Saturday, August 18, 2007

Binyavanga in trouble..

A recent writing workshop in Lagos sponsored by Fidelity Bank had Chimamanda Adichie as the lead tutor, with Kenyan writer Binyavanga Wainaina in support. This post takes issue with the 5-star treatment accorded to the Kenyan by the bank, with good reason. In an essay entitled How Not to Write About Africa (published in 2005 in Granta), Wainaina had the wisdom to write:

“The Ancient Wise Man always comes from a noble tribe (not the money-grubbing tribes like the Gikuyu, the Igbo or the Shona)”. (p93)

The only possible defence is that throughout the essay, he is assuming the sardonic pretext of an experienced colonial hack providing advice to a novice - therefore the quote is only damaging when yanked from context. The question begged remains: is this Wainaina's idea of how to write about Africa - by writing about how not to write about it? Uche Nworah calls for an apology from Wainaina for the slur.


cecilia,  5:05 pm  

What a shame. I'm sure the Fidelity Bank people will be shocked.

That said, isn't it the case that this is a deeper societal malaise that we've consistently perpetuated? Many of us believe that the Igbo person seeks money at all costs; that the Yoruba person is sly and loves parties; that the Hausa person is fanatical; that Edo people are stubborn and cantankerous etc.

All over the world, there are stereotypes about ethnic groups - many of them not always correct. The problem is when we celebrate those who earnestly propagate the stereotypes. That's where the problem is with having Binyavanga come around. Otherwise, I daresay many of us carry such garbage in our heads.

But I'll end on a controversial note. Wouldn't you think that some of Adichie's characters and utterances are indicative of her own stereotypes? In which case, can't we forgive Binyavanga for being his artistic self? Is art (including literature) always objective? Isn't it usually subjective? If so, where do we draw the line? When it's about to lead to genocide?

cecilia,  5:14 pm  

But then, have you read the piece itself?

It does not seem as if the man was alleging these stereotypes. Or did I read it wrongly?

Omo Alagbede 6:01 pm  

I went to read Mr Nworah's post. I was/am quite (read very) disappointed that he could come to such a conclusion and be so fervent about it. He is supposed to be one of Nigeria's most internet-popular "social commentators". I saw his book THE LONG HARMATTAN SEASON at nu-metro in lagos and read the blurb, and was quite impressed by the abundance of commentary to his name especially on the naija commentary sites.
So to read this piece by him - i have to say "oh dear" again and again. What manner of "commentator" will fail to see the SUPER-OBVIOUS fact that Binyavanga's piece is a "satire" - And a satire not on the Igbo or Shona, BUT ON THE WEST/MUZUNGU/OYIBO - and his reference to the Igbo is just a way of creatively employing a "stereotype" to support his thesis in the granta piece. He is not saying that the Igbo or Shona are money-grubbing. He is simply alluding to the fact that there is a widespread belief that certain tribes in Africa are money-loving. What the hell! Yorubas love Owambe! Hausas/Fulanis don't joke with their daggers. Igbos don't play with their Money. Stereotypes. Is this not what thousands of Nigerians pay thousands of Naira for at Nights of a Thousand Laughs!!!!!
The battle is Mr Nworah's. he shoudln't drag Fidelity or Chimamanda into it because they are Igbo. That would be worse than what he has accused Binyavanga of doing. He is trying to drag Chimamanda into the whole thing. I can't speak for her, but I can say that OF COURSE SHE MUST HAVE READ THE SO-CALLED OFFENSIVE ARTICLE, AND OF COURSE SHE MUST HAVE INTERPRETED IT RGHTLY AS THE SATIRE THAT IT IS - that, as I said earlier, the joke is on the West, not on the Igbo.
Let Nworah fight his battle himself. And perhaps he should also google "Satire". Chikena!

PS. I'm going to write a piece: IN DEFENCE OF BINYAVANGA. WATCH OUT!!!!


I am yet to read the author's work. But, I would like to go out on a limb here and state that an author should not ALWAYS be criticized for the comments of his/her characters.

Of course, there will be exceptions to the rule i.e. where an author has proven through direct and indirect statements that he/she is a bigot/racist/ or some other nasty -ist.

I will go find where this was written and hope that he can wiggle his way out of this tight spot. Hopefully, a thorough public explanation and sweet talk will do. Let me see...

Talatu-Carmen 6:58 pm  

Are you SERIOUS? How could anyone not get the brilliant irony and sarcasm in this essay?

Maybe we better rethink our decision to teach this to undergraduates in our Intro to Africa class as an introductory exercise...

And, of course, Wainaina has written other things besides this essay, so he is not merely always writing about how not to write about it.

brainsnsass 7:21 pm  

My names are Ruonah Godwin-Agbroko. I write a weekly column for THISDAY NEWSPAPERS and have done so for the past three years. I am also a freelance writer and was a part of that workshop. for all 10 days of it! so, i know what i'm talking about. One, Mr. Nworah has no idea of Wainaina's sex, calling him a "her". that shows he relied on second-hand information as regards that workshop. for starters, Binyavanga was not accorded any 5-star treatment; we the participants were, if there was any such numbered star treatment. next, this is one of the major problems that ails Nigeria: the reading of sentiments where unnecessary. where does an apology come in, in a work of art that seeks via satire to tell people that stereotypes are not the way to write of a certain race of people? a word of advice to the whole world, especially the man in the spotlight "Mr. Nworah" when reading an article: never be myopic enough to read a sentence without its preceding and following sentences. in fewer words, do not take the words of another human out of context. and resist the urge to make mountains whenever you see molehills: what's with dragging chimamanda, fidelity bank the workshop and Igbos into the matter over something Binyavanga wrote 2 years ago? if not for this workshop, Mr. Nworah would not be demanding an apology, would he? puleeease... there have got to be other ways to seek cyber-relevance, in my estimation. As we say to rabble-rousers in my "noble" tribe of Niger-Deltans, "go and sleep!"

