African Literature on Facebook

A few weeks ago a dear friend asked me if I could help admin a page on Facebook.



It has taken over my life! I LOVE IT.

Our little family has grown by leaps and bounds, and the people who have joined and are actively participating in discussions surprise me with their passion every day.

Africans have long been accused of being the bane of African Literature. We are accused of not reading it, not buying it, not supporting authors, not selling it, not distributing it… we are the reason it is not as successful as literature coming from other places.

The problem is we have believed these lies about ourselves, which is a pity.

While it is true that it is difficult to sell books on the continent, the reasons are not as clear cut as everyone would make it seem.

  1. English is a difficult language. The objects and verbs come in weird places in a sentence. But imagine interpreting one book in 55 different languages for just one country!
  2. Authors understand their audience and their point of view. It is difficult to sell a story to someone from the West unless it tells of war, of poverty, that explains some strange quirk of the culture they come from. This is not interesting to audiences in Africa (generally speaking). There is a reason why Nollywood is such a huge industry. Here are stories that the local population understands. 
  3. New books are EXPENSIVE and understandably so. Turning trees into paper is an expensive project, printing can be expensive too.  By the time all the expenses are tallied, the book agent, distributor, printer and publishing house get paid (oh wait! We haven’t counted the author and illustrator) the book is too expensive to purchase.

Africans are thirsty. We want to know, to read, to understand. What is someone from Zimbabwe thinking about something we’re all concerned about in Nigeria? What about the bruhaha over the other thing that happened with president so-and-so? How is the government in Mogadishu going to deal with the minerals they just found in  Seylac? 

We want to know and it is evidenced by the sheer number of people asking to join the group on a daily basis.

I hope someday they will all know, it is my honor to serve. Come and join us!

Micro 0122: Silence

http://kellcandido.deviantart.com/art/Sweet-angel-of-death-306560833

Sweet angel of death, by KellCandido

It is silent here. Not ‘absence of noise’ silence. I can hear the Movement, slow and unchanging. I can hear crying. Someone is wailing. And yet it is silent, like laying still under dead earth where you cannot hear the sound of birds or the voices of family that just threw dirt over your body.

It is silent here. Not quiet, silent. Like the grungy scepters that hunch over unsuspecting children featured in artists imaginations, we hunch over our wards, watching and waiting for their transition to this place. Somehow we chose them, in a time whose memory has faded, having been exposed to the endlessness of this place, yawning and horrible, swallowing purpose and every feeling of love.

Someone is wailing in the distance. The sound struggles to reach me through the thick silence, finally squeaking past in a soft hoarse gasp. Whoever they are, they made it here. I resent them. I resent her.

The time for her transition is near, but sentiment and obligation stubbornly tie her to the flesh of her flesh, and bone of her bone. She does not know. How could she? It is a trap. She does not know. Nothing she can do will stop the painful tear that will bring her here, to the place where sentiment is going to trap her and she will learn hatred. Then she will forget hatred and learn to forget.

I’m locked here because of foolish words etched into the memory of this ether.
“I’ll be watching over you.”

She is my last one, my last promise.
Die.
So I prise her fingers.
Die.
White knuckling to life.
Die.
One by one.
Die.
I must get free.

Micro 0119: Welcome

Welcome.

Your mother told you not to join a gang. But here you are, foolish rebel. You have romanticized this moment but it is not going to turn out the way you think. You need to stop watching movies. There is no information in there that will tell you the truth. We live hard lives, we are not friends, you will not be receiving fringe benefits for a long time.

We are a serious organization. It is not our fault that the ‘authority’ call us a gang. We do what we want, when we want it, regardless. And don’t you go “regardless of what” -ing me. REGARDLESS! That should be enough, you lazy sunzabee… Now look what you made me do.

That scared look you have donned is not going to help you either. My emotional armour is tighter than your little brother’s briefs and cannot be penetrated by pathetic looks. Mcccchhhheeeww. So stand up straight, and look into my eyes.

