Monday, December 29, 2014

The Golden Baobab Tree

Originally submitted for the Africa Book Club Short Reads competition, The Golden Baobab Tree (by Nkiacha Atemnkeng) is a story that blends age-old African storytelling traditions with a modern twist. Set in the village of Letia, the story centers around the baobab tree, which is where the villagers come to meet with their chief, and children gather to listen to storytellers when they visit. On this day, Uncle Jimi Solanke, the storyteller comes to Letia at the invitation of the chief.

Solanke gathers the children under the baobab tree and shares his story about an old man who travels to America to visit his son. The story carries important lessons that will resonate with many young readers and their parents, moreso those who either live in the Diaspora or have relatives there.

The Golden Baobab Tree was published in November 2014 by Aalvent Books

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Ethiopian Airlines' Dreamliners soars the Cameroonian sky

When I heard that Ethiopian Airlines’ Dreamliners would be coming to Cameroon from the month of October, I was elated. So the next time I was scheduled to work on Ethiopian, I made a request to our Ethiopian Airways Swissport supervisor to post me on the ramp…
“CY, I brought my camera. I want to take photos of the plane and write about it!”
“Ah, okay. So Nkiacha, position 4, Ramp safety.”
“Yes! Great.”

So a few hours later I was on the ramp, waiting for the arrival of the aircraft. And at about its estimated time of arrival, I spotted it in the sky blinking and approaching like a comet. As the world’s biggest Boeing airplane, the 787-8 Dreamliner landed, I announced it over our radio, took out the camera for the first landing shot and…Oops! It couldn’t switch on! Damn it.
“Come on, you’ve never done this to me! So you want to spoil my Dreamliner photo plans abi?” I slapped it gently. Nothing. Camera deny for work again.
“See me see trouble oh! I owe you?” Okay back to work.

The first thing I noticed about the state-of the-art aircraft is how gigantic it is. I used to consider the Swiss Air and Air France’s Airbus 330 planes big but the Dreamliner is bigger. It is colossal, with a max take-off weight of 227.930 kgs. The length is 57 metres, wing span 60 metres and interior cabin width 574 cm. Now that is a flying mansion! And it is very beautiful too; white, spotless, majestic, even sexy (the plane is as beautiful as Giselle Bundchen, Jessica Alba and Beyonce put together. Hehe) With its sharp tapering nose which is evocative of Concorde’s. Uh huh, I said it earlier, Giselle has that kind of nose right?


Other Stats
Fuel capacity: 126.903 litres
Range: 14.500 km
Typical cruising speed at 35.000 feet
Thrust per engine at sea level: 64.000 pounds

The second observation I made is how “quiet” it is. The plane doesn’t make noise that much. It lands, taxies on the ramp silently and parks silently such that, if you are not looking at it, you’ll barely even notice that a plane has landed. You don’t really need an ear defender when working around it. The other smaller Boeing and Airbus planes make noise well. Not to mention those small archaic propeller planes (like those in the Rambo jungle movies) that fly to Malabo, with reactors that rotate and shatter the air with their deafening, ear splitting noises, “praaaa-pra-paaaa-paaa-papaaaapa” like a million primary school children and seek attention all over the place and if you don’t close your ears you will develop instant deafness and….sighs. (Wunna throw am abeg!)

The Dreamliner’s greatness is due to an improved engine and fuel efficiency improvisation. This contributes to 20% reduction in fuel consumption and emissions thus it is environmentally friendlier than the previous versions.

It is also going to be Ethiopian’s flagship aircraft. Okay, statistics move away, let me find my camera. Hmm, yi di still deny for work. Ca ne marche pas! Ca ne vas pas comme Petit Pays. Mais que’est qui’il passé?
“What is wrong with you, uh?” Then it hit me. Try something, anything. I removed the battery and put it back in. I switched it on and….it worked! Yay. So you wanted your battery to see the Dreamliner first eh? Wandas! Okay the shots.

Rear view of reactor

I earlier said it’s gigantic right? But look at this. The 1.77m tall Nkiacha stood underneath the aircraft and his head couldn’t even reach the plane’s "belly"!
Underneath the aircraft

 Okay, take off time. I have to position myself perfectly for the photo. And as its speeding away furiously like a rhinoceros, I’m focusing and estimating exactly where lift off is going to be but…oh ho, I got it wrong, there are baggage containers barring my vision and I begin running away from those containers to get the plane back in sight and focusing to get the perfect shot and…..yes, got it
Take off
As the biggest Boeing airplane in the world pierces the afternoon sky and soars away like an eagle, I ponder about aerodynamic lift and admire the peak moment in aviation –takeoff.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

