The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.
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This interview first appeared in Guardian Life, the weekend publication of The Guardian newspaper. It is only reproduced here for the reading pleasure of our audience. There are three types of people in life – the thinkers, the doers, and those who excel at both. Lola Shoneyin easily falls into the third category. Shoneyin, who describes herself as “passionate, feisty, expressive, loving and honest”, won the Pen Award in America as well as the Ken Saro-Wiwa Award for prose in Nigeria. She was also on the long list for the Orange Prize in the UK for her debut novel The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives in 2010. Speaking on her critically acclaimed novel, she says that the main inspiration was a story told to her by her brother’s girlfriend when she was 14 years old. “She told me about this particular situation, where a man had dragged his youngest wife – he was an Igbo man and he had three wives – to the hospital, complaining that she was barren and of course, as part of the medical investigation he had to undergo a series of tests as did his wives and what they found out devastated the whole family.” Her personal experiences are also reflected in the book. “On the other hand, both my grandfathers were polygamous, so I always thought that it was very interesting how that played out in the lives of my parents, especially my mother, whose mother was the first wife and therefore just really unhappy about the notion of polygamy. I just wanted to write that story and look at how our perceptions are changing as Nigerians, as Africans. How we view polygamy, for instance, vis-à-vis culture, modernity, that’s it.” The most important thing about writing the novel for her was, “the humanity, how a family deals with really serious, life-shattering challenges.” From her time as a teacher in the UK and in Nigeria, she has led a life inspired by impacting knowledge, encouraging critical thinking, and building self-identity. One of her most successful ventures, Ake Arts and Book Festival, was inspired by the need to have African creatives dialogue and engage the African audience, and the urgent need to provide a viable platform for this to happen. “I’m a writer and I often go abroad to different festivals. I am also invited to contribute to panel discussions, to talk about my experience as a novelist…I find myself in a position where people are asking me about Nigeria, people are asking me about Africa, people are asking me about culture. And a lot of the time, I am often quite defensive. If I am in front of a crowd that is often not African, I don’t want to portray my people in a negative light.” For her, the question then became, “How do I organise a festival in Nigeria, on African soil, where I will have black African creatives in dialogue with other creatives from other parts of Africa and together, they are engaging African audiences?” Since its inception, the festival has been able to connect more young people to African literature by de-emphasising profit-making. “There are a lot of young people who save money every month to come to Ake to buy their books for the year because we sell our books at discount prices. We are a charity and profit just doesn’t come into the equation for us. It’s about how and what can we do to get books into people’s hands, so I think that’s wonderful.” Ake Festival is not limited to building the bridge between African literary books and those interested readers. Festival-goers are able to meet some outstanding authors from Africa and the Diaspora, who are able to inspire them. “A lot of people having come to Ake Festival, having come in contact with the incredible number of writers, artist and filmmakers that we invite, feel empowered to go and pursue their dreams.” Ake Festival, she says, has impacted on the economy of Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital where it is held annually. “Ake Festival does amazing things for Abeokuta. If you are trying to get a hotel in Abeokuta at this time, it’s always rather complicated because all the rooms are fully booked. The fact that we are here, is having a wonderful effect and enriching impact on the environment.” The impact is also reflected in an ecosystem of art and literary lovers as she says. “We had over 320 applications for volunteers from all over the country and continent. And that is incredible when people are actually looking at the arts and looking at it as something that is important enough to want to be a part of it, and that really just warms my heart.” Running a festival of that size and reach can be a daunting task, especially in a country with a low appreciation for literacy and arts. How does Shoneyin attract the number of people who travel to the ancient city of Abeokuta just for the festival? We are “constantly looking at ways to reinvent ourselves; constantly looking at opportunities for improvement but the biggest and the most beautiful thing is the demographics of the people that we