Book Chat: Ayobami Adebayo (Stay With Me) & Yvonne Owour (Dust)
Moderator: Dami Ajayi
A word, Friedrich Nietzsche once wrote, is “the copy of a nervous stimulation in sounds”. And perhaps we might hesitate to infer any finality of meaning, of truth, from something as uncommitted as the copy of a nervous stimulation?
Perhaps we should indeed, or what was one to make—what is one to make—of General Babangida’s iconoclastic appropriation of the word “president” in 1990s Nigeria? For Ayobami Adebayo, who burst into song at some point during her reading, this was a seminal moment in the Nigerian polity. Up till Babangida and indeed after him, Nigeria’s military rulers were known as Head of State. The military instinctively flinched from ascribing the implied legitimacy of “President” to itself. Legitimacy, as Zimbabwe has been proving in these past few days, is a word too. Were these leaders hoping to recast society in their likeness? Adebayo wondered.
For this book chat, the first of 2017’s Ake Festival, Adebayo was paired with Yvonne Oduor, author of Dust. Oduor’s native Kenya is currently coming to terms—once again—with the meaning of concepts: what is an election? “It's the continuation of all the elections we’ve never completed,” said Oduor. “Our dreams have been broken by home,” she continued later, now visibly emotional. “An ultimate and terrible betrayal.”