Monday, April 30, 2007

Surrounded by women

At present, there is one male in our apartment (moi) and four Nigerian women. A happy dispensation you might think. Except that apart from Bibi, the other two are her sisters, and the fourth is a friend of the sisters. Oh and they are all Ijebu Yoruba - opinionated and forceful in their different ways, with centuries of market women DNA competing for space in the social mix. This is all good: I am drawn to strong women and I love markets. And given that there is plenty of space to swing cats here, we all rub along..

Except that in the past few days, the sisterly caucus has decided that it is high time the apartment was painted. Jeremy of course was not consulted. So now there is a whole gang of painters all over the gaff, paint splattered everywhere, nothing that is needed to be found quickly. Nigerian painters work at the pace of a snail on tranquilisers so I think we have at least another day of disruption. If only I had some money, I'd escape to an hotel..

By the way, are we all agreed that Baba Alaye is one of OBJ's sons? Some sort of unstated consensus seems to have emerged via the comments to his most recent (fabulously well written) postings.

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Update on the Kano 'lesbian' wedding

Here. It looks like something has been lost in translation. A woman keen to support her close friends, a sharia lobby keen to assert itself, a dust cloud of confusion in between. I suspect there may still be something slightly more to it than these two polar opposites, given what I have read about the fluid sexualities of those involved in the Hausa video industry, but lets see. Talatu-Carmen, what's your take?

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Sunday, April 29, 2007

Dis Dayn

Today is Mike Adenuga's birthday. He is 54. Happy birthday Mr A - how is London?

How do I know it is his birthday? Because 22 out of the 123 pages of today's Dis Day are full page adverts singing his praise from various sycophants along Globacom's supply chain. The newspaper business in Nigeria is a good one. It costs approx N250k for a one page ad in the newspapers. That means the paper pulled in N5.5m (40,000 dollars) from Mikey boy's encomiums alone.

Meanwhile, while I am indulging in one of my pet blog topics, here is a choice morsel from page 8 of the paper:

NUJ Wants Journalism Profession Enhanced
The Nigeria Union of Journalism (NUJ) has called on the newly elected leaders to use their positions to improve journalism professional in the country....

(the grammatical sin is theirs, not my typo). It provokes the question: what exactly does the NUJ think the govt can do to improve 'journalism professional' in the country that the NUJ itself shouldn't be doing? Perhaps Mr Yar'Adua should start by demanding that newspaper articles that feature demands that the govt should do more to support journalism in Nigeria are proofed before published.

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Saturday, April 28, 2007

The glass menagerie

She and he with she,
He and he with she,
She and she with he
He and he and he
She and she and she
She with he with she
He with he with she
She with she with he
He with he and he
She and she with she

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Joy Division in the compound

Perusing the globe's Saturday newspapers online, my attention is drawn subliminally elsewhere. I then realise that I can hear Joy Division's Love Will Tear Us Apart on the radio at the gate of the compound. How utterly strange to hear such a divine song of youthful alienation all the way from 1980s murky Manchester in an Abuja compound. The mirror equivalent would be a Nigerian listening to Capital Radio in London (a pappy commercial radio station) suddenly spinning Obesere or Kwam1 from out of nowhere.

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Friday, April 27, 2007

David Adjaye's East London House


Ghanaian London-based architect David Adjaye's work goes from strength to strength. Here's a pic of his prefab timber house, erected in 5 DAYS! (For more, see the link from Inhabitat here).

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The aftermath of a lesbian marriage in Kano

Aunty Maiduguri and her four new wives have fled. Thanks TC for the link. Yet another Act in the tragicomedy that is life in Nigeria..

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Has Kofi Annan lost the plot?

It seems like it is not only Nigeria bigwigs who like the idea of celebrating national identity by no other means more than by blowing lorry loads of dosh on bringing oyinbo artistes over instead of hiring locals (guess who I'm talking about?). It seems like Kofi Annan still has traces of UN profligacy in his system. JG reports on what happened earlier this week in Accra:

On Monday 23 April, as part of the Ghana@50 celebrations, the orchestra from La Scala performed Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony in Accra.

Details are emerging from, for example, The Daily Guide and the BBC (see below) about the genesis, cost and impact of this ‘cultural exchange’. For example, it seems that the idea of flying the 180-strong orchestra from Milan to Accra for the single performance began with a ‘casual invitation to Daniel Barenboim in New York last December by Ghana's highest-profile international figure, Kofi Annan.’ David Willey, reporting for the BBC, added that when it came to taking plans forward ‘The president of Italy, Giorgio Napolitano, and the Mayor of Milan, Letizia Moratti, also helped.’

So the Airbus was chartered and the hotels were booked; papers were put in order and Kofi Annan’s ‘dream came true’: La Scala went to Accra. The tickets for the performance in the National Theatre were, it seems, mostly given away, and, according to The Daily Guide, ‘Members of the diplomatic community were copiously represented’ in the audience.

Apparently, ‘a few hundred’ tickets were on sale at $30 to $50 each, a price which, Willey appropriately remarked, was ‘well beyond the reach of the pockets of the average Ghanaian.’ Reports indicate that not all the seats were filled.

For some the performance was followed by ‘a post-concert party in Accra's State Banqueting Hall’. There, according to the BBC reporter, ‘Annan was beaming’. He is quoted as saying: ‘In international affairs, you have to learn how to create pillars and foundations in order to realise dreams.’

This is very true, and I only hope that in future Annan consults widely with those who have been erecting pillars and digging foundations before deciding which dreams should be realised.

Willey put the cost of chartering the Airbus at $500,000 and appropriately asks ‘was it really worth it?’ Presumably Milan took care of many of the bills, but one wonders how far income from ticket sales covered the tabs picked up in Accra. For example, it would be good to know the budgetary allocation used to pay for the ‘post-concert party’ and to ask if the whole event was an appropriate part of Ghana@50? So far, I have found no evidence in the Ghanaian press on-line that relevant questions are being asked.

Sources
All Africa
Ghana Base
BBC

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Thursday, April 26, 2007

Tolu Ogunlesi

Tolu Ogunlesi's short story Sweet Mother has been shortlisted for the Guardian Books/Ziji Short Story competition. Click here to read his story and cast your vote.

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The Lord's Prayer to Baba

Our Baba who art in Aso Rock
Balogun of Owu is thy name.
Thy handover shall soon come
thy will has been done in Otta,
As it is in Umaru and Goodluck.

