Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The new super stars: Nigerian literature exits the long night

For the first time in a rather long while, something other than the usual monotony of sleeping, washing, writing and reading (in whatever order) crept into my Saturday calendar.

What replaced, to a large extent, these usual activities was the Farafina Trust literary evening with Chimamada and friends, something very much connected to my passion for writing, I rued missing it – for anything.

Though this would be my first time at the event, it wasn’t on that account that I was suffused with excitement, it also had nothing to do with the prospect of rubbing shoulders with Nigeria’s literary stars, na, it had much more to do with the Farafina trust’s creative writing program whose participants were to be unveiled that day.

It also had lots to do with the fact that after three years of trying to enter the writing program, I was finally able to submit an application on time. Two years before, I chanced upon news about the program weeks after it had rounded off and last year, I applied three days after the deadline for applications.

This year however, on account of my current job as an online editor for a business magazine and the pain of not applying on time before, I was waiting for it with abated breath. I made sure all those who might get advance knowledge of the program knew of my interest. My plans paid off as I got notice from award winning novelist Nnedi Okarafor and sent off an application immediately, then settled to await with abated breath for what I hoped would be a positive result.

I was very much elated when a personal e-mail came from none other than Ms Adichie herself reached my mail box, congratulating me for making the list of thirty five but informing me that, sadly, I was not among the final twenty selected for the program. Well, despite all my prayers and whatnot I didn’t get in. No leles, I said to myself, taking solace in the titillating fact that the celebrated author found my work good enough to warrant a personal note of encouragement. Dat kin ting no dey hapun evry day, Said I. I took this as a sign that there’s some good in my ramblings.

All said, perhaps you can understand my elation at being invited to the dinner in honour of those lucky twenty that made it into the biggest writing workshop in Nigeria.

I actually arrived about 45 minutes after the 3 o’clock the event was billed for (na naija we dey, had to make allowance for African time) and congratulated myself for good timing as the event was just kicking off.

I settled down to enjoy what turned out to be a very memorable evening, that is, if like me, you find the mixture of peppered snails, chilled Heineken and poignant words, provided by writers one had looked up to from afar, soul stirring.

All around me literary greats hovered, drawing envious glances from my fame seeking eyes. How I wish I am you, my eyes must have told them.

For the second time in two weeks I felt comfortable with my career choice – the first time was Adaobi Nwaubani’s ready at quintessence while watching people scramble for her book ‘I did not come to you by chance’ and having to fight for a copy with a rather determined young lady who wanted me to give in because I am ‘a man now’.

That same Nwaubani opened the floor to what will remain for munwa a memorable evening as she read from her award winning first novel. A parade of what read like Africa’s new millennium literary who-is-who also gave us tastes from their literary puddings, with Sade Adeniran, Chimamanda Adichie, Binyavanga Wainaina, Chika Unigwe, Nig Mhlongo and Eghosa Imasuen preparing the ground for the special guest of honour, Ghana’s Ama Ata who held not just my adoring eyes captive as she read first, samples of her poetry, then from her short story collection. I must mention at this juncture that her story ‘she who will be king’ stuck to my mind, probably on account of its futuristic leaning – I am at the moment involved in a futuristic anthology ‘Lagos 2060’ which seeks to tell tales set in Lagos 50 years hence.

It was a very fulfilling evening for me, one in which writers got the rare chance to shine in the public eye and we, the hopefully up and coming, got our chance to laugh with those who are shining the light we aim to follow.

As I was leaving a few minutes later and stopped to chat awhile with ace blogger Temitayo Olofinlua, with whom I had shared much more than one laugh a few day prior at another creative writing event, I chanced a look back at the lucky 20 and couldn’t help but wish I could switch places with one of them, the newly empowered.

All said I came off thinking that Nigerian literature, after a long night, is finally finding its way back to daylight again and was sure glad to be part of these, somehow.

1 comment:

  1. Indeed, something big is about to happen! I'm also glad to be part of it.