brainsnsass 7:41 pm  

i was part of that workshop, and from Nworah's referral to Mr. Wainaina as a "her", it was plain he relied on second-hand information from a reporter who merely popped in for no more than 30 minutes about a 10-day workshop. for starters, if there was any such numbered star treatment, that would have been awarded to us, the participants. and about Binyvanga's writing, i have just a few words. anyone reading a piece must do just that; read the whole piece, not close their eyes, randomly select a sentence, disregard the preceding and following sentences, then go into a blogging fit over it. next, please resist the recently endemic urge for cyber-relevance. what's with dragging chimamanda, fidelity bank, the ibos and the great Amadioha into a piece written 2 years ago? the blogging community and reputation of other humans need not suffer if one man in this over-populated planet happens to take a satirical piece out of context. that should be his preserve, not others. So.. Mr. Nworah...please spare us. you may, by all means, demand and then proceed to keep waiting for an apology but, please, do not say Nigerians demand one. I am Nigerian and instead, i hereby apologise to Mr. Binyanvanga Wainaina. i am sorry, but i never asked anyone to demand an apology on my behalf, sir! can you find it in your black Gikuyu heart to forgive me???!!

Marin 7:57 pm  

Sorry, but Uche Nworah totally took that statement out of context. I read that article several weeks ago and I found it fuynny.
Reading article comments on the NVS, I am often amazed at the number of people who just don't get satire, sarcasm or ironic statements. The level of reading comprehension is sadly low.

Ifeanyi,  8:32 pm  

Uche Nworah is an idiot. And no, I don't mean that ironically.

Afolabi 8:42 pm  

I'm surprised that we don't actually understand what "IRONY" means. The writer is being ironic, he really doesn't mean that. He means the opposite.

Ife,  9:00 pm  

Mr Nworah needs to breathe out and then calm down...its literature not an encyclopedia submission.

Shame on you Jeremy for encouraging him.

He's clearly just being sensitive and needs to read and understand this as a literary piece with layers and complexity....there for him to accept or reject as such on its merits, not include in any hyper sensitive polititcal debates.

Jeremy 9:19 pm  

well you're all pretty much making the same point. I look forward to Uche's response(!)

For myself, I don't like the Binyavanga piece, but for entirely different reasons: in focusing on cliched and stereotyped forms of writing Africa, it ends up stereotyping itself.

It is obvious from the text that among Binyavanga's objects of derision are Paul Theroux and Ryzard Kapucinski. In both cases, he caricatures their texts, most unfairly in the case of Kapucinski.

More seriously still, in only providing a litany of ways to not write about Africa, it is not clear how one should actually write about the continent. He forces the issue into an authenticist zero-sum game: you either write like this, or you fail. But he gives no indication of what success might look like in terms of a satisfactory portrayal.

In tacitly setting the literary bar so high, I cannot help suspecting a sneering attitude to any outsider attempting to "write about Africa". Indeed, many African writers themselves might be deemed to fail Binyavanga's own test..

cecilia,  9:36 pm  

Thank goodness! After reading the piece, I thought to myself, "I goofed!"

See why it is bad to rely on hearsay? Who do I blame? Myself, for not searching for the piece before my first comment? Jeremy, because he didn't provide the link? Uche, because he started the whole brouhaha?

I blame myself. I fell into the folly until I searched for the piece itself (hence, my second comment and the link).

Apologies to Binyavanga...

cecilia,  9:37 pm  

Thank goodness! After reading the piece, I thought to myself, "I goofed!"

See why it is bad to rely on hearsay? Who do I blame? Myself, for not searching for the piece before my first comment? Jeremy, because he didn't provide the link to the article but linked us to Nworah? Uche, because he started the whole brouhaha?

I blame myself. I fell into the folly until I searched for the piece itself (hence, my second comment and the link).

Apologies to Binyavanga...

ziddy,  10:14 pm  

Uche must have stabbed most of his literature classes while in school. Yet another case of half-baked Nigerian graduate (forgive me all, tried hard not to stereotype him just couldnt avoid that!!)

yemisi ogbe,  11:12 pm  

Paul Theroux and Ryzard Kapucinski! Lets talk about July 2007's Vanity Fair (in which by the way Binyavanga Wainaina writes on Kenya) and how Jeffrey Sachs, Madonna and Bono etc are going to save us from ourselves and light candles in the "dark continent". Lets talk about the American elections and how presidential candidates are boosting their campaigns by promising "much needed aid to Africa." How Africa is always one person... " one vast hopeless mass..." (Binyavanga's words) " ...of people" who "saved Homo sapiens from extinction" (Vanity Fair again). Europe has all its distinct parts; The United Kingdom is exactly that. The Ukraine, France, Russia...America has its states but we are always just "Africa" and "Africans". I loved Binyavanga's article. I laughed so hard my husband had to ask what was happening. But fundamentally is it really funny. Jeremy asks what a successful portrayal would be...why don't we start by breaking up the "so called" mass called Africa and acknowledging that some people are Nigerians, some Kenyans, some Angolans...I liked the article very much indeed.

