“I write what I like”: Aké Arts & Book Festival 2016 in Abeokuta, Nigeria

‘The fourth incarnation of the Aké Arts & Book Festival took place 15-19 November 2016, in Abeokuta, Nigeria, the birthplace of Wole Soyinka, and shares a name with Soyinka’s classic memoir of his childhood, Aké.’

AiW Guest: Nathan Suhr-Sytsma

akefest2The fourth incarnation of the Aké Arts & Book Festival took place 15-19 November 2016, in Abeokuta, Nigeria, the birthplace of Wole Soyinka, and shares a name with Soyinka’s classic memoir of his childhood, Aké. The festival is the brainchild of Lola Shoneyin, who capably directs it with the support of a small team of dedicated staff and two dozen student volunteers from across Nigeria. The week began with workshops in fiction writing, graphic stories, and script-writing for a select number of participants, kicking off for the rest of us on Thursday morning. Aké brings together dozens of guests, primarily creative writers from Nigeria and other African countries, but also academics, filmmakers, and other kinds of creative intellectuals, along with a couple hundred attendees, most of them young Nigerians—aspiring writers and/or book lovers.

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The 512 Languages Spoken in Nigeria

According to Ethnologue 512 languages are spoken in Nigeria. There does, however, seem to be some confusion between dialects and languages, which would mean that this number is not set in stone. “Languages” are typically prestigious, official and written, whereas “dialects” are mostly spoken, unofficial and looked down upon. According to linguists ‘if two related kinds of speech are so close that speakers can have a conversation and understand each other, they are dialects of a single language. If comprehension is difficult to impossible, they are distinct languages.’ According to social/political views on classification of languages, ‘”a language is a dialect with an army and a navy”. Speakers of mere “dialects” often refer to their speech as “slang”, “patois” or the like. So do you agree with this list? Are there languages missing? Dialects included as dialects? How do YOU define language?

Here are some of the languages (I am missing about 40):

