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Aké Diary (X): The Rise of Speculative Fiction


Mazi Fred Nwonwu, editor with strong emotional ties to speculative fiction


Mehul Gohil – Kenyan Writer

Nnedi Okorafor – Nigerian American author and professor

Dilman Dila – Ugandan writer, filmmaker and activist

Tendai Huchu (Unavoidably absent)


Speculative fiction concerns itself with supernatural and futuristic themes thereby encompassing science fiction, fantasy and horror which are only just beginning to gain traction in Africa.

Mazi Chiagozie Fred Nwonwu opens the panel discussion with brief introductions of the panelists. All seated to his left there is Nnedi Okorafor African fantasy and science fiction writer, Dilman Dila Ugandan writer and filmmaker and Mehul Gohil, Kenyan writer.

Chiagozie throws the first question to the general panel but it is Dilman who goes first, talking about his experience in Nepal and how he was made aware of the fact that the world wasn’t primarily made up of black people. He gives a nod to Nnedi’s book ‘Who fears death’ saying it spoke to him directly.

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The next question is about the debate that played out on Facebook about the naming of the genre of African and African Diaspora writing fantasy. He asked the panelists if they felt there was a need for a name and the movement. Nnedi was quick to respond making it clear she resists the terms “movement” and “new”. In her response she says “I’ve been doing this for years” citing her earlier works both published and unpublished as proof that this genre of speculative fiction is not new to Africans and Africans in diaspora. After all, “does something not exist because people don’t know about it?” she asks.

Returning to the first half of the question she believes there is no need for a name. Nnedi thinks labelling the genre then places a level of anonymity to the originality and unique nature of the African and African in diaspora fantasy writings. Ours is much different from all the others and labelling it will make it one of the many types of fantasy out there. At this point Chiagozie mentions the ease with which people would identify works of that nature if they were labeled but Nnedi remains of the opinion that it robs the work of its identity and affects the perception of the story.

The next question asks how authentic a work of fiction needs to be albeit it being expectedly fictitious. Mehul Gohil has a quote regarding this which says “the truth is deeper with fiction even if it’s only make-believe”. To expatiate on this, Nnedi tells a story on how she came up with the descriptions in one of her latest books ‘Lagoon’ for one of the sea creatures. She went as far as getting to rub against a similar mammal just to get the feel of what she would be describing in her book. She admits “that’s how far I go with authenticity”.

DSCN0848The power of speculative fiction in effecting social change was also talked about. It was agreed that speculative fiction has a way of taking a well-worn and sensitive issue and turning it into something seemingly new and more presentable to people otherwise averse to it.

The acceptance of African fantasy and science fiction in the local and international scene was addressed as well and Nnedi also had a few words to say concerning this. She told us how she’d received hate mail and death threats over her first novel Who Fears Death. She said the attitude towards African fantasy locally is still geared towards the taboo sense of things and how certain topics should not be addressed at all. On the international scene it is almost the same thing, she lets us know how her work has been taken to major film houses and have been rejected outright because it’s African fantasy and science fiction. We learn this is part of the reason she has to change the name of her book Akata Witch to What Sunny Saw in the Flames because the word “witch” was too much for the local scene to handle.

The panelists were allowed to read excerpts from their books after which questions were entertained before Chiagozie announced the end of the panel discussion.


Emeka is a retiring bibliophile and a blue-moon writer. His hobbies include reading books as research material on how to write and daydreaming about actually writing. He enjoys good music and poetry. He also studies medicine.

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Aké Diary (IX): The Deadly Laughter

by Emeka Ofoegbu


When the four kings of the satire sit down to have a panel discussion you can only expect brilliance.

12240855_1072254982794106_817242026421824695_o The panelists are Pius Adésanmí, author of Naija No Dey Carry Last, Adéọlá Fáyẹhùn, host of popular online show Keeping It Real, Ayo Sógunró, author of The Wonderful Life of Senator Boniface & Other Sorry Tales and Victor Ehikhamenor, visual artist and author of Excuse Me. The topic is Deadly Laughter: Satire and Public consciousness in Africa. The moderator is Kọ́lá Túbọ̀sún, acclaimed linguist.

The discussion kicks off to Adéọlá admitting she has received countless death threats for the work she does on her show even with the disclaimer. This is something her fellow panelists agree with. Satire is an approach to dealing with major issues that affect our immediate society which is quickly catching on. The satire is meant to be as subtle as possible but still heavily packed with intent and often met with disapproval and hostility. One thing the panelists agree on is that as a writer of satire you must develop a readiness for vicious backlash. The art of subtle reproach is often too much for people to handle and for those who understand what is implied they cannot stand to be portrayed in that light so they strike back or speak out against it.

