QPL INTERVIEWS: EFE PAUL AZINO

One of Africa’s finest Poets, Efe Paul Azino took some time to answer some questions about his craft and his journey.

Efe Paul Azino

Efe Paul Azino

He is widely regarded as one of Nigeria’s leading performance poets. Efe has been a headliner at many of the nation’s premier poetry venues. He is the founder and director of the Lagos International Poetry Festival, director of poetry at the annual Lagos Book and Art Festival, director of spoken word poetry at the Open Door Series’ International Cultural Exchange and the Lagos Black Heritage Festival. He is the producer of Nigeria’s first spoken word poetry theater production Finding Home and has performed at Johannesburg Arts Alive Festival, Ake Book and Arts Festival, Lagos Book and Arts Festival, Lights Camera Africa Film Festival, and British Council Lagos Theater Festival amongst others. He is an Osiwa Poetry Residency Fellow. For Broken Men Who Cross Often, his first collection of poetry, is published by Farafina Books.

 

  1. Tell us about the journey to the point you released your break-out spoken word piece, “This is not a Political Poem?

I started writing actively about fifteen years ago, a journey prompted by reading. I started out writing short stories. But every short story I wrote wanted to become a poem. The spoken word poetry circuit opened up in Lagos at about 2008. Anthill, a poetry and music event put together by the Okigbos (Victor and Funmi), was the first convergence point. This was also enabled by social media, Facebook particularly, which helped spread the word at little or no cost. Events like Anthill, Taruwa, Poetry Potter et al helped show the potential poetry had for created new audiences off the page. I did my rounds. Wrote more. Seized more platforms. Then signed a book/audio CD deal with Farafina in 2014.

 

  1. Do you have a philosophy for life that guides you?

I take each day as it comes. Plan your work as thoroughly as you can. Get on with it, don’t spend the whole time planning. Winning is somewhere in between.

 

  1. You have written and performed poems with themes of love, identity, advocacy, religion, and politics, do you feel a responsibility to contribute to something through your work?

Sometimes I do. But that’s entirely personal. I think you can be didactic without sacrificing beauty.

 

  1. Do you have mentors or artists that have shaped the nature of your work?

My greatest influences have come from literary fiction. I’m a big fan of Herman Wouk, Gore Vidal and Tolstoy. Maybe that says something. But I’m also fascinated by a relatively wide range of old and contemporary voices, from Langston Hughes to Seamus Heaney to Warsan Shire to Jumoke Verissimo.

 

  1. Are you creatively satisfied, and what advice would you give to upcoming spoken work artist poets taking this path?

I try to properly challenge myself. I have found tremendous value in dreaming up huge artistic endeavours, committing myself to them, and then trying to figure out how it’s actually supposed to work. I think that answers your question on creative satisfaction and serves as an advice to upcoming spoken word poets if I’m qualified to give one.

 

 

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QPL Book Review: The Wonderful Life of Senator Boniface and other Sorry Tales

 

Sorry Tales

Ayo Sogunro is well known as one of our illustrious twitter lords over on “Naija Twitter”. In real life, he is a lawyer and a human rights activist…wait, it also says here that he is a writer.

The Wonderful Life of Senator Boniface and other Sorry Tales is a collection of short stories and poems. The stories are a mix of themes that all speak to what we call “the Nigerian condition” – politics, university life, working, pastors, your car breaking down on Third Mainland Bridge and it is getting dark…

Two of the stories dabble into the supernatural, while another story has taken on a foretelling of events currently unfolding. Actually, a lot of the stories feel like predictions. It is quite apparent through the book that they all come from a personal place and are imaginings of how things could play out. Many of the stories touch on topics that Ayo tweets about. (One cannot help but wonder whether there are subliminal messages hidden beneath.) The one story that was not from a personal place, is glaringly so. Ayo attempts to place himself in the mind of a university girl, and (unsurprisingly) fails. A brave attempt I must say but he was not quite able to quiet his own voice which came through (a bit too loudly) at times. All the stories end with an interesting twist, not always unexpected, but still oddly satisfying.

Let us not forget the poems. Ayo has a way with words, this we all know, and it works for him just as well in his poetry as it does in his prose. The poems do not feel as personal as the stories do, however. They are arranged fittingly through the book so that they go with the stories they precede, but one does not get that raw, from-the-heart impression you get from the stories themselves.

