Wednesday, 25 November 2015

New Releases for 2016

With only 5 weeks to go until 2015 ends (where did the year go?) I'm looking forward to 2016, and the books to be excited about. First, congratulations to Cassava Republic who will be launching in the UK in April 2016. According to The Bookseller, Cassava's list includes: 

Image via Cassava Republic's
Facebook page
'Elnathan John's "breathtakingly beautiful" Born on a Tuesday, which tackles unexplored aspects of  friendship, love, trauma and politics in recent northern Nigerian history, Sarah Ladipo Manyika's "mesmerising" Like a Mule Bringing Ice Cream to the Sun, a subtle story about ageing, friendship and loss and the erotic yearnings of an older woman, along with the "pulsating" crime novels Easy Motion Tourist by Leye Adenle and The Lazarus Effect by H.J. Golokai. The list also features Abubakar Adam Ibrahim's Season of Crimson Blossoms - a "controversial and gripping story" of an affair between a devoted Muslim grandmother and a 25-year-old drug dealer and political thug.'

I'll be sharing more details on these books (like if Born on a Tuesday and Season of Crimson Blossoms have different covers for the UK edition than the Nigerian ones) the more I find out.

Also, while at the Ake Festival (a post on my experience will be up soon - I'm still trying to recover from all the awesomeness) we heard about a lot of forthcoming releases from authors. Helon Habila read an excerpt from a yet to be finished book which will be set in Berlin and features a novelist and his painter wife; Maaza Mengiste is also currently working on a second novel, as is Vamba Sheriff, and Chris Abani - whose next novel is set in Maiduguri. Cassava Republic is also putting together a collection of queer fiction from lesbian and bisexual women (if I remember correctly). 

Finally, MaThoko's Books has sent out a call for submissions for Queer Africa II - the follow-up of its award winning anthology, Queer Africa: New and Collected Fiction, and Teju Cole's collection of essays on art, literature, photography, and politics, Known and Strange Things, published by Random House and Faber & Faber will also be out in Autumn 2016. There's already so much to look forward to, but until then, here are 8 more new releases  in 2016.

Ahlem Mosteghanemi's The Dust of Promises (January 14 2016)
The final novel in the international bestselling trilogy from 'literary phenomenon' (Elle) Ahlem Mosteghanemi, The Dust of Promises, is a haunting, elegiac story of love, memory and betrayal - and of what it means to come home. 

Still heartsick over the break-up of his relationship with the alluring, elusive novelist Hayat, the narrator of The Dust of Promises finds himself adrift in Paris, where he has come to receive a photography award. His photograph of a traumatised war-orphan has been declared profoundly affecting by the judges, but he knows that no picture can ever fully capture the desolation and destruction he has witnessed in his Algerian homeland. When he stumbles into an art exhibition on one of the capital's side streets, he is struck by the power of the paintings and feels impelled to learn more about the artist – an Algerian exile whose painful longing for the country he has lost shines out of his work. The artist is none other than Khaled, the man who haunted the pages of Hayat's first novel, just as the narrator was inextricably entangled in her second. As the two men embark on a tentative friendship, a twist of fate brings Hayat herself to France, where the destinies of all of them will once again collide.

Spanning more than half a century of Algeria's tumultuous recent history, this is a poignant tale of secret lovers brought together and pulled apart as they navigate Algeria's changing political landscape from the heady, bright peaks of independence to the dark depths of corruption and disillusionments this is a sweeping epic and an arresting ode to a once great country. 

Short Story Day Africa's Water: New Short Fiction from Africa  (March 17 2016)
SSDA's third anthology collection, edited by Nick Mulgrew and Karina Szczurek, aims to break the one-dimensional view of African storytelling and fiction writing. The stories in this anthology explore true and alternative African culture through a competition on the theme of Water. The winner of the SSDA prize for Short Fiction, South African author Cat Hellisen, with her winning story The Worme Bridge, was announced at the Ake Arts & Book Festival. 

The winning story, along with the rest of the 2015 longlist (which comprised of 21 short stories) will be in Water: New Short Fiction from Africa. The collection features a number of Caine Prize-winning and nominated authors including Efemia Chela and Pede Hollist, as well as a host of exciting emerging writers and established favourites from throughout the African continent and diaspora.

