Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Obituary for the Sultan of Sokoto and A History of Air Crashes in Nigeria

Here is an obituary for Alhaji Muhammadu Maccido, the 19th Sultan of Sokoto


An unbearably long list of air crashes in Nigeria.

It's unbearable to think too much about this. So, I continue on with what I have to do, and read articles about other things, like the K-boys, a Hausa hip-hip group. But, when my mind comes to rest on the crash, when I think of R's mother, who only last year was planning R and B's wedding, stopping over at my professor's house to ask where he had his furniture made because she wanted to copy the style for their new house, when I think of R's little sister, listed on the airline manifest as "infant," (and the manifest was how I first knew that they had been on the flight--before I checked my email and found my professor's email), when I think of the kind and stately Sultan who graciously welcomed my German classmate and I (when his research assistant said we must go see the Sultan before we left Sokoto) and his son and his grandson dying altogether, and when I read this sentence from the Vanguard article again: "Also killed were outspoken Senator, Alhaji Sule Yari Gandi, his wife and mother, four children of the same parents just named Abdurahman aged 5, 6, 8, and 11 respectively...." it's too much, it's just too much.

I try to imagine Sokoto right now, as it is, in mourning. The rains must have stopped by now. It must be turning brown already.

Outside my window, golden leaves flutter in the sunlight. The sky is bright, bright blue like that September morning 5 years ago when I stood on the pier watching silver towers collapse into dust. This weekend I felt like I was living in a yellow cloud. I felt light and happy.

This keeps happening, and happening, and happening. It's neverending. Oh God, how can we stand it?

Monday, October 30, 2006

Article from Vanguard: 96 die in plane, 7 farmers die in field, Article with Manifest

I just found out my friend's mother was on the plane. Innalillahi wa inna ilaihirraji'un, Lahaula walak'uwata illa billahil aliyul azim. Wordless, I mouth the words one must say: Allah ya jikanta. Allah ya sa ta huta. Allah ya kai rahama ka kabarinta. Allah ya ba mu hakuri. Amin.

Sultan, Dep Gov, 96 Die in ADC Plane Crash Vanguard (Lagos) NEWS
October 30, 2006
Posted to the web October 30, 2006
By Kenneth Ehigiator, Rotimi Ajayi & Kingsley OmonobiAbuja
IT was yet another black Sunday in Nigeria yesterday after a Boeing 737-2B7 crashed at the Nnamdi Azikiwe Airport, Abuja just moments after take off, killing 98 people on board including the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Muhammadu Maccido, and his Senator son, Alhaji Badamasi Maccido as well as Sokoto Deputy Governor, Alhaji Garba Muhammed.
Indeed, three generations of the Maccidos died in the crash as it also claimed Senator Maccido's son, Umar.
Also killed were outspoken Senator, Alhaji Sule Yari Gandi, his wife and mother, four children of the same parents just named Abdurahman aged 5, 6, 8, and 11 respectively and two high ranking Sokoto title holders-- Alhaji Ahmed Danbaba (Magajin Yari Sokoto) and Alhaji Bello Sule (Magajin Safin Sokoto)-- and the state Education Commissioner.
The Sultan who was buried last night, the Deputy Governor and the Commissioner had gone to Abuja to participate in the Presidential Forum on Education. He was buried last night according to Islamic rites.
There were seven survivors, three of whom were daughters of Governor Ibrahim Idris of Kogi State. Seven farmers who were tending their farms were also killed when the plane crashed on them.
The 23-year-old aircraft took off from Lagos for Sokoto via Abuja, and was on the last lap of the journey when the accident occurred. The aircraft, with registration number 5N-BFK, came down at Tunda Madaki Village, close to the airport, just two kilometres into take off at 11:30 a.m.
Although the cause of the crash was not immediately known, Managing Director of Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA), Capt. Roland Iyayi, told Vanguard that the pilot ran into a thunderstorm on take off.
Vanguard gathered that because the aircraft had three and a half hours fuel endurance, the impact of the thunderstorm ignited fire which made it burst into flames.
The Director-General of the regulatory agency, the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Dr. Harold Demuren, who was on his way to Abuja, cautioned against speculations concerning the cause of the crash.
The Opebi, Ikeja, head office of ADC Airlines looked desolate yesterday, as the staff on duty were yet to recover from the shock caused by the crash.
Spokesperson for the airline, Mrs. Ngozi Wellington, said the crash came as a rude shock, saying the airline was just trying to consolidate. "We had an accident in Abuja this morning. I don't have all the facts yet, but as soon as we have them I shall relay them to you. I must be frank with you, we didn't expect this at all. I'm yet to recover from the shock caused by this crash," she told newsmen.
In a terse statement last night, the company said: "The management of Aviation Development Company Plc regrets to announce the involvement of one of its aircraft in an air accident today, Sunday, October 29, 2006.
"The Sokoto bound Boeing 737 aircraft took off from Abuja at about 11.30 a.m. with 100 passengers and five crew members on board. Attached is the passenger manifest.
"Management commiserates with the families of the bereaved and would release more information."
Search and rescue began in earnest under the supervision of aviation parastatal chiefs, led by the NCAA Director-General.
Family members besiege ADC counter
Meanwhile, families of passengers on board the aircraft besieged ADC Airlines' counter at the Murtala Mohammed Airport, asking for passenger manifest.
The situation at the counter almost got out of control owing to the inability of officials of the airline to convince them that the manifest would be made public as soon as the relevant authorities gave the approval.
Statistics released by the regulatory agency showed that the ill-fated aircraft was airworthy, as it was not due for C-Checks until January 30, 2007.

