Monday, 13 December 2010

THE FARCE THAT IS NETWORKING

BY WANA UDOBANG

In every part of the world, they all say the same thing. “It’s all about networking”. Networking, networking and more bloody networking!!!

What they never tell you though is that it all works like a first past the post political system. Whatever party gets more votes, its leader becomes President or Prime Minister.
Basically the more popular you are, the more they become interested. It can feel very parasitic in nature but once you see it as symbiotic, you will feel less used. The more lies you tell your brain, the more it starts to believe it.

I remember writing tonnes of proposals for syndicated radio content and trying to sell them to corporate organisations. I sat in offices for hours watching the receptionist file and polish her finger nails hoping the boss would at some point spare me a moment of his time in the middle of his supposed four hour meeting. But the boss never shows up. You just stroll out of the office with a plastic smile on your face and your tail between your legs. All isn’t lost; at least you were entertained with a bit of mindless chit chat surrounding what make of weave you have stitched to your scalp or the next best unorthodox treatment to deal with your acne. Is it toothpaste or mentholated balm, you will just have to find out.

There are also the ones that make you come to their offices, drive you around their car and apologise at the end about the lack of time to discuss your idea. Then they tell you perhaps it would be better discussed over drinks at a bar or a night club. At least the invite for drinks raises your hopes but you ponder as to whether your physical assets are truly a gift or a curse. It all culminates in a rather interesting handshake where a middle finger is scratching your palm and of course your taxi fare is paid for as compensation for your day of waste. The truth is, they meet people like you everyday, smart, enthusiastic and full of ideas. They are numb from your kind and rather pour millions in funds into the junk they have been sponsoring and financing for years. Because you see in the end, they get a percentage cut as there is always a backdoor arrangement. As for you if there is a slight possibility for a free shag by pretending to show an iota of interest in your idea, then why not.

Then you go out to events. That is because they tell you that in this town, if you have no godfathers, Its all about networking, networking and more flaming networking!!!. There everyone is shamelessly plugging themselves and it seems every conversation is a well rehearsed sales pitch. When you are introduced to the gods in charge, the ones you need to know, the ones whose names begin with the prefix “Brand manager… or one of the largest shareholders in blah blah blah”.

Their hands glide out of yours so quickly, and their glances are removed with such alarming speed, you wonder perhaps, you had just morphed into a repulsive fly that was shooed away with an invisible fly swat. Then your eyes become weary from seeing the same faces at these parties, you become jaded from small talk, and then emerges the boiling point, when you see through all the bullshit and the only words that ring in your head are “I CANT BE BOVARD

Your life goes back to normal. You work your backside off and hope that somebody takes notice and inevitably, you can earn a bit more money to kick start and finance your own ideas. Then your work starts to garner a bit of a following, and shortly after, recognition ensues. That’s when they all start to pop out of the woodworks. Mr Brand manager searches relentlessly for your telephone number even after you gave him a complementary card as advised by the “Networking Anonymous Bureau cum Association”. They will never remember the first time you met when they sniffed you like putrid fart. They will call and introduce themselves to you sycophantically throwing accolades and appellations on how much they have followed and admired your work. Then inform you about a project they have in progress, which they feel you completely embody and would be the best person to front or take charge off. They want you to become their official mascot, plus if you can think up any ideas, however tacky or nonsensical, they will pledge their unlimited support. What you discover is that now you have something. You have an audience and a consumer base.
Remember that here everyone is selling something and without customers, you can’t push units and can’t make money. So now, you have become of value. You are the gimmick to push their units; you are the strategy to prolong their visibility.
It’s a dog eat dog world as the cliché goes. As the lyrics to a certain song I know, its reads “Have you ever met a leach that’s good at saying goodbye”.
As much as you hate to believe it, networking can be an immense farce. One of three things is likely to draw them to you Money, Fame, or Power and however you choose to achieve that is at owners’ risk.

Your essence becomes narrowed down to your circle of influence.

I say just do the work and one day they will come and find you. The value you have created in the work and your effort will speak for itself despite the length of time and difficulty it may seem to achieve. But most of all when you meet people, know them simply for who they are. It is much more interesting and freeing an experience.

Thursday, 4 November 2010

FARAFINA BOOK REVIEW




Farafina Book Review: To Saint Patrick


The Farafina book review is here again! On the 6th of November, 2010 at TerraKulture, we would be hosting Eghosa Imasuen, the author of To Saint Patrick. Ace journalist, Toyin Akinosho will be reviewing the book while Wana of 92.3 Inspiration FM would be moderating.


To Saint Patrick is a work of alternate history. Set in Benin City after elections, Hadiza and Ayo, police officers are investigating a murder. They soon find themselves embroiled in a set of larger and more dangerous intrigues that could cost them all they have worked for.


What to expect? Expect to be entertained as well as enlightened! Expect to receive writing tips from accomplished writers! Expect to discuss pertinent issues about African writing with intellectuals! What more?! Expect to win free copies of To Saint Patrick and buy your favourite Farafina titles at reduced prices! I bet you wouldn’t miss this! See you there!


*Event starts at 3pm at TerraKulture, Tiamiyu Savage, V/I on Saturday, November 6 and is free to attend.

Friday, 15 October 2010

WHEN THE WRITER BECAME THE NEW ROCKSTAR

Wana Udobang

Our predecessors must probably shudder as they trod with their tripods and sit on their commodes, or better still want to crack their tomb stones into several pieces because of what has become of their great art. An art that took a dedicated consumption cum abuse of substances to attain ground breaking feat, an art that retreated them into a strange solitude and perpetually forced them to face madness head on just to be titled “Icons” decades after their demise. This same art that had sentenced them to the life of a destined pauper. Oh their spirits must contort in disbelief!!!!

Everything has changed now. If you say you are a writer, the reply tends to be a resounding “wowww” as opposed to “when are you going to stop bombing around and get a real job”. You are also likely to hear something like “I write too you know”. Of course the writing comes in different variants. From the monopolising of ones mundane and boring existence, chronicled as a “Dear Diary” on the internet, to constant whining of all your failed relationships and how you have now come full circle. You have uncovered that it was all part of the divine preparation for the new you.
It’s not that difficult to get your words into print either. Walking around Lagos, there is always an interesting character looking for how to meander into certain worlds and needs a legitimate ticket to be there. Most of the time the word “Publisher” becomes the V.I.P pass and as long as you can string two words together, you can very easily get a steady column in the esteemed publishers monthly printout and the remuneration for your supposed hard work are free tickets to just about anything going on around town. Before you know it, your face appears in a magazine with the tag line above that reads “Stars come out for new bed sheet launch”. Since we seem to run out of things to launch these days.

