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Sunday, 14 June 2015

Fiela's Child, 1985, Dalene Matthee ****

A 3 year old white boy Lukas Van Rooyen got lost in the forest. He was  not found. Almost a decade later during census many kilometres away on the other side of the forest a white child named Benjamin Komoeties was found in the family of coloureds (in South Africa refers to people of mixed ethnic parentage). Was he the missing Lucas? Though, the white officials who carried out the census only cared about was why must a white child live with a black family? They took Benjamin away and was determined to never bring him back. Is Benjamin Komoties really the missing Lucas Van Rooyen?
As the story unfolds we get to see the impact all these changes had on Benjamin's life and his identity. What happens when you rip out a child from one family to another? Why didn't the authority think about this before they took him away? They simply thought that Fiela Komoeties couldn't be his mother because she was black and he, white, when she has raised him up as her own and loved him with all her might. They do not care. They'd rather leave him with a dysfunctional white family.

As I later found out, this novel is based on a true story though it was written in form of a fictional biography. A very moral and thought-provoking story. An intense read. I was so eager to know if Benjamin was really Lucas, and how could a 3 year old boy walk that distance and safely finds himself at the other side of the forest. Who is Benjamin Komoeties? What really happened to Lucas Van Rooyen?

This story was set in the 1800 in  rural South Africa and I also read somewhere that it is in motion pictures too. I'd like to see it.

It goes without saying, that I really enjoyed this novel. Even though, it was set in South Africa it was during pre-apartheid, all the same you can still feel the white dominance and the way they look down upon the black people who call them "master". I highly recommend.

Monday, 1 June 2015

Half of a Yellow Sun the Movie ***

I am glad I finally watched Half of a Yellow Sun the movie. Let's keep in mind that movies are different form of art that cannot totally capture the real essence of a novel. With that said, the film was good although I did not enjoy it as much as I did the novel. To start with, Thandie Newton was amazing in her role as Olanna, she was quite impressive. Nevertheless, if I should give an Oscar to an actor in the movie, it would be to John Boyega, his performance as Ugwu was splendid. In my opinion, though it's been a while since I read the novel, I think he gave more substance to "Ugwu" than in the book.
Secondly, I did not like  Anika Noni Rose as Kainene, she was not convincing. Neither was Genevieve Nnaji the one who played Lara Adebayo. In my opinion Genevieve Nnaji should have played Kainene and they should have found someone else to do Lara Adebayo.

Furthermore, the actors' accent betrayed their origin. As an Igbo person, though I have lived more years out of my country, I could tell outright that Thandie Newton and Anika Noni Rose weren't t Igbo from the way they spoke the language. Perhaps, they thought it is a minor case since it is a problem only an Igbo person would detect, anyway. However,  in my opinion, they should have practised more.

To end on a positive note, I like the combination of fiction and history. For instance, there were real images of Ojukwu leader of the Republic of Biafra and real images of Nigeria at that time. Finally, I would not have seen the movie if it was not for the novel so my advice to you is do not swap the movie for the book. You will be highly disappointed. Watch the movie if you are simply curious like me because the film doesn't live up to the book.

Friday, 22 May 2015

Mary Okeke Reviews is Three Today

I cannot believe it, today three years this blog was created, Mary Okeke Reviews. Over 100 books read and reviewed, over 165 published posts, over 136 thousand page views. The Palm-Wine Drinkard by Amos Tutuola published in 1952 and The Concubine by Elechi Amadi published in 1966 being the most viewed. With 50% of my audience from the United States of America, the rest of my top audience are from Spain, Nigeria, UK, France, Germany, Russia, India, Ghana and Ukraine. I am baffled.
I am more than grateful and all I can say is thank you for your support. I look forward to celebrating many more anniversaries with you by my side! With this, I'd like to share 30 books that I highly enjoyed and recommend in no order of preference.

