Category Archives: Non Fiction

For The Love of Amala

I remember being fond of Amala, growing up. As a child who did not fancy eating, surprisingly Amala had a way of whetting my appetite and melting my heart.

Most Nigerians who eat amala, love this food to its light weight morsel and it can be eaten at any time of the day (I don’t mind eating amala in the morning). Popularly paired with ewedu and gbegiri, these partners in crime when garnished with a variety of different cow parts aptly branded as Orisiris’ will leave your stomach rumbling for more.

There is something about amala when eaten hot, it gives the replica of a sauna effect to the body. It is a sweaty contest that engages the two hands while the right hand is swooping the amala in, the left hand is busy wiping the beads of sweat oozing out from the pores of your face. Most people savour the Buka-type of amala but many of these roadside canteens are poorly ventilated, this leaves the armholes of your clothing sticky with sweat and engraved with circular bold patches. But when you step out, there is a wide grin on your face, a toothpick hinged unto of your tooth because it was a keenly contested fight but you knocked the amala out and won.

Amala is a very important food in Nigeria especially among the Yorubas, it is locally labelled as ‘Oka’ and originates from the Western part of the country. It is crowned one of the prime Yoruba culinary especially among the people of Oyo state. This popular delicacy is made from yam or cassava flour. The flour also known as Elubo is processed from yams when they are peeled and dried. Ever wondered why it is dark in complexion, Amala derives its colour from yam when it turns brown after drying it.

Nothing kills the swag of any amala faster, than when there are lumps in tiny clusters all over the food. But thanks to the omorogun, when wielded with precision and just the right amount of muscle contraction, the amala served is soft and uniformly textured. This morsel is believed to have some medicinal powers ingrained within its fibres that fuels its consumers with grit and oomph. A famous Yoruba saying also attests to the medicinal prowess of this food, “Iyan ni onje, oka ni oogun, ki enu ma sile ni ti guguru’.” This saying is translated thus, ‘Pounded yam is food, Amala is a medicine, and popcorn is an appetiser.’ It is indeed a medical prescription for some folks, they cannot do without a dose of amala daily. It is a violation of their fundamental human rights to deprive them of this delicacy.

What the love of amala can do knows no bound. Sometimes while eating, the soup may drip down to the elbow but the mouth refuses to let go and sucks the trickle at the tip of the elbow. This may not exactly be your style, but some folks can go to that extent for the delight of this wholesome food. How do you like your amala, island or mainland style? While some people want their amala swimming in the soup – Island, with the ewedu and gbegiri forming an asymmetrical circumference round it, the stew is poured like local gin over the amala in obeisance and the beefs stand like pillars adjoining it. But others still prefer their amala detached from the soup, served in different china wares.

My late grandfather, Pa Jude Akanbi was an amala aficionado. He loved eating amala with efo riro and ogbufe washed down with freshly tapped palmwine. It was always hard for him to hide his glee whenever my cousins and I visited him in the village during the holidays. Grandpa never failed to share his darling dish with us, having us form a crescent round his table, each taking turns as we partook in this hallowed communion.

There are some unspoken rubrics governing amala, but the principal rubric is, amala must be eaten with the fingers at anytime and anywhere. Lest we forget, the amala contest is best fought with the fingers engaging these steps in no particular order – rolling the morsel slightly into a ball, then lapping up the soup with the morsel quite rounded, while intermittently tearing the beef, showing no mercy and breaking the bones with pleasure. Amala is a hand to mouth affair, how dare you use fork and knife to eat it? This classy act of using cutlery is a disrespect to the holy grail of this esteemed dish.

The teeming number of local restaurants who have carved a niche for themselves as connoisseurs of this local delight ‘Amala joints’ continue to triple every day, with wide tentacles reaching many cities in the country. Foodies who are resident in Lagos, know there is a directory of cool spots where this food is sold with Abula, a combination of ‘Gbegiri and Ewedu’ soup and eaten with its characteristic colours of heat and sweat.

