Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Telling Africa's Stories


As Africa emerges from her past.....
time, that swift wind sweeps,
history, lore and art
with the wind hurry into extinction
but ancient traditions still remain..
under the moon light we gather to tell Africa's stories
wielders of the sacred pen catch the wind
they sieve from it the yarns of history
and paint for us the visions of our lives
they preserve our culture and speak our voices
so that under the moonlight we shall gather  once tell Africa's stories...

This week on The Emerge Review, we feature our top fourteen African Authors! 
 This list is in no particular order. Enjoy!

Chimamanda  Ngozi  Adiche was born on 15 September  1977 in Enugu Nigeria, the fifth of six children to Igbo parents.  At the age of nineteen, Chimamanda left for the United States. She gained scholarship to study communication and political science at the eastern Connecticut state university. She graduated in 2001 and went to complete a Masters degree in creative writing at John Hopkins University Baltimore. Her first novel Purple Hibiscus which was released in October 2003 has received wide and critical acclaim. It was shortlisted for the Orange fiction prize (2004) and was awarded the common wealth writers prize for best first book (2005).

 Her second novel Half of a Yellow Sun is set before and during the Biafran war. It was published in August 2006. Half Of a Yellow sun is now being adapted into a movie by the British film institute.


 Zukiswa Wanner  was born in Zambia to a South African father and a Zimbabwean Mother. Her debut novel, The Madam, published in 2006, dealt with racial role reversals in post-apartheid South Africa. Her second novel, Behind Every Successful Man was published in 2008 by Kwela books. Men of the south, her third novel came out in 2010. Zukiswa has also contributed essays to Oprah, Elle and Juice magazines, and literary reviews and essays to Afropolitan and Sunday independent, as well as the International online Journal African Writing. 


 She is also a founding member of the ReadSA initiative, a campaign encouraging south Africa to read south African Works.

Unity Dow is a novelist, human rights activist and lawyer. She was appointed as Botswana’s first female judge of the high court in January 1998. Unity reckons that in writing novels she is "reclaiming the voice" to speak out on human rights and women issues. Her writings which strongly express women's struggles for equality and justice in Botswana are inspired by her immediate experiences of working to advance laws pertaining to child support, rape and married women’s property rights. Her first novel Far and Beyond describes a family in a rural village in modern day Botswana struggling to come to terms with the contradictions between traditional and western values, gender conflicts, poverty and the crisis of the Aids epidemic. 

Many of the experiences in the book reflect Dow's experiences of life in Botswana but they are not in themselves autobiographical. Dow has written two other novels, Screaming of The Innocent and Juggling Truths.

 Doreen Baingana grew up in Entebbe, Uganda. She graduated from Makerere University with a JD and from the University of Maryland with an MFA. Her book Tropical Fish Won the 2006 common wealth writers prize, best first book Africa and an AWP short fiction award.


 Her works have appeared in AGNI, Glimmer Train, African American Review, Callaloo, The Gaurdian and Kwani.

Binyavanga wainaina was born in Nakuru, in the Kenyan province of Rift Valley in 1971. He is the founder of the Literary Magazine, Kwani, which has established itself as a stimulating platform for Kenyan and African creativity. In 2001 Wainaina was distinguished with the renowned Caine prize for African Literature after his short story Discovering Home had been published in the internet Magazine G21net. The story is an author biographical narrative of the authors trip from his home in South Africa to his birth place in Uganda, where his grand parents were living. 

Wanaina's works have been published on the East Africa, The New Yorker and The Guardian.

Helon Habila was born in kaltungo  Gombe state and educated at the university of Jos and university of East Anglia England. His first book waiting for an angel was awarded the common wealth writers prize for new writing (African region 2002) and the Caine prize (2001). In 2000 he won the Muson poetry prize. He was the first Chinua Achebe fellow at Bard College (2008), a William B Quarton fellow at the university of Iowa international writing programme and the John Farrar fellow in fiction at the 2003 Bread Loaf Writers. 

Helon teaches creative writing at the George Mason university in Fair Fax, Virginia in the USA where he lives with his family.

