Author Archives: NONEK

Digital Participation: The Last Kings of Africa

We have talked about the governments in Africa in class, and I found something related to this topic. “Austria-based art historian and photographer Alfred Weidinger has traveled across Africa in search of royalty.” I think this is a cool project because we seldom know the kings in Africa. At the end of the news, Weidinger claims that “the biggest threat to Africa’s last remaining monarchs isn’t local government, but modernity.” This actually does make sense because cell phones or the internet allow people to get information more easily and quickly.

http://edition.cnn.com/2014/10/27/world/africa/portraits-africas-fading-monarchs/index.html?hpt=iaf_bn3

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Short Story: “Orange Crush” by Chuma Nwokolo

Orange Crush is about a man, who has eaten thousands of oranges and finally has become a “connoisseur”. He can know a lot of information just by tasting the oranges. One day he bought an orange from a hawker and found that the orange is the best one he has had. He decided to keep the seeds and grow the best orange trees so that he can enjoy his favorite oranges. He spent years and years growing the trees. Most of the trees died, but he did not give up. When he finally have the chance to enjoy his favorite fruit from his tree, he found out that it does not seem to be the orange he wants…He has spent years growing a tree but it turns out to be that he knows more about oranges than himself.

Chuma Nwokolo puts a lot of emphasis on how the oranges tastes and how the man grows the orange trees. The readers may infer that the man pays very much attention to details. But the irony lies in the fact that he has not really listened to his own feelings. It is not until the very end of the story will the readers know what the story is really about, and what the author means by the title Orange Crush.

http://www.african-writing.com/seven/chumanwokolo.htm

Digital Participation: Nigerian Traditional Food-Fufu

Hi everyone, I am sharing a kind of food I had during the Thanksgiving. I was invited to Boston by my roommate. She is from a Nigerian family, so I have had some Nigerian food during the Thanksgiving. Here is one thing that really impressed me and prove that the thing we learned in class is right. Fufu is a staple food in Nigerian. According to my roommate’s mom, it is usually made by yam in Nigeria. (She didn’t have yam at that time, so she used potatoes instead.) This reminded me of Things Fall Apart. In the novel we know that yams are a very important food.

To my surprise, fufu “was introduced to Africa from Brazil by Portuguese traders in the 16th century” (Wikipedia).

Here is the recipe and more info.

How to make fufu video–> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TDkkAAUgRSo

Wikipedia “Fufu”–> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fufu

Digital Participation: Nigerian Authors Condemn Country’s New Anti-gay Law

Hi everyone, I saw this report on The Guardian. Just as the title of this post, some Nigerian writers condemn the country’s ant-gay laws. As we have brought up the theme in class today, we can see that Adichie has written something about homosexuality in her short story collection The Thing Around Your Neck. So it is not that surprising that Adichie appears in this piece of news.

As mentioned in the article, the anti-gay laws are just like witch hunting. I truly think these writers, including Jude, are very brave people who dare speak in public against the government.

Link–> http://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/feb/27/nigeria-anti-gay-law-critic-adichie-kay-habila

In another part of Africa, the Ethiopian government cancels anti-gay rally. But it does not mean that being gay in Ethiopia is safe. According to the news, “[g]ay Ethiopians face severe penalties for living in the open. Same-sex acts are punishable by up to 15 years in prison and a 25-year jail term is given to anyone convicted of infecting another person with HIV during same-sex acts.”

Link–> http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/apr/16/ethiopian-government-cancels-anti-gay-rally-homosexuality

Xenophobia and Homophobia in Nigeria

I was very impressed by Dibia’s talk and some answers he provided in the reading session because the conversation with him brought up the same theme “XENOPHOBIA” we saw in the South African novel Welcome to Our Hillbrow. Even if we know some facts from the professor and from Dibia in person, it is still very hard to imagine how harsh the situation (for gay people and people who are HIV positive) is now in some countries such as Nigeria. One shocking fact that Dibia mentioned is that some HIV positive people are abandoned by the government and do not have proper medication merely because THEY ARE GAY. This clearly shows how gay people are stigmatized in Nigerian society.

As Dibia mentioned, the Nigerian government and some people resist the intervention of the western governments (e.g. US) because they think: (1) there are some violent attacks on gay people in the US. If the US government cannot even control US, why can the US government lay their hands on Nigeria? (2)The western countries have colonized us before. But now they should mind their own business. This is Nigeria, so we the Nigerians should rule our own country.