Amala is chiefly eaten by all and sundry, crisscrossing its way through different tribes, borders and it has gained a national status. The Oyo state government hosted a fiesta, ‘Ajodun Oka’ late last year to celebrate and preserve the ‘Amala’ culinary heritage which is a symbol of pride to the nation locally and internationally.

Originally Published on Kalahari Review

Pretty | Maryam Kazeem


Before I officially moved to Lagos I was quite certain that prettiness was not a question of when but where. It was neither a question of properly blending the different layers of my contour with the perfect highlighter, nor the length of my lashes. Rather it was dependent upon who was doing the seeing – I had evidence to this of course.

When I arrive in Kwara state to spend one year at Adesoye College Offa (ACO), in the few seconds it takes to drive through the gates, sepia tinged dust creates a Cinderella-esque entrance to a 200-acre compound, which declares me definitively a ‘babe.’ Before then, in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and New York, my physical appeal is never quite the topic of conversation — or at least not in a way that I can understand. There, when I am pretty in the sea of white faces it comes with conditions. It is “for a black girl” whose “ass and boobs have developed early because she is black,” — Allison’s mother’s explanation for why she has no use for a training bra just yet. She and I will develop differently, her mother assures her. There my pretty is dependent on the layers that make me visible –— the 14-inch micro ropes that are attached to my scalp through the intricate coiling motion, that too often elicits a groan as the loop forms a knot that conjoins the human 16-inch 1B hair with my own seven-and-a-half inch mane.

But at ACO my classmates share one day in the laundry room, in between the showers and the hanging lines, as we iron our blue checkered house dresses with Sisqo’s Unleash the Dragon (our informal album of the year) playing loudly in the background, that even though I ‘form shy’, the boys in the class have ranked me as the finest girl in our set (this is with a buzz cut, by way of the school policy). “It’s not just your face,” my friend says. During an inter-house sports race where I compete in the breaststroke against my sister (she for yellow house, and I for pink), one of the seniors in red house (him 16 and me 11) comments to another senior that I have a ‘perfect hour glass shape’ — he is curious for my name.

In the year marking the new millennium, ACO, among other things, enlightens me to understand that my prettiness is out of my control. I leave ACO with a clear impression — I am pretty in Nigeria, and not quite in New Jersey, where the beholding eyes can’t see past my skin coat.

***

There are over one hundred million posts tagged #pretty on Instagram. Most of them showcase the #flawless movement that has consumed both women and men, validating and on occasion complicating the various ways we define pretty. A few weeks ago while browsing, I come across an image from @naijabestmua. It shows one side of her face, beat to purple perfection and the other half completely bare. She shares a note, “Beautiful before and after. Discoloration, dark spots, dark circles and all, but I still love me and am very much comfortable in my own skin…you should too!” Noted. I see another image that talks pretty too. It’s one of those visuals that try to captivate the viewer by framing a meaningful quote with an auspicious multicolored sky in the background. It reads, “I am pretty, but I am not beautiful. I sin but I am not the devil. I am good but I am not an angel.” I do not know about this distinction between beautiful and pretty – the supposed classification that defines

Beauty as what is within and pretty as the surface level compliment, “Yes she was the pretty girl in black that came in with Bolaji.” I’m not sure that is what I mean when I call someone pretty or beautiful, although I do use beautiful for emphasis. Amidst these hundred some million posts of #pretty I cannot overstate how much it matters that in the sea of faces I see black and brown silhouettes sometimes conventionally #onfleek, but often a redefinition of #flawless and its malleability.

I wouldn’t say I’m very good at Instagram or have the strong selfie game that so many before me have mastered. I rarely pose for said selfies because my angles have absolutely no memory. But when I do pose, I find myself looking for pretty while desperately trying to escape from it, and this little game has made tired of looking at my face. After all, I see it all the time. When I wake in the morning, in the mirror in front of my bed, then again by the entrance to my bedroom, in the bathroom, by the door on my way out. Again when I get in the car and open my social apps; with my face smizing back at me in the profile photo on my Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp and Peach. Sometimes when I look at my picture I think, “Is that me?” And while scrolling through those selfies where I attempt to find my pretty and put it on display, that very pretty is often disfigured as I ask myself, “who is that?”