For the rest of the article and the manifest of passengers at the end of this article.

And, of course, the title of the AOL headline is "Pilot Ignored Storm Warning." So, is it that the Western media can't just highlight the tragic nature of the event, they must also immediately imply incompetence right from the title?

Sunday, October 29, 2006

ADC plane crash in Abuja on the way to Sokoto

Very, very upsetting news. I am terrified that someone I know was on that flight, as several of my friends travel regularly between Sokoto and Abuja. I met the Sultan of Sokoto, the spiritual leader of Islam in Nigeria, once. He was a very kind and measured man, who has a reputation for great wisdom. He took steps for peacemaking between Muslims an Christians, made statements about the need for HIV education, etc. This is a great loss.

Nigerian plane crash kills 100
Sun Oct 29, 2006 7:40 PM GMT

By Estelle Shirbon

ABUJA (Reuters) - A Nigerian passenger jet crashed shortly after takeoff from the capital Abuja on Sunday, killing about 100 people including the leader of the nation's 70 million Muslims.

An ADC Airlines official said 105 people were on board the Boeing 737 flight to the northern city of Sokoto when it ploughed into a corn field about 2 km (1 mile) from the runway.

No more than five people survived the crash, Nigeria's third major aviation disaster in just over a year.

A Reuters correspondent saw burnt bodies, some missing limbs or heads, being loaded onto trucks from the smouldering remains of the fuselage.

Only the plane's tail, an engine and part of a wing were still recognisable at the crash site, an area the size of a football field littered with body parts, smouldering fires, clothes, boxes and bags.

"The smell is something you don't want to remember," said Steve Noble, a British diplomat at the scene.

Ibrahim Muhammadu, the leader of the Muslim community, about half of Africa's most populous nation, was among the dead.

"The plane crash that happened in Abuja led to the death of our beloved Sultan ... among about 100 people," the governor of Sokoto state, Attahiru Bafarawa, told reporters.

Bafarawa declared six days of mourning for Maccido.

Maccido, who as Sultan of Sokoto was also the top traditional ruler of northern Nigeria, helped to curb religious bloodshed in the central state of Plateau in 2004.


Five possible survivors were rushed to a hospital in Abuja. Two were in critical condition, an ambulance driver said.

The minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Nasir el-Rufai, said the crash took place in bad weather but added that only a detailed investigation could determine the cause.

ADC is a popular domestic airline with an ageing fleet of Boeing jets.

It was the fourth significant air crash in Nigeria in just over a year.

(for the rest of the article, see here.)

Update: 5:05pm. Now the news is that there are 7 survivors, 99 dead. Here is a link to some photos.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

translating a novel on Halloween

I spent a cozy night at home tonight. Thinking of my grandmother, I made chicken n'dumplings (yum... am I obsessed with food this week?--I think it's the body's way of padding up for the winter), and then drank cup after cup of roibus tea as I attempt to translate flirting from Hausa to English for this novel I am translating. In the midst of trying to make sense of several proverbs, which I am not yet fluent enough in Hausa to immediately understand, I hear a tapping at the kitchen door and then find myself being peered at through a monocle. Until this instant, I had forgotten that this is Halloween weekend (the biggest event of the year in this town) and that I am being solitary and alone, when everyone else is dressed up and out on the town. So, I share a few laughs with the slightly snobbish Victorian gentleman, who fancies himself an art connoisseur, that is my roommate's boyfriend. (He's really into the part). I am in awe of how I wouldn't have recognized him had I not known it was him, and I wonder if I could pass for a Victorian gentleman if I put on a wig and a moustache. For a while my senior year of college, I was fascinated with Twelfth Night and how crossdressing complicates gender roles. In my playwriting class I wrote a play dealing with the theme. I am proud that it was chosen along with one other play from the class for a staged reading because now when I re-read it, I know that it is sentimental and over-wrought, and that I couldn't do anything with it now. I'm glad it had its day.

