When Doctors become Storytellers

“This is how it is when you glimpse a woman for the first time, a woman you know you could love. People are wrong when they talk of love at first sight. It is neither love nor lust. No. As she walks away from you, what you feel is loss. A premonition of loss.”

Freetown, January 1969, an evening party at the university campus. Elias Cole, an academic, sees his colleague’s wife, Saffia and becomes irreversibly attracted to her.  Thus begins the most powerful story of his life, full of betrayal, passion and obsession. Freetown, 1999, in a hospital. Cole is now very ill in the care of Adrian Lockheart, a psychologist. In the same hospital Kai, a young surgeon and a survivor of the civil war, suffers from a double wound: the injuries of war and lost love.

The three lives are intertwined in distress, violence, political and social instability —the perfect context to portray the fragility of the human condition. Unfolding through three simultaneous voices, timelines and spaces, Aminatta Forna’s second novel gives the reader a fragmented, yet vivid and sometimes cruel image of how war changes lives.  However, the fact that the three main characters are either healers or victims of physical injuries (be they victims or doctors), also shows to what point love can be the most vivid and harmful wound.

The plot is centered on memories, on relics, on what is left when love is no more, or, more interestingly, what the survivors of love become. The possible answer, common to the three characters, is that writing and story-telling is only way to keep the feeling, and oneself, alive: Elias Cole’s life is the story that we read when he is speaking to Adrian Lockheart who keeps a textbook of psychologic pathologies as a means of preserving and putting order in his life.

The Memory of Love is a book about what love injuries, like war injuries, can do to the human soul, and also how stories help us gain perspective and direction in life. In the violent context of war, physical pain and death, love marks can only be healed by words and story-tellers become doctors.

The Memory of Love by Aminatta Forna

Bloomsbury Paperbacks| 2011| 978-1408809655

Review by Ioana Danaila

IMG_0478-2Ioana Danaila was born in Romania. She graduated from University Lyon 2 Lumière with a Masters in Postcolonial Literature and a First degree in French for Non-Francophone people. She has published short stories and translated books from French to Romanian. She speaks Romanian, French, English, and Spanish and teaches English to high school students in France.

 

Coming of Age in Zimbabwe

The first time I read Nervous Conditions, Zimbabwean author Tsitsi Dangarembga’s seminal first novel, I was an undergraduate student at the University of California, Davis, enrolled in a course on African womanhood (this was in 2004). The course was called “Women in Africa.” Professor Moradewun Adejunmobi taught the course and Nervous Conditions was on the syllabus, along with several other works of African feminist fiction like Mariama Bâ’s So Long a Letter and Buchi Emecheta’s The Joys of Motherhood.

I began the course with a mixture of curiosity and arrogance. It was my first time taking a course that mentioned me in its title. I am an African woman who grew up in Cameroon. I once was “a woman in Africa.” I once was a girl in Africa. The class had to be about me! And because of this, I felt curious to see what the course could teach me about myself. But I also felt that I already knew a thing or two about African womanhood and wouldn’t be learning anything new.

That course quickly erased my arrogance and amplified my curiosity. The books we read transformed me. I did not just read those books. I inhaled them. I consumed them as if they were pills that had the power to cure me of an illness I suffered from. I was especially taken by Nervous Conditions because, unlike the other novels assigned to us, this novel had a young woman as narrator. I emerged from that course — from those books, especially Nervous Conditions — a changed woman, a woman with a lot of questions about her life.

A few months later, in my very first semester of graduate school at the University of Michigan (Ann Arbor), I enrolled in a course called “African Women” and was re-united with Tsitsi Dangarembga’s novel. I read it a second time and felt the same way I felt the first time I read it. I felt that the book was, in so many ways, about me, about my own family, about our struggles. It’s been ten years since 2004, a decade of living and learning now tucked securely in my past. Today, as I complete my third reading of Nervous Conditions, I am more convinced than ever that this book captures the essence of my life story.

I am Tambu, the main character. I am telling my life story, working my mind around it and through it, trying to understand the things that have happened and are happening to me. I am the girl who is not afraid to fight with her brother, to challenge him when he tells her that he is more worthy of great things. Tambu’s voice is my voice. Tambu’s mind is my mind, trying to impose some order on all that seems senseless. I am Tambu mulling over ideas of feminine decorum and notions of decency, as well as patriarchal status differences between male and female relatives. Tambu’s long, dense paragraphs of fluid prose — narration oftentimes unpunctuated in various places, breathless, hurried — is my prose. I lose myself in Tambu’s words, and I find myself in them, at the same time. I lose myself, because I find myself. I lose my sense of being separate from the narrator. I become the women in the story. I am not only Tambu. I am every woman in her family. Their trials and tribulations are my own.

