Praise Song for the Gravediggers

51pvxa8xael._sx331_bo1204203200_Victory Threads

she had proclaimed

in a combined fit

of whistfulness and swaggering insolence

she had had combs in Abidjan

with names

– Akissi, Ahou, Abla, Ama, Adjoua-

who understood the temperament

of each day’s hair story

who could dress your head

while wearing choruses of victory threads in your brain

preparing you to meet the day

haughty and wholly armoured ”

Poet, Teacher, Mother”. This is how Octavia McBride-Ahebee describes herself and, by doing that, she portrays herself as a craftswoman of words. From the cities of Côte d’Ivoire to the African-American spirituality, her poems travel around the world.

In this collection of poems, women move incessantly about the world, they criss-cross landscapes and cultures and create new ones. Aminata, the Malian woman crossing the Sahara Desert and ending up in an American city, represents one of the iconic images of this collection and gives an aura of dignity and creativity that defies any obstacle. In the hair she braids are also woven the stories of all the women who, like her, have passed on their heritage thus creating a world of words.

Courage, passion, dignity and freedom of the spirit: these are the leading values of the women figures who populate the space of Octavia McBride-Ahebee’s poems. They populate a world in which cultures are ever so permeable without losing their authenticity. What is more, they become ever more tolerant and complex as the voices who pass them on, having inherited the ancient cultural values, transform them into new stories.

Learn more about Octavia McBride-Ahebee’s work:

https://omcbrideahebee.squarespace.com/

http://omcbride-ahebee.blogspot.com/

Praise Song for the Gravediggers by Octavia McBride-Ahebee

978-1792945212 / Independently published (December 31, 2018)

Review by Ioana Danaila

Ioana Danaila was born in Romania. She graduated from University Lyon 2 Lumière with a Masters in African Postcolonial Literature and a First degree in French for Non-Francophone people. She is the author of a collection of short stories and a translator of books from French to Romanian. She is trilingual in Romanian, French and English, and teaches English language and literature to highschool students in France.

Triangulum

“I am a woman acting of her own will and desire. Do not attempt to contact me after this communication. In all likelihood, I am no longer here.

These lines mark the beginning of the note my colleague Dr Joseph Hessler presented me with three years ago, along with the other materials I was tasked to compile into a dossier meant to inform a State Defense Report. I didn’t. Instead, they became the following manuscript, which, with the now late Dr Hessler’s assistance, I have prepared for the public as TRIANGULUM.
At the time of writing, the sender of these materials remains unknown. We have at our disposal the note, as well as a cover letter, detailing further instructions. Then the materials themselves: a written record in the form of a memoir, followed by what appears to be a work of autofiction, as well as a set of digital recordings.”

When the South African National Space Agency receives a mysterious box from an equally mysterious woman saying that the end of the world is near, the story of the post-apartheid period unfolds under the form of a manuscript named TRIANGULUM.

The narrative takes us from the 1990s to 2040 into the memories of a mysterious narrator who recalls her teenage days, her friends and the haunting memory of her dead mother. It is the disappearance of three girls from their town that finally decides the narrator to go further in her search for clues of her mother’s abduction and death. Her journey leads her from her hometown to a laboratory and finally into a forest in which she hopes to find out what really happened to her mother.

Situated between science-fiction to philosophical fable and historical criticism, Masande Ntshanga’s multi-genre novel deals with a large number of topics of today’s world, from racism to ecologic urgency, and also opens a window onto a future that may not be as incredible as it first appears.

In this modern coming-of-age tale, Masande Nsthanga, awarded the PEN International New Voices Award in 2013, takes us on dystopic journey into the most suprising places, and also on a journey into the human soul haunted by the past, revolted by injustice and hungry for freedom.

Triangulum by Masande Ntshanga

978-1937512774 / Two Dollar Radio (to be released in May 2019)

Review by Ioana Danaila

Ioana Danaila was born in Romania. She graduated from University Lyon 2 Lumière with a Masters in African Postcolonial Literature and a First degree in French for Non-Francophone people. She is the author of a collection of short stories and a translator of books from French to Romanian. She is trilingual in Romanian, French and English, and teaches English language and literature to highschool students in France.

Aya Dane

71n5icidc-lIs art life reinvented?

Is it an escape from reality?

Miss Mai was quiet and seemed to hesitate.