All in all, Sorry Tales was a good work of fiction from a person known for stating facts and forming opinions.

QPL INTERVIEWS: WANA UDOBANG

The QPL interviewee for our ‘Poetry’ month is the lovely Wana Udobang.

Wana Udobang

Wana Udobang

Wana is a broadcaster, writer, poet and filmmaker. The themes in her work cover personal identities, women’s rights and socio-cultural realities. She has worked as a freelance features producer and presenter for the BBC Radio4, BBC world service and Resonance FM. She has been a freelance writer and contributor for Aljazeera Online, Guardian UK, NEXT, Premium Times, BellaNaija and the Huffington Post.

Wana worked as a radio presenter and producer at 92.3 Inspiration FM in Lagos, Nigeria for over six years and hosts the television show Airtel Touching Lives. A CSR programme that places the spotlight on people going through difficult and extraordinary challenges.

Wana founded the 1k4cancer initiative which to date has raised over three million Naira in funds to assist women from low income families with their cancer treatment.  She is a public speaker in the areas of gender advocacy, youth mentorship and is a well sought after moderator in the creative and culture space. She is an ambassador for the Mirabel Centre in Lagos. A crisis centre dedicated to the protection of victims of sexual violence.

As a short fiction writer and an alumni of the Farafina Creative Writers Workshop, her short stories and poems have been published in anthologies and online journal.  She is a performance poet who has graced the stages of numerous festivals across the country and her spoken word album titled ‘Dirty Laundry’ was released in 2013.

Wana is the producer of the documentary Sensitive Skin, a documentary film about the skin condition Psoriasis and the poetry series ‘Words and Inspirations’. She wrote and directed the web series Room313 about people dealing with trauma, the short film Shrink and Mama Na Boy which was directed by Imoh Umoren. As a performer she has appeared in the web series Indigo and the short film Flip.

In 2015 along with Bukola Oye of The Sole Adventurer blog, Wana co-founded the discourse initiative Art Forum Africa a platform for discourse concerning the visual arts. Wana graduated from the University for The Creative Arts with a first class degree in Journalism.

  1. Why do you write?

Writing is catharsis for me. It also helps me navigate myself, the situations around me and the world. It gives me the chance and the opportunity to ask questions, to try to make sense of things. I suppose it helps me think, ponder and meditate enough to articulate all these questions that need answering. But writing for me is also freedom.

  1. You left your broadcasting job last year; where you ever plagued with fear that you may become invisible without that platform?

I certainly was and that was probably one of the reasons it took me much longer to leave. The fear of invisibility was not necessarily about attention but it was also about the fact that I had built and cultivated a community for my work, an audience that paid attention to my interests and the things I had to say and I also earned a living from that visibility. So yes, the fear was ever present in all sorts of ways. But I feel remarkably blessed and lucky that people get me and they are so supportive. These communities, be it radio, TV, poetry, events, have in many ways become family and I have made so many genuine connections beyond work that they keep encouraging me to grow and evolve. Every now and again I feel like if I have this big project I am unveiling who will show up; but I am also teaching myself that my best days are certainly ahead of me.

  1. Do you regard broadcasting an art form, and why were you drawn to it, and what should young entrants know to be the best like you?

I think communicating is an art and broadcasting is one of many media in channelling out that art form. When I was at university during my features writing class, I would write these features about really intense subjects and I wouldn’t attain the scores I desired. I went to ask my tutor what the issue was and he said to me that I wrote about really important things but there was no personality in the writing. He said he thought that the things I wrote about would make for better radio programmes and that was how I moved to the radio class in the next semester instead of majoring in print which was my original intent. To be honest I just soaked myself in radio from that day on. I would fall asleep listening to radio documentaries on American radio works, Canadian broadcasting service online, NPR, BBC and all kinds of radio programming available online. I literally ate radio every day.

For young people wanting to get in, I think it is really important to learn about content development, programming and technical production. I think people are too fixated on being popular, people listening to them and the sound of your voice. You need to be aware of who your audiences are, what their needs are, what their wants are and then knowing how to communicate with them. It’s also important to know who you are and what you are about so that the kind of work you want to create and your message can stay consistent. Also remember that the audience can tell if you are genuine or not, so it is important to be authentic. Study, and stay a student to learning. You cannot afford to be irresponsible with a microphone. People take your words hook, line and sinker so it is vital that you stay knowledgeable on all fronts.