I am Tambu’s cousin Nyasha. I am Nyasha asking profound and heartbreaking questions, interrogating reality constantly. I am Nyasha challenging male authority, turning patriarchy on its head. I am Nyasha confronting my father, fighting with him. I am pushing against the boundaries of women’s worlds, failing to explode those walls or transcend them, and internalizing my grief and disappointment. I am Nyasha using my mind to try to break out of the varied but similar prisons of gender, race, class, colonialism, patrilineage, and age/generation. I am looking for answers and solutions, reading countless books, becoming mired in a mental bog of facts, histories, injustices, and tragedies. I am the young intellectual immersed in a sanity-annihilating world of extreme academia and perpetual education. I am Nyasha losing her mind.

I am Tambu’s aunt Lucia being bold and fearless. I am Lucia using my voice so confidently that it frightens men; I understand that a woman’s voice is a powerfully liberating instrument. I am Lucia showing that a woman owns her body. But I am also Tambu’s mother, whose body has been given over to her husband and his lineage, and whose older children have been taken away, offered up to the voracious cause of education and a financially secure future for the family. I am Tambu’s other aunt (Ma Chido, married to Tambu’s uncle Babamukuru), whose education and employment and marital status have not been able to assure her of a peaceful life or assure her daughter, Nyasha, of a life safe from physical and psychological harm.

I am all these women, but I am especially the two young women, Tambu and Nyasha. I am these schoolgirls, pursuing their studies passionately. Growing my mind in the classroom and beyond, learning to think for myself. I am a young woman who, having been given the opportunity to become educated, can now prove to myself and a doubting world that I am intelligent, capable, and worthy of greatness. I must believe that I am worthy of freedom, of the chance to choose a life in which my fate is not bound to that of a man or what a man might wish for me. I am free to think and speak for myself, free to build a new way of life for myself–a life I am willing to work hard for, to slave over my books for, and beyond that, a life in which I fight to always perceive reality accurately, a life in which I comprehend the world I live in with clarity. I create a life in which I engage with the struggles of every human being, the struggles of women and Africans–struggles that are individual and collective battles for a full, authentic, and self-determining existence. I fight to be recognized as a human and to be valued as such.

It is a testament to Tsitsi Dangarembga’s phenomenal literary gift that I–a woman from Cameroon — can read her book about a girl in Zimbabwe, feel that it is my story, and draw strength from it. Like the young women in Nervous Conditions, I must (as much as possible) decide what to do with my mind, heart, and body. I must chart the best paths for life. I must learn how to think for myself about men, women, power, and freedom. I must realize that education, as empowering as it may be, is no easy or uncomplicated solution to the problems of gender and social inequality. Ten years ago, Nervous Conditions compelled me to take ownership of my being, and today, it still does. I know what this means. It means that this story is timeless and the struggle for equality is far from over. Women’s words and stories can change the world. Tambu’s voice will continue to transform African women’s lives, one reader at a time.

Nervous Conditions by Tsitsi Dangarembga

978-0954702335| 1997| Lynne Rienner Publishers

Review by Viola Allo

ViolaViola Allo is a Cameroonian-born poet and essayist based in the United States. Her first chapbook of poems, Bird From Africa, is included in the Eight New-Generation African Poets chapbook box set published in 2015 by Akashic Books and the African Poetry Book Fund. Viola resides in California and writes at her blog, Letters to Cameroon.

6 Amazing Books by African Women You Have to Read

So Long a Letter by Mariama BâSo Long a Letter is an epistolary novel written in the voice of Ramatoulaye, a Senegalese school teacher. Addressed to her best friend Aissatou, the letters chronicle Ramatoulaye’s emotional journey after her husband’s second marriage and his unexpected death. Considered a classic of contemporary African women’s literature, So Long a Letter is a must-read for anyone interested in African literature and the passage from colonialism to modernism in a Muslim country.

 

A Bit of Difference by Sefi AttaUsing the life of Deola Bello, a single auditor working for a British charity, Atta explores everything from Western perceptions of Africa and African women, to the contradictions inherent in social expectations for women and their abilities to meet, ignore, or defy set expectations.