12291120_1072255166127421_2596372418372204354_oVictor lets us know that amidst the vicious attacks on satirists, the satire is meant to deflect violence being a way to say what you want to say without being direct. On whether people effectively understand the satire, Ayọ̀ says there are some people who “even if it is clearly marked and sent, some people still don’t get it”. Pius talks about his work saying that the satire respects no one. It brings out the people perpetrating wrongdoings and ridicules them. Often times the case is that they don’t like how they are portrayed so they prefer a direct attack.

Although the satire is meant to be daring, Ayọ̀ tells us there are certain things he cannot write about. He believes feminism is one of these things. He says this simply because he personally cannot handle the onslaught when it does come. To this Victor drops one of his many wise sayings “because you have sharp scissors doesn’t mean you’re going to be cutting everybody in the village’s head off”. It is explained that the moment as a satirist you threaten yourself by attacking matters that are unnecessarily dangerous you’ve crossed satire into sensationalism.

12247737_1072255476127390_4458254252724755255_oWhen the question of who censors the satirist came up, Adéọlá was quick to say “everyone.” She gave us examples of how she was hounded for speaking about a particular issue and again hounded by the same set of people when she decided to remain silent on the same issue. She explained her style of approaching the satire and how it has worked for her this far. According to her she lays the fertile ground before doing the dirty work of planting. She says complimenting before hitting the nail on the head is a style she has developed in her career as a satirist.

Questions were taken from the audience with Professor Niyi Ọ̀súndáre saying the steps to being a good satirist include: “dig your grave” “buy a good coffin” and “write your will”. When asked what it takes to be a satirist, Victor says to portray serious issues in a humorous yet objective way requires a level of humour to avoid it coming across as forced. After all, according to him “it helps for the snake to have venom before it bites”.



Photo credit: Ake Festival

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Aké Diary (VIII): Satire & The Feminism Panel

by Emeka Ofoegbu12238287_1072227949463476_2289167316956816042_o


Mona Eltahawy is the author of Headscarves and Hymens and Pius Adesanmi author of Naija No Dey Carry Last sit with Kadaria Ahmed, acclaimed journalist, for a book chat. Kadaria serves as the moderator and she opens the discourse with brief introductions of the guests.

The book chat between the satire king Pius and the feminist queen Mona is arguably one of the most controversial and interesting book chats of the entire festival. Mona who has taken it upon herself to outspokenly champion the feminist movement at every panel and chat she has been involved in from the start of the festival questions the reason behind the absence of men in the front row seats.

“Is it because of what I said yesterday?”

Laughter erupts as everyone present is eager to see what transpires when you take a man such as Pius who is adept at being sarcastic and blunt then pair him with one of the most outspoken, passionate and brash voices in Africa today. The discourse begins and being in that room it is nothing short of spectacular.

12265762_1072229866129951_3773148300456728875_oPius controls the microphone, with a nod to Mona; he explains his art form of taking the written satire and transforming it into a weapon of bitter truth and swift reflection. He is on top of the questions from Kadaria, dropping humorous anecdotes and caustic comments on issues affecting the country’s political scene and how his words have often caused the head wearing the cap to sweat. He says “that’s what I do; I make them constantly laugh bitterly about something they should be crying about”. However, he reminds us that his words are not carefully woven only to provide us with quick humor. There is much expected after the laughter. He gets into the heart of the matter and shares his belief that “we are so fundamentally fucked in this country” and hopes one day we can extricate ourselves from the mess we’ve gotten entangled with.

On the one hand, there is Pius with his subtly vicious approach to the battle against mediocrity and social evils and on the other hand we have Mona, the sniper who writes her name on every bullet. Mona is open, direct and vicious with her attacks and according to her this is not a battle for sugar-coated censored words.

She has a mission and knows it is not for the fainthearted. Mona having studied the ills and effects of the wrongdoings on the society believes, in her book, she brings them all to fore and talks about them head on. Headscarves and Hymens, as the book is called, is written as more of reportage than fiction and gives her account of the battle against the oppression that has sought to constantly silence her and rob her of her opinion as a true feminist and a Muslim woman.

12232837_1072228546130083_8873556708954989442_oMona battles the patriarchy and cites a comment from an earlier discussion about the trifecta of the patriarchy which is “the state, the street and the home”. When asked if she intentionally chooses to instigate and incite people, she lets us know this is simply who she is and she will unapologetically remain this way to combat the societal evils.

Mona spits bullets of fire that you cannot help but listen to and understand just where it is her mission is taking her and just how dedicated and driven she is towards achieving her goal. Mona is a powerhouse and it is evident when her response to a rather irrelevant question causes an uproar of excitement in the crowd and scattered hushed discussions which lead to Kadaria reminding us she is the moderator.

By the end of the book chat there is a burning sensation of fulfilment for a morning well spent. It was indeed the type of book chat many of us had been longing for.

