OF STEAMY SECRET LOVE AND A SEASON OF CRIMSON BLOSSOMS.

First published in the East African Newspaper.

Senegalese author Mariama Ba in her much acclaimed novel So Long a
Letter shines light on the stifled lives of women she perceived
growing up in Senegal.

In the book, Ba highlights the helplessness, sorrow and resignation of
the protagonist, Ramatoulaye. We are taken into the intricacies of
Ramatoulaye’s life when, after the death of her husband, she writes to
her best friend, reminiscing about the past and also speaking about
her present  state as a widow in a very  conservative  and patriarchal
Muslim society. Through this book,   Ba discloses for the first time,culture and its stifling effect on its women.

I have just finished reading a book I dare term the sequel to Ba’s. It
is the debut novel of  Nigeria writer Abubakar Adam Ibrahim. Seasons
of Crimson Blossoms  tells the story of Hajiya Binta Zubairu, a  55
year old widow in conservative  northern Nigeria who decides to,
against conventional wisdom, fall in love with a younger man in his
20’s. Abubakar rebirths Ramatoulaye. He also modernizes her and
boldens her by making her more in charge of her own life choices.

It was Leo Tolstoy who, at the beginning of his controversial classic
Anna Karenina, declared that every unhappy family is unhappy its own
way. As Season of Crimson Blossoms begins, the widow Hajiya Binta
Zubairu’s family is unhappy in its own way. Having lost her husband to
a mob of religious zealots in Jos and her first son Yaro at the hands
of police, Binta is deeply unhappy. She lives with her sister’s child
Fa’iza who is also haunted by a violent death she witnessed.

Binta , whose story is set against the backdrop of the  volatile
north, leads the ordinary, quiet life of a faithful Muslim housewife;
performing her ablutions, saying her Subhi prayers, reading the
Qur’an, attending Madrasa  and sewing. Besides this, the only other
thing she seems to do is steep herself in regret and nostalgia,
thinking about how she could have  better loved her deceased first son
whom tradition forbade from showing affection.

All this changes one afternoon when Binta returns from Madrasa to find
a youthful burglar named Hassan Reza Babale in her house.  He cames to
steal her property but leaves instead with her heart. She warms up to
his touch, the first male touch since her husband died a decade
earlier. A pious person, she is of course appalled when the masculine
touch arouses deeply buried sexual feelings and is quick to blame
Shaytan for sowing impious thoughts in her mind. Reza manages to
successfully awaken her long abandoned womanhood.
We sense that this encounter, grimy as it is, is the turning point of
Binta’s life. The author writes:
‘He took her things and left, having sown in her the seed of her
awakening that would eventually sprout into a corpse flower, the
stench of which would  resonate far beyond her imagining …’

Abubakar masterfully curves out the tale from this point, putting into
it just the right amount of suspense to whet our appetite for more and
then breaking our hearts with the harsh, judgmental, self-righteous
reaction of, not only her closest family and friends but also the
larger society, a people that know not how to forgive and forget.

That he chose to set his novel in Northern Nigeria, a region largely
ignored by many Nigerian writers is plausible. It shows that Abubakar
is unafraid of loving his homeland, to which he dedicates the book.
And he writes with a true patriotsm, a love for his country that’s not
blind. He dares to steep the prose in Nigeria’s recent political
history, thus affirming Achebe’s long standing argument that a writer
must engage in the politics of his day.

Abubakar writes splendidly, drawing pictures with unforgettable
phrases like this:
‘She dreamt in sepia. Like rust-tainted water running over the
snapshots of her memory, submerging her dreams in a stream of reddish
brown’
The choreography of his language is brilliant and the metaphors are
breathtaking. The prose begets poetry and the phrases are so perfect
he must have bled over. His sentences have poignancy and passion.

I liked  too how he handled the female protagonist in the book. In the
liberal spirit of the 21st century, he lets Binta choose her lover
without caring that he is younger than most of her children. As a
girl, she was forced to marry a stranger thrust upon her by a
dictatorial father. As a grown woman, Binta lets sexual attraction be
the guiding light of her new relationship; a bond in which she gets as
much as she gives, a liaison in which her body is no longer a source
of shame but of pleasure to herself and the man she chooses to give
herself to.

Abubakar doesn’t paint his story with broad strokes, he pays attention
to detail. His characters are sensitive and their domestic incidences
plausible. The conversations too are delightfully realistic which
shows that the writer is an attentive observer of his surroundings. I
found my emotions enmeshed into those of the characters once  it
occurred to me that beyond the boubous, hijabs and perfect makeup, lay
mothers and sisters who yearn for  love and understanding even as
they morph from victims to creators of their own circumstances.

