ktravula – a travelogue!

art. language. travel

NEWS: New Book-ish

I am currently rounding off work on a new book. It’s a collection of essays exploring my thoughts on language.

Those who have read this blog from the start may already be familiar with the direction of my thoughts on a number of linguistic and language issues. In actual fact, many of the thoughts in the book first debuted on this blog in form of small blog-sized arguments and opinions. Many more were written but never published, and a few were published as guest-posts on websites focusing on language survival, language endangerment, or mother tongue use.

This, along with a full-time job as a teacher of English language in Lagos, Nigeria, and a father of a young son under two, has kept me busier than I thought I’d be. It has also kept me quite engaged, and quite surprised at the number of things I’d said about language over the last five years. My current word-count is 50,000 words. I think I should stop now, before it becomes an epistle.

I hope to be in the United States again, for the first time in three years, this July, just for one month. One of the things I hope to do while I’m there (besides travel, spending time with family and friends) is to find a publisher – perhaps a university press – to publish the book. What I’ve heard from friends and other authors doesn’t give me much to be encouraged by, but when is that ever enough? There’s usually some good news out there. If you, my dear blog reader, have any tips that can be of help, please drop me a hint.

It’s been a while. I hope you’re all doing well in your chosen endeavours.

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Sailing Young Imagination

When I started teaching in Lagos, in 2012, on return from Edwardsville, one of the things I had in mind was finding a way to combine my passion for literature with my training and vocation as a teacher and linguist. First through a series of “Meet-A-Writer” events where we brought practising writers to meet and interact with the students, and also through excursions to events to fire up students’ artistic sensibilities, I succeeded to a reasonable extent. One of the highlights of the last Ake Arts and Books Festival, for me as a guest and as a guide to the students of mine that I brought along, was the ride home listening to the literary and creative aspirations of the students and their prospects for the future.

Gradually becoming disenchanted with the overall purpose of teaching English language as a compulsory subject (and a medium of instruction) in a post-colonial society, the idea of literature as a flight of fancy and a window into the mind and creativity of young adults became something more interesting, and certainly more rewarding than teaching grammar in a language compelled by law, sustained by an illusion, and limited in the true sense of the capacity to genuinely express the true identity of the continent. There’s an irony here, of course, in the fact that these literatures, for now, are also expressed in this same “limiting” language. But that’s a story for another day.

FrontLast year, an idea I’ve had for a while on the possibility of harnessing students’ creative energy in a book form found enthusiastic audience with the school administration. The result is an 86-paged anthology of students’ work in poetry, prose fiction, drama, essay, and visual arts, published by Whitesands School and Feathers & Ink publishing house in Ibadan. Along with the privilege of being in the book, a few of the students are also being rewarded with positions when their work is compared with the others. We were also privileged to have prominent literary practitioners in Nigeria read and judge the prizes beforehand. For this first edition, these judges were Chika Unigwe and Tade Ipadeola, both previous winners of the Nigerian Prize for Literature (worth $100,000). In short, it was a thoroughly emotionally and intellectually stimulating experience for the teachers and the students.

_DSC0871The book was publicly presented on June 25 at the school, with parents of winning students present. The book is also being given to all the over 400 students in the school as an incentive to working hard to be selected for the next edition. From what I’ve heard, it is having precisely that effect. For the students whose work appear in it as well, there’s an obvious air of pride and accomplishment. In the next couple of weeks, the book should also be on Amazon and other internet outlets for free download. From what I’ve heard as positive reviews of the project, even the idea itself is ripe for scaling. Given adequate sponsorship, there’s plenty more dimensions in which this can go. For now, however, the pride of being able to accomplish something this little with substantial impact is unquantifiable. Read Tade Ipadeola’s review.

_DSC0758Here’s one anecdote that almost brought me to tears. Yesterday, the vice-principal of the school called to tell me of the decision of a parent of one of the students to pull out the child. As a dual citizen of the United States and Nigeria, the parents thought it was time for the child to relocate and join his other siblings. Not having told the boy before now, he was devastated, but not for an obvious reason. According to the father, the child expressed regret that having missed a chance to be published in The Sail: Issue 1, he had already started working towards entering as many creative work as possible so as to get a chance for the next issue (due January, 2016). Now, that dream is being taken away from him, without an agency to influence the process.