  1. You have evolved into an authority/advocate in the Arts space, what do you want to work on personally or explore in that space the next few years?

I certainly would love to take my filmmaking up a notch, both fiction and documentary as well as my playwriting. I would really love to grow and evolve those areas of my work. I have a small production company now so I aim to grow that and increase the structure and output as we move along. The kind of work we will create will start to define itself as we evolve.

  1. Your work shows a lot of vulnerability in the subjects that you treat using film and writing, what do you want to contribute to the bigger picture?

I hope that I am able to create honest work and work that makes people want to be honest enough about their experiences. The bigger picture is for people to feel a sense of liberation, for empathy to become second nature. I think there is a transformative element to art and creativity and I hope my work will one day stand in that gap.

wana2

 

STORY, STORY

 

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The main purpose of narrative writing is to tell a story. Its goal is to answer the question: “What happened then?” Novels, short stories, novellas, poetry, and biographies can all fall in the narrative writing style. The author creates different characters, and then tells the reader what happens to them. Narrative writing has definite and logical beginnings, intervals, and endings. They often have such situations as disputes, conflicts, motivational events, and problems and their solutions. In a lot of narrative writing, dialogue is an essential tool used to drive the story forward.

Usually, narrative writing is categorized as fiction, which is writing based on made-up characters and events that never actually happened. The other category of writing is known as nonfiction – writing is based on real characters and events. However, some nonfiction can in fact tell a story. These classify as narrative writing. Autobiographies and biographies are examples of nonfiction narrative writing, as they tell the real story of a person’s life.

Characteristics of Narrative Writing

There are specific traits every piece of narrative writing should have:

  1. All stories must havesubjects, known as characters. Every story needs characters to either push forward the plot, or react to the events in the plot. There are also specific types of characters that are necessary in order to create a developed story. Stories will often have a protagonist, who is the central character of the story. Often, there is also an antagonist – a character who opposes the protagonist.
  2. In addition to characters, every story must also have a plot – events that occur. Think of your favourite book, what if none of the events in that book had happened? Take away the plot, and characters would just be sitting around doing nothing. Would it still be your favourite book? Every story needs a plot or events that give the characters something to react to. Usually, the plot consists of five components: exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution.
  3. One of the most important components of a story is the conflict. A conflict is any struggle between opposing forces. Imagine a story where there were no problems; the characters simply lived their happy lives with no troubles and nothing difficult to deal with. Would that story interest you? Probably not. Conflict is very important to creating interest in stories. Usually, the main conflict is between the protagonist and the antagonist, but that is not always the case. The struggles can exist between society, within a character, or even with acts of nature. There are two basic types of conflict: internal and external. Internal conflicts are the struggles that occur within a character, and external conflicts are the struggles outside of a character. These can occur between two characters, between characters and society, or between characters and natural events.
  4. Setting is another important component of narrative writing. The setting is the time and location in which the story takes place. These facts set the scene for the story and can determine what kind of conflict occurs. For example, if a story is set in the 1800s, can the protagonist have a conflict that involves losing his cell phone? Unless the story is about time travel, the answer is no. The setting can also be important to plot twists if the reader makes assumptions about the time or place that turn out to be false. Overall, the setting has an important impact on every story.
  5. One last component of narrative writing:point of view. Point of view is the perspective in which the story is told. The two main points of view are first-person and third-person. If a story is told in first-person point of view, the narrator, or person who is telling the story, is a character in the story. In this case, the narrator is telling his personal thoughts and opinions within the story, using the personal pronouns me, my, and I. If the story is told in third person, the narrative is told from the point of view of all the major characters and uses the pronouns he, she, it, they etc.

QPL Book Review: Satans and Shaitans

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Want suspense? Want suspense set in Nigeria? Want suspense set in Nigeria with an eerily realistic almost prophetic premise? Well look no further! This first book by Obinna Udenwe is a thriller very worth the read. Obinna took several situations we are facing in Nigeria and managed to weave them expertly into this thick web of intrigue and thrills. All through the book you will keep asking: “Are you sure this is not how it really happened? But, how did he know?”