engage and the fact that it keeps getting younger.” Sharing another factor that has challenged the status quo, she says, “our panel discussions are so lively and stimulating, we have highly intelligent people sitting down, talking about issues fearlessly because we have created a safe space and that’s really important.” Regardless of all the positives, Shoneyin wishes Abeokuta residents would show more interest in the festival that happens right under their nose. Most of the participants at the festivals come from places like Lagos, Abuja and even from outside Nigeria. From her debut novel which discusses polygamy in Nigeria, to her work with the festival, to Book Buzz Foundation, and most recently Ouidah Books, Shoneyin is a woman who is set in defining the standards for literacy in Nigeria. She says her driving force has “always been to create.” “I love bringing people together and I love seeing them enjoying themselves and also engaging their minds. I think that is so powerful because sometimes I feel like, in Nigeria, if your parents aren’t telling you what direction to go to, it is the religious institution that you belong to (that’s doing so).” Shoneyin’s ventures are all aimed at improving critical thinking, the formation of informed opinions and starting discourse. She explains, “When you come to an event like this and you are listening to two different points of view, even though you’re not contributing verbally, your mind is dancing from one side to the other…I think it’s a really powerful thing because we’ve got to do what we can as a country to encourage critical thinking and to just get people to be able to reason and take their own decisions.” Speaking of being a feminist in Nigeria, Shoneyin reveals, that she sees herself “as a feminist (even) before it became fashionable in Nigeria.” She believes that feminism in the country is about two things – opportunity and choice. “Opportunities that are available to men, have to be available to women. I feel we do a great disservice as a country by not letting women flourish, by not giving them the opportunity to do what they want to do; I think we suffer, we are less productive, we are less powerful or empowered economically. It’s about choice as well; when you’re an adult, it’s about ‘what do I really want to do?’ not ‘what does society want me to do?’ not ‘what do my parents want me to do?’ and not ‘what does my husband want me to do?'” She goes on to say, “Being able to choose is very important; being able to be economically empowered is very important and independent; being able to say, ‘I want to be a politician’ and be able to go for it and not need to compromise yourself in any way, is very important.” Shoneyin is also very passionate about people having and developing ideas. She says, “Just make people have ideas, make them want to develop their ideas. Make them feel empowered to have ideas… When you read a book, it makes you think; when you listen to an interesting conversation, you form your own opinion and you develop your own ideas. For me, that’s what it’s all about. I have seen how you can function in a situation where you are not encouraged to use your brain. I have seen what the consequences are for children. The potential is there but you are not doing anything to set it free and to let it grow. There is too much of that going on in our society, so all these things are like providing a counter-narrative and that’s how I see it. If there was more space for people to think, do things and create, I just feel we would all be happier.” If there is any preconceived societal notion she will like to eradicate, it is the notion that “there are certain things in this life that you cannot do and I think that is what books teach us through those characters”. Shoneyin is always creating, her mind is always buzzing and new projects are on her mind like a task on her to-do list. Potential collaborators are not in short supply. “I had a magical conversation with a bank today who wants us to organise a festival in Lagos. We are also working on the right-to-write project; we are working with Adamawa, Kaduna, Borno, Katsina and Bauchi state and it involves training twenty writers from Northern Nigeria and five illustrators, and the idea is to train them over a period of 18 months and they complete a manuscript. “We are also training young people in the universities in media, how to use the media safely and how to tell their own stories using film clips and photographs. We are working in partnership with Africultures which is an organisation in France, and it’s something we are very excited about doing over the next few months, and (there are also) lots of collaborations with the Edinburgh festival.” Towards the end of the interview, Shoneyin reveals her true essence – being creative is not a choice. It is a must. It is what makes tick. “There are lots of inspiring things coming up and that’s how I like to live my life. I need to be inspired on a daily basis, boredom is unhealthy for me,” she concludes. Source: The Guardian Newspaper
