simone de Beauvoir and Germaine Greer. I’ve read bell hooks’ works because they appeal to me and speak to my experience in America. I’ve also read academic books on Nigerian and African women writers, but that’s about it. Now, I have met, online and in person, Nigerian academics who have written about feminism, such as Mọlará Ògúndípẹ̀-Leslie, Amina Mama and Oyèrónkẹ́ Oyèyẹmí, but I am yet to read their works, or any scholarly works that address the penkelemesis – the peculiar messes – that Nigerian women find themselves in. I think it is necessary to educate yourself on feminist ideas, and to live up to feminist ideals, if you call yourself a feminist; otherwise, it’s rather like saying you’re a born-again Christian. Every other Christian in Nigeria is born-again. They’re usually versed in the Bible, I’ll give them that – though I might quarrel with their interpretations of it and question whether they live up to Christian ideals. I mention Christianity not to be perverse. It was a foreign imposition we now readily embrace, so maybe there’s hope for feminism.

Like Buchi Emecheta, I don’t want to be labelled by any word that excludes my experiences, and, to be honest, I no longer think it’s necessary to call a woman a feminist simply because she has common sense and uses it. When you expect and demand equality and fairness, that’s all you’re doing: using your common sense.

But I digress. The point is, Buchi Emecheta’s works were my introduction to Nigerian feminist ideas. I understood her ambivalence about Western feminism and welcomed her calls for unity amongst women. In Head Above Water, she expressed her disappointment at women who resented her whenever she made progress. To piggyback off bell hooks’ term, in a tribalistic capitalist patriarchal culture like ours, women who claim to be pro-women are not always pro women they regard as competition. It’s the same between men, except they don’t profess to be pro-men. They just are.

Buchi Emecheta didn’t seem to regard other Nigerian women writers as threats to her success. Flora Nwapa, in In Their Own Voices, referred to her as a friend. On a separate note, she didn’t appear to be prejudiced against Nigerians of other ethnic groups, either. Her works suggest she honoured Igbo culture without idealising it, and opposed tribalism even after she faced it. She apparently responded to racism the same way, which I don’t understand. It takes a lot of grace to resist retaliating to prejudice. I’m still working on it.

For me, reading Buchi Emecheta is like listening to an aunt, a busy aunt who makes time to tell you her story. You almost hear her saying, “This happened and then this happened. Wait, wait. I haven’t finished. Don’t cry for me. Don’t get angry yet. Listen to what I have to say and learn from it.” You take your cue from her on how to react. There were sections in Head Above Water where I was sad for her, but she lightened them with humour. There were other sections in which I was angry on her behalf, but she didn’t allow my anger to last. It wasn’t until I reached the end of the book that my emotions overwhelmed me. But, according to her, that was how she coped with hers. She didn’t have time to dwell on them.

In fact, Buchi Emecheta is – and I use the word “is” deliberately: I often talk about deceased writers as if they’re still alive – she is the aunt in your family who stands out. The one who has done something to offend the sensibility of others, and when you find out what it is, you wonder what the fuss is about because she was just being herself, or speaking her mind. She’s really not a troublemaker. She might even be shy and insecure, as Buchi Emecheta says she was. But if you cross her path and she’s fed up with playing nice . . .

You observe her in action. You occasionally worry about her. Then, one day, she’s no longer around and you realise what she meant to you. The options she gave you. But it’s too late to tell her how much you admired her.

Last year, I emailed Kadija to ask if she could put me in contact with Buchi Emecheta again. I wanted to use a quote from her novel The Joys of Motherhood in one of my own, Made in Nigeria. My novel has a section in which a Nigerian professor teaches Joys, and Ama Ata Aidoo’s Our Sister Killjoy, to Mississippi college students, as I had done. Kadija got in touch with Buchi Emecheta’s son, Sylvester Onwordi. I had no idea whether she herself was approached, but I was given the permission I needed.

Afterwards, I have to admit that, for a moment, I hoped she would be around when the novel was published. I was afraid she might not be. I hadn’t seen her since we met at the restaurant. I reach out to writers I admire for professional reasons. I’m not one to cosy up to them. I prefer to respect their privacy and space. I’d heard she had some health challenges, but I didn’t want to pry.

Then in January this year, Kadija sent me the email saying she had died, and I was sad, partly because we no longer had an opportunity to celebrate her in person. It was our responsibility to do so and our loss that we didn’t. When we fail to honour our literary heroines, or stop honouring them, we lose as a group. As Nigerian mothers would say to children who don’t listen, “You are not doing anyone but yourself.”

Buchi Emecheta’s work is done and will continue to resonate. She has plenty of admirers in readers and writers who choose to walk their own paths. Her biography demonstrates that the most powerful thing a woman writer can do, regardless of what is going on, is to keep speaking her mind and producing work for as long as she possibly can.

She did just that, and in doing so, exposed the tribe, unashamedly, to strangers, which probably displeased some of our literary heroes, who at the time were more concerned with attacking imperialism, colonialism, military regimes and corrupt governments. She may also have offended the strangers themselves, by putting them in their place face to face and revealing what she thought about them in her books. But you don’t get the impression that her intention was to offend. Instead you get the impression she was merely trying to take control of her own story, the narrative of her life, and write her way out of her lot. However, if traditional Igbo beliefs on fate are correct, perhaps all she could do was give it her best attempt and leave it up to younger writers to carry on her legacy.

I am one of them. At the age of thirty-three, with a three-year-old child and two professional qualifications in accountancy, I found myself in Mississippi, without a job, and wrote my way out. I didn’t know Buchi Emecheta well personally. I learnt about her through her works. I appreciate the example she set by being prolific, her individuality and honesty. Perhaps I’ve got the wrong idea about her, and I still don’t know if she was aware I’d asked to use a quote from her novel, but of my final statement I have no doubt. I am glad I wrote about her novel in mine.

_____

An abridged version of this write-up was read at the Tribute to Buchi Emecheta which held at Terra Kulture on Saturday, March 25, 2017
_____

SEFI ATTA was born in Lagos, Nigeria, in 1964 and currently divides her time between the United States, England and Nigeria. She qualified as a Chartered Accountant in England, a Certified Public Accountant in the United States, and holds a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing. She is the author of Everything Good Will Come, Swallow, News from Home, A Bit of Difference and Sefi Atta: Selected Plays. Atta has received several literary awards, including the 2006 Wọlé Ṣóyínká Prize for Literature in Africa and the 2009 Noma Award for Publishing in Africa.  

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