All About Pac

Eighteen years after Pac’s death and he’s still hip hop’s greatest ever. I watched a documentary about his life “Thug Angel” and was amazed by the depth of his artistry and what he read. He incorporated all he read into his lyrics which are explosive, ingenious, prophetic, compelling. Some of his lyrics are considered extremist poetry and studied in some universities like the University of Pennsylvania. Here are some books the hip hop genius read.
The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli (it’s from this Italian statesman that he derived his nickname, Makavelli)
Ponder on this, from the writings of Alice A Bailey and the Tibetan master Djwal Khul,
The Tibetan Book of the Dead by WY Evans Wentz,
The Phenomenon of Man by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
Mastering the Art of War by Zhuge Liang
Thought and Meditation by Khalil Gibran
Our State of Consciousness
Kabbalah by Gershom Scholem
Roots by Alex Haley
The Dictionary of Cultural Literacy
The Autobiography of Malcolm X
The Occult Teachings
The Ancient Mysteries
The Impact of Colour
The Buddha
The moon. He read books by William Shakespeare, Donald Goines, Sun Tzu, Kurt Vonnegut, Mikhail Bakunin, J. D. Salinger, Hermann Hesse, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Henry Miller, Homer, Friedrich Nietzsche, Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung, Fox Butterfield, Robert M. Pirsig, Robin Morgan, George Orwell, Aldous Huxley, E. D. Hirsch, Herman Melville, Thomas Merton, Evelyn Underhill, Bhagavad Gita, W. L. Wilmshurst, John Steinbeck, Nikki Giovanni, Sonia Sanchez, Richard Wright, Jamaica Kincaid, W. E. B. Du Bois, Maya Angelou and Alice Walker

Friday, August 22, 2014

Douala Airport Ebola Phobia

Colleague X approaches another, let me say colleague Y, who’s not looking great.
X: What’s wrong with you?
Y: I’m not feeling well (Colleague X instantly sprints away)
X: And you’re standing near people! You want to infect them with ebola! You want to infect me with ebola!
Y: I went to the hospital yesterday. It’s malaria
X: Have you done Arik Air recently?
Y: Yes
X: Chei! Hei! Maybe you’ve been infected with ebola from those Lagos passengers at the arrival hall. Don’t come near me. Why did you even greet me?
(Trust Cameroonians to exaggerate things)
Y: It’s just fever from malaria. Ebola is not in Cameroon yet.
X: Go, go, go, go away. Why did you even come to this airport? Who told you its not here yet. Do Lagos passengers not land here? By the way, a case was confirmed at Laquintinie!!!
Y: Na lie, that Laquintinie thing. Radio one battery. Lagos passengers are tested for ebola at their airport before they board any aircraft.
X: And so, they can still bring it here. Our government should even ban all traffic to Nigeria -land, sea, air. Thank God there are no direct Douala flights to Monrovia, Freetown and Conakry. If not we’re finished. Y, I’m concerned about these Lagos flights oh!
Y: God is in control. (Smiling) if Ebola has to enter “pays”, Ebola will surface in Ebolowa.
X: Why?
Y: (smiling) Can’t you see its two letters short, Ebol”ow” a
X: You’re very stupid, very dull.
Y: Masah, this fever is making me weak!
X: Go, with your ebola.

Monday 18th 2014, Cameroon suspends all flights to Lagos, sea and land traffic, shuts down borders….Character X rejoices when he hears about it. But then, are we still safe? What about passengers from West African neighbours (Senegal, Togo, Congo) transiting via Douala???????

Sunday, July 20, 2014

2014 Caine Prize for African Writing

As I entered the zoo, “The Gorrilla’s Apprentice” stared at me and told me I had “My Father’s Head.” Suddenly, a “Chicken” fluttered past me into Graaf’s pool which exhibited “Phosphorescence”. And only “The Intervention” of the zoo keeper saved the chicken from a crocodile’s jaws

If Okwiri Oduor wins, all the Kenyan fathers will happily nod their heads. If Billy Kahora wins (after being shortlisted 2.5 times), all the gorillas in Kenya will beat their chests doop doop doop. If Efemia Chela wins, all the chickens in Ghana/Zambia will flap their wings pap pap pap. If Diane Awerbuck wins, all the pools in South Africa will brighten up in phosphorescence. And if Tendai Huchu wins, all the Zimbabweans will happily follow it up on BBC without intervention


Kenya’s Okwiri Oduor has won the 2014 Caine Prize for African Writing, described as Africa’s leading literary award, for her short story entitled ‘My Father's Head’ from Feast, Famine and Potluck (Short Story Day Africa, South Africa, 2013).

The Chair of Judges, Jackie May MBE, announced Okwiri Oduor as the winner of the £10,000 prize at a dinner held this evening (Monday, 14 July) at the Bodleian Library in Oxford.

‘My Father’s Head’ explores the narrator’s difficulty in dealing with the loss of her father and looks at the themes of memory, loss and loneliness. The narrator works in an old people’s home and comes into contact with a priest, giving her the courage to recall her buried memories of her father.

Jackie Kay praised the story, saying, “Okwiri Oduor is a writer we are all really excited to have discovered. ‘My Father’s Head’ is an uplifting story about mourning – Joycean in its reach. She exercises an extraordinary amount of control and yet the story is subtle, tender and moving. It is a story you want to return to the minute you finish it.”

Okwiri Oduor directed the inaugural Writivism Literary Festival in Kampala, Uganda in August 2013. Her novella, The Dream Chasers was highly commended in the Commonwealth Book Prize, 2012. She is a 2014 MacDowell Colony fellow and is currently at work on her debut novel.