When looking at the black and brown sea of faces framed with long weaves, perfectly fluffed tresses and contouring game akin to KylieJenner/KimKW I find myself stuck on pretty, searching for the times when pretty feels like something I can hold and feel – those times when I am in sight.

***

Now in Lagos, I am convinced that these questions of when and where to find pretty can be found, quite easily. In Lagos women show me that when the face is beat, no one can convince you that you are not pretty. For a fee of 10,000 Naira (sometimes beyond 50) on Wedding Saturdays we can all be flawless.

At first I try to find pretty on Wedding Saturdays too, not immune to the beauty bug. The first wedding I attend in Lagos, I tag along with a friend to his cousin’s special day. It is short notice, so I grab one of the few formal dresses I bring with me when I make the somewhat impromptu move from Brooklyn. The dress is black, pleated, and almost fancy so it will have to do. When we arrive at the venue and walk into the tented reception hall, the room is a vision of the chosen wedding colors — pink and green. I am the guest who dressed for the funeral in New York while avoiding the dance floor at a wedding in Ikeja GRA. A couple months later I am convinced to attend another wedding — a friend’s sister. This time I have a few weeks to prepare so I search for the perfect guest attire that says I tried, but not too much — I settle on a sleeveless slate grey wrap dress that I plan to wear with a statement grey- jeweled necklace and off white pumps. When the morning of finally arrives, there is no electricity, which induces streams of sweat I resent for interrupting my preparations. After I cool down a bit, I spend some time on my makeup eager to blend in a bit more this time around. I reach for my dress hanging in front of the armoire and bring my hands through the sleeves carefully pulling it down over my shoulders. But while I do so, my dress takes half of my makeup with it. My previously almost, nearly #onfleek face is now smeared on the bottom of my dress, but I have little time to find another outfit so I grab a big clutch that I’m sure

will hide the mixed brown magenta stain, if I commit to hold it in front of me the entire evening. “What happened to your dress?” my friend asks once I arrive at the hall.

Then at a friend’s wedding a few weeks ago I am sitting in the car with a fellow bridesmaid on the way to the ceremony. She is upset with the makeup artist’s unpolished craft visible in the already cracked foundation on her face, also two shades too light. I am fanning my face, which carries layers and layers of makeup through which I feel the exact opposite of #onfleek. I look like a clown, I am sure but I do not wipe the makeup away even though I am itching too because it is not my day (I’ve learned this is the best strategy for being a bridesmaid on Wedding Saturdays). The other bridesmaid is still venting about her makeup when she shows me an image on her phone from another wedding a few weeks earlier, “Can’t you see how much prettier this was? Can you see the difference?” she asks. I can’t really but nod my head in agreement while trying to keep still so I do not start sweating profusely all over again – this is makeup induced stress that we share so we can be allies in our misery this Saturday afternoon.

***

I have come to a conclusion from Wedding Saturdays and every other day I spend in Lagos, whether physically or digitally, browsing through my Instagram feed. Nigerian woman have either made pretty shallow and accessible, illuminating its transience or the exact opposite. We own pretty – we hold it, share it, use it, blend it, blot it, and then remove it with gentle but firm strokes of ultra gentle cleansing wipes mixed with a few drops of coconut oil. The layers come on, and then off, and then on again. But sometimes when we hold pretty like this, those layers fold into pretty and become pretty itself rather than an extension of pretty – the depths of its colors, the warmth of its tones.

And of course there is nothing wrong with wanting to feel pretty or wearing tons and tons of makeup. Yet I also want to ask – are we okay? Are we good and sane? When I first move to Lagos, I think there is something nice about always being able to be seen as pretty in a place. But even though pretty is here for everyone’s taking, there are so many caveats.

Can I only hold pretty, if I take a selfie where I find ‘my light’, if my edges are laid like baby hairs – or if the ropes hanging from my head are the right kind of heavy and long? My body is disposed to flinch the first few days when my scalp aches from Senegalese or Havanna twists; those ropes of varying weights that hang from my scalp seem to cause quite the stir here as well. Everyone I encounter is delighted to share, “your hair looks really good! You look pretty,’ delivered with a bright smile of course. Or that time a colleague sounds particularly convinced while she exclaims, “Your braids are a good look!” lending approval for my appearance now pretty, but the day before – what exactly?