After my roomate, in medieval garb, finishes fixing her hair, they head off to a party. And I, who love to dress up, settle myself back down at the kitchen table with a dictionary and my rough handwritten translation and try to imagine that I am writing this novel and that the conversation is flowing naturally in English. This is who I am for Halloween: a great translator, wearing a frightening 50c black Walgreens wig. I dump it after about 3 minutes when the polyester strands of hair start shedding all over the table.

I eat two pieces of toast with cherry preserves and drink some more tea. It's cozy to be inside. It's nice to be a Great Translator.

Language, Gender, and the Media

Just browsing the news. News, which of course, is biased from the selection of what makes headlines, how the news is presented etc. I was struck by several paragraphs from an article about the man, D. Rolling, who was just executed in Shreveport, Louisiana, (not too far from my Dad's family home) and confessed to three other murders before he was led off to execution.

I could make this a post about execution and the morality or immorality of it. That might be appropriate, considering I just saw the most amazing South African film, Forgiveness, a fictional piece about the ambiguities left behind South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and the complex desire for forgiveness and revenge that the charachters exhibit.

But I'm not going to make this post about the death penalty, about revenge or about forgiveness, I am going to make it about language.

Several things jumped out at me in this article. First, I was struck that the language in the note left behind by Rolling was very similar to the language in my grandmother's 6 self-published (Holiness) Christian novels about sin and redemption.

Here is what part of the note said: "I, and I alone am guilty," said the one-page note. "It was my hand that took those precious lights out of this ole dark world. With all my heart & soul would I could bring them back."

It is not surprising how similar the language is, considering Shreveport is only about 45 minutes away from the little town near Alexandria, Louisiana, where my grandmother lives and writes. I could write more on this, but I don't have my grandmother's novels handy. (Because of my constantly overflowing bookshelves and my very small room, they are down in the basement.)[Oh how fascinating, I just did a google search for my grandmother and found one of her poems: see page 17 and 18 of this pdf document http://wesley.nnu.edu/wesleyctr/books/1601-1700/HDM1653.PDF --This is for another post, but I was for years terrorized by my grandmother's outrageously strict beliefs--now I feel very tender (although still not in agreeance)about them.]

The other kind of language I noticed in this article was that of the journalist:
"Police have long suspected that Rolling stabbed 55-year-old William T. Grissom, his 24-year-old daughter Julie and 8-year-old grandson Sean as they got ready for dinner on Nov. 4, 1989, in Grissom's home."

I was struck by the choice of who to describe in relation to other people. Here Julie, Sean, are defined in relation to William T. Grissom.

The journalist could also have framed it "Police have long suspected that Rolling stabbed 24-year old Julie [rest of name], her 55-year-old father William T. Grissom, and her 8-year old son/nephew, Sean [rest of name]."


"Police have long suspected that Rolling stabbed 8-year-old Sean [rest of name], his 24-year-old mother/aunt Julie [rest of name], and his 55-year old grandfather William T. Grissom."

Depending on which victim is priviliged, it gives a subtly different tone to the statement.

I'm not going to give a long editorial on this, just observe how language once again deconstructs itself.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

off to New York, wheee...

I just bought a ticket to New York for Thanksgiving. It involves leaving on Tuesday and skipping a late night Wednesday seminar that I already missed once last week, when I went to my old alma mater to pick up an alumni award.

It also involves travelling only a day after getting back from the ASA conference in San Francisco.

I must be insane. I have six projects due by the end of the semester: two of them due a week after thanksgiving. Two of them due a week before.

But the price was so good--crazily good for around Thanksgiving time... and I was able to use a $75 certificate from Continental, which I got last week when my flight was delayed for 5 hours making me get in at 12:30pm, making the price even better. Plus, for some reason, it was about $200 cheaper to fly out of Milwaukee but BACK into my city. How convenient is that!?

And whenever I choose not to go away for Thanksgiving I regret it. Ok, well, I've only not gone once--last year--and I regretted it, because I didn't get that much work done, and although my sweet friends invited me over to their house for thanksgiving dinner and that was nice, I missed being with Ruth and "AWAY" for Thanksgiving. Thus I justify my madness.

So, I'm going. I shan't look back. I will just get that work done on the airplane. And I will stop procrastinating right now and try to write up an outline for my seminar paper before I go to bed.

Yes, I shall.

Egg drop soup

Here is my latest favourite light and fast-to-make Fall soup. the trick is lots and lots of green onions. Yum... (Also, it's ok if you leave out the chicken, which I did today). I have no idea if this would be "authentically" "Chinese-style" as the cookbook claims. I imagine that "Chinese-style" would include a great deal of variation, and likely ingrediants I wouldn't have immediately on hand, but anyway, it's good.