 
 
 













  











 Admiring Silence

Sunday, 17 May 2015

Admiring Silence, 1996, Abdulrazak Gurnah *****

Admiring Silence was exclusively written in the first person narrative, which makes it an intense read. We never get to know the name of the narrator. Who, is smuggled out of his homeland Zanzibar with a one way ticket to England. No coming back due to the post colonial political instability of his country. An emotional hard blow, if we take into account his family background and their deep-rooted tradition with rigid hierarchy. Then, he arrives at England, lonely and cold. Luckily, falls in love with Emma, an English woman. Basking in the warmth and love she provides him with, shakes the foundations of his belief. 

The novel is divided into three parts; in the first part he mainly narrates on how he met Emma and what he told her about himself. Which aren't entirely the truth though you won't know until you start reading the second part of the novel. That is, 20 years later when he is finally able to visit "home". New characters start popping up. I had to reread, stop for a while in order to be able to take it all in. He has been lying to Emma all these years, he couldn't bring himself to tell her the whole truth. Neither did he tell his people about his relationship with her and their 17 year old daughter together. That is an interesting plot on behalf of the author.

His African family wanted him to remain with them, marry a local woman, be one of them again. Will that be possible after living 20 years as an expatriate in England? Is he really still one of them? Where does he call home now?*

I would have liked to love the narrator, however he seems to always be afraid of everything even when apparently there was nothing to be afraid of. He is not the type that lives life by holding the bull by the horns. He tiptoes around instead of walking with confident. He thinks a lot and reluctantly or never carries out his actions. I Know, his past was difficult. His family background is not one to be highly proud of. But again, you cannot control other people's actions neither can you blame yourself for their decisions.

It goes without saying that to read Admiring Silence is an amazing experience. Abdulrazak Gurnah is now one of my favourite writers. He is a great novelist. An amazing writer and storyteller.  I highly recommend. I have ordered another of his novel "Paradise".

*I totally understand the topic Abdulrazak Gurnah is expounding on here, I had similar experience. After a trip with my now husband who is Catalan (Spanish) I logged on social media and wrote "Home Sweet Home". Most of my friends on social media many of them Nigerians, first, second, third cousins even those I am not sure the family link between us though I have known them since I was a child, everyone started commenting: "at last you are back", "welcome home", "how is Ogidi"? (village where I grew up)" Are you in the village"? "I am in town I will stop by". I had to reply them to tell them that my "Home Sweet Home" is the sunny apartment I share with my now husband in Barcelona. After spending nights in hotel rooms out of the country, it just feels good to be home again with him. Just us alone. I cannot bring myself to call somewhere else home other than where I live now with him.

As an expatriate we go through a metamorphosis associated with our different circumstances that makes us start  experiencing the world differently. It makes one become an entirely different person that those left behind sometimes will never get to understand. Life goes on, anyway.

Sunday, 10 May 2015

Waiting for an Angel, 2003, Helon Habila *****

This novel started with Lomba in prison, a political detainee in total loss of hope. Upon that, his prison superintendent punishes him for clandestinely writing poetry. How dare he! In the process of his punishment, he discovers that he is, actually, a good love writer. Why not take advantage of his writing skills? After all, he is only a prisoner and has no choice. At that moment, Lomba has been in prison for two years still awaiting trial.
Two years before: Lomba a brilliant and creative student looks forward to being a novelist. In one of his University outings he visits a fortune-teller with his friends and he is particularly told that prison is all that is seen ahead of him. He shrugs it off. Later on, his room mate Bola (brother-like), loses all of his family member in a fatal car accident, so stressed out that he ran mad. Simultaneously, riots along with military brutality are in high gear in their university. And then  the strike. Lomba drops out. As a result loses contact with the girl he dearly loves.
I also promised to meet you the next day when I left you in the morning, a happy smile on your face. I had a happy smile too. we were not to meet again for over three years- because my friend went mad, because of the riots, because I dropped out of school because of many things. what was a mere promise in the face of all these cataclysms?
Yes they met three years later but in different circumstances. As a university dropout, life becomes miserable, no jobs, his country Nigeria is under a military dictatorship. James Fiki a magazine editor hires him as a reporter and makes it clear that there is no future for novelists in their country. None of his novel would ever get published, even if it was, no body would buy it in the country since the majority of the population are starving and it would not make it out of their borders since they are being sanctioned by the international community due to the state of their government. Lomba had to conform as a  magazine reporter ( at least he is writing at all) which finally led to his illegal detention, anyway.