Abanyom

Abon

Abua

Acipa, Eastern

Acipa, Western

Aduge

Afade

Agatu

Agoi

Agwagwune

Ahan

Ajawa

Ake

Akita

Akpa

Akpes

Akum

Alago

Alege

Alumu-Tesu

Ambo

Amo

Anaang

Anca

Angas

Arabic, Shuwa

Arigidi

Ashe

Asu

Aten

Atsam

Auyokawa

Awak

Ayere

Ayu

Baan

Baatonun

Baangi

Bacama

Bada

Bade

Bakpinka

Bali

Bangwinji

Basa

Basa-Gumna

Basa-Gurmana

Basa-Kontagora

Bata

Batu

Bauchi

Beele

Begbere-Ejar

Bekwarra

Bena

Berom

Bete

Bete-Bendi

Bile

Bina

Biseni

Bitare

Boga

Boghom

Boko

Bokobaru

Bokyi

Bole

Bo-Rukul

Bukwen

Bumaji

Burak

Bura-Pabir

Bure

Buru

Busa

Cara

Che

Cibak

Cinda-Regi-Tiyal

Ciwogai

Cori

Daba

Dadiya

Dass

Defaka

Degema

Dendi

Deno

Dera

Dghwede

Dibo

Dijim-Bwilim

Diri

Doka

Doko-Uyanga

Dong

Dulbu

Dungu

Duwai

Dzodinka

Ebira

Ebughu

Edo

Efai

Efik

Efutop

Eggon

Ehueun

Ejagham

Ekajuk

Eki

Ekit

Ekpeye

Eleme

Eloyi

Emai-Iuleha-Ora

Engenni

Enwang

Epie

Eruwa

Esan

Etebi

Etkywan

Etsako-Yekhee

Etulo

Evant

Fali

Fam

Firan

Fulfulde

Fum

Fungwa

Fyem

Fyer

Gaa

Ga’anda

Gade

Galambu

Gamo-Ningi

Gana

Gbagyi

Gbari

Gbaya, Northwest

Gbiri-Niragu

Geji

Gengle

Gera

Geruma

Gevoko

Ghotuo

Giiwo

Glavda

Goemai

Gokana

Gude

Gudu

Guduf

Gun-Gbe

Gupa-Abawa

Gurmana

Guruntum-Mbaaru

Gwa

Gwamhi-Wuri

Gwandara

Gyem

Ham

Hasha

Hausa

Holma

Hone

Horom

Huba

Hungworo

Hun-Saare

Hwana

Ibani

Ibibio

Ibino

Ibilo

Ibuoro

Iceve-Maci

Idere

Idoma

Idon

Idun

Igala

Igbo

Igede

Iguta

Ijo, Southeast

Ika

Iko

Ikpeshi

Iku-Gora-Ankwa

Ikulu

Ikwere

Ilue

Irigwe

Isekiri

Isoko

Ito

Itu Mbon Uzo

Ivbie North-Okpela-Arhe

Iyayu

Iyive

Izere

Izi-Ezaa-Ikwo-Mgbo

Izon

Izora

Janji

Jara

Jarawa

Jere

Jibe

Jibu

Jidda-Abu

Jilbe

Jimi

Jiru

Jju

Jorto

Ju

Jukun Of Takum

Kaan

Kadara

Kag-Fer-Jiir-Koor-Ror-Us-Zuksun

Kagoma

Kaivi

Kakanda

Kalabari

Kam

Kamantan

Kami

Kamo

Kamwe

Kaningkon-Nindem

Kanufi

Kanuri, Central

Kanuri, Manga

Kapya

Karekare

Karfa

Kariya

Khana

Kholok

Kinuku

Kiong

Kir-Balar

Kirike

Koenoem

Kofa

Kofyar

Kohumono

Koma

Kona

Kono

Koro Ija

Koro Zuba

Korop

Kpan

Kpasham

Kpati

Kubi

Kudu-Camo

Kugama

Kugbo

Kukele

Kulere

Kulung

Kumba

Kupa

Kurama

Kushi

Kutep

Kutto

Kuturmi

Kwa

Kwak

Kwaami

Kyak

Kyenga

Labir

Laka

Lala-Roba

Lamang

Lamja-Dengsa-Tola

Lamnso

Laru

Leelau

Legbo

Lela

Lemoro

Limbum

Lokaa

Longuda

Loo

Lopa

Lubila

Lufu

Luri

Maaka

Mada

Mafa

Maghdi

Mak

Mala

Malgwa-Wandala

Mama

Mambila, Nigeria

Mangas

Marghi Central

Marghi South

Mashi

Mawa

Mbe

Mbembe, Cross River

Mbembe, Tigon

Mboi

Mbongno

Mbula-Bwazza

Mburku

Mijili

Mingang Doso

Mini

Miship

Miya

Mom Jango

Montol

Moo

Mpade

Mumuye

Mundat

Mvanip

Mwaghavul

Nandu-Tari

Nde-Nsele-Nta

Ndoe

Ndola

Ndunda

Ngamo

Nggwahyi

Ngizim

Ngwaba

Ningye

Ninzam

Nkari

Nkem-Nkum

Nkoroo

Nkukoli

Nnam

Numana-Nunku-Gwantu-Numbu

Nungu

Nupe-Nupe Tako

Nyam

Nyong

Nzanyi

Obanliku

Obolo

Obulom

Odual

Odut

Ogbah

Ogbia

Ogbogolo

Ogbronuagum

Okobo

Oko-Eni-Osayen

Okpamheri

Okpe

Okpe-Idesa-Akuku

Oloma

Olulumo-Ikom

Oring

Oron

Oruma

Ososo

Otank

Pa’a

Pe

Pero

Pidgin, Nigerian

Piti

Piya-Kwonci

Polci

Pongu

Putai

Pyapun

Reshe

Ron

Ruma

Samba Daka

Samba Leko

Sanga

Sasaru-Enwan-Igwe

Saya

Sha

Shall-Zwall

Shamang

Shama-Sambuga

Shanga

Shau

Sheni

Shiki

Shoo-Minda-Nye

Shuwa-Zamani

Siri

Somyev

Sorko

Sukur

Sur

Surubu

Tal

Tala

Tambas

Tangale

Tarok

Tedaga

Teme

Tera

Teshenawa

Tha

Tita

Tiv

Toro

Tso

Tula

Tumi

Tyap

Ubaghara

Ubang

Uda

Uhami

Ujijili

Ukaan

Ukpe-Bayobiri

Ukpet-Ehom

Ukue

Ukwa

Ukwuani-Aboh-Ndoni

Ulukwumi

Umon

Uneme

Urhobo

Usaghade

Uvbie

Uzekwe

Vaghat-Ya-Bijim-Legeri

Vemgo-Mabas

Viti

Vono

Vute

Waja

Waka

Wannu

Wapan

Waphan

Warji

Wase

Wom

Xedi

Yace

Yala

Yamba

Yangkam

Yendang

Yeskwa

Yiwom

Yoruba

Yukuben

Zangwal

Zari

Zarma

Zeem

Zhire

Ziriya

Ziziliveken

Zumbun

 

 

 

 

 

They Too Are the Earth – Niyi Osundare

They too are the earth
The swansongs of beggars sprawled out
The brimming gutters
They are the earth
Under snakeskin shoes and Mercedes tyres

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They too are the earth
The sweat and grime of
Millions hewing wood and hurling water
They are the earth
Muddy every pore like naked moles

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They too are the earth
The distant groans of thousands buried alive
In hard unfathomable mines
They are the earth
Of gold dreams and blood banks

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They too are the earth
The dying distant deaths
In narrow abandoned hamlets
They are the earth
Women battling centuries
Maleficent slavery

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Are they of this earth
Who fritter the forest and harry the hills
Are they of this earth
Who live that earth may die
Are they?