Leave us this May 29th,
your departure date.
Lead us not into anarchy.
Forgive Turaki his disloyalty as we forgave your
failed third term plot

Deliver him from INEC hammer
for Otta is thy destination, with all that is thine
thy bag and thy baggage
forever and ever
just go ooo

Amen

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Pan-African Circle of Artists exhibition in Lagos


On at the moment. Click to enlarge as per usual.

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Eshu in Abuja


Readers will be glad to know that Eshu is alive and well in Abuja. Sacrifices (or ebo) to the orisha of the crossroads/trickster deity can be spotted here and there, every now and again. The one in the photo to the left (taken by a friend with his camera phone) was placed at the entrance drive to Aso Villa, in other words within a stone's throw of the seat of power. There is no way that the person could have left it there without being spotted, which leads me to conclude that there was at the very least no disagreement with the placing of the sacrifice. Another spin would be that a 'covering all the bases' approach was being taken by those at the Villa, in the midst of the recent political turbulence..

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Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Obj and stepson

A surprisingly touching piece on Obj and his stepson, Tunde Baiyewu. Here.

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Film


Click to enlarge. Thanks PK for the link.

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Nike's Art gallery

If you're visiting Lagos, or are planning a trip to Osogbo, or have a spare couple of hours in Abuja, I recommend a trip to one of Nike's art galleries. A good place to take a visitor too. (e se T for the link).

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Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Race and sex in America

"They have to have at least eight inches, and most have a college degree. They have to be able to role-play, and most important of all, they have to be gentlemen. It's the difference between Notre Dame, where you're a student-athlete, and the University of Oklahoma, where you're an athlete-student. We don't just take jocks."

Interesting but highly provocative piece on the Mandingo swingers scene in America here.

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The EU Election Mission

The EU election observation mission to Nigeria website is here. It looks like the Final Report has yet to be posted. Thanks to African Shirts for the link.

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SAT-3 Nigeria in trouble

NITEL/Transcorp's woes exacerbate with the news that the unpaid bandwidth charges (to the tune of US$4m) for the submarine cable SAT-3 may lead to closure of the data pipe. This would be almost a doomsday scenario for Nigeria, effectively turning off the lights for the telecoms sector on the global map. Transcorp's lack of working capital to push in to NITEL is leading to increasing vulnerability in the number one telecoms operator. The two rival submarine cables, Glo1 (Globacom) and Festoon, cannot come on stream fast enough!

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Iyawo


Ever wondered about Toks-Boy's iyawo? Well now your curiousity can be quenched. She's started her own blog.

Welcome to the blogosphere Mandy Brown-Ojugbana! Even more than Toks-Boy, I suspect this is someone not to be messed with :-)

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Say Mama

Welcome to the blogosphere Say Mama, long may your writing provoke and prosper!

Meanwhile, I have to say I was impressed arriving at Abuja airport a few days ago (does anyone ever call it Nnamdi Azikwe Airport in everyday speech?) Although I have consistently criticised the Heart of Africa branding project for Nigeria for its thoughtless vacuities - see a post while in London recently featuring a picture of one of their ads on the tube - 'Come ye plunder' being the message - they have done a good job at the airport. As soon as one arrives, one sees large full colour photographs embossed onto card of various places of natural beauty in Nigeria. It really is quite impressive. If you ever arrived at Heathrow T4 (I'm sure many of you have) and noticed the large format photos along the corridor as you walk towards arrivals - well these look exactly the same - high definition ultra-vivid imagery. There's the obligatory scenes from Obudu, but also waterfalls and landscapes that are not commonly known.

Could this be the first stirrings of a genuine attempt at fostering tourism in Naija?

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Monday, April 23, 2007

Constructive improvements

I'm back in Nigeria. Watching the local telly last night was a suitably surreal experience. Not by any stretch of the imagination could the election be called free and fair - the verdict of all independent monitoring groups. However, its hard to see how anything other than the predicted and pre-determined would happen. In many ways, the transition from one elected president to another was as trouble-free as one could possibly hope for. Nothing like the implosion/coup worst case scenarios was remotely possible.

The time is now ripe for thinking through how to strengthen democratic processes in Nigeria so that the same chaos and violence doesn't happen in four years' time. Here are my initial thoughts:

1. INEC needs to be strengthened and insulated from any possible political interference. As happened with the EFCC, there is an opportunity for donor support to help create a fully autonomous agency. INEC staff cannot be members of any political party - a due dilligence screening process needs to be undertaken on all candidates. Preparations for the next election should begin as soon as possible, beginning with a review of independent (local and international) monitoring reports.

2. Key issues for INEC to improve on:
a) the ballot boxes were made of flimsy transparent plastic with a flexible opening. It is possible to put ones hand completely inside the box to pull out other ballots. A new ballot box should be designed and used which makes it impossible to open unless with a key/passcode. Ownership of the key/passcode should itself be strictly monitored
b) The polling stations need to be adequately guarded. In countless cases, hired thugs stole ballot boxes in the most recent election.
c) The count. There was no tv footage of the counting process. This should be televised, with independent monitors allowed full access.
d) Ballots should printed well in advance of polling day. If for any reason this is not possible, voting should be postponed.
e) Ballot papers must have individual reference codes. In many cases, ballots simply had the serial number OOOOOO, facilitating mass rigging
f) Thumbprints. Many instances of election officials thumb printing ballots have been reported. Spot checks using a fingerprint scanner should be deployed, both at the polling station and in the counting halls, to avoid this malpractice.
g) Voter registration. It is not clear what percentage of the elligible populace had been able to register to vote. The voter registration process needs to start at least a year before the next elections to avoid this.

Part of the donor support should involve partnerships (in training and capacity building) with electoral commission bodies overseas.

There are many more detailed points to make about how to strengthen INEC. A key external factor is removing the immunity from prosecution clause for governors in the constitution. The fifth amendment more or less works in the US, where there are countless checks and balances which mean you will be caught and prosecuted later if not sooner (via impeachment). The law does not have enough teeth in Nigeria for the immunity arrangement to be feasible. The flipside of this political reform would be a move to a more genuine fiscal federalism, with States granted more autonomy to develop the local economy. A check and balance to stop increased autonomy promoting increased graft would then be a strengthened Federal and State-level audit function.

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NOI for President, World Bank?