I have been dejected, and then extraordinarily buoyed, by the sadness of that story for the last 24 hours. It’s almost enough to compensate for everything else wrong with the compulsion in English language learning.

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Judging Panel for 2015 Etisalat Prize for Literature Announced

Lagos, Nigeria; June 23, 2015: Fastest growing and most innovative telecommunications company Etisalat Nigeria, has announced members of the judging panel who will decide the winner of the 2015 Etisalat Prize for Literature. The judging panel will be chaired by Professor Ato Quayson a Professor of English and inaugural Director of the Centre for Diaspora Studies at the University of Toronto; completing the panel is Molara Wood, writer, blogger, journalist, critic and editor and Zukiswa Wanner, author of The Madam and Men of the South.

Commenting on the choice of judges for the prize, Chief Executive Officer, Etisalat Nigeria, Matthew Willsher stated that Etisalat carried out extensive research and consultation in deciding the choice of judges for this year, and also expressed the belief that the selected judges will bring their experience to bear on the Etisalat Prize for Literature. The judges, he said, will have the responsibility to develop the long list of nine novels as well as a shortlist of three novels before finally selecting a winner. Submission of entries are ongoing, having opened June 18, 2015 and would close on the 27th of August 2015.

The Etisalat prize is designed to foster writing in Africa, bring exciting new African writers to the attention of a wider audience, and promote a reading culture within the continent while also telling the African story. The winner will receive a cash prize of £15,000 in addition to a fellowship at the prestigious University of East Anglia, UK under the mentorship of the award-winning author, Professor Giles Foden. The winner will also receive a sponsored three-city book tour. In addition, the two other shortlisted writers will receive a sponsored two-city book tour to promote their books. The Etisalat Prize for Literature also supports publishers by purchasing 1000 copies of the shortlisted books for distribution within the continent.

This prize accepts submitted works which must be a writer’s first work of fiction with over 30,000 words, and published within the last 24 months. The Etisalat Prize will also launch the online based flash fiction prize later in the year to engage the rising stars of fiction.

Rules and guidelines for entry are available at prize.etisalat.com.ng

Profile of Etisalat Prize for Literature Judges

Professor Ato Quayson

QuaysonProfessor Ato Quayson is Professor of English and inaugural Director of the Centre for Diaspora Studies at the University of Toronto. He studied at the University of Ghana and the University of Cambridge and was also a Fellow of Pembroke College, Director of the Centre for African Studies, and on the Faculty of English at Cambridge.  He was the 2011/12 Distinguished Cornille Visiting Professor in the Humanities at the Newhouse Centre at Wellesley College; he held research fellowships at Wolfson College, Oxford (1994/95) and at the Du Bois Institute for African-American Studies at Harvard (2004).  He is a Fellow of the Ghana Academy of Arts and Sciences and of the Royal Society of Canada.


Molara Wood

Molara WoodMolara Wood is a writer, editor, journalist, blogger and critic. A former art columnist for the Lagos Guardian, she won the inaugural John La Rose Memorial Short Story Competition; and received an award from the Commonwealth Broadcasting Association. As Arts and Culture Editor of NEXT Newspaper (2008 to 2011), she steered a groundbreaking weekly supplement on the arts. More recently she served as Special Assistant on Documentation to Nigeria’s former President Jonathan. A culture activist, she is involved in many artistic projects in collaboration with groups and organisations, including the Africa Movie Academy (AMA) and the Africa International Film Festival (AFRIFF). She is the author of Indigo, a collection of short stories.

Zukiswa Wanner

ZukiswaZukiswa Wanner is the author of the novel The Madams (2006) shortlisted for the South African Literary Award’s K. Sello Duiker Award; Behind Every Successful Man (2008); Men of the South (2010) shortlisted for the Commonwealth Best Book Africa Region 2011; London Cape Town Joburg (2014). Her short story The Dress That Fed the Suit was selected as one of the top 20 stories in South Africa’s 20 years of democracy (1994-2014) and she was selected as one of the top 39 sub-Saharan African writers under 40 (Africa39). She co-edited the African-Asian anthology Behind the Shadows (2012) with Indian author/editor Rohini Chowdhury and co-authored the Mandela home biography 8115: A Prisoner’s Home (2010) with the late veteran photographer, Alf Kumalo.
Wanner has facilitated writing workshops in South Africa, Uganda, Denmark, Germany, Zimbabwe, Kenya, Tanzania and Ghana. She sits on the board of the continental writing initiative, Writivism.

