ktravula – a travelogue!

art. language. travel

Traveling in Style: Classic Screen Cars Going Global

Most of us would love to travel the world. See the sights, experience the magic, explore new environments, and immerse yourself in cultures more exotic than your own. As a California kid, I was always entranced by stories told in film and television. Having Hollywood just a few miles away from my little suburban town, I was always drawn to the big blockbuster action films. As I grew older and worked my way through my education, I began to appreciate the value of stories that came from other cultures. I began watching more foreign films, reading classic works of literature from all over the world, and desired much more greatly to explore and travel. Sadly, such dreams and aspirations can’t always come to fruition for everyone. But a kid can still dream, can’t he? With Mexico below and the rest of the States to the east, I’ve been to some interesting places. But I often wondered what it’d be like to revisit some of that Hollywood hype and imagine myself traveling the world in classic screen cars.

Imagine whipping the General Lee, The Dukes of Hazzard’s 1969 Dodge Charger, out of the rough country of the fictional Hazzard County, Georgia, and into the Australian metropolis of Sydney; cruising across the Sydney Harbor Bridge and chilling out on Coogee Beach. Pretty cool idea, huh? Especially with Daisy Duke in your passenger seat. Or how about rolling in style? Taking James Bond’s 1964 Aston martin DB5 from Goldfinger for a stroll through Saint-Tropez on the French Riviera. Hopefully you wouldn’t need all those defensive gadgets that come with it, but activating that ejector seat to parachute down onto Pampelonne beach wouldn’t hurt.

I kind of like the idea of taking some of these rides out of their elements and into unexpected ones. Can you imagine driving Smokey & the Bandit’s 1977 Pontiac Trans Am through the streets of Hong Kong, down the Tsim Sha Tsui promenade? Or “flying” Doc Brown’s 1981 DeLorean DMC-12 from Back to the Future through Rio de Janeiro, blasting some bossa nova? Kowalski zoomed his 1970 Dodge Challenger R/T from Denver to San Francisco in Vanishing Point, but how about doing it from Lisbon to the Gothic Quarter of Barcelona? Or revving up the Striped Tomato, the 1975 Ford Gran Torino Starsky and Hutch car around Lagos? Take Hollywood to Nollywood, instead of prancing around in a Peugeot 505.

Of course, I’ve also always wanted to visit Tokyo. Immeasurably rich in culture and history, stylish and exotic, and alluring with its architecture and cuisine. I can’t think of any other way to explore it than with the Batmobile. From the Imperial Palace through Tsukiji Market, there is no other preferred method of transportation. And if I wanted to take a long-distance, cross-country European voyage, it would have to be in Speed Racer’s legendary Mach 5. I’d start in Amsterdam, race over to Brussels and on to Paris, zip down to Zurich, then up to Munich and Prague, whisking to Vienna, across into Budapest and down into Zagreb, then Venice, and ending in Rome. Yeah, a kid can still dream, can’t he? It sure beats tarrying around the Santa Clarita and San Fernando Valleys in a rusted 2006 Toyota Corolla.


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SIUE Grad Student Launches International Nonprofit Org to Fill West African University Shelves with Textbooks

For Immediate Release (June 5, 2017)


A brand-new nonprofit organization initiated by a Southern Illinois University Edwardsville (SIUE) graduate student and a native of Nigeria is filling shelves in African universities with much-needed textbooks donated by faculty and students around the world.

Efiwe, Nigerian Pidgin for “bookworm,” is the charitable organization founded here in Edwardsville with a growing presence at book-drive locations on campuses across the United States. SIUE graduate student Philip Alabi’s fervor for equipping West African post-secondary students with badly-needed textbooks and related resources is resulting in the formation of a 501(c)(3) and two boards of directors, one in Edwardsville and one in Nigeria.  

When Àlàbí first arrived in the U.S. two years ago to begin his master’s of science degree in chemistry at SIUE, he saw first-hand how relatively affordable university-level textbooks are to acquire in the U.S. compared to Nigeria. He also saw stacks of still-relevant textbooks in good condition that were being discarded.

“Even for university instructors, textbooks and relevant resource materials are extremely expensive and difficult to come by in West Africa,” Àlàbí said. “In the U.S., there’s the university bookstore, online academic resources and online vendors such as Amazon.com through which students can access the latest versions of textbooks required for their university courses. Sadly this is not the situation in Nigeria, even at the university level. Hard-copy books for courses are typically outdated and there are not enough to go around. If they are attainable, it is generally only the instructors who have a copy of the text, not the students.”