Ibrahim Essa's The Televangelist - translated by Jonathan Wright (April 30 2016)
Published by Hoopoe (a new imprint of the American University in Cairo Press), and shortlisted for the International Prize for Arabic Fiction, meet Hatem el-Shenawi, a Muslim TV preacher who has won fame and fortune through his show delivering Islam to the masses. 

Affable, sharp-witted, and well-connected to the government and business elite of Cairo, Shenawi seems at the top of his game. But when he is entrusted with a dangerous secret, one that could tip the whole country into chaos, the double-edged sword of his celebrity threatens him with scandal and ruin as he is drawn deeper into political intrigue and the dark underbelly of the state. 

Fast-paced and brilliantly observed, The Televangelist, takes us on a journey into the corrupt nexus of power, money, media, and religious performance that has dominated Egypt in recent years. 

Yewande Omotoso's The Woman Next Door (May 5 2016)
Published by Chatto & Windus, two wickedly funny old women show us it's never too late to find friendship. Hortensia James and Marion Agostino are neighbours. One is black, one white. Both are successful women with impressive careers. Both have recently been widowed. And both are sworn enemies, sharing hedge and hatred and pruning both with a vim and zeal that belies the fact that they are both over eighty. But one day an unforeseen event forces the women together. And gradually the sniping and bickering softens into lively debate, and fromthere into memories shared. The big question is whether these glimpses of common ground could ever transforminto a (rather spiky) formof friendship. Or is it far too late for these two ever to change their spots? 

Youssef Fadel's A Rare Blue Bird Flies With Me - translated by Jonathan Smolin (May 30 2016)
First published in Arabic in 2013 and shortlisted for the International Prize for Arab Fiction, Hoopoe brings us the English translation. It's spring 1990 in a dingy small-town Moroccan bar. Zina is serving drinks when a mysterious man approaches her. The man gives Zina a handwritten note from her husband, Aziz, who disappeared the day after their wedding, eighteen years ago, after participating in the failed 1972 coup against King Hassan II. Zina has spent the past eighteen years searching for Azia, who has been imprisoned in inhuman conditions in a solitary cell inside a secret desert jail. Will Zina finally find Aziz? Moving back and forth between 1990 and the past, A Rare Blue Bird That Flies With Me recounts the painful circumstances that brought Zina and Aziz together and the torture after the 1972 coup that tore them apart. Told from the perspective of several narrators - including Zina, Aziz, Aziz's two tailors - Youssef Fadel's novel is a masterful history of modern Morocco.

Parker Bilal's City of Jackals: A Makana Mystery (June 7 2016)
Published by Bloomsbury USA, this is the fifth thriller in this 'excellent', 'must-read' series, featuring  'the perfect 21st-century detective', Makana. Mourad Hafiz appears to have dropped out of university and disappeared. Engaged by his family to try and find him, Makana comes to believe that the Hafiz boy became involved in some kind of political activity just prior to his disappearance. But before he can discover more, the investigation is sidetracked: a severed head turns up on the riverbank next to his home, and Makana finds himself drawn into ethnic rivalry and gang war among young men from South Sudan. The trail leads from a church in the slums and the benevolent work of the large-than-life Rev. Preston Corbis and sister Liz to the enigmatic Ihsan Qaddus and the Hesira Institute. 

The fifth installment of this acclaimed series is set in Egypt in December 2005. While Cairo is tor by the protests by South Sudanese refugees demanding their rights, President Mubarak has just been re-elected by a dubious 88 per cent majority in the country's first multi-party elections. In response to what appears to be flagrant election-rigging, there are early stirrings of organised political opposition to the regime. Change is afoot and Makana is in danger of being swept away in the seismic shifts of his adopted nation. 

Yaa Gyasi's Homegoing (June 7 2016)
Published by Penguin Random House, this is a riveting, kaleidoscopic debut novel about race, history, ancestry, love, and time that traces the descendants of two sisters torn apart in eighteenth-century Africa across three hundred years in Ghana and America.