What is the use in beating up Mr. Nworah. He is only proving Binyavanga's point that stereotypes are serious..and they hurt.

ayotundegirl 11:38 pm  

This article is very harsh and you spit venomous bitterness and i think what you have written is childish. I was ashamed after i read your article and then discovered that the writer himself is from one of the money-grubbing tribes. we just don't read anything we see, a good and intelligent reader must read and understand. i think you are just one of those that just read, it is obvious that you are not an intelligent one. you should apologise to Binyavanga, chimamanda and the organizers of the workshop.
We don't need enmity amongst we africans, you could have started that with this offensive article of yours. Africa must be one.
it is worst of all that you had to add the "chi and amadiora part".
i worry about your mind. you must work on our mind.
i wonder what we Edos will do after the comments about us being of easy virtue...

ayotundegirl 11:43 pm  

Uche, you have only succeeded in showing that you are not intelligent. i feel very sorry for you. you should not continue with commenting. you will always have other unintelligent things to say.

Funmi,  11:52 pm  

@ziddy, I totally agree with you the creme de la creme of the so called "Nigerian art circle" is full of "artists" whose only study of literature is "Wole Soyinka" and if we are very lucky, "Chinua Achebe",now you talk about "irony", "satire", are you kidding?

Chude! 12:40 am  

"More seriously still, in only providing a litany of ways to not write about Africa, it is not clear how one should actually write about the continent. He forces the issue into an authenticist zero-sum game: you either write like this, or you fail."

One can understand why you would take this personal, but even I have continuously taken issues with that *sensational* article that made Wainana famous. It is self-righteous in its cynicism, without offering any viable alternatives. That having been said, Mr. Nworah needs to search for his sense of humour wherever he dropped it. In any case, even if Wainana wasnt being ironical, I see absolutely nothing misleading or 'disrespectful' in that manner of reference to the Igbos - and i am Igbo thank you very much.

Wordsbody 2:58 am  

“The Ancient Wise Man always comes from a noble tribe (not the money-grubbing tribes like the Gikuyu, the Igbo or the Shona)”. (p93)

Nworah may have done himself a disservice with this piece, to display so publicly what appears to be a pitifully limited capacity for reading and comprehension.

And another thing, I'm not entirely sure, but isn't "The Binj" himself a Gikuyu?

kemi,  3:29 am  

Jeremy, you re-drafted your original post to hide the fact that even you didn't read Binyavanga's piece before the link was posted? You're now trying to raise other issues which were not the thrust of your orginal post (of course, you have a right to but I can also observe).

You know this is not the first time you're re-drafting posts to suit your purposes. Rather than going through another route to justify your mistake, at least acknowledge that fact.

Jeremy 9:51 am  

Kemi - my most loyal, devoted and closest reader!

In fact I read the Binyavanga piece two years ago when I bought the original Granta.

The way I write my blog is to use the application as an editing tool: a first draft goes up, I read it online, I notice spelling/grammar errors, something that is not quite what I meant. I change accordingly.

With this post, I went through the same process - taking about 10-15 minutes to say what I wanted.

I'm not quite sure what the issue is: you want to me to acknowledge I am 're-drafting to suit my purposes.' Pray tell, what else should I do - re-draft to suit somebody else's purposes?

seeker,  10:11 am  

Thanks Jeremy. I now know that I must actively avoid Mr Nworah's books and look for Mr Waninana's.

Yomi,  10:34 am  

Kemi here you go again. I think the man is allowed to edit his own blog and he often does so from time to time if you haven't noticed.

In any case, this Uche is mad. Over and over again, many Nigerians have shown that they don't get irony or sarcaism (especially when this is in English).

Truth be known, I hated that Binyavanga piece. I loathed its self-righteous conceitedness that seems to be mainstay of certain kind of talentless African writers. One way to instant fame for any writer/critic is to attack their intellectual superior or to attack Westerners. I learnt nothing in that article which I read about 2yrs ago. It is a bad rehearsal of what we already know about what we all know about how AFrica gets written. I doubt it if he had written a piece on a How to write Africa, the essay would have gain such notoriety. To mind the task of an creative/thinking person is not merely to deconstruct. They must construct and reconstruct in the process of their critique.

The Western world likes to indulge in self-flagellation by allowing a few Africans to lambast them and only so that they can continue to represent us in the way they want to be represented. So Binyavanga is part of that whole process of allowing a few 'critical' voice of the dispossessed, so you can justify reinstate and reaffirm your own hegemony. What is rites of passage all about if not to bring reaffirm social order: think university students getting drunk, getting into radical politics, earing in tongue etc. only to come out all suit-wearing conversative. Society must allow for such momemtary disruption. Similarly any creative endeavour must allow for the likes of Binyavanga. They too must have allowed that moment. That awlful essay was his moment.

In any case Kapucinski who is the object of one is scorn to my mind was a very fine writer and has done a lot to document a particular aspect of African history and culture. I have learnt more from him about African than I have learnt from reading Achebe or Soyinka. He is a better writer of Africa than Binyavanga could ever be.

Anonymous,  11:20 am  

uche has so penly displayed his ignorance, was he actually serious in his statements or was it just a quest for fame? whatever case,please advise him to delete the post from his blog less he looses whatever little respect he has left.

Anonymous,  11:29 am  

Uche is a gem. Go to and watch his clip on CNN with Jeff Koinange. That was a classic!!!

Naijablog Reader,  1:19 pm  

To Chude:

The Granta essay "How Not to Write About Africa" did not, contrary to your assertion, make Wainaina 'famous'. He became famous at least 3 years before, when he won the Caine Prize.

Just thought I'd point that out.

Anonymous,  2:34 pm  

Kemi wrote: "Jeremy, you re-drafted your original post to hide the fact that even you didn't read Binyavanga's piece before the link was posted? You're now trying to raise other issues which were not the thrust of your orginal post (of course, you have a right to but I can also observe). You know this is not the first time you're re-drafting posts to suit your purposes. Rather than going through another route to justify your mistake, at least acknowledge that fact."

