Friday, August 24, 2007

"The Hotel Malogo" by Helon Habila and other literary stuff

CW, since it has been two weeks since I have posted on HH.... {-;

Helon Habila has published a rather suspenseful short story set in Lagos "The Hotel Malogo" in the Virginia Quarterly Review, Spring 2007 issue. The end reminds me a bit of the ending of the chapter "Angel" in Waiting for an Angel. I LOVE his use of language.

At the moment, I'm preparing a study guide for Tsitsi Dangarembga's Nervous Conditions, for use in the interdisciplinary "Introduction to Africa" course I will be TA-ing for this semester, and I remembered the review I had written of the sequel The Book of Not. Since it is buried in the archives of this blog and I could no longer link to it, I've re-posted it on my "literary blog." It was interesting to re-read Nervous Conditions last night with the developments of The Book of Not in mind.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

This is Kannywood

In light of the recent brouhaha, this series of photos is in honour of Kannywood and the many hardworking and talented actors, directors, script writers, cameramen, makeup artists, costumiers, welfare folks, producers, editors, songwriters, singers, dancers, etc. who have, with very little high tech equipment or funding aside from the mostly Kano market to which they sell, created a thriving film industry.
It was July 2006. We were on the set of Abbas Sadiq's film Albashi 3 in a garden/park in Kano commonly used as a film set. There were three other movies being shot there that day. At one point there was a loud uproar and every one left their scenes and rushed over to a corner of the garden where there was much shouting and trading of insults. What had happened, I was told later, was that some "politicians" had come into the garden trying to "pick up" some of the actresses, who would have nothing to do with them. The "politicians" then started shouting at the male actors and saying that they were all homosexuals--look at how they were shaped like women. One of the older actors, who had been praying in a small mosque in the garden, came out and gave the men a piece of his mind, and then the rest of the actors came rushing over in a mass of solidarity--insulting the "politicians" with great zest. Everyone came back to do the next scene gleefully laughing at particularly sweet insults that had been traded and ranting about hypocrisy and sleazy big men.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

The latest Kannywood scandal

I have refrained from writing about this incident until now because I figured Kannywood was getting enough bad press right now, without me adding to it. But since Hausa video film and gender is my area of research, here is a brief synopsis of the situation.

A popular Kannywood actress Maryam Hiyana (screen name taken, as seems to be the custom, from a popular film she acted in... Hiyana) has recently been implicated in a sex video made on a mobile phone camera by her boyfriend, a Lagos-based Hausa businessman. The video, created sometime last year, lasts about eight minutes and apparently shows the two of them having sex. The video was somehow leaked about a week ago and has "gone viral" via email and cell phone. Since then, the actress and her fiance have gone into hiding and could face stoning under sharia law. Seventeen other very popular actors from the Hausa film industry have also been banned from making films. According to This Day, they "were not connected to the phone clip, but were involved in immoral acts like homosexuality, fornification and drunkeness, contrary to Islamic law. Islamic clerics in the state has already urged their supporters to shun the film industry." According to the Tribune, there has been a call to close production of Hausa films for the rest of the year in order to "sanitize" the industry.

This follows on the heels of a related scandal in which four actresses from the Kano film industry were accused of being involved in a polygamous lesbian wedding. The women involved denied the allegations, claiming that the celebration was a fundraiser (which sounds much more credible to me than a polygamous lesbian wedding in Kano....). A minor actress was also found guilty of murdering her politician boyfriend a few years ago.

My own take on this is that, of course, there is some "misbehaviour" going on, but that unfortunately individual scandals are taken by the public to represent the whole industry and to confirm pre-existing stereotypes that associate the film industry with the world of karuwanci (prostitution) and iskanci (immorality, drinking, etc.--unIslamic behaviour). This makes it almost impossible for a woman to become an actress and still be considered "respectable." She could be a saint in real life and still be labled as a karuwa because of her involvement with the film industry.