Two half sisters, Effa and Esi, unknown to each other, are born into different tribal villages in eighteenth-century Ghana. Effa is married off to an Englishman and will live in comfort in the palatial rooms of Cape Coast Castle, raising half-caste children who will be sent abroad to be educated before returning to the Gold Coast to serve as administrators of the empire. Esi, imprisoned beneath Effia in the Castle's women's dungeon and then shipped off on a boat bound for America, will be sold into slavery. Stretching from the tribal wars of Ghana to slavery and the Civil War in America, from the coal mines in the American South to the Great Migration to twentieth-century Harlem, Yaa Gyasi's novel moves through histories and geographies and captures - with outstanding economy and force - the troubled spirit of our own nation. She has written a modern masterpiece.

Imbolo Mbue's Behold the Dreamers (August 23 2016)
Published by Penguin Random House, this is a debut novel about an immigrant couple striving to get ahead as the Great Recession hits home. With profound empathy, keen insight, and sly wit, Imbolo Mbue has written a compulsively readable story about marriage, class, race, and the trapdoors in the American Dream. 

Jende Jonga, a Cameroonian immigrant living in Harlem, has come to the United States to provide a better life for himself, his wife, Neni, and their six-year-old son. In the fall of 2007, Jende can hardly believe his luck when he lands a job as a chauffeur for Clark Edwards, a senior executive at Lehman Borthers. Clark demands punctuality, discretion, and loyalty - and Jende is eager to please. Clark's wife, Cindy, even offers Neni temporary work at their summer home in the Hamptons. With these opportunities, Jende and Neni can at last gain a foothold in America and imagine a brighter future. 

However, the world of great power and privilege conceals troubling secrets, and soon Jende and Neni notice cracks in their employers' facades. 

Then the financial world is rocked by the collapse of Lehman Brothers. Desperate to keep Jende's job, which grows more tenuous by the day, the Jongas try to protect the Edwardses from certain truths, even as their own marriage threatens to fall apart. As all four lives dramatically upended, Jende and Neni are forced to make an impossible choice.

Saturday, 7 November 2015

Glenna Gordon's "Diagram of the Heart" with Translations by Carmen McCain

Last month, the New York Times published an article, Nigeria's Literature of Love, about the romance novelists in Northern Nigeria Glenna Gordon spent two years photographing, who shattered her notions of what is possible for women in conservative Islamic society. 
Photo by Glenna Gordon via NYT of Soyayya novelist Fauziyya D. Sulaiman reading a book at the market after she dropped her newest release for sale.
Glenna Gordon is a documentary photographer who 'aim[s] to find the unexplored and seldom mentioned' with her images. She has lived and worked as a writer and reporter in a number of African countries since 2006, and has been commissioned by the New York Times, Time Magazine, the Wall Street Journal, Le Monde and many others. The genesis of Gordon's project on Muslim women writing romance novels, as explained in the NYT article, is that she :
' ... had been working in Lagos documenting local weddings for her "Nigeria Ever After" series, when she learned about a "mass wedding" in the north. Intrigued, she read up on the area, including "Sin Is a Puppy That Follows You Home," by the Nigerian author Balaraba Ramat Yakubu. It was not a guidebook or political treatise, but a romance novel. 
That book was in the genre of littattafan soyayya  ... So when she went to photograph the 2013 wedding, Ms. Gordon also sought out many authors of these novel in order to make portraits of them.'
Glenna Gordon's series of photos led to Diagram of the Heart. Out December 1st, and published by Red Hook Editions, with photographs from Gordon and translations by Carmen McCain, Diagram of the Heart  is a photo book exploring romance, tradition, love and loss in the lives of women in Northern Nigeria. 