Waiting for an Angel is an outstanding and striking novel, its narrative is in form of interlinked short stories. Which could as well stand independently. Helon Habila actually won the Caine Prize in 2001 with one of them. I find it creative as it is written in the first person narrative through different voices with an author who is omniscient. This novel is nothing short of meritorious. Highly recommended. Lastly, I have this inkling that the writer is mostly referring to his own experience in this novel. All the same, I look forward to reading more of his works.

One of my favourite quotes from this novel among others, in this case when referring to the prison superintendent:
He was just Man. Man in his basic, rudimentary state, easily moved by powerful emotions like love, lust, anger, greed and fear, but totally dumb to the finer, acquired emotions like pity, mercy, humour and justice.

Let me also add, that this novel is the 2003 Commonwealth Writers' Prize: Best First Book, in Africa. Another addition to my challenge.
                  

Monday, 27 April 2015

The Clothes of Nakedness, 1998, Benjamin Kwakye **

This novel came up on my radar as part of my reading challenge since it won the literary award Commonwealth Writers' Prize for Best First Book in Africa 1999. Apart from that, I had previously fell in love with an interview the writer gave to one of my fellow blogger, which encouraged me to want to read his works, which as well moved me to get in touch with him. His books were in my TBR list for a longtime before I at last purchased one "The Clothes of Nakedness", I am glad I did not buy all of them. I can be an impulsive book buyer sometimes!

Mystique Mysterious, a stranger finds a job for Bukhari on the condition that he would  receive fifteen to twenty percent of his monthly salary. Bukhari, finding out last minute did not object. Not only that, this stranger also persuaded him to be unfaithful to his wife, persuaded him to stay out late and drink, persuaded him to squander his money and pay little or no attention to his wife and son. I wonder why Bukhari should give in to such persuasiveness. It goes with out saying that it is the beginning of his downfall. Though, the whole incident is so surreal to me.

In my opinion, this novel leaves a lot to be desired. Perhaps, it's just me. I read a lot and have suddenly started expecting more from writers. Which does not mean that I need a novel to be read along with a dictionary. I simply take two things into consideration; storyline and narrative. It might seem simple, however, it is not a task many writers seem to accomplish. How strong is your storyline and how well can you put it into writing engagingly? I think that is what make up an interesting read and as a matter of fact, also make a distinguished writer.

Back to my review of The Clothes of Nakedness, the book was well written, however the storyline was flimsy. The writer created characters that accepted without question whatever that is thrown onto them however implausible it may seem. I know it is fiction, nevertheless, I believe there should be a certain amount of realism in the story being told.