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Aké Diary (VII): Writing Our Way Out

by Emeka Ofoegbu


The moderator, Ayọ̀délé Morocco-Clarke, takes her seat on the stage and one by one the panelists fill the remaining empty seats on the stage. It is a spare but highly intellectual crowd with the likes of Nnimo Bassey, Oláòkun Sóyínká and Colette Braeckman all rearing to go. The panel made up of Mona Eltahawy – Egyptian feminist writer and public speaker, Dilman Dila – Ugandan author and filmmaker, and Siphiwo Mahala – South African author all look prepared to give the topic a good thrashing and they do. From the moment the moderator reads out the first question the panelists come out swinging.

DSCN0657One of the first to speak is Dilman Dila, he shares his view on NGOs and why he feels they are an evil that needs to be done away with in Africa. Having worked with several forms of NGOs in his home country for 10 years he commands the subject and minces no words when asked if he feels the NGOs are making Africans lazy with a resolute.


Dilman then goes on further to say for a long time he has come to see NGOs as “people who sell poverty for a living” regarding the serious dependence on these NGOs by African countries which affects their mindset towards productivity and births laziness. Dilman adds that if these NGOs were to leave and we (Africa) establish a working system we’d be better off for it.

Siphiwo Mahala takes on the next question responding to Ayọ̀délé asking if he believes writers have a responsibility to battle the societal evils with an affirmative. Siphiwo believes writers should exhibit a level of patriotism and draw from the happenings around them, take responsibility as patriots and effect positive change. Siphiwo tells us as Africans not being on a poor continent but one enriched with many resources “we should move beyond blaming colonialism after so many years.” She further saying there is a need as writers to tap into what has already been written as a source of inspiration and guidance. Citing George Orwell’s 1984, he explains how after dethroning one dictator in the book, the elected officials go in to repeat the evils of their predecessors. He uses this point to emphasise the need for writers to be “the conscience of the nation.”

Ayodele then poses the next question to Mona as it is a question about the role of sexism in creating social inequality, which is right up Mona’s alley. The role of patriarchy in social inequality is the question and Mona takes her first swing of many with an opener “patriarchy is the issue”.  She adds that it would be incomplete and unfair to say, although it is a common fact, that nobody in many parts of Africa is truly free because the government oppresses everyone without adding that this same government specifically oppresses women. She makes an allusion to the trifecta of oppression she mentioned earlier which is made up of the state, the street, and the home, saying this trifecta plays a major role in oppressing women in Africa. Mona points out how the effects of patriarchy and the damage it does is treated as a side issue and women are often forgotten to be a half of society. She says “the patriarch in the presidential palace has an echo on the street corner and has an echo in the bedroom and all of those patriarchs have to be overthrown”. To a follow-up question concerning what women can do to put an end to patriarchy she responds “women have to be audacious and basically say fuck this shit” as a means to take the power back, this is received with loud applause and whoops of approval from members of the audience.

DSCN0689Ayọ̀délé sends the next question to Dilman. It is about the waning fervor of seemingly idealistic and revolutionary leaders and why this is so. Dilman takes us to his motherland of Uganda to answer the question. He talks about how the people contribute to the problem that is the government. He talks about how the people have grown complacent and seem to have accepted the corruption perpetrated by the government officials even going as far as saying the corruption they experience is “not the bad type of corruption because the government invests in the country” he attributes the abandonment of revolutionary ideals by these government officials who came into power with much promise to the growing support of the people who refuse to take an opposing stand.

Ayodele’s next question goes to Siphiwo and it’s about the youth taking charge in societal issues to which Siphiwo says we should “challenge the status quo if we must see change”. He commends the change in the youth who are taking a more active role in the affairs of the government and says this is one of many steps we need to take in the right direction.

Mona steps up to the plate this time to hit a home-run with “stay out of my vagina unless I want them there” which is her response to religious enthusiast who try to control her sexuality. The question is the role of religion in controlling sexuality and she has an arsenal of responses. She talks more about the trifecta of patriarchy and the qualifications of the revolution against this trifecta which she says are “being black, being a woman and being queer” fulfilling these three or any of these makes you apart of the revolution. She reminds us that of all forms of the revolution, “the sexual revolution at home is the most important revolution cause at the end of the day; all the other oppositions go home.”

On militancy, Dilman fires first opening with a statement that he believes “militancy is something that comes out of frustration” while Mona believes militancy is another form of patriarchy that needs to be opposed and done away with.

One of the questions asked from the audience from Nnimo Bassey was directed at Dilman about his view on NGOs. Nnimo wants to know how he arrived at his notion that NGOs were an evil to which Dilman specified he was referring to the developmental NGOs especially the ones he’d worked with directly. The next question was for Mona from Dr Oláòkun Sóyínká who asked how she can be a true feminist and a true Muslim to which she responds “I am a secular feminist not a religious feminist”.

