African Letters aims to present Africa's contemporary literary identity—especially as it relates to books, writers, publishing, and literary events—to a worldwide audience.
‘An elemental narrative’ is the description we should use for a story that transcends genre. Our understanding of ‘elemental’ relates to what is ‘essential’ or ‘a basic part.’ It means that our elemental narratives always bear the premise that we are writing a ‘basic’ story that touches at the heart of who we are and what we have become. The goal of the writer will be to write a story that is as elemental as a shared humanity, those recognizable qualities that makes us human, and sometimes inhuman.
I will argue for a new Nigerian literary order.
Suppose we call this ‘neo-literariness’, for want of a better word, and because in hyphenation a word acquires two identities. So, neo-literariness is the word to use for a generation of writers and enthusiasts who function despite institutional lapses, and whose artistic engagement thrives of new ways of being, especially web-technology.
I will explain with a few examples.
INTRODUCTION: I have interacted with Dami Ajayi more than any other writer in this series; easily he was the choice for the final conversation. I have lived with Dami, shared books with him, written about him, dreamt with him, fought literary wars with him; together we have co-founded a literary magazine, organized workshops, readings, etc etc. He's kin, as well as colleague. So readers will notice how we easily lapsed into ourselves in the following conversation, referring to subjects and experiences that is peculiar to our shared moments. Even more when we go back and forth about my new novel.
Ayodele is one of the most consistent Nigerian writers of the last half-decade. She’s the oldest writer in the Gambit series, although I wouldn’t want to ask her if she’s comfortable being grouped with younger colleagues. I figure that question would be answered with a wave of her hand; Ayodele gives the impression that even the most obvious of borders doesn’t exist. Meeting her in person, I was drawn to her infinite knowledge about everyone and everything in the literary world.
I first found Abdul’s name on African Writing, I think. I was then searching for writers to include in this project, writers who were, should I say, ‘within reach.’ Indeed, Abdul was. This conversation demonstrates, in an interesting way, how his creativity seems bared, in an open-ended way, so that it seems possible to discover the extent of his nuances.
It is best that Richard speaks for himself, that I present this conversation without remarks. For suddenly, in need of an introductory note, I find that I have none, and that Richard’s responses sparks of completeness. In fact, I had no reason to respond to his first responses – perhaps silenced by the lengthiness and profundity of each response. And knowing Richard, knowing him as the Chief Operating Officer of Parresia, publishers of my first book, and having met him only once, yet feeling that I have known him for a much longer time, I daresay that I expected to be knocked down by the weight and compulsiveness of his erudition.
We began with an oral conversation, recorded with my phone, in her sitting room, since we happened to be in Ile-Ife together at the moment. A conversation that cannot be made public, at least for now, for the simple fact that we were so self-aware, so within the cocoon of our ‘literary ties.’ When I used those words – literary ties – Ayobami had a good laugh; earlier I had mentioned that I couldn’t extricate our friendship from our creative comradeship. This friendship, which has now spanned close to five years, began simply, when I asked her if she writes.
I wrote to Dango: “This, my friend, is a feat of spontaneous introspection, and that has been my aim for this project from the start. I always imagine that I am with you in a live event, speculating on the creative process.” I had, minutes earlier, received responses to the second batch of questions. And in my mind there is nothing more to be said. Except to add that in the hours following this conversation, I have looked upon my creative duty with a newer, fresher, outlook.
I owe you, Dango, a lot.
Perhaps it’s her career in advertising that makes Suzanne a professional. I mean the practiced ease with which she responded to my questions, which although we corresponded via email, I could feel. And I am humbled by how someone with so much talent can be undemanding, moderately ambitious, as though the estimate of the literary world counts less than her estimate of her craft. There are a handful of Suzanne’s stories out there, but each story differs in range of vision, in outlook. Easily, we find a writer in search of something other than fame, something deeper, more human. Please ensure to click the links on the page this conversation appears.
I hope it will be clear, upon completion of this project, that Gambit is interested in a multifaceted rendering of artistic indulgence. That said, Donald Molosi is an example of an artist I hope to become – standing readily at the point where art out-ranges technique or form. I am equally learning that artists can be good friends, irrespective of virtual distances. I am keen to call Donald my friend, especially because he is the quickest, so far in these series, to respond to questions. His energy overwhelmed mine.