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Achieving Auto-Pronounce

One of the joys I’ve found in the last couple of days working on our dictionary project at YorubaName.com is realizing that I could be contributing significantly to the future of African language use on the web. Last week, I finally achieved a sort of breakthrough on something that had worried me for a while, since the work on the dictionary project started: how do we get each of the word/name in our dictionary pronounced without breaking the bank or spending too much time? From the experience of using small dictionary apps on mobile phones, I have always known that it was not feasible to pronounce ALL the names. There would have to be a way to use technology make the process smoother and less exacting.Fullscreen capture 422015 50346 PM.bmp




I found that way during the week, and just wrote a blog post about it on the YorubaName blog page where I’m now spending most of my online time. Read it here.

Two crucial factors that made this possible was a collaboration of my knowledge of Yoruba phonology and my partner’s intimate knowledge of computer/software programming. I see a future in which linguists from other African language groups will collaborate with software geeks to create more projects in this direction. In my case, I can’t wait to see this be used to deal with a lexical Yoruba dictionary as well, in the future.



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Kola Tubosun joins “WE THE HUMANITIES” Platform as Curator


25/02/2015, Lagos, Nigeria—Kola Tubosun: linguist, teacher and writer at Whitesands School, Lagos, Nigeria, will be joining the international humanities Twitter account, We the Humanities, as next week’s guest curator.

@wethehumanities is a rotation-curation account which offers a central platform for discussion and news of the humanities in all its forms. It is open to anyone working in or with the humanities in any form, and hopes to follow the success achieved by the science platform, @realscientists.

IMG_0395Kola is a linguist and aspiring lexicographer with years of work in language teaching and language documentation under his belt. He will be tweeting about mother tongue use, language endangerment, and particularly a subject that is dear to him: Yoruba language use in Nigeria. He is currently building a multimedia dictionary of Yoruba names at www.yorubaname.com . Kola can be found on twitter at @baroka, and on his blog at KTravula.com

Co-founder Jessica Sage (@academicjess) comments: “The We the Humanities project engages with people from around the world, exposing them to humanities research, experience and ideas they perhaps didn’t know existed.  Each week a new academic or practitioner takes over the account, tweeting about their work and provoking conversations about the diversity and importance of the humanities.  We really look forward to Kola Tubosun running the account this coming week, and in particular his take on linguistics, second language use, and Yoruba language.”

We the Humanities, which is now in its second year, has attracted tweeters from across six continents, ranging from professors to Masters students and from museum curators to musicians.  The discussions engage with more than 2400 followers from across the world, including everyone from lifetime specialists to the mildly curious. The account has developed to include a blog and events listings, housed at http://www.wethehumanities.org.

Kristina West (@krisreadsbooks), co-founder of WtH, adds: “We encourage anyone working within the humanities who might be interested in curating the account to get in touch through the website. We aim to create a vibrant, international community to raise awareness of the diversity, relevance and challenges that encompass what is called the humanities.”


Contact details:

Jessica Sage, We the Humanities: tel: +44 (0)7731840380, e-mail: j.sage@reading.ac.uk

Kristina West, We the Humanities: tel: +44 (0) 7525 009744, email: k.j.west@pgr.reading.ac.uk


About We The Humanities:


A rotation-curation Twitter account showcasing the creativity and diversity of the humanities and reiterating the fact that the humanities are more widely important than current public funding suggests.


Like most things on Twitter, it began with a seemingly innocuous tweet.  On 5th January 2014 @academicjess asked a few people “Does anyone know of a humanities equivalent to @realscientists & if not would you be interested?” and it snowballed from there.


It is currently just being administrated by Jessica, Kristina and Emma Butcher (@EmmaButcher_).


Disclaimer: The views expressed at the @wethehumanities Twitter account are those of the weekly guest editor and not those of the administrator or previous/subsequent curators. The views expressed on the blog are the views of named posters and not those of the administrators.  




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