[Read our interview with Sefi Atta here]

 

Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi AdichieFifteen-year-old Kambili and her older brother Jaja lead a privileged life in Enugu, Nigeria. They live in a beautiful house, with a caring family, and attend an exclusive missionary school. They’re completely shielded from the troubles of the world. Yet, as Kambili reveals in her tender-voiced account, things are less perfect than they appear.

 

 

Maru by Bessie HeadA moving and magical tale of an orphaned girl, Margaret Cadmore, who goes to teach in a remote village in Botswana where her own people are kept as slaves. Her presence polarizes a community that does not see her people as human, and condemns her to the lonely life of an outcast. In the love story and intrigue that follows Head brilliantly combines a portrait of loneliness with a rich affirmation of the mystery and spirituality of life.

 

Nervous Conditions by Tsitsi Dangarembga: This stunning first novel, set in colonial Rhodesia during the 1960s, centers on the coming of age of a teenage girl, Tambu, and her British-educated cousin Nyasha. Tambu, who yearns to be free of the constraints of her rural village, especially the predetermined lives of women, thinks her dreams have come true when her wealthy uncle offers to sponsor her education. But she soon learns that the education she receives at his mission school comes with a price.

July’s People by Nadine Godimer: Set against a fictional civil war during the aparatheid in South Africa, Godimer’s second novel covers a middle-class family of white liberals in South Africa fleeing the horrors of a large scale revolution started by blacks who then find safety in their black servant’s village.

The New Testament | Nike Adesuyi

I walk the coasts of Ibeju Lekki

White sands, a blue sea and a

Happy sun distil putrid visions

*

I run into the winds;

A kite buoyed on the wings of fun

*

I race the wind to an infinity of sands and shells

Until my feet are shocked by the magic of Mammon

Asphalt scarifies the polish of the sands like tribal marks

*

Beyond the billowing wrapper of the sea,

In places secret to the coastal eyes,

Principalities and powers are violating

Our maiden of mercies

*

In Ogoni** the fishes are fevered

From the typhoid of crude

Oil paints the sea black

And all the waters mourn.

**  Ogoniland in Nigeria, where Shell Oil company vastly polluted the Niger Delta river.

NIKE ADESUYI is a Nigerian poet, and a member of WRITA. She is the editorial manager of a thriving publications company in Lagos. Her poems have been published in several anthologies.

Minna Salami: An Interview with the Creator of Ms. Afropolitan

Minna Salami is the creator of Ms. Afropolitan, an African feminist blog that explores African concerns from the much overlooked intersections of gender, race, class and a host of other factors as related to African women. Her writing offers a strong and clear voice amid the reactionary roars of racial politics and gendered arguments on digital media. The African Book Review had a conversation with Minna about her blog, the evolving roles of African women across the world and her poetry collection, Cache

Minna Salami

ABR: What inspired you to create Ms. Afropolitan?

MINNA: When I started writing MsAfropolitan, I was driven by a need to contribute, and to some extent introduce, mainstream commentary about African popular culture from a clearly feminist perspective. Blogs about African society were male dominant and the feminist blogs I came across were Eurocentric. Most of the African feminist writing I encountered was either academic or fiction writing. It was brilliant work…but I longed to read commentary about Africa from a feminist angle and commentary about feminism from an African angle. Not finding much, I set up MsAfropolitan. In a sense I was writing what I wanted to read. I realize these things in hindsight…at the time, it was just an obsessive need to write myself into being.

ABR: It’s interesting to read pieces on your blog dealing with everything from hair politics and colorism, to Fanon’s arguments about the psychological decolonization process. Do you think Africans are still undergoing that process? Or (perhaps, a better question) did we ever actually start that process, as much of the standards through which we judge everything from beauty to success, remain Western?

MINNA: I read a quote on Facebook the other day that caused me to pause. It said “Slavery is NOT African history. Slavery interrupted African history.” I think slavery is African history. It’s a history that I find empowering in the sense that it is a testimony to the rebellion, intelligence and resilience of a continent. To quote Maya Angelou, “You may write me down in history / With your bitter, twisted lies / You may trod me in the very dirt / But still, like dust, I’ll rise.” All to say, we actually need to go further back than colonialism to tackle the decolonisation process. We need to unpack the psychological legacy of slavery on modern-day Africa. Where colonialism was largely about recreating the African into the European image: teaching her to speak European languages, worship European gods, behave like a “lady” and so on, the transatlantic slave trade was the segue to colonialism…and the more we incorporate that history into psychosocial analysis of African people today (as Jewish people have rightly done with the holocaust) the more we can heal, build and come to grips with the event of colonialism. But I have to disagree that we judge everything from a western ideal. Africans are some of the most proud people that I know. As we should be!

