At the Africa Writes Festival 2015 I had the opportunity to meet some of Nigeria’s newest writers. A. Igoni Barrett, Irenson Okojie, E.C. Osondu and Elnathan John were all present at this remarkable event to discuss their latest books. I can honestly say that I was intrigued by all four of these new pieces of fiction and urge you to go out and buy at least one.
Irenson’s Butterfly Fish is a novel that offers a dual narrative from both contemporary London and 18th century Benin. She is a very able writer who has the gift of being able to paint the very picture that she is speaking of. Her writing has energy and her descriptions are full of flavour.
Elnathan John’s intriguing coming of age story Born on a Tuesday, set in northern Nigeria, defies the negative connotation attached to Islamic Nigeria; he too is able to paint a very beautiful picture and sound. Elnathan is a humorous writer and as the reader you find you are offered a very personal relationship with the protagonist. He explained ‘While I want it [the book] to be something to be marvelled at, I am trying to tell a story first and foremost’.
E.C Osondu’s book This House is Not for Sale is centred around a family home and the different characters that had lived there. It is a great read and has a wonderful rhythm. Osondu is also a humorous writer and you can hear his distinctive voice throughout the pages in this book.
The most controversial of the four books would have to be Igoni’s Blackass: a story about a black man who wakes up for his job interview and he is white. The story is one that Igoni believes needed to be told as he writes quite comically, but honestly about the way in which we are all affected by appearances. He described his book as ‘Holding a mirror up to society and saying “this is what you look like”‘.
In the queue to get my books signed by the authors, I spoke to a few visitors to the event who were elated with the success of the festival and felt ‘blessed’ to have had all the new writers and beautiful stories revealed to them. ‘I actually can’t wait to get on the tube and read this book,’ said Justine with regards to Igoni’s book Blackass. Suzy said ‘It is so great to see so many people from my uni [Queen Mary University] at the festival this year’.
The positive vibes were definitely flowing throughout the weekend, despite the long book queues it was all smiles and intellectual debates. A stall holder Temi 26, said “We still need more faces at events like these. Writer’s need the support of their readers”.
You heard her, readers. Support new writers and grab a copy of these great new pieces of Nigerian fiction.