A Conspiracy Of Ravens – Othuke Ominiabohs.

Othuke Ominiabohs’s A Conspiracy Of Ravens.

The politics of Nigeria’s oil industry has always been as fascinating as it heartbreaking. The intrigue, corruption, and betrayal that is oft reported, to be afoot, in the media and elsewhere, is expertly articulated in Othuke’s ‘A conspiracy of Ravens’.

The book is written in a fast-paced and humorous way making it quite the joy to read. Also, Othuke is not afraid to slot in a ‘complicated’ word or two every so often throughout the story which lends a certain sophistication to the novel.

This is a book that will keep you glued to its pages until you either must absolutely put it down to attend to an emergency or you have finished reading it.

This review, of Othuke Ominiabohs’s A Conspiracy Of Ravens, was written, for Turn The Page Africa, by Lynn Gitu Turyatemba.

You can purchase a copy or more of the tile from our online bookshop by following this link A Conspiracy Of Ravens.

Questions For Ada – Ijeoma Umebinyuo

Ijeoma Umebinyuo’s Questions For Ada.

Questions for Ada is a collection of poems, but, mostly, it reads like a manual for your healing.

 

Reading the book, it is obvious that Ijeoma Umebinyuo has the uncanny ability to weave magic from her pain and the pain of others. I first saw her poems in those inspirational quotes online, and so I followed her on Twitter. By the time I got a copy of the book, I was head over heels with her personality and her sass. The book, thankfully, did not disappoint.

 

She tackles femininity, masculinity, the lives of women, mental health, colonialism, identity, and so many other important issues in a way that is both brave and compassionate. Many poems are short and poignant, suited to be daily mantras. Others are long and elaborate, especially when she wants to tell a story. Her poems are reminiscent of folklore in some parts, reflecting her commitment to authenticity and preserving our culture.

 

I like to read fast, and then come back and linger over books this good. Yet, for this book, I had to read slowly, savoring it like a good meal.

 

As a woman, reading the poems in “Questions for Ada” was an especially spiritual experience. She chided me for shrinking myself, more than once. She reminded me of my beauty, my grace, my strength, my poise. She knows so intimately the demons that black girls fight: a painful lack of self-esteem, hurt and disappointment from abusive relationships, the pain of heartbreak, the fear of love, the lack of self-love. She is the big sister and the best friend: showing you she gets it, telling you how to get past it.

 

Yet, keeping with the (in) famous feminist cry “The personal is political”, she shows how politics affects individual lives with the way she critiques colonialism and institutionalized sexism. Reading the book, it is obvious that the author is committed to speaking out about all the things that would destroy us as she so aptly described in her TED talk. This is a book I will read until the pages are frayed. A true gem.

This review, of Ijeoma Umebinyuo’s Questions For Ada, was written, for Turn The Page Africa, by Ophelia Kemigisha.

You can order for copies of more of it from our online bookshop by following this link Questions For Ada.

 

Cassandra – Violet Barungi

The cover image for Violet Barungi’s Cassandra.

Set in the Kampala of the late 1980s, and the early 1990s, the story of Cassandra, a beautiful, opinionated, somewhat sensible young woman, is predictable.

Cassandra is entangled in a sort of love triangle with two brothers – one, a famed Casanova, and the other, a stoic and moody Darcy. She chooses the Casanova, Raymond, who is estranged from his wife, has a son but treats her like a queen. Bevis, Raymond’s brother, admires Cassandra from afar and secretly believes his brother does not deserve her at all. He is, however, too gentlemanly to make any moves on her now that she has chosen his brother.

As it turns out, Cassandra’s choice of the Casanova brother is not as favourable as she hoped as she deals with one incident of drama after another. By the time the novel closes, though, Bevis and Cassandra are together and Cassandra is at the top of her career game. It can, thus, be said that all’s well that ends well.

The novel’s author, Violet Barungi, is evidently talented, weaving her words together nicely to form the story. She, also, skillfully tackles the difficult issues of that time in Uganda including the AIDS scourge and civil war making her story relatable. However, she is let down by attempting to pursue multiple storylines that she has difficulty linking effectively to each other. The reader is, thus, left with the task of trying to keep track of which character is which and how they connect to which storyline.

This review, of Cassandra, was written, for Turn The Page Africa, by Lynn Gitu Turyatemba.

You can purchase the book from our online bookshop by following this link Cassandra.

Infinite Wonders – Poetry Potion.

The cover image for the anthology Infinite Wonders.