ABR: Thinking about African feminism, what would you loosely define it to be. Is it a cognizant choice, or subconscious part of daily life? What does it look like as you envision it today, and how would you ideally like it to look in future?

MINNA: African feminism, simply put, is feminism practiced by African women. We can delve into it theoretically, look at African feminist thought  its particular strands; STIWANISM, African Womanism etc.,—and we should—but at its core is African women practising feminism, which we inevitably do with a particular texture. Africa is an incredibly tradition-centred continent so many of us find our feminism has to negotiate with the intersection of patriarchy and tradition even more than patriarchy and race. For me, feminism is a part of daily life because patriarchy is a part of daily life. And yes, being a feminist is subconscious, in fact being a feminist and being a woman are synonymous to me; I would not know how to be a woman who is not a feminist. As for the future of the African feminist movement, I see us presently in the calm before the storm stage. There is a rebellious energy brewing, like the spirit of Oya, the orisha who symbolises change and rebirth. African feminists today, and especially those in the continent, are some of the most radical feminists I’ve met.

ABR: Cache tackles some really interesting subjects, especially in the poems that deal with sexuality. The book’s movement from ‘Rape,’ to ‘Gentle Man,’ to ‘Naked Part II’ seems to suggest an exploration of agency, its different textures and subtleties; who controls the narrative of sexuality, and how different people’s choices in the same issue can be perceived differently. Can you talk about that section and what (if any) you wanted to achieve through that arrangement?

MINNA: By extension of the popular but mistaken idea that feminists hate men, there is a less verbalised notion that feminists hate sex with men. And so being a feminist who does not hate men, nor sex with them, is an expression in that section of my book. However, as you hint at, feminist sexual agency in heterosexual relationship is complex because sex is not only a site of pleasure and autonomy but also one of power and political choice. In other words, my sexual feelings toward men are informed by my experiences of sex as a site where both pleasure and abuse can take place. This complexity is an underlying exploration in that section.

ABR: Your poems, ‘Nigeria,’ and ‘Dissonance,’ seem both poignant and biting. What’s your relationship to Nigeria both as a place you grew up in, and as a political construct?

MINNA: Ah, yes, Nigeria is like a lover who doesn’t love themselves and thus cannot really love you either… You care about them deeply, but all you get in return is lost potential. However, unlike a lover whom you can leave, I can’t “leave” Nigeria (and nor do I want to). Hence the sense of ‘dissonance.’

My relationship with Nigeria is an emotionally abusive one that I will never stop returning to.

ABR:  What do you want readers of Cache (and of Ms. Afropolitan) to take away from it?

MINNA: In writing Cache, like in writing MsAfropolitan, I found–or tried to find–a home in language. I hope that readers of Cache will (re)kindle a relationship with poetry if they don’t already have one. And with the idea that poetry frees the mind by enabling the reader to feel rather than think….Poetry is marked by both white/western and male dominance, and while I enjoy many forms of poetry I’m especially moved by the less cerebral and cartesian approach to it and by poets whose work touches the spirit, poets like Warsan Shire, Adrienne Rich, Meena Alexander, Tommy Taberman, Wisława Szymborska, Eduardo Galeano, Molara Ogundipe-Leslie, Rita Dove, Jessica Horn, Audre Lorde, lyrical poets like Fiona Apple and Nneka, I could go on… Oh, and I much enjoy Zen and Buddhist Poetry.

Minna Salami is a Nigerian-Finnish writer and the founder of MsAfropolitan, a multiple award-winning blog covering contemporary Africa and Diaspora society and culture from a feminist perspective. Minna is a member of the Duke University Corporate Education Global Learning Resource Network. She is also a contributor to the Guardian Africa Network and a Huffington Post contributor

Uganda: Falling | Betty Kituyi

The rain is gently
clapping at the rocks
outside my kitchen.

Its music
waters
my desert.

A new song forms,
the sound of raindrops
washing my face.

The rain is steadily
Taking me home
By twilight.

I am learning
from the weeping clouds
that falling isn’t dying.

Betty Kituyi is a writer and scientist from Uganda. She is the coordinator of Café Scientifique-Uganda, a robotics program for youth, and the third winner of the fourth BN Poetry Award, 2012, Uganda. She is also a high school educator with decades of experience in the Ugandan education sector.