These images that talk pretty either through the stroke of the foundation brush in the reflection gazing back at me in the mirror, or while my thumb swipes left, right, forward and back are inescapable. And pretty’s silhouette seems so rigid at times – stiff and unyielding to my beck and call.

***

I do not take compliments well. I get a little angry, I think, simply because I do not want to need them. But of course I do. I want to capture in a mason jar that firefly buzz in my lower abdomen where I can feel my heart beat from the bottom when he says ‘you are a vision.’ If I could keep that glowing reflection for whenever I need to be warmed from the inside out.

I have another period where I am fanatically obsessed with pretty. I am consumed with trying to understand why he disappeared. I buy lipstick, eye shadow and foundation – committed to finding my light, or angles so I can document the woman that I can be. I am thinking then that this is the way to show him that I am of something, like him. I can be the Nigerian woman who has the dress with matching shoe and bag for the wedding, or burial or whatever. So I buy four dresses with the appropriate accessories. I even make a note on my phone, ‘Outfits’. I detail the hair, lipstick shade, jewelry, dress, shoes and bag for each dress; I note which dress a sleek high-bun is most befitting and which will look best with a sleek and wavy blowout. They are still hanging in my closet.

***

Most days I spend a solid three minutes on my makeup. Sometime four if I apply blush and mascara. I like looking like a slightly polished version of what I look like when I wake up in the morning. The reflection feels more manageable like this. Yet Lagos demands that I am presentable at all times. No bum days. No grocery shopping in unruly hair – you might be seen and forgo the potential meet cute of the tall guy you first see at a friend’s house party. Or see your ex’s new girlfriend decked in a silk printed dress walking into the restaurant with an 18-inch shadow of silky Brazilian hair solidifying the outline of her silhouette.

By virtue of being a dark skinned woman, I have accepted that in some places people are not willing to see my pretty. And I have enjoyed that invisibility. Sometimes, I find it freeing. Then other times, I envy the confidence of a Naija babe, looking at herself in the mirror, not feeling bored of her face and thinking, “I look amazing!” (because of course, I can read her mind). I am not that confident about most things. I do not really believe that I can have anything I want, or that “I’m going to marry a man who drives a Range Rover, by force” (overheard in the front seat of a gold Kia Cerato while reversing onto Tiamiyu Savage Road, Victoria Island June 2013).

One last thought. What does a localized beauty mean now when a second flesh allows us all to share an image with appreciative eyes anywhere, somewhere? Pretty is global (truly it always was). I am sure my 12-year-old self would have appreciated this when returning to the U.S. from my year as a babe, finding herself once again hypervisible, yet invisible. But the 28-year-old me still has doubts about pretty’s global appreciation tour. We have been able to capture pretty, yes. But I thought we were trying to free it from the sleek copper case, the bunch of clip-ins of soft and perfectly coiled virgin-remy hair? Or maybe we have found the balance that @naijabestmua seems to exude? In exploring Asian American women and oppression, Mitsuye Yamada notes, “To finally recognize our own invisibility is to finally be on the path toward visibility. Invisibility is not a natural state for anyone.” So yes, we have made pretty visible, but can we still see ourselves?

Maryam Kazeem is the Managing Editor of Ventures Africa, a writer and a multimedia visual artist. Her writing and art focus on questions of feminism, race, memory, and diaspora within Nigeria and beyond.

Originally published on Brittle Paper

Buchi Emecheta’s Legacy: Women are not Second-class citizens – David Adeleke

buchi-emechetaI was in SS2 when I first read Buchi Emecheta’s The Joys of Motherhood. Like most of my classmates, I was only concerned about doing well in the Literature tests and exams. All that talk about Nnu Ego and motherhood meant very little to me and so I didn’t understand most of what I was reading. Or maybe I understood but the weight of the subject matter hadn’t dawned on me yet. Many years later, it has become impossible for me to ignore the burden and pain that women go through every day – now when I read The Joys of Motherhood, it is enough to weigh me down. Emecheta did not pluck Nnu Ego’s story of suffering, sorrow and eventual loneliness out of thin air; it is a complex and authentic illustration of what many mothers in Nigeria and Africa go through every day.

