Char was kind enough to lend me a book, Uwem Akpan’s “Say You’re One of Them”
This elegantly written, colourful yet understated book tells, through short stories, of the experiences of Africa’s children. Akpan breathes life into the words and thoughts of Jigana, a street kid in Kibera, Yewa and her brother Kotchikpa, Jubril in Northern Nigeria and half-Hutu, half-Tutsi Monique, with a combination of elegant prose and blunt, multilingual dialogue.
This is the face of Iyoba Idia, the queen mother of one of Benin empire’s most powerful kings Oba Esigie who ruled from 1504-1550. It is said that without her political wisdom, Esigie would never have become king and Benin kingdom would not have gained imperial advantage over a great part of the Niger River.
The spirit of Idia so looms over Nigeria’s contemporary culture that replicas of this mask are still worn at annual rededication festivals.
The original four masks of Idia, however, were looted – along with over 3000 other artefacts – when the British ransacked the Benin empire in 1897, subsequently burning the empire to the ground and deposing its Oba [the usual story, really].
Half a century after Nigeria (including the former Benin empire) won its independence, over 600 of these bronze, copper, terracotta and ivory works are languishing at the British National Museum; an ocean away from the only original context that gives them their true meaning.
I think we have really fantastic pop music coming out of Africa these days.
I love that this music is crossing cultural barriers and that Zambians are listening to Ugandan music and Ugandans are listening to Naija music and Nigerians are playing Zambian music as their ringtones!