The Rape Of Sita, 1993, Lindsey Collen ****

Evidently, this novel narrates on the "Rape of Sita"; however it is not just the "Rape of Sita" per se. It is also, essentially, about the oppression of the Mauritians during the British colonization.
A story about the struggle of generations of Mauritians to regain their freedom and peace of mind from the scourge of colonization. Sita was one woman determined to be part of that history. Although, she was raped by a family friend under weird circumstances. The story is mainly based on how she moved along without doubting her own integrity. How she survived such terrible experience in a society where everyone else is mentally raped.
"The Rape of Sita"  was told through the voice of a male character, who knows Sita so well; I assume, since he narrated on the incident in detail. Though, he was not involved in committing the offense. Additionally, he tends to address the reader directly, which could be a pet hate.
"Here is the first dilemma, dear reader. Should she have gone to the Seychelles at all? Can a person know what will happen as a result of this decision to go to a conference?"
I guess readers should have the liberty to reach their own conclusion without being constantly asked to take a minute to reflect on a particular issue. Again, I am sure the writer purposely wanted to narrate her story that way. Apart from that, it is a novel poetically and beautifully written, no gory details of the horrific event. I recommend.
I came across it because it is part of my Commonwealth Writers Prize for Africa Region Winners Reading Challenge. It won the 1994 Commonwealth Writers' Prize: Best Book, Africa. And I must say that it deserves the Prize. First novel ever read set in Mauritius.
Linsey Collen, born in South Africa is known as a Mauritian novelist whose works have twice won the Commonwealth Writers Prize as Best Book Africa.

Furthermore, another novel I have read that primarily narrates on rape is Lucky by Alice Sebold, a non-fiction. Quite a troubling read, indeed. However, rape in "The Rape of Sita" was approached in a totally different way.
Finally, I'd recommend you read A Rant on Misrepresentation of Rape in Literature by Amy on Amy Reads, one blogger, whose posts I follow often. Though, I must say that "The Rape of Sita" do not belong to any of the three categories mentioned in the post.

Please, let me know your thoughts if you've read this novel.

Sunday, 19 April 2015

My Friend Matt and Hena The Whore, 1988, Adam Zameenzad ****

One peculiar fiction written through the voice and eyes of a ten year old. Peculiar, because the young lad narrates on such a devastating war in his country and still makes you laugh.
My Friend Matt and Hena the Whore is set in a fictitious country in Africa. Matt, Golam, Hena and Kimo the narrator are childhood friends, all under the age of ten. Funny, witty, inventive and resourceful, always on the watch to lend a hand. When civil war erupted, they volunteered to leave their village in order to provide for their families and villagers. They never knew it was the beginning of their misfortune.  Now,  this is not like Say You're One of Them by Uwem Akpan that was so uncomfortable to read due to the constant blatant "poverty porn" as one of my friends (whom I agree with) puts it. Kimo, the narrator is extremely honest in his narrative, his childhood manners always present in the way he talks. The author did a wonderful job.

In the quote below, Kimo still did not understand that Pasadena, California, USA is a place that exists on earth and not a type of hell. Throughout the novel he was very adamant about not wanting himself nor his loved ones to go there after death.
I wonder if he is right that the Spirit of Grandma will be lost in "eternal darkness", or go to "Hell", or worst of all, to Pasadena, California, USA. That's where the missionary bloke had run out from, and where he said was "rife with carnal sin and mortal evil".
In a different situation an adult was trying to make sense with a pointless debate. Talk about the pot calling kettle black.
He says Jak oughtn't to mind much as it isn't his money anyway. it is part of the money which some countries send to our country to help our people, but which never gets to our people. It is used by people like Jak and the Government for buying guns and bullets and bombs and fighter planes to keep the people down. Instead of feeding them, as it is meant to do. So the people have  a right to it. We ask him what they'll be doing with the money. He says they'll be buying guns and bullets and bombs and fighter planes to fight the Government. 
Adam Zameenzad, the author is herein addressing the consequences of ruthless and senseless war through the eyes and voice of a child and still makes you laugh. Children who refuse to loose their innocence even when the war in their country was at full blast with the shootings, bombings, famine, abuse and death of their loved ones. In the dedication Adam writes:
In the hope that at some stage in the life of this planet no man or woman will have to experience the shame of writing another book like this one again.

I highly recommend.

My copy of this novel was published by Fourth Estate Limited in Great Britain. 218 pages.