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Do Not Be Brittle

22/11/2016

The landscape of the world is filled with many illogicalities. I hear of so many people losing hope in humanity. Can you blame them? Can you question the loss of faith in humanity when humanity acts irrationally? But I think that we should not lose faith, because there is still hope, but not outside ourselves.

People have lost faith in friends, for friends have decided to foster hate over peace.

People have lost faith in leaders, for leaders have led their people to destruction.

People have lost faith in ideals, because ideals have proven to be as hollow as a drum whose hide is lost to the travails of friction.

People have lost faith in family, blood becoming thinner than water, thinner than kerosene.

But do not lose faith in yourself. Because ultimately, that is the only thing over which you have any control.

So do not lose faith; do not be brittle.

For life will dash us against the rocks.

We will be bruised but we must not break.

Do not be brittle, because a heart encased in stone will no longer feel, but a wounded heart can still sing songs of deliverance. A wounded heart can still sing.

Do not be brittle, do not be cut off by the wind, but rise on the breeze. This hurt soul will look to the sun.

Do not be brittle, never let life take the song of victory from your lips.

With a wavering but sure voice look to your dreams. Tomorrow’s visions dictate today’s actions.

Take charge. Take action. Be kind. Be strong. Be sure.

But do not be brittle.

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The Link Between Communitarianism and Corruption

A few days ago I had to dash into Sainsburys (other supermarkets are available) after work. It is a pretty precise operation, going shopping after 5pm. I have about a 5 minute window to do any actual shopping. The real uphill task is being able to buy the items you have chosen. The place is filled with people trying to do the end of the day shop. Since, I have to drop off my shopping at home and go and pick little one before nursery closes at 6pm, this calls for some fancy footwork. Of which, I am not too good at. So I do my shopping and get on the back of this queue that seems to go twice around the store, but it is moving. I probably spent 3 minutes on the queue, so I am very relieved. Because, my experience of queues in Nigeria is vastly different. Queues in petrol stations that extend for 3 days; the one at the Supreme Court that looked and felt like the road to hell; queues at OAU Bursary, or anytime we wanted to register for a unit, or the one at the OAU health centre – I spent over a month on that one. (That is not a joke, by the way.)

You may well ask me why those queues were so long. Ah! Because they never moved. And why did they never move? Because people kept on jumping into them. You would arrive at  the Bursar’s office at 7am in the morning, first on the queue. By the time the staff arrived at 8am, they would be 20 people ahead of you. Someone who knows the bursar’s neighbour has said ‘please help this person’. The helped person has brought 5 friends. Can they not say no? Well they can. But then they are labelled a bad person, marked for destruction by the peer pressure of a commutarian society that is supposedly built on brotherly love. One classmate of mine in secondary school was targeted for failure because his father refused to give our teachers lifts.

Yet we sit in our houses and rain abuses on our government officials for doing what we do everyday.

‘Please help my son’

‘Give my daughter a job’

‘Put his name on the list, please’

‘Forgive her this one time’

Each time we bend the rules, we bend our moral fibre. Each time we close our eyes to misdimeanours, we close our eyes to treasonous felonies. Our brotherly love is a myth, a hideous untruth that blinds our minds to the horrible reality of our hate. Nigerians can love, but most of the time we refuse to. We refuse to accept that corruption is what we all do and not what some politicians do. So we refuse to stop being corrupt. We refuse to accept that we are all violent, when we turn our back on sufferers of domestic violence, when we allow people to cut corners as long as they give us some of the fruit of their villainy. We then accept wicked lies as absolute truths. For some reason we believe that people we think are brothers will become saints when they assume elective office, though we have a mountain of history books and the proof of our own eyes to contradict this. We believe that meritocracy is a sham and then wallow in mediocrity, oblivious to our own collusion in our sorry state. We want to eat the national cake, but forget to realise that hard work goes into cake baking first. So we turn reality on its head and bring the country to a standstill.

Our country is not moving, just like our queues.

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My Parents Taught Me to be a Rock Plant

Growing up, my mother would often refer to herself and my father as ‘at’apata dide’, literally meaning they grew up from a rock. This is a phrase used to describe people who started from nothing. A rock is bare and usually nothing grows on it. It is no wonder then that my parents are my inspiration in all things. They have managed to go further in life than either of them could have ever dreamed possible. More than the material care they lavished on me, the habit of resilience that they have bestowed on me is one of the most precious gifts I have ever received.