Tunisia: The Beauty of Tunisian Women | Ali Znaidi

The beauty of Tunisian women
comes w/ the scents of spring,
the roses of spring,
& the almonds of spring.
Though anchored in history & myths,
the beauty of Tunisian women
is always in bloom.
It always opens onto expansive skies.
The beauty of Tunisian women
is always free, & it won’t be ever
your fuel to burn aesthetics & free will.
& it won’t be ever
your flour to bake new bread of fear.

 

Ali Znaidi lives in Redeyef, Tunisia where he teaches English. His work has appeared in Mad SwirlStride MagazineRed FezBlazeVox,Otolithsstreetcake, and elsewhere. His debut poetry chapbook Experimental Ruminations was published in September 2012 by Fowlpox Press (Canada). He reviews Tunisian literature at http://tunisianlit.wordpress.com and blogs at aliznaidi.blogspot.com.

The Big Lie

In The Big Lie, Tanya Selvaratnam details how she came to the realization that age isn’t just a number when it comes to fertility. Born in 1971 (11 years after the FDA approved the Pill for contraceptive use and two years before abortion was legalized with Roe v. Wade), Selvaratnam had inherited reproductive freedom, and with it, she argues, the assumption she could wait to get pregnant whenever she felt ready.

When her experience revealed that her advanced age might have influenced her inability to deliver to term, the Harvard grad exercised her reproductive right in a new way—acquiring knowledge. The result is a fastidious survey of the baby-making business; a crash course on American healthcare policy, international adoption, and fertility tourism; a personal story threading statistics, reports, articles, and expert advice like beads.

Through it all, Selvaratnam is diagnosed with cancer and her marriage ends.

As intimate as it is, Selvaratnam’s book also serves as a resource, aimed at opening the door on a global network—and economy—fueled by the desire to have a child.

Selvaratnam says she wrote the book as an admonition to younger women who want children to arm themselves with information about their fertility. “I didn’t learn about this at home, in school, or at my doctor’s office,” she explains. “I found the information on my own… Although infertility is traditionally seen as a female problem, more and more reports are emerging about the man’s role. In fact, infertility cases are evenly accounted for by both male and female factors.”

She argues that while some couples hoping to get pregnant seek affordable treatments in parts of Asia and Africa, the next generation of Africans may find themselves facing infertility challenges as more and more couples postpone childbirth.

…despite having twenty-nine of the world’s thirty-one high-fertility countries…fertility rates are expected to fall by 2030 and possibly below by 2050, due to the rapid economic growth. According to an article in the Economist in 2009, ‘An emergent African middle class is taking out mortgages and moving into newly built flats—and two children is what they want. 

When the fertility rate falls below 2.1, the replacement rate (of people being born versus those dying) can cause an imbalance between the young and old generations, resulting in concerns about whether there are enough people to take care of the aging population and enough new workers to keep the economy going.

 

The Big Lie enters the market at a time when conversations around working families reproductive choices have captured the zeitgeist with renewed intensity. Anne-Marie Slaughter’s instantly viral article “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All” and Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In have influenced the discussion around the challenges women face on the job when planning for a family, and when they become mothers, if they choose to do so.

Selvaratnam represents women who have leaned all the way in—and must now balance career demands with the reality of their biological clocks (if they choose to have children) and the exorbitant costs of assisted reproduction, if necessary. Though she focuses solely on getting pregnant, not the costs of taking care of them, high mortality rates and undeveloped or developing economies of the most reproductive nations, her book is uniquely global in perspective and class-aware, expanding the conversation from privileged women at the highest echelons of society to women with less financial resources who endeavor to navigate the expensive morass of the fertility economy.

The Big Lie: Motherhood, Feminism, and the Reality of the Biological Clock by Tanya Selvaratnam

Prometheus Books | 2014 | ISBN: 978-1616148454

Review by Nana Ekua Brew-Hammond

NANA EKUA BREW-HAMMOND-headshotNana Ekua Brew-Hammond is the author of Powder Necklace. Named among the 39 most promising African writers under 39, her work will be featured in the forthcoming anthology Africa39. She blogs at People Who Write.

 

São Tomé and Príncipe: Travellers | Conceição Lima

They bore sunsets and roads
Thirst for the horizon called them

– Who do you belong to?
Who are your people?