Sunday, 12 April 2015

Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight, 2001, Alexandra Fuller *****

This book was about to be discarded before I rescued it from the rubbish bin. I kept it on my shelf for years, gathering dust, not sure if to read or not to read. That was the question. I finally read it and regretted why I did not do so for so long.
Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight is too real to be true, a larger than life non-fiction that narrates on the childhood and growing up of Alexandra Fuller in the southern part of Africa. Her parents participated in the Rhodesian war, a fail attempt to establish the white supremacy. Having lost the war, they moved to Malawi and then to Zambia where they finally "settled". Her parents were reckless and racists who wallow in their ignorance. I am not surprised that her mother at some point ended up with a nervous breakdown, stark raving mad.

Nevertheless, this is a memoir that I highly enjoyed, Alexandra Fuller was blunt and true to her self and her readers in narrating her memoir. I might not like some of the stories narrated therein, but it is her story not mine. It was an amazing read, extraordinary and striking. I had this desire to read on and non stop. It kept me on the edge of my seat. Incredibly moving. I highly recommend, 5 star read. I would also strongly recommend Zenzele: A Letter For My Daughter right after reading this non-fiction. Both were set in Zimbabwe.

Don't Let's go to the Dogs Tonight was nominated for the Guardian First Book Award 2002, won Winifred Holtby Memorial Prize and the Book Sense Book of the Year  for Adult non-fiction 2003  (previously known as American Booksellers Book Of The Year Award and now know as Indies Choice Book Award), A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini also won Book Sense Book of the Year Award for Adult Fiction (2008). 

My copy of this book was published by Random House Paperbacks New York, 315 pages.

Sunday, 22 March 2015

2015 Winter Read Progress (WRP)

Even though, this is not the first time I use seasons to classify my posts, I am sure more than one person have asked why do I use European climate changes to classify my (African) readings. It is because I live in Barcelona, and weather temperature determines our everyday activity. Unlike in Nigeria, where we only have two major seasons; rainy and dry seasons. Luckily, the weather here isn't as harsh (that is below 0ºC in winter or above 40ºC in summer) as in some cities, towns or villages in the inland of the Peninsula, except for the humidity. You see, the weather means a lot to us living on this side of the world. For instance, when asked about a particular event, generally, the date would come last. When we were planning our wedding, we were like:
yes... after summer, in autumn, hopefully, it won't be too cold, it's a pity we can't honeymoon in Europe, it's autumn and it is not hot enough to wear our swim suit neither can we swim, the sea will be freezing cold. Let's not talk about sunbathing.. well.. then we have to travel to the South Hemisphere..., perhaps a tropical country? Well, it depends on where.....and....how much? What are the requirements? Vaccination.., prophylaxis.., 
That said, below is what I read Winter of 2015, or first trimester of 2015

   

      

                                     

  1. Dew in the Morning by Shimmer Chinodya (Zimbabwe) AWS, fiction
  2. Mating Birds by (late) Lewis Nkosi (South Africa) Apartheid, fiction
  3. A Month and A Day by (late) Ken Saro Wiwa (Nigeria) Niger- Delta, environmental degradation, non-fiction
  4. To My Children's Children, Sindiwe Magona (South Africa) Apartheid, non-fiction
  5. The Boy Who Harnessed The Wind by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer (Malawi) non-fiction
  6. The Purple Violet of Oshaantu by Neshani Andreas (Namibia), domestic violence, fiction, AWS
  7. Don't let's go to the Dogs Tonight, Alexandra Fuller (Zimbabwe) non-fiction
I read a total of around 1500 pages, 7 books, 4 of which are non-fiction (Truth is stranger than fiction). All of the books are set in the Southern part of the African continent, except #3 set in Nigeria. As you can also see, there are 2 addition to my AWS reading challenge.

How was your reading this Winter? or first trimester of the year 2015? What do you plan on reading in Spring (second trimester 2015)? Any reading challenges? Have you read any of the books mentioned above? Do you plan on reading them?

Happy Reads!