 Petina Gappah is a Zimbabwean writer and a voice of Zimbabwe. She studied law at the Universities of Zimbabwe, Craz in Austria and Cambridge. Her short fiction is featured in two anthologies, Laughing Now and Women Writing Zimbabwe, both published in 2008 by Weaver Press, Zimbabwe. In 2007, she came second in a SADC-wide short story contest judged by J.M. Coetzee. She lives in Geneva, Switzerland with her son Kush, where she works as a lawyer for the ACWL, an organization that advises developing countries on international trade law. 

Her debut novel An Elegy for Easterlyshe dissects with real poignancy the lives of people caught up in a situation over which they have no control, as they deal with spiraling inflation, power cuts and financial hardship - a way of life under Mugabe's regime - and cope with issues common to all people everywhere; failed promises, disappointments and unfulfilled dreams. Compelling, unflinching and tender, "An Elegy for Easterly" is a defining book and a stunning portrait of a country in chaotic meltdown.

Cristina Ali Farah was born in 1973 in Italy to a Somali father and an Italian mother. Farah grew up in Mogadishu the capital of Somalia. She attended an Italian school there until the Somalia civil war broke out in 1991. In 2007 she published her first novel Madre Piccolla (Little mother). In Italy her novels and poetry have been published in various magazines such as Nuovi Argomentis, Quaderni  del 900, Pagine and Sagana. In 2006, Farah won the national literary competition “Lingua Madre (Mother Tongue) promoted by the women thoughts studies center. 

 She was also honored by the city of Torino at the international Torino book fair. Farah is also president of The Magra news agency and a writer for Caffe Newspaper.

 Myne Whitman is a pen name. She was born and raised in Enugu, Nigeria, where she spent most of her time, studying, reading and daydreaming or climbing trees and playing with the boys. She has a Master’s degree in Public Health Research but has chosen her childhood dream of spinning stories. After a few years in Edinburgh, Scotland, she now lives with her husband in Seattle, USA. She writes and blogs full-time, and also volunteers as an ESL tutor for a local charity. She critiques with the Seattle Eastside Writers Meet-up and is also a member of the Pacific Northwest Writers Association.
In addition to writing popular fiction to get people reading,

Myne is passionate about using the internet and social media to promote the book industry and literacy levels in Nigeria. To this end, she facilitated a session, "Social Media and the Book Publishing Industry", for the Publisher’s Forum at the 2010 Garden City Literary Festival, Port Harcourt, Nigeria. She is also the founder and managing editor of, a critique website for aspiring Nigerian writers.

Niq Mhlongo was born in 1973 in Soweto. He has a BA from the University of the Witwatersrand, with majors in African literature and political studies. In 2004 his first novel Dog eat Dog was published by Quela and was translated into Spanish under the title Perro Come Perro in 2006. This Spanish edition was awarded the Mar Des Lettras prize. 

Besides writing novels, Niq has written a screen play for the animated children’s TV series magic cellar and scripts for a comic magazine called Mshana, the first issue of which appeared in February 2007. After Tears is his second novel.

Brian Chikwava is from Bulawayo, Zimbabwe’s second largest city. He spent his formative years in Harare, where at popular artiste’s venue, The Book café; he regularly took part in poet’s evenings, public discussions and music performances. It is here that he started experimenting with different genres of art by collaborating with other young writers and musicians in an attempt to create new ways of presenting the African experience.

His short story Seventh Street Alchemy was awarded the 2004 Caine prize for African writing. He has been a Charles Pick fellow at the University of East Anglia and lives in London.

            Author photographer and art historian Teju Cole was born in 1975 in the us to Nigerian parents raised in
Nigeria. He is the author of the novella everyday for thre thief and the novel open city which won the pen Hemmingway award for fiction and the Rosenthal award of the American academy of arts and letters. Teju cole contributes to the new Yorker, the new York times, Tin house, the atlantic and public space. 

He is currently working on a full llenght book length non fiction narrative of lagos.

 Immaculée Ilibagiza (born 1972[1]) is a Rwandan author and motivational speaker. She is also a Roman Catholic and Tutsi. Her first book, Left to Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust (2006), is an autobiographical work detailing how she survived during the Rwandan Genocide. She was featured on PBS on one of Wayne Dyer's programs, and also on a December 3, 2006 segment of 60 Minutes (which re-aired on July 1, 2007).