First order of business: Today you thought you would be attending some kind of briefing. This is not to be so. You were brought here by someone who hand picked you from a throng of admirers of our work, and some seriously twisted parents who want to make a little money off you. A rival gang has challenged us to a duel at 51st and Juma Avenue. We are not cowards and we will not be put to shame. You will be sent to battle on our behalf. Do not return until you are victorious. If you are unable to achieve victory, be sure to perish in battle. There will be no sympathy for survivors.

Line up against that wall. I will be handing your weapons to you in a just a moment, as soon as Yunia stops crying. Wipe those tears, foolish child. No one wants to be here as much as you do. And yes, George, you have to fight. No way to get out of it.

NO MORE QUESTIONS.

What do you think this is? Chatterbox time. Look at my face. My I-am-not-playing face. Remember it.

Take only one package from the top of the pile (thank you Cissy), the small bag is to be worn against your hip. All the packages go inside and your weapon is worn against the side of your chest for easy access.

What is it George? Are you old enough? For what? Fighting? You think you can stop the inevitable? You think that you have earned the right to question the laws put down… hold on…

The vehicle is here. No more time. Line up!

Enjoy your day at school.

Thankful to all my subscribers

The African Literature Magazine on Flipboard has gone from strength to strength. What a journey!

Thank you for being a part of the journey in 2014 and for continuing strong into 2015.

With 15,491 subscribers catching up on stories coming out of Africa, it is easy to forget where we started.

flip Feb 25 14

With humble beginnings in Feb 2014, I just wanted to collect stories about African Literature in one place. I wanted to fill my tablet with these books and read them without much fanfare. Then 6 people subscribed to the magazine. That was so startling, but also VERY informative. Other people were looking for these too!

flipb june 2014

By June it was obvious that people were searching for this content online. But it also meant that I had created a baby that needed caring for. It was exciting, and daunting, and so very, very humbling.

 flipb august

By August we hit 10,000 + subscribers! Every day was like Christmas, checking to see how many more of you came to the magazine for more stories. It was wonderful.

Now we’re in 2015 and I’m still committed to bringing you the latest from my sources. Invite your friends, invite your relatives, invite your enemies. As we continue to write our stories, lets make 2015 the biggest year yet!

Happy 2015!

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Micro 0112: Through the Yellow Door

Gayaza High School

The hallway was empty.

The clean floor, polished by years of moping rags and stomping feet, reflected the cool, crisp early morning light through the glass door that marked its end. The brightly coloured doors that separated adjoining rooms from the hallway entombed the sleeping girls, who floated on the last vestiges of their dreams.

With a soft noise, the ruffling of a many layered skirt, Pajini stepped out of nothingness into the middle of the HSC block in Korgi House. Her image shimmered, a bad signal adjusting itself, and then solidified and stabilized. This was her hour and there were changes that needed to be made. Asiimwe was key.

With silent, but purposeful footsteps, she sent ripples of slumber through the floor and warm sleepy bodies turned around in bed pulling their blankets closer to their faces, breathing deep and allowing their minds to be drawn in further into wild and vivid dreams.

Asiimwe’s door, the only yellow door blazed like a beacon, beckoning. Pajini glided soundlessly to the door pausing for a quick second before passing straight through the thick door to the darkness inside.

Asiimwe was locked in a familiar dream. Children. Lots of children in an idyllic setting, but as they passed her, haunting images flooded her mind, grabbed her gut and squeezed. In a dream minute Nambi was beside her exchanging worried glances. They had to do something, anything to take these children away from whatever suffering had snuffed out the innocence in their eyes, replaced by a magnetic hopelessness, strong and unavoidable.

“Please take us away.” The voice of a child who had not yet turned four.

Nambi reached for the child’s hand and Asiimwe flinched. Something was not right. This was not what happened at this point in the dream. Was it changing?

“Asiimwe,” Nambi’s voice urged.

“Something is wrong.”

“Don’t be ridiculous.”

“I’m no…”

“We’re wasting time Asiimwe, come on!”

There were children who needed to be saved. Worrying about what  felt wrong would not help. She grabbed the free arm of the child who stood with Nambi and raced to one of the free standing buildings that dotted the grassy hillside.

