Panelists- Chinelo Okparanta, Toni Kan, Kiru Taye, Nana Darkoa
Moderator- Kolade Arogundade
This panel was one of the most looked-forward-to panels in this year’s festival and the turnout for the panel which held in the chat room was one of the largest since the start of the festival.
The Legs Open, Eyes Closed: Sensuality in New Africa Writing panel opened with Kolade Arogundade asking the panellists why they started writing romance, sex, and erotic fiction.
For Nana Darkoa, who runs an award-winning erotic blog, Adventures, she “started the blog after travelling with a group of women and we were talking openly about sex and our desires, and the horrible statistics. About 70 percent of women not having orgasms. I wanted to write about sex in Africa.”
Author of over twenty romance novels, Kiru Taye said, “I started writing because I wanted to read about sex by people like me since I read a lot of romance. I was trying to debunk about the myth about sex. The African population is exploding, people are having sex and I wanted to talk about it.”
In much of Africa, sex is not a conversation we have in the society, so what gives these writers the power to write about sex in Africa? Chinelo Okparanta, author of Happiness Like Water and Under the Udala Trees, said, “when we talk about sex, we are talking about power-shame is the power that we give others to wield over us, so when I write I take back my power.”
Moderator, Kola moved the conversation to the narrative of writing about sex from the male perspective, are men guilty of kissing and telling? Boasting about their sexual encounters? Toni Kan said, “Men tend to exaggerate their sexual conquest/prowess. Besides there’s the thing about shame in sex with women. If a woman has a one night stand with a man, she is considered loose, but for a man it’s just another sexual conquest.”
On the difference between erotic/sexual writing in Africa and in the West, Chinelo said “there’s a wide range of what an African can look like. An African woman does not look very different from a western woman.” Toni Kan added that “whether you are black or white, one day you will catch feelings and navigate your way.”
One of the ‘moments’ at the panel happened when Chinelo Okparanta said, “Women you have a right to pick the man you want to be with, you don’t have to sit around waiting. You teach the person how to treat you. We can’t always be following/waiting for people, we should lead ourselves. You don’t have to sit around waiting for someone to say you are beautiful, let me buy you a drink.” This “moment” led to another moment when someone on the audience asked what exactly is feminist sex? For Chinelo Okparanta, “Feminism is about choosing what we want to do, the kind of woman you want to be - I am not a feminist because I don’t do categories, but feminism is about choices, options.” Kiru Taye added, “One of the things feminism has taught me is to think differently, critically, to question what society says.”
Lucia Edafioka is a writer, music junkie, historian and art lover. She's the staff editor at sabinews.com.