The desperation. The psychosis. The fatal attraction. By the belly of Jesus of Oyingbo! Shouldn't someone call an ambulance? This girl is insane.

Anonymous,  6:13 pm  

Wainana's article had one glaring omission. The "5 -Star" ahem.. .Hotel, around which the Cia agents, the prostitutes, hustlers, gangsters, ballers converge. The hotel manager who knows everyone and fixes every situation, the piano bar where guests sit hoping to run into lucrative government contracts, the hotel lobbys in which minions aproach nubile young ladies with invitations to "meet The Chief" upstairs, on the all important VIP 10th floor... Art imitating life? Except in the Africa where i live, it realy is true :) Hysretically funny. Get a grip Uche Nwaorah!

negresse adoree,  6:20 pm  

If it's true that Jeremy changes his original post at will (and why not, since he is in the driving seat), thereby possibly making a nonsense of subsequent responses to it, then Kemi is quite right to point it out to novices like myself, who imagined that once past the blogger's censor, the string was inviolate.
@Kemi - the truth shall set you free.

Michael,  6:40 pm  

Jeremy- what exactly is your agenda here? There is no doubt that Uche failed to get the sarcasm in the piece despite reading it several times (his own words). You on the other hand do not have the same excuse- you knew first off that it was ironic, and probably that Binyavanga was Gikuyu himself. Be honest, what was your motive in posting this? Nothing to do with Farafina and Cassava Republic and the fact that Adichie pitched her tent with one rather than the other?

If you think Chimamanda is a talentless overpromoted no-hoper be brave enough to say so and not pretend that you think otherwise and then try to use other people to fight your battles
Be brave to say what you really think

Jeremy 7:13 pm  

Michael: the backstory is that Uche contacted me via email and asked if I would post something on my blog and link to his article. As I thought that Uche's post would unearth some interesting debate, I did.

As for the Chimamanda connection: if you read my blog back in time you will see that I have consistently praised Chimamanda's work at every stage. In fact, Bibi and I were heavily involved in bringing Chimamanda to Nigeria in the first place back in 2003.

Get your facts straight before you make any lazy insinuations. The publishing business is too small, and too undeveloped in Nigeria for publishers to be anything other than supportive of each others efforts..

Bitchy 10:11 pm  

Have just read the Uche Nworah's article. It's so bitter, and so pathetic. Truly hilarious stuff Jeremy, thanks for the link! LOL!

This sure smells like a case of bad bele to me. Perhaps Uche felt snubbed that he wasn't invited to participate in the workshop, and wasn't put up in a "five star hotel" (which by the way does not exist in Nigeria) as Binyavanga was? The reference to Chimamanda as Binj's "new chum" certainly hinted at that! (Especially when you consider that the pair have a 10 year friendship standing behind them)

Notice the not-so-subtle mention of the interview he just happened to be granting "to Ahaoma Kanu at the Ikeja office of the National Daily newspaper". Why the desperate attempt to make himself seem relevant or important?

And this statement - "Unfortunately I didn’t make it to the workshop due to other engagements". He wouldn't have been able to attend the workshop even if his "other engagements" hadn't gotten in the way. Participation was on the basis of merit alone, and somehow I can't but doubt that he made the cut, considering how difficult he finds the basic tasks of reading and comprehension.

Moving away from Uche Nworah though, I couldn't but notice that there's a lot of negative feeling towards Binyavanga here, and I'm curious. Jeremy, you wrote - "This post takes issue with the 5-star treatment accorded to the Kenyan by the bank, with good reason."

Pray tell, what good reason did you think Uche Nworah had for his attack? His post was based on an outright misunderstanding. You disliked Binyavanga's article, fair enough. But are you now saying that in his attempt to be satirical he should have left tribal stereotypes (which are pretty damn hilarious in themselves) well alone? Or that he shouldn't have been treated well by his hosts?

Anonymous,  10:20 pm  

Jeremy, I beg don't mind Michael. Afterall you were the one who used your blog to encourage us to vote for Chimamanda's during the Orange Prize. You were also the one who told us (at least me) about the writing workshop in Lagos. I attended that workshop and it was brilliant. I would not have heard about it if not for your blog. I am glad that contrary to normal biz practice, you continue and consistantly promote your competitor's work. Other companies in Nigeria should take heed.

oguro,  11:28 pm  

... do you guys have jobs?

Angry Warri boy,  12:22 am  

Why are you guys bothering with this nonsense? Just spoke to a friend - he thinks Uche did this for cheap publicity. That would be expecting too much from one of his evidently vast intellect. Hope he gets the irony. I think he simply misread the article. Sad, isn't it? And he lectures... students? Imagine if we had read his East-African women comment out of context. Kai... the guy is annoying! Have any of you been to his blog? Have any of you read his actual post? Trust me read and re-read again. It gets more annoying with each attempt. As for our oga Jeremy, does his motivation for starting this debate really matter? His opinions on the article are his - and he can prove that they were thought through. (I personally feel the Binj's piece was funny as hell and not at all insulting to anyone, not even the oyibo writers. Some of us are worse.) At least Jeremy told us quick-quick about this post so we could teach Uche about the basics of Class 2 secondary school comprehension. At least he gave a spot for displaying another Nigerian stereotype: we don't allow anyone, especially ourselves, get away with nonsense.
Dudes and Dudettes, leave 9ja blog alone, go and bombard Uche's blog with the most insulting, the vilest comments you can think of - the link is here isn't it? We have to save him from himself before he disgraces us further. He has already lied about how Abacha's goons were after him so he could stay in the UK. Like my mama used to say... "tough love's always the best."