Adding to the challenges, Nigeria’s sporadic power supply and expensive Internet access makes it nearly impossible for university faculty and students in West Africa to access and download online academic resources, according to Àlàbí. “Our aim through Efiwe is to collect relevant textbooks across U.S. colleges and universities and send the books to university and community college libraries in Western Africa,” he said. “Our organizational mission is to send more than one million textbooks to African universities by the year 2030.”

The mission is ambitious, but Efiwe and its boards of directors, inspired by Àlàbí’s passion, are well on their way. In Spring of 2017, before Efiwe was formally conceived, Alabi and fellow SIUE colleagues launched an on-campus book drive with the same purpose. The results were astounding.

“We thought maybe we’d receive a couple hundred donated textbooks at our initial book drop-off sites on campus at SIUE,” said Àlàbí, who will pursue a doctoral degree in chemistry from Brown University in August. “That initial donation topped 1,000 textbooks in only a few months. We also raised funds to pay for the cost of transporting the books by ship to my home university, Tai Solarin University of Education in Nigeria. We are absolutely confident that we can continue the momentum and tap into the generosity of teachers and learners in the U.S.”

Tai Solarin Deputy University Librarian Jasiliu Kadiri said the donated textbooks would add value to teaching, learning and research work at the university. “We acknowledge with profound thanks the receipt of these volumes of books covering various fields including general and pure sciences, education, social sciences and children’s books,” Kadiri said.

Right now Efiwe is identifying university and community college campuses that are willing to establish a textbook drop-off site on their campuses. Efiwe is also seeking students who will operate and champion book drive initiatives in their respective universities and colleges, Alabi said. Ultimately Efiwe will ask for financial support to pay for the transportation of the books by ship from the U.S. to Nigeria and other West Africa destinations. But for now, the biggest and best way supporters can assist the nonprofit organization is by donating new or gently used textbooks on any and all academic subjects.

“We encourage individuals and student associations at community colleges, technical colleges and universities across the Midwestern states who are willing to designate a location on their campus as an Efiwe textbook drop-off site,” Àlàbí said.

Web developers are currently working to create an online book inventory of all the texts and supporting materials that are being donated so recipient universities can order the volumes they need.

For more information on Efiwe, go to Efiwe.org or email info@efiwe.org.


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Wetin Dey? Nigerian Pidgin and Its Many Pikin


‘Better soup na money kill am’ | Good things don’t come easy

‘E don tey wey nyash dey for back’ | There is nothing new under the sun

‘Cunny man die, cunny man bury am’ | It takes a thief to catch a thief

‘Na condition make crayfish bend’ | Hard times encourage adaptation


Over 500 languages are spoken in Nigeria today, according to most accounts, although many of them are dying, endangered, or extinct. Three major languages spoken more widely than others are Hausa in the north (with about 70 million speakers), Igbo in the east (with about 24 million), and Yorùbá in the west (with about 40 million speakers). Other languages include Edo, Fulfude, Berom, Efik, Ibibio, Isoko, etc. Because of the multiplicity of languages in the country and the need to communicate among different ethnic groups, English, or Nigerian English, has served as a connecting tissue, but only in formal circles: schools, government, courts, etc. In the informal sector, however, where most Nigerians function every day, in the markets, on the streets, at restaurants, Nigerian Pidgin (NP) has emerged as a crucial and important feature.

Nigerian Pidgin doesn’t have its roots in English, but in Portuguese. In about 1456, when the first Portuguese ship reached Senegal via the Gambia river, to Sierra Leone about four years later, and other parts of the region in due time, they made contacts with famous kingdoms like Benin, Ghana, Mali, Songhai, etc. Benin at the time, now in present day Nigeria, was said to be one of the oldest and most highly developed states in the coastal hinterland.

To trade with these kingdoms and establish a cordial relationship beneficial to both parties, a mutually intelligible language had to be employed. It is unclear what kind of Portuguese these sailors spoke, but it is possible (and even likely) that they spoke a crooked and unrefined one, also befitting of that societal class of illiterate seamen. The contact of that pirate-type ship-lingo Portuguese with the language of the coastal Africans resulted in what eventually became Pidgin, and later Nigerian Pidgin.

At the time, however, it was a mere contact language, retaining elements of both cultures, enough to facilitate communication along with hand gestures and other universal signs. But it got the job done and helped cement the relationship between the seafaring Portuguese and the West African kingdoms. So that when the British showed up hundreds of years later, they found it easier to communicate with the indigenes, through a later variation of this language which, likely, had undergone sufficient evolution. This later contact with the British, via the slave trade, missionary invasion and colonialism further improved the intelligibility of the language, with English words added to supplement the earlier Portuguese ones.

