Defining Home: Place and Displacement in African Writing - IfeOluwa Nihinlola

Using Taiye Selasi’s TED Talk as a launching pad, Wana Udobang opened the panel on Defining Home: Place and Displacement in African Writing by asking Sarah Ladipo Manyika, Yewande Omotosho and Teju cole about what home is to them.

Sarah said, “Home to me is quite a fluid concept.”

“I think mother and home are very connected for me,” Yewande said, “just from a personal perspective. And home has always been complex, or fluid.

“When I lost my mother, the concept of home got a lot more complex.”

For Teju Cole, “Home is where your people are. …People who share certain sympathies with you, but also have certain general broad bases on which to think of what society should look like.”

Wana directed the conversation towards hyphenated identities, and Yewande said, “I think we all have hyphenated identities, actually. It might be specificity around body; or there might be other things distinct from nationality.” Her characters are always hyphenated in some way, she said, without minding what race they are or if they are from two countries.

On Age and Race: Book Chat with Yewande Omotoso and Sarah Ladipo Manyika - Enajite Efemuaye

In 2013, Yewande Omotoso was shortlisted for the Etisalat Prize for Fiction. In the same year, Sarah Ladipo Manyika was the Chair of Judges for the prize. This first connection between the writers was pointed out by Emma Shercliff who moderated a book chat in which both writers discussed their books, The Woman Next Door and Like a Mule Bringing Ice Cream to the Sun.

“My book is about two women in their eighties who hate one another. The story deals with being in the last stage of life and also deals with race. One of the women is South African and white, the other is a black woman from Barbados,” Yewande said by way of introducing her book. Sarah’s book also had similar themes as one of her major characters is a Nigerian woman in her seventies living in San Francisco and encountering different characters.

A Chadian Tragedy: A Documentary and Conversation - IfeOluwa Nihinlola

The first close-up of a body in the documentary, Hissène Habré: A Chadian Trajedy, is that of a man with deep cuts on his neck, chin and ribs. None of the words of the narration that precedes this close-up, describing the events leading to the images we’re about to encounter, prepares the eyes and mind for the viscerally of that image. The documentary, screened at the festival to a packed Cinema Hall, is about the survivors of the Hissène Habré’s crimes in Chad.

With Clement Abaifouta as guide, the camera moves through the houses of victims, roving over their faces as they describe the horrors faced in the hands of the dictator’s men. Hissène Habréruled Chad from 1982 to 1990, and in that time, over 40,000 people were killed, and many more enslaved, imprisoned, maimed, and made victims of other horrifying acts. There’s a banner on a wall that depicts images of the torture some of the people interviewed said they couldn’t describe to other people.

Book chat- Toni Kan, and Leye Adenle - Lucia Edafioka

Book chat- Toni Kan, and Leye Adenle

Books- The Carnivorous City, Easy Motion Tourists

Moderator- Tendai Huchu

Toni Kan’s new book, The Carnivorous City and Leye Adenle’s debut novel, Easy Motion Tourists, have quite a number of similarities: they are crime thrillers, both were published by Cassava Republic, and, more importantly, they are both set in Lagos.

 “There is something about Lagos that brings out the beast in you, it’s not that you are a bad person, it is a coping mechanism”- Toni Kan said of the character in his book during the book chate moderated by Tendai Huchu. Abel, who comes to Lagos to look for his missing brother, Soni, a Lagos big boy- whose car was found in a ditch- and as they searched for Soni, Abel meets some shady characters his brother has had to deals with. Abel  doesn’t come out of the encounter the same.

The Face of Tyranny:  Book Chat with Jowhor Ile and Odafe Atogun - Enajite Efemuaye

The military era was a dark time for Nigeria and it is reflected in the fiction set in that time where brutality and tyranny of the nation’s leaders. Odafe Adogun and Jowhor Ile, both first-time novelists, set their stories in that time.

Where Johwor’s book was set in the 90s, Adogun chose an unspecified time to bring his protagonist Tanudo home from exile.

Taduno’s story wraps around that of his girlfriend, Lela, who was taken away by government agents in Taduno’s Song. The author revealed during the book chat hosted by Dami Ajayi that while Taduno’s character was modeled on Fela Kuti, who fought brutality with peace and his music. He however chose to leave the time in which the book is set unspecified because “the president in Taduno’s Song is representative of tyranny all over the world.” Therefore he didn’t feel the need to parody any Nigerian military ruler as “tyranny in the world has the same face.”

Book Chat: Sweet Medicine, Under the Udala Tree - IfeOluwa Nihinlola

Authors: Panashe Chigumadzi and Chinelo Okparanta

Moderator: Ayodele Morocco-Clarke

Panashe Chigumadzi and Chinelo Okparanta’s debut novels, Sweet Medicine and Under the Udala Trees, both have women as their central characters. Sweet Medicine, set in 2008 Zimbabwe, tells the story of Tsitsi, who tries to find economic security in the midst of the financial turmoil of the time. Under the Udala Trees is the story of Ijeoma, and Amina, two women, one Igbo the other Hausa, set in the time of Biafra. Both novels deal with political ideas, and in the book chat moderated by Ayodele Morocco-Clarke, the authors talked about their motivations in writing the stories.

Panashe’s interests were not primarily political. She said, “I’m interested in sort of the interiority.” Of the heavily politicised backgrounds like the Zimbabwe she works with, she said,  “sometimes we forget about people, and people are really just a vehicle to talk about Zimbabwe. We don’t really care about what happens in the day to day experiences of people, which is sort of what I’m interested in right now.”

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