Kaico! C'est dommage. It's a shame, and it has been the one thing that has been making me sad this week (in a week when I am otherwise very happy).

I thought of posting a video clip with the said actress but have decided against it.

For more information Ibrahim Sheme has posted the details, in English and Hausa, on his blog Bahaushe Mai Ban Haushi! Here are other articles at Nigeria Exchange, This Day, Leadership, the Tribune [and another article from the Tribune], Reuters, and Gateway Pundit. Also see

Saturday, August 18, 2007

garage saling in the rain

I was set and determined to go to garage/yard sales today to find things to replace household items that belonged to my former roommate and which I no longer have, so when the rain slowed today, I ventured forth on my worthy steed (read: newly basketed bike) to seek those items on my list.

Items bought in the light (and then heavy) rain from those hardcore garage sale merchants who didn't close down in the rain:

1. cookbook: Practical Thai Cooking (50 cents)
2. ceramic soapdish (75 cents)
3. small handmade pottery jar to hold toothbrush (75 cents)
4. green glass candle holder from Pier 1 Imports (50 cents)
5. red leather gloves with cashmere interiors ($3)
6. small 8 1/2 by 11 inch television to use with the VCR I bought at a garage sale last year ($7)
7. Brita filter (50 cents)
8. computer speakers ($7.50)
9. Japanese teapot ($1)
10. small plastic dustbin (75 cents)
11. large no stick frying pan ($1)
12. homemade cookie (25 cents)
13. homemade muffin (25 cents)

Total = $23.55
Items on my actual "need" list: 3

Thus I add more crap to my possessions which I will have to deal with in February when I move again.... but, at the same time, it's a lot easier to get rid of things that I got for 50 cents than things I paid $10 for new at a store.

What I love about garage saling (even in the rain) is the human contact, the neighborly feeling, the idea that you are getting something from someone near you (at greatly reduced prices) rather than an impersonal store. And I like having things that have been used before--the idea that there is a history behind them. Unlike my grandmother, who goes out at 6am every Saturday buying junk to give to people... (it runs in the family...), I'm not very good at bargaining, though I did get the speakers down from $10, but that's ok. The people who sold me the television, the computer speakers and the baked goods were nice enough to bring my things by later in their car. I love that.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Thrilled and Happy... be in my own apartment. I am so sore and bruised from moving (and cleaning two apartments--the old and the new) that I can't walk straight, but so happy about having my own beautiful space. Will write more when I've gotten more unpacked.

Monday, August 13, 2007

The juice of life

Moving tomorrow, I have spent hours in my room today filing papers, receipts, letters--and in the midst of filing new letters in an old letter file, I come across a letter written to a boy I had loved in college. This was post-college when he was (at that time, briefly) engaged to someone else, but we were still exchanging letters. Rereading them now, I am struck with nostalgia, by that bright young girl I was--just out of college, living in New York with my best friend, in love with everything. Reading over those letters and feeling the warmth in them, I wonder why we parted in anger in 2001. Six years later, I no longer resent him. I am free of him, free of the need for him, and therefore can appreciate again the beauty in those words we once wrote to each other. And I wonder--should I try to contact him again (he is sitting there on Facebook... [damned Facebook]), for the sake of the friendship we once had, or let it lie?

In honour of my recent birthday, I'll quote the P.S.S.S. from the letter I had written him in March 2000 (i have the fault of never being able to throw away anything I've written, and thus I [used to] photocopy my letters.) I was twenty-two.

"It's a bit scary how time seems to race (sorry for the cliche) more and more these years, where the twenties blur past. Soon, we'll be thirty and wonder where it all went. But no, there will be years then. There is so much juice in life--so much sun and wind to gulp in. Sometimes, I just have to pause in the middle of these flurried sidewalks and look past all the buildings at the spring sky. This morning, I didn't jaywalk like usual but stopped and waited for the Walk sign. The sun came down and touched me. I was still for all of thirty seconds. That occasional stillness--that is what makes life worth it--those brief moments of God.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Na Ba ka - Jeremiah Gyang

FINALLY on Youtube!! The video is a little hmmmm, but the beauty of the voice and lyrics remains. Welcome to my current favourite song....