Carmen McCain, lecturer at Kwara State University, who translates short excerpts of soyayya novels in this book, shares on her blog how she first got involved in this project a few years ago after Glenna Gordon got in touch with her to learn more about culture in northern Nigeria :
' ... I told her that the best thing for her to do would be to read Balaraba Ramat Yakubu's novel translated as Sin is a Puppy by Aliyu Kamal. Glenna read it as was enchanted, featuring it as her "springtime read" at Guernica, where she is photo editor. And later when she came to stay with me for a week in Jos while working on her wedding project, she photographed some of my collection of "soyayya" novels and told me she wanted to do a photography project on Hausa women who wrote ... So, I contacted several writers' groups asking women if they would be interested in being photographed for the project, and I put her in touch with a few other writers I knew. She took it from there ...
Earlier this year, she told me she would be exhibiting the photos with Open Society's "Moving Walls" series in New York and asked me if I would travel to Kano to purchase some novels from the market for exhibition, as well as help with summarising some of the novels and translating excerpts for them for the exhibition.'
McCain also goes on to explain the process of translation, which she did, along with a friend Sa'adatu Baba Ahmed, on her blog.

I first featured littattafan soyayya novels a few years ago on the blog and Fatimah Kelleher wrote a great article last year, which explores how, '[t]hrough the evocative power of prose, northern women's voices are subverting oppressive norms'. So it's really great that the writers behind these novels are being featured in Harper's Magazine, the New York Times, and this new book. Diagram of the Heart features 75 photographs of this small, but vibrant industryand here are some of of Glenna Gordon's exquisite photos (and captions) via her website
A young woman reads a romance novel in Kano

Romance novels at a market in Kano

Many of Kano's romance novels concern lavish traditional weddings
... and a sneak peek inside the book with one of Carmen McCain's translated excerpts via Red Hook Editions.

Friday, 6 November 2015

Sillerman First Book Prize for African Poets is Open for Submissions until December 1st

Thought this might be of some interest to African poets out there - the Sillerman First Book Prize for African Poets is open for submissions until December 1st. 

For the last 3 years, literary magazine Praire Schooner's sister organisation, the African Poetry Book Fund (APBF), has had an annual prize which publishes the first book of an African Poet through its Sillerman First Book Prize for African Poets. The APBF promotes and advances the development and publication of the poetic arts of Africa through its book series, contests, workshops, seminars and more. Also funded under the APBF is the Brunel University African Poetry Prize and the Glenna Luschei Prize for African Poetry.

Well, it's the time of year again and if you are a poet, 'who was born in Africa, who is a national or resident of an African country, or whose parents are African', looking for the chance to have your first book-length poetry collection published - then the Sillerman Prize is worth checking out. If you're eligible, please send your manuscripts (and spread the word, if you know any other writers). A little bit more:
"The winner receives USD $1,000 and publication through University of Nebraska Press. The contest is judged by the APBF Editorial Board, including Kwame Dawes, Chris Abani, Matthew Shenoda, John Keene, Gabeba Baderoon, and Bernardine Evaristo. Only poetry submissions in English can be considered. Translated work is acceptable, but a percentage of the prize will be awarded to the translator. Manuscripts should be at least 50 pages, and eligible writers may submit more than one manuscript. Finally, no entry fee is required to submit to the contest." 
The Sillerman Prize is open until December 1st and more details can be found hereAnd, if you're curious about their last three publications, the inaugural Sillerman First Book Prize for African Poets was awarded to Kenyan poet, scriptwriter and editor, Clifton Gachagua, for his book Madman at KilifiGachagua’s collection concerns itself with the immediacy of cultures in flux, cybercommunication and the language of consumerism, polyglot politics and intrigue, sexual ambivalence and studied whimsy, and the mind of a sensitive, intelligent, and curious poet who stands in the midst of it all.

The 2014 prize went to Somalian-American poet Ladan Osman's The Kitchen Dweller's Testimony. The book is about love and longing, divorce, distilled desire, and all the ways we injure ourselves and one another, and asks: Whose testimony is valid? Whose testimony is worth recording? The 2015 winner was Ethiopian-American poet and visual artist Mahtem Shiferraw, whose book Fuchsia is due to be published Spring of 2016 from University of Nebraska Press and Amalion Press in Senegal. In a recent interview, Shiferraw talks about shaping her first collection, winning the Sillerman Prize and what's next. 