These two statements mentioned above are exactly the xenophobia we saw in Welcome to Our Hillbrow. In Welcome to Our Hillbrow, the people think that AIDS is brought into their society by the foreigners, not by the native people. Similarly, as mentioned in the talk with Dibia today, Nigerians think that (1) AIDS is not native to Africa; instead, AIDS is brought into Africa by the westerners. (2) The western countries should mind their own business. We can see that the society is hostile against the western countries, but it is also not hard to understand the reason. The trauma of the western colonization has not been cured. Unfortunately, the Nigerians incorrectly connect AIDS with the western society and with gay people. That is, the homophobia is a result of intersection of xenophobia and colonial trauma.

As we read in the essay A Macro-Level Analysis of the Scope, Causes, and Consequences of Homophobia in Africa, gay people are suppressed and in danger in African. While more and more western countries are becoming more inclusive, some African countries are making laws against gay people. To solve this problem, I think maybe the first problem is to deal with the xenophobia in these countries because as I have stated in the previous paragraphs, the homophobia in Africa seems to be a result of xenophobia. Does anyone have similar thoughts or some more suggestions?

Digital Participation–“Are We Civilized?”

Hi everyone, I would like to share a book I have read. (I read this book in a Chinese translation version. The Chinese title of this book is: 野蠻與文明, meaning Primitive and Civilization.) This book is not directly related to the theme “violence,” which we have been discussing in class, but this is the book that inspires me to make the post Are We Civilized?. This is a book Rober Harry Lowie, an Austrian anthropologist. “He [is] instrumental in the development of modern anthropology” (Wikipedia). This book is deemed as one of the classic books in anthropology. In the book the author gives us tons of examples of different cultures. I was totally culture-shocked upon knowing how different some cultures can be. By knowing how people all over the world do in their daily lives, the author invites us to rethink the question: What is civilization?

This question is the very question that I raised in my previous post. When reading Dog Days, I was also thinking this question.

*For more details, please read my post.

–> https://theafricanwriter.wordpress.com/2014/10/31/are-we-civilized/

**The book on Amazon

–> http://www.amazon.com/Are-civilized-Human-culture-perspective/dp/B00085GQSC

***Rober Harry Lowie on Wikipedia

–> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Lowie

Are We Civilized?

When I was reading the novel Dog Days, I strongly feel that the author is trying to tell us something in addition to the violence of everyday life. As we have discussed in class, Patrice Nganang uses a dog as a narrator on purpose because the dog can see the human society more clearly as an outsider. The protagonist of the novel (Mboudjak) mocks at the people around him, but at the same time, he does not have the power to change all these things.

The scene that impresses me the most is the start of chapter 2. Mboudjak has “turned into a poodle” (67), but he thinks that he is “ridiculous […] comical and ugly” (69). This also echoes the theme brought up in the first page of the novel—the right/power to name things. People have the right to name things (as in section 1, chapter 1, we can see Mboudjak used to have the struggle of being called a dog). In the salon scene, we can see that people also have the right to define what “beauty” is. To human beings (at least in the novel), they put perfume on the dog and make the fur wavy, which are against the dogs’ nature. No wonder Mboudjak thinks he is ugly. But no matter how disappointed he is or how hard he “barked out [his] suffering” (68), to people he is just a barking dog. His opinion will never become real opinions simply because he does not have the right to make decisions. What’s worse, he is totally powerless in term of linguistic manipulation.

The most ironic figure in this scene is the lady who reads the magazine upside down. According to Mboudjak, “she is a racist” (68) and is unfriendly. She thinks that sitting in a salon will make her pretty and thus “civilized,” but in fact she is not. The fact that she is reading the magazine upside down clearly insinuates that the lady is just pretending to look fashionable or mimicking what other people may do in a salon. To Mboudjak, this is a failure. But unfortunately, what he can do is to bark out his mockery because he does not have the control over language.

So, are we civilized? Maybe from a dog’s perspective, human beings are just stupid animals that stand with two feet, and do weird things all the time.

All Our Names Book Reviews

Hi everybody! Even though we have read All Our Names for a while, but I still want to share something I read. I accidentally found two different book reviews from two newspapers. I find it interesting to compare different people’s book review. Both of the book reviewers point out that All Our Names is NOT a typical immigrant story we know. These book reviews help me to rethink the themes and the book again.

New York Times–> http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/23/books/review/all-our-names-by-dinaw-mengestu.html

The Washington Post–> http://www.washingtonpost.com/entertainment/books/book-review-all-our-names-by-dinaw-mengestu/2014/03/04/e97d0f5e-9f24-11e3-b8d8-94577ff66b28_story.html

The Power of Fragments

Fragments can be powerful. Good tools. Sometimes.