Left to Tell recounts Immaculée Ilibagiza’s experience during the 1994 Rwandan genocide. She survived hidden for 91 days with seven other women in a small bathroom, no larger than 3 feet (0.91 m) long and 4 feet (1.2 m) wide. The bathroom was concealed in a room behind a wardrobe in the home of a Hutu pastor. During the genocide, most of Ilibagiza’s family was killed by Hutu Interahamwe soldiers: her mother, her father, and her two brothers Damascene and Vianney. Besides herself, the only other survivor in her family was her brother Aimable, who was studying out of the country in Senegal. In Left to Tell Ilibagiza shares how her Roman Catholic faith guided her through her terrible ordeal, and describes her eventual forgiveness and compassion toward her family's killers.

 Empi Baryeh has been writing since the age of thirteen after stumbling upon a YA story her older sister had started. The story fascinated her so much that, when she discovered it was unfinished, she knew the task of completing it rested firmly on her shoulders. And somehow the ideas and the words for the rest of the story began to pour into her mind. She’s been writing ever since.
It wasn’t until another thirteen years later, however, that the romantic in her geared her toward romance. She now focuses on heart-warming multicultural romance with enough passion to enthrall readers who want a little sizzle with their romance.

She lives in her native country, Ghana, which provides the exotic setting for most of her novels.

 We love to read your comments!


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Monday, 14 May 2012

An interview with Fast rising German born rapper and poet Mr Rehd

This week on The Emerge Review - Fast rising German born rapper and poet Mr Rehd takes us on a hilarious journey. He talks about his foray into music, his latest single "Sanusi/oil money" ( I think it's a weird one) and how reading has helped him in his career. Witty and intelligent, Mr Rehd is fun to talk to. He has an annoying habit of starting his sentences with "well" and inserting the perfunctory "you know" in the middle,you'd find "basically" @ the end of most of them! Enjoy!!


 Let's meet you

My name is Mr Rehd, a.k.a GMG,Ghana must go, a.k.a always talking about money, a.k.a I no send, make a tooth fly in the boot.. Basically.
This is serious, is this how you introduce your self every time?

Not really,but sometimes,I guess you should just.. You know, take the lids off!

You are welcome..
So how did music start for you?

Well, I won't say I was born with music but I was born into music. In my house, we had lots of musical instruments every where, my sister sings, she's known in Germany,my mother sings,my brother sings, even my cousins sing so going into music professionally was easy for me because I came from a music background. I started out dancing, from dancing I started miming then my friends took me to the studio to do a hook for them. The manager of the studio listened to it and was like "O boy! You've got a nice voice! I like your swag". For me that was a boost. From then I started doing hooks for people. I like experiencing new things so I got curious and decided to write my own song. It was like.. Plenty of bars, you know,I couldn't even count them,they were just words and words. I managed to put a melody to it and took it to my friends who were already into music and they were like woooow! I'd say that was it for me. From then I started having the confidence to do my own stuff, basically.

What's going on right now with your music,how has it been so far?

Well that's like two questions. I'll start with how has it been so far. Well it's been a looong tortuous road,you know,we've learned a lot of things, it's been a lot fun meeting people, growing in the music.. That's how it has been so far. Then...about what's going on right now, that's important. Right now we are promoting the songs. We've done singles, some of them are doing well out there in the public, we're moving on gradually. We are expecting great things in the future,new songs, more publicity, that's what's up.

Do you have any new songs you are promoting currently?

Yes, we are promoting three new songs. Actually one is not so new. It was done last year. The title is "Chop something" featuring Uk based rapper Linxman. 

 The song has enjoyed massive air play and I've got very encouraging response from people out there. I also have a song called "How Far Eko" featuring Chycopelli and another one called "Sanusi/oil money". Those are the three songs out there right now and they are doing very well.

That last one sounds interesting, Sanusi and Oil money, what's the connection? What's the song about?
Ok, Sanusi is like a slang for money, if you look at the current Naira bills,you'll see the signature of Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, that's the central bank governor. So we are using Sanusi to express wealth,you know, oil money. Nigeria is a mono economy,our major source of revenue is oil,so right now, we are talking about the wealth that could be available to every one if the money from our oil is channeled properly.