Angry Warri boy,  12:46 am  

And Uche, please read this... Are you sure Jeremy didn't know the response your badly written article would get? Are you sure he didn't set you up for a mumu, a mugu, a big fool? Have you read and re-read your article?
Trust me, it is badly written. It is badly researched. You change xter names... you change place names... you know nothing about the history behind the convening of the workshop: "If Fidelity Bank wants to invite foreign expat facilitators, as is common nowadays..." Did you think at all? Did you find out when Fidelity got involved? Did you check to see that Mr Wainana was already committed - for free, mind you - long b4 the bank offered to sponsor the event? This democracy of the internet is a dangerous thing o... Anyone can just come and rant nonsense. Your blog post smacks of self importance. You play a dangerous game with tribal sentiments. I think it would be fair to accuse you of being a bigot and a tribalist. Shame on you. Only bigotry - and a very pathetic inferiority complex - could have blinded you to what was obvious in Mr Wainana's article. And do not try and hide behind Jeremy's intelligent objections to the Binj's opinions; yours were daft enough and we have already caught you with your hand up the cow's yansh.
Uche reminds me of those writers who pluralize words like Stuff/stuffs and potential/potentials and make up stuffs about Rambo rebels and starving mothers and nice natives so they can deceive oyibo people for NGO money.
Bitchy, Omo-Alegbe(guess who this is?), abeg make una bone this guy... na fake guy, real bushman.
And Jeremy were was the five-star hotel you heard about? I need to go rest my head there.
Make una behave o!

Angry Warri boy,  1:17 am  

And Jeremy, I just re-read your post. Are you serious? Are you serious? Slur? Don't you yet get the way we think? What slur? Have you watched any part of "Night of a Thousand laughs?" Have you heard Rappers insulting themselves? Do you not know why they think we are the happiest people on the planet? Because of the ability to laugh at ourselves, at our situation. To those who say Nigerians lack a sense of irony I send out this very respectful gerrout! We live for irony. Our entire existence is ironic. Mr Nworah has spent too much time in oyibo-land. He has forgotten himself with his bloody self-publishing.
"The only possible defense...?" What is wrong with you? Wetin dey do all of una? This world has gone mad.
Who gave Nworah the mandate? Who told him they felt insulted? A talentless hack writer from a fringe newspaper? The only paper that would give his kind an interview? An earlier commentator was right - why do you encourage this guy?
The internet really is dangerous.... Anybody can say anything.
And if this is the edited post, i wonder what the original was like.

Anonymous,  7:00 am  

You people should not mind Uche; he is still suffering from concussion and has not fully recovered from the effects of his encounter with armed robbers in Abuja.

Did he not write in the story posted on his blog that the robbers were Igbos? Oops!

Jeremy 7:54 am  

Angry Warri Boy: I luurve your comments. Se you have a blog? Abeg, set one up if you don't..

You made me think that Warri/wafi people are the Liverpudlians of Nigeria (or Liverpudlians are the wafese of the UK): quick witted, deft with language and always funny. What is it about these two ports?

Yes looking back its easy to see why I used the word 'slur' and the 'good reason' - I merged Uche's annoyance with my own. Not amazingly skillful I fess up.

angry warri boy,  10:03 am  

Flattery will get you everywhere . . .
But i too must 'fess up: I'm a technophobe. Just a fulltime writer and parttime medical doctor trying to make ends meet in this nasty world.
Will ask around about the blog thingy...

unstrung 11:09 am  

Not you too! It's so clear that Binya was being sarcastic, or if you prefer, ironic. He was writing a much-needed piss-take on the ways in which Africa is so often (re)presented by foreign writers (I, myself, I confess, am one) in cliche and generalisation.

That said, you raise an interesting question about whether this is the best way for someone like BW to be spending his time. Perhaps not. Although I think one strong piece, published in a British publication (and therefore read by many foreigners), can't be such a bad thing. What I found odd, however, was the rest of that Granta issue. The first introductory chapter, by John Ryles (a highly respected East Africanist) seems, in certain ways, to do exactly what BW rallies against. Did Granta's eds not notice?

Bitchy 11:13 am  

Warri Boy, get off the net and go back to work. I will report you.

Oguro was right, some of us here don't have jobs. In our extreme joblessness, we're able to find links like this -

It seems Mr. Nworah has aired his grievance on an even bigger platform - the website of the Chicken Bones journal, from which he derived his title as "an award-winning internet columnist"


Omo Alagbede 11:57 am  

My piece is OUT: :-)))

How NOT To Write About Binyavanga!

Anonymous,  12:02 pm  

Chicken Bones Journalist of the Year or Chicken BRAINS Journalist of the Year?

Naijablog Reader,  1:12 pm  

To the Anonymous who commented after Bitchy:

I hope you are not implying that Ms. Adichie won the Orange Prize simply because Jeremy used his blog "to encourage" his readers to vote for her? That would be an absurd proposition. Just so you know.

Anonymous,  1:20 pm  

from the anon after Bitchy. Of course not. As you rightly said, that would be indeed an absurd proposition. I was merely noting the fact that I heard about Chimamanda's Orange nomination, the workshop and host of other things through this blog and others.

I fail to see how saying that would lead to your conclusion, unless you are trying to start a fight that is not there.


Anonymous,  2:07 pm  

Chineke! Naijablog is destroying Nigerian productivity.

Fifty bleedin' comments??


oguro,  8:53 pm  

... ah! una no dey tire? so so big grammar, big words, una too like beer parlour arguments ... you all seem to like showing the world that you think, read and dissect..yawn.. whilst you are all showing off your educated minds, have you asked how many man hours you are burning? what happened to work ethic and productive debates ??? I can't believe that grown men and women can waste so much time waffling about some bloke's random comment. I read the east africans article in passing sometime ago ...bloody good I thought ... leave it at that!! please dear brothers and sisters squabble about something more productive not some prickly nna boy's comments. [I'm igbo as well so no tired ethnic barbs my way please..]