Both of my parents are story-tellers. Their stories have been a compass to me. My mother told me that as a medical student she could not afford books, so she would read her classmates’ books well ahead of examinations. My father told me of a time when his father had no money for school fees. So they both went to chop down some trees to sell the lumber. They ran into problems transporting them and had to carry them by hand some of the way. ‘At’apata dide’ means that you must always look forward, one more step is assurance that you will not return to the barrenness of the rock. It means that you must always look for a way, even when the future seems bleak, because anything is better than the relying on the fruitlessness of the rock.

Travelling to Koro-Lolle and Olle-Bunu, we regularly traversered some weather-beaten untarred roads, but the untouched beauty of the landscape was well worth the trouble of getting logged down in muddied and eroded soil. The geographical lessons were well worth the bumps in the road. When you passed by the sometimes silent satiated savanna forests, you understood more deeply what ‘at’apata dide’ meant. It means more than anything, strength of character, but it also means heart. A beautiful heart can be strong as well.

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Recently, I have been thinking of my secondary school Agricultural Science and Integrated Science lessons and what we were taught about rock plants. We learnt that plants and trees that grow in or on rocks have morphological adaptations that enable them to survive the seeming desolateness of the rock. Here are a few of those adaptations:

Their root systems have a non-uniform distribution: this is because they are continually seeking for nourishment, so they are flexible. They do not conform to stereotype of expectation. They can go as deep as possible. If they go down a certain pathway in the soil and find no food, they must change course of wither and die. To survive rock plants learn to change course.

Their roots go down, way down into the soil: this means they are patient. They know that there is food somewhere, so they just have to keep on going. This also means that when they find food, they are unlikely to be uprooted by a mild wind – not even by a heavy wind. Their roots hold them up. Rock plant keep standing, because of where their roots are.

The upper parts of the tree may not look great, but they receive inner strength from within. They are less likely to be blighted by the weather, or disease or pollution. In a world that makes outer beauty into a must-have, rock plants turn their noses up at the mould. It does not really matter what they look like on the outside. Because on the inside, rock plants are indestructible.

Even though the rocks, logically seem to be stronger that the tree, in the long run, the tree will break the rock. Resilience and patience always wins. Because there is life in the tree, it will keep going till it gets what it needs. There is life in the tree, there is life in its roots. There is no life in the rock. So the rock plants keeps going. It never gives up. It keeps going.

Keep going. We can all be rock plants.

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Can You Hear the Sound of Drums?

Can you hear the sound of drums?

of footsteps fleeing

of scrambling feet,

falling over, hitting the ground with spasmodic turns of speed.

Can you hear the tempo of running, of fear,

the drumming feet, a backdrop to the screams of departing life?

Can you hear them outside your door?

Pounding on your window, begging to be let in,

Away from the pestilence that devours, bone, flesh and blood?

 

Can you hear the sound of drums?

Can you hear the drums of war?

Drumming triggered by the words of your hate,

Drums beaten by the staccato of your vitriol,

Veins bulging, spit spewing anger

Vile, suffocating hate

that hits the skin of indifference.

‘Not my problem’

‘Not my headache’

‘Not my war.’

 

Can you hear the sound of drums?

The drumming of a heart that beats with the same rhythm as yours?

Covered with muscles and blood and flesh

So very much like yours.

But it is the skin

Which is darker than yours

or lighter than yours

From a different place to yours

More feminine than yours

More masculine than yours

The resonance of a heart that believes a different thing from yours.

So different that you cannot hear the sound of drums,

Will not hear the sound of drums,

till the drumming stops. . .

 

Please listen,

Let go of your hate, let go of your anger,

We all need to hear the sound of drums

 

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Am I a ‘Glass Half-Full’ or ‘Glass Half-Empty’ Person?

I have been asked very many times, if I am glass half-full or half-empty. My lawyer’s brain always finds it difficult to give an answer other than ‘It depends.’ I mean we don’t have the full picture and need to ask more questions. We cannot make a conclusion either way… that sort of answer.

We have to know the answer to questions such as: Am I thirsty? Then I am happy that there is some water to drink.

Do I need to do the washing up? I am sad that I need to pour out the water, but not too sad, as this is easily done.

It is not my cup? If not, how is this my business?

As the graphic below suggests there are various responses to some water in a glass. However, I am increasingly reluctant to put labels on anyone, who and what we are and how we manifest that cannot be defined by narrow references to pre-established boundaries of ideology.

 

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