Tope Folarin and Elnathan John wrote short fiction that earned them a place in The Caine Prize for African Writing’s Hall of fame. But their stories didn’t end there…
By Nathaniel Bivan
In 2013 four Nigerians smiled back at us far away from home – Chinelo Okparanta, Abubakar Adam Ibrahim and Elnathan John had made the shortlist of the Caine Prize for African Writing which had only one non-Nigerian on the list.
That glorious literary year our country’s US-based writer, Tope Folarin, emerged winner for his short story, ‘Miracle’, set in Texas in an evangelical church where a blind pastor-prophet dramatically sets the stage for a healing session.
But the focus of this Friday’s article (my second, yay!) is not on the Caine Prize, really, or the fact that Okparanta had made the list for her captivating story ‘America’ or Ibrahim for his mystical ‘The Whispering Trees’. Our floodlight (scratch spotlight) is on Folarin and John, both wearing short form badges at the time. Yes, there was no novel to their name.
Whether the Caine Prize had a certain magic about it back then or simply served as a spur for these two writers, one thing is sure: they both ended up turning their shortlisted stories into novels that gained significant worldwide acclaim. Here’s the gist.
While Elnathan succeeded in developing his short piece, ‘Bayan Layi’, into ‘Born on a Tuesday’ (first published in 2015 by Cassava Republic), a 256-page novel that revolves around Dantala who takes us into the bowels of religious extremism in Northern Nigeria, Folarin tarried for a while.
The boys who sleep under the Kuka tree in Bayan Layi like to boast about the people they have killed. I never join in because I have never killed a man.
True, he had mentioned back then that ‘Miracle’ was pulled out of a novel project. But…it never saw the light of day and, when he was finally ready, the short story he weaved into a longer work wasn’t the latter but ‘Genesis’, the piece that got him shortlisted (the second time) for the same prize in 2016.
Mom’s voice, once quiet and reassuring, grew loud and fearsome. Her hugs, once warm and comforting, became cold and rigid. And then Mom became violent—she would throw spoons and forks at my father whenever she was upset. She quickly worked her way up to the knives.
Anyway, in 2019 when we snuck off for an interview, between book chats and mostly heated debates during the Kaduna Book and Arts Festival, Folarin finally revealed why his new novel, ‘A Particular Kind of Black Man’ came long after his Caine Prize win.
Folarin confessed that part of the reason was that he won the Cain Prize for the first story he had ever published in 2013 (wow!). “I was the least published person on the shortlist,” he said, and ‘Miracle’ was actually pulled from a prior version of ‘A Particular Kind of Black Man’. With time, after traveling around Africa, Europe, and even America, what he wanted to write changed somewhat. This was mainly because he longed to do something totally unique.
Then Folarin said something that made me lean forward – he noticed that all the books he admired were by poets. So, even though he initially didn’t have much interest in it, he started reading and writing poems. Soon, he began work on a memoir he later realized was fiction. That was the genesis (pun intended) of the novel ‘A Particular Kind of Black Man’ published in 2019 by Simon & Schuster.
Earlier this week, Monday, Dec. 6 to be precise, the submissions window for the Ako Caine Prize for African Writing was finally announced open, and it will remain so until Jan. 31, 2022. I’m not saying the prize is the gateway to developing a novel. What I am actually saying is, if a contest is what could motivate you to put in the work, why not? Good luck, and see you next Friday.
Marvel working on ‘Daredevil’ TV series for Disney+
After a super-brief crowd-pleasing cameo on ‘Spider-Man: No Way Home’, fan-favorite superhero ‘Daredevil’ will be returning in a television series on the Disney+ platform.
By Mariam Abdullahi
While rumours have been raging about the possibility of a Disney+ series about the Man Without Fear being in the works, they have been particularly fuelled by the fact that two of the stars of the Netflix ‘Daredevil’ series, Charlie Cox and Vincent D’Onofrio, have appeared in recent Marvel projects.
Cox played Matt Murdock, the secret identity of Daredevil, in the film ‘Spider-Man: No Way Home’, while D’Onofrio reprised the role of Wilson Fisk, a.k.a. Kingpin, in the Disney+ series ‘Hawkeye’.
Per a report on Variety, the project is picking up steam with the hiring of key production people, though Marvel has yet to officially announce anything.
