The Mystery of Tutu

This morning I listened to Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie on BBC Radio 4’s Cultural Exchange programme (in which creative minds choose their favourite cultural work) and learnt about Ben Ewonwu, the Nigerian artist ( 1917 – 1994). Adichie spoke about Ewonwu’s painting Tutu, of a Yoruba princess. The original painting has been missing for years, but when Adichie was growing up in Nnusuka, in South-east Nigeria, a print of the work was in practically every middle-class Nigerian household. It is still on the wall of her parents’ home.

tutu
‘Tutu’ by Ben Ewonwu

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Sing On the Edge of Blue

On Edge of Time Future

I remember the history well:
The soldiers and politicians emerged
With briefcases and guns
And celebrations on city nights.

They scoured the mess
Reviewed our history
Saw the executions at dawn
Then signed with secret policemen

And decided something
Had to be done.

They scoured the mess
Resurrected old blue-prints
Of vicious times
Tracked the shapes of sinking cities

And learned at last
That nothing can be avoided
And so avoided everything.
I remember the history well.

2
We emerged from our rubbish mounds
Discovered a view of the sky
As the air danced in heat.

Through the view of the city
In flames, we rewound times
Of executions at beaches.
Salt streamed down our brows.

Everywhere stagger victims of rigged elections
Monolithic accidents on hungry roads
The infinite web of ethnic politics
Power-dreams of fevered winds.

The nation was a map stitched
From the grabbing of future flesh
And became a rush through
Historical slime

We emerged on edge
Of time future
With bright fumes
From burning towers.

The fumes lit political rallies.
We started a war
Ended it
And dreamed about our chance.

Fat fish eat little fish
Big ones arrange executions
And armed robberies.
Our rubbish shapes us all.

I remember the history well.
The tiger’s snarl is bought
In currencies of silence.
Eggs grow large:

A monstrous face is hatched.
On the edge of time future
I am a boy
With running sores

Of remember history
Watching the stitches widen
Waiting for the volcano’s laughter
In the fevered winds

Hearing the gnash
Of those who will join us
At the mighty gateways
With new blue-prints

With dew as seal
And fire as constant
And a trail through time past
To us

Who remember the history well.
We weave words on red
And sing on the edge of blue.
And with our nerves primed

We shall spin silk from rubbish
And frame time with our resolve.

~ Ben Okri, from An Afrian Elegy

Re-reads: Scruples by Judith Krantz

scruples.jpgI read this book for the first time in my late teens, one of the many so-called ‘sex & shopping’ novels that were popular at the time, books by people like Jackie Collins and Shirley Conran. Actually, they may still be popular, but I stopped reading them in the 80s.

When I was an ‘innocent’ teenager, the sex in these books might have been the main attraction (there’s one scene in Scruples that has remained with me all these years and, when I re-read it recently, I was surprised to find that I’d lost none of its details), but it was the ‘shopping’ or rather the details of material objects, especially clothes, that was the true draw.Read More »

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Couldn’t Stop Reading

I’ve taken quite a break from the Top Ten Tuesday meme, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, but I’m back this week with books I found hard to stop reading, although none were short enough to read in one sitting. I’m listing books I read in 2016/17. Also, no re-reads.

The Imperial Radch Trilogy (all three books) by Ann Leckie

The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives by Lola Shoneyin

I Do Not Come to You By Chance by Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani

Lagoon by Nnedi Okorafor

Riders by Joyce Chng

The Shepherd’s Crown by Terry Pratchett

Everything Good Will Come by Sefi Atta

All Alone in the Universe by Lynne Rae Perkins

Sorrow’s Knot by Erin Bow

Girl Defective by Simmone Howell

Looking for Transwonderland by Noo Saro-Wiwa

 

A Mad Weir of Tigerish Waters

Entirely

If we could get the hang of it entirely

   It would take too long;

All we know is the splash of words in passing   

   And falling twigs of song,

And when we try to eavesdrop on the great   

   Presences it is rarely

That by a stroke of luck we can appropriate   

   Even a phrase entirely.
If we could find our happiness entirely

   In somebody else’s arms

We should not fear the spears of the spring nor the city’s

   Yammering fire alarms

But, as it is, the spears each year go through

   Our flesh and almost hourly   

Bell or siren banishes the blue   

   Eyes of Love entirely.
And if the world were black or white entirely

   And all the charts were plain

Instead of a mad weir of tigerish waters,

   A prism of delight and pain,

We might be surer where we wished to go   

   Or again we might be merely

Bored but in brute reality there is no

   Road that is right entirely.

~ Louis MacNeice (1907–1963)