Quarterly Review: Godly sex, Osondu’s village and Lawino’s ‘heterogeneity’.

It has been three months of 2016 already. How have you liked everything we have served you here?  Besides serving you interviews, features, opinions, lists, reviews and news plus announcements from our programme activities, we have been feasting on various internet servings.

Can you imagine having an orgasm, and while you are in that heaven you notice your partner laughing out loud? Do not shake your head, read this story at The Naked Convos. Have we freaked you out? In case you are a religious type, Rumbi has a well-written and personal story at Adventures that should re-assure you. God created sex.

There is something special about EC Osondu’s fiction. It is about America in ways that the Afropolitan crowd may recognise but not shout about. It is about Nigeria in ways that the ‘we are tired of immigrant African literature’ crowd may not embrace. Osondu’s America and Nigeria are unique and too nuanced for the singular narratives of the Afropolitan and urban African rising crowds. In this interview, the Caine Prize winner reveals the folk tale and orality secrets of his writing. His ways of seeing are explained in ways you had not read until this interview.

Staying with knowing things about African writers, we enjoyed watching Nii Ayikwei Parkes and Maaza Mengiste speak on a Writers Formerly Known As African panel of two, and a moderator at the Writers Unlimited Winternachten festival. Never mind that Nii Ayikwei really does not care if he is called an African writer or not. The talk is about immigration, and there is a lot of humour, even if Maaza understates her own ability to crack jokes.

There is new stuff to read from Maaza. She and Chika Unigwe are featured in the latest edition of the MASS Review. Maaza’s short essay explores an aesthetic of violence and Chika Unigwe delivers A Tale of Two Books. We went digging deep to find hitherto untold details regarding Chika’s path to becoming a writer. Loretta Reveals everything in this piece.

Paula Akugizibwe made us jealous with her Perfect Serendipity and Nneka’s role in it. Three days after Paula’s piece was published, Makerere University’s Literature Department held a one-day symposium to commemorate fifty years of the publication of P’Bitek’s Song of Lawino. A Luganda translation of the book, by Abasi Kiyimba was launched on the day. Song of Lawino remains arguably the most prominent book to come out of Uganda since independence. Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi acknowledged as much at an event at the London School of Economics in February. Given that the book marks 50 years since publication this year, so much will be said about it as the year progresses.

We have been reading what has been said in recent times about the book and absolutely love Keguro Macharia’s reading of the book’s feminism and dismissal of ‘nativist’ readings of the same.

Many readers have suggested that P’Bitek fetishizes the past: he wants “things” to remain “as they were.” This is a profound misreading. Lawino is not “against” progress: she is against the arrogance deemed progress. An arrogance that persists in the genocidal fantasies we have toward pastoralist and border communities. Why, we demand, can’t they “enter modernity?”

More, from Keguro:

Lawino admits that she might be suffering from “jealousy,” but she does not reject the modern woman; instead, she rejects the logic that refuses to accept multiple spaces, multiple traditions, multiple temporalities, multiple forms and practices of beauty. Seen in this way, Song of Lawino embraces erotic heterogeneity, refusing the narrowing impulses of what is deemed “progress” and “civilization,” those things incarnated as directed highways with definite trajectories.

We shall be announcing our own humble way of commemorating Song of Lawino’s jubilee as soon as within a few days from now.

You must have heard the news that P’Bitek’s daughter Juliane Okot Bitek has a new poetry collection out. If you have not, now, you know. 100 Days was published by University of Alberta Press in January. She was interviewed for Canada’s oldest literary journal PRISM here. She talks about many things including the unique writing process that gave birth to 100 poems over 100 days.

Before we sign off, we are haunted by Ayanda Xaba’s pacy, urgent flash fiction Gangster Love (1) at Readers Cafe Africa.  Samira Sawlani’s story about sexual volontourism and child abuse in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania by white men from America and the UK at Media Diversified does more than disturb, too. The racism, white male privilege and complicity of governments is nauseating.

Sticking with race, have you seen this interview by Junot Diaz? It may make you re-think several things.

The first question out of an interviewer’s mind when they talk to a white artist is never if they have experienced racism. But as an artist, I must say it’s incredible the amount of times these questions come up, and when they ask me, I’m always ready to ask back, “Have you been racist lately?”

Typical Junot, you may say. There are more gems, about the deception of success, the fact that the existence of structural inequality means that those who we call successful are just a sign of the exclusion of others etc. The detailed interview is available at Lit Hub.

Deeply affecting, but in a different way maybe is Hymar David’s short memoir about having a hearing difficulty.

We should end on a positive note.

Did you notice how revolutionary The 2016 Time of the Writer festival was? Themed “Decolonizing the Book”, it looks like festivals in post-colonial societies have a new model to consider. Kwanelo shares the revolution in just one session. Zukiswa Wanner who moderated the session Kwanelo wrote about shares her own take here. How does a decolonised literary festival look like? We have an answer now.

We are in Kampala, after doing workshops in Dakar, Abidjan, Kinshasa and Abidjan. We shall be announcing a new poetry prize soon, at the Kampala workshop. We are reading through the entries to the short story prize, and call upon writers, journalists, filmmakers, storytellers based in Ghana to submit to the Kofi Addo and Abena Korantemaa prizes before April 30. Let us enjoy these three months.

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