Fans have been demanding for more Daredevil since the successful Netflix series was cancelled in 2018 after three seasons, but the deal with Netflix included a clause that prevented any characters from the Marvel-Netflix shows from appearing in any non-Netflix projects for two years after cancellation.
The move came as Disney looked to bring its Marvel heroes under one umbrella, with multiple Marvel Cinematic Universe shows having since debuted on Disney+. A trailer for the ‘She-Hulk’ series starring Tatiana Maslany dropped earlier this week.
More to come.
Four of Nnedi Okorafor’s books are finalists for Locus Awards
As the awards and nominations keep piling up for fan-favorite writer Nnedi Okorafor, four of her books have been announced as finalists for the prestigious Locus Awards’ 2022 edition.
By Abdulkareem Baba Aminu
The Locus Science Fiction Foundation has announced the top ten finalists for this year’s Locus Awards, and the final winners will be announced on June 25, during the virtual Locus Award Weekend. Four books by Nigerian-American writer Nnedi Okorafor are on the list. Her books on the list of finalists are Noor (DAW) for Best Science Fiction Novel, Remote Control (Tordotcom) for Best Novella, The Black Pages (Black Stars) for Best Novelette, and the graphic novel adaptation of After the Rain (Abrams ComicArts/Megascope) by John Jennings, with art by David Brame.
Okorafor is a leading writer of science fiction and fantasy with a breath-taking body of work spanning close to two decades. She is also known for coining the term ‘Africanfuturism’ and defining the subgenre itself.
Okorafor is a leading writer of science fiction and fantasy with a breath-taking body of work spanning close to two decades. She is also known for coining the term ‘Africanfuturism’ and defining the subgenre itself. An unapologetic champion of diversity, inclusion, and originality in SFF, her works are often praised for inventiveness and innovation.
Over the years, Okorafor has won some of the most prestigious awards, including three Hugo nominations, one for each of the books in her well-received and critically-acclaimed acclaimed Binti trilogy, which the first book won in 2016. She has also won a Wole Soyinka Prize for Literature in Africa, three Nebula Awards, as well as an Eisner Award and Hugo win (with artist Tana Ford) for the LaGuardia graphic novel, among several others.
Founded in 1971, the Locus Awards are conferred by the Locus Science Fiction Foundation. The 2020 awards are spread across 16 categories, with winners determined by polling magazine readers.
Poems about gagged lips and lone voices: A review of Peace Longdet’s ‘Enablers’
A look at the new poetry collection ‘The Enablers’ reveals a work that is at once layered in a most subtle way, as well as powerfully effective.
Title: The Enablers | Author: Peace Longdet
Genre: Poetry | Pages: 67
Publisher: Sevhage Publishers | Year of Publication: 2022
Reviewer: Bizuum Yadok
Every poet has a responsibility to communicate feelings, experiences, fears, aspirations, values and dissatisfaction on behalf of herself or her society. This form of communication is usually aimed at either creating awareness or igniting a radical solution. Whichever way, while at it, the poet always entertains and extracts emotion from her audience. Many scholars agree that the bulk of African literature, from colonial times (and especially in writing), is essentially a response to wide-spread tragedy, and as such it is usually characterised by protest; protest against colonialism, protest against the megalomaniacal claims of independence, protest against military juntas, protest against mammoth corruption colouring democracy, and protest against terrorism or other forms of man’s inhumanity to man.
Dr. Peace Longdet is ushered into the league of protest poets by her significant debut collection of poems, Enablers. Her poems are not just relevant but timely in a presently deteriorating society like Nigeria where dissenting voices are gagged, if not silenced permanently. It has reached a point whereby any person criticising the lackadaisical attitude of the government, especially with regards to insecurity, nepotism, and corruption, is hastily termed as a saboteur. Freedom of expression has now become a mere rhetoric and quite far from practice. However, poets like Peace Longdet have refused to be hushed. If their voices will not be heard, then their agitation will find expression in print. Her Enablers comes as a worthy example of artists’ weapons that are meant to cure societal ills while confronting social injustice at the same time.