Thanks to the internet, Rock stars that straddle laptops as opposed to guitars are being churned out by the second. Your popularity is highly determined by how many comments you can generate per rant. As badly told as the stories are, eight out of ten times, you are likely to read a comment that says “Woww this is just fantastic”, “Your writing just blows me away”, “I really admire your courage” and the autonomous “nice one”.
It’s all a wonderful ego boost and when you get comfortable, you are likely to die in writing purgatory. Because actually popularity doesn’t mean you’re any good and facebook notes can simply epitomise non-quality controlled user generated content. And we all know there is always a groupie with the thumbs up sign ready to plaster it on a shitty note. It’s really the same in blogville. Just take a look at what im doing right now. This piece will probably be smeared with errors when I post it on the blog(dyslexia is a bitch), and you will read it and leave the comment “Brilliant…you have done it again”. The more times I do this and you tell your friends about my writing, the more it legitimises my writing status. Sooner than you know, you will elevate me to join the writing Rocker demagogues.

For now though, I will enjoy this hoax this me being a writer and hope that I don’t get caught anytime soon just before my decent from purgatory to hell.
Hopefully, I can get published in the New Yorker sometime soon and then I can claim that this piece was all part of my self deprecating sense of humour.

Friday, 8 October 2010

AAF PRESENTS LAGOS PHOTO


African Artists’ Foundation presents Lagos Photo, the first international photography festival in Nigeria
Lagos Photo aims to establish a community for contemporary photography that will unite local and international artists, through images that encapsulate individual experiences and identities from across all of Africa.
Participating artists are:
George Osodi, Kadir van Lohuizen, Lard Buurman, Juul Hondius, Hans Wilschut, Viviane Sassen, Andrea Sultiens, Henk Wildschut, Natasha Libbert, Jan-Joseph Stok, Mario Macilau, Angele Essamba, Edgar Cleijne, Anoek Steketee, Aisha Dapchi, Emeke Obanor, Olayinka Stephens, Tam Fiofori, Adolphus Opara, Andrew Esiebo, Akintunde Akinleye, Toye Gbade, Caline Chagoury, Cristina Baldan and Lara ter Veen.
Date: Saturday 9 October 2010
Venue: The New Expo Center, Eko Hotel and Suites, Victoria Island, Lagos
Time: 6.30PM
Admission is FREE
For more information, visit www.lagosphoto.org

Also check out – My Home is Here & Global Warming Exhibition – Civic Centre – 8th to 13th October 2010

FELA: THIS BITCH OF A LIFE


“Fela: This Bitch of a Life” by Dr Carlos Moore – Book Tour
Carlos Moore was a close friend of Fela. His republished biography, “Fela: This Bitch of a Life” is a moving account of Fela, told from the inside. It is also a collector’s item memento of Africa’ Musical Genius. During his stay in Nigeria, Carlos will read from the book, discuss Fela and his times with Special Guests and give several public lectures. Guests will also have the opportunity to kick back and listen to Fela favourites sung by the hip and the new.

Saturday 9 October 2010 – 4pm: Centre for Contemporary Art, 9 McEwen St, Sabo, Lagos. In conversation with a Very Special Guest.

Sunday 10 October 2010 – 4pm: The Life House, 33 Sinari Daranijo St, off Younis Bashoroun St, off Ajose Adeogun, VI, Lagos (with Keziah Jones and Guitar Man).

Monday 11 October 2010 – 10am: The New Africa Shrine, NERDC Road, Agidingbi, Ikeja. Lecture “Fela: Music is the Weapon” (Symposium titled The Fela Debates – part of the annual Felabration).

Wednesday 13 October 2010 – 11am: UNILAG, 4th Floor, Faculty of Arts Boardroom (in conjunction with CBAAC). Public lecture, “What is Africa to me? Fela Kuti and the reshaping of the Pan-African Dream in the post-colonial era.” (Free Admission)

Saturday 16 October 2010 - 4pm: French Cultural Centre, 52 Libreville St, Wuse, Abuja.

Entry Fee: All events except otherwise noted will attract an entry fee of N2000 (which includes a copy of the book)

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

SEPTEMBER 11TH

WANA UDOBANG

I had planned this party for over a year. “It has to be memorable” I would say. From the cakes to the dresses to the sitting arrangements, it was going to be the way I wanted it. There would be two cakes. One just there for when people walked into the party almost like slices of eggs and cucumber garnishing a salad tray and then the grand cake which will be cut and displayed in timeless sepia photographs. I would have three dress changes. A bit like how those women hosting Miss World pageants would change numerous times until you started to loose count.

One dress to start the party, where the photographer would immortalise snapshots of my very carefully choreographed poses and smiles, one for the cutting of my cake and the last final dress change which has to be more airy and comfortable for the part of the party programme that would read “dance dance dance”.

It wasn’t going to be bogus like the last bash the Awoshika’s from next door had thrown. They closed down the street, just to litter it with swings that barely swayed. It made unsavoury squeaky noises due to its rusty and unlubricated fulcrum. The bouncy castle was an eyesore. It seemed the children were intimidated by its mass and irritated by the generator type noise of the air pumping machine.



My party was going to be different. It would be exclusive. There was going to be a high table just like we did at the children’s harvest in church. We always waited eagerly to see whose name came out on the harvest high table list. I was still waiting for the day I would be chairlady.

There would be games, and a really good DJ. None of those clowns that made children cry, always trying to mime their way out of a box or cupboard. I never understood it. It seemed a bit daft. Who would be entertained by that. Even worse were those Michael Jackson impersonators who made up their own muffled lyrics to “Billy Jean and Thriller”

Or those Micky Mouse and Daffy Duck mascots wearing dirty white gloves we saw, at Maltina childrens parties or at Apapa amusement park, during the school holidays. I often wondered if they ever washed their costumes. Because whenever I got close, the whiff was very unappealing. A bit like a concoction of camphor and stale sweat. It’s the same way the Father Christmas at UTC smelled. I was definitely not having any of that. I would be turning five only once and this had to go down as the best and most exclusive party on our estate.



It was a month of intensive planning. Mother had bought me a suitcase of St Michael’s dresses when she returned from her trip to London . One whole suitcase of dresses just for me with even undergarments from C&A. We almost thought she wont be able to make it back in time because British Airways had delayed her flight and they said all the flights had been fully booked till the end of the month. Daddy had already started throwing hints that we might have to postpone the party and Aunty Christie would just cook rice and chicken to mark the day. I wasn’t having any of that. Everyone at school wanted to be invited but I definitely couldn’t give just anyone the invitation cards Mummy would bring from London . At least I remember Daddy used to say especially if he caught us speaking pidgin English that we weren’t all of the same class. He would say to my older brother “ you have to only walk with the same calibre of people as yourself and this vernacular is going to spoil the way you speak English”. It was why I couldn’t invite just anyone. Am I going to have Farouk on my high table? His father was the security guard to the Chinese people that owned the battery factory on Kolade street . It wouldn’t make sense. We would defiantly not be able to discuss the same things. Or even Aunty Uju’s children who lived at the Anyanwu’s Boys quarters on Suleman Close. I had heard our house girl tell someone that her husband left her because she slept with another man and had gotten pregnant. It was why her daughters Iheoma and Ginika looked nothing alike. People said they were bastards because they had no father. I couldn’t have bastards on my high table. That really wouldn’t make sense.