 The song sounds like a dance track, did you intend it to be a conscious song?

The song is a dance track. The lyrics aren't even conscious. It's just a feel good song. We are just saying "this is how it should be on a good day. We are supposed to be swimming in money in this country. See, we have so much money in Nigeria and people are still poor so we are saying this is the way it should be,not necessarily through the lyrics but through the fun in the music. The title is like a catcher. It's like saying "let's put away our troubles for a minute and let's celebrate. Let's celebrate our heritage,let's celebrate our culture. I mean,we already got a truck load of troubles so the least we can do is to be happy.


How do you write your songs?

Ok,to start with, I'm a lyricist. I used to write poetry way before I started writing songs. I've written a book, although it's yet to be published. Most people who know me know that I write. I Listen to music a lot. I'm a music fan. Sometimes my songs come when I'm listening to music,you know, I hear a sound, I feel good and I sing along. I may have have a melody in my head but no lyrics so I keep humming until something comes up. Meanwhile I'm a man of words so I can always pick some words as catch words. At times I may just have a thought in my head but there's no melody so what I do in this case is I expand on the thought and later a melody just comes that fit them.

How has reading helped you in your career as an artiste?

As an artiste,you're supposed to learn from the best. Somebody, a great and legendary rapper said something. He's still alive, LL Cool J. He said "If you wanna be a great rapper,try and read everything you see". I mean everything, bill boards,product labels,books.. Books are almost like,unlimited,so I read everything.

What kind of books did you read as a kid?

Books I read as a kid... I read a lot of books. I read comics,encyclopedias,my house was full of encyclopedias so I read a lot of them. I grew up in a house of books,lots of them,there were no limits, quantum physics if possible, I read them all (laughing)

Lol.. Ok. Can you remember the top five books that made the most impact on you while you were growing up?

Weeell I used to be a dreamy lad growing up, so comics was my turf basically,but I read motivational books,a lot of fiction, I read lots of foreign authors, Fredrick Forsythe, John Grisham,Tom Clancy Up Center,counter terrorism,politics,thrillers... I read across every genre,even romance. Silhouette,Mills and Then African writers, I read macmillian series, A man of the people, Things fall apart by Chinua Achebe,popular one... Arrow of God, most of those books were my literature books in secondary school. Flora Nwakpa I also read her books, I remember reading Wole Soyinka.. Really, I don't discriminate when it comes to books, although there are crappy writers out there,people who write a lot of crap so I always know before I finish the first chapter of your book if it's crap. I'll know so I'll drop it and I won't know your name. Meanwhile I like your writing.

Well it's obvious that reading has had a huge impact on you. How can we revive the reading culture in Nigeria so that more young people can enjoy the benefits like you're doing today?

Mmmm.. That's a tough one I must confess. For me personally I started reading from home, so it has to do with where you're coming from. Like, The Godfather, I read the book first,The Last Don, I read the book first. It takes time to read a book so you have to create time for it. It's a lifestyle thing. Reading is a life style, you can't force anyone to read. You can only imbibe the culture and it's a gradual subtle process. So maybe if we have the media promoting and supporting Literature Like you're doing here,then we can start making book entertainment interesting to young people. As for parents,let them buy books so that when the children come,they'll meet them,the way I met those books in my home. That's how I started. Some of my friends were privileged to imbibe the culture of reading. They were curious enough to start borrowing books and sitting down and trying to read them. When they did,they found out that "O boy there's something in here!" "Adventure dey here o!" Lol... You get it? That's how they started reading. They didn't have books but you know how books are,you can exchange one for another,buy one,before you know it,you have two. Books are like stray dogs,they'll come and visit you and stay in your home and become your own. Lol... I remember we even started book clubs then, it was fun. Another thing is, the power situation in the country is not helping issues. Most people only have time to read at night but when they want to, there's no light. Even the e-formats can't replace the real books,there is this feeling about thumbing through a book,folding the page and going out,you know,you're excited to come back and pick it up from where you stopped. Sometimes I buy a book,run through the pages brrrrrrrrrr...,put it in my nose and sniff it...(laughing)

Lol.. I do that too.