On Wednesday, January 25, Buchi Emecheta, author of some of the most riveting books of African literature, passed on in her sleep in London. Emecheta wrote more than 20 novels and plays in her lifetime, covering topics ranging from motherhood to the independence and freedom of women through education. In 1974, she published one of her most critically acclaimed novels, Second-Class Citizen. It tells the story of a woman named Adah Ofili, and, like many of Emecheta’s books, it was a fictionalised autobiography.

As a girl, Adah, the main character, spends her days at home with her mother while her father is away at work. Adah’s brother goes to school but she isn’t allowed to because she is a girl, even though she is determined to. One day, she sneaks out of the house while her mother is distracted, and bursts into a classroom during an ongoing lecture. Even though she disrupts the class, the teacher, whom she had already met a couple of times, lets her stay in school for the rest of the day.

A few years later, Adah’s father dies. After his death, she marries a man called Francis and does her best to support him. Francis travels to the United Kingdom alone at first but eventually, Adah and her children join him. While there, she works hard to pay for his education while also taking care of their children. As the story develops, Francis transforms into an abusive husband who has become too lazy to work. To him, they (his family) are second-class citizens in the UK.
Adah, however, is determined to succeed against the odds. She strives to become first-rate in the UK while thriving as a pillar for her children in spite of Francis’ lack of support.

Second-Class Citizen depicts several aspects of Emecheta’s life. Like Adah, she was not allowed to go to school; instead, her younger brother was favoured over her. However, she eventually persuaded her parents to let her go to school, after convincing them of the benefits of her education (the more educated a woman, the higher her bride price). Emecheta first attended an all-girl missionary school. But a year after her father was killed as a soldier in the British army in Burma, she was sent to a Methodist Girls’ High School in Lagos with a full scholarship. In 1960, when she was 16, she married Sylvester Onwordi, whom she had been engaged to since she was 11. By the time Emecheta was 22, she had given birth to 5 children and her marriage had turned bitter, with Sylvester constantly abusing her.

At that age of 22, she walked away from the abusive marriage and set out on her own, with her 5 children. In the years that followed, Buchi Emecheta earned a BSc degree in sociology from the University of London, published 19 novels, 2 plays, 1 autobiography and had several articles featured in reputable publications. In 2005, she was bestowed with the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (OBE).

There’s a lot Buchi Emecheta’s life and success can teach us. One of such is that it is possible for a woman to succeed without a husband by her side. There are many other successful women whose lives can attest to that fact. Marriage is not the measure of the success of a woman. No woman should be forced to stay in a marriage that is gradually and constantly eating away her soul. She can be independent if she so chooses and she is not an inferior being to a man. A woman is not a second-class citizen that cannot survive without the support of a man.

Emecheta was influenced by Flora Nwapa, and she (Emecheta) in turn inspired writers like Chimamanda Adichie, Lola Shoneyin, and Nnedi Okafor. Africa’s literary mainstage is no longer male-dominated and all evidence points to the fact that it will yet be mounted by many more women in the near future.

Perhaps Emecheta’s grandest legacy was making us realise that feminism isn’t alien to Africa. She clearly defined African feminism as one that is different from that of the West. “African feminism is free of the shackles of Western romantic illusions and tends to be much more pragmatic,” she once said. “Working and achieving to great heights is nothing new to the woman of Africa… An African woman has always been a woman who achieves.” This definition of feminism recurs in her books; it is evident in the lives of Nnu Ego and Adah Ofili. Through Emecheta’s works, we are challenged to think about gender inequality from within (and by ourselves as Africans) and not swallow the West’s idea of it, for every society is different in its own way.

So when we fight for the right for women to be considered equal to men, we are not punching above our weight. No! We are simply asking society to open its eyes to see that gender equality is not a fruit hanging from the tree in the middle of the garden. It is not forbidden. Emecheta’s work and life are a testament to this.