‘This is my advice to you. Work hard, keep your eyes lowered. Then leave the country. Find a way. Swim across the blue channel if you must. Go. Run as far as you can from here. Don’t ever look back. There is nothing left here. We are all just waiting for death.’

Aya nodded and noticed the teacher’s hands were still on hers, warm and comforting. (…) She knew that the country she was bor in wasn’t intended for the likes of her. That she wasn’t welcome there, that she would never be wanted there. The outside world and its constant, illogical succession of images, chopped and fragmented, would be a part of her forever. ”

From her studio in Brooklyn, Aya Dane paints the world in vivid colours. In the appealing, yet alien world of the United States, Aya’s art is both her refuge and her way of relating to the others, until a mysterious client asks her to paint a canvass that will rush the past back to the present. From a modest neighbourhood in Tangiers to international fame in the high society of Cambridge, Massachussets, her life is constantly swaying between unspoken traumas from childhood and an unbreakable sense of freedom.

Aya’s story is is a lucid and powerful narrative in which nothing is left out, although not everything is clearly unveiled. In a brilliantly refined prose that mixes powerful images vividly painted with refined poetry and infinite melancholy, Mhani Alaoui draws the destiny of a woman who, because she cannot break free from her past, chooses to live in her own world of colours. Between Frida Khalo’s paintings and what could be an anti-Dorian Grey figure, in a remarkable display the author defines as “a kind of insane chronology, one where the mind takes over time, the past, present and future”, time becomes a to-and-forth movement that makes the narrative only more insightful.

Is, then, art life reinvented? Is it an escape from reality? Both questions lead to a kaleidoscope of answers as Aya Dane weaves a kaleidoscopic vision of art, memory and longing for home that goes beyond time and space.

Aya Dane by Mhani Alaoui

978- 1623719685 / Interlink Books (2019)

Review by Ioana Danaila

Ioana Danaila was born in Romania. She graduated from University Lyon 2 Lumière with a Masters in African Postcolonial Literature and a First degree in French for Non-Francophone people. She is the author of a collection of short stories and a translator of books from French to Romanian. She is trilingual in Romanian, French and English, and teaches English language and literature to highschool students in France.

Ghost Tribes : The Ghost of Africa

Image result for the ghost of africa gomaniSurvive! I must survive. I race through these dark gloomy woods, dodging trees from side to side. Seven of us entered this hell of a forest; seven hybrids, sent to apprehend IT. One of us is, so far, dead—slaughtered by the hand of the demon that now pursues me. What kind of demon makes easy hunt of beings as lethal as hybrid? No one man can stand on par against just one of us, let alone seven. Yet here we are—hunted like prey by the very demon we came to capture.”

When the Lozi princess Likando, heir to the throne, is aggressed by a group of “mixed-breeds”, people with parents of different origins, before her maturity ceremony, she embarks on an incredible adventure which brings her before the legendary Ghost of Africa, a terrorizing figure people believe to be a demon dominating the territory where the Lozi tribe and many others live.

In this alert historic fantasy novel, Venancio Gomani displays a wide range of characters both fascinating and troubling. The elegant writing style mirrors an almost Shakespearian plot inspired by oral stories about love, rivlary and betrayal, and in which oral tradition mingles with history. In an African mythical land, where the world of spirits and the world of humans intertwine, where stories and History always go together, story-telling is one of the essential forms of knowledge passed on from one generation to another. It is from this immense immemorial heritage that Venancio Gomani takes his inspiration.

The first from the series Ghost Tribes, the novel The Ghost of Africa introduces an enigmatic character whose fame cut across generations and created an aura of fear and fantasy. What the novel points at, finally, are the individual stories that grow and entangle to form a vast, complex web of tales that create the background of History and people’s lives. Here is an tribute to story-telling, legends and tradition who necessarily speak about what lies ahead.

Ghost Tribes: The Ghost of Africa by Venancio C. Gomani Jr.

ASIN: B07MHG3CK5 / Kindle edition (January 1, 2019)

Review by Ioana Danaila

Ioana Danaila was born in Romania. She graduated from University Lyon 2 Lumière with a Masters in African Postcolonial Literature and a First degree in French for Non-Francophone people. She is the author of a collection of short stories and a translator of books from French to Romanian. She is trilingual in Romanian, French and English, and teaches English language and literature to highschool students in France.