There were so many dresses to choose from. But I knew the dress that I would be wearing during the main part of the party. It was the same one I would use for my entrance when everyone was there. The one that I will also use to cut my cake. That same main dress I would use to snap the most photographs in. It was the yellow dress. A kind of mild lemon yellow. Not like all those jarring mustard coloured fabrics that people bought in Isale Eko then the tailor would line the part that was supposed to bellow out like a tu-tu skirt with cheap voile that made your waste itch. I didn’t like that and mummy wasn’t a fan neither . My dress was good quality from St Michael’s in London . It was real cotton not all those nonsense polyester that made people sweat and smell as Mummy would say. I even had my black court shoes to go with it.

I always overheard Mummy say to Aunty Uju. “St Michael’s have very timeless things and as far as im concerned they are the best…their stuff is not like all these Chinese wear and tear or what you people buy in aswani and tejuosho.”



The day had finally come. September eleventh. My birthday was here. I had distributed the invitation cards and all the cars were parked outside to make space for the U shaped arrangement that had been planned. Underneath the staircase was going to be the designated area for all my presents.

I went to the hairdressers for Aunty Rita to perm and set my hair. I had described the style I wanted. She would have to place a diagonal parting on the left side so that when she brushed it, a weft of hair would cover one side of my face just like the girl on the PCJ relaxer kit. But rather than the back of my hair bunched into a braid, she would roll mine into a doughnut and the colourful hair clips mummy’s sister Aunty Itoro sent from Canada would be used to hold the ring of hair in place. The party started around 2pm. I wore the blue dress I used for Aunty Itoro’s wedding as a Balloon girl on her bridal train. They had sown beads and sequins into the dress to add more sparkle. I wore my baby pink socks with lace trimmings and tiny blue bows attached to it so it could match my blue dress. After taking pictures, and welcoming my guests, I changed into my yellow frock. My friends in Karate class organised a demonstration which really impressed all the adults. At the end of the demonstration I joined them in the bow like they did in martial arts movies. The DJ played the kinds of songs we liked. TLC, Naughty By Nature, New Edition, Salt N Pepa . We played musical chairs, quizzes and mineral races. Tobechukwu was always trying to cheat during the games and I didn’t understand why mummy said he had to stay on the high table with me. People used to make fun that we would get married some day and it infuriated me. Why would I want to marry somebody who slept with his mouth open during classes at school. There was a day that they even said he swallowed a huge fly and one time he wet himself while sleeping during elementary science lesson. To make it even worse, his head looked like they had used a large skillet pan to bash the front and back together. His eyes were large and they bulged out of their sockets. He was just too ugly and annoying for my taste.



We imitated the drinks race like they did on Sunday Rendezvous but I beat everyone during the dance competition. Especially when it came to doing the fuji cabbage when the DJ played Shina Peters, and Bright Chimeze. Daddy liked Bright Chimeze and Oliver d Coque. He smoked his Rothmans cigarette listening to “Mbiri o mbiri ka mbiri”

I enjoyed being sprayed by all the adults. I held the hem of my dress to form a bucket so I could gather all the money without it spilling out.

I think it felt similar to the way mummy and her friends looked when they sprayed them money during Owambe parties. The beads of sweat that trickled down their faces, showed this look of euphoria and exhilaration, as though they had just received very good news and in a strange way their bodies contorted in rhythmic symphony to every bata drum pattern.

It drizzled a bit and the rain threatened to ruin my party but I was happy it didn’t because I had put a lot of work into it. Mummy already had a canopy as back up. She always had back up plans if anything went wrong. But I don’t think she had a back up for the fire. The one that would make that September 11th our last party together.

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

DRUMMER

BY WANA UDOBANG

He had just walked into the centre in his hooded parker jacket and back pack. The hair on his face was a mass of tangled curls. His skin was light with a tinge of brown, like a drink made from warm milk with cinnamon and sprinkles of cocoa powder. His hair was brown too, with curly ringlets, it was a dirty brown as though bleached buy the sun.

He held his recorder (like the tin whistle) with his dirty hands. He was cold. That Christmas was cold. They had said on the news earlier that it was because of climate change and it was even going to get colder.

He walked up to me and the other volunteers and asked us where we were from. He was cheeky, funny and looked a bit mischievous too. His accent sounded like one of those Yoruba men in England trying to adopt an English accent. He reminded me of the Alaye boys in Lagos. His speech was slurred and he reeked of alcohol. I told him I was Nigerian then he steered at me with his lids wide open and his eye balls seemed as though they were about to exit its sockets. Then he said “shey oun shey work experience abi project lon shey. Sho gbo nko ti mon so”. I could sense the sarcasm in his tone. Then I replied “no it isn’t work experience, this is just something I wanted to do” He started praying for me. He said Nigerians don’t normally do things like this. Giving their Christmas up to look after addicts.

He told me his name was Drummer. He has slept in all the car parks in Sheppard’s Bush and had lived in London since 1980. He wouldn’t tell me his real name. “you look like a shap babe” he said. He said he missed Nigeria.
There was water in his eyes when he told me about his long lost Calabar girlfriend. She used to cook him Nkong and Afang, he has a strange fascination for periwinkles still in its shell. He described the pleasure and relished in the sucking technique to extract the creature from its haven. With a nostalgic expression on his face, he muttered “ile meen ile” home meen home.

Drummer said I looked like the Calabar girl he knew and it was a coincidence I was from those parts too. “you are wondering how I became like this abi”, I smiled. He told me he used to live in Surulere, he studied art and design at Yaba Tech. His father was Itshekiri and his mother was a mixture of different things that’s why his hair was curly and his skin that milky brown shade.

He admitted that drink has destroyed him and so no one wanted to have anything to do with him. His mother and siblings lived in Hays. His older sister was a big woman in Naija. He was a mess. They wanted nothing to do with him. In that Yoruba academician intonation, he said “im an alcoholic, who is going to want to have anything to do with a grown man that cannot help himself”… then he said in Yoruba “you know im not a small boy sha” then I smiled again “the best part of being in oyibo land is that you can get help sho mo” I replied “you only have to try, you can always start again”. As though he had just heard those words for the first time, he retreated into deep thought and said “its true sha its true”. You are a good person “olorun ma toju e” God will take care of you he said.

He grasped his recorder firmly with his two hands. He told me her name was Philomena and he never went anywhere without her. With water cascading down his face, he played me the hymn Amazing Grace. There I was searching for meaning. A bottle had taken over drummer and given his life a different meaning.

Tuesday, 31 August 2010

I WANNA BE FAMOUS SO FREAKING BAD


BY WANA UDOBANG
With superb eagerness Novuyo asked Chimamanda “what sorts of things do you like, and like doing?” She replied “hmm… online shopping, push up bras…and more online shopping”.

