Around the World in Words: Nigeria

I could wax lyrical about Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie all day. She is one of my favourite writers; but as I have not explored the work of many other Nigerian authors, I decided to choose someone else for my reading challenge.

There are so many to choose from: Ben Okri, Teju Cole, Helen Oyeyemi and, of course, Chinua Achebe (although I have read the latter). Every Friday, you can get book recommendations from the New York Public Library by posting #FridayReads on Twitter.

When I told them about my challenge, they recommended Akwaeke Emezi’s debut novel, FRESHWATER,  released this year. However, at the time of my conversation with NYPL, I’d already picked and read my Nigerian work; but her book had to be added to my never-ending to-be-read list.

The book I selected was one I found by chance at a sale. Titled Climate of Fear, it’s a compilation of the Reith Lectures given by the author in 2004. This introduced another format into my challenge because I mostly read fiction. The format was one motivator for the book, its author, Wole Soyinka, the other because he is the first African to win the Nobel Prize for Literature.

Other than fictional forays and fascinations, there are more Nigerian associations in my life than I realised at first. Four years ago, I worked on Big Brother Africa, and the Nigerian contestant was incredibly memorable – not least because he was the runner-up of the whole competition. The Nigerian singer Davido also featured at one of the elimination shows, and for months afterward his music echoed in my head.

I haven’t worked on a Big Brother since, but my colleagues often work on Big Brother Naija. The most recent season just ended, and the winner popped into our office while we were having something of a wrap breakfast. It comes as no surprise then that I have a Nigerian colleague, a booming-voiced charmer (as Nigerian men usually are) with the biggest comic book obsession I’ve ever encountered.

I’ve never travelled to Nigeria, but you can hardly live in Jo’burg without meeting someone who has. Hopefully, my time will come too.

We need not wait to be visited or infiltrated by beings from outer space to arrive at the same state of fear and loathing that is associated with being manipulated by a force outside our own will. – Wole Soyinka

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