Also shortlisted were Billy Kahora, Efemia Chela, Diane Aerbuck and Tendai Huchu.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Ethiopian Airlines flies into Cameroon's blog-o-sphere

Last Saturday, June 14th 2014, more than a dozen Cameroonian bloggers and business executives met at White House Restaurant at Bonapriso Douala marshaled together by the inspirational Adeline Sede founder and CEO of Fabafriq magazine and under the sponsorship of Ethiopian Airlines Cameroon for a very first symbiotic relationship. I arrived there at 5:00 PM when the occasion had just kicked off and was surprised by the number of people present. Bloggers busy on their laptops, camera lights flashing and people socializing quietly with the intention of getting to know each other better. The goal of the occasion was to encourage Cameroonian Entrepreneurs to use digital technology, social media; blogs, twitter and Facebook to advertise their services and products since the world is fluxing rapidly to an online one right now. In the words of Monique kwachou, founder of the Moniquemusings blog, “today’s advertising should not be limited to billboards enticing us to crane our necks, or the flyers which I'm sure gets on the nerves of our Green Advocates, we have the social media, we have the bloggers. Let’s meet them locally and use them.” 

More and more people devote a lot of time to screen time so why can’t advertisers hit them with their stuff right there? They’ll read them. It’s a point well understood by business exec Adeline Sede, CEO of FabAfriq magazine who made sure that Ethiopian Airlines Cameroon organized a Kamer bloggers hangout to meet the local bloggers and most importantly use them in advertising. And who was there to throw in support for the event? Country manager of Ethiopian Airlines Cameroon, Madame Jaego and members of her staff. There was also an aesthetics expert Irene Azong-Wara of Ferb-Mart who is so passionate about hair and female beauty whom I had an interesting conversation with. I recommended a reading of Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie’s most recent work, “Americanah” a thickish 477 page novel about love, hair and African Immigrant experience which I’d read in January and she went “Ooooh I’ll read it” being a big Chimzi fan herself.
Kmer bloggers in their blogosphere blogging it out 
The blogosphere consisted of Cirrus clouds like Elodie of, stratus clouds like Monique kwachou of, Cumulus clouds like Clifford Ako of Wasamundi, Tchassa kamga of, the founder of Tiptopstars whose name I missed, myself (Writerphilic) and a few others whose blog names I couldn’t catch. The blog sharing experiences began with presentations from a couple of bloggers in the blogosphere. Monique talked about the origins of blogging and about discipline. She disciplines herself by setting a target of one blog post per month. Another presenter started by applauding the efforts of all bloggers because it’s such a selfless thing which we don’t get paid for and coupled with our nyamangoro congo meat snail slow internet speed in Cameroon, bloggers are really doing incredible things. He stated that social media has super power and cited a perfect example. Stanley Enow’s win at the MTV Africa music awards was one born purely out of social media super power. Stanley faced tough competition from four other nominees especially Nigerian artistes Phyno and Burna boy. Most of the award was decided by public voting. Now we all know how Nigerians rally behind their own. So how does Stanley rally his base of 20 million Cameroonians to vote for him and beat Phyno and Burna boy’s bases of 160 million Nigerians each to the prize? Mission impossible? However, Stanley and his team went on a rigorous daily voting campaign on social media and even got himself signed to a company to promote his online digital presence. And before we knew it, we had put aside the “Jovi vs Stanley Enow who is better argument” and voted for Mr. Hein Pere. Add that to his fan base from West Francophone Africa and France and baaam he won. 

Cameroonian entrepreneurs could do same to promote their businesses beginning with the bloggers and “twitterers” and facebookers. (Young Cameroonians with wrting skills and passion in chaumencam, this is for you.) Elodie talked about her blog which is done generally from the tourism angle and how to build an audience. She said the blogger has to be passionate about what they do and blog constantly with interesting material. If it’s good, readers will always come back to it. Tchassa talked about sharing the blog to different blogger circles and network with others to grow the audience. Some endorsed Kongossa, gossip. (You’ll want to read who 2face is having baby number eight with from a blog rather than reading that he won an award. The latter is easily on popular news.) What I personally use on my blog to make people come back is a lot of humour, creativity and a little madness. And your grammar has to be cool (don’t bazor. Don’t say “Christ has rise”, na yeast?) and good editing before posting. The brain behind Wasamundi, Mr. Clifford Ako also threw more light on his work and how they add up all local businesses on Wasamundi such that, if you are anywhere in the country and need to find any popular spot you don’t know; restaurant, popular hair saloon, hotel etc just hit up Wasamundi, search what you want and baaam there you have it.

Ethiopian Airlines Package: While we dined, the Ethiopian Airlines staff including the Country Manager Madame Jaego stole the show with presentations of their mouth watering offers with “Singapore all expenses paid holiday trip to the best blogger about Ethiopian Airlines” being the climax. 

Adeline Sede (left) founder of Fabafriq magazine. Madame Jaego (right) Country Manager of Ethiopian Airlines Cameroon

Right, I don’t like Singapore. Hehe, na lie oh! Okay, being the airport guy who works with different airlines including Ethiopian Airlines itself, I can say without any propaganda that they’re on top of the game (no Singapore flattery). 
Blogger Nkiacha Atemnkeng working on an Ethiopian Airlines flight (ET 905)to Malabo and Addis Ababa

Here’s a little insight about Ethiopia and ET. Ethiopia’s language is Amharic but the people also speak English. Ethiopian Airlines is the oldest airline in Africa having started in 1945. After operating in Cameroon in the seventies, they left in 1985 and returned in 2003 to resume operations and in just eleven years have turned things around to become the biggest air carrier here and in Africa. That is well summarized in their slogan, “The New Spirit of Flying in Africa.” Ethiopian Airlines flies to over eighty destinations worldwide and boast of the biggest Boeing airplane in the world, the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. ET has three African hubs; Addis Ababa, Lome and Lilongwe. Their airport hotels in Addis and the other hubs enable their passengers to spend the night comfortably while in transit and not a hard airport bench. But to visit the city for a few hours while waiting for a connecting flight, you’ll need an Ethiopian transit visa. 