The use of the word ‘pidgin’ in identifying the language as it exists in Nigeria today has added some confusion to understanding its current state. To linguists, a language is a pidgin only in the initial state of its creation, when it serves as the lubricating vessel of communication between two strange peoples (in this case, between the early Europeans and Africans). After a generation of contact, the language begins to evolve, with words and phrases from either language and others, introduced to flesh out the skeletons and give the language a unique character. At this stage it stops being just a ‘contact language’ and becomes a living one. We call this stage ‘creolisation’.

The creolisation of Nigerian Pidgin happened gradually, with the adoption of the language not just as a contact lingo with Europeans but as a native language of contact and of trade with other ethnic groups in Nigeria. This is the characteristics of the language that helped it become the most used language in the country by the time it got independence from the British in 1960. By then, coastal communities, though with other native languages of their own, had adopted NP as a full native language and spoken it among themselves and to their children.

The syntax of Nigerian Pidgin is similar to the local West African languages than the European ones. That probably explains why it used to be called ‘Broken English’, or ‘Broken’ for short, when it was perceived to be a language of the unschooled, unsophisticated people, a language spoken by those unable to grasp the complexity of English. To say ‘I am leaving’ in NP, one would say ‘I dey go’, which is a lean and simple rendering of that basic action. ‘I will be right back’ is rendered as ‘I dey come’. This simple syntax, covered with the fleshing of English, makes it easy to use by Nigerians who eventually adopted it as a local language.

However, Portguese still has some influence. Words like sabi and pikin, which came from Portuguese ‘saber/sabir’ and ‘pequeno/pequenino’, words for ‘know’ and ‘little child’ respectively, have remained in NP, to mark the true origin of the language. So, for example, ‘You sabi dat pikin?’ means ‘Do you know that child?’ As you’ll notice, the pronunciation has also evolved as well, so that a ‘th’ is pronounced instead as a ‘d’.

There are also many different dialects of Nigerian Pidgin today, depending on where it is spoken. Because words are borrowed from each of the languages that have influenced NP – words like àbí (a question marker) and ṣé are more common in the west, while words like nna and unu come from Igbo in the east. The Niger Delta has the highest concentration of NP speakers and here the version spoken is widely regarded as the most authentic form, sometimes as a first language. Places like Sapele and Benin are regarded as norm-producing communities, where the language has the most root and influence.

And of course, because of the diasporic migration of Nigerians to other parts of the world, there are more refined NPs spoken today across the world, from Peckham to Chicago, Houston to Baltimore. They are not markedly different from the Nigerian versions, except in accent, influenced by their new environments and company.

It is estimated that NP is the most spoken language across the Nigeria today, spoken as a first language by over 30 million people, and as a second language by the rest of the country (about 140 million). However, the language has never enjoyed the respect of the country’s elites. It currently has no official status and is neither used in education, or governance. But in the early 60s, through the efforts of early Nigerian writers in English like Wọlé Ṣóyínká, Chinua Achebe, JP Clark and Cyprian Ekwensi, fully formed Pidgin-speaking characters were introduced to Nigerian literature. This helped elevate the language a bit more into the mainstream.

In Nigeria today, NP functions in informal capacity, lubricating contact and communication between people of all classes, gender, ethnic groups, and educational status. It is the language of the streets, and of uneducated market women in cosmopolitan cities. The flavour infused in each expression from the speaker’s original ethnic background continues to enrich the character of each individual output.

Where NP has dominated, however, is in the informal sphere of television and radio entertainment, in Nollywood and the Nigerian music industry, which reaches not just all Nigerians, but also most Africans. On the streets of Nairobi, Johannesburg or Accra today, one is likely to hear ‘Wetin dey?’, ‘Wetin dey happen?’ or ‘How far?’, or any one of NP’s common greetings (meaning: ‘What’s up?’, ‘What’s going on?’, ‘How’re you doing?’) even in the mouths of non-Nigerians. This has happened through the influence of Nigeria’s entertainment industry.

In 2009, a ‘Conference on Nigerian Pidgin’ at the University of Ìbàdàn proposed to drop the name ‘pidgin’ altogether, and call the language ‘Naija’, a nickname once reserved for referring to the country in an endearing way. This has not caught on beyond those academic circles, and it likely never will because of the tension between what the academic intervention represents (stiffness) and what NP truly is (dynamism). It is the jolly playfulness, accessibility and musicality of NP that continues to help convey the convivial spirit of Africa’s most populous country, along with colours and sound, to the rest of the continent.


First published by the National Theatre, London,, as companion to the play Barber Shop Chronicles by Innua Ellams, showing from May 30, 2017.