This is lifted from the The Encyclopedia of Creative Cooking. Ed. Charlotte Turgeon. (New York: Weathervane Books, 1985). p. 621.

chicken soup chinese-style

4 or 5 spring onions
5 cups strongly flavored clear Basic Chicken Stock...
6 small mushrooms, finely sliced
2 cups shredded white chicken meat
2 beaten eggs
Salt and pepper
2 to 3 teaspoons soy sauce

Finely slice white part of onions; reserve green parts for garnish.

Heat stock until boiling. Add mushrooms and onions; cook 2 to 3 minutes. Add chicken.

Beat eggs with a little salt and pepper until frothy.

Stir soup well. Pour eggs steadily into soup, stirring constantly, so that it remains in shreds. Let cook a minute or two to set egg. Add soy sauce to taste. Serve in soup bowls; sprinkle with finely chopped green parts of spring onions. Yield 4 to 6 servings.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Sunday, October 15, 2006

spending the day with Ngugi

Oh my, there's more on the Madonna case (the father of the child is saying he originally had not planned to give up his child permanently, but had taken him to the orphanage so he could get better health care. According to the article, when he heard that someone from America wanted to adopt him, he thought the sacrifice would be worth the opportunity for his son. Apparently, initially, he did not know who Madonna was--just that she was a "good Christian lady from America"... (Update 16 Oct 06: Now apparently some private jet has taken off with the child right before the Child right's organization could file for an injunction: this is becoming more and more like a bad movie--an adoption turned kidnapping--and Madonna is getting away with it because she is a rich Western celebrity.)

There's also more on Jos.

But, what I opened this blog to do was to crow a bit about spending the entire day with Ngugi wa Thiong'o today.(Eat your hearts out... {-;) He is in town for almost a week here at the university. I'm good friends with his son Mukoma, who is here in the English PhD programme, and he invited me to go along with them to Milwaukee, where Ngugi had a TV interview and a reading/lecture/book signing. I had met Ngugi three years ago when he came to campus for the Towards an Africa Without Borders Conference that we organized, but at that time I didn't have time (and was a bit too shy) to spend much time with him without being just part of the rest of the crowd. I felt really priviliged to be part of the "entourage" (!) today, along with one of my favourite professors from Languages and Cultures of Asia, who drove us (it was a treat to spend a whole day with him too); Mukoma; his dad; and another one of Mukoma's friends who graduated with a PhD in history from here a few years ago and now has a position on the east coast.

I'll try to write more about it later. It's funny how my thoughts on African writing and language issues have revolved 180 degrees from when I first started thinking about them. 7 or 6 years ago, I was very much in the Achebe camp--(of course that's oversimplifying a bit because Achebe also occasionally writes in Igbo--so it's not really a binary issue)--that African writers should write in English because they will "reach a wider audience." Now, although I certainly don't have a problem with African writers writing in English [indeed, i think some amazing work is currently being written in English: Habila, Adichie, etc.), I also think that Ngugi's passion for writing in Gikuyu and for championing writing and translation in African languages is very important and that literature written in African languages does capture a certain something that English does not. (Of course, as I think about translation issues, I look at writers like Achebe to see how they "translated" thought into English--the use of proverbs etc--as an example of what a translator should do with code-switching, proverbs, etc. in an original language.)

It was really amazing to get to spend time with a literary icon, and not only hear him speak formally about his work, but also get to participate in road-trip car talk and see him in the intimate setting of being a very, very proud father. (Mukoma is definitely following in his father's footsteps, with two books already to his name: Conversing with Africa: Politics of Change (a nonfiction book of political theory) and Hurling Words at Consciousness (poetry.) I've also read and commented on a draft of his novel, which is currently with an agent. And to pretend to be a "real" reviewer for a minute, it is a "remarkable first novel," which I think will recieve much favourable attention once it is published. Ngugi Sr. bragged from the podium about a review that had been written about Mukoma's poetry, quoting it as saying something like "Ngugi Sr. step aside. The new generation has come to take its place" (or something like that.)

Anyway, I need to go to bed, but I'm glad I went. And I'm looking forward to more Ngugi events tomorrow. Maybe tomorrow, I will actually ask if he can autograph my tome-ish (800+ page) Wizard of the Crow and take a photo with me. I'm not sure why I'm so shy about doing that sort of thing. Since yesterday evening, I have taken plenty of pictures of him with other people--but haven't stepped in front of the camera myself.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

More violence in Jos

Just saw this. Apparently there were political clashes in Jos yesterday, having to do with the attempt to impeach our exeedingly brilliant and most competent governor, Joshua Dariye..... I have not heard from my parents since then. I hope everyone is ok....