(And to order the cd, check out

The "Resume" Remix

And this is the remix of Jeremiah Gyang's "Na Ba Ka," in which the much deserved fame seems to have gone a bit to his head.

Kasi Tala - Jeremiah Gyang

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Achille Mbembe's response to French President Nicolas Sarkozy's Dakar speech

I recieved the following message on a listserve I belong to: calling attention to the controversial speech given by the French president Nicolas Sarkozy at Cheikh Anta Diop University in Dakar and the response of Cameroonian scholar, Achille Mbembe on I plowed through both texts in French and then found the English translation here. Well worth the read.


From: Olivier Barlet,

Date: 08 Aug 2007

The new french President Nicolas Sarkozy went to Dakar and, on the 26th of July 2007, held a very controversial speech at the University.

As part of his speech in Dakar, Sarkozy had said: "The African peasant only knows the eternal renewal of time, rhythmed by the endless repetition of the same gestures and the same words."

"In this imaginary world where everything starts over and over again, there is no place for human adventure or for the idea of progress," the French president said.

Achille Mbembe wrote a thorough and important answer published in partnership in the newspaper "Le Messager" (Douala, Cameroun) and the Africultures Website, that we let translate into english:

Text of the speech of President Nicolas Sarkozy (in french):

Text of the answer of Achille Mbembe in french :

Please let this information circulate.

Olivier Barlet
président d'Africultures
contact : Grande rue
F - 26110 Les Pilles
Tél : +33 (0)4 75 27 74 80
rédaction Africultures/Afriscope :
123, av. Jean-Jaurès
75019 Paris
Tél : +33 (0)1 40 40 14 65

Lomba's plaigerism

Ok, at the risk of being accused of more stalkerish behaviour ({-;), I've posted on my "literary blog" an excerpt from my MA thesis, where I talk about the imprisoned Lomba's purposeful "plaigerism" of poetry in Helon Habila's Waiting for an Angel.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Helon Habila's latest line

"Often he goes to the window to stare at the footpath that runs through a cut in the wire fence to meet the road, but only dead leaves wash on the hard brown earth, back and forth, lazy, aimless, as if mocking the manic scream that lay curled in his chest, spring-tight, a tiger waiting to leap." This is the last line Helon Habila has written, according to Esquire. The line is followed by an interesting little explanation by Helon Habila on his latest writing project: a noir story for Chris Abani's collection.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Young passions

I'm packing up my apartment right now for an impending move to my very own one bedroom next week. Right now I'm in the unpleasant stage of going through all the papers that I had neatly (or not so neatly) stacked and stuck at random into my bookcases along with the books. I come across an old folder of stories, and what seems to have been the beginning brainstorm for a poem, written in the margin of some torn manuscript printout I had been editing. I used to write so much--and so much like this. Why don't I write like this anymore? Even if it was a bit flowery and occasionally cliched, it had more passion in it than I can muster up these days. I wonder if all my passion has gone into academic texts... sad thought. In my notes, I see I had intended to work on it and turn it into a sonnet. (I wrote... 'A sonnet?'') In actual fact, I have only written one sonnet in my life--and that is a very loose and sad excuse for a sonnet... Anyway, I'm typing up the brainstorm here with the line breaks (and a bit of tweaking here and there) as they were in the ms margin, minus a few way too over the top phrases. (ok, I keep coming back and editing this... so it is not as rough as it was when I first wrote this post...):

Look down
as you slant into the sky
and see the slow fall
of the hills, the red ants
of cars travelling black
trails through hazy hills.
The earth becomes vague
as if seen through silk.
And above, the sky arcs
blue, edges hemmed in white.