 

Sefi Atta : Selected Plays (to be released in April 2019)

51szviykx2bl._sx331_bo1204203200_« Taiwo makes a lot of noise. It has never been my way. I make up my mind up, even if it takes a while. Everyone thinks Taiwo is stronger, because she talks so much. I think she is weak. (…) I’ve never been a crier, and this is my decision. It is my decision. Taiwo always tries to tell me what to do, but not today. (…) I will let everyone know what I’ve decided. »

A young woman learns a hidden truth about her fiancé just before their engagement party.

An elderly widow and her old flame meet again forty years later.

A divorcée gets help from her ex-husband when moving into a new house and bond again.

In these domestic scenes, Sefi Atta manages to capture the intimate atmosphere of the family cell not as a homely, cosy cocoon, but as a complex labyrinth of emotions and ties which never cease to change. What the plays have in common is staging moments of revelation, moments when truth is made public and no one, not even the closest or loved ones, cannot hide it or turn away from it any more.

The langage and rather short length of the plays contrasts with the incredibly complex and multi-facetted relations the characters have : everyday life situations are exposed so as to make us reflect not only on parenthood, married life or friendship means, but also to see how domestic life echoes onto the social relations at a larger scale. Between family and nation the difference is smaller than it seems, because the tensions within the home are always linked in some way to the bigger picture.

Sefi Atta’s brilliant collection of plays is a way of peaking into the intimacy of the home where the sound of the outside world is always close ; students, feminists, elderly lovers, all discover how relations with the closest people are infinitely rich and risky. The stage, the perfect compromise between home and public place, is also the place of revelations within the family ties and within the human soul.

Sefi Atta: Selected Plays by Sefi Atta

978-1623719791/ Interlink Publishing (to be released April 9, 2019)

Review by Ioana Danaila

Ioana Danaila was born in Romania. She graduated from University Lyon 2 Lumière with a Masters in African Postcolonial Literature and a First degree in French for Non-Francophone people. She is the author of a collection of short stories and a translator of books from French to Romanian. She is trilingual in Romanian, French and English, and teaches English language and literature to highschool students in France.

The Day of the Orphan

51g5xxvv6gl« Everyone called him Saga, though that was not what his parents had named him. He was fidgeting at his wooden government- issue desk in his very good-for-Africa sized classroom of only 30 students. His teachers were lucky; many had to cope with as many as a 100 students or more in each class. (…) Taken separately, the features that made up his face could not be individually tagged as remarkable or chiselled or outstanding. But put together, most people tended to do a pleasant double-take of his appearance. It was as though, united, his individual facial objects blended quite well, but divided, they seemed to pose quite another matter. »

In an imaginary country called Zimgania, leading a quiet life, Saga, the son of an ordinary family leading a quiet life, is living his typical adolescent experiences with his friends. However, when he sees his closed ones affected by the conflict and seriously threatened, he decides to join the resistance. When the government in power spreads fear throughout the country and students start to react against the oppression, his fight will take proportions that he would never have imagined.

In this satirical and witty novel, Dr Nat Tanoh gives a vivid picture of what young people’s life is like in oppressive regimes ; what their aspirations, dreams, leasure and fears are ; what, finally, their lives look like. The violence with which the political authority unfolds in everyday life and influences human relations makes Saga act.

In his first novel, Dr Nat Tanoh captures a modern, yet tense African world, in which coming of age is never easy ; becoming a man overnight is, therefore, not easy for Saga either, especially that love is an inevitable passage to adulthood. And love has Zara’s face, a beautiful, kind and witty image, but also a frightening one in a world in which nothing seems to be what is looks like.

It is in this world that Saga’s rite of passage occurs under the form of the resistance to an oppressive regime, but which is never totally shown in a dark or dramatic light. Laughter and puns, as well as dramatic scenes and conflicts, populate Tanoh’s novel to reveal a world much like our own, wherever it may be.

The Day of the Orphan by Dr Nat Tanoh

978- 1912145560/ Acorn Independent Press (25th May 2018)

Review by Ioana Danaila

Ioana Danaila was born in Romania. She graduated from University Lyon 2 Lumière with a Masters in African Postcolonial Literature and a First degree in French for Non-Francophone people. She is the author of a collection of short stories and a translator of books from French to Romanian. She is trilingual in Romanian, French and English, and teaches English language and literature to highschool students in France.

The Bead Collector

9781623719852« ‘Would you say that being caught between traditional and Western cultures causes the domestic problems you’ve observed ?’

