Monday, July 20, 2009

From Ugandan Insomniac... (HT Kim Dionne)
If you are a fan of Chimamanda Ngonzi Adichie’s books, you have to download the BBC World Book Club podcast in which she discusses Half of a Yellow Sun.

One of things that struck a chord for me was Chimamanda’s revelation that for the first years of her life she thought about the world through the prism of Europe and America because of the books she read. For a while all her short stories were about British people and an unhealthy obsession with ginger beer.

Until I was about 9, I didn’t know it was okay to write about people like me.


I have a friend who is writing a book set in Eastern Europe with eastern European characters. He’s a Ugandan man who until a few years ago lived no where else but here. Oh, and he’s never been to Eastern Europe.

While I may be completely wrong in relating his work to what Chimamanda said, it reminded me of stuff. Like how many books by African writers must have a white man or woman in order to ‘make sense’ to the rest of the world. Like how descriptions of ourselves are not informed by what we know about our villages, our countries or our continent, but what the rest of the world thinks of us.

I am one to talk.

Looking around my house as I write this, I see that I am no different. I’ve tried to make my house as ‘African’ as possible – tribal masks from Congo and Rwanda, Masaai sculptures, Kiganda baskets, Ghanaian printed reed chairs, cow skin pouf, large picture of African setting sun … These are things I have been told by interior design magazines are elements of ‘colonial’ design and ‘safari’ living. I would never decorate my home the way my grandmother did. That’s too rural for me.

Yeah, I’m a hypocrite.


Chimamanda said what I already knew, but hearing it again, a loud brought it home.

The power of literature … stories inform how you see yourself and what you think of yourself. I often ask my friends, ‘What are your kids reading?’ It’s important to have children see that their stories are worthy of literature. It’s okay for them to read Enid Blyton, but have them read Nigerian literature as well.

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