As explained by the Sillerman Prize, 'this trio of books represents the exciting range of new and dynamic African voices that are being heard thanks to the work of the African Poetry Book Fund.' The books do sound exciting and it does sound like an amazing book prize, so definitely do consider submitting. And good luck to all who do!!!

Sunday, 1 November 2015

30 Days and Counting: December 1 Release of AfroSFv2

I can't believe it was over 2 years ago when I first heard about AfroSFv2. Well, it's only one month to go until we get our second helping, of what Ivor Hartmann - the editor behind both AfroSF and AfroSFv2 - explains to me is 'a seriously kick-ass SF anthology'. Out December 1, AfroSFv2 continues 'the groundbreaking tradition of the first volume', but with a twist - this time we are given 'five original SF novellas by African writers'. 
AfroSF, which was released in December 2012, was said to be the first ever SF anthology by African writers, and with the upcoming release of v2, I was curious as to why the focus on novellas this time around. Thankfully, Ivor Hartmann was kind enough to share the reason behind this:
'I chose to publish an SF novella anthology for quite a few reasons, but mainly: I like the length a novella gives to really get into a story, novellas are the longest story form a print anthology can feasibly comprise, and I wanted to challenge both myself and the writers to see if we could publish the first novellas anthology of science fiction by African writers.'
Hartmann also explains when the 'long road to AfroSFv2' began:
' ... in March 2013 with a year-long open subs call. I had ten entries in total in March 2014 and after reading through them selected eight for first round edits, of those five made it through to second round and ultimately into the anthology.'
Well, it's almost here and I am super excited and cannot wait to tuck in to some 'seriously kick-ass SF'. So what are these five novellas about: 
The stories do sound awesome and I am really looking forward to its release. Having said that it would be remiss of me to not point out something I noticed. AfroSF had a number of female writers - Nnedi Okorafor, Sarah Lotz, Cristy Zinn, S.A. Partridge, Chinelo Onwualu, Sally-Ann Murray, Joan De La Haye, Mia Ardern and Rafeeat Aliyu - but as Hartmann rightly addresses: 
' .. it will be noticed, and has been already that the anthology is comprised of only male authors, and while it's no excuse, despite my best intentions and strivings otherwise, this is just how it worked out. I think StoryTime's publishing record more than shows I truly have no bias in this regard'.
As Hartmann goes on to explain on the AfroSF facebook pageof the eight submissions that were preliminarily accepted, only one was from a woman and after the first edit he saw that it just wan't going to fit into the anthology - as it was primarily YA and the others were less so.  

I won't lie, it would have been awesome to see a female author or two being part of this collection, but at the same time Ivor Hartmann's past anthologies (including African Roar) show no evidence of male bias in his work. The 'male dominance' of this anthology did lead to quite an interesting conversation on AfroSF's facebook page around the need to question female writers presence in this genre specifically, and as writer and editor, Chinelo Onwualu, explains more broadly 'the lack of women's representation ... across the literary spectrum on the continent'. With Onwualu going on to write that the 'the question is a legitimate one to ask'. And I agree! Onwualu also offers an answer, from her experience, around female representation in SF:
'For me it's not enough to say that women don't submit without looking at the why. For every issue of Omenana that has come out, I've had to badger, to wheedle - heck I've commissioned pieces from women whom I know are talented as fuck but who still hesistate to put their work out there because they just don't have that confidence or the time necessary to hone their craft. And I am willing to hold back an edition until I have a woman's voice in it ... I know the problem shouldn't be placed solely at the door of editors, but let's not pretend that they have no role to play in upholding the status quo.'
Not taking away from what the anthology will hopefully do for the field of African SF, it does bring up important discussions on female SF writers - such as, are women invisible in SF? Are women submitting less to SF than other genres? And if so, why?  - and these should not be discounted, dismissed or ignored. Still, I eagerly await the December release of AfroSFv2.