That’s how our grandmother held out
A mug of water to the traveller

 

Vijantes

Traziam poentes e estradas
A sede do horizonte os chamava.

– A quem pertences tu?
Quem são os da tua casa?

Assim estendia nossa avó
A caneca de água ao viajante.

 

Translated by Stefan Tobler. Culled from Poetry Translation Center.

 

Conceição Lima is a Santomean poet from the town of Santana in São Tomé, one of two islands in the small nation of São Tomé and Príncipe situated in the Gulf of Guinea, off the western coast of Africa. She studied journalism in Portugal and worked in radio, television and in the print press in her native country. O Útero da Casa (2004) was her first book of poetry and Her second collection A Dolorosa Raiz do Micondó, was released in 2006. Her third, O País de Akendenguê, was published in 2011.

 

 

I am from pass your exams in ten subjects: Viola Allo

The African Book Review met with finalists for The Brunel University African Poetry Prize to discuss their poems, inspirations, and hopes for the future of African Poetry. Here’s our interview with Viola Allo, a Cameroonian poet, whose poem “From Farm to Schoolroom,” provides an in-depth look at growing up in Cameroon.

ABR: What inspires you to write poetry and what inspires your poems?

Viola Allo

ALLO: The thing that inspires me to write poetry is mysterious. I have a hard time trying to describe it. What I know is that writing poems makes me happy. I love the joyful feeling I get from the process of crafting a poem, even when the process is frustrating and unpredictable. I am committed to writing poetry, and I am committed to staying with the creative process. At times when I don’t feel inspired, this commitment keeps me going. Lots of things inspire particular poems, and sometimes multiple things come together to inspire a poem—events, memories, dreams, people, conversations, emotions, images, stories, poems by other poets, objects, places, ideas and issues I want to work through or speak about. Being a poet has helped me see life as something filled with countless poetic possibilities.

ABR: Your poem, “From Farm to Schoolroom,” which is a finalist for the Brunel African Poetry prize, describes growing up and going to school in Cameroon.  Can you talk a bit about the inspiration for this poem and the process of compiling so many different things to produce an in-depth snapshot of life there?

ALLO: I love the way you describe my poem. It makes me feel that it is a success—that you were able to read it and see things in it that I see. “From Farm to Schoolroom” is a “model” poem. I wrote it five years ago, as part of an assignment in a poetry workshop. I modeled it on George Ella Lyon’s poem, “Where I’m From.” That was the assignment the professor gave to our class of community college students—to read George Ella Lyon’s poem and then come up with our own versions. It is a classic “list” poem. When I began working on the poem, I wrote down my list of things that I thought would describe what it was like for me to grow up in Cameroon and leave the country after so many years of being educated there. The poem evolved as I created my list and revised it.

I have several versions of the poem, and I titled one “Education” because schooling emerged as a central theme in the poem. School was a big part of my life in Cameroon. School is a big part of life for many children in Cameroon.

Education is more than simply valued by many Cameroonians—it is celebrated. Education just made sense as the central theme for the poem.

Food is also an important theme in the poem. I come from a very agricultural region of Cameroon. My ancestral homeland is a fertile place, and the farm itself is the first schoolroom. Life there, in essence, revolves around food and farming. Also, plantation agriculture is an important part of the Cameroonian economy, especially in the tropical south. If you visit southern Cameroon, some of the first things you will notice are the vast, seemingly endless plantations. The cultivation of food and the preparation of food for consumption are so central to life and community in Cameroon, I couldn’t help but have the poem begin with food and some of the utensils used for food preparation.

Many of my poems about Cameroon are descriptive in a very subtle or deliberately ethnographic way. It’s not just my background in anthropology coming through. It’s my desire to give my audience a “snapshot” or an intimate view of things, even if only through my eyes.

 When I think about things, I am always shifting perspectives, zooming in and then zooming out, trying to make sure I see everything, if possible. I am looking at my experiences but also thinking of other people, thinking about history, about contemporary issues.

The poem is so multifaceted because that’s the way my mind works—and the way life works. In life, many things happen at the same time and affect each other. As human beings, we are products of so many different forces and factors coming together. Local and global things shape us. The past, present and anticipated future are powerful influences in our lives. We cannot measure all the forces and events that affect us, but we can be aware of them. In this sense, “From Farm to Schoolroom” is a very ambitious poem. It contains an awareness about many things, and the result is a bit messy and straightforward but quite comprehensive.

Continue reading “I am from pass your exams in ten subjects: Viola Allo”