 

Granted, there are elements of the book that could have been done without. The love story was told from such a point of innocence it is so endearing you (almost!) forgive the gaucheness.  But definitely, Satans and Shaitans delivers on the thriller part. The intrigue is just enough to still be believable. The ending…go read the book and decide for yourself.

 

Be on the lookout for surreptitiously placed messages from which all of us can learn.

PAINTING PICTURES WITH WORDS

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Descriptive writing is a style of writing that focuses on describing a character, an event or a place in such a way that a picture is formed in the reader’s mind. It is common through every genre, and can be incorporated into every piece of writing in some form. Most writers find it easier to describe things that the character can actually see, so it occurs most often as first person narrative. It is sometimes poetic in nature, with the author specifying details rather than just providing information of that event.

Capturing an event through descriptive writing involves using words that engage as many of the five senses as possible. Do not just say:

The vampire killed his lover.

Change the sentence and add on more details:

The bloody, red-eyed vampire sank his rust-coloured teeth into the soft skin of his lover and ended her life.

Here are some examples of descriptive writing techniques that you can effectively apply to your own writing.

  1. Identify your focus: When you first to begin to write, it is extremely important to decide what your topic is going to be. This will prevent you from losing focus on the theme or main idea of your writing. When you decide what you are going to write about, you can then begin to add details about the specific event, object, or person.

 

  1. Use of words: Your word choices help the reader to create mental images. Use adjectives to make your writing more detailed.

 

For example, rather than saying: The dog sniffs around.

Say: The big, brown dog sniffed around the red rose bushes in the front yard.

The use of ‘big,’ ‘brown,’ ‘red rose bushes’, and ‘front yard’ assists the reader in visualizing the whole event.

By using words associated with taste, smell, hearing, sight, or  touch, you create opportunities for the reader to develop an emotional connection to your writing.

 

  1. Re-read and redo: Re-reading what you write is an important step in the descriptive writing process. This gives you time to review, and determine whether you need to add more details to what you have written.

Be objective. Put yourself in the readers’ position and ask, ‘Would I be able to understand the main topic of my writing if I had no prior exposure?’

Always remember, good descriptive writing is done well when any reader can understand the main topic of your writing.

Not a Penny More, Not a Penny Less by Jeffery Archer

Not A Pennny More, Not A Penny Less new cover

I stumbled on this book by accident. I was somewhere I would have preferred not to be and I was looking for a way to escape. It was a small book; light, not up to 300 pages. “Not a Penny More, Not a Penny Less by Jeffery Archer”, the cover said. The back described the book as being about “a group of men duped by a callous businessman, who decided to get back the exact sum they lost to said man, not a penny more, not a penny less”. The premise sounded interesting. Moreover, as I had said, I needed an escape. I dove in.

From the first page, I was transported into their world. They had had their life savings taken away from them by an unscrupulous businessman, and the law said there was nothing that could be done. I was taken into the mind of each man as he dreamed of the riches he had been promised. I ached with them as they dealt with the shock of their massive loss. There was this one character, a minor nobleman, who had used his inheritance in a bid to prove to his family that he was not a complete failure. I clutched the book to my chest in an effort to hug him as he wondered how he would ever face his family again. Then one of them got angry and began to plan. Then all the fun began.

The book was primarily in England of the 1960’s with a few jaunts to other locations in Europe. The story was well paced, and laugh-out-loud funny. It was Jeffery Archer’s first book but thank heavens not his last. I (of course!) have read all the others and his writing style has been consistent throughout. He slowly draws you in until you are dead centre in the story living every moment with his characters. “Not a Penny More, Not a Penny Less” still remains my favourite.

Editor

 “LET ME CONVINCE YOU”

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The purpose of persuasive writing is just as the name implies – to convince readers to agree with the author’s point of view.  Unlike expository writing, persuasive writing contains the opinions and biases of the author. It is often used in letters of complaint, advertisements or commercials, affiliate marketing pitches, cover letters, newspaper opinion and editorial pieces, and online “think pieces”.

