by Diwe Anyadu
When an artist who unapologetically describes himself as an African writer, another who mirrors continents, countries and cities through each other, and a foremost champion of Afropolitanism are all on the same panel to discuss about the concept of place, you know you’re in for one hell of a ride, especially when the discussants were selected because they live in cities not on the African continent. This was exactly the case when E. C. Osondu, Chris Abani and Taiyé Selasi were interviewed by Brittlepaper’s Ainehi Edoro on a panel discussion at the Aké Festival 2015 titled ‘Call and Response: African Writers Writing’.
Beginning with interesting definitions of “home”, these three brilliant writers took the listening audience of literature and arts enthusiasts, burgeoning members of the African literati, visitors from the diaspora and of course, members of the press – like me – from the imposing suggestions of how home is more psychological than physical; more of relationships that bind than walls of bungalows and duplexes, to the idea that it is everything one’s childhood never had – a kind of yearning to be.
It took less than two questions from the panel’s moderator, Ainehi Edoro for the discussants to entertain us with combative rivalry. On the left corner, E. C. Osondu who persistently disagreed with Chris Abani and on the right corner, Taiye Selasi whose favourite sentence soon became ‘Chris you know what? I agree with you!’
The trio voiced strong opinions on how distance and space influence the works of writers, on the complexity of the African identity, on the effect of memory in the creative sphere and how geographical locations change perception.
The idea of home, especially for the writer in diaspora, is never really an easy one to unravel and at the end of the panel discussion I think the team of Osondu, Abani and Selasi did more than little justice to it. Amidst bouts of sniggers and giggles, they did well to enlighten the audience to begin to see the concept of home in broader and even more engaging senses.