It’s quite interesting how remarkable and exciting your life is expected to be just because a few more people know your name. I find myself in a narcissistic daze whenever I get to social gatherings.
It is because my job has come to define me in their eyes and they find nothing they want to talk about besides my callers, finishing up on the conversation they heard me having on Wednesday morning or what the song I played at 8.15 today was titled.
The omniscient question of how many famous friends I have or how many I have interviewed does always make its persistent invasion. The downer seems to be that I am not well acquainted with D’banj . So at that point, my coolness quotient depreciates atrociously. Sadly, I do indulge them.
When im not in the mood I pronounce my name with its Ibibio intonation when asked, and I tell them I work in the production department of a radio station. Now that’s always a conversation muter and trust me with that you get no complementary cards or phone number swaps. Essentially, your capabilities become completely futile.
At other times though, they still ask me about me, not knowing it is me.(hope you get my drift) Then they comfortably start to air their sentiments both good and bad about me to me.( hope I haven’t lost you at this point)

It is still a bit incomprehensible why anyone would think that a conscious awareness of the sum of people that love and loath you, makes you more fascinating, or being paranoid because you aren’t quite sure if the people you meet really like you or are just looking for free endorsement. (it doesn’t really help when you are naturally pre-disposed to receiving people and the things around you)
In my case when there is music involved, the excessive “checking up on you” phone calls and text messages can seem a tad bit sketchy.

I will never come to terms with how an association with Dbanj of all people increases my coolness quota. Don’t get me wrong I do gyrate to his “Koko Rhythms”, but seriously?
To be honest, quite a lot of famous people are actually boring. Well not all but quite a lot. Principally, because they get asked the same questions over and over, so they always anticipate your question or potential topic of conversation, but just in a slightly remodelled variant. At times they even start to make up answers and they don’t even know it. Because really people are always expecting something and they have to deliver. So the job doesn’t necessarily stop at the working premises. There are times when the lines of fact and fiction become a bit blurred because they have used the same anecdotes so many times; even they have to alter a few truths to make the stories more engaging.

Not that I deem myself anything close to popular, but like me, all I do in my spare time is lock myself in my bedroom, burn candles, incense, lavender and listen to Portishead. Most times it’s Rokia Traore, Incubus, Simphiwe Dana and recently I have taken to Ellie Goulding’s “Starry Eyed” on repeat. I’ve had the same best friends since I was nine years old which my family finds equally diabolical as it is annoying. Well at least they feel compensated that an obsessive friendship beats taking drugs. I also spend a large chunk of my life in my head, day dreaming and running through mental slide shows of familiar images. When im thoroughly bored and need to snap out of my palatial depression, I watch a foreign movie with subtitles or write conceited blog posts forcing myself to believe that this is a style of participatory journalism injected with some cynicism, sarcasm and sprinkles of my divinely bestowed acerbic wit.

Thanks to CNN, one of my famous friend’s can barely get out of the house without being propositioned by her pedestrian and motorist appreciation society. A previous bacterial infection which led to minor skin surgeries coupled with her crippling shyness means that she has to keep the handshakes and hugs to a minimum. (Believe me she lives with a jerry can of sanitizer)
This has of course led to a general consensus of her person as arrogant, pompous and overall unpleasant. The weird thing is that we never talk about work. We mostly discuss our paranormal experiences, spirituality, organic living, family, men, memories, insecurities, music and books. Pretty much what everyday people talk about. When we walk on the street and they hurl her name out, we pretend she is not the one they are calling or sometimes we pretend we can’t speak English. Believe me it has become quite amusing especially when we recall the days when our birth name were simply what they were and not conversation starters.
The most interesting part of this fame malarkey is that everyone thinks you’re minted and rolling in it.

I recall a lady who worked in an oil company and pondered quitting her job to audition as a presenter. I smiled at her an wished her good luck but what I really thought was that “I hope you have a human ATM because this kind of work is built for a special breed of hustlers with an incredible kind of perseverance” some of us acquainted ourselves with gypsy living a very long time ago so we are very comfortable with a subsistence lifestyle.

Don’t get me wrong. Popularity can be a lot of fun, especially when it gets you to meet certain kinds of people who you wouldn’t have met on a random day or perhaps who wouldn’t have listened to the things you wanted to say prior to your fame. It’s something you have to get used to, the parasitic world we live in. Look at it as more symbiotic, that way you become less bitter.The best part though is when you get offered gigs that cause an upward shift in the content of your bank account.

Still wanna be famous that freaking bad? As the sign post says, “PARKED AT OWNERS RISK”.

Monday, 23 August 2010

CONFESSIONS OF A PRESSURE ADDICT


BY WANA UDOBANG

I am a former pressure addict. I was always under pressure. Not from anyone but myself. It is why I find myself doing too many things at the same time. It makes me wonder whether I was trying to prove a point to other people or myself. Perhaps the successes of certain endeavours mask and compensate for all those mundane insecurities.

Then I beat myself up when I don’t attain the feat I expect, or anticipate. The most part of my University years were spent in the library and working on extra projects that weren’t even part of my allocated school work. Although it paid off, but I reckon I could have done with getting drunk a bit more, hung out at more bon-fire parties in the woods, and indulged in more mindless gossip, a few campus flings more pub quizzes and costume parties.

Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t a complete square. I was still very sociable but sadly that pressure muscle in my brain was always working overtime in a dire attempt to get that Janet Jackson six pack.

I realised a little latter that life seemed to be passing through me. Like Ekene Onu described, I was becoming one dimensional. Completely obsessed with achieving huge heights at my then chosen field and anything contrary to that made me a failure. It was a do or die affair. At its extreme, I would find myself sinking into manic phases of depression because it all wasn’t going as fast as I wanted it to. As far as I was concerned, I worked my backside to the bone so it’s only natural that it adds up the way I expected and wanted. Of course my manic dejection was a sign that the pressure veins were about to rupture and this inadvertently became my “Intervention”.

Pressure rehab for me involved a bit of “cold turkey” and a re-wiring of my thinking process. The experience of living is fun, perplexing and exciting all at the same time because you are surprised by the events and activities that life throws at you on a daily basis. You never expect it, but life expects you to trust it, challenge yourself, step out of your comfort zone and just work with it. Because you either learn or gain unbelievable pleasure in the end. I did realise that most people don’t get to even indulge in things they love but I got to do it for a living. Whether it was on the side at times or full throttle. What more could anyone ask for than to do the things they enjoy.

It’s not always easy keeping these demons at bay though. Recently, I almost had a relapse. An older friend of mine said to me, “ lets talk”. He said “what is your long term plan and what are you working on right now”
I found myself replying “I have registered my content provision and production business and im working on changing my blog to a mini website to enable me incorporate a few more features”. I started detailing the futuristic possibilities of different projects I would be working on. Then he said “you seem sound and focused. Don’t let me ask next month and you say they are still working on the website ”

My friend's question and answer session almost got me feeling a little neurotic but somewhere along the line I re-enforced the re-wiring.
As part of my rehabilitation, I had substituted full plans and blue prints for pencil tracing on disposable paper. So lets say before, I had fully built miniature models in my head but now I just have erasable outlines on tracing paper.
Sadly, a few deaths had kept me “Pressure Clean” and age made me understand that I would discover newer and more exciting things and all that excessive pressure pill popping was a bit unnecessary.
A young high school girl sent me a message saying she watched my TV show and liked the way i dressed. she said she wanted to know what to wear because she was "FAT" too. I haven't replied yet but i think i will tell her to wear what she feels like wearing because those so called fashion faux par memories she will accumulate will become priceless. I will tell her to enjoy being a kid and forget about the pressure of being cool. It's all overrated and impressing other people is purely undue self-imposed stress, which lets face it you don't even get paid for. I wish she could see me on a normal day, she might just have rethought sending me the message.