Speculation is rife that Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, former Nigerian Finance Minister, is in the running to take over from embattled Wolfowitz. See this article on Yahoo News. Also, see this website set up by Bank staffers. There's also an interesting piece on the topic on a new blog here.

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Sunday, April 22, 2007

Nsibidi

At the Tate Modern's capacious bookshop, I spotted this gorgeous book on African writing systems. Its not a bad price at 8 quid. If you have children and want them to explore/know more about indigenous forms of writing across the continent, its a good place to start.

Flicking through the book, I came across some lovely illustrations of Nsibidi script. Nsibidi is a semi-hermetic writing system used by the Ekpe (and as the illustration shows, by the Ejagham) as well as by the Igbo apparently. By semi-hermetic, I mean that some symbols (those in the illustration on the left for example) that are public domain, whereas others are secret, known only to Ekpe adepts.

While the Adinkran iconographic system in Ghana has been much studied (see this entry on wikipedia for eg), it seems that little research has been undertaken on Nsibidi. Or is there stuff out there on the internet that someone knows about - or any out of print monographs? The study of Nsibidi should be compulsory for art students in Nigeria, as part of a sankofa process - going backwards in history in order to go forwards in aesthetics and indigenous forms of design.

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Good Nigerian blog

Here. A young thoughtful chap in Lagos trying to make sense of it all.

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Friday, April 20, 2007

The Freedom of Information Bill

The following (pasted text from an email) is doing the rounds - circulate as you wish. I can send you the original email (with attachments) if you contact me.

Dear Colleague,

I am writing to you on behalf of Media Rights Agenda (MRA) to solicit your
support in lobbying President Olusegun Obasanjo to sign the Freedom of
Information Bill into Law.

As you are aware, following years of campaign by civil society
organizations, the House of Representatives passed the Bill on August 25,
2004 while the Senate similarly passed it on November 15, 2006. On February
14, 2007 both Houses of the National Assembly harmonized their respective
versions of the Bill and agreed to one version that should be sent to the
President for assent. The Bill was dispatched to President Obasanjo on
March 23, 2007 for him to sign it into Law.

The Constitution requires the President to signify his intention to assent
or withhold assent within 30 days. The expiration of the 30-day period is
only a few days away and the President has so far not indicated his
intention.

We are therefore urgently requesting you (and possibly your friends, family
members or colleagues) to send text messages to Ministers, Special Advisers
or Assistants to the President, known close associates of the President and
other senior government officials whom you know their numbers, urging them
to prevail on the President to sign the Bill into Law before Monday, April
23, 2007. If the Bill is not signed, all the efforts of the past eight years
may come to nothing.

I have attached to this message, a list of some of such people to whom you
may send text messages.

I have also attached a copy of the Freedom of Information Bill. Should you
require any additional information, please let me know.

I look forward to your support.

Best wishes,

Edet.
Edetaen Ojo
Executive Director
Media Rights Agenda
10, Agboola Aina Street
off Amore Street
Ikeja, Lagos
Tel: +234 1 4936033 & 4936034
Mobile: +234 80 3714 5991
Fax: +234 1 4930831
E-mail: edet@mediarightsagenda.org
Website: http://www.mediarightsagenda.org

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Chicago House, over twenty years since..


And then I remembered Chicago House.

Farley Jackmaster Funk, Steve 'Silk' Hurley, Frankie Knuckles, Rob Base. With classic tunes like Jack Your Body, Love Can't Turn Around, House Nation, You Used to Hold Me and Move Your Body, we would dance till 3am till the club closed. The combination of hi-hat, syncopated hand clap, female vocal and bumping bass rhythm would keep us in sidestepping motion for hours. We were sixteen and the world was new. The look was blazer and chinos, with a military emblem sewn onto the front. Acid House and E were yet two years away. Days that were those.

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American pastoral

Listening to the debate in the US and over here in the aftermath of Virginia Tech, it has become clear that many Americans are simply delusional about the role of guns in their society. It is a sort of collective unconscious which cannot be questioned that gun ownership is the right of every citizen. The constitutional decree has become embedded deep in the American pysche, like a sedimentary layer buried underneath the American surface. This means that no matter how disturbed or pyschotic, as Cho Seung-hui evidently was (and as his teachers repeatedly warned), it is all too easy to go and buy weapons from your local shop and then go and blast away as many lives as you can. As Katrina exposed the racist underbelly of the American South, so Virginia Tech has exposed the militaristic unconscious that underpins American life.

Why is there always reference to hunting as part of the gun ownership argument? What is there to hunt in America, and why do people want to go out and hunt it? I think in part it stems from the pioneering spirit that haunts American life - the great outside that still needs to be mapped, conquered, and if necessary, 'taken out'. America was founded on the idea of an originary enemy - the enemy within that had to be annihilated (the original Americans) slowly being replaced (when there were scarcely any left) by the enemy without that had to be annihalted (via the invention of the nuclear bomb and the slow construction of the Soviet threat via the deadly theatre of the Cuban missile crisis, and the invention of more recent American enemies, from Gaddafi to Bin Laden). The engine room of American capital, its military-industrial complex, will continue to fictionalise enemies inside and out, leaving deadly material effects in its wake.

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Thursday, April 19, 2007

African Snow - from Tues 24 April

From the website:

African Snow is the meeting of two men, cast from opposite sides into the hell of the slave trade - Olaudah Equiano, stolen from his home in West Africa, and John Newston, the converted slave-trader who later gave the world its most famous hymn, Amazing Grace.

Is brining them face to face beyond the scope of human reason? African Snow takes us to the heart of the human condition to the place where two men are compelled to confront one another. Can victim and abuser ever be reconciled?

African Snow is an epic and passionate piece of contemporary theatre, marking the 200th anniversary of the Abolition of the Slave Trade Act, and exposing an unfinished business... (thanks to FO for the link).

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VitaOrganic

Mildred's being choca, we went to this place to eat yesterday - a tiny restaurant in Soho. It must be THE healthiest place to eat in London. Gorgeous grub, and fantastic if like me you have digestion problems. Check it out if your in town.

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The Mountain of Death


A few weeks ago, regular readers will recall I got involved in a surreal argument about whether Nigeria had any decent mountains with some immigration officials in Maidugiri.