Sunday, 15 March 2015

The Purple Violet of Oshaantu, 2001, Neshani Andreas ****

The story of Kauna known as The Purple Violet of Oshaantu,  whose story was narrated through the voice of her best friend Mee Ali.
We called her the purple violet of Oshaantu. She was so delicate and she came when these flowers were in bloom.
Kauna's husband, Shange, is hot tempered and an abuser, he punches his wife like a punchbag and once punched their unborn child out of her womb. More than once he almost sent her to her grave. Upon that he has a mistress down town that the whole villagers were aware of.

This is a novel that I really enjoyed, I like the fact that voice was given to women living in a remote village in Namibia. Also, while reading, I kept on asking myself why anybody would want to stay with a person who uses them as their punchbag? Then I realised that it is a universal problem. Even in the country where I live, according to statistics, around the average of three women per month die in the hands of their partner. Sometimes, it is just PRESSURE, pressure to stay married. SHAME, shame of what people might say (as if your life was their business), shame to be branded a failure, shame to be stigmatised. LACK OF SUPPORT, which could be from family, community, to economic support.

Furthermore, it also annoyed me how some women blamed and slammed Kauna for her husband's behaviour. She was harshly criticised by her fellow women. Even her own mother did not want her to leave her marital home, alleging that she will tarnish the family's reputation. Her father once told her:
Child, don't wait until it is too late, I know your mother wants your marriage to work. But I have seen women who have died in this thing called marriage, or have done things you don't want to hear about. I don't want it to get to this. Don't think of me, or my work. You must do what you think is best for you.
Also, instead of leaving her husband, she started wishing her best friend Mee Ali (the narrator) harm, because she simply thinks that she too supposed to be punched by her husband (isn't that silly?) I love what Mee Ali told her:
Michael (Mee Ali's husband) is a good man, but this has nothing to do with me.... Shange was the man he was and again it had nothing to do with you. Don't take it personally. He would have treated any woman he married in the same way. ... he would have treated me like that too, but not just for so long.... (I would have left him) I want to be a wife, not a punching bag.
This is a novel that has been in my TBR list for a long time, I have so much looked forward to reading it. Nevertheless, I cannot say it was an amazing read (though, I would have loved to), some passages simply did not keep me on the edge of my seat. However, I must say it is an interesting read and I really like it. My first read from Namibia. I highly recommend.

Sunday, 8 March 2015

The Boy Who Harnessed The Wind, 2009, WIlliam Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer ****

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind is one fine book that I strongly recommend. It is the story of William Kamkwamba, born into a rural family that depends absolutely on farming to remain alive. They survived the most devastating Malawian food crisis ever. However, he had to drop out from school, primarily due to lack of food and lack of resources too. In the throes of dearth, William, at the very tender age of fourteen longing to be educated, frequented the village library. From a photograph and a text book he built an electricity producing windmill with recyclable materials and spare parts, most of which he collected from the pile of garbage in his village. Few years later, as luck would have it, through the Malawian Newspaper he was featured in the blogosphere through which he caught the attention of TEDGlobal. And, hence, he gained international fame.

This is one book everyone should read, it is encouraging and inspiring, it should be in the library of very school and should be translated into as many languages as possible. Nothing is impossible, you just have to try. Kudos to Bryan Mealer for doing a wonderful job in reference to the writing of the book. 

I have to admit that I am late in the reading of this non-fiction since its publishing in 2009. It was a phenomenon of a book. A lot has been published about William Kamkwamba, below are some official links.

This book won the German Corine Literature Prize. As I have already said, I highly recommend. Thank you to the MS/HS Library for lending me this book, now I can kindly take it back after having it for so long.