“Don’t let go,” the child whispered, locking eyes with Asiimwe.

“I won’t,” her voice was resolute.

Pajini smiled, the warmth of victory spreading over her body. She reached deeper into Asiimwe’s body enjoying sensations alien to her, watching imagination build a World that rippled, a syncopated accompaniment to Time’s own ripples.
It was going to be a wonderful day, the warmth of the room had already risen by a few degrees. The night was chased away by the galloping sun, fleeing in all directions.
Loud thrum, thrum, thrums of cowhide drums echoed through the dewy morning air and the HSC block of Korgi House stirred with the noise.

“Asiimwe!”

“Yeah, I’m coming!”

Pajini smiled with someone else’s lips, the last vibrating tremors of her call still echoing in her lungs.
This was going to be a fantastic day.

The Struggle Factor

There is nothing so unappealing to me as the struggling artist. I know that many do, but can I say that I don’t like it?

When there are so many examples of artists that have been able to ‘get there’ I just cannot understand the appeal. That being said, I know that so many compromises have to be met in order to get to that point and many artists have (and quite rightly so) said they had to sell their souls, but I’m of the opinion that I can buy it back and make it all worth it.

Am I naive in suggesting that this might work? Possibly. But I’m still gonna try.

Please don’t misunderstand me, I know that people legitimately struggle in an effort to sell the work for a price that is reasonable. After all, no matter what medium we use, paint, fabric, words, film, we all find it difficult to convince people that it actually takes effort to create what we create.

But I find it difficult to go quietly into the night. I’mma fight for mine, hope you’re fighting too!

Never ending battles & Micro0109: For the Queen

I wrote a story today.

I liked it. Wasn’t sure anyone else would so for a moment I decided I was going to keep it to myself. Started on something else that did not inspire me and it fell flat like a cake with too much moisture.

Time and time again we’ve heard people say that you need to write for yourself and not try to pander to an audience. The ones who like your story will find it wherever they go, and those who don’t will read other stories. How hard is that to learn and understand? Quite hard, apparently, coz I’m still working on that.

So, in light of that, here is my story, the one I actually wanted to tell, the one that inspired me. Enjoy.

For the Queen

Once upon a time, a woman inherited a kingdom. To the west, grassy knolls rolled over the countryside curving artfully around overflowing gardens that burst with bounty, stretching as far as the eye could see. The eastern border came to an abrupt halt at the jagged edge of plunging cliffs, where the sea writhed and roared and moaned and spat.
The land was rich and the people lacked for nothing and lived in peace with their neighbours, but the crown sat heavily upon her brow, each stone a ton of worry, each pearl a thundering wild horse pounding through her mind.
A spell of great and dire magic had been cast on the kingdom by a Witch Queen, wild and deadly, her bewitchment reaching out with deadly fingers of greed, malcontent, envy.
Sister struck down sister, soaking her garment in the blood, brother struggled against brother, pushing him six feet underground. Chaos reigned and the young woman’s ears were filled with the desperate cries of her people.
She called to the Witch Queen, the fell words like bile against her tongue, and begged her to undo the magic and free her people.
The Witch Queen demanded one thing. Her soul.
The hopeless councillors spread their hands, their pain a Goliath against their own consciences, and they surrendered to fear.
The crown upon her head sunk deep claws into her head refusing to be cast off, perplexing the councillors and angering the Witch Queen. Only the crown bestowed the kingdom upon the wearer and it had a mind of its own.
Urged on by the spell, the young woman’s people dragged her from her throne and marched her eastwards to the edge of the cliff. A vile threat. An action. Collective consciousness stained with the blood of a young Queen who had no choice.
Her body lay broken, the waves smashing her against the toothy wall of the cliff, the weight of the crown dragging her into the depths of the sea.
The spirit of the young woman rose out of her watery grave and fell upon the Witch Queen destroying her utterly. It flowed through her kingdom, raining justice like a thunder roar and ending the years of malcontent and strife. She does not distinguish between friend or foe. So when you pass through the rubble remnants of her kingdom, remember your offering at the cliff’s edge, and bow the knee when a jewel encrusted crown floats your way.