A Nigerian author in the UK, Uzodinma Iweala has shown the world the official photograph (s) of his much anticipated novel Speak No Evil: A Novel due for release in March 2018. The novel dwells on the story of Niru, a Nigerian teenager whose sexual orientation differs from all and the fallout with his family when his father finds out he is gay. The book is coming twelve years after the author published his bestselling debut, Beast of No Nation According to Brittle Paper, the unveiling of these photographs shows us all that publicity for the new book is underway and that the first set of reviews should follow soon enough with announcements of book signing events. Source: Brittle Paper
Author of Stay with Me which was once shortlisted for the Baileys Prize, Ayobami Adebayo, has been honoured at the 2017 The Future Awards for her contributions to arts and culture in Nigeria and Africa. . Others that won big at the event were Davido, who received The Future Awards Africa Prize for Music; Anthony Joshua, who received The Future Awards Africa Prize for Sports; and WizKid, who received The Future Awards Africa Prize for Young Person of the Year, an award won in 2008 by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. The Future Awards, currently in its 12th year, celebrates Africans between ages 18 and 31 who are deemed to be making a difference in their respective fields—arts, technology, entertainment, business, agriculture, public service. Source: Brittle Paper
(From a mystic perspective) By Yusuf Balogun Gemini. email: email@example.com 'We invented marriage. Couples invented marriage. We also invented divorce, mind you. And we invented infidelity, too, as well as romantic misery. In fact, we invented the whole sloppy mess of love and intimacy and aversion and euphoria and failure. But most importantly of all, most subversively of all, most stubbornly of all, we invented privacy', Elizabeth Gilbert. Controversies have surrounded Toke Makinwa, an actress and an award winning multi-media personality whose past is traceable to a messy divorce she had with her husband, Maje Ayida after he impregnated Anita Solomon. The infidel's life lived by Maje had led to this inevitable separation and one of the main triggers of Toke's best selling book--On Becoming. Funny enough, her life had been peacefully led afterwards until the recent 'rumour' that she is having an affair with Dr. Festus A. Fadeyi who is in his 70s. This new boyfriend or daddyfriend of hers is the billionaire chairman and managing director of Pan Ocean Oil Nigeria limited. It was claimed that he took loans to fund his firm's oil and gas upstream project operated under joint operating agreements and production sharing contracts with and on behalf of the Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC) and is allegedly indebted to Skye bank to the tune of 196 billion naira. This simple revelation has triggered the pointing of fingers (by Fadeyi’s children) at Toke Makinwa for milking their father continually despite being aware of his indebtedness. Obviously, as a married man, the love tango isn't expected to be a smooth one at least not from the woman that has proudly given him five grown up sons. If I may ask, would you then blame these children for making so much noise over the internet, spouting words on Toke to cut off all romantic ties with their beloved father? On a second thought, I sometimes wonder how most Nigerians reason myopically, perhaps just to follow the bandwagon of every other person. Toke Makinwa owes no one an apology or explanation for choosing to engage in an affair with the said man (that's if she even does). Firstly, it's not a priority to other if she engages in such act or not. She's a single woman who's not to be tied down by the rule of what's norm or what's not. If she chooses to engage in an affair with Buhari, I don't think it should affect anyone as far as your survival is not hindered and Aisha is not complaining. Having ended her marriage on the basis of infidelity from her partner does not exterminate her from other relationships. Perhaps, I've forgotten the concept of infidelity but I think if there is any infidel here, it should be Festus Fadeyi. He was not under influence or coercion when he chose to step out of his matrimonial home to make out with Toke. If he chooses to marry Toke legally, it should be no one's source of headache as far he's able to balance the rope of responsibility in polygamy. Or did any law state that a married man can't wed a divorcee? I'm sure Nigerians would have also pointed fingers at Toke if it was discovered that she was making out with an eighteen year old guy. I really don't know how far we think before reacting to issues. More so, most accusations have been on the basis of ‘milking an indebted man’. Toke has no involvement in this man's industrial business and I'm very certain he was aware of his indebtedness before choosing to make out with her. Every woman appreciates material things (money as one) and that's one of the factors that can make a girl go head over heels for any man. Money can necessarily sustain a