Once they looked up
longing, into that blue, where
hawks flew--trapped onto
the brown earth, hemmed in
by boulders and clustered clay
walls. Only dreamers thought
to fly. And perhaps for them
it was better than this sealed smooth air,
those who dared to melt at the sun
feel the ocean spray on their feet
before sinking into the sea
that was, for a while, endless.

Image credit: Roger Dean, "Flights of Icarus," in the Guardian

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Une histoire amusant, dont j'ai fait traduction

It is raining and I have been stuck in various coffee shops and library computer labs today. I did a schmucky thing this afternoon. Biking (in the rain) to my French exam, I realized (well, previous to biking, actually) that I was extremely unprepared for this translation/reading knowledge exam, and could quite possibly fail it, despite having spent my entire summer translating an article. Having spent the past two days going back over the textbook, I had found that although I had spent a lot of time translating a specific text, I hadn't spent that much time actually studying my textbook. It's been at least four years since I've taken an exam, so I had not prepared so well. When I got to the exam, I asked the instructor (a super nice lady) if it was too late to take this on another day (there are multiple exam dates), and she said that of course I could if I felt more comfortable taking it next week. (I repeat... a super nice lady). So, despite really hating to do things like this and prolonging the agony, I decided to spend a few more days doing a more comprehensive review.

Sitting at a coffee shop where I spent four hours downing pots of tea and translating various passages from my textbook, I came across this little story that so delighted me, I decided to post it on the blog. Voici un histoire que j'aime. (And this is a French -> English class, not the other way, so pardon my French... hehehe.)

A Quick Wit

Once upon a time there was a king who was superstitious but did not want to admit it. He learned that in his kingdom lived a certain man who pretended that he could read the future in the stars and predict what would was going to happen.

The king believed himself very talented, and he grew angry at this astrologer who did that which he, the king, could not do. He summoned him to come to the royal palace, having resolved to put him to death and, at the same time, to show the courtiers that his pretences were false.

Following the orders of their master, two soldiers stood ready, when the king gave them the signal, to throw the astrologer out the window. Turning round toward the poor man who had just entered the great hall of the palace, the monarch said to him:

"You pretend to know that which will come in the future. Well then, can you predict when you will die?"

The astrologer suspected the king's intentions and after reflecting for a few seconds, he responded:

"Sire, I am not able to predict the day of my death, but I know very well that I will die exactly three days before Your Majesty."

The two soldiers waited in vain for the signal. The king quickly changed his mind, and instead of killing the astrologer, he asked him to stay in the palace, to take care of himself and to run from no danger. It was necessary to take the greatest care with a life so precious.

ma traduction de "Un Esprit vif" au livre: Reading French in the Arts and Sciences. Fourth Edition. Ed. Edward M. Stack. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1987. p. 73

Image credit: Hans Holbein, Les simulacres de la Mort

Friday, August 03, 2007

4am calls

My dearly beloved brothers and sisters, friends, and acquaintances, who reside in Nigeria,

I am always delighted to hear from you. I am touched and honoured when one of you spends your money to telephone me in the U.S., and I really appreciate your efforts to stay in touch. However, a request, if any of you happen to be reading this. PLEASE look at your watches when you call. The Central Time Zone in the U.S., where I live, is currently six hours behind the time in Nigeria. That means that when it is 10am in Kano, it is 4am in my city. In a few months, our time zone will switch back another hour meaning that Nigeria will be 7 hours ahead of us, which means that when it is 10am in Nigeria it will be 3am here. While I am delighted to hear from people, I am usually not delighted to be woken from a sweet sleep at 2, 3, or 4am etc, especially when I have been struggling with insomnia. Additionally, it, quite rightly, pisses off my roommate, especially since this has happened at least 10 or 12 times in the last year. This is a landline, not a cell phone; therefore, a call at 3 or 4am wakes up not only myself but everyone in the house.

Therefore, while I love to hear from people, please, don Allah, don Annabi, look at your clock before you call and only call me between the hours of 9am-11pm Central Standard American time.

Thank you. Na gode.