Not so hard, is it?

The hardest part about being a writer is that you have to write.

The easiest part about being a writer is that you have to write.

Don’t challenge me, my friend. I have written 8000+ words in one day. Good words that I did not edit out.

So I know I can hammer out a reasonable story in a short amount of time.

The one question I’m left with is, why the em-effin’ agony? GAH!

The story always begins well, introducing my character, describing the scene, seeing the action play out in my mind like my very own movie… Oh My GOD! I’m a genius, this writing thing is what I was meant to do, look at my character! Woo hoo! 4,000 to 6,000 words later, I’m practicing my speeches for all the wonderful awards being thrown at me. Tomorrow, chapter two. I fall asleep with the secretive smile of a soon-to-be millionaire who just signed movie deals.

Day Two.

What is this crap?! Who took time logging on to my computer to mess this shit up? This isn’t my story. Where the f**k was it going? Who is this dreary, dull character? Ugh. Okay, I can salvage it. I’m a writer! Let the cutting commence!

SNIP!

After an exhausting day of editing chapter one I figure I’ll work on chapter two tomorrow. Which is why I have about 17 novels with chapter one sitting on my hard drive. I look at them sometimes, and ache.

Bee! Get back to it. I try to rouse myself into that state of movie madness, the place of my first love. But sometimes even the stories realize I’m not the vessel they were looking for.

I’m writing. I honestly am.

Strength to leave

I read a blog post. Someone was writing a letter to a public figure (singer of mild fame) whose boyfriend, and father of her daughter, died in her arms after he had been shot.

He, a football star, had married a woman he had been in a relationship with for 7 years. In the 8th year of their relationship he met the singer who publicly displayed images of their relationship on instagram. Needless to say, the wife found out, but she stayed.

It is almost too easy to dismiss the sacrifice it takes to stay with someone who chooses to  hang on to you while reaching out for someone else. I cannot fathom it. What is easier to understand (from my point of view) is the choice to leave.

I tried to examine it once.