Another inspirational non-fiction from Malawi is I Will Try by Legson Kariya

Sunday, 1 March 2015

To My Children's Children, 1990, Sindiwe Magona ***

To My Children's Children is Sindiwe Magona's autobiography that narrates on her growing up and coming of age in South Africa during apartheid. Written as if she is, precisely, narrating her life story to her children's children. Hence, the title. The book started with:
I was born in the Union of South Africa before Great Britain handed over our land to the Afrikaner;..... Then, we were called Natives by polite white people, and kaffirs by the not polite ones, basking in the impunity they enjoyed before the law
Born in rural South Africa life flowed easily, until death interrupted the rhythm. Curiously, at the same time, the Afrikaners came into power bringing along with them their apartheid government that lasted from 1948 to 1994. In the township, where she and her only brother moved to live with their parents, she started to experience the dire consequences of apartheid. To mention a few, midnight police raid, racial segregation, poverty, movement restriction, uprooting and so on. However, she made it to teaching school and graduated. Her parents and extended relatives were proud of her until she became pregnant out of wedlock for a man who barely could take care of himself. Anyway, which black person could care of themselves with dignity in apartheid South Africa? Since the system reduced them all to working robots with a meagre salary. Poorly surviving with a child, she had two more children, that was when life became unbearable. To make matters worse, her "husband" abandoned her with three children. Very young and jobless, she resorted to working as a housemaid for the privileged whites, in my opinion, which inspired her to write her second novel Living, Loving and Lying Awake at Night.

Interesting autobiography, the middle not so much, which almost made me abandon. The writing is sometimes, sort of difficult to follow. Though, it shouldn't discourage you from reading the book if you are interested in studying the damages of apartheid and the coming of age of a black woman in its system. By the way, I found out that "Forced to Grow" by same author is a sequence to this autobiography. Which, I hope to read. I look forward to finding out how she finally survived.

My version of the novel is the one published by the Women's Press Ltd, 1991.

Sunday, 22 February 2015

A Month and a Day: A Detention Diary, 1995, Ken Saro-Wiwa ****

A Month and a Day is a non-fiction that narrates on Ken Saro-Wiwa's illegal detention in 1994. Though, he was released, however, he was detained again in 1995 and was executed by the Nigerian military dictatorship.
Ken Saro-Wiwa was a Nigerian writer and television producer, however, he was famously known as the founder of the MOSOP (Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People). A social non-violent movement created to give voice to the Ogoni people whose environment has been completely devastated by the oil companies (notably Shell and Chevron) mining in their land.
And all this happening to a people whose home is one of the richest in Africa. Over the past thirty-two years Ogoni has offered Nigeria an estimated US thirty billion dollars and received NOTHING in return, except a blighted countryside, and atmosphere full of carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide and hydrocarbons; a land in which wildlife is unknown; a land of polluted streams and creeks, of rivers without fish, a land which is, in every sense of the term, an ecological disaster. High-pressure oil pipelines crisscross the surface of Ogoni farmlands and villages dangerously. This is not acceptable.
Oil pollution is a great menace to the Nigerian environment. I wish to warn that the harm being done to the environment of the Niger River delta must be ameliorated by the oil companies which prospect for oil there; the degradation of the ecosystem must end and the dehumanisation of the inhabitants of the areas must cease and restitution be made for past wrong.
We cannot sit idly by while we are, as a people, dehumanised and slowly exterminated and driven to extinction even as our rich resourced are syphoned off to the exclusive comfort and improvement of other Nigerian communities, and the shareholders of multinational oil companies namely Shell (Dutch/British) and Chevron (American).
Needless to say that the Nigerian military dictatorship under Babangida wanted his head on a plate. Unfortunately, they succeeded.
So today, I re-dedicate myself to what has always been my primary concern as a man and a writer: the development of a stable, modern Nigerian which embraces civilised values; a Nigeria where no ethnic group or individual is oppressed, a democratic nation where minority rights are protected, education is a right, freedom of speech and association are guaranteed, and where merit and competence are held as beacons. Convinced that most Nigerians share this concern, I will stand for it at all times and in all places.
This book provides an interesting insight into the creation and development of MOSOP, along with a good understanding of the structure of the Nigerian government of that time. It mentioned the names of some people I already know, for instance Chinua Achebe, Wole Soyinka and even Late Festus Iyayi whose death I announced some weeks ago. Click here. He was also a threat to the system and they wanted his head too. Sadly, they ended up getting it by accident.
Festus Iyayi, an award-winning Nigerian novelist, had lived in it (detention room) in 1987 or thereabouts and had written about it in a Nigerian magazine. The journalist said he had been held in custody for a month. He had not been told what crime he had committed. Neither did his colleagues and employers know that he been held. He was also involved in labour unions and recently in the campaign for Democracy organisation.
I really liked this book, it was enlightening,  insightful and educational indeed. I highly recommend especially if you are interested in social movements, conflict in the Niger Delta and would like to know more about the MOSOP. Another novel that narrates on the consequences of the environmental degradation in the Niger-Delta is Tiny Sunbirds Far Away by Christie Watson