PS. While you wait for the anthology, here are some works from the authors of the novellas. Tade Thompson's debut novel Making Wolf is out now. It's a 'gritty thriller set in modern-day Nigeria' about a police officer in a supermarket in London who returns to his home for his aunt's funeral, but kidnapped by rebel factions to investigate the murder of a local hero after telling people he works as a homicide detective. Nick Wood has published The Stone Chameleon, a YA sf/fantasy novel, as well as a number of short stories. His next book, Azanian Bridges, will be published in 2016. Wood describes it as being set in a contemporary alternative South Africa where Nelson Mandela and other struggle leaders were never released, i.e. apartheid survives.  Dilman Dila's short story collection of speculative fiction, A Killing in the Sun, was shortlisted for the 2013 Commonwealth  Short Story Prize. 

Art work for Azanian Bridges via Nick Wood's Twitter Page
Mame Bougouma Diene's short stories can be found on Brittle Paper (The Girl with the Mami Wata Tattoo) and Omenana (The Horse of War and The Broken Nose). Also check out Andrew Dakalira's stories on Brittle Paper (A Flicker of Memory), Africa Book Club (Funeral Woes) and (My Grandmother). EfeTokunbo Okogu's stories can be found in a number of literary journals and anthologies, and his shot story, 'Proposition 23' from AfroSF was nominated for the 2013 BSFA awards. 

Saturday, 31 October 2015

55 Years of Nigerian Literature: New Releases from Elnathan John and Abubakar Adam Ibrahim

... and with this comes the end of my celebration of art in Nigerian literature. I have had so much fun putting these posts together this year and showcasing all the amazing works. From Three Crown Books in the 1960s and Edel Rodriguez's amazing book covers for the reissue of Chinua Achebe's books to the many different covers of Things Fall Apart and the gorgeous, gorgeous illustrations of Nigerian artists including Alaba OnajinOnyinye Iwu and Karo Akpokiere.

I know there's a lot more I could have looked at, and the end of this celebratory month does not mean an end of my celebration of art in Nigerian literature and beyond. Still, I do hope you have enjoyed this series on art and literature as much as I have, and see you again same time next year for my month dedicated to Nigerian literature. For now, I leave you with two new releases from the North of Nigeria - debut novels from Elnathan John and Abubakar Adam Ibrahim. As Ibrahim says in a recent interview, 'there are not enough stories from the North of Nigeria [leading to a] perpetuation of stereotypes of the people who live in this part of the country', which is why I'm really excited for these two new releases.

First up is Elnathan John's much awaited debut novel, Born on a Tuesday, published by Cassava Republic  and out next month. 

Dantala lives in Bayan Layi, Nigeria and studies in a Sufi Quaranic school. By chance he meets gang leader Banda, a nominal Muslim. Dantala is thrust into a world with fluid rules and casual violence. In the aftermath of presidential elections he runs away and ends up living in a Salafi mosque. Slowly and through the hurdles of adolescence, he embraces Salafism as preached by his new benefactor, Sheikh Jamal. Dantala falls in love with Sheikh's daughter, Aisha and tries to court her within the acceptable limits of a conservative setting. All the while, Sheikh struggles to deal with growing Jihadist extremism within his own ranks.

This novel explore life, love, friendship, loss and the effects of extremist politics and religion on everyday life in Northern Nigeria.

Then there's Abubakar Adam Ibrahim's, Season of Crimson Blossoms, published by Parresia (also out in November) about 'a fifty-something year old widow and her explicit relationship with a twenty-year old weed dealer and political thug'. As Ibrahim explains, the novel explores all the dynamics that a relationship of this nature can throw up, while situating it within the social and religious context in which the story is set. This interview goes into more detail of this story about a widow who wants to explore her sexual side in Northern Nigeria.  
Image via Parresia's Facebook page

Friday, 30 October 2015

55 Years of Nigerian Literature: London Life, Lagos Living and Karo Akpokiere's Pop Art

Cover design by Osione Itegboje
Back in 2011, Bobo Omotayo released his 'coffee-table book, with a twist', London Life, Lagos Living. What I loved about it when I first read it was the design - inside and out - and, particularly its amazing illustrations. Well, for my penultimate celebratory post, I bring you the work of Karo Akpokiereincluding a glimpse inside London Life, Lagos Living.