The first poem in the collection, “Thoughts in Print”, aptly welcomes the reader to a potpourri of thematic concerns mostly tilted towards protest against ineptitude of leaders and collaboration of followers marked by complicitous participation, herd silence and ignorance. The 9-lined poem reads:
Treading, yet knowing
The ground is unholy,
Giving, yet knowing
The gift is abominable,
Taking, yet knowing,
The gift is temporal
Dreaming, yet knowing
The morning breaks
Nearly all who conspire to create an ailing society are present in the poem above. Ironically, they are in the full knowledge of their contributions whether by treading on unholy grounds, giving abominable gifts (e.g bribes) or taking fleeting gifts. In any of the cases, they are always in the state of “knowing”. It is rather absurd that the same set of people are dreaming – perhaps for a better place – yet still “knowing” that “morning breaks” when their secret acts come to light and the end result is an anarchical society. The poet’s projection of effect, from the cause, using the principle of economy, is nicely captured in the brief poem which lays a good foundation for string of angry poems such as, “Gagged”, “Hallowed Gong”, “Terror”, “Few”, “Killings”, “Blessed Yet . . .” among others.
In some of the poems, the poet doesn’t just expose injustices but also firmly resolves to meet her obligation as a person. For example, the poem, ‘My Pledge’ offers a more radical, even militant, perception of herself in the sense that she uses the ‘Tigress’ as metaphor for her self-concept. She reiterates, “I am a tigress” in lines 1, 12, and 18 to assert her manner of confronting any factor that seeks to subjugate women, using the weapons of her physical, mental and emotional strength represented by claws, teeth and speed of the tigress. Consider the first six lines of the poem:
I am a tigress
Armed to breathe with my claws
My claws the pen
To speak with my pen
To drum with my claws
The rhythms are coals of fire
Pouncing in the direction of the hunter
A tigress has been proven to be more vicious than the tiger. From Longdet’s description though, we do not see the poet as a wild animal but a mentally armed and ready-to-fight phenomenal woman. Thus, she shifts from the semblance of the prey to become the predator. At this point, it doesn’t matter who the hunter (enemy) is, but that tigress is willing to launch an attack to protect her cubs (hapless women and children) as seen in lines 8 & 11, ‘The cubs depend on my razor-sharp teeth/ . . .For the cubs must know the myth of the hunter.’ She restates her point in lines 18-20 with her emphasis on attack as a form of activism which is quite necessary in a jungle-like nation:
I am a tigress
My passion is my weapon
To speak up in the land of the dumb.
A similar conviction like that of the above can gleaned in lines 17-21 of the poem, “Wandering Loner”, where she says:
This fire must burn!
It is a quest like an enchanted Diva,
Prowling with the words of fire
To wake them from sleep
To give them a voice
The reoccurrence of the word “fire” in this poem, just like in her other poems, connotes the fury or righteous anger that the poet is filled with and it is employed in the pursuit of justice. She doesn’t just create awareness but lends her voice to the voiceless so that more voices of protest could be heard. In the same vein, the poet makes loud her commitment to positive change in lines 21-30 of the poem, “The Voice”, by saying:
I do not possess the power to stop the carnage but
I will stand high on this space;
All that I am and all that I can
There is an inexhaustible list of the violent killings across Nigeria prior to and especially during the tenure of President Buhari, who had earlier promised to put a stop to all kinds of terrorism orchestrated by Boko Haram, Fulani Militia also known as bandits, and Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB). He fails woefully in tackling terror and almost all other arms of government combined are reluctant to point accusatory fingers at him. However, Peace Longdet bravely holds the government by the balls, reminding it of its fake promises in poems like, “Deceit”, “Haribu”, “Sleeping Shepherd”, “Double Standard”, and “Quest”. Her fearless confrontation of the powers that be are not even encrypted in the poetics of modernists, rather it is concise and readily accessible to every reader. In this regard, I concur with the literary critic, Paul Liam, in his statement that, “Longdet is a poet for every reader.”
It would be unfair to state that Longdet’s collection is all about protest as some poems are private and they depict supposedly personal or second-hand experiences. Poems like, “Memories”, “Unleased”, “Son of the Wind”, “You Drank”, “Entagled Wind”, and “The Vow”. This collection of 57 poems offer a variety of societal topics in dire need of an elaborate discourse and sometimes follow-up action. The poet pays little attention to sound devices but the optimal imagery makes up for the spice the sound devices might have rendered. Most of the poems are short and captivating as though the words were calculated before each poem was composed.
Like Lebanon’s Khalil Gibran, Nigeria’s Niyi Osundare, or South Africa’s Oswald Mtshali, posterity will keep making reference to Peace Longdet as a phenomenal poet who supplied her intellectual arsenal to fight against all forms of oppression and injustice. Enablers is a book of poetry that will require very little effort of salesmen because it will sell itself by the quality design, print and content therein.