Ethiopian offers a medical package which slashes off 25% from your medical expenses. And if you feel you need some VIP treatment, their Sheba Miles Package offers that. You can travel in Business Class, Gold and Silver Premium with access to the VIP lounges, no queuing on those long annoying check-in lines etc. What’s more? The more miles you earn on each Economy class trip on your Ethiopian flights, the more they will be summed up and you could still benefit from the Gold and Silver packages depending on how far you have travelled. Ethiopia is one of the easiest places to travel to in Africa. The Ethiopian Airlines Town office in Bonanjo, Douala can follow up your Ethiopian Visa application and book for your ticket or e-ticket if you like (20% discount here) and even check you in online. And what’s the tourist Visa fee to Ethiopia? A jaw dropping twenty five US dollars only! Only twelve Nkolo. Compare that to the 50 US dollars or more required by other African countries. And north of 100 US dollars for Asian countries.
ET 905: Boarding

Tourist Attraction: All the amazing offers are in an effort to market Ethiopia as a tourist destination in its Ethiopian Holidays campaign. Everyone knows that the sprawling Addis Ababa is the capital city of the African Union right? And it is one of the fastest developing African cities. But ever heard of Kuriftu Resort and Spa? You can check it out at Wallop me on the head if you don’t find it impressive. Want to hit them up? Direct contacts to the Ethiopian staff right here o Tel +237 73350059 Tel +237 77937929

The award winning airline has partnered with some hotels, resorts and tourist attractions in Kuriftu termed “Ethiopia’s little gem” to offer amazing holiday discounts to attract tourists from all over the world. In the ancient town of Sheba, you’ll find small size Gaza like pyramids and exquisite age old stone work. And did you know? The Queen in the bible who visited King Solomon with difficult questions was the queen of Sheba. She was so impressed by King Solomon’s wisdom and by his fine boy looks and charms that King Solomon got her pregnant. She returned to Sheba and gave birth to a son, Ibn-al-malik. Through him a bloodline of half Jews was brought forth in Ethiopia called the Ethiopian jews from the Ethiopian Solomonic dynasty.

Ethiopia is also where one of the world’s oldest hominid skeletons, Lucy was found. It helped to trace the evolution of man from its early ape like forms thus cementing Ethiopia’s status as the cradle of humankind. Lucy is estimated to be 3.2 million years old. (Abeg bible scholars don't wallop me on the head.) I know the world is 4000 years old sha! Na science talk that other one nobi me. Furthermore, the Rastafarians worship deceased Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie 1 as Jah, god. 

And Ethiopian marathon athletes like Haile Gebreselassie (no confusion with the emperor) and Tirunesh Dibaba are superstar gold winning Olympians on the global athletics stage. Multiple Olympic gold medalist Haile Gebreselassie is the symbol of Ethiopian Airlines. And you would not want to forget the amazing story of Ethiopia’s first super star Olympic gold medalist, Abebe Bikila. During the 1960 Olympic games final in Rome, he wasn’t running to full capacity because his shoes didn’t fit him well, so he took off the damn white people’s thing on his feet called “shoes” and ran like a cheetah to victory. So wouldn’t you like to visit that beautiful country for just…Oh my God! Twenty five US dollars? But some advice, abeg, wear your shoes oh! Before you go to Kufitu. But, even if you don't wear shoes, the place is so cool you wouldn't even notice it. Want me to leave you with some breathtaking shots of Kuriftu? Right here, below y'all

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Solange Knowles attacks Jay-Z