————————————————-

Welcome to Your Home
A short story by Gloria Bwandungi

The evening sky was dark, filled with dark gloomy clouds that hoarded precious water from the parched and thirsty cracking ground. They raced across the sky towards the west, chasing the sun, as though they were afraid of the looming darkness of night from the east. A cold wind blew, lifting rust coloured dust from the unpaved road, leaving scattered little eddies that quickly died down.
The bus stop in the middle of nowhere rose above me, its rusted sign flapping in the wind, pinging against the metallic pole, the mournful staccato beat it drummed out sounding cheerful in contrast to the thoughts of my mind.
My large suitcase bore the marks of a long and arduous journey, having bumped and crashed against other passengers’ luggage in the compartment on the bus. A small tear I had hoped to repair had widened into a gash. I would have to replace it soon.
The cold wind bit right through my sweater, reminding me to move my feet, let go and continue on, no matter where this road would lead. But I was frozen to the spot. My feet had sprouted roots and in concert with my heart, were determined to keep me here, gazing after the bus that had deposited me. I felt like discarded waste.
My mind filled up with fuzzy pictures that mingled with the tears welling up from my soul that I could not control.
“Ma’am, you are going to have to leave the premises.”
The dark angry looking man with the severe red eyes said this to me when he asked me to leave my home. A home I had been building with him since the day we first met. We called it our forever home, filling it with the marks of our achievements, souvenirs of our adventures, jewels we had fallen in love with and paid more than we could really afford.
“Ma’am?”
The red eyed man had repeated his statement, speaking to me like an insolent, disobedient child. But he did not know. I could not blame him for doing a job he was being paid to do.
Another gust of cold wind blew red dust into my wet eyes, jerking me back to the desolate bus stop. I wiped my eyes and picked up the suitcase. It was time to abandon my haunt.
The buildings I was aiming for were huddled together, like little old women warming their feet around a fire. Yellow light gleamed out of the still open windows, flickering wildly in the wind, making the shadows leap up and crouch down in a crazy haphazard dance. The wind fought fiercely against me, so I leaned forward, pressing towards the cluster. It seemed to know that I did not want to be there and was determined to encourage me to stay at the bus stop.
Loud noises emanated from the buildings that were closest to mine, their conversation becoming a blur as my heart closed my mind to the chatter. A loud television commercial blended in with the clanging radio show and the sounds of pots and pans being washed in kitchen sinks. I kept my head low and walked as quietly and quickly through the group, careful not to be spotted by curious eyes. The misery that engulfed me did not cherish the idea of company. Not tonight.
The faded “Number Eighteen” sign stared cock eyed at me. It had been painted in white against the red brick wall and had been sprawled by an unpracticed hand, marking the location of my new home. Our forever home had been number fifty-six. At least I would not have to think about that every time I wrote my new address down somewhere.
The three stairs that led to the high door had been crudely constructed from cheap lumber and had been worn smooth by many feet. Two dirty bare foot prints leading from the door were the latest to grace them, leaving clumps of dirt as though the house had a mud floor. I climbed the stairs backwards, dragging the large suitcase behind me, each step creaking so loudly in my ear that I was sure everyone else heard it too. If they did, then no one came to look.
A simple latch was all the protection my new home had from intruders. The landlord had told me to bring a small lock to use. I opened the latch and tried to push the door in, but it stayed closed. I used my shoulder to shove it in, bursting into the small space with a loud bang.
It took a minute for my eyes to adjust to the darkness inside the house. I left the suitcase at the door, peering inside to get a good look.
A long thin bed stretched across the longest wall. A thin mattress had been provided by the landlord and was rolled up to one side of the bed. It had borne many bodies and was yellow with age. Chunks of the mattress had been lost from the edge making it look like a giant rat had hacked and torn off bits of it to build a nest. The spring bed had a few springs missing and some had been stretched so much, they had deformed. It was going to be an uncomfortable place to sleep.
A small table stood on the far corner of the room. A hot plate, dirty with use, sat upon it and when I lifted it to look underneath, a few cockroaches scurried out racing for other parts of the room. I bent down to put the hotplate on the floor and dark gleam caught my eye near the door. When I approached it, it quickly uncoiled and darted out of the room probably more scared than I was.
A cheap oil lamp made from empty margarine tins stood on the surface of another table. There were matches beside it. I struck a match and lit the lamp, dark black soot lifting from it and filing the room with the smell of burning kerosine. It made me cough and stung my eyes. At least now if anyone came in to say hello, there would be a good reason why my eyes were so wet.
A small note had been tucked underneath the matchbox.
“Welcome to your new home.”
My new home. I looked around the room, my brain working hard to replace the worn mattress with the one I had shared with him. My eyes were seeing our small kitchen where our elbows constantly knocked against one another while we made dinner instead of the burned rickety table. I heard the beautiful music we played while we relaxed, filling our forever home with sunshine. I lifted my arms above my head, waiting to be twirled. Then I remembered, he had called me his sunshine. My arms fell to my sides and my chest convulsed with the pain I had been holding in.
He was gone. Completely gone. One cold look and the man I had known and loved had been transformed into a stranger I knew nothing about. I lost him. Now I lost my home and this wreck, this hovel that I was going to be sharing with wild animals and vermin was my home. How had it come to this?
I walked to the door, a thousand heavy thoughts weighing down heavily upon me. I dragged my suitcase into the room and unzipped one side. I pulled out the long blanket we had used to warm ourselves on the couch and wrapped myself in it. I zipped the suitcase closed. No cockroaches tonight. I laid it down by one of the walls and sat on top of the ever widening tear. This would be where I sleep tonight.
The still open door creaked back and forth as the cold wind blew into the house. Occasionally the sound of little pattering feet of my new roommates rose above the noises from other homes. My knees and elbows hurt from the discomfort, but it suited me. It suited my misery.
I reached up to my face to wipe some of my tears away and saw that I was still clutching the note from the landlord. It was crumpled and balled up. I smoothed it out on my lap and let the words blur as my eyes read the message.
“Welcome to your new home.”