Shylle 10:46 pm  

Mr Oguro, abeg now! We dey work 25 hours a day! Make we steal some few minutes relax now? Your comment even long pass my own sef!

Anyway, I've just been insulted on the Nworah blog by his "attorney." She called me a "wannabe comedian." Thank God say I get sense of humor pass all of dem!

Having been labeled a comedian (God bless my humorous soul!), I should perhaps splash some more ridicule on my dear Uche and his advocate cum supporter cum fan cum worshiper, (and perhaps a secret lover too!)

Perhaps as the intelligent Chinyere(Chi baby!) has insinuated, maybe she's also the same person as Mr Uche, who after 18 comments still can't say anything on his own blog! Kai! Instead a faceless barrister has stepped into his defense. Fishy fishy, I dare say. Chi baby and Uche even sound the same, don't they? Well, like minds...

Simply put, Chinyere is just as obtuse as her oga is. After such comments, they still can't relax and properly digest the article they've mis-interpreted. I still maintain: some people shouldn't be allowed to read at all, let alone write.

At least until they can comprehend.

Chinyere Kalu,  7:35 am  

As posted on Uche Nworah’s site

“The foolish and the uneducated have little use for freedom.”

Most of the replies to Uche’s post (and they could all be coming from one source) indicate a level of monotonous pettiness that has now become the order of the day ever since some uneducated Nigerians discovered the use of the Internet. Uche has spotted a something erroneous with someone’s bigoted opinion about members of his tribe, and he is not allowed to pass judgement on his own blog! Unreal!

An impostor regrettably named “Angry Warri Boy” feels that the only way he could face up to Uche’s views is to serve cheap insults and in the process offer nothing more than expose his own prejudice. He then backs himself up by posting under other names and dropping anonymous comments. Anyway, let me forcefully invite myself to your audacious “insult-trading” world. My name is Chinyere Kalu, I am Igbo (No apologies), and yes I am offended by the article that Uche’s post attends to!

Anyway, “goody-two-shoes” claims to be a member of some faceless writers’ workshop in Lagos. I am assuming that he also purports to be a writer, well I can tell him this for free - Nigeria will never be indebted to you and/or your esteemed knowledge on the subject. You only serve as a reminder to many others that free education (UPN in your case) can sometimes be wasted on certain individuals. To cut you some slack, and absolve you from a lot of blame – Nigerian education has undoubtedly failed you.

Let’s take you seriously for one minute, and I know this might sound unfeasible. In your low-impact haste to make yourself heard, you failed the simplest of tasks. You failed to read accurately the article that you ‘appear’ to criticise. It was a botched effort and I sincerely want to believe that someone didn’t read Uche’s post to you. Either way, make yet another effort to get it read to you again!

At no point did Uche refer to Wainaina (not Wainana as your response states) as a SHE. He even posted a picture of Wainaina for crying out loud! And unless you ‘bat the other way’, its pretty apparent that Wainaina is a guy! So that was a cheap shot, not that you will know one if it smacked you full in the face, just like you wouldn’t know a well written article if one rolled over you. God help your writer’s group. What is it? A meeting of the brainless?

Now to your other ‘points’ – speaking to you as one Nigerian to another – how loutish. You state that Wainaina is also from Gikiyu (kikiyu), so what? Is your head so far up your backside that you can’t seem to see how dim-witted that observation is? Since he has such a weak opinion about his people, he could have left it at that. You seem to ‘think’ that his people would ignore his remarks just because he is one of them. How clever. And then you go on to write about “false-fidelity-bank-I-love Adichie-sensibilities”. Was that your infantile way of exposing yourself as a bigot? Your juvenile behaviour doesn’t stop there. You also remind us that you hated literature while in school because of the ‘likes’ of Uche. Was that the real reason? Judging from your submission, I think that the reason why you couldn’t ‘crack’ the subject runs much deeper than that. I will suggest you try the mirror therapy yourself, and see what stares back at you. “An uneducated person is like an unpolished mirror”

You ask the writer to go back to Secondary school and take a comprehension lesson, another regrettable but expected comment. Well that is rich coming from a yob like you. You sign off by reminding the writer that ‘our’ people will not let him get away with rubbish. Was that meant to be a threat?

I wouldn’t bother commenting on your next post, and the anonymous ones that follow. They all reinforce my conviction that intellectual midgets like you should be kept away from the use of the internet. You said you were discussing Uche on your blog, and you also talk about his 15 minutes of fame? Pity! Uche lest you haven’t noticed, has appeared on CNN and the BBC. The closest you will get to any of these news outlets is thru your neighbour’s TV Set!

And to Ayotunde Girl, who could be Warri Boy in disguise. Spitting venomous bitterness? Being Childish? Are we all reading the same post? Or are you a paid up member of Warri Boy’s fictitious writer’s group? How untrained. And what exactly was your point?


Another reason why Yar’adua must address the educational needs of our people with intense exigency. The likes of Ayotunde Girl may have escaped, but he owes it to every Nigerian not to fill our surroundings with her type!

And then there is Shylle, a wannabe comedian. You had me in stitches! You must be a very funny person, as witty as “The Binj” – NOT!
‘Brown-nosing’ Binj wouldn’t get you anywhere; trying being your own person, I am sure your ‘brain’ can do more. Unless you want to spend the rest of your life as a cheerleader and watch your superior brain deteriorate? But then again, maybe you should not be allowed to make your mind up.