My humorous imagination about what went down in that elevator.
Solange: This elevator ain’t goin nowhere
Jay-Z: Like ur career?
Solange: Fuck u Sean Carter, who do you think u are? Because u call yourself God MC you think you run the music world? Eminem is sicker than you. 
Jay-Z: And Beyonce is a lot cooler than u but she married me. Booooooo!
Solange advances, slaps, insults, kicks, kicks, kicks, pulled back by body guard, breaks free, kicks n screams “who run the world? Girls” kicks “who run the world? Girls” kicks.
Beyonce: (thinkin) Oh my God! Is this my sister? Solange Knowles!!! Nah, this ain’t. it’s an alter ego called Solange Know-less. Oh my God she’s kicking kicking n “Jumping Jumping”
Guard: “Halo” Queen Bey “Check on it” before I separate the attack. You got her back or his back?
Beyonce: Don’t “Say my name”
Guard: Uh?
Beyonce: I said don’t “Say my name”(Bey thinkin) If I jump in on Jay’s back its gon be like I don’t love ma sister, and all da “Single ladies” n even Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie gon think I’m not a feminist anymore. If I jump in on Solange’s back, they gon think I don’t love ma husband n I’m not “Drunk in love”.U know wat? I ain’t got nobody’s back, I’mma stay mute cos I’m an “Independent Woman”.
Jay-Z: (avoiding kicks n pleadin) Yoh, Solange stop, this is ‘Hard knock life” you’re raining on me. I was just “Frontin”, no Pharell, we’re “Happyyyyyyyy” right? I’ll do “Anythin” for u, H to the Izzo, S to the Soso, Solange stop, tu fait “Encore” ca? we’ll go 2 da 40/40 sports bar and do some “Big Pimpin” aight? Stop.
Guard pulls away Solange n out of the elevator
Jay-Z: I used to have 99 problems but a b… ain’t one. Now I got 99 problems and Solange ain’t one. I’ma just go ahead and “Change Clothes” Beyonce nods.
Guard: “Hey Papi” that girl can kick man! Like Jean Claude Vandamme, like Jet Li or somethin.
Jay-Z: She should be in dem movies or dem fight cartoons “Naruto” and “Dragon Ball” the female Sango Koo or somethin
Guard: And it’s the only hit she’s had in years! And I’m just thinkin, if it was Pac, he would have given her some “Thug life” and her face would have had some “Changes” if it was DMX, then we’d hear the revenge kicks along with angry big voice chants ‘what these bitches want from a nigga” if it was Bobby Brown or Chris Brown, hmmmmm, then a guy like Brizzy would have made sure her face had some of that "I can transform ya” But it’s you, Jay, cultured nigga, not laying hands on a woman even when attacked.
Jay-Z: smiles. “Dirt off ma shoulder…”
Beyonce: He’s a “Survivor”
Jay-Z: Thanks Bey. Hey big dude, get me 2 “New York” got a concert to catch with Alicia Keys in New Yooooooooork.......

Friday, May 9, 2014

Review of the Writivism Anthology Picture Frames and Other Stories by Nkiacha Atemnkeng

The inaugural Writivism anthology was some activism by a panel consisting of Hilda Twongyeirwe, Beatrice Lamwaka, Harriet Anena, Ernest Bazanye, Novuyo Rosa Tshuma and Ceris Dien. It sparked some literary spasm across Uganda’s young writing prism from 15-25 years of ageism under the mentorship of some fine African writers on a ship. They were expected to write on the themes Identity, Diversity and Equality but they somehow managed to get homosexuality and Lesbianism Writivism in a majority. Without any euphemism, it means a man fucking a man and a woman fucking a woman activism. Below is some literary reviewism and criticism intended for some colloquium with the hope that it will be followed like plant tropism. The winning short fiction for 2013’s Writivism is “Picture Frames” by Anthea Paelo together with four other flash fiction pieces on the Shortlistism coupled with eight other prose pieces on the Longlistism.

Picture Frames by Anthea Paelo: The writer uses the flashback technique a lot in this brilliant winning flash fiction which gives it suspense. It’s about a woman called Rose who is having reveries of her husband and deceased son who was gay. The gay issue creates conflict between Rose and her husband Daudi, an aloof, insatiable man who wants to erase every memory of his son because he was a homosexual. She hopes he would change but he doesn’t and the realization by Rose that he will never change is the central epiphany of this story.
The Sidewalk by Nassanga Rashidah: A story about orphaned disheveled kids on the streets begging for money. Kima an albino child evokes sympathy from the alms givers and it stirs jealousy in another begger, Mamadou who plans to get rid of her. Appollo’s ensnaring act on Kima springs a pleasant surprise at the end. There is stigmatization, begging, jealousy and blackmail up in this one.
Together by Kathryn Kazibwe: A flash fiction piece about family neglect, about two sisters who were once close but had suddenly grown estranged and arguing with each other. In a slow deliberate release of the plot elements, the writer hatches the story’s egg which unveils their past differences. When the protagonist reveals that her actions were largely caused by the fact that her baby died, her sister’s sympathy and love brings them back “together”.
The Shadow by Emmeline Bisiikwa: It is about a man in an affair with another woman to the point that his wife becomes a shadow. There’s parental pressure from the man’s mother for him to get a son bringing to mind many African mothers. And as Jessica the wife leaves with her daughters for good, she commits a desperate act that gives the story an unexpected turn. It’s my favourite among the five stories.
Emotional Rollercoaster by Paul Kisakye: David who is gay consoles his best friend, a girl called Sanyu who has been cheated on so she’s hurt and in tears. Sanyu then seduces David and he also cheats on his gay partner Joel by sleeping with Sanyu. I call it the double infidelity story. But where these two really best friends? Or had an unsung love for each other? Sanyu just got him quickly baam like manna in the desert. What I also like about the piece is that, it firmly places itself in modern day digital Uganda, facebooking and texting.