Finally, I find out that Nigeria does in fact have a biggish mountain. Its called Gangirwal (intriguingly called the 'Mountain of Death'). It stands at 2,419m (7,963 feet) in a remote corner of Adamawa State. The mountain and the region it is in - the Gashaka Gumti National Park (Nigeria's largest National Park - 3 times the size of Greater London) is the focus for quite a lot of research, especially in primatology - see here for UCL's Primate Project based there. Also click here for more pics from a New Zealand-based research project.

Gashaka Gumti certainly has interesting eco-tourist/trekking potential - with leopards, chimps, giant forest hog, buffalo and klipspringer to see as well as incredible views of Cameroon and Nigeria from the roof of the world. Anything more populist should be discouraged as it would disturb the 'keeper of the mountain'. There's little danger of this happening anytime soon anyway - its a 12 hour drive to the park from Abuja!

As well as a site for local spirits and history, there's also an interesting piece of history between the Germans and the British in the area. There was a ferocious 3-day fight between the two sides in this area during the First World War.

I'm planning my trip as I write..

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The Nigerian population


Average life expectancy in Nigeria is 47. Its interesting to compare the demographic of Nigeria with the US (taken from here). It clearly shows that base of the society lies in those under 40 - precisely those who are most disenfranchised by the current situation.

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Vote Adichie!


Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's Half of a Yellow Sun has been shortlisted for the Orange Prize. If you're in the UK, you can text in your vote. Text VOTE ADICHIE to 80241. Click here for more details. She is already 11/4 odds on favourite for the bookies for the UK30k prize money. Text in to make sure she wins.

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Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Tegonni: an African Antigone


Peter Badejo choreographs the production at the University of Richmond, VA. Opening night this Thursday. More details here.

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Re: African Rendition of Throw some Ds

And when you've seen the one below, watch this riposte..

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African Rendition of Throw some Ds

Yo mothersuckers...

This is hilarious.

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Monday, April 16, 2007

Action Congress... in action

An email from a friend's father - he got caught up in the elections last week:

Hi Folks,
This is what Action Congress thugs did to my car on Thursday 12th
April, 2007. They were coming from a rally and riding on an Okada.
Obviously drug-crazed, they thought I am a PDP man and descended on my car. Thank God, it could have been worse if they were armed.

Unfortunately, this class of people bear the brunt of the mismanagement
of the ruling class when they get into power, nevertheless they are always available to kill and maim just to get the same people into power.

Wither Nigeria?


































Her sister continues the story:

I just remembered something kinda funny that daddy said happened on the day
he went to report his car to the police... He said there was no light at the
station and that when he was taken to the Area Commanders office, he was
about to talk about the deplorable state of the station and the country in
general... only for the Area Com to start commending Fashola and the AC
party for 'doing the right thing'. Apparently they had distributed t-shirts,
face caps and bags of rice and they had made the police force and their
wives very pleased.

The stupid man even went on to say that PDP stood no chance cos they hadn't
even attempted to settle the police well 'at aaalll'.

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Virginia Tech..

The tragedy at Virginia Tech is sadly destined to repeat itself again and again. America is doomed to the repetition of gun violence until the individual right-to-defend aspect of the Constitution is erased. It will not be erased. More will die. The gun lobby will continue to reign supreme. Americans will be left stunned and shocked, again and again, with no explanation and no remedy.

For now, a prayer for the dead of today, in Iraq, in Virginia, in Nigeria, across the world..

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MEND

A journalist went to meet MEND in the Delta creeks recently. His piece was in yesterday's Observer. What I don't understand about MEND is this: if they are concerned about stolen money from the oil trade, why do they attack just the oil companies, and not those responsible for the bunkering and diversion of funds?

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Sunday, April 15, 2007

BT pulls out of the NITEL contract

The rumours of internal wrangling at NITEL between BT contract staff and Transcorp has finally broke to the surface in the past few days, as Transcorp's woes go from bad to worse. Below is an article pasted from This Day:

British Telecom (BT) has pulled out of the technical services agreement with Transnational Corporation Plc (Transcorp) for the management of NITEL and its mobile subsidiary, MTel. Transcorp, with BT as its technical partner had acquired a 51 per cent stake in NITEL last year under the privatisation exercise handled by the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE).

But in a letter to Transcorp, BT cited the unavailability of working capital needed to turn around NITEL and MTel, and the lack of adherence to corporate governance principles by the companies' management and their boards as the reason for its decision to withdraw from the agreement.

The decision by BT to terminate the technical services agreement it has with Transcorp could not have come at a worse time for the Nigerian conglomerate which is yet to overcome the disappointing returns from its initial public offering (IPO). Capital market analysts estimate that the Transcorp's IPO may have been undersubscribed by as much as 70 per cent.

Under the technical services agreement, BT was expected to have provided technical and managerial expertise to Transcorp for one year in the first instance, but the contract comes up for review by both parties every six months. In exchange for its services and upon meeting key performance benchmarks that had been agreed under the contract, BT was supposed to have been paid a fixed fee and a performance bonus by Transcorp.

In addition, salaries of its two contract staff seconded to run NITEL and MTel for the duration of the technical services agreement would have been met by Transcorp. Transcorp had also committed to raising substantial funds from banks and the capital market to inject into both telecom firms for their network expansion programmes and in order to meet other commercial obligations.

In that regard, Messrs Steve Brookman and John Weir were seconded by BT as CEOs of NITEL and MTel respectively in November last year to oversee their day to day operations. Ms Funke Okpeke, meanwhile, was employed by Transcorp and appointed Chief Operating Officer (COO) of NITEL.

But ever since Transcorp took over NITEL, and by extension its mobile subsidiary in November, the reconstituted boards of both companies have been enmeshed in internal wrangling among its members, on the one hand, and disagreements with the British CEOs on how best to manage the companies on another.

Specifically, John Weir, who was appointed CEO of MTel, has been at loggerheads with the company's chairman, Gboyega Olulade and other board members over the selection of equipment vendors for the company's network expansion programme.

Weir was said to have shown a preference for the appointment of Huawei and Motorola, while Olulade was pushing for Ericsson and other vendors. Weir also took umbrage over the appointment of the new Chief Technical Officer (CTO), Davidson Anene, by Olulade without his input, and is said to have refused to recognise Anene as the company's CTO.

Things came to a head last month when MTel's board comprising Transcorp members and Federal Government representatives terminated Weir's appointment and gave BT four weeks within which it was expected to send his replacement.