“Your African characters may include naked warriors, loyal servants, diviners and seers, ancient wise men living in hermitic splendour. Or corrupt politicians, inept polygamous travel-guides, and prostitutes you have slept with. The Loyal Servant always behaves like a seven-year-old and needs a firm hand; he is scared of snakes, good with children, and always involving you in his complex domestic dramas. The Ancient Wise Man always comes from a noble tribe (not the money-grubbing tribes like the Gikuyu, the Igbo or the Shona). He has rheumy eyes and is close to the Earth. The Modern African is a fat man who steals and works in the visa office, refusing to give work permits to qualified Westerners who really care about Africa. He is an enemy of development, always using his government job to make it difficult for pragmatic and good-hearted expats to set up NGOs or Legal Conservation Areas. Or he is an Oxford-educated intellectual turned serial-killing politician in a Savile Row suit. He is a cannibal who likes Cristal champagne, and his mother is a rich witch-doctor who really runs the country.”

Anonymous,  11:11 am  

This Binyavanga post has me howling with laughter! i think it shows us (oops, hope i'm not stereotyping, clearly the "F-word" that started this whole thing) in our best light, highly intelligent humourous people enjoying a good debate. Even Chinyere Kalu (who must surely be Uche Nworahs publicist, or one of our shadier Nigerian journalists given his propensity for getting facts wrong). At what point ,Jeremy will you cry uncle? Discovering Naijablog is one of the best things that's happened to me this year.

Anonymous,  11:46 am  

Chinyere Kalu, if she's not a transgendered version of Uche Nworah, is his Senior Special Assistant, Media and Publicity. The man is important enough to have one o, don't you think. I mean, he has appeared on CNN, and BBC. I wonder what he wants those Niger Delta militants, or Baghdad bomb blast victims, who have also appeared on CNN at one time or the other, to say sha o

angry warri boy,  11:56 am  

Angry Warri boy is going to take a deep breath. Angry Warri boy is not going to get angry. Why is angry Warri boy referring to himself in the third person? Because Chi-chi Kalu is driving him insane!
Did any of you read her full comments as posted on the long-blah-blah page?
I dunno what to say.
And she quotes an entire paragraph of the Binj's piece?
To show what?
That it was offensive?
Of course it was. That was the point, wasn't it?
With people like this we have to follow every statement with a because and a why.
I know Jeremy disagrees with the way Binj did it but let me ask Uche this: How would you, o master of satire - have written a satirical piece about the media stereotyping of Africa and Africans?
Don't you still get it? Did you even read the 2nd half of Jeremy's original post? It seems that all attempts to shove the truth down your throat are doomed from the start... So I'm going to feed it to you in small-small bits.
Uche... Go... and learn... how to ... read again... They still sell Ilesanmi and Mcmillian readers... at Tejuosho bend-down bookshop.
Can you imagine the guy. I thought he was going to keep his Chichi (FFK-esque) gaurd-dog leashed tightly on his blog page o. Instead he lets her loose here too. I actually impressed her too, Jeremy, to the point where she accused me of being everyone else... Multiple personality. That's why angry Warri boy is going to sign off on this matter here. Chichi, Don't make me angry... You wouldn't like me when I'm angry... HULK SMASH! GRR!

Chinyere Kalu,  6:25 pm  

It is alleged, or so bitchy(?) claims, that she attended the workshop together with Shylle, Ayotunde Girl, Omo Alagbede and Angry Warri Boy. Is someone having a laugh? From the drivel that I have read so far from all of them, they could only have been there for one reason – either to serve the participants with snacks or maybe man the gates.

Adichie was quoted in NVS as saying “I have had so much fun and don’t just want this to finish. I love the energy that we have spent in this workshop and the fact that I have met young writers who have so much zeal and ambition that makes me satisfied and sure that the future of Nigeria in the literary scene is assured,” God help us if she was referring to any of them!

@Warri Boy - Are you signing off because you can’t afford to pay your Internet CafĂ© bills? Or are you scared because this girl is about to kick your behind from pillar to post. You call yourself a part-time doctor? lol.(Wetin person no go hear) If only your pockets and your brains were as big as your mouth, I would have given you a run for your money, or maybe reported you to your sisters that are providing a 'service' in Italy!


angry warri boy,  8:39 am  

Chichi, you don't know when to stop, do you?
Read your last sentence again?

Anonymous,  12:05 pm  

Jeremy, I think you should exercise your moderator's right now by moderating Madam Kalu out of existence. Her last sentence was uncalled for, especially from a woman. You don't have to publish every comment surely?

Disappointed Igbo Woman,  3:58 pm  

Chinyere or whatever you call yourself, I must say I was disappointed when I read your posts.

To say your last sentence to Warri Boy was uncalled for and immature is a gross understatement. It went on to show the high levels of hypocrisy we Nigerians indulge ourselves in.

Here you are fighting for a man who called for an apology from someone who he alleged had made a nasty statement about his people and it didn’t take long for you to blurt out yours as well or let me say ‘It’s okay for you to make such statements about other people but it’s not okay for you to receive them’? Hypocrisy in the highest order!

You laugh your brains out when you listen to our comedians make fun of different tribes and you take offense at a simple satire? I can bet that you wouldn’t find anything wrong if it was the Yoruba or Hausa tribe that was mentioned. After all to you, the Niger Delta girls are in Italy ‘providing a service’.

As a woman…I am disappointed
As an Igbo….I am extremely disappointed

Anonymous,  1:28 am  

@Chinyere kalu, sometimes I wonder how ignorant we are in that nation, I am afraid to think about it. Here you are complaining about a "stereotype" and then you say something like that? your whole point in the discussion has just been lost. It is clear that you lack a sense of reasoning, you are educated no doubt but unfortunately not enough to argue or debate sensibly.