The panel discussion comes to a satisfactory close.

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Aké Diary (VI): The Transgender Discussion

by Fọpẹ́ Òjó

LS introduces the discussion and talks about how she believes that Nigerians jet themselves by totally shutting themselves off from necessary conversation and dialogue that help us learn about the struggles of other people, the type of conversations that show what these people are going through and help us understand them and develop empathy for them.

Oláòkun Sóyínká is the moderator of this session with Ima Da Silva, an Angolan transgender woman.

“I’m really happy that we have our own Caitlyn Jenner.” Dr. Sóyínká says.

“Who is Imani Da Silva?” he asks.

“I am first a human being and yes, I am a transgender. And I’ve always felt like I was a girl since forever since I was five. When I was five I had my first crush.”

Imani Da Silva is a pretty woman. Her face is oblong and she is light-skinned. She ties an ankara scarf on her head and it suits her. She has lovely glowing skin. And slender legs and is dressed in an ankara skirt and a blouse. She wears light makeup and light red lipstick.

When she talks about happiness she says “We often forget that life is not a rehearsal, it’s today. I decided to be the change that I wanted to see.”

About the people who have influenced her and helped her through her journey, she says “I was always lucky to meet people who saw me for who I am personally and professionally. It’s so unfair to say that I got to where I am on my own.”

She talks about her mother. How her mother was a strong woman who never judged her or her brother or her sister. She later says that the kind of woman that she is has been majorly influenced by the kind of women that she grew up with.

Dr. Sóyínká asks her about the surgeries.

“This wasn’t a choice. You knew you were gay.” Dr. Sóyínká says.

“I had the sex reassignment surgery four years ago and it was the best decision I ever made.” She answers.

She also talks about growing up and religion.

“When I was a teenager I was so religious. So I had this fight inside me about what was right what was wrong what I had been told and what I felt.”

There are many questions from the crowd. This Aké audience is a particularly quiet one. It is as though a very fragile bubble is being passed around from person to person and the audience is being careful so that it does not burst.

About religion, Imani says  “I realise that I don’t need a religion to identify myself as a person. What matters is how you treat the people around you for me the biggest sin is to hurt another human being.”

Another person asks about how female people expect her to be for being transgender and how she deals with the pressure.

She answers and explains that some transgender people have pressure to be as female as they can so that they can convince other people that they’re really women. They end up doing too much makeup and trying to live up to the standards of what society defines a woman as for acceptance.

She says that she doesn’t need to have wide hips or a huge backside to be woman.

About privileges on being born male and lightskin she says “I really believe that it is such a big privilege to be woman in Angola because women are so empowered. Women are strong and are made to believe that they can do anything. Girls are told to study their books.”

She is asked why she had to go as far as the transition, why she didn’t just remain a gay man instead of going through the whole process of changing.

She says that what we first have to do is check the many effeminate men and ask them if they are happy with being effeminate. Or if they want to change to women. She talks about some of her gay friends who are happy with being gay men. She says they’re gay and happy to remain men.

On how she relates with the trans community, Imani says she is the spokesperson of a community that works with such rights. She was approached by such community to be their spokesperson and she took it up.

“When there’s phobia. It’s because people are scared of what they don’t know.”

She goes further to say that respect is the most important thing. Teach gays and transgenders to love and respect themselves, to love and respect others. Then they will get the love and respect because in life, you give what you get.

She also speaks about the difference between gender identity and sexual orientation.

“Gender identity is one thing. Sexual orientation is one thing. How I feel about my gender is different from who I have feelings for.”

She explains that you can be a transgender man or woman and still be attracted women or men.

“I didn’t wake up one day and say I want to be barbie. Nobody told me to wear lipstick. And nobody told me to wear a dress. This is how I felt.”

On the surgical process of changing genders. She talks about how impatient transgenders can get with the process.

“You have to be patient through the process of changing. You have to be patient and know that you will get there.”

Someone asks her about her sexual relation with men, if her transition is complete yet and if she has wild orgasms with the men that she gets sexual with.

“I feel like I was born this way. And I thank my doctors everyday ” she answers simply. And the crowd laughs.

When she talks about motherhood, she says “I believe in marriage. It was never part of my dreams to have a child. I don’t feel like I need a child to be complete. Some people tell me that would change when I meet the right person. But I just don’t feel like I need children to complete.”

A man asks about how long it takes for her to tell the men that she goes on dates with about her history.

She says that it depends on how serious things have gotten. But that respect is always the most important thing in her dealings.

It is a very enlightening session and Dr. Sóyínká and LS thank her for her time and LS jokes about how this Aké audience is probably the most quiet and gentle one that she has ever witnessed.

Imani Da Silva is courteous and lovely as she exits the stage.

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