His dismissal did not sit well with BT which was already getting disenchanted with Transcorp's inability to deliver on its promise to provide working capital for NITEL and MTel, thus compelling it to pull out of the agreement in its entirety. Both companies are also riddled with massive debts owed banks, equipment suppliers and unsettled interconnect fees.

The void created by BT's withdrawal could not have come at a worse time for Transcorp. The company's IPO held between December and January this year is believed to have been undersubscribed by 70 per cent.

Even a two week extension granted by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to Transcorp which embarked on road shows to the UK and South Africa to shore up investors' participation in the offer did not help matters.

Capital market operators are of the view Transcorp grossly underestimated the capacity of the market to absorb another major public offer right on the heels of the Dangote Sugar Refinery Plc IPO.

According to a market analyst, "the timing for Transcorp's offer was obviously not right. It came at the end of the year when most investors were cashing in to raise money for the yuletide season. Besides, it came immediately after Dangote's IPO which had soaked up most of the investible funds in the market." Transcorp, he posited, should have bid its time and waited to go to the market later this year when investors would have had a clearer picture on the company's direction.

The undersubscribed offer is already impacting on Transcorp's share price which has been on a downward spiral since the technical suspension on the company's shares was lifted twice by the Nigerian Stock Exchange. A few weeks after the IPO had closed the Stock Exchange lifted the suspension placed on Transcorp's share which took a hit in four days of trading to fall from N9.71 kobo per share to N8.34 kobo per share.

Without prior notice to stock brokers, the Exchange placed another technical suspension on the shares, which was ostensibly done to stop the free fall. However, the official explanation given by the Exchange for the second suspension was that it had done so to enable the Issuing Houses to the offer conclude collation of returns.

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London poster


I can't help thinking, "did they mean to put 'and' twice?" If they did, why did they? And what is it supposed to mean anyway?

When I was little, trips to London would always scare me, precisely because of posters like this. I used to stir myself into a mild panic, trying to work out the meaning of statements on walls. I'd wonder about the ferality of the minds who thought them up. The city was a wild place, breeding even wilder brains spewing out wild thoughts. London was fear and desire, as far as the eye could see.

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London bums

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Portrait of Ben Onono


Click here to go to his myspace. The site opens with his beguiling song Badagry Beach.

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London sign

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The Settle-Carlisle viaduct


There it was, solemn, silent, against the craggy landscape. Like a sculpture from a forgotten yet magnificent time..

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Inside the cave


The guide told us to look for the underwater city, and there it was. All of a sudden, I was five years old again, enchanted..

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Two Weates and two Carnegies


Mom, Jacob (nephew), Caitlin (niece), Dad.

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Ingleton, Yorkshire Dales


Picture-book pretty. The Yorkshire Dales, also known as the Cotswolds without the toffs..

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View from a window


Where we stayed in the Yorkshire Dales a couple of weeks ago..

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Outside Subterranean, Ladbroke Grove..

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My favourite toilets in London


At the October Gallery near Russell Square. Take a book along with you and enjoy..

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Bush 'heise' home of the World Service..

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Village boy


Allan Little (BBC correspondent) and myself, at Bush House recently..

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Hideously white?

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The preacher

Outside Liverpool St station, London, March 2007

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Graffito off Portobello Road

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Nigeria advert on the tube


Come dig. Take what you want. We promise not to refine it.

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Saturday, April 14, 2007

Irish moss

Researching Irish moss (a.k.a carrageen) as a vegan thickener last night (I want to make my home made ice cream thicker), I discovered that the seaweed has many other interesting properties. As well as being an aphrodisiac drink in the Caribbean, it has many superfood health uses - as a natural treatment for bronchitis, a digestive aid, a blood thinner and as a remedy against cystitis. Most interestingly, it is currently being tested as a natural microbicide (in the form of a vaginal gel) protecting against HIV infection. The Population Council in South Africa is currently conducting trials, with the results due out in the autumn. Click here for more.

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Friday, April 13, 2007

Chinua Achebe short-listed for the Booker


Read all about it here.

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Thursday, April 12, 2007

On the tragicomic

I am travelling through a passage of space-time where there are people afflicted with terminal illness at one remove. It would be hard to imagine comedy arising from such tragic conditions, but today that is precisely what happened.

My brother in law is a solicitor. He told me today about one of his clients, who is just about to die. With no relatives or next of kin, he's left everything in his will to... a schizophrenic prostitute from Bournemouth. Apparently he'd developed a soft spot for her, thanks to her weekly visits. She's promised my b-i-l that immediately after the final expiration, she will ransack the place.

The man will leave behind a house, a budgie and a parrot. The usual delicate diplomacies may need to be curtailed. My brother in law has had to cancel engagements, in readiness for the Grand Departure. What to do with the birds?

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Sounds of the Universe..

As ever more people digitise their vinyl collections, there are ever more blogs providing downloads of rare/out of print music. A friend introduced me to what has become a minor addiction in the past few weeks - Pharoahs Dance. Let your guilt-free forays into rare cosmic jazz and funk and all its beyonds begin..

(I had to come up with some excuse for posting this album cover to my blog).

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Wednesday, April 11, 2007

African/Nigerian TV developments

A couple of newish developments in African TV services.

1. The Africa Channel. Launched in the US in September 2005, this 24/7 channel signed a deal with Comcast in the US in 2006. I hear that it is now in talks with both Sky and a South African media company as part of its globalisation strategy. Click here for the website. I'd be interested to hear from Stateside readers what they think of it.

2. Finally, a rival to DSTV in Sub-Saharan Africa. GTV will launch in the middle of this year. Their strategy appears to be pay-tv for the masses, contrasting sharply with DSTV's exorbitant monthly charge of approx 40 quid. Pasted below is an interview with the President of the owning company, taken from the current issue of Balancing Act:

African communications provider Gateway Communications this week announced that it would launch GTV, a pan-African pay-TV delivered service. By lowering the price of its service it will create some competition in what thus far has been a largely uncompetitive area. But whilst there has been much talk about convergence, this move is the first major scale, pan-African investment in broadcast content by a telecoms connectivity provider. Russell Southwood talks to Gateway’s President Julian McIntyre about what prompted this move.

GTV will provide a variety of content at a more affordable subscription to its main rival DSTV, including sport, movies, popular series, music, education and religious content. The service will carry both major international channels as well as a number of “in-house” channels. The service will also focus heavily on promoting African content.