Sorry. If you expect me to write about the themes in the novel, you are barking up the wrong tree. (No offensive. A joke.) This post is not going to talk about the themes or the story plot; instead, I am going to analyze The Memory of Love from the perspective of linguistics. Here, by the title of the post “fragments” I mean sentence fragments, which fail to become a sentence in that they cannot stand by themselves. Theoretically speaking, sentence segments are grammatically incorrect and should not appear in academic writings, but they can be used wisely in novels. The Memory of Love. One good example.

When I started to read the novel, I have already noticed this different syntactic manipulation, which is not seen so often in the previous novels we read. I started to ponder on why Aminatta does so. As far as I observe, the sentence fragments can be roughly put into several categories. They serve for some purposes:

(1) Noun fragments create a whole image of a place, a person quickly. At the same time, because of the lack of verbs, the readers have to put the nouns together on their own, i.e. the readers have even more space of imagination. For example, “Her hand on my shoulder. My hand at her waist. […] Between our bodies, a few inches of warm air” (42). Different readers may have different images or interpretations. One may argue that Saffia does more than laying her hands still. She may change the place she put her hand a little bit, creating a more dramatic scene.

(2) Creating dramatic, sudden effect, or unexpected stops. For example, “A knock on the door” (46). This technique seems to be useful when writing a thriller. A knock is a momentary event. If the author tells the readers who, how the door is knocked, the unexpected knock is no longer surprising but lame.

(3) Re-emphasizing the key element in the previous sentence. “He was the kind of person they call the life and soul of the party. Life and soul. Life and soul” (41). This example is the best one I can find because the author even italicizes the second repetition of the nouns. This quote also reminds me of the writing tradition in ancient epics, which use tons of repetitions to emphasize things again and again.

(4) Creating tension or silence. “Not a word all the way home. […] A surreptitious slap on the back as we parted” (43). This quote successfully creates the tension between Elias and Julius (at least, for Elias it is a hard time). This quote assimilates the moments when a professor slaps the door or the moments a mother is scolding at her children. That kind of silence. And tension.

(5) The most important of all, to create brief flashbacks, which echoes the title of the book The Memory of Love. In fact, besides sentence fragments, I also find that Aminatta uses short sentences (with only a subject and a verb) a lot. I think this should have something to do with the way people think. When people rummaging moments in the memory, it is very hard to make a sentence along. The memory will come back like slide shows. Hence, one of the best way to portray memory is to chop things into small portions and present them respectively. In the case of writing, fragments serves as fleeting slide shows often seen in movies.

Manipulating syntactic structure is useful when writing novels, especially when the author is trying to deliver the readers more information. What do you think? Do I make sense? Fragments! Powerful?

PS. I also think this technique makes the novel sound more colloquial. This is an evident point, so I just put a note here.

Do You Want to Know the Truth?

You won’t tell the children everything, will you? (5:07)

The public are sometimes just like children. We don’t know what the government doesn’t want us to know, or what the people in power try to conceal. If you have a chance to choose, would you choose to know the ugly truth, or let the dark, ugly history fade with time?

As the professor has pointed out in the lecture, Lumumba was assassinated in 1961. But it was not until decades after Lumumba’s death that the assassination was “officially” recognized, or more specifically, admitted. In the years when the history is “blank”, people somehow knew what had happened to Lumumba, but they didn’t seem to have the right to speak for Lumumba.

If we were the kids who Lumumba addressed to in the film, we should say, “even if you don’t want to tell us the truth, we will still dig the truth from where you bury it.” We cannot be children that are always waiting for adults (in this sense, the government) to tell us what has happened. We should have the ability and the responsibility to “dig” or “write” the history. We should also not doubt the power we have, either. If the anecdote that Lumumba had been killed was not written down, most people now (I mean in 2014) will probably not know what happened fifty years ago. If the anecdotes can never be officially published or recognized, the anecdotes will just be anecdotes, forever! (In fact, as the older generation dies, the younger generation may not even know the anecdotes!) And the justice will never be fulfilled. The victims will never have a chance to sleep soundly.

The montage of documentary film (around the 5 minute mark) in Lumumba seems to keep reminding us: never forget what was once real but ugly in history. The function of history is not just for memorization in history classes, but for condemning and warning those who are morally corrupted and harm the human race.

Now, do you understand why Lumumba in the film said, “[e]ven dead, I was still a threat to them” (3:21)? The threat is not Lumumba himself but the revelation of the history sooner or later.