How would you like this to be your epitaph?

This blurb came up on my headline alerts on my homepage. How's that for an epitaph?

Former Rep. Gerry Studds dies in Boston Reuters - 1 hour agoWASHINGTON (Reuters) - Former US Rep. Gerry Studds, a Massachusetts Democrat who was censured in 1983 for having a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old congressional intern, died on Saturday at Boston Medical Center, an official said.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Malawian Eye of the Child Advocates Protest Madonna's Adoption attempt

Well, there we go. It made the BBC headlines. It's apparently true that she's trying to adopt, and there are are other people bothered by it. There are many layers of irony in this case, but I do not have the time to try to pick it all apart right now. Let the link suffice.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Material Mom picks up the latest fashion in African accessories...

Ok, I should really be in bed by now but I saw this headline about Madonna adopting a Malawian child as I was shutting down my computer. (see article at bottom of post)

I probably shouldn't open this can of worms, because I realize that adoption is a valuable blessing to many children who would otherwise be raised in orphanages or in unsettled foster homes. Adoption is also a great blessing to the adoptive families. For example, when Tass joined our family about four years ago, although not through any kind of formal adoptive process, it was not something our family had really ever thought about until the situation came up, but it was such an unexpected joy to have a new teenage sister, who brought new perspectives and sensitivities to our lives. So, from very close and personal experience, I don't think there is anything wrong with adopting, fostering, or raising a child, even a child that still has a living parent. In fact, it is generally a very good thing for all parties involved. But there seems to be a difference in adopting or fostering a child in a community in which that child already lives and swooping in with great fanfare and seperating a child completely from any kind of like-kinded community.

My main question, I suppose is WHY exactly is "adopting Africa" suddenly a big celebrity fad? And why exactly is Madonna adopting a child who has a living parent? As well intentioned as many of these celebrities are (and I don't doubt that they do a certain amount of good), this whole act of "adopting a country," as I read in an earlier article today about Madonna's visit to Africa, is so hugely patronizing. I'm sure that this child will be pampered and privileged and will grow up with every material want that his material mom can provide him with. But does community, rootedness in a family and culture mean nothing? Are poor people lacking in humanity? Must children be "rescued" from Africa? If Madonna really cares, why doesn't she provide this baby's family with some sort of yearly stipend that will enable him to grow up in the community in which he was born--especially since he still has a living parent--and provide him with a educational scholarship when he grows old enough, to ensure that he has a good chance in life, while remaining close to his roots? Perhaps she could become an honourary "fairy godmother," since she, unlike many good folk who adopt from Africa etc, could actually afford to do so. (And please note that I am not trying to condemn every single family who adopts internationally. I know quite a few lovely families who have done so, and I admire how they are raising their children). But why this sudden urge to accesorize with African children?

Maybe, I'm being unrealistic and overly judgmental. I feel the tensions of being a cynical scrooge about the warm fuzzies of a baby "finding a family." But there seems to be something fundamentally wrong with all this--related to the "Save a child" advert with the naked celebrities decorated with slashes of paint and "African" jewelry saying "I am African." This is not a game. This is not a fashion statement. People actually live here and raise families here and write poetry and novels and, yes, create music and films in these African countries. Life is often hard. People are often poor. Governments are often injust. Children don't always have good access to health care or education. Steps do need to be taken to correct global inequalities created by the historical processes of slavery and colonialism, which so violently disrupted and derailed certain forms of African political and social development. But for the most privileged of the earth to think that they can just swoop down and start speaking for the "wretched of the earth" (and although life is often hard, it's not always wretched)....

Maybe THAT'S it, and what also bothered me so much about the "I am African" adverts--it's the presumption of SPEAKING for a whole CONTINENT, for assuming that for some reason because you happen to have a famous face in America that suddenly, you know how to solve all the world's problems, and that you will start by showing how much of a difference you can make by raising an African child into a being so much more sophisticated and advanced than he would be if he stayed in the dark and suffering continent.... Madonna's nannies will, no doubt, do a stellar job.

Anyway, it's late, and I should have been in bed several hours ago. I'm never going to get better if I keep doing this. Here's an excerpt from the article about Madonna. arghh. (Of course, it could all be tabloid rumours... but the fact remains that she is roaming about Malawi in a safari hat...)