The GTV service will be available from the middle of 2007, with a phased roll-out across sub-Saharan Africa. GTV will be targeting customers who have previously been unable to afford subscription-based services and have been limited to a small number of national free-to-air television stations.

Q: Why did Gateway choose to go into pay-TV? At first glance, it’s not an obvious move.

Let’s start with the basics. It’s a market-driven opportunity and the greatest opportunity in pay-TV globally is in sub-Saharan Africa. There are currently 4 million colour TV sets in the region but only a 1-2% take-up of pay-TV. What is happening is that penetration rates are converging globally. Africa may have different routes to market but it will not be exempt from this trend. So for example, pay-TV penetration rates in eastern Europe are currently 15-20% but will reach Western European rates of 30-40% before too long. Indeed these kinds of growth rates have been happening everywhere but Africa. There may be different cultural elements in terms of content but Africans like everyone want information, education and entertainment.

Q: I can see the opportunity buy why Gateway?

We have played a substantial role in facilitating communications penetration in Africa. We have a strong growing market in that sector that gives us a great cash flow. We see a number of opportunities to diversify into new areas. We already have a proven track record in building a successful business and we feel pay-TV is comparable to the beginning of mobile phones in the late 1990s.

Q: Are you worried that DSTV has a “a lock” on many markets at the moment?

With 1% of households taking its service, we’re not really talking about a lock on the market. If it is, it’s the kind of lock I’d like to unlock. It’s going to be about offering the right content and we’ll be making announcements on that in the near future. The content proposition will be better than DSTV. We’re making the service affordable. The current incumbents have kept pay-TV an elite product. We want a service for the masses. We want it to be a service that people will feel is part of their lives.

Q: What’s the timetable?

We’ll be broadcasting over Africa in the next few months. A commercial service will be available mid-year. There will be heavy marketing of the service in August.

Q: Which markets will you be going into first?

From day one, we will have content that is relevant to Anglophone countries. We will add Portuguese, French and content relevant to Indian communities later. We will be looking at the larger markets outside South Africa and Nigeria: these will include SADC countries and a selection of countries in West and East Africa. We will be distributing in 9-10 markets. We have content rights in every country except South Africa and Nigeria.

Q: How will you tap into the market potential?

It’s important to us that in each of the countries we operate in that we have local expertise, work with local companies and have local content. This is not a South African or European service, it’s one delivered specifically for sub-Saharan markets. We want to promote local, national and regional cultures, as well as also promoting local employment.

Q: Will you be putting money into content?

In the short-term, we will invest substantially in content rights. In the longer term, we intend to do so. The African content market and African media suffers from a lack of TV distribution infrastructure. When we’ve been talking to producers and directors they’ve been telling us that there’s nowhere to sell their work. The free-to-air television channels either lack the resources or are unwilling to do so. Existing pay-TV does not promote local content.

There is a massive opportunity to develop local media markets. We want to promote access to quality content across all genres. For example, sports in general (and football in particular) are underdeveloped because they have no income from television. Pay-TV could do a great deal more to promote local interests.

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Ribadu given four more years

OBJ renewed Ribadu's tenure at the EFCC yesterday and promoted him to Assisstant Inspector General of Police, with immediate effect. Here for more.

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Monday, April 09, 2007

Dreaming of Iran..


Iran is more or less top of my want-to-go list, vying with Bahia. For one, Iran has mastered the art of natural air conditioning, using wind funnels, called badgirs at the top of each house or building. The badgir sucks in air and cools it as it sinks towards the bottom of the shaft, often passing across a pool of water to further cool the air, before being circulated throughout the house. There is no need for electric air conditioning in this set-up.

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Sunday, April 08, 2007

RIP Aunty Dolly

Good obit in the UK Guardian last week on the death of the oldest British national in Nigeria. It sounds like she lived life to the full!

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Saturday, April 07, 2007

Obalende Suya Express

Interview with Toks Odebunmi, the guy who brought the Obalende Suya Express chain to the UK.

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The Others: homage to Blanchot, Levinas and Serres

There will always be others. Monochrome, faceless, fleeting, they yet give the world its weight. Without others, there would only be a shifting foreground of events devoid of a human landscape in a dizzily continuous present: a series of holograms. In a world without others, there would be no space and no time, just as a foreground can only be such when set against a backdrop. Others create our world, and project it forwards and backwards from the moment. They yield its spatiality and depth. The world is the world, because of others.

The idea of self has no meaning without others, against whom we can create ourselves and be created. The other offers resistance, opportunity, the possibility of ontological capture. The other is the boundary that allows us to draw the map of ourselves, and be drawn. There will always be others who have gone further, or who have yet to travel so far. The other defines our sense of adventure, which, in our excitement, we can only forget. The other hovers forever beyond the rim of our narcissism, an exteriority that is forever waiting to intrude. The other is the saint and the sinner. The precursor. The archetype.

We must always distinguish between others – the background susurrus of being – from the Other, that which presents itself to us as a form of specificity. The others are general types of being and energy. The Other is that which confronts us as opportunity, or denial, or the possibility of union. The Other is our pathway to love and to communion. Others are simply there, as forms of absence, within the labyrinth of being and becoming. It is only by loving the Other as Other that we can begin to love the beloved without condition. Reducing the Other to the same returns us to narcissus, via ontological destruction. The love evaporates through our fingers. The beloved Other is therefore the face that must transcend. We cannot cross over to the beloved. The beloved is joined to us only through an essential gap or separation. In loving the Other, we must learn to accept the death that lies in them, and accept the death that lies within us. The beloved is that point between life and death that defines our horizon. The beloved is the sun that rises and the moon that rises, and the invisible line between earth and sky. The beloved is elemental. When the beloved is gone, we have only the earth, and the sky, flames and the sea. Eventually, the others will return.

It is the anonymous who therefore give up our names. In time, all our names will be lost. Our names will return in fragments. On gravestones, in stories and myths. Our names become the sediment of existence. Anonymous, eventually liquid. The others are essentially anonymous. We will become them. Obscure. Forgotten. Sometimes remembered. The external. White noise.

When illness falls, there is always someone else we know who has had the same illness. A prognosis is shared. When we speak of love, there are others in our minds, other lovers from other times. A narrative unfolds itself before us. Will we walk the same path yet again? Love passes into obscurity. When we listen to music, there are also the audiences, occluded yet still present. Men and women sit in the darkness, listening and responding before us. We hear the clapping at the end of the song. The others beckon, yet fall silent. We have been those others, at other times. The self is only the self because it has been and will always be another.

Others provide us with the sum of narrative possibilities. They also leave a narrative pathway open; for others are never fully present. In their absence, there lies possibility. The others are like the sea, constantly reaching forward then receding. The others. The sea.

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Friday, April 06, 2007

A London derive

I spent the day in solitude, determined to get at least close to finishing the serenely told novel I have tarried with for two months or so (600 pages is too long a book for our times. I tend to agree with Ian McEwan that the novella must surely be the future). I walked from Camden to Primrose Hill, and sat and read, first in a cafe, then at the top of the hill.

A new tradition was in the process of being invented nearby: an egg rolling race. Good Friday is a day of eccentric rituals up and down the land, with egg rolling a feature in several places. The game is quite simple. You bring your own hard boiled egg. The one that rolls the farthest wins. People were dressed as rabbits and chickens. A man with a megaphone orchestrated events.

All around there were clusters of English, most of whom were drunk or drinking that way. I never feel so far removed from my people as I do when watching the English drink. It always seems to be borne of inhibition. As someone who has seldom to need an excuse (liquid or pharmaceutical or otherwise) to feel uninhibited, I've always found it hard to be surrounded by repression as far as the eye can see. Call it the Etruscan in me.

Alone, I imagined all the people I like and love around me, invisibly populating the space as a form of meta bhavana. It seems to me that embracing the invisible is a way in which to conjur up deep reserves of the imagination, and to assuage longing. We are never alone, for all we are is the coalescence of those that we have met, circling inside us, energies passing through. Nameless millions are behind us and in us and beyond us in this way. There are always others, to bring to presence.

And yet. There is always something unavoidably self-conscious about being alone amidst clumps of people, especially when they are a little lairy. Even with Indian classical music on the ipod and Rohinton crafting his tale, it got too much after a while. I sauntered south to Regent's Park, admiring the public space and diversities of activity. We have many forgotten Victorian battles to thank for so much well tended public space in London. Far off in a corner, veiled women were playing games with their young. A magnificently huge kite fluttered in the breeze. Eager games of tennis unfolded. A tranquil picnic in the sequestered space at the back of Regent's College. I found it impossible to think of Lagos ever regaining the public spaces it so desperately needs.

I came across a new concept while in the Dales: podwalking. The enterprising tourist people up there have got downloadable mp3's which you can use while exploring various trails. What an excellent idea for more general creative use! Imagine musicians creating pieces set for specific places and routes. Or podplays that one walks around the city listening to, against a shifting found-object backdrop. A whole new genre is set to burst forth methinks..

I read today that Gordon Brown said yesterday at a summit in Gleneagles that it is impossible to enjoy a good meal knowing that others are starving. It seems to me that this is precisely what humans are capable of, all the time. The image of Bruegel's Fall of Icarus comes into view. We don't just carry on regardless like the ploughman, we actively repress a sense of ongoing tragedy elsewhere. It is almost as if each society devises ever more insidious forms of self-organising collective denial, through religion or consumerism or desire, with epiphanies of empathy at appropriately self-contained moments (Mr Geldof is usually the conductor of the experiential orchestra). Charity repackaging guilt as the new carnival of our times.

As I crossed Regent's Canal, the question came to me: could a future humanity ever puncture this Mayan veil of illusion? Or, despite the increasingly intimate interconnections of technology, are we forever shackled to the illusions of pleasure and eschatology?

Later, I wandered along Marylebone High Street and through Fitzrovia, ending up drinking a Kasteel Cru in a quiet room at the Soho Hotel. Next to me, two men swapped stories and drank champagne, exuding smugness as they talked about their property portfolios abroad. There seemed to be an unstated competition between them as to who could tell the smuggest tale, or talk about the best property deal. Are these really the pinnacles of a life's achievement - to simply have amassed? I wish my ears have an off switch sometimes.

It was time to derive again, with Roy Ayers as accompaniment, starting with We Live in Brooklyn Baby. I moved through the crowds of beautified Soho men to my bus stop. Roy segued. Feel what I feel when I feel what I'm feeling?

Yes. Everybody does Love the Sunshine.

And yes, it was a Good Friday.

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Dianne Abbott vs Lola Ayonrinde

Seconds out, round one.

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Behold. Deaconess Mofe Naira has broken her vow of silence

Here. For those of you who have not been attending the Church of Greener Pastures: shame on you. It may be Easter, but the Lord may not be in a forgiving mood..

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Thursday, April 05, 2007

A trip to the North..

The train speeds north, past retail sheds and ploughed fields and rape, nearly in flower.

Around lakes, men sit watching the water with tents behind them. Lonely wives wait, not dreaming of fish.

The house is set on a windy hill. A turbine rotates at speed, bringing us light and warmth.

We walk inside the earth, near Clapham. Magical forms greet us (the sword of Damocles, the mushroom, the witches hand..) A city lies far off, underneath the water.

We drive for miles upon miles across the treeless moors. Crags rim the heights. Shallow streams bauble past small boulders in the valleys. I remember something a teacher from Yorkshire taught me over 26 years ago: SUNWAC. The six rivers of the Dales: Swale, Ure, Nidd, Wharfe, Aire, Calder.

At Malham Tarn, a strange clump of trees drift in and out of vision. The landscape is milky and spectral. Mallards float on the cold water. We cannot see the other side.

At Malham Cove, we spy a peregrine falcon high on the ledge through someone's telescope. It sits proud, gripping the rock with yellow tallons. It can kill and carry cats and herons, diving at 200mph. The twitchers are held in awe, staring up at the crevice.

In the Lister's Inn, I drink fine Belgian beer (Duvel then Chimay). Dad has a local bitter, mom a pear cider. My niece and nephew chatter in their partially closed world. The pub is perfection.

Two days later, the train whisks me back to the continental warmth of London. The place names of the Dales haunt my imagination: Cracoe, Threshfield, Appletreewick, Grassington, Otterburn.

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Christopher and Obi Okigbo event at SOAS 12 April

Tapping into the Known – an exhibition of Poetry, Paintings and Installations by the late Poet Christopher Okigbo and his artist daughter, Obi Okigbo that emerged as a result of ‘conversations’ between Obi and her father. Okigbo, considered to be one of Africa’s pre-eminent and enigmatic poets, died in the battlefields of the Nigerian civil war, in September 1967, leaving his wife and two year-old daughter, Obiageli.

Her ‘conversations’ with her father have manifested into an exuberance of colour, form and poetic content, not only as a result of finding her fathers poetry but from her own aesthetic and personal experiences. The link between Ibo mythology and belief systems, symbols and themes are common to both her father’s poetry and her art. However, she inhabits his words and themes in a distinct and inspiring way resulting in her own breath-taking interpretations of those common themes. The twist in the tail is that through this exploration she has redefined her identity, finally finding her father and therefore herself. One would even venture to say that her father has found her - reunited with his daughter in the spiritual as well as the artistic realm – intimating an extremely celestial connection.

The rationale behind the exhibition is to bring to the fore the sheer brilliance and sensibilities of Christopher Okigbo’s poetry which continues to attract scholars all over the world yet these works, considered seminal in the development of modern African poetry and literature are today out of print. By juxtaposing his poems with the mesmerising and at times haunting paintings of his daughter, it is our aim to exhibit two invigorating and thought provoking artists working in different artistic mediums, and the spiritual link that encapsulates their independent visions.

This exhibition is an intrinsic part of the celebrations planned by the Christopher Okigbo Foundation to mark and honour his legacy in 2007 and we are honoured to be part of the year long celebrations which will include The Ojoto Memorial Service in August 2007, Harvard Symposium in September 2007 and re-publication of the Labyrinths with Chinua Achebe and several other publications by scholars in this field.

There will be free gallery talks with the artist Obi Okigbo from 13.00 on Thursday 12th and Friday 13th April

Brunei Gallery, School of Oriental and African Studies, Russell Square, WC1
London

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Monday, April 02, 2007

Alea iacta est

After the blissful weareone party, we go to All Saints Road, to the place that was Mas Cafe in the days before All Saints Road became chichi to the power of chichi. It is now called Ruby and Sequoia - a cocktail bar doing a nice line in Mai Tais and mochitos. The interior is black ceramics and a shimmery gold flock effect, very Wallpaper magazine. Downstairs the vibe is loungey, with clusters of people still high after the weekend dancing with verve and energy. The DJ is rinsing a nice line in near nostalgia uptempo, with Groove is in your Heart followed by Boogie 2Night by Tweet. The last song has been playing in my head for the last two days - it was good to hear it out in the world.

I return from the bar to see a guy sitting near us studying me. I return his stare and smile. We introduce ourselves. Alex works in film editing. He looks vaguely Middle Eastern, perhaps he is Lebanese. His hair is shaven. His skin looks fresh, his eyes large and a little doey. We talk about the British film industry for a while. He asks if his friend, sitting next to him, can cadge a cigarette. My friend sitting to my left obliges and reaches over to pass him the packet. His friend, to his right, has a crutch. There is something in his face that scares me a little, an implicit violence. His face is pale, his hair shaven, his eyes blue-bloodshot. After a while, he goes to sit with my friend. I leave them to buy more drinks, wondering if they are gay or not. A certain macho metrosexuality wafts between glances.

A little later, the pale skinhead sits next to me. We shake hands, in the overly glamorous geezer way. He tells me his name is Danny. I ask him what he does:

I do mate. That's all you need to know.
He smiles a watery smile.

I don't fuck anyone, and no one fucks with me, you know what I mean? I don't fuck, and no one fucks back. It might have something to do with having a three foot machete back home.
This time he laughs.

My family are tinkers mate. You know what tinkers are?
I search my internal wikipedia. They’re Irish traders right? They buy and sell stuff?

We’re the bottom of the pile mate. We’re gypsies. Everyone hates us. We fight. That’s what we do. Everyone hates us, so we fight back. I’ve been fighting all my life. I got it from my mom. She smashed three guys faces up. Right in the face, with glass. She done ‘em up proper.

We're the Murrays from Kensal Rise. You ask anyone about us. The things I’ve done… you don’t want to know. I’ve ruined some people’s lives. There’s things you wouldn’t do, I’ve done ‘em. Where you or someone else wouldn’t go, I’ve been there..

We talk a little more, Danny’s banter a mixture of diluted charm and menace. Then he decides to open up.

I’m a drug dealer mate. Its what I do. I’ve had 9 E's, 6 grams of charlie, a good amount of speed since Friday.

I take a few seconds to study his face. It shows. I think I would be dead if I had consumed so many narcotics in 48 hours. Danny frowns.

I got to fill me head. I read three books a week. I'm reading a biography of Noel Coward, a book on Latin and some schlock horror crime novel just to pass the time. Do you know what Alea iacta est means?

I admit I don’t know what it means.

It means “the die is cast”. Alea iacta est. I’m going to have it tattooed right here.

He moves his fingers over his neck, like the ‘you’re dead’ sign. The bar man comes over. It’s time to leave. Danny reaches for his crutch.

I’ve got osteoporosis. I’ve only got a little time left. My bones are going to crumble soon.

We reach the top of the stairs, then make our way onto the street. We say goodbye. Danny hobbles off into the night.

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Victor Ehikhamenor


















Journey to Italy from Benin. See more of Victor's work here.

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Sunday, April 01, 2007

Henry Oguike Dance Company


The Henry Oguike Dance Company is currently on its UK tour. I'm kicking myself that I missed the London performance last week. Featuring pieces set to Shostakovich and Ali Farka Toure, with inspirations as diverse as William Blake and the Sahara, it would have been one to watch. The remaining dates for the Nigerian-Welsh dancer and his troupe are in Nottingham and Shrewsbury.

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The ultimate self-surveillance

An interesting story in today's Observer. Justin Kan in San Francisco has attached a web-cam to his ear. It will be there until he dies. Watch his life (on dates, in the bathroom, asleep) unfold here.

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Computers and the environment

Interesting article in this week's schnews about electronics sweatshops in China. Did you know that Apple has one of the worst reputations? Take for instance, the manufacture of the Ipod:

Apple builds them in a mega factory in southern China which employs 200,000 people, crammed 100 at a time into dormitories, eating factory-provided food, for £25 a month. Most workers do over 60 hours a week, including hefty 'voluntary' overtime. The iPod plant, in Longhua, Shenzhen, is run by Taiwanese company Hon Hai, the world's biggest contract manufacturer (annual turnover- $30 billion) working for companies including Hewlett-Packard, Nokia and Sony.

Click the link above to go to the article.

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