I once used to write poetry, then I started writing on the web, then magazines, and newspapers and now I am trying out short fiction and screen plays.
Once I used to make documentaries on the radio, then I co-hosted a breakfast show, now I co-anchor a drive-time show and present a style programme. Maybe soon I will teach, or become an art dealer, or indulge in interior décor or own a restaurant, perhaps open a theatre, make a French or Hausa film,
or even become a stay home mother who performs trip-hop induced spoken word with a band on weekends.
All I know is that I discover new gifts, and new interests and I try to dedicate sometime to explore, at times build and most of all enjoy them.
Two year and pressure clean. Sobriety is a beautiful thing.

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

ONLINE FILM CONTEST

               
LINK TV’s VIEWCHANGE.ORG LAUNCHES ONLINE FILM CONTEST FOR POWERFUL STORIES ABOUT PROGRESS TOWARDS UN MILLENNIUM DEVELOPMENT GOALS
WENDERS, GLOVER, SEN. INOUYE, AND OTHER CELEBRITY JUDGES TO SELECT FINALISTS; $20,000 GRAND PRIZE AWARD

San Francisco, CA – Link TV’s ViewChange.org, a next generation multi-media website launching this Fall, today kicks off an online short-film competition, with a Grand Prize of $20,000. The ViewChange Online Film Contest aims to find meaningful stories showing how international development efforts are impacting and improving the lives of the world’s poorest people and making progress towards achieving the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). These eight international goals, adopted by UN member countries, aim to improve the social and economic conditions in the world’s poorest countries.



Online voters will help select the finalists and a celebrity panel of judges will select the winners. The judges’ panel includes: Gael García Bernal, actor and director; Wim Wenders, director; Danny Glover, actor, director, and UN Ambassador; Senator Daniel K. Inouye, Chair of the Committee on Appropriations; Angélique Kidjo, Grammy Award–winning musician and UN Ambassador; and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, author of “Purple Hibiscus” and a MacArthur Fellow.
“There are countless beacons of success in eradicating poverty, hunger, and disease in the developing world but those stories rarely get told,” said Danny Glover, actor, humanitarian and Link TV Board Member. “We know that stories have the power to change the world for the better and these films will allow us to clearly show and share the meaningful progress that is happening on a daily basis.”
ViewChange.org, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, is calling on professional and amateur filmmakers to submit short videos that will be used to raise awareness, inspire action, and accelerate the worldwide movement to improve social and economic conditions in the poorest nations around the globe. Entrants will be required to submit films of five minutes or less, in one of six categories, reflecting the progress being made in achieving the MDGs. In addition to the Grand Prize, a winner will be selected in each category and will receive a $5,000 prize. The categories include:
1. Sustainability: Solutions that last. Growth and development with a plan. Programs that will continue when the foreign aid ends.

2. Innovation: New solutions to old problems. Creative ideas for otherwise stagnant or persistent issues. Emerging technologies in health, agriculture, education, and environmental protection.

3. Overcoming Conflict: Stories of success in the face of conflict—anything from cultural barriers to war or oppression. Grassroots efforts to overcome overwhelming obstacles.

4. Empowerment: Stories of initiative, of people improving their own lives and the lives of those like them. Transcending barriers like gender.

5. Leadership & Governance: Steps forward in accountability, freedom, or citizen engagement in government. Advances in civil/human rights; progress toward reforming broken systems.

6. Local/Global Partnerships: Teamwork between on-the-ground efforts and governments, NGOs, social entrepreneurs, and private initiatives.



In addition to cash prizes, the videos of winners and finalists will be broadcast nationally on Link TV and other television channels worldwide. Films will also be available for high-quality streaming at ViewChange.org. The contest launches April 30. Final film submissions are due August 31, with voting beginning September 1 and closing September 15. The online voting community will determine two of the five finalists; Link TV will select the other three. The celebrity panel of judges will review only the finalists’ entries (six categories, five finalists in each category) and choose Category Winners and the Grand Prize Winner. Finalists will be announced in mid-September. Winners will be announced in mid-October. Contestants can upload their short film submissions at: ViewChangeFilmContest.org and download the film contest rules and regulations here: http://www.linktv.org/viewchangefilmcontest/about/rules.

Link TV is launching ViewChange.org—a new multimedia website that uses the power of stories to improve the lives of people in developing countries. The site is expected to go live at the end of October. Funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the site combines powerful video stories with the latest articles, blogs, and actions and makes them easily shared. ViewChange.org uses new semantic technology to pinpoint the most relevant information when you need it, with unrivaled search accuracy. Users will save time and increase impact, by using the rich media to change attitudes and inspire citizens to action. www.viewchange.org.



Link TV is the nation’s largest independent television broadcaster, and is devoted to providing diverse global perspectives on news, current events, and world culture not typically available on other U.S. networks. Link TV regularly airs a robust selection of award-winning films and documentaries that explore the human condition from diverse multi-cultural perspectives. Link TV is available as basic service on DIRECTV channel 375 and DISH Network channel 9410 and on more than 50 urban cable systems, reaching a total of more than 47 million U.S. homes. For complete background information, program schedule, and internet streaming of Link TV’s original programs, music videos, documentary clips, and artist interviews, visit www.linktv.org.

Monday, 16 August 2010

GB REVIEW "THE ENEMY WITHIN" BY STEVE JACOBS


BY MOSHEBOLATAN
I have never been to South Africa but Steve Jacobs made me feel like I had been there in the hot long summer of 1990 when a middle aged lawyer, Jeremy Speilman decides to defend a young, confused, helpless black man accused of a horrible crime.
The book opens on a thrilling note with Themba grabbing a baby and running for his dear life, a murder commited by a seemingly crazed lunatic but the excitement stops right there.
The story revolves around these two major characters who form an odd bond and of how apartheid and racism in the mindsets of people shook up the whole nation during this trial and all its consequences. It is told through the voice of Jeremy Spielman, the narrator who is also the centre of the whole plot.
Jeremy is the reason I love this book because his voice rings so clear and true. Not only does he make me see the things he sees, he makes me feel the things he feels. There’s a lot more going on than just the trial and Jeremy tells you all about it.

Another interesting angle is the perspective of his girlfriend, Elmarie, who is an out right racist bigot. Through her character, we see the blatant hatred and racism that is rife during this era. She also helps to paint a clear picture of the inner struggle that consumes him. The drama that ensues from their relationship is one of the reasons you want to keep turning the pages to find out what happens in ‘The Enemy Within’.
The Enemy Within is filled with interesting characters like Jeremy’s mother, Elmarie’s mother, Marie Coetzee, the crazed attorney in his building and Jeremy makes them seem just as real as the people in your own home town. Here’s how Jeremy describes Elmarie’s mother,

“She wore a yellow tracksuit and white running shoes although her stocky figure had not known much exercise. Her weather beaten face, pounded by years of smoking and drinking, betrayed traces of the beauty she had bequeathed to her daughter.....She came in with a cigarette dangling from her mouth.......”