Almost all the poems in the collection, despite the varying ways they approach life, present to the reader that which is both ordinary and overwhelming; there two lives to a poem. The poem feels like it’s re-imagining itself through the subject it’s chosen to embody.  The poem moves like it’s diving in and out of the water, gaining a slipperiness that allows us to call it “a poem and another thing” after we’ve read it. This, however, does not affect how the poem is received. While reading it, we accept that it’s creating a route to another world right before our eyes, that we playing a part in its fate, that we’re not mere spectators of an unraveling.

 

In her poem, Give Me A Poem Please, Gameedah Riffel argues that a poem is not the final word. It’s also not a single person’s word but a work of collaboration, like in cloud computing. As one moves the cursor to its head, another is changing the original contents of the body. I think this means that the writer has to be ready to let their poem go into the world for good so that it can become (like) whatever it has found.

 

Give me a poem and I’ll the words for you

I’ll swap all the letters around while also twisting the truth.

What’s false will now be believed.

What’s wrong will now be true.

Give me a poem please and I’ll show you what I can do.

 

If we think of that scenario from the “while also twisting the truth” angle, then we start to doubt the authenticity of the final poem. Is the poet a representative of our opinions or theirs? If we give him/her a poem that already bears our truths, how much distortion is he allowed to do? And what’s there to applaud a poet for if all they do is edit an already existing idea?

The poets featured in this collection have managed to create poems that exist as worlds bordering the everyday landscape. The poems are like fences, and you can lean against them as you watch the goings-on of another place. They do not stop you from escaping. Their only role is being present. However, the imagery used by poets like Kylin Lotter, Soma Bose, Ulrike Kissing, Amlajyoti Goswami and Kabelo Mofokeng cuts. It cuts so deep you have to go back and read a poem again to heal. In Goswami’s poem “Star Gazing” for example, the simple act of watching a baby play becomes an inward journey to a world of unimaginable beauty and serenity. Babies represent what has escaped the grip of an adult and now they can only see it in a different body, a little version of themselves.

 

Babies are another universe,

Sovereigns of an unexplored galaxy.

A blink holds time still,

Like gods of another time,

Sitting on lotuses.

 

In another poem about gazing at the sky entitled The Aliens Soma Bose imagines the possibility of another world beyond the clouds. But what makes his fantasy an “infinite wonder” is that the morphology of its inhabitants is upon whoever is looking (“Inside it, there may be many looks like spider, /They may look like big bug or like any creature”. “…..maybe they are robot-like machine! / Maybe they are human-like or of divine doctrine!”).

 

The sky has been a thing to marvel at, from the earliest man to the present. We wonder what could possibly be up there, and if it has a direct influence on our lives. We wonder if there’s anything worth more than space. And for those who have watched SCI-FI films, the question of whether there exist aliens, more advanced in intellect and technology than we are, comes into play.

In some of the poems in the collection, celestial (life) is a major factor; from assumptions to how aliens look to something like “The stars were silver like the fake teeth of an early twentieth-century whore” in Ali Znaidi’s poem Celestial Illumination.

 

Of all the poets featured in this collection, I am most impressed with Kylin Lotter. The imagery used in writing her poems is meant to make her stand out. I love how it feels like she has no option but to become, to shed her skin as she falls from one line to the next, like one going through tree branches. The words make her vulnerable. The words make her honest. The same words that pushed her are waiting for her on the ground. There’s no time she’s not a captive:

 

“Armour”

Let me never be sheltered again.

Let me drown my naivety in my sin.

Let me breathe in the smoke of whim.

Let the flames lick my raw skeleton.

 

“You”

but I –

but you, are just a landscape of pale skin stretched over white bones.

I could spend my days skimming, drifting, with my fingertips

across the dry ice of your subtle flesh.

 

Whenever we let ourselves to get lost in fantasies about far-away lands, we fail to notice the tangible beauty in our midst, in our own lands. I like Welcome Moyo’s poem Eternal Wonders because it makes my point valid. What makes her wonders eternal is that they are “held in between melanin and bone.” The human being, we’re convinced, is to be here forever. His body form might change but he’ll still bear something in him that surpasses all the wonders we could imagine.

 

It’s an unwritten religion to search for infinite wonders outside of us

It’s an unspoken practice to look for eternal marvels in the pastures that lay afar

In fact, very few have told of the rolling riches that quietly reside within us,

 

She says.

 

But, what do you say yourself?

 …

This review, of Infinite Wonders, was written for Turn The Page Africa, by Raymond Lule.

You can order a copy or more of it from our online bookshop by following this link Infinite Wonders