Monday, 16 February 2015

Mating Birds, 1986, Lewis Nkosi ****

Mating Birds is a fine poetical writing that narrates on one of the many crimes of apartheid. To start with, the writer's dedication melted my heart:
For my grandmother, Esther Makatini, who washed white people's clothes so that I could learn to write
In form of a diary, a black man on death row for allegedly raping a white woman during apartheid narrates his ordeal. Like a showcase, he is displayed to anyone who wanted to know more about him. Most especially, to know what demons impulsed him to even dare think of a sexual experience with a woman of a "superior race". That is how he drew the attention of  Dr. Emile Dufré, a Swiss-German doctor that flew all the way from Europe to inquire about what in his back-ground might have triggered such "reaction". Hence, began his need to keep a diary.
The saddest part of the story is that he is assumed guilty and declared mentally unstable without prior investigation. Everyone (he and the black South Africans) knew that his trial was more of a circus before the slaughter though, none of them was surprise:
Why believe the word of the girl against mine, for example? Except for the whiteness of her skin, a color that has caused more trouble and unhappiness in the world than the color of any other skin, what particular claim to virtue can this girl be supposed to have?
He did not hesitate to narrate on his childhood and the consequences of apartheid that led to the death of his father. And in my opinion that also led to his obsession for Vanessa Slater (the girl he allegedly raped):
I dreamed of her, and in my dreams I touched her soft skin and smooth hair. (In reality, as I was later to find out, the skin was neither so soft nor the hair so smooth as I had at first imagined.) All the same, the girl eventually became a kind of sickness for me
Both individuals were simply obsessed with each other, and apartheid fuelled their obsession.
That is how it was between Veronica and me. Apartheid? We had defeated apartheid. We had finally perfected a method of making love without even making contact, utilizing empty space like two telepathic media exchanging telegraphic messages through sexual airwaves.
I enjoyed reading this novel. I reached my conclusion; Veronica Slater is no saint, she enjoys prodigious lovemaking. She is frantic and frenzy in sexual practices that led to her participation in orgies (I am in no way saying that she deserves to be submitted to sexual intercourse against her will). Nevertheless, she is not a victim as the apartheid society wants to make one believe. Instead, she is another excuse to justify the hideous crime and conspiracy of the apartheid government to get rid of yet another black fellow. A way of oppression, repression and social brutality against a particular group of people, their only aim being to eliminate them.
No, I'll die of a vaster, deeper, more cruel conspiracy by the ruler of my country who have made a certain knowledge between persons of different races not only impossible to achieve but positively dangerous even to attempt to acquire. They have made contact between the races a cause for profoundest alarm among white citizens.
I highly recommend, though it is loaded with sexual connotations. An adult read. Lewis Nkois was born 5th of December 1936 and died 5th of September 2010. I look forward to reading more of his novels. My version of the novel is the one published by St. Martin's Press New York, the first published in 1986.

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