Three techniques used the most in persuasive writing are:

  1. Ethos: Ethoscan be defined as ethics or morality; by appealing to credibility, writers can make their claims more believable. This method in writing is used to convince your audience of your goodwill, or good moral character. In order to find you credible, the audience first needs to determine whether or not you have good intentions and/or a strong understanding of the topic. It is your job as the writer to present yourself as trustworthy.

e.g.  As an English teacher of twenty years, my experience gives me keen insight into this issue.

 

  1. Logos: Writers can appeal to logic when writing to persuade using the appeal known aslogos. This method uses rationality and reason to convince the audience of your point of view. Think facts and evidence that are difficult to dispute.

e.g.  If you know jumping off of a cliff would most likely kill you, you probably wouldn’t make the jump. What makes drunk driving any different?

 

  1. Pathos: Possibly the most important appeal for persuasive writers is the appeal to emotions, orpathos. “A successful pathetic appeal will put the audience in a suitable mood by addressing their knowledge of or feelings about the subject” (Mendelson). This is the opposite of logos because it is an argument without the use of reason. Many consider anger, fear, and empathy to be strong factors in influencing audiences, making this method of argumentation a worthy one. This can be a very effective way to win over an audience.

e.g.   How many homeless people have you passed on the street this week? Can you imagine what it must feel like to sleep in on the cold ground in the middle of nowhere? To go to bed hungry and cold every night? We need to stop ignoring this issue and start helping, because these people are the victims–not the enemy.

The best persuasive writing use an effective combination of all three forms.

QPL INTERVIEWS: JIMI DISU

JIMI DISU

Jimi Disu

Jimi Disu is veteran journalist covering politics in the span of his lengthy career in the fourth estate. His interviews with high profile Nigerians have been featured in THIS DAY and Vanguard newspapers, and he has made guest appearances on Channels Television’s “Sunrise morning show”. Currently, he runs a Saturday morning show on TV Continental, serves as a resident analyst on Front Page News and anchors a programme called “Discourse with Jimi Disu”. He has been a judge for over ten years in the famed Diamond Award for Media Excellence (DAME), an award organisation for media practitioners in Nigeria.  He is the author of recently released essays – For Sam: A Collection of Contemporary Thoughts – consisting of interviews of notable Nigerians that he has conducted over the years.

 

  1. What would you describe as the highlight of your journalism career?

 I think the highlight is what I am doing now. I am doing two radio programs that have been highly acknowledged. I have worked in the media up to director level and this is like a good pension plan for me.

 

  1. How did you get into journalism?

I didn’t get into it, I was born into it. Way back in primary school – Corona, I had been involved in magazine production and writing, and television programs.

 

  1. You have conducted interviews with high profile Nigerian leaders, what would you say is good leadership?

Good leadership speaks for itself. Leaders must have a vision and be prepared to make sacrifice for those they are leading.

 

  1. For Sam is your first book. What was the central idea you were trying to illuminate through the interviews with your subjects in the book?

Their thoughts, simple!

 

  1. For young aspiring journalist, what would you advise is the best way to tell a story through an interview?

Most important develop your style and stick to it.

See you at his book reading coming up on Saturday, 20 February by 4.30pm at Jazzhole.

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Half of a Yellow Sun

 

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Half of Yellow Sun is a story set in Nigeria’s tumultuous past. It begins shortly after Nigeria gains independence and ends with the ending of the infamous Civil War. This is what most people will tell you; it is the “take away” of the book.

But it is more than this. It is a tale of emotions, fleeting everyday thoughts, fear. A tale of new beginnings, and love, and shame, and jealousy, and hopeful redemption. Chimamanda draws you into the mind of every character. You live their life with them. You feel what they feel. You cringe and blush at Richard’s gaffes. You grow giddy with Olanna when she thinks of Odenigbo. You learn English, and reading and writing anew with Ugwu. Guilty of the sin of having glimpsed the movie (I swear! It was just a glimpse! It meant nothing), I should add that the casting for the movie was superb. Although, in all fairness, Chimamanda gave them all they needed to be able to completely take on their roles. The book’s characters are so well developed you can see each one in your mind’s eye. You get to understand them so well, their decisions almost come as no surprise. Her depiction of her characters; how deeply she helps us identify with them; that is what makes it so much easier to see the war and feel its devastating effects as they did. 

Half of a Yellow Sun was a great read. Come for the history lesson, stay for the compelling characters.