There were eight longlisted stories and I didn’t quite get the first one, “Butterflies come at dawn” by Solomon Manzi so I’ll keep mute about it. In “The New Politician”, Angella Namwase beautifully delves into a tale of politicking, a political process and election results for a post of women affairs. “Choices in danger” by Emmanuel Ssebaggala introduces to us a bright student who was born different -to think like girls. In Europe, he falls in love with a boy and the relationship triggers his wife’s death. There’s letter writing in this one. Muhwezi Simpson penned “Grandpa’s story” which is inspired by the oral storytelling tradition by the fireside of many societies in Africa. The poignant story is narrated by Grandpa and it is about forced marriages. “A chance encounter with Jack Bormont” by Robert Ssempande pricked me nicely. It’s partly written in the American Ebonics dialect and the protagonist is a famous American who encourages a Ugandan wanna-be Americanah to be patriotic about his country. “Stolen Innocence” by Faith Nadweny is about a girl who is being maltreated by a wicked stepmother and attacked by a man who claims to have been sent by the wicked woman. “True to nothing” by Mildred Apenyo is about Atim getting out on the road, frustrated by motorbikes and traffic and goes after love making pleasure. Nora Kirabo’s “Of love and Sisphean tasks” is an infidelity story where the main character’s lover has an affair with another woman. She gets emotionally distraught and considers a break up and concludes she’s going to do it. And that also concludes the 2013 Writivism anthology.

On a criticism note, I think a brief biography of the various writers would have been included. We don’t know anything them. The editing was good, almost all the words are in place. But the book’s compilation and printing feels rushed. The page structuring was not well done. Some pages appear which have been printed twice and others are blank except for a few words. Anyway, judging that it was a first, I have no doubt the anthology will be done better this year from last year’s experience. The Ugandan writers are young and their works show potential and I was impressed. However, they can and should raise the bar with better prose from flash fiction to short stories and why not novels? Writivism 2013 was Ugandan breakfast. But I definitely know Writivism 2014 is going to be amazing lunch, different palatable meals from all over Africa on our lunch menu for the written word hungry. Yes, for after Writivism comes Readivism. Good Reading y’all! And good job Centre for African Cultural Excellence for this great initiative including the Co-founder, the man with “new names” (all about letter e), Bwa Bwesigye Mwesigire de l’Université de Makerere et de Cace parce que vous avez travaillé.

Short Bio: Nkiacha Atemnkeng is a Cameroonian writer and blogger. He was shortlisted for the 2013 Mardibooks short story competition and was a finalist for the month of October 2013 at the Africa Book Club. He was invited to the 2014 Caine Prize Writers Workshop in Zimbabwe but couldn’t attend because the plane he boarded went missing in the Sahara desert.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Monument de la Liberté a Rond Point Deido Doula

There is a lot of madness in this blog post so be warned. At this particular moment I just missed out on attending the most prestigious creative writing workshop in Africa despite being invited, the Caine Prize Writers Workshop in Zimbabwe. I even have a Zimbabwean Visa but the workshop is already over. So the big question is WHY? It’s a long story. Like JRR Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings.” But the short of the long story is that, there’s no Zimbabwean embassy in Yaounde, so I mailed my passport to London so that a Zimbabwean Visa could be obtained for me there and a little kid tore off a blank page from the passport. So even though the visa came out and found itself sticking to my passport like a slug, at the Douala airport, I was denied access to board my Ethiopian Airlines flight to Mutare by immigration because my passport is invalid (because of that torn page.) Very annoying. For days, I could not eat, could not sleep and was in so much pain that I’m now suffering from small mental dysfunction. Uh huh, yi mean say I di craze small. Say I dong kolo mental small. Like this stature below. Look am, look am,

Le Monument de la Liberte

Ei, na which kind thing this? It’s called “Le Monument de la Liberté”, the monument of Liberty. That is, Cameroon’s own version of the stature of Liberty. It towers twelve meters high, has a diameter of five meters and weighs twelve tons. It is located in the roundabout Deido Douala and commissioned and produced by Doual’art in 1996. Seriously, if you’ve been to Douala and haven’t seen the damn thing, then go and medically check your eye sight. Unlike the one in America which was sculpted out of copper by the French, (uh huh I just said that. You, you in America who is saying “Nkiacha na lie” go and do some research, it was a gift by the French to the Americans crafted by French sculptor Frederic Auguste Bartholdi.) Unlike the one in America, our own was erupted out of old tyres, old car parts, old metal scraps, old umbrellas, old iron rods, old zinc roofing sheets, old tin containers (ngon-ngong), old, old, old recycled things! And assembled in the middle of the economic capital!!! Yeh-gaay, Hahaha, Journal du Bien, “Voici pour vous du bien…Bieeeen!!!”

Okay, Le monument de la liberté a ete fabriqué par un Bamileké qui a travaillé sur ça, dans un endroit bloqué et seulemant dans la nuit (like say na witch, Lol). His name is Joseph-Francis Sumégné (even if wunna ask governor for Douala, man way yi make am yi no go fit tell you, so clap for me first. You nodi clap? I say clap. Good. Sumegne is a dreadlocked sculptor of Bamileke extraction who has lived in Douala for many years. I guess the man smoked some kai kai before having the unique inspiration for such a strange piece of art. Hey i'm just guessing. Ladies and gents I present to you Monsieur Joseph Francis Sumegne. (the other one na colleague no bother)

He looks like Bob Marley right? (No cayé, no stature). When asked why he decided to fashion such strange work of art from recycled materials, Joseph Francis said, his idea is to show the state of Douala in the early and mid nineties. During that era, Douala was a notoriously dirty town. But the city is much cleaner now oh. HYSACAM di wipe all dust put’am for motor poom poooom. Ever since it was erected, it has become a tourist attraction. Its queer nature has been attracting millions of white tourists who fly in to marvel at its beauty. Its popularity is now so huge it has even surpassed that of the real stature of liberty in America and the Eiffel Tower in France. Such that, the last time I passed near the White House, I eavesdropped on a conversation in which Barack Obama was ordering General David Pitraeus to launch a very accurate US drone which will bomb the damn thing. But he also warned Pitraeus that there’s so much corruption in Cameroon, before he’ll complete his assignment, Cameroonian government officials will bribe the unmanned drone in mid air such that, it may turn back and rebomb them in America instead. That’s why he’s including a bribe-proof on the drone and choosing his best general who served so well in Iraq and who bombed so well and stole oil so well.