Where can we catch Mr Rehd?

You can catch me on the internet, always!

 Thank you so much for coming Rehd!

And thank you for having me here,the pleasure is all mine!

 To Download Mr ReHd's ''SANUSI'',''HOW FAR(EKO) F/ Chycopelli &CHOP SOMETIN F/ Linxman click any of these links

Monday, 7 May 2012


kpako estate is the story of Cyril, a young poet who journeys through the slums of Lagos in search of his dream. In kpako estate - a slum housing over 400 shacks and close to 2500 people, Cyril realizes that there are people there who need his help. The children who don't go to school, the girls who had taken to prostitution to survive, the guy in prison who couldn’t get justice... But Cyril can’t help them all. He finally meets an old learned gentleman with whom he could discuss poetry and politics and decides to start a school… But will it endure? Days passed and he abandoned the idea. Everyone wanted to leave kpako estate and Cyril wasn’t an exception. In Cyril’s world, everyone was a story he would tell. The stories of individuals and families who braved the odds of living in shacks to remain in Lagos... Hoping, praying and searching for the Nigerian dream....

We got on the bridge. It creaked. I stopped. “C’mon”, Dan urged me, “look out for these” he warned, referring to the wooden boards that served as the floor of the bridge. As we walked carefully down the narrow bridge, I looked down at the still black water under us. Our shadows were silhouetted against the moons reflection on the surface. We looked like weary pilgrims trudging on, to a holy city.

On the other side of the bridge, the ground was very slippery. I almost slipped once but I quickly steadied my footing by grabbing Dan's shirt. Had he not been a stout guy, we would both have toppled to the ground like lazy bags. Dan remarked jokingly that I almost slipped because I hadn’t been taking "Jedi Jedi" and "Jedi Jedi" he said, would help reset my rickety hips. We laughed heartily over the incident and continued down the road to a very large compound on the right. A water tanker was parked beside the old rusty gates that hung reluctantly from the dismembering pillars that held them. The gates were open.
"This is the place" Dan said as we walked in.
"Wow" I let out slowly.
"What is this place?"
"Was this where I was going to be staying?"
Questions raced through my head. My mind returned to the telephone conversation I had with Dan three days ago. He'd told me that the place he lived in was called "kpako estate".  The name sounded funny to me, but I waved it off as some Yoruba word so I didn’t bother to ask him what it meant. Besides, my problem was a roof over my head, every other thing was secondary. My God! This place was like a refugee camp! There were wooden shacks everywhere, stretching...for what seemed to be miles, and miles! Most of them were very old and shabby. Torn and weathered tarpaulins hung droopily from their roofs. They looked like depressing sign posts, portraying the poverty of the people here. We walked on, past naked dirty children playing in the sand, and crazy drinking bars blaring music loud to the top of the skies. "Pass the microphone eh...Terry G...pass the microphone eh!" exploded the loud speakers from one of the crazy drinking bars, drowning the sound of the music from the other bars. The song set the place on fire. People threw away their chairs and began to dance. One girl caught my eye. She swung her hips vigorously to the beat; her breasts rose and fell with the rhythm as she threw her body into sporadic gyrations. She swerved, she bent low...low...until her buttocks caressed the floor. She rose slowly, then quickly, took several steps to her left and stopped. The men were ecstatic now. She began again, with her hands pouted in front of her like that of a kangaroo; she started the popular "Alanta swag". They applauded. She danced more vigorously, as Terry G’s voice slammed into the high tempo salsa beats with his funky slangs "Ginger ya swagger...Ginger ya swagger eh..."  The lights went off. Shouts of disapproval rent the air... "Nepa! I couldn’t help laughing from where I was standing with Dan. These people still lived I thought as we moved on. I noticed the rubbish heaps beside the shacks we passed. They rose like little hills everywhere you turned. Refuse disposal here was a problem. Thick black smoke was rising from suya and smoked fish stands. The inviting smell of food filled the air, but somehow, it was stained, by a depressing arid smell, that seemed to come and go.

 This photo was taken at kpako estate, Ajah Lagos..