I love Akpokerie's work and to be honest it was London Life, Lagos Living that introduced me to it. After reading the book, I had to find out everything about Akpokerie's and his art, which is largely inspired by the dynamic pop culture of Lagos. In a recent article, following Akpokerie's apperance at the Venice Biennale, Sean O'Toole writes that his art is an ongoing love letter to Lagos, and that captures perfectly how I feel about it. Hopefully, once you see Akpokerie's works, you will get a sense of the dynamism of Lagos through his 'text rich ... noisy and over-populated drawings'.

All images via Karo Akpokiere's website
Here's a look at some of Karo Akpokiere's truly stunning work from his website. 
My Africa is: Lagos Chronicles
Illustrated letters A-Z
Also check out his Tumblr for more of his designs. 

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

55 Years of Nigerian Literature: Nigerian Ghost Stories

Halloween is just around the corner, and while it may not be associated with Nigeria, there is one thing about the day - ghouls, ghosts, witches, and all things scary - that can definitely be found in Nigerian literature. If you don't know, now you know - we know how to tell a good ghost story! We also have our fair share of urban legends, like Madam Koi Koi - with her red heels (clicking away making sounds that go koi koi koi) going from boarding school to boarding school coming to capture kids late at night. Supposedly, if you lay still in bed and don't make a sound, you might be lucky and Madam Koi Koi won't notice you. So, with the end of this month marking All Hallows' Eve, I thought my next celebratory post could look at art associated with Nigerian ghost stories. 

When I think of ghost stories the first one that comes to mind is Amos Tutuola's My Life in the Bush of Ghosts about a young boy who accidentally enters the Bush of Ghosts and encounters a number of ghosts – from the sinister to the not-so-sinister. What I didn't expect when looking for illustrations was to come across these really amazing drawings from an artist, John W. Lane, who one day plans 'to illustrate a complete portfolio of this tale'. Please do! How awesome would that be?
To 7th Town
The Smelling King
Losing Brother
Kitchen Fight. All images via animatedlane

While My Life in the Bush of Ghosts is what first came to my mind, the first novel Amos Tutuola wrote - The Wild Hunter in the Bush of Ghosts - is said to have been heavily influenced by D.O. Fagunwa's Forest of a Thousand Daemons translated from Yoruba by Wole Soyinka. Forest of a Thousand Daemons, said to be the first novel written in Yoruba, takes you to 'a world of warriors, sages and kings; magical trees and snake people; spirits, Ghommids, and big trolls.' While it was first published in 1939, here is the 2012 City Lights publishing edition with illustrations from Bruce Onobrakpeya.

Cover design by Linda Ronan

Images via City Lights
Another well-known ghost story is Ben Okri's Famished Road - that book definitely terrified me when I first read it at 13/14. I was so terrified I put it down and was too scared to pick it back up and continue reading it. Reading it late at night when there's no light (also known as electricity/power) by candle light was probably also not the best idea. Famished Road may follow Azaro, who is an abiku or spirit child, but according to Molara Wood, there was one artist who captured the essence of magical realism. Indeed, Wood described the late Nigerian visual artist Twins Seven Seven as a 'Magical Realist':
'In his fantabulous painted woodcuts, I see the world of D.O Fagunwa, Amos Tutuola, Asiru Olatunde and Ben Okri. Okri may have written about Azaro, but Twins Seven-Seven - born Taiwo Olaniyi Osuntoki - was Azaro personified.'
Here are a couple of Twins Seven Seven's work on abiku's and ghosts.   
The long eared ghost
Healing of Abiku Children
More recent ghost stories come from Helen Oyeyemi - Icarus Girl, The Opposite House and White is for Witching. I particularly like the White is for Witching covers, and this animated trailer for White is for Witching, with art work from Jon Klassen. 

Finally, going back to urban legends and Madam Koi Koi, here are some illustrations of three famous Nigerian horror stories from Obk studios.

If you're interested in finding out more about Nigerian ghost stories, here's a podcast from BBC World Service on West African horror fiction featuring Nigerian writer Nuzo Onoh who writes 'to scare the adults'. Her book, The Reluctant Deadis a collection of six short ghost stories. There is also The Naked Convos, Lights Out: Nigerian Horror Story series.