Originally Published on Ventures Africa

On My Way To The Novel, I Fell In Love With The Short Story || Junot Diaz

junot-diaz-topliteI’ve spent past 20 years reading and writing short stories—which, given some careers, ain’t all that much, but it is more than half my adult life. I guess you could say I’m one of those true believers. I teach the form every year without fail, and when I’m asked to give a lecture on a literary form (a rarity), the short story is inevitably my craft subject du jour. Even now that my writing is focused entirely on novels, short fiction is still the genre I feel most protective of. The end-of-the-novel bullshit that erupts with measles-like regularity among a certain strain of literary folks doesn’t exercise me as much as when people tell me they never read short stories. At these moments I find myself proselytizing like a madman and I will go as far as to mail favorite collections to the person in question. (For real, I do this.) I hate the endless shade thrown at the short story — whether from publishers or editors or writers who talk the form down, who don’t think it’s practical or sufficiently remunerative—and I always cheer when a story collection takes a prize or becomes a surprise bestseller (rare and getting rarer). I always have at least one story collection on my desk or near my bed for reading—and there’s never a week when I don’t have a story I just read kicking around inside my head.

I am as much in awe of the form’s surpassing beauty as I am bowled over by its extraordinary mutability and generativity. I love the form’s spooky effects, how in contradistinction to the novel, which gains its majesty from its expansiveness, from its size, the short story’s colossal power extends from its brevity and restraint. Or, as Dagoberto Gilb has said, in the story “the small is large, strength is economy, simplicity, not verbosity.” If the novel is our culture’s favored literary form, upon which we heap all our desiccated literary laurels, if the novel is, say, our Jaime Lannister, then the short story is our very own Tyrion: the disdained little brother, the perennial underdog. But what an underdog. Give a short story a dozen pages and it can break hearts bones vanities and cages. And in the right hands there’s more oomph in a gram of short story than in almost any literary form. It’s precisely this exhilarating atomic compound of economy + power that has entranced readers and practitioners alike for generations, and also explains why the story continues to attract our finest writers.

But such power does not come without a price. This is a form that is unforgiving as fuck, and demands from its acolytes unnerving levels of exactitude. A novel, after all, can absorb a whole lot of slackness and slapdash and still kick massive ass, but a short story can unravel over a pair of injudicious sentences. And while novels can dawdle for chapters before sparking into brilliance, the short story needs to be about its business from its opening line. Short stories are acts of bravura, and for a form junkie like me, to read a good one has all the thrill of watching a high-wire act. When the writer pulls it off sentence by sentence scene by scene page after page from first touch to last, you almost forget to breathe.

Novels might be able to summon entire worlds, but few literary forms can match the story at putting a reader in touch with life’s fleeting, inexorable rhythm. It’s the one great benefit of the form’s defining limitation.

Stories, after all, are short, just like our human moments. (We’re all Tyrion, narratively speaking.) Compared to the novel, stories strike like life and end with its merciless abruptness as well. Just as you’re settling into the world of a story, that’s usually when the narrative closes, ejecting you from its embrace, typically forever. With a novel there’s a more generous contact. When you read a novel you know implicitly that it ain’t going to end for a good long while. Characters might die, families might leave their home nations, generations might rise and fall, but the world of the novel, which is its heart, endures . . . as long as there are pages. A novel’s bulk is a respite from life’s implacable uncertainty. You and I can end in a heartbeat, without warning, but no novel ends until that last page is turned. There’s something deeply consoling about that contract the novel makes with its reader.

No such consolation when you read stories. That’s the thing—just as they’re beginning they’re ending. As with stories, so with us. To me this form captures better than any other what it is to be human—the brevity of our moments, the cruel irrevocability when those times places and people we hold the most dear slip through our fingers.