‘I’m not sure. Our cultures evolve. They change, you know, and you can hardly call the Western cultures we’ve adopted modern. I mean, sitting at home and playing wife would be old-fashioned to some women in Nigerian villages. If you ask them what they look for in a husband, they will give you a list of functions. If ask an educated woman in Lagos, she might give you a list of attributes. You can walk away from a husband who doesn’t fulflill his functions. You’re expected to accept attributes when you’re married, aren’t you ?’ »

In today’s posh side of Lagos, Remi, a card shop owner, meets Frances at a party. It is an ordinary day, at an ordinary mundane event- maybe too ordinary not to be suspect. Could she be the CIA agent that Tunde, Remi’s husband, suspects her of being, an agent trying to collect information about the social and political situation in Nigeria ?

In the highlife atmosphere of the sophisticated places of the Nigerian metropolis, the political turmoil and ghosts of Biafra War still haunt people’s spirits- such is the background of this unexpected encounter which, in a slow and deeply insightful way, takes out the several aspects from in Remi’s own life, her childhood, her family, her deep connection to her native country.

After A Bit of Difference and News From Home, Sefi Atta’s refined narrative highlights how relations between people from different cultures can make us question our own past, life experience or principles. The multi-layered discussions between the protagonists, embedded in the main story, underline the complex approach to one’s own culture and country that is only made possible through a foreign perspective.

The Nigeria depicted in Sefi Atta’s novel is not just conflicted, fragile or immensely diverse. It is also an image of anyone’s country that, just like individuals, has its own skeletons in the cupboard as well as its own moments of grace. What Remi is faced with, finally, is, apart from all the consequences of interculturality, a new view of her own country and the political turmoil it faces, a view of her place within her own community and family because, for Remi, no man, or woman, is an island.

The Bead Collector by Sefi Atta

978- 1623719852 / Interlink Books (to be released in 2019)

Review by Ioana Danaila

Ioana Danaila was born in Romania. She graduated from University Lyon 2 Lumière with a Masters in African Postcolonial Literature and a First degree in French for Non-Francophone people. She is the author of a collection of short stories and a translator of books from French to Romanian. She is trilingual in Romanian, French and English, and teaches English language and literature to highschool students in France.

Biafra’s War: A Tribal Conflict in Nigeria That Left a Million Dead

51bxaul5trl-_sx342_bo1204203200_

Almost half a century has passed since the Nigerian Civil War ended. But memories die hard, because a million or more perished in that internecine struggle, the majority women and children, who were starved to death.

Biafra’s war was modern Africa’s first extended conflict. It lasted almost three years and was based on largely ethnic, by inference, tribal grounds. It involved, on the one side, a largely Christian or animist south-eastern quadrant of Nigeria which called itself Biafra, pitted militarily against the country’s more populous and preponderent Islamic north.”

In this vast picture of the Nigerian-Biafran War showing a comprehensive portrait of Nigeria and, to a larger extent, of West Africa in the 1960s, Al J. Venter not only writes about the war in all its complexity, but also makes the reader live the war. Through his incredible account in which personal experience mingles with historical facts, the multiples faces of the first fully mediatized war in the 20th century become more and more visible to the public as they mix with individual stories about it.

Al J. Venter also accompanies his book with numerous rare photographies of people’s dialy life during the war, from atrocities to domestic scenes. What is also enriching is the enormous number of testimonies and witness accounts from many war pilots and journalists of the time. The personal touch and experience, as well as the insightful analysis of the events and atmosphere of the time, give the book a deeply human dimension- it is, eventually, what makes History an everyday experience and collective contribution.

More than “just another” history book, Venter’s account is a true historical document which allows older as well as younger generations to understand a bit more about this complex ethnic civil war that largely shaped the political present situation of Nigeria.

Biafra’s War: An Tribal Conflict In Nigeria That Left A Million Dead by Al J. Venter

978- 19121747020 / Helion & Company, 2015

Review by Ioana Danaila

Ioana Danaila was born in Romania. She graduated from University Lyon 2 Lumière with a Masters in African Postcolonial Literature and a First degree in French for Non-Francophone people. She is the author of a collection of short stories and a translator of books from French to Romanian. She is trilingual in Romanian, French and English, and teaches English language and literature to highschool students in France.