In my mind a poem was already framing itself. “A conflict of two worlds" would be the title.
It went...
A lost world,
A world in peril,
Yet teeming...teeming with hope,
Groping, surviving....
Words formed in my mind, they grew as we made our way further in, into this new world, through which i was now beginning to see the extreme irony of life; the paradoxical reality of the human society. I dwelt on this as we turned right, wondering if providence brought me here. Maybe, somewhere in the corners of this place, the answers I've been searching for would present themselves. Something told me that I was meant to be here, that I had a part to play. It was that sudden intuition from within that we all feel but often ignore, that aching call, which we all fear to embrace. We passed a structure I immediately recognised as a bathroom. It was about two meters high and made from empty rice sacks sewn together and tied around four wooden stakes. The stench of concentrated ammonia hit my nose. I felt my stomach recoiling. My lungs screamed for fresh air."This place stinks" I muttered under my breath.  I'm not sure Dan heard me but he said nothing anyways. We were now in between a row of shacks. There were people everywhere. They all stared at me as we walked past their doors. Dan greeted some of them and they greeted back. I waved at a brilliant looking little boy clutching a broken turtle ninja; he smiled and waved back at me. He would become one of my students a month later. 

 John lives with his parents in a shack beside ours in kpako estate

 When we got to Dan's shack, he asked me to wait outside while he took my bag inside. I seized the opportunity to take a closer look around me. My eyes rested on the rubbish heap about eight feet from the front of Dan's shack. I mentally explored the contents: pure water sachets, cigarette butts, biscuit wrappers, milk and tomato tins...etc. While I slowly took in these details, a sweet female voice spoke from behind me in perfect English.
 "You’ve been standing".
 I turned around to see a dark beautiful round-faced-wide-eyed girl of about seventeen smiling up at me; she was carrying a wooden stool.
“Sit down”  
 She offered, placing the stool on the ground.
She repeated, tapping the stool twice. I accepted the offer and sat down.
"Thanks" I said.
 She seemed to be pleased; she smiled shyly and turned away. I regarded her as she went away with an amused look on her face. Her hair was unkempt and she was very thin. Seconds later, Dan reappeared with a steaming plate of beans and plantain pottage. "We can't eat inside" he explained. "The room (referring to his shack) is still heated up from the fire from the stove". Eating outside wasn’t a problem for me, frankly I preferred it to eating inside a little airless box as I have come to regard the shacks here. Well, I was going to sleep in a little airless box today. The thought of it amused me. We said the grace and started filling our hungry bellies".  I think I caught a glimpse of a boy's face peering from the window of the shack beside Dan’s. He must have been hungry. I motioned him to join us, but he withdrew into the shadows silently as if to say "you don’t understand".
After we had eaten, Dan ordered for two bottles of coke from the nearby store. As we sipped the cold drink, we tried to catch up on old times. We talked deep into the night. We talked about home, we talked about our girlfriends, we talked about our prospects, but we did not talk about kpako estate. There seemed to be an unspoken agreement between us not to talk about it, an unwritten law that bid us to abandon it. Yet it was there - a lingering conversation between our dreams and our current reality, our future and our past, our ego and our friendship. We went to bed and bade each other good night. Each seemed to say in his heart “We’ll talk about it in the morning” That night, kpako estate did not sleep. The night was interrupted by the sound of murmuring children and scrambling rats, the interminable humming of sickly generators, the negotiation of sex workers with their customers and creaky doors opening and closing. All wove in sublime patterns, a genre- less music that courted the night. I closed my eyes. Morning seemed far away. 

Author's note

I started writing this story when I was living in a slum like the one described above. Next editor Molara Wood had intended to publish it as a series on the Arts and culture section but Next didnt live long enough for that to happen. I have decided to post it here because as I type this, there are people still living in places like kpako estate, who struggle everyday to scratch a mere existence, who pray each day , that by some miraculous act of providence, that they would be delivered from the slum. I feel that as a writer, I have a burden to tell their story, it's the burden all writers bear. Even though it's been almost a year since I left the slums for a better life, I still hear their voices, I still hear their cries... they seem to say " you are our Voice"... and so , it would be unjust for me to bury that voice that they have given me.. it would be a violation of that sacred creed which all writers sing... that we are the conscience of society.