Some friends have told me that their lives resemble novels. That’s super-cool. Mine, alas, never has. Maybe it’s my Caribbean immigrant multiplicity, the incommensurate distances between the worlds I inhabit, but my life has always worked better when understood as a collection of short stories than anything else. Thing is, I’m all these strange pieces that don’t assemble into anything remotely coherent. Hard for me to square that kid in Santo Domingo climbing avocado trees with the teen in Central NJ bringing a gun to school with the man who now writes these words on the campus of MIT. Forget the same narrator—these moments don’t feel like they’re in the same book or even the same genre. Those years when I was running around in the South Bronx, helping my boys drag their congas to their shows—that time feels like it happened to someone else. (That world! These days it’s all been erased and they’ve rolled it up like a scroll and put it away somewhere. Yes, I can touch it with my fingers. But where is it? ) I guess some of us have crossed too many worlds and lived too many lives for unity.

This is the introduction to the Best American Short Stories 2016, click here for the full article.

#myfeminism || Brittle Paper Features Essay Series On Feminism

my-feminism-1-toplite
Brittle Paper will feature an essay series on feminism titled My Feminism. The series was inspired, in part, by Chimamanda Adichie for her public statements which have aroused a wave of interest in the values, practice and politics of feminism. With these statements, Chimamanda has fired up an open ground for some of the most interesting conversations on feminism.
To keep this conversation going, Keside Anosike, Wana Udobang, Kola Tubosun, Pearl Osibu, and Ainehi Edoro are set to write short essays in which they explore feminism as a powerful idea that inspires us all differently. This essay series will run for 3 weeks and it kicks off 21st November, click here for more details to join the conversation.

The Sellout | Paul Beatty’s Tragicomedy about Racism in America

imagesThe Sellout by Paul Beatty is about a young man’s isolated upbringing and the race trial that sends him to the Supreme Court. Born in the ‘agrarian ghetto’ of Dickens on the southern outskirts of Los Angeles, the narrator of the The Sellout was raised by a single father, a controversial sociologist, he spent his childhood as the subject in racially charged psychological studies. He is led to believe that his father’s pioneering work will result in a memoir that will solve his family’s financial woes. But when his father is killed in a police shoot-out, he realizes there never was a memoir. Fuelled by this deceit and the general disrepair of his hometown, the narrator sets out to right another wrong: Dickens has literally been removed from the map to save California from further embarrassment. Enlisting the help of the town’s most famous resident—the last surviving Little Rascal, Hominy Jenkins—he initiates the most outrageous action conceivable: reinstating slavery and segregating the local high school, which lands him in the Supreme Court.

The Sellout was praised by critics for its humour and satirical content. It challenges the tenets of the United States Constitution, urban life, the civil rights movement, the father-son relationship, and the holy grail of racial equality—the black Chinese restaurant.

Excerpt
“We lived in Dickens, a ghetto community on the southern outskirts of Los Angeles, and as odd as it might sound, I grew up on a farm in the inner city. Founded in 1868, Dickens, like most California towns except for Irvine, which was established as a breeding ground for stupid, fat, ugly, white Republicans and the chihuahuas and East Asian refugees who love them, started out as an agrarian community. The city’s original charter stipulated that “Dickens shall remain free of Chinamen, Spanish of all shades, dialects, and hats, Frenchmen, redheads, city slickers, and unskilled Jews.” However, the founders, in their somewhat limited wisdom, also provided that the five hundred acres bordering the canal be forever zoned for something referred to as “residential agriculture,” and thus my neighborhood, a ten-square-block section of Dickens unofficially known as the Farms was born. You know when you’ve entered the Farms, because the city sidewalks, along with your rims, car stereo, nerve, and progressive voting record, will have vanished into air thick with the smell of cow manure and, if the wind is blowing the right direction-good weed. Grown men slowly pedal dirt bikes and fixies through streets clogged with gaggles and coveys of every type of farm bird from chickens to peacocks. They ride by with no hands, counting small stacks of bills, looking up just long enough to raise an inquisitive eyebrow and mouth: “Wassup? Q’vo?” Wagon wheels nailed to front-yard trees and fences lend the ranch-style houses a touch of pioneer authenticity that belies the fact that every window, entryway, and doggie door has more bars on it and padlocks than a prison commissary. Front porch senior citizens and eight-year-olds who’ve already seen it all sit on rickety lawn chairs whittling with switchblades, waiting for something to happen, as it always did.”