Hearts of Clay

'Hearts of Clay' cover« Shortly after I was born, my dad relocated to the UK, leaving my mum and I behind. Apart from pictures and telephone calls, I didn’t really know my dad. My mum, however, was my world until I turned five-years-old and my dad came to take her away from me. She dropped me off at my grandparents’ house in Ibadan and relocated to the UK with my dad. Mama, as I used to call my grandma, was so happy to have me, in fact it was a dream come true for her but a nightmare for me. Despite loving Mama to bits, I found it difficult to adjust to my new life, and her efforts to fill in the void proved abortive (…) As days turned into weeks and months into years, Mama became the centre of my world, with only occasional reminiscence of Mummy’s love. »

Grace, a young independent woman living in the UK, comes to Lagos only to embark on a thrilling adventure that starts in the streets of Lagos and ends up in London, in a totally different picture.

Dosun Adeleye’s novel is the story of this character’s life: a fearless, ambitious character nevertheless dominated by the fear of being abandoned as well as by the longing of being cared for. From a complicated childhood spent mostly in her grandparents’ house and far from her parents, to a busy and accomplished professional life, Grace also carries with her a haunting secret.

The motif of the baby “stolen” from its biological father, central in Dosun Adeleye’s novel, is questioned as it refers to the “bigger picture” of this socio-cultural element often present in popular literature and cinema. This bigger picture offers us the portrait of a complicated and sometimes painful love life, in which destiny doesn’t often match the idea of life one had in the first place. What is more, it is not only the notion of destiny that is challenged, but also a certain cliché about “genetic” predestination.

What the reader discovers instead is a dynamic story of a quest for love, whatever the cost, whatever the sacrifices, whatever the obstacles. Almost like a modern fairytale, the novel draws not a sweet or overromanticized portrait of the main character, but a story full of fearless hope.

Hearts of Clay by Dosun Adeleye

978- 1916466302 / E-book version

Review by Ioana Danaila

Ioana Danaila was born in Romania. She graduated from University Lyon 2 Lumière with a Masters in African Postcolonial Literature and a First degree in French for Non-Francophone people. She published a collection of short stories and translated books from French to Romanian. She speaks Romanian, French, English, and Spanish, and teaches English language and literature to highschool students in France.

War of Intervention in Angola (Volume 1: Angolan and Cuban Forces at War, 1975-1976)

Angolan war pictureOver time, a more comprehensive picture began emerging, indicating that a series of three successive wars were fought in Angola in the period from 1961 until 2002. The first of these- variously known as the ‘Angolan War of Independence’, or ‘I Angolan War’- went on from 1961 until 1974, saw insurgencies by multiple Angolan nationalist movements fighting against the Portuguese colonial rule. It ended with the Portuguese withdrawal and nominal independence of Angola. Even before that conflict was over, a ‘civil’ war erupted between three major Angolan insurgent movements and their foreign backers. Lasting until 1992, and including military interventions by Cuba and South Africa, and discrete meddling by the United States of America (USA) and even China, this war is colloquially known as ‘II Angolan War.’”

Out of Africa’s twentieth century wars, this book reconstructs the story of a war that seems to have been too little documented over the last decades. From the analysis of the situation of Angola in the 1960s (in the larger context of the Cold War) to a detailed overview of the allied troops in 1975-1976, this historic insight concentrates more on Operation Carlotta, or the intervention of Cuban forces, during these years.

The analyses also help us understand the complex situation of many African countries at the time who, after independence, went through civil wars, alimented by long-term local rivalries and interests. With a detailed insight on the Angolan context, over 100 rare pictures, and its historical past, especially the period of the Portuguese rule, the authors give the reader a wide perspective on a complex historical phenomenon engaging several internal parties and coalitions as well as several foreign military forces.

Adrien Fontanellaz and Tom Cooper’s book is an interesting and enriching reading, destined not only to historians, but also to non specialists who want to understand one of the most complex historical events in the mid- twentieth century Africa, as well as its implications outside Angola. More than history, War of Intervention in Angola is food for thought.

War of Intervention in Angola by Adrien Fontanellaz and Tom Cooper

978-1911628194 / Helion and Company, Africa@War Series, August 15, 2018.

Review by Ioana Danaila

Ioana Danaila was born in Romania. She graduated from University Lyon 2 Lumière with a Masters in African Postcolonial Literature and a First degree in French for Non-Francophone people. She published a collection of short stories and translated books from French to Romanian. She speaks Romanian, French, English, and Spanish, and teaches English language and literature to highschool students in France.