Abubakar has gone a step further. He has redeemed the modern writer.
Through the seriousness and thoughtfulness he accords his prose, he
has proven that the modern writer, despite endless chatter on social
media platforms, is still capable of emerging as a deep, scholarly
thinker. Abubakar has undoubtedly, like Achebe said of Adichie, also
come to us almost fully made.season

AN OPEN LETTER TO NGUGI NOT TO RETURN HOME.

glominage

Dear Professor Ngugi,
 
Even I, agree that come back  home is a very beautiful phrase. Especially when spoken to a prodigal child, an embittered spouse or an exiled writer. It could even be more tempting when uttered by not just a fellow ‘cowardly’ writer but the head of state himself. And what’s more, in your case, it was told as you received a smile here, a Ketepa cup of tea there and a handshake somewhere. Therefore, I wouldn’t judge you too harshly if you were already thinking of packing your bags once you landed in the good city of California. However, I’d like to give you some counsel on why you shouldn’t move to Kenya just yet…
First of all, moving from University of Irvin to University of Nairobi will mean that you take a huge salary slash.  As you might be aware Mr. Ngugi, our local…

View original post 565 more words

MOMBASA OLD TOWN…BEAUTIFUL KENYA

glominage

If Mombasa old town was to be a person, then, he’d without a doubt be that old Swahili pirate with lots and lots of delightful ancient travel tales and relics and a single eye as evidence of his numerous adventures.
 
A ten minutes ride on a tuk-tuk from downtown Mombasa town, past tall whistling coconut palms, will deliver you, safe and sound at the entrance of Mombasa old town. The ancient town will then, as in a time travel tale, stretch out its arms and enfold you into its rich history, taking you years and years back.
 
 Yet it is not Mombasa Old town’s history that will take your breath away at first but its 18th century artful architecture; carved and curved beautiful old buildings, elegant balconies and coral walls whose designs were influenced by Portuguese and Islamic Arab traders of old.
 
A stroll around…

View original post 371 more words

LAKE BARINGO: Mythical Waters of Seven Islands

glominage

An hour’s drive from the sweltering Marigat town will set you safely on the shores of one of the two Rift Valley fresh water lakes; Lake Baringo. Unlike its sister lake Bogoria which is salty and thus contains no fish, Lake Baringo is animate with aquatic life, from five types of fish to friendly crocodiles and  huge hippo’s. The numerous local tribes that live around the lake make it a colorful place to visit for you cannot fail to bump upon Tugens, Njemps, Maasai Fishermen and Pokots coexisting peacefully.

There are numerous myths and anecdotes that you will hear from the fishermen and the fishmongers about the 130km lake but the first thing you will notice is that the water levels have increased and thus moved towards land and submerged trees and hotels which were once on dry land.
 
And if you are a fish lover, you may…

View original post 486 more words

RHYME AND GLAMOUR AT THE 57TH EDITION OF POETRY SLAM AFRICA

glominage

On Sunday August 16th, amid the sweltering Nairobi heat, the Alliance Francaise de Nairobi hosted the 57th edition of Slam Africa competition. A stiffly contested and vibrant affair, the event started off with recitation of well crafted pieces by nine poets  and ended with one of them, Sanaa Arman taking home the trophy and the  Slam King title.
 
 The event, under the Nandi flame tree that towers over the Alliance gardens, attracted hundreds of slam poetry lovers from all spheres of life, from activists like Boniface Mwangi to academics such as Dr. Wandia Njoya and communication specialists like Dennis Itumbi.
 
The competitors thrilled the audience with creatively crafted poems that contained memorable lines and saw slam lovers snap their fingers in glee. They tackled a number of issues affecting youth in contemporary Kenya. The issues ranged from yellow fever (the youth obsession with light skin…

View original post 904 more words

NAIROBI CARTOON EXHIBITION TAKES ON OBAMA AND OBAMAPHILES

glominage

Matt Groening once said that people go into cartooning because they
are shy and they are angry yet this cannot even begin to describe the
vibe of the six Kenyan cartoonists whose works are currently on
exhibition at the Alliance Francaise de Nairobi. Using the tool they
understand best, the pencil, these artists colorfully trace president
Obama’s life from his father’s homeland in Kogelo to his visit to
Kenya in 2006 and his long awaited visit as president of the United
States.

That  the different artists’ themes intersect with underlying common
themes and bitingly funny captions  is what  keeps art lovers glued to
the walls on the first floor art gallery at Alliance;  giving it
popularity at a time when other  people complain of experiencing too
much Obama talk, a condition social media enthusiasts  have since
termed #overobama.
A number of themes are explored and the artists manage to show…

View original post 606 more words

   FOURTEEN BOOKS THAT MADE A DIFFERENCE TO ME IN 2014

GREAT READS

glominage

20150101_150123

Once upon a time, there lived a sultan who was infamous for beheading his wives after the wedding night. However, when he married Scheherazade, she vowed to use all her story telling wiles to sustain her husbands’ interest. Each night, she stopped halfway through her tales and thus earned herself an extra day alive as the sultan was so caught up in the suspense of the stories he couldn’t dare murder her before hearing the rest of the tale. In this tragic yet creative way the Arabian Night Tales were born. In a similar bone, I do hope that the listed personal favorites will whet your appetite for books and more books and thus many story filled Arabian Nights. Happy Reading.

  1. PRIDE AND PREJUDICE BY JANE AUSTEN

It is a truth universally  acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good  fortune must be in want of a wife……………

View original post 2,260 more words