One amazing thing about this our monument is that, it is also animate. Sometimes it behaves like a human being. Every time I pass around, I always hear it slapping off the myriad of Douala mosquitoes from its body which bite it daily. Have you seen its right arm? It was actually killing a mosquito the moment all these shots were taken twai, twai. See...

One day, I passed through Rond Point and saw it shivering. The next day, the stature had gone missing. I was shocked. When I asked the police traffic conductor next to where it usually stood, he told me mosquitoes had bitten it so much it had developed malaria plus plus and had been admitted at Laquintini Hospital. When things got worse, they moved it to L’hopital Generale. After three weeks, the stature was back in place. When I looked hard at it, it suddenly said to me, “masah, that mosquitoes them na die, they bite like they have teeth, if I nobi go hospital eh, I for die. Na lucky self. Time way they put me for that ambulance for go L’hopital Generale, only traffic jam, embouteillage for Akwa Nord eh! We spend two days for road. Chei.”

The monument also helps the traffic police to control traffic especially during rush hour in the mornings. But one day, in an effort of pretence that it was killing a mosquito, it quickly sent its hands into a taxi stuck in traffic jam and stole a sleeping woman’s purse with lots of money. Nobody saw the theft incident since everybody was sleeping as they’d spent the whole night in the traffic jam. The stature left, went to Akwa, got a couple of ashawos, took them to Goodies restaurant in Bonapriso and bought all kinds of goodies. Then he took them to Marché Centrale and lavished money on designer shoes and clothes.  It went clubbing at Olympia night club Bonanjo with them later at night. Some police officers had gone looking for it on a wild rampage. When they caught it, the ashawos fled. They lay ambush on the stature, got it well thrashed and imprisoned it at the New Bell Prison. It was only released a month later. When I saw it back in place at Rond Point, it immediately said “Oh boy, ngata na die, I no go ever tif again.” It also told me it had met Lapiro de Ngata at New Bell (God rest his soul) and Lapiro had taught him how to sing and it was planning to release a new powerful album titled “Douala na suffer”.  That it was also hoping to become more popular than Petit Pays. But it was going to name his own music band “On a Les Visas” instead of Rabbi’s “Sans Visa”. I was very impressed.

The stature also knows how to play football, having played for one season at Astres de Douala and was top scorer the year they won the Cameroon league. The other players drove it away because of jealousy. The real reason was that it stole their girlfriends. During the 2004/2005 football season in Spain when Samuel Eto’o was fighting for the Pitchitchi title with Diego Forlan, the stature headed the ball which is currently on its head and it bounced and bounced and then bounced off a ship at the Port of Douala and went over the ocean straight into the opponents pole during the last day of play. The Spaniards were so impressed with the feat that they flew to the Douala International Airport, drove straight to Rond Point and handed the stature the Pitchitchi trophy instead, forgetting about Forlan and Eto’o. But on their way back, they were frustrated at the airport and did not board their flight because they did not have any money to pay 10.000 francs each as airport tax. They were shocked that it’s the only airport in the world where passengers pay the nonsense fee yet the airport never ever changes. Eto’o also flew back to Cameroon in rage, laughed at the Spaniards at the airport, that the system had caught and taught them a lesson, went to Rond Point Deido and seriously threatened the stature with death. So the next season, the stature restrained itself from scoring again and Eto’o succeded to grab the Pitchtchi title, this time beating David Villa on the last day of play. Wait. Why are you laughing? Do you doubt all these things I’m saying? It’s as true as the gospels. Ehn, I swear to God (touches index finger on the ground, licks and raises to the sky.) Na whetti? Okay, if you doubt me, google up.

Short Bio: Nkiacha Atemnkeng is a Cameroonian writer who doesn’t know when he was born but it is generally believed to be around 1859. He won the Nobel Prize for mental dysfunction Literature in 1939 during the Second World War. Adolf Hitler got jealous and seized the award because it had been given to a black man. Just like in the movie “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”, it seems he was born when he was already old and is growing younger instead. It is estimated that in 2099 he will be an old baby moving towards death into the womb. Hollywood legend James Cameron is currently directing a movie based on his life titled, “The Curious ill luck case of Nkiacha Atemnkeng”, which is  estimated to beat every Box Office record and even that of "Avatar". He currently lives in Douala but plans to move and permanently live on the planet Mars hanging onto the neck of his beloved Le Monument de la Liberte because he has found life on earth to be very boring especially at this very unhappy moment of his life.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014