48574434-cached“The first 100 pages of [Paul Beatty’s] new novel, The Sellout, are the most caustic and the most badass first 100 pages of an American novel I’ve read in at least a decade. I gave up underlining the killer bits because my arm began to hurt . . . [They] read like the most concussive monologues and interviews of Chris Rock, Richard Pryor and Dave Chappelle wrapped in a satirical yet surprisingly delicate literary and historical sensibility . . . The jokes come up through your spleen . . . The riffs don’t stop coming in this landmark and deeply aware comic novel . . . [It] puts you down in a place that’s miles from where it picked you up.” —Dwight Garner, The New York Times

“Swiftian satire of the highest order . . . Giddy, scathing and dazzling.” —Sam Sacks, The Wall Street Journal

Paul Beatty is the first American to win the Man Booker Prize, 2016. He is the of three novels— Slumberland, Tuff, and The White Boy Shuffle—and two books of poetry: Big Bank Take Little Bank and Joker, Joker, Deuce. He is the editor of Hokum: An Anthology of African-American Humor. He lives in New york.

The Sellout – Wall Street Journal Best Books of the Year, NPR Best Book of the Year, Hurston/Wright LEGACY Award – Finalist, National Book Critics Circle Awards – Nominee, National Book Critics Circle Awards Winner, Publishers Weekly Best Books of the Year, New York Times Book Review Notable Books of the Year, Man Booker Prize Nominee, NYT Outstanding Books of the Year, New Yorker Best Books of the Year, San Francisco Chronicle Best Book of the Year, Boston Globe Best Books of the Year, Time Out New York Best Books of the Year, Buzzfeed Best Books of the Year, Man Booker Prize Winner, Kirkus Reviews Best Books of the Year.

#WorldFoodDay– Mitigating the Impact of Climate change on Food Security in Nigeria

world-food-dayToday is the World Food Day, a day of action against hunger in honour of the date of the founding of the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations in 1945 and the theme “Climate is changing. Food and agriculture must too.”
One of the biggest issues related to climate change is food security and the global population is growing steadily and is expected to reach 9.6 billion by 2050. To meet such a heavy demand, agriculture and food systems will need to adapt to the adverse effects of climate change and become more resilient, productive and sustainable. In a research conducted in 2005, it was reported that even a slight change in climate could affect the production of crops. Accessing the food harvest was once rather straightforward as it was largely a matter of harvesting and extrapolating with minor adjustments. However, it has all recently changed in the recent years and is no longer only slowing or accelerating of trends but in certain cases, the direction is reversing.
“Hunger remains the number one threat for heath and most of the world’s hunger comes from developing and less developed countries globally. There are 1.02 billion undernourished people in the world today” – (World Food Programme, 2009).
climate-foood-agriculture The World Food Summit in October, 1996 has defined Food security as when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy lifestyle.
Nigeria is still faced with the problem of associating their food supply with the ever increasing demand for it even after four decades of attaining their independence and due to economic recession, malnutrition and household food security are related human welfare problems that heightened.
While the public and political debate on climate change has traditionally been dominated by players in the energy and energy-intensive industries, this has to change. Food and beverage companies also need to have a clear interest in early and effective action on both mitigation and adaptation. As an industry with such a sizable emissions footprint and one that relies on millions of farmers and agricultural workers in regions that are already being significantly affected by climate change, the sector also has a major responsibility to play a prominent role in fighting climate change.
Some mitigation measures to cushion the effect of climate change are construction of wide drainage channels for flood control and clearing all drainage ways for easy flow of water. Dissemination of information about climate change in local dialects at the grass root and campaign against over stocking of livestock and overgrazing of a piece of land as a way of avoiding land degradation.
Climate change is impacting negatively on food security in Nigeria as shown by low agricultural productivity. A large number of Nigerians are still malnourished, hungry, starving and poor and have various health problems due to food insecurity caused by climate change. Nigeria needs to adopt some adaptation strategies that will enable her
cope with the challenges of climate change to ensure food security in the country. To achieve this, there is urgent need for climate change policy at both National, state and local government levels in Nigeria.