relationship these days (to an extent) and that's why only few girls can stay with a broke guy. Get thirty billion in your account and see how girls will sprawl at your door. I don't think the constitution web her around for receiving money from a supposed lover! What should she have received? I'm sure all those women pointing fingers would have done worse if they were in the same shoes. They would assemble on the social media to display ‘holier than the holiest’ and one of them might just have broken up with her lover because of one hundred naira airtime. If Toke have to refuse his gifts, it would be based on personal decision(s) and not general beliefs. When I see two women fighting on the street because of a cheating partner, I'm aggrieved. Those boys screaming on the net for Toke to leave their father are simply unwise. If there'd be anybody to throw baubles of criticisms at, it should be their father and not the woman who could as well be their stepmother in times to come. Most minds have been built in such a way that you see any third party as a threat but if the wall isn't cracked, the lizard can't gain penetration. If Mr. Festus wasn't interested, there was no degree of seduction or temptation that could have made him fall or even ask her out in the first place? Why do we hold women to higher moral scruples simply because we believe their supposed weaknesses could be used against them? Why is it right for a man to cheat and outright wrong for a woman to cheat? As weird as this might be, why is it logically right for a man to have two wives and wrong for a woman to have two husbands? Why must the woman bear the brunt of the man and face blames for all wrongdoings? Why is the woman always painted as the devil and the man, angel? When a man is caught in bed with another woman, we claim he was seduced and tempted but when a woman is caught doing the same thing, we call her a whore and slut shame her? I wonder what we would have said if the table turned and Toke was the one spending on the man. It's an absurd argument to claim she bleached her skin with the money gotten from the supposed mogul or she was bought a brand new Range Rover worth 50 million naira. It's not your problem, it doesn't concern you in anyway as far as it's not your money! The reason behind Skye Bank loaning billions of naira to him doesn't call for unneeded digging. As far as Skye Bank is not crying of bankruptcy, I see no reason why you would deter from your itching scrotum to focus on what two consented adults chose to do in privacy. Dear children of Dr. Festus Fadeyi, you can leave Toke out of the unnecessary mess you're causing and face your father. I am however certain that if he is not financially certain of himself, he wouldn't get involved in those expenses and what if he chooses to? The public crying out there don't even know what the man is facing in his private life, you don't know what happens behind closed doors. Whether he's a slave to his matrimonial wife, you know not but you rather chose to talk because everyone is talking. I pray, wisdom smile on us some day. Charles Orlando has said it all:‘People don't cheat because of who you are...they cheat because of who they are not’.
As the scheduled date of the maiden edition of Soul’e Rhymez and Friends’ (SRAF) awards and movies night draw near, hopes and anticipation soar high up to the greatest altitudes in all and sundry. According to the convener, Stephen Eneji, the event is basically geared at celebrating the end of the SRAF calendar, awarding its competitors and reaching out to emerging and established leaders. It has been carefully packaged and scheduled to hold on the 15th of December 2017 all night at BBCM Auditorium, 28, Owokoniran street, Surulere, Lagos. Furthermore, he hinted that winners of the award categories that range from outstanding leadership, most creative personality of the year, most influential personality of the year, entrepreneur of the year, blogger of the year, music artiste of the year, on air personality of the year, sport personality of the year, song of the year, comedian of the year, NGO of the year, poetry promoter of the year, DJ of the year, music video director of the year, actress of the year, actor of the year to movie of the year, student poet of the year and others would be picked through public voting. He added that that red carpet would start at 6pm while the award show would be by 9pm. Like an icing on the cake, the audience would also be entertained with two blockbuster movies that will begin at exactly 2am. The event which is expected to be graced by celebrities like Odunlade Adekola, Funke Akindele (Jennifer), Kingsley Uwachukwu, Ireti Doyle, Kehinde Bankole, Emmanuel Ikubese, Seun Ajayi, Mr Eriata, Miss Gloria Maduka as well as many entrepreneurs will feature stage drama, spoken word poetry and musical performances from a number of artistes including Josh, Walex, JC, Schools, ConA’stone, Oxlade Natalio, Fr33zinPaul, Honeybee, SunSamPaul, BBCM drama group, etc. To get tickets to the event, click on this link: https://spay.ng/zaddishcom/5