27. Number 27. Age 27. I had anticipated it would come with so much joy like the flood gates of a dam opening up to the gush of the water current. But no, it came with exactly the opposite feeling, with impair, with so much pain and with so much doubt. It seems one of the dementors in the Harry Potter novels came to me just when I was about to turn 27 and sapped away all the happiness in my soul like a honey bee sucks away nectar from a flower leaving it ‘sweetless’ and bare and hopeless. Leaving me sad, leaving me horrible, leaving me in doubt, doubt, doubt nothing but doubtful doubt. And at this moment, all I can do is pray and hope with only traces of hopeful hope, that the ripped off page of my passport will not haunt me like a ghost and chase me away from that airplane or chase me back to Douala on board a return “deportee” airplane. All the effort, all the strife, all the communication attempts to make it possible for weeks and months seems to have crumpled today in just a matter of seconds like a pack of cards. It took only a one second rip of a page from probably the most important tiny book in the world. And as you come, bitter 27, you come in pain just like number 26 came with fair Nephatiti who is so insane. I didn’t shed tears like the rain, but I did shed tears in a tiny trickle. Even though, the “Happy Birthdays” will come trickling down today on Facebook, on my phone as messages, on my phone as phone calls, they will never know the last two have been my most, “Unhappy Worstdays” bringing to mind Biggy Smalls lyrics, “Birthdays were the worst days…” And even though I told my bro minutes ago that maybe this writing thing is not for me, here am I, writing!

Saturday, March 8, 2014

All what I read in 2013

The Firm by John Grisham 500p USA
The Pelican Brief by John Grisham 500p USA
The Client by John Grisham 600p USA
Unanswered Cries by Osman Conteh 120p Sierra Leone
Eight Letters to a young writer by Teju Cole Nigeria, writing tips
The Famished Road by Ben Okri 500p Nigeria
The Icarus Girl by Helen Oyeyemi 300p Nigeria
All the five 2013 Caine prize shortlisted short stories, Nigeria generally
All the five 2012 Commonwealth Regional winning short stories, Global
Happiness, like Water by Chinelo Okparanta 196 p Nigeria
Four of Mehul Gohil’s short stories kenya
My Father’s head, short story by Okwiri Oduor Kenya
We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo 296p Zimbabwe
Ten Years of the Caine Prize for African Writing 200p winning African writers
Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie 300p Nigeria
Half of a yellow sun by Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie 541p Nigeria
2011 Caine Prize Anthology, To see the Mountain and other stories 200p African writers
Bomboy by Yewande Omotoso Nigeria (I abandoned it after reading 70 pages because I didn’t like it)
So Long a Letter by Mariama Ba 96p Senegal
2010 Caine Prize Anthology, A life in full and other stories, 200p African writers
New Yorker Short story "Benji" by Chinelo Okparanta Nigeria
Ghana Must Go by Taiye Selasi 300p (I abandoned it after reading 60 pages because I understood nothing)
"African Literature does not exist" essay by Taiye Selasi, 15p Afropolitan.
Together with dozens of writer interviews by NoViolet Bulawayo, Chinelo Okparanta, Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie, Pablo Neruda, Eleanor Catton, Alice Munro, Mehul Gohil and lots of literary articles, book reviews and blog posts.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Celebrity Rejections

1) J.K Rowling’s debut novel "Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone" was submitted to twelve publishing houses, all of which rejected the manuscript.
2) In 1958, Achebe sent his novel manuscript “Things Fall Apart” to the agent recommended by Gilbert Phelps in London. It was sent to several publishing houses; some rejected it immediately, claiming that fiction from African writers had no market potential. Finally it reached the office of Heinemann, where executives hesitated until an educational adviser, Donald MacRae – just back in England after a trip through West Africa read the book and forced the company's hand with his succinct report: "This is the best novel I have read since the war"
3) “I had so many rejections” Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie in her 2009 CNN interview on “African Voices” with Lola Ogunaike.
4) Here’s part of Jhumpa Lahiri’s biography online…Lahiri's early short stories faced rejection from publishers "for years"
5) Here’s part of Michael Jordan’s biography…He tried out for the varsity basketball team during his sophomore year, but at 5'11" (1.80 m), he was deemed too short to play at that level. His taller friend, Harvest Leroy Smith, was the only sophomore to make the team.
6) Cameroon’s Samuel Eto’o played two test matches for French club Le Havre in the mid nineties but wasn’t signed and rejected, so he moved to Spain. At Real Madrid, he made just three starts the whole of his first season so he moved to Real Mallorca on loan. Who doesn’t know the rest?
7) In school, Walt Disney was told he could never write a good story.
8) In school, Notorious B.I.G’s teachers told him he would never “amount to nothing”, His club banger “Juicy” is a dedication to all those teachers.
9) 2pac’s first solo album, “2pacalypse now” was not even a classic. It had just mild success at the time of its release and didn’t generate any “Top Ten” hits. 
10) With no major label to give him a record deal, Jay-Z sold his CDs out of his car and, with Damon Dash and Kareem Biggs, created Roc-A-Fella Records as their own independent label in 1995.
11) Barack Obama contested for the US Congress in 2000 and lost. In 2001, when he told his friend he wanted to run for the US presidency someday, his friend told him it was impossible for him to win the US presidency because he was black and his name Obama was one letter short from the name of America's number one enemy...He did -twice.
12) Abraham Lincoln's failures before becoming president are well known. He lost a congress election, lost a senate election, lost a vice presidential election and won a presidential election at the age of 60