Editors choice

Tsitsi Dangarembga

 

Tsitsi Dangarembga pic

Nervous Conditions has been at the top of my reading list for many years. It made it to the number one slot when a friend of mine in Gambia, who loaned it, held it in front of me and said, “have you read this, yet”? The cover stared at me as I mentally ticked it off as, ‘just another book I have to read’. She said, “here’s your book back – please read it, you have to read it’ – so I did. Thank you Musufing!

 

 

Now having done so, I can’t even tell you the single or main element that makes this book so special. I enjoyed it because it is simply written, exposing many truths. Too many truths that I think we often want to ignore or acknowledge, as Africans, as women, as humans. These truths, issues and problems are both specifically African, and not. A discussion on eating disorders, especially in regards to young people on British television recently was screening in the background as I read, experiencing the struggle of one of the protagonists, Nyasha, as she slowly unravelled and lost control of her life, whilst attempting to control it, through eating a large meal, which her family demanded she do, then vomiting it out in secret. Imagine in 1960’s Africa how this was perceived? A disobedient, ungrateful girl who was regarded as ‘too English’ by her peers and extended family yet she was desperately trying to re-adjust herself, recognising that the Western influence in her life, was far from benefiting her, now that she had returned home. Can Nyasha recover from this? Tambu, her poor cousin, can see her deterioration, but is too scared to tell her family that something is desperately wrong with her cousin. She is conflicted by not wanting to be disrespectful to her elders, which could also lead to her being removed from the household now providing her with a  ‘privileged’ education, especially Nyasha’s father Babamkuru, the most revered member of the family (except it is his wife’s money not his degrees that feed his extended family.) Yet no-one realises or wants to acknowledge that Maiguru is as educated as her husband, she is visible only as his pacifier and cook on the family homestead when they visit. Tambu does eventually stand up to him on an issue that she cannot reconcile though.

 

 

Fifteen years after this book was first published the issues that this family faces in ‘post Rhodesia’, are just as prevalent today. The role and place of women in (East) African society, class issues (generally, in Africa) is told honestly. Its rebellious and revolutionary without screaming and  shouting it in your face.

 

 

Heralding education as a means to uplift families from poverty is no doubt, important but should not transcend everything else. Education that is supposed to bring us salvation, education that our parents save and slave, for can enslave us. It becomes a cruel overseer if not balanced with everyday life, and community based, education. ‘Westernised’ education and our traditional cultures can strip us of our freedom without also incorporating basic common sense, morals and values. This is what sat with me after my first reading.

 

 

Nervous Conditions is a book that I am going to recommend for struggling fiction writers to read; it is a lesson in how writing ‘what you know’ allows you to tell a story simply and effectively. It’s a study in effective characterisation; tension building, use of conflict, how to write a memorable opening and a strong closing without ending; how to incorporate issues that are at the same, local yet global… (everything those expensive creating writing courses and degrees attempt to make you do). Just read Nervous Conditions – one of the best fiction courses you can take, in barely 200 pages.

 

Kadija Sesay
Publisher

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Raw talent

Sheriff Jaiteh

sherriff Jaiteh landscape correct  raw talent
Sheriff Jaiteh, a 21 year old, was born, raised and schooled in a suburb of Serrekunda called Bundung, The Gambia. He did six years of elementary school in Bundung Lower Basic, then proceeded to CharlesJjow Memorial Academy for his Junior High and then completed his High School at Nusrat High. Sheriff earned a Diploma in Marketing and Public Relations at SBEC College. Sheriff has been inspired by the works of Abdoulie Jobe, a young Gambian who now resides in Croatia. In June 2014, he, with fourteen other young Gambians, published a poetry anthology called A Harvest of Gambian Lines, the anthology consists of 208 poems, twenty of which are his.

 
 

THE DESERT AND THE SEA

The lesser the beams you see

The more light you yearn for

Liked a famished werewolf

At the peak of a full moon

In the heart of a forest

 

See that streak of lightening

The way you stare at it

With your almost unmoving eyes

As if something destine was awaiting

And you could just clutch it off if you wish

But you wished you knew more

 

We were told that

The desert is not so fatal

That in its aridity lies water

An oasis

Trees to Feed our starved selves

shade us while we

Rest the moment away

Without worrying about

The rest of the journey

All we needed was a pair of good shoes

And a little bit of courage

 

And then we were told about the sea

That it is not as deadly as it looks from afar

That the waves we see

Will calm down when they feel a boat

A human soul just passing

That water is peace

It would not take the beat of an innocent heart

That we wouldn’t drown even if we tried

Because there are sea creatures to save us

This is what we were told

Over and over and over again

 

But were never told

That the desert has no end

It just goes further and further

That on the desert

The sun does not just shine

It burns

Even a simple comprehension becomes a hitch

That the oasis is next to impossible to find

We will run out of water three times

Before we get to it

And we will be known as the dehydrated travelers

 

We were never told that

That the sea is the beast

Not the peace they said

That the tides will rise above our heads

Showing us every face they took

That will See every drowned human soul

Swimming under our boat

That we would stare at death in its face

And our souls could be shown to the next boat

 

This journey is like the first installment in “the Hobbit” franchise

An unexpected journey

Not in a land of oaks and dragons

Elves and wizards

But in ditch with guns and bombs

Kidnappings and ransoms calls

Unending sand and sea monsters

And we still were not told

That even if we make it

We will never be the same again

 

Pardon me if am not ready

To go through all these for a

40 euro monthly allowance

For when the revelation came

And the scriptures were decrypted

The only things obvious were:

The screeches of dying dreams

The odors of tailored failures

The breezes from the rivers of blood

The whines of their waning sailors

The darkness in their shallow words

The OMGs

The thousands hitting flat lines

The heaps going just stuck

And the champions that became broken

Haven’t you seen a son of anarchy in me?

A walking corpse but heart still beats

Call me a coward

For I would rather continue staring

At that streak of lightening

Than trade my soul for a piece of

A dead dream

Pardon me if I

A young African leader

Is too scared to throw away our continent’s future

In a desert or a sea

Truth is

I have the courage no to

Pardon me if I refuse to let my

Corpse be piled up with others

Like a piece of garbage

So no, we were not told to say this

But I will say no to illegal migration

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