Chinyere Kalu,  6:04 pm  

It’s called turning the argument, not just on its head, but sending it back to source. Since stereotyping in whatever context is acceptable, I see no reason why it should all of a sudden become unpleasant to those who didn’t deem it so at the outset. The satire/sarcasm which I have been told to accept has been lost on you.

Now you know why a number of people, like Uche Nworah, myself and any self respecting Igbo person is or should be incensed about being stereotyped as ‘money grubbers’. The same also goes for the white writers that are being stereotyped in this article as lazy, bogus and unwilling to research on how to write about Africa.

“Stereotypes are devices for saving a biased person the trouble of learning”

I now rest my case, unless goaded into another response. I will ignore the personal insults; I have dished out enough myself and I don’t want my points to be engulfed in tales of disdain. To all those offended, it wasn’t personal. Well it was, but not anymore.

Chi Baby

Angry (not-so-much-anymore) Warri Boy,  12:19 am  

Cool. But first two questions:
1. If an Igbo had written a witty, ironic piece attacking people who called Ndigbo “money-grubbing” by creating a caricature of them doing it, would you have been offended?
2. When you wrote the “Italo” comment were you trying to turn the argument on its head or did you just let it slip?
Because if you read your sentence in the context of its preceding passage, it was what it was: an insult. Maybe not deeply thought through but an insult nonetheless – and it wasn’t taken personal, at least not by me.
My point is: intent is everything. Mr. Wainana (so much easier to spell than Wainaina) did not insult the Igbos. If anything, he attacked those who insult them – and the Shona, and the Kikuyu (an old spelling of Gikuyu). And you wrote something about it not mattering if he was Gikuyu; that he did not have respect for his tribe. Oh, come on. I do not think Nworah knew he was Gikuyu when he wrote his ‘apology demand’ post. Nworah’s post was an ill-informed attack, plain and simple. It was a bitter, bridge-burning, attention-seeking piece laced with such venom as to make common-sense arguments impotent. We seem to forget that he based his entire argument on his supposition that the Binj insulted his people and was being a boy-boy to the Oyibo guvnors. Now, Chichi, you have read the “How to write…” article. Was that your conclusion? Are you telling me you would have written instead a boring academic piece titled, “The Misconceptions of the African in the Western Expatriate Writer’s Mind”?
There is a gift we Africans have – and here I risk being accused of another stereotype – and that is the ability, nay, the need, to use humour to heal our wounds. Are you asking that we destroy that? That we sacrifice our sense of humour on the altar of a humourless blogger’s lack of understanding?
What is truth, Chichi? When do we agree that we are wrong? All the comments above said one thing, that Uche’s attack was ill-judged. When you tried to defend him, you said nothing about the fact that he accused the Binj of collecting money from Fidelity Bank; that he insinuated that Ms Adichie was unwise to keep such a pig as a friend; that he attacked Fidelity Bank for spending big money on expatriate facilitators (instead of talented locals like himself?). (And here I cannot resist pointing out the sad thinking that every initiative must be corporate and not individual. By now Uche knows the workshop was planned – and Binyavanga committed for free – long before Fidelity got involved. And thanks, Fidelity Bank, for the time and resources put at our disposal.) Instead you dropped a paragraph-and-a-half of the original piece and wrote on-and-on about how Uche was famous already, how those of us who abused him were fools, how we were all one and the same person holding brief for the Binj.
What is truth? Do you respect the opinion of others? Take a look at every single comment above. Ignore the hazy innuendo and see what every single person – not my alter egos, trust me – said. Even Cecilia, who posted the first comment, was shocked at the venom of the Nworah post after she read the Binj’s article. Nobody is saying that conformity is, or the majority are, correct. But haba, Wetin Uche do no good at all.
At all, at all.
With that, I sign off on the matter. Writer and part-time doctor (ha ha ha ha ha).

Shylle 7:37 pm  

I certainly wished you had spoken like this all along.

We've all been guilty of hurling personal insults around, Nworah inclusive. But I think you went just a notch too far.

Don't worry, my dear Chi Baby. I take all personal insults with a dose of laughter. I suggest everyone do the same. You inclusive.

Anonymous,  2:59 am  

chi baby,
please don't report to his sisters. i know you can if you so desire.
it is obvious you are close to them, they are your best friends.

Blue 2:12 pm  

Jeremy,I promise to visit your blog everyday as from now on. Can you imagine, i missed all this drama? Chei!
It's not my fault sha, i was busy money-grubbing :)

equivocal 5:32 pm  

I must agree that much of the writing generated by Nworah's embarrassing post has been great. Great comic relief.

Just as an endnote, I thought I'd add another post of his:

...which seems just chock full of stereotypes about Igbos!

Jeremy, I also partially agree with your deeper point about Binyavanga's How To Write About Africa essay. I've always been more a supporter of his other longer and beautiful and far more sublime work, Discovering Home, which in fact does show how Africa can be written about. You've read it?

Lara Pawson,  10:53 am  

I'm baffled. It has always seemed clear to me that BW is using irony and sarcasm heavily in that essay, which is why it's so funny.

Yes, you can argue that one should focus on 'writing about Africa' in new ways as opposed to simply slagging off the bad ways in which it is done. But it's a valid piece of work, which made many people sit up and think - and laugh. I'm not sure it's any more or less than that.

Or am I missing something in this post?

In the second post you link to, The Long Harmattan Season, it seems quite bizarre to compare Jade Goody to Binyavanga. The former was being blatantly racist, whereas BW was clearly making a joke AT the cliches of the foreign correspondent. I'm really astounded by the (mis)readings of the piece. I will go back and read it again, to see if I am the one missing the point.

(I can't help but feel that there is a curious point scoring going on here between men with large egos... sorry!)

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