Tuesday, April 22, 2014

2014 Farafina Trust Creative Writing Workshop

Image from here

Farafina Trust will be holding a creative writing workshop in Lagos, organized by award-winning writer and creative director of Farafina Trust, Chimamanda Adichie, from August 5 to August 15, 2014. The workshop is sponsored by Nigerian Breweries Plc. Guest writers who will co-teach the workshop alongside Adichie are the Caine Prize-winning Kenyan writer Binyavanga Wainaina, Aslak Sira Myhre and others.

The workshop will take the form of a class. Participants will be assigned a wide range of reading exercises, as well as daily writing exercises. The aim of the workshop is to improve the craft of Nigerian writers and to encourage published and unpublished writers by bringing different perspectives to the art of storytelling. Participation is limited only to those who apply and are accepted.

To apply, send an e-mail to

Your e-mail subject should read ‘Workshop Application.’

The body of the e-mail should contain the following:
1. Your Name
2. Your address
3. A few sentences about yourself
4. A writing sample of between 200 and 800 words. The sample must be either fiction or non-fiction.

All material must be pasted or written in the body of the e-mail. Please DO NOT include any attachments in your e-mail. Applications with attachments will be automatically disqualified. Deadline for submissions is June 30, 2014. Only those accepted to the workshop will be notified by July 22, 2014. Accommodation in Lagos will be provided for all accepted applicants who are able to attend for the ten-day duration of the workshop. A literary evening of readings, open to the public, will be held at the end of the workshop.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Mire

When it looks like things only change when they change for the worse.

When armed men can visit a boarding school at night and for six hours, like on a leisurely shopping trip, pick and choose over 1oo young girls that meet their liking and take them away, and nothing happens.

When thousands of people die and all your ‘leaders’ do is condole and condemn and sling mud and throw parties.

When you are reminded you can have no hope in this system-of-no-system, nor in the people that run it.

When you feel as in control as a chess piece; like it could have easily been you, like this could easily have been Oshodi or Obalende or Ajah.

When you start to wonder if that person was right when he said God has moved on from Nigeria; because you have been praying, and you have been believing, and still it goes on.

When you accept that you will never know their names, or their faces, their dreams or their struggles. All you will remember are the pieces of mangled flesh that you quickly scroll past on Twitter and Facebook, swearing at the posters, cursing at the world.

When you start to understand why so many have run, why even now they are crossing deserts and saying marriage vows and stowing themselves away on ships just to get away from here; when you want to get away yourself.

When the big things in your life become as significant as a grain of sand on a beach; when you feel small, helpless.

When you find yourself learning to live with the weight that has settled in your chest.

Then you ask yourself: what’s the point, of this post, of this blog, of these very words? How do they stop the next bomb from going off, the next life from being cut short, the next schoolgirl from being taken?

But that’s the thing.

They don’t.


This morning I came across this scripture in Luke 18: 7-8: 'And will not [our just] God defend and protect and avenge His elect (His chosen ones), who cry to Him day and night? Will He defer them and delay help on their behalf? I tell you, He will defend and protect and avenge them speedily...' (AMP).

This gives me some measure of comfort; the hope that, even though I cannot imagine it now, someday all of this will make sense. 

Friday, April 11, 2014

TAXI DIALOGUES: The One Where Uche Wears a Disguise

Image from here

We’re driving home in silence one afternoon when Oga M turns to look at me; and I get the impression that whatever he’s going to say has been on his mind for a long time.

‘Uche, why you like to dey wear disguise?’

I frown at him. ‘Disguise ke?’

He nods and gestures at my head. It takes me a moment, but I finally get it.

‘You mean my wig?’ I say.

‘Ehn,’ he says. ‘And then you go now tie this thing on top’ – I soon realize he’s referring to a strip of black fabric that I tie into a bow on my head – ‘and you go come resemble Indian woman.’

I considered the word ‘disguise’. Did Oga M have this image of me in his head as an ordinary girl by day and a sari-wearing, crime fighting dynamo by night? Did he think me such a badass? Probably not.

‘Disguise’ was such an odd word choice, though. But then, maybe it wasn’t. Maybe Oga M was doing something with that word, trying to spur me into an existential debate with myself about self-worth and straight versus kinky hair and African pride. Maybe his ‘disguise’ meant I was hiding my ‘true self’ under that short mop of straight black hair that made me look like a French pageboy.

It might have given me many sleepless nights, trying to discern the different shades and ramifications of this word ‘disguise’. But I prefer to lose sleep over more serious matters than my choice of hair accessory.

Friday, April 4, 2014

My Faith is Bigger than Yours

There’s a certain kind of ‘faith’ that has become quite popular among Nigerian Christians. Now this faith has nothing to do with love – forget what the Bible says. This faith turns normal people into assholes, the kind of assholes that will let you know, when you share a problem, that your faith isn’t strong enough, or God just doesn’t love you as much, and that’s why you have all these issues while they, The Lovely Faithful, sail through life unfettered by the troubles of lesser mortals like you.

Image from here

Your daughter was born with a congenital defect? It’s simple: you didn’t pray while you were doing it; and of the nine months after, how many days did you fast? That job you’ve been pining for went to someone else? Obviously, you didn’t claim it loudly enough; besides, what are you even doing looking for a job when you should be an employer of labour yourself? Your grandmother was kidnapped in the village? Well have you summoned the angels to go find her? No? What are you waiting for! Keep this caveat in mind, though – your grandmother is a pagan so she’s probably not worth the angels’ time. (Why haven’t you converted her all these years? But God is merciful sha.)

The other day the COO of Farafina Books shared some information on Facebook regarding the new 62.5% tariff on imported printed books coming into Nigeria and the adverse effects that this will have on publishers, booksellers, readers and writers, and anyone who loves books. One of the very first commenters shared this brilliant response: ‘Make dem come. Na Nigerian masses go suffer, no be me! […] By His grace I am not among the masses…’ Two people thought this made enough sense for them to like it.

This kind of faith feeds the very Nigerian belief that if it does not affect me personally it is not important; and even if I am among the affected, I will find a way to climb over all the other bodies that fall until I emerge on top – by His grace, of course.

Faith is a good thing, an essential thing even. But I cannot be convinced that true faith is supposed to turn us into unfeeling, self-contained, self-involved entities. Trust me, your faith will not be less potent if you mix in a little compassion – even Jesus wept at the death of Lazarus, right before He brought him back to life.

So, dear Christian Brother and Sister, we know you have faith that is strong and mountain-eradicating. But, in case you didn’t know, when someone shares a concern the last thing they want is for you to brandish your faith in their face and tell them how your life is so much better for it, and how they need to become more like you. At the very least they need compassion, a little bit of understanding, and if you have it, perhaps a solution. If you cannot offer any of these, then consider doing the next best thing: shut up. 

I wrote a flash fiction piece for the April edition of Visual Verse, an online anthology of art  and words that posts specially curated artists' images online and asks writers of all stripes to respond with 50 to 500 words that must have been written in the space of one hour.

Please read and spread the love, guys!

Here's the photo for the month, by Marcus Bastel.