The larger theme of the story is racial intolerance but Jeremy never tries to make it a lesson, it is simply part of the world he describes. That’s why ‘The Enemy Within’ rings true and why it all seems so real.
The trial of the accused Themba Tshabalala takes place during the time of apartheid and segregation. However, Mandela is released from prison at this point and you wonder, Will things change? 
What will happen to Jeremy, Themba, Elaine and all the people who live and breathe inside the pages of ‘The Enemy Within’...

Published in 1995 Heinemann African Writers Series

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

FATTY BOYS CLUB


It can get a bit annoying sitting in a room and watching a bunch of women swap tales of their fad diets. Actually, scrap that, it is incredibly irritating, especially for someone who has tried them all. Weight watchers, Atkins, Vegetarianism, Carb Curfew, Glycaemic index, Slim fast, Calorie counter and even laxative popping.
But, it becomes perplexing and intriguing watching men do the same. I always thought men had a little extra will power. To be honest half the time the belly bulge is really down to special brews and what has now been categorised in the new food group as “Swallows”. All thanks to the “Mama Calabars” across the nation.

I was in attendance at an official meeting with two guys and a passing comment about one of the attendees decrease in waist pouch led to much more revelation than I imagined, becoming a pre- conference slash seminar to our actual meeting. He revealed that he had been taking a pill that cost 40 thousand naira (per pill). Apparently, the duty of the pill was to exterminate the stomach of all its excess gases and rid the colon of any left over impurities. This would be the cleansing before the meal replacement milkshakes. Of course in the milkshakes were fibre pellets which dissolve in the fluid and act as a filler to suppress your appetite. Don’t forget in biology class, we were always taught that the role of fibre in nutrition was to enable bowel evacuation. I suppose a more intellectual way of saying self induced diarrhoea.

I could have just told him, just go on a juice and fruit fast if you were really serious about the detox, or take it old school with a jerry can of Ugu juice.(nothing like increasing the iron content in the blood ey). That already gives you 40k in your savings account. As for the shake, eat a meal that is equivalent to the amount of calories in the milkshake. That way you don’t feel like you are starving yourself. The weight is not guaranteed to stay of permanently, but it’s a start.


The other guy said he had been drinking some Chinese tea that tasted a bit unsavoury and wasn’t agreeing very well with his stomach. I guess he realised he couldn’t really be as productive from a toilet bowl. Though this all went on for a few more minutes, I uncovered that all the men at the office were part of a “ waist pouch crew” and were on a very desperate mission to rid themselves of their misery. It seemed like a fat boys support care club. A lot like the “plus size anonymous” girls meeting. I heard that they had tried drinking some concoctions from the “Iya l’agbo” down the road, they had a brief stab at the 40 grand pill but became that became too expensive a sacrifice, they did glasses of freshly squeezed lime juice as they had been informed that the citric acid of the lime emulsified fat and some how the body magically passed it out. They also tried stem ginger juice, copious mounts of green tea and they had now moved on to a new one called “The Fat Flush”. With the “Fat Flush”, they would dissolve a strange granular substance which mimicked miniature pebbles of rock sea salt in warm water. Something told me they had been duped with Epsom salts as their miracle solvent.

This again like the 40k pill would be the cleanser. Then the diet will be followed up with another cheap cocoa powder tasting fibrous milkshake. The shake looked revolting like Garri that had been soaking in a Bounvita looking drink. It all never made any difference because they just simply ate too much and couldn’t stay off the booze. I mean, what was the best way to spend your day away from a nagging wife and your attention seeking Rugrats than a bit of male bonding and drenching yourself in booze. As sad or desperate as it all seemed, I kept telling them, “it will never work and if it actually does, it’s only temporary”. Get rid of the fried food, the booze, a lot less of “Swallows”, the excessive carnivorous dietary habit and get of your backside and do some physical activity. But hey, I am really not the prototype to give dietary advice now am i. They might just have to keep punching that extra hole in the Louis Vuitton belt.

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

WHOSE LIFE IS IT?


BY WANA UDOBANG
I spend a lot of my time escaping with films. Particularly, foreign language films, and Independent cinema. I like tender stories and gritty stories. Social realism mostly. One of my favourites is British director, Mike Leigh’s award winning Vera Drake. Set in 1950’s England, Vera is a jolly working class woman who takes care of her family and sick neighbour. She works as a cleaner for a living and she possesses a heart of gold. The Drakes are a happy family. But Vera has a secret occupation. She is a back street abortionist. Vera helps girls get rid of their unwanted pregnancies. I say help because that is what Vera believes she is doing. It’s 1950’s England. Some of them could be disowned by their parents and the others could have their lives completely altered by their mishaps.

Vera doesn’t take a penny from any of them. For her its just part of her compassion and good will. In the course of the story, a middle class young girl is raped by her boyfriend and is brought to Mrs Drake when she becomes pregnant. Unknown to Vera though, her friend Sally who brings most of the pregnant girls for abortions has been collecting money behind Vera’s back. Sadly this particular middle class girl becomes septic as a result of the chemicals used during the termination process. Her wealthy parents find out, Vera is arrested and her secret is unravelled. Vera maintains that she never did anything wrong. She was just helping them out.

The debates between pro-life and pro-choice have weathered many protests and political manifestos. It was even a key element in the Obama campaign. Many will continue to argue about whether or not a foetus has any form of life to it under any certain number of weeks. For the religious right, a child is God given, a life tampered with is simply murder. For others anything under twelve weeks is just a mass of cells.
The fact remains that each box, either of the right or the left are neither black nor white. There are cases of rape, incest and extreme illness. Sometimes you just don’t feel equipped for motherhood.
On the other end it seems a cop put from a mishap.

Sometimes pro-life is just a word and pro- choice really has no choices. The women whose bodies go through this will tell you. The physical pain involved in suction termination. Pessaries placed inside the cervix to soften the neck of the womb then the womb slightly punctured and its contents sucked out with a vacuum like apparatus. The coldness of the forceps between the legs, and the realisation of what your body has just experienced after the decent from auto-pilot. The rush of a lingering pain as their teeth digs holes in pillows to stop their lungs from perforating with a scream. Of course for those those choose to stay awake.
The alternative though might not leave you with much variety.
Vera Drake was eventually imprisoned for performing illegal abortions and she met a lot more women like her in prison. Sometimes, life and choice is never that simple.

Monday, 19 July 2010

INDICITED FOR CRIMES OF FEMINISM



BY WANA UDOBANG
For several weeks consecutively, I have been accused in the office of being a feminist. It is also the reason why any proposal of sorts that has to do with women’s rights or campaign causes are usually passed down to me. Usually I am called into an office, and without any words spoken, im tossed piles of paper stapled together and automatically I should know what to do with it. Either create a feature around it, or have them interviewed on your show. It’s the boring stuff. You are into that kind of stuff and let’s face it, who listens on Sundays anyway.
It really all started with euphemisms, like “madam, your girl power is too much on the radio” and “you know you have issues,….all those women emancipation issues”.