Madonna adopts African child, says father
Wed Oct 11, 2006 12:21 AM ET
LONDON (Reuters) - Pop star Madonna has adopted a one-year-old African boy, his father claimed, saying he was happy his son would escape a life of poverty in Malawi, British tabloid newspapers reported on Wednesday.
The Sun splashed a picture of the singer dressed in a safari hat and smiling, with a young child it said she had chosen at an orphanage strapped to her back.
Last week, a spokeswoman for Madonna denied comments by officials in the African state that the performer had adopted a child. A spokeswoman in Britain did not immediately return calls for comment on the latest reports.
The Sun and the Daily Mail said Madonna had chosen 13-month-old David Banda, whose mother died of complications after giving birth.
The boy's father, Yohane Banda, 32, was quoted in both newspapers as saying: "I am very happy. As you can see there is poverty in my village."
Banda, who said he could not afford to bring up his son, did not meet Madonna but was told his boy was being adopted by a "famous U.S. musician".

For the rest of this article see http://today.reuters.com/news/articlenews.aspx?type=entertainmentNews&storyid=2006-10-11T042018Z_01_L11681467_RTRUKOC_0_US-MADONNA-MALAWI.xml&src=rss

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Definition of intratextuality from a reliable source?

If anyone comes across this post and knows the answer to this question, could someone enlighten me. I am searching for a definition of "intratextuality" (as opposed to "intertextuality," which I have a pretty good grasp of, at least in terms of having read some good explanations of it in various places.). I believe it means something like the various internal contexts within a single given text and the relationships between them; however, none of my reference books at home mention "intratextuality" as such. And what I'm finding on the internet is listed in the context of various articles or email listserves. I need a slightly more "official" source.

I feel a bit silly posting this. But, oh well.

India's Desai is youngest woman Booker prizewinner

India's Desai is youngest woman Booker prizewinner Entertainment Entertainment News Reuters.com

Monday, October 09, 2006

Using a term wrong, and what determines whether it is "wrong" or not

I'm sitting here doing a project for my research methods class in which we are supposed to find definitions of 50 conceptual terms we will use in our own research, and then rewrite our own definitions of these terms. Although I initially thought it wouldn't be that bad, it is an exceedingly difficult project. A lot of times, I don't really know what a term means precisely, so I look it up and use it with that definition in mind. It's kind of hard to rewrite the definition when I'm only just finding out what it means. But this is an important thing to do as a scholar. So, I just looked up "an" official definition of intertextuality, which I have been using with great abandon in my thesis, and discovered that according to Graham Allen at University College Cork in the (online) Literary Encyclopedia, http://www.litencyc.com/php/stopics.php?rec=true&UID=1229, I have been using the term quite wrong.

Here is part of what he says:
“The fundamental concept of intertextuality is that no text, much as it might like to appear so, is original and unique-in-itself; rather it is a tissue of inevitable, and to an extent unwitting, references to and quotations from other texts. These in turn condition its meaning; the text is an intervention in a cultural system…. [That's all fine, but here's the rub:] [I]ntertextuality should not be, but frequently is, used to refer to literary relations of conscious influence…. Intertextuality should not be, but frequently is, used to refer to the intentional allusion (overt or covert) to, citation or quotation of previous texts in literary texts.” He goes on to say that we need to look at what the post-structuralist theorists like Kristeva and Barthes originally meant to understand how to use the term.

I agree that we should be precise in our definitions, and I wouldn't mind terribly going back and changing my terminology to "allusion" etc., although I'm not quite sure when something in the novel is conscious or unconscious allusion. However, this makes me wonder, how much freedom we have (as graduate students especially) to use a term in the way we want to use it, as long as we qualify this at the beginning, and how much we should try to stick to the definitions given by other people (or the original intentions of the term.) Obviously, words and terms evolve and change meaning; however, I don't want to use that as an excuse for sloppy scholarship. If everyone used words any old way they wanted, then the words would have no meaning (of course, it's ironic that I'm having this dilemma with a word that emerged in post-structuralist theory, since my understanding of post-structualist theory would lead me to believe that this is precisely the problem: definition and meaning is slippery because there is no absolute defining Platonic centre, in which THIS is the meaning and THAT is not). However, in practical terms, and as a graduate student, I realize that sometimes we have to pretend that we mean the same thing, even if we use slightly different words to reach at that meaning.

I suppose I should probably look at a few more definitions before I go chopping it out of my thesis. But I can see why this is a useful project for us to do in our Research methods class.

Graham Allen, University College Cork. “Intertextuality.” The Literary Encyclopedia. 24 Jan. 2005. The Literary Dictionary Company. 9 October 2006. http://www.litencyc.com/php/stopics.php?rec=true&UID=1229 Downloaded 9 October 2006

Saturday, October 07, 2006

"Cyprian Ekwensi at 85" from Daily Champion

Cyprian Ekwensi at 85

Daily Champion
October 4, 2006
Posted to the web October 4, 2006


LAST Tuesday, September 26, one of Nigeria's most profound, versatile, and enduring creative writers marked his 85th birthday.

The birthday was a celebration of a lifetime of excellence not just of literary excellence, but also achievements in areas so crowded that lesser mortal would have found little or no time to think, not to talk of thoughts in writing and book forms.

Between stints as teacher, forester, pharmacist, Board chairmanships, Information, Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria (FRCN) (1961-1967) and Director General of defunct Broadcasting Corporation of 'Biafra' (BCB) (1967-1970), Cyprian Ekwensi found time to publish about 40 books beginning with Ikolo and Wrestler and The Leopard's Claw, both in 1947.

Ekwensi's most memorable output were, of course, the handful of The Passport of Mallam Ilia. The Drummer Boy, An African Night's Entertainment, Burning Grass and the then scandalous Jagua Nana (1961) that chronicled the adventures, schemings and prurience of urban living with the courtesan nicknamed Jagua Nana because of her volumptious, open-air swagger.

Until Jagua Nana, (1961) Nigerian authors, except in Onitsha-market formats had never openly explored the underworld of modern Nigeria and the socio-cultural dynamics that were imperatively shaping our 20th century post-independence behaviours, and the effects of urbanisation. Cyprian Ekwensi brought this sociological awareness to consciousness of his reading public.

Though, most of his more unpopular works were done before the civil war (1967-70) Ekwensi bounced back with other underground gems of stories like the Samankwe series 1973 and 1975. Many more books including Jaguar Nana's Daughter (1985). Remarkably, Ekwensi is still writing, publishing, running things in general, at 85 years young. Friends and well-wishers (including this Newspaper) had gathered last week, almost reverentially, to honour this resolute chronicler who has enriched the collective memories of Nigerians through his selfless, non-hankering writing endeavours.

The composition, and make up of those who gathered from all over Nigeria demonstrated Ekwensi's cultural spread and acknolwedgement. This is not surprising considering the writer's 'triple heritage' of these great Nigerian cultures by birth and association.

Ekwensi was born in Minna, present Niger State in 1921. He attended Government Colleges in Jos (1931-1936) and Ibadan (1936-1941) and then went to Achimota College Ghana in 1943.

Ekwensi later read pharmacy at Yaba College (as it was then called) and University of London between 1951-1956.

In between this training and re-training Ekwensi taught school at Igbobi College Yaba, (1947-51), lectured at the School of Pharmacy in Lagos and a superintendent of Nigeria Medical Services until 1957. From then, Ekwensi was Head of Features, NBC/FRCN till 1967, as first Nigerian Director of Information (FRCN) 1961-1967 when the civil war broke out.

Ekwensi's relevance as a man may well have depended on the books and stories that he wrote. Nevertheless, the author did equally well in his day-life as administrator, informatist, publicist and businessman.

Ekwensi has lived the fruitful, frill-less life of all sages of history who let their actions speak in their honour rather than speak up for themselves.

Cyprian has not gone un-noticed by his country and international community that have bestowed on him certain honours which include the order as Member Federal Republic (MFR) in 2001, and induction into the Nigerian Academy of Arts in 2005.

All the same there are grounds to believe that the exact worth and relevance of this pan-Nigerian writer whose arresting depiction of our various cultural realities, have been under-stated.

There are speculations that a university chair may be established in Ekwensi's honour. This is all very welcome as ways towards the immortalisation of this author that captured the spirit of his times as well as other renowned practitioners of literacy realism.

Which ever way the argument goes, Cyprian Ekwensi's place in the pantheon of writers that have reported the 20th century to Nigerians, is well assured.

While writers like Wole Soyinka, Chinua Achebe, explored in their works the cultural , political and intellectual realities of the past, and future, Ekwensi showed us ourselves in our natural habitats and how they were shaping our sociology in post-colonial Nigeria.

There in lies the ultimate relevance of Ekwensi to our times. For this, we salute this All-Nigerian writer.

We wish Ekwensi many more years of productive life.

Copyright © 2006 Daily Champion. All rights reserved. Distributed by AllAfrica Global Media (allAfrica.com).

Photos from http://www.cirddoc.org/images/cyprian.jpg

Some of Ekwensi's titles:

Thursday, October 05, 2006


Happy. Presented in our departmental graduate student colloquiem today. It was the paper I presented at the conference in Kano, but I am trying to work on it for a symposium in the English Department in two weeks. I love working with film, because when I present on it everyone stays wide awake and laughs and murmurs when I play the film clips (even when the wretched powerpoint projector screws up and goes blank for half of each film clip). It's certainly more entertaining for the audience to get to watch bits and pieces of a film than to hear someone read a paper the whole time. I noticed this positive audience reaction in Kano too; of course, there the laughter and murmuring was much louder and more appreciative. Today, I got some great feedback--plenty to think about. My advisor seemed very interested and offered some good avenues for further research--on music links to C'ote D'ivoire etc. I'm often afraid of him, but he looked as if he were enjoying the presentation and as if he were genuinely interested. I got more of the "fellow-academic" vibe (or at least "advanced student" vibe) than mere lowly "MA student" vibe from him today, which is what I have been working a long time to feel--whether it's all in my imagination or not--it makes me feel better. [I realized recently that the "INFP" personality can be a bit of a drawback in this field; I admit that I am much too sensitive and emotional about some things that are just part of the whole academic process. This is where I need to develop acting skills--be able to "pretend" I don't feel anything for over 40 minutes--right now I can manage about 25 minutes before I know I need to get out or burst into tears] If I can ever get past this MA thesis hurdle, I think I will enjoy working on the whole Hausa film/global influences thing with him.

The only drawback is that I have to cut the presentation to 15 minutes for the symposium in two weeks (it was about 25 minutes today). Everyone offered so many great suggestions, but they will only make it longer. Then the wonderful Prof LH slipped back in after it was all over and I was packing up the powerpoint projector and said "I didn't want to say this during the discussion because you were getting such great content suggestions, but you could cut it down here and here and here and this specific thing and this specific thing might not be necessary for a more general audience." She also said this was about the best presentation she had ever seen me give. I love her!

The new prof. in the department also stayed behind and gave me some good comments, and the oldest (and probably most well known) prof. in the dept. (who had to listen to the presentation in the hallway because he has a big exam tomorrow and scads of students coming to see him about it) called me into his office and gave me some great suggestions for working my ideas on film into a seminar paper for his class this fall.

I'm tired because a lingering illness, but I feel on track and like I'm doing interesting and relevant research. I feel like I'm actually going somewhere. And if this is the best presentation I have given at a GSC so far, it is because I know what I'm talking about, I had some fun visual aids, and I knew how to respond to comments, critiques, and suggestions, even when I wasn't well-read in the specific thing that the person was talking about, because I have so much background in my own area. So, I guess this is how one gradually finds oneself a PhD--not that one is an "expert" in an area, necessarily, but that one seems to know more about it than anyone else in the room. In Kano, of course, I would be the least informed. But that's why I need to just keep going back--so that I can live between and defend my ideas on anyone's turf.

So, NOW, I need to get to work and start trying to cut it back down as LH suggested. I hope I can get it down to 15 minutes...

Monday, October 02, 2006

More on the dam Break in Zamfara from Voice of America

Nigeria Dam Collapse Destroys Hundreds of Homes
By Nico Colombant Dakar02 October 2006

Hundreds of homes have been destroyed in the collapse of a dam in northern Nigeria, but no one is confirmed dead, contradicting earlier reports.
Relief workers gave out water purification tablets in Zamfara state, after floods washed away hundreds of homes and polluted drinking water.
Flood victims sought shelter inside schools, following Saturday's heavy rains, which caused a dam on the outskirts of the state capital, Gusau, to collapse.
State officials contradicted earlier reports from police and witnesses that dozens of people had been killed, saying instead they were missing and most had now been found.
Eric Babajide, a journalist covering the story, says people are still dubious about what really happened.
"I think actually there ...[is] a cover-up because even in the press today all the papers announced it, even yesterday, the same thing," he said. "The governor of that state has already cried for help and this shows really that there is a problem in that state."
There have been other recent incidents in Nigeria in which high-level government officials have initially denied disasters, such as plane crashes, took place or then given completely wrong information about the number of dead.
Babajide says there is general panic over the possible effects of heavy rains in many parts of Nigeria.
"We have a lot of rain everywhere in the country, especially in those areas of the north," he said. "The rain has been very very disturbing and I believe strongly that a lot of damage has been done, not only in Zamfara state, but in the whole north."
Officials say a dam in nearby Sokoto state recently failed to release floodwaters because of a problem with sediment building up.
The government says it contracted a construction firm to look into some of the faulty dams.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Dam Break in Gusau

(Very worried about my friends here... I spent a few nights in Gusau in August)

Homes washed away as dam collapses in Nigeria
Gusau - Floodwaters from a burst reservoir dam in northern Nigeria have made 1 000 families homeless, but about 40 people earlier feared dead have been found alive, the state governor said on Sunday.Local media had reported Zamfara State Governor Ahmed Sani saying that at least 40 people died after heavy rainfall swelled the reservoir to critical levels, causing the dam to collapse and send a barrage of water through villages."All those missing were later found safe and alive," Sani told reporters."We have over 1 000 families affected and property over three billion naira, but there is no loss of life."The reservoir was the main source of drinking water for Zamfara state capital Gusau.

Published on the Web by IOL on 2006-10-01 23:14:05