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With Odafe Atógun and Ayọ̀bámi Adébáyọ̀

On Sunday, May 14, 2017, I hosted a book chat with two debut authors Odafe Atógun and Ayọ̀bámi Adébáyọ̀. It was organised by Ouida Books, the Nigerian publisher of their two novels Taduno’s Song and Stay With Me respectively. They also share a publisher in the UK and in the US.

Atogún is a full-time writer who was born in Lokoja and studied Journalism in Lagos while Adébáyọ̀, though born in Lagos, has lived in Ilé-Ifẹ̀ and Iléṣà where her novel was set. I have enjoyed reading the two books, which deal with love against the background of a social upheaval.  They have a number of other similarities and many differences. For a start, Atógun’s book mixes elements of fantasy and magical realism with into the plot while Adébáyọ̀’s book goes the route of traditional plot, though with a twist on the narrative style and direction in time.

This is not a review of the novels. That will come later. But I enjoyed talking to both authors who are also smart and lovable human beings. I look forward to sharing more thoughts on the books in coming days. The event was held at Patabah Bookstore on Adéníran Ògúnsànyà street, Súrùlérè, with a full house of attendees.

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184 Poets Vie for the Nigerian Literature Prize

Today in Ikeja, the entries for this year’s NLNG Nigerian Literature Prize were delivered to the judges at an open ceremony. They contained entries by one hundred and eighty-four (184) Nigerian poets vying for the Literature Prize and five (5) literary critics vying for the Prize for Literary Criticism. The two categories are worth $100,000 and N1 million respectively.

“The hand-over of the entries to the Advisory Board, chaired by Professor Emeritus Ayọ̀ Bánjọ, signifies the beginning of the judging process which culminates in the announcement of the winner in October 2017,” reads the press release put out after the event.

Handing over the entries, Dr. Kudo Eresia-Eke and Professor Ayọ̀ Bánjọ. Photo: SabiNews

Handing over the entries, NLNG’s General Manager, External Relations, Dr. Kudo Eresia-Eke, said the prize has inspired some 1,630 books of which 533, representing 32%, were submitted in the Poetry category since the inception of the prize in 2004.

It continues:

The number of entries for the 2017 edition exceeded the 2016 numbers, showing a six percent rise in the number of entries received…. The entries… will be examined on their merits of excellence in language, creativity and book quality.”

The panel of judges for this year’s awards is led by Professor Ernest Emenyonu who is a professor of Africana Studies at the University of Michigan-Flint. He was Deputy Vice-Chancellor at the University of Calabar between 1988 and 1990, and Provost (Chief Executive) Alvan Ikoku College of Education, Owerri, between 1992 and 1996. He has taught in several Nigerian and American universities.

Other judges are Dr. Razinat Mohammed and Tádé Ìpàdéọlá. Dr. Mohammed is an Associate Professor of Literature at the University of Maiduguri. She teaches African Literature with specialization in Feminist Literary Criticism and Theoretical Approaches. She is an accomplished writer as well. Tádé Ìpàdéọlá won the Nigeria Prize for Literature in 2013 in the Poetry category with his third volume of poetry, The Sahara Testament. A poet and a lawyer, Ìpàdéọlá has won several awards and is a resource person for the Rockefeller Foundation around Africa on building resilience.

Members of the Advisory Board for the Literature Prize, besides Professor Bánjọ, two-time Vice-Chancellor of Nigeria’s premier university, University of Ibadan, are Prof. Jerry Agada, former Minister of State for Education, former President of the Association of Nigerian Authors, and Professor Emeritus Ben Elugbe, former President of the Nigerian Academy of Letters and president of the West-African Linguistic Society (2004-2013).

“The Nigeria Prize for Literature has since 2005 rewarded eminent writers such as Gabriel Okara (co-winner, 2005, poetry), Professor Ezenwa Ohaeto (co-winner, 2005, poetry); Ahmed Yerima (2006, drama) for his classic, Hard Ground;  Mabel Sẹ́gun (co-winner, 2007, children’s literature) for her collection of short plays Reader’s Theatre; Professor Akachi Adimora-Ezeigbo (co-winner, 2007, children’s literature) with her book, My Cousin Sammy; Kaine Agary (2008, prose); Esiaba Irobi (2010, drama) who clinched the prize posthumously with his book Cemetery Road; Adélékè Adéyẹmí (2011, children’s literature) with his book The Missing Clock; Chika Unigwe (2012 – prose), with her novel, On Black Sister’s Street; Tádé Ìpàdéọlá (2013; Poetry) with his collection of poems, Sahara Testaments and Sam Ukala (2014; Drama) with Iredi War,” the press release concluded.

The Nigerian for Literature is Africa’s biggest prize with a cash reward of $100,000, which rotates yearly amongst four literary categories of prose fiction, poetry, drama and children’s literature.

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