Recently, it was when the only female member of a band came to the office for an interview, and one of the guys asked where her band mates were, then she responded saying they all had too many appointments to deal with, so she had to represent them all that day. In an innocent input into the conversation, I said, “it’s good, you should shine sometimes”.

 In less than a mili- second one of my colleagues stretched his finger pointing ferociously towards me and said “ you are a feminist, have they not said this before in the meeting,…you are a feminist. Shebi they have told you, you have women liberation issues”. For the first time, I realised I had been a repeat offender of feminism crimes. However I never got the hint all the while.

Not like I owe any explanation, but im just a free spirited young woman who believes in equality of opportunity with fairness for all. As the cliché goes, whatever race, creed, gender or social class, lets all get a chance. I am all for the underdog. I was always one myself and one good person or another just gave me a chance. So im just returning the favour. Living with the power of larger numbers is hard enough.

 I don’t really believe in cultural or social segregation of roles but if that’s the way you like to work it in you family, that’s your business. Just don’t come complaining to me that your husband says you should stay home and take care of the kids and you still have to beg for sanitary towel allowance. I don’t believe I should be censored or act a certain way because I have mammary glands and a vagina. Let’s face it, that is really down to how you choose to conduct yourself. You act like a whore, they treat you like one.
The most interesting part is that there are so many strands of feminism, if you even ventured delving into two or three of them, you might just die from confusion. Radical feminists, black feminists, African feminists, post-modern feminists and as my friend Juwon says, there does exist a category such as Nigerian feminists. Gender studies is so complex, it’s more than burning bra’s, sexual liberation or becoming a lesbian. The interesting thing in all of this is that I do not care much for the tag, for selfish reasons of course. I do subscribe and adhere to a lot of feminist ideology but I wouldn’t marry a house husband, im perfectly ok with cooking and domestics plus I am even more alright with his money being our money too. I can’t really object to being looked after now, can i? And oh yes…I’m not interested in carpet munching. It might just be a bit to boring for me, plus the catholic school girl in me just wouldn’t allow. Besides that, im carrying my liberation placards all the way. Give me a couple more weeks and I will let you know if I still have a job.
VIVA LA REVOLUCION !!!!!!

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

SILENT SPACES


WANA UDOBANG
They said I take a lot from my father. The love for words, simplicity and even thriftiness. He always had big books. I could never really understand any of the words in the books. There was a long row of encyclopaedias on the living room shelf. He spoke with very robust vocabulary. It was always audibly pleasurable watching him talk. His Ibibio was anglicised when he spoke. A lot less tonal than my mother. Every Ibibo sentence from my father’s mouth was punctuated with big English words as he stuttered them. It was as though he could sense that they did not understand whatever it was he said but he was still going to say them never the less.
He sounded smart and it seemed he took his time and thought through things before he made his utterances. In front of his brown bedroom door laid immaculately, were archived stacks of Tell and Newswatch magazines. We were only allowed to sell the piles of Vanguard and Guardian to the Hausa Mallams who would recycle them for Suya wrapping. He made me recite riddles and rhymes I had memorised at school to his friends when they came to visit. I think that he must have thought of me as a smart little girl with a bit too much character too.
They said it seemed his heart had softened when I was born. It was i, my mother sent with the weeks shopping list for money, it was I my brothers told to ask for permission to go to the country club and it was I they sent to ask for groundnut from underneath the bed and cashew nuts too. Every week my mother went to Iddo market and bought a boot full of grape fruit. We squeezed them till our hands became wrinkly. I liked the slightly sweet and tangy taste of them. I liked the way the pulp sent shock waves through the nerve endings in my teeth. Maybe I liked the bitter sweetness because my father always gave me some left over in his special cup to drink. Like when he poured me some of his left over spa water in a cup to drink. It was like soda water in a big green corked bottle. He always left a piece of meat for me in his plate as I watched him eat through the metal railings from the top of the stairs. He would call me to pack up his dishes and I wondered if he was pretending he didn’t know I was there all along.
It was the same way he called me to taste his grape fruit juice when his relatives told him my mother was trying to poison him, and that same day he told me to drink his tea too.
He had never beaten me before, and he wasn’t really a shouter like my mother, well from what I remember. He always wore the same three Safari suits and tied a wrapper on his waist in the evening. The heavy knot folded into the fabric and formed a big bulge on his pelvic area. Just beneath his protruding stomach. I looked nothing like him though. His eyes popped out from its sockets like his belly did over his knotted wrapper. They easily turned red from time to time.
They said I show traits of frugality the same way he did. Maybe its because I fear ever going back to the way he left me. It’s been a long time since we shared grapefruit juice together. I suppose the taste might have left my mouth now.

Thursday, 17 June 2010

MORE THAN WORDS

                                         Novuyo, Chimamanda and Wana

Teachers i had heard were very special creatures. I once had a teacher that changed my life. Her name is Amanda King. She would eventually teach me to embrace my insecurities and become friends with the voices in my head. “It's all artistic license Wana” she would say to me. “It’s about how well and cleverly you use it”, She was right but most importantly she taught me how to be comfortable in my own skin because life in itself was a work in progress.

This would repeat itself again in an artistic medium i was still getting conversant with and so was on shaky ground. I was never one of those writers who had been publishing stories since i was a child. Or one of those involved in teenage writing competitions. Frankly my mother doesn’t actually know that i write.
I never really read as much as i would have liked to because somehow, it took me longer than the average person to finish reading a book. I even found out after a visit to the learning resource centre during my first year at University that i was dyslexic. Writing for me developed by sheer chance, it was more cathartic than anything else. I recently got the opportunity to be a part of the twenty people selected for the Farafina Trust Creative Writers Workshop, and there i met a new set of teachers that would again cause another shift in my creative paradigm.

It's very rare that i write on demand except it has been commissioned or is being paid for. At the workshop we read and analysed short stories from Juno Diaz, Julian Barnes, Cheever to even John Updike. We did short writing exercises from love scenes to abortion stories and personal essays. It was all about imploring the tools of fiction. Being able to carry your reader along with you, giving them a sense of place, creating a hunger to understand more, letting them travel with you and giving them the opportunity to figure things out without spoon feeding or undermining the their intelligence. Chimamanda Adichie was generous. It’s not very often that you see that.With her time,with her experience, with her emotions,with her insecurities, with her truths, with her knowledge,her humour,and even with her spirit
Chika Unigwe was the same but she also was interested in learning from us too. Taking permission to borrow some of our thoughts and writing it in her little note pad. She observed our write ups intricately annotating lightly with her pencil. With her we learnt about the believability of the story and the importance of research in being able to tell our tales skilfully and honestly even though it isn’t a world we are so acquainted with.
Niq Mhlongo was all about the Plot in story telling. Where the story was going and identifying the emotions in those crucial moments which he termed “what is at stake”. Then there was Binyavanga Wainaina AKA “The Binj”. Anarchic, Revolutionary, Brutal , Sarcastic, Acerbic and most of all truthful. Faith Aneadi was almost like a character in a book brought to life. From sharing her year long experience as a Buddhist Nun living in the Thai jungle to tracing her African-Nordic heritage and becoming the subject of a PBS documentary.

Then there were my other teachers, who were like me, a bit green to the world of writing, insecure, searching for their voice, roaming for validation, fine tuning their technique and most of all hoping for an authentication of their gift. The exchange of stories from styles, to voices and technique became an artistic voyage in its own strange way. Kesiena told tales like an old man with a very interesting kind of wisdom. Biodun Adebiyi, always exuding melancholy and nostalgia with her words, evoking the resounding mushy noises from the members of the workshop as though they had watched an infant do something overly cute and intelligent. Ifesinachi Okoli, a personal envy of mine due to her immaculate skill to conjure images for the reader with detail in her work. From textures, sounds and tones in rhythmic parallels to the complex emotions and moods to her stories. There were Umaisha and Ajanah with their grand themes to the new romantics like Bem Iordahh and Ifeanyi Dibia. Then, of course our foreign resident Novuyo Tshuma. Now she was indeed a writer, rhythmic, punchy, dexterous and exciting. The workshop was like its own universe with diverse energies. This artistic voyage was imitating something close to a spiritual odyssey and just like when Faith talked about attaining the ultimate high during meditation i definitely reached my climax. I discovered that my whole being was a well of untold stories waiting to be immortalised on paper. I learned that sometimes the joys in fiction, lay in the little moments, the tender inflections, the idiosyncrasies of the characters and where the most banal things become that little bit extra-ordinary. And for the first time, i cherished every single experience that life had thrown at me. Teachers like these are special creatures and the only way i can show my gratitude is to keep writing.

Thursday, 13 May 2010

FREEDOM OF OCCUPATION


WANA UDOBANG
Ever so often, i get asked the same question, “What are your plans?” As one who does enjoy a little bit of indulgence on the blonde side, the usual response would follow, “what do you mean?” They would proceed to with a lecture on whether or not i have looked into a career in either advertising or corporate communications. The lecture will delve into the merits of my qualifications and its correlation to world of corporate branding. Then further revealing earning possibilities, perks and the likes. Other times i had been asked about my occupation. Then i mention that i work on the radio, i am then asked again what I really do. Of course after reiterating that “i work at a radio station” it is followed up with a “who do you live with or are your parents alive?” The statment is accompanied with a look of shock horror as though to say "God forbid your parents know what you are doing"
Excuse my extensive blonde moment but then it finally occurred to me that to most, i don’t have a real job. We are just merely overindulging in a vocation. Apparently all i do is turn up to work, sit in front of a microphone and just move my lips for less that 365 days a year. Some have even insinuated that they can’t believe that i get paid just to do that. So sadly as I’m not calculating taxes, profit and loss, suturing an artery, developing computer codes or strategising a PR blitz for a juice company, whatever i do is merely a vocation. Not that one should care much but the sad thing about this is the power of the stereotype. During these conversations about ambitions and life plans, i have found myself throwing in my private practices slash vocational occupations into the mix and unbeknownst to me has added a little extra credibility to my occupational repertoire. With some scepticism, they still add with bemusement “do people really make any money from writing”. Well thanks to the Cassava Republic and Farafina generation, writing has become somewhat prestigious.
Though a career in radio is highly unacceptable as a real job, being a writer means i still have a bit of a brain to string a couple of sentences together. As myopic as it may seem this happens to be a largely collective state of mind. I recently discovered it also is likely to affect your dating quotient too. I met a guy with a nice corporate job who referred to my job as a “THING”. In his words “you said you do a thing with Dan Foster on weekday’s right”. Besides the jabs at my day gig, there are always numerous references to the fact that i wouldn’t know what its like to have a real job.
In my hiatus of implosion sometimes what i really want to say is “look idiot, i have worked before you even dreamt of graduating from university. Waitress, supermarket checkout girl, company administrator, recruitment officer (that’s what we call the London hustle baby), BBC, production company, we have done it all and guess what, im just 25..and oh did i add that i have a first class degree from the third largest arts institution in Europe,..and just before i forget, i paid for it myself thank you very much”. But then again, the beauty of an implosion is that it never spills out of your head if you don’t want it to. So all i say is that i believe am free to do whatever occupation i choose and shouldn’t be crucified for it either, how ever unintelligent or unserious you think it is.

Monday, 10 May 2010

OVER IDENTITY- HAS PRINT COME TO DEFINE THE AFRICAN DESIGNER?

BY WANA UDOBANG
During the British summer, the country’s collective state of mind is equally dictated by its unpremeditated skyline as much as it fashion trends. I remember one of these summers walking down Oxford Street. The Selfridges window was decorated with stuffed tropical wildlife, spears, horns and mannequins’ draped in all shades of African print. The window backdrop was plastered in Ghanaian Kente cloth and off shoots of elephant grass sprouting from different corners. As you can already tell, that summer, European fashion was going African.
Since then, it has been observed, that print has come to define African design or even the African fashion aesthetic. From Lisa Folawiyo’s bejewelled Ankara garments to Odio Mimonet and even Zebra’s ready to war line, print has become the main course in the African designer’s staple. Hilfiger and Lauren came to embody the All American look, even then, they saw the need to diversify to satisfy the insatiable buying taste of trendy fashion consumers.
In terms of the retrospective, designers Kesse Jabari and Nikki Africana started of working with African fabric. They varied from Adire tie die, Asho Oke, George, Damask, Ankara to even brocade and lace, the Y2K generation haven’t completely departed from this model. Though Tiffany Amber works more with romantic and ethereal fabrics like chiffon, silk and lace, Mali’s Xuly Bet opted for fabric with solid blocks of colour in its last gothic inspired collection. Still there were enormous traces of Print. It makes one begin to believe that there is a likelihood that this monopoly of Print may become detrimental to the African designer as it has come to detract from the technique and dexterity of the African clothes constructors.
Though different iconoclastic trends are still traced to its lineage in certain eras, like corsets to the Victorians and floral to the hippies, every knowledgeable fashionista can see its evolution through the decades. Granted the two thousands saw less originality and more a re-invention of the wheel, no particular attribute has come to strongly define a designers nationality or race.
So should being an African designer be one who just works with African fabric? Some might argue that people should be able to work with what they know as well as what influences them without giving into the paranoia of global acceptance. At the end of the day Yinka Shonibare’s Print influenced and revamped Nelson’s ship has been commissioned for the fourth plinth in Tralfalger square. The same can be said for the Japanese kimono and for the south East Asia with their Saris.
Don’t forget that though Vivian Westwood has been ordained the Dame of opulent fashion, she was once the goddess of punk rock. There is a need to become more than the Ankara before it becomes us. This homogeny of fabric should not obliterate its handler.

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

MARIAH MOMENT


WANA UDOBANG
Our last office meeting was dreadful. Well, all our office meetings are. A mass listening of your self played back to all. They call it the “aircheck tape”. We do this every week and it helps you know how dreadful you sound. Because strangely with the air check tape you just never sound right. Your a repetitious babbling bundle of mess. That’s it. That’s what you sound like, a hot pile of audible mess. So everyone in the room spits out bile alternatively known as constructive criticism. After a while of attending these meetings, you learn to take the good, accept the bad and just move on with the ugly. But that day i was told something a bit more interesