Wednesday, August 17, 2016

2016 English Premier League Pun Muse

So it's back again, the world's best football league. A fairy tale happened last season, that "small" team compelled the whole footballing world to learn how to pronounce their name properly "without the letter C" and beat the 5000 to 1 odds to win it. They retained the bulk of their stars except Kante. So can they do it again? "Winning it this year is harder for us, maybe the odds are 6000 to 1" said Ranieri, their inspirational manager whom fans quickly nicknamed Godfather!

Maybe that's because of the influx of three high voltage managers into the EPL to topple him. Serial winner, Antonio Conte, poached Godfather's Kante to Chelsea. And that's the 2 best things that have happened at the bridge. In Kante, Conte has brought back Makelele like work ethic to the midfield that may inspire misfiring Costa whose misses last season were Costly. And hazardous Eden Hazard who was also simply lost in the mid garden of Eden. But fans hope the 2 will be back to clinical forms that saw them win it 2 years ago. I call them the dark horses this year, the surprise package.

Mourinho said way back at the Bridge, way before the sack that, the theatre of dreams job was his dream job, and years later he got it. I interpreted the Ibra signing as a feat to inject his rich European league winning experience into our baby forwards, Martial, Rashford, Lingaard etc and lead the team too like Cantona did when Giggs and Scholes were baby players. He's old, but he's still got goals in him. In resigning the Pog as football's wildest splash cash, we've got another Paul with Scholes like inch perfect passing to feed the guys upfront to score goals and win the league, which i think we'll do.

Our enemy noisy neighbours, City were also busy too, sipping a new Pepsi called Pep, who brought in great talent like Gundogan, and with a pool of talent there already, they are also very good contenders to win it like us. No, after us! Klopp's club is finetuning their reconstruction job to completion, beating Barca 4-0 in pre season. They brought in exciting prospects like Cameroonian, Joel Matip to aid them finish at the table's tip.

Arsenal football club, rather, Arsenal TV series wasn't busy in the summer transfers. And with talent there that doesn't match that of it's competitors, the trophylessness will go on and their fans will keep watching the Arsenal TV series, Game of thrones for the next season. Maybe Arsene will just pack his bags and run back to Monaco on foot. I applaud the delightful twinkle toe football  he's injected there and his money making profit ideology anyway.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

The Douala language

I step into a shop in Deido and a lady at the counter orders something. The cashier woman responds in the Douala language. The lady shrugs and says in French, "I don't understand Douala! Je ne suis pas Douala." Cashier insists in French, "But you're in our land, you need to learn our native language!" The lady's silent minute of disbelief triggers me to become an impromptu lawyer, "Em, Douala is the economic capital of Cameroon/Central Africa and that makes it a metropolis, so there are all sorts of ethnic groups and foreigners, French, Lebanese, Chinese, Nigerians here." "But it's our land!" She insists. I begin teasing, a mild feat of irritation, "Technically, it's not your land anymore because all the rich Bamileke people have bought every piece of it." "It is our village!" "That one I doubt too, because history tells me you were all fishermen/women living in the mangrove creeks and islands. You just migrated here when this whole place was marshland and stole it from the sea, through repeated land reclamation, so it was nobody's village, or maybe, the Atlantic ocean's village." Cashier scowls at me, so I think maybe an insult in Douala is coming, "Vous voulez acheter quoi, madame!" She turns and asks the lady. I place my right hand over my mouth and suppress a laugh.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

My "Nigerianess"

Reader: Stares at my Caine Prize workshop story and goes, “Wahala Lizard, is he Nigerian?”
Abubakar Adam Ibrahim: You mean Nkiacha? He’s a Nigerian on the other side of the border.
Obi-Young: But you could so easily be Nigerian. You have our It-ness.
Me: I don’t have a Nigerian face!
Obi-Young: Nigerian face is a concept that’s up for debate
Me: Ok, interesting! How do I have your It-ness? Abeg elaborate.
Obi-Young: I’m not sure how but I just feel it. Honestly.
Kiprop Kimutai: Your accent is like a Nigerian’s. You speak like them.
Me: First time I’m hearing that one. Lol. I don’t know. But we’re neighbours. And I've read Nigerian Literature much more than Cameroonian Literature.
Akwaeke Emezi: (Pointing at me with both hands) “You’re a Lagos boy!”
Me: Lol. What does that one mean? Lagos boy?
Merde, why do all these my peeps think I'm a Nigerian born to Cameroonian parents? Nobe small ting oh

Friday, July 22, 2016

Ethiopian Airlines' new Airbus A350 XWB lands in Douala for the first time

When news reached us in Douala that ET’s new wide body aircraft, the Airbus A350-XWB will land here on Sunday 17th July, we were elated. I’d blogged about its arrival in Addis Ababa a couple of days earlier. Here is the link.

Lots of people -journalists, bloggers and top airport officials were invited to the Douala International Airport to witness the A350 landing and the gala event. I had to take fellow Camerbloggers across all police check points which was no easy task. By the time I arrived the boarding gate A32, the plane had already landed. The A350 which came here called Siemen Mountains was really mountain like. Everything about it was brand new and glittery too (it is just a three week old plane). The two pilots emerged at the door to thunderous applause. When the cabin crew finally disembarked, I walked up the stairs and into the aircraft to feed my eyes and take lots of pictures. Wow, what a sight! Business class looks like King Solomon's palace. I described the plane thus on Facebook…the new Airbus A350-WXB called Siemen Mountains just...well, spectacularly rubbished the Dreamliner! It's a...high tech, magnificent flying mansion! Period.

Monday, July 11, 2016

The South African author with the swaggish name, Lidudumalingani wins the 2016 Caine Prize

My satirical online essay "We Need New Caines" inspired a lot of fans and a lot of trouble for me on social media. I received lots of acclaim (for presenting a compelling argument. Acclaimed Kenyan literary blogger, James Murua referenced it extensively on his blog a few days later and Nigerian writer, Basit Jamiu published his own “Caine-ache” article on Olisa tv and referenced my thoughts). I also received lots of disdain (for focusing on "foolish" off the page politics instead of the quality of the story in one writer's words). Someone asked, "Are you going to deny Serena Williams from playing and winning yet another grand slam because she's been winning them for so long now?” I received probably all my marks for humour. (One young brainy Nigerian reader, Obi-Young cited it as the funniest article in African Lit he had ever read). Pa Ikhide Ikheloa wrote back, "Too funny, I absolutely enjoyed reading this!”

I was even surprised the Caine people shared it on social media oh! And the anonymous respond to me went, "Thank you". I was like, "Ah ha, are you thanking me for lambasting your Prize's recent 2015 shortlist? Lizzy Attree said, "It would generate some discussion" and Leila Abouleila stated that it would be interesting to see how the Caine Prize organizers react to it. She even quoted me a line that resonated with her and said it was worthy of inspiring another essay in her opinion. Em, Mama Leila, I'm not sure I want to keep causing trouble to the Caine people oh. That prize has suffered too many lashes of the koboko since you won the very first one in 2000 already, from accusations of rewarding poverty porn, stereotyping Africa, child narrators, "only rewarding African writers in the diaspora" and then me about newness. But one thing's for sure. If I see Segun Afolabi and Namwali Serpell at a literary event anywhere, I would flee, duck and hide my head in the sand like an ostrich, though my troublesome small but will forget it’s exposed to the atmosphere for some spanking with a koboko.

It was on that note that I eagerly awaited the 2016 winner of the Caine Prize, after being served three new Caines on the shortlist a few days after I blogged my essay. They were Abdul Adan, whom I had coincidentally suggested in the essay, hence I became a prophet. (But hey, I don't intend to make it a profession, so don't come to me for Tope Folarin like miracles), Zimbabwean Bongani Kona and South African writer, Lidudumalingani. Lesley Nneka who is an old name and Tope Folarin who is an old Caine. I was waiting to see if Tope could pull off the "Miracle" of being the first repeat winner which would have been the "Genesis" of criticisms aplenty from the newness critics. But the judges weren't porcupines to fall for that trap. They awarded the prize to a new Caine with the longest name and made me happy, South African author, Lidudumalingani. Oh my God! What a name, 15 letters! Wait, have you seen my name, Nkiacha Atemnkeng? My parents only gave me those two and it’s got a total of 16 letters. Lidudumalingani stands towering at 15 letters. Just one word. Hmmm. I''ll not like to imagine the scene of a guy who stutters pronouncing it, Lidududududu-dudu, the guy will just get angry and call him dudu as if he's a dodo bird, that endangered species secluded to the island of New Zealand.

Lidudumalingani! But it's a very beautiful name oh, which I like very much, with one vowel coming after a consonant and another vowel coming after another consonant, ceteris peribus. Therefore vowels intersperse the consonants perfectly, making it an easy-to-read-easy-to-pronounce-swaggish-name, though it's so long every time I take my eyes off it I just forget it. Whenever my friends and family who always get their Caine news through me ask, "Ah, Mr. Writer, so who won that your ten million francs London Prize for African writers this year?" (I perennially wonder how my Cameroonian folk always remember the amount of money the prize offers but not the name of the prize itself. And it’s even the converted amount to Francs CFA for that matter. Not 10.000 pounds which sounds smallish. Ten million francs, that “plenty amount” sounds sexier because it’s bigger. Who will tell them that with all this Brexit thing, the ten million francs has already nose-dived to three million francs? Anyway, I'm usually the one telling them the names of the new Caine stars with a smile, the easy first names…"Olufemi, NoViolet, Rotimi, Tope, Okwiri, Namwali”

But this year is different. Whenever I'm asked “who won?”, I bite my fore finger and think and blink and shrink and tap my forehead with the forefinger but the name never comes, rather, in comes in just two syllables, Li..Li..Li..Lidu..Lidu..Then I sigh and just go, "I can't....Ahhh, it's one black South African guy with a long name!" Then to punish me more they insist, "But what is his name nah?" "Didn't you hear me say it's a long name? It's got about 24 letters, really long, like the great wall of China." That's only when they leave me alone. Chai, Lidudumalingani! But it's easy and sweet. I don't know why I just keep forgetting it. The name even sounds like a song to me, it's actually "singable". Every time I see it online, I always pronounce it beginning with a low pitch and I increase my cadence until it ends with a high pitch and high note in my gullet. I think Ladysmith Black Mambazo can record their next hit just by singing his name only on an entire song, Lilililili (Azumbawei) Lilililili-dududumalinganinininini. Those old, sweet hoarse voiced men with legendary voices. But Paul Simon won’t be able to pronounce the name-song. He’ll just dub the single, “Memories we lost”, since “Graceland” is just a memory now, though a legendary memory which cannot be lost. Lidudumalingani! Easy peasy. It is not like those Russian names with tricky consonants made out of tin that hurt and wound the roof of your mouth when you try to pronounce them -Rozhdestvenskij, Siroezhkin, Ryszard Kapuściński. What the hell is that? Lidudumalingani. See? It is very swaggish.

Lidudumalingani is the third South African Caine Prize winner after Mary Watson in 2006 with "Jungfrau" and Henrietta Rose-Innes with "Poison" in 2008. He's actually the first black and first male South African author to win the Caine Prize. Have I mentioned the longest name to win the Caine already? Ah, yes. His winning entry is titled, "Memories we lost". Oh, what a story! It's been a long time since I loved a Caine Prize winning story like this, maybe as way back as 2009, EC Osundu's "Waiting". "Memories We Lost" tells in a very simple narrative voice the emotionally charged story of a girl who acts as protector of her sister, whose serious mental-health problems cause consternation in a South African village. Her situation deteriorates as her care is entrusted to Nkunzi, a local man who employs traditional techniques to rid people of their demons. Lidu writes the story with the "ignorant voice" of a narrator whose sister is suffering from schizophrenia. She calls it "this thing" and does not initially know what it is. He describes without snubbing, the beliefs and attitudes the rural folk around the characters have towards mental illness and builds the protagonists well with her quest for her sister's mental problem and a solution, evoking emotions of sympathy.

The people around the two girls do not care much. They only invent theories about what is wrong with the sick girl and what to do with her. It reminds me of my people here though not as dramatic and diverse as in the story. We just bundle every case of mental illness into one category "madness...that man/woman dey craze!" Period. The climax of the story is when the healing ritual fails and the schizophrenic girl has to go through baking, an unfathomable process you would not even begin to imagine exists. But they escape into the wild and the story ends or "doesn't end" with suspense hanging all over. What if they are recognized and caught? Another interesting thing I remarked about the story was Lidu's wonderful description of scenery. He paints such vivid images in the piece, especially of South Africa's rural landscapes, you would not even begin to wonder why he's a film maker. It influenced his work to his narrative advantage.

The subject matter is timely too. I'd read a review which applauded the Nigerian TV series, "Tinsel" last year but accused them of not exploring mental illness fully, only skimming the surface, by portraying the character, Angela as a "mentally unstable woman" but not really reaching any depth with Angela's mental instability. The reviewer yearned for more African stories exploring mental illness. And then came, "Memories we lost". Lidu's story is a very good write up which paves the way on that topic. But I had the impression his "ignorant voice" of the child/teenager narrator and the beliefs and attitudes of the rural people towards it limits the depths he could have gone with the schizophrenia topic. What if the narrator was a well-informed person on the issue like a medical doctor or nurse telling the story about her mentally ill sister in Cape Town? We would have learnt a lot more about the sick girl and her predicament because most of the rural beliefs and practices would have been absent. But then, our South African author guy, em, what’s his name again? Em, I’ve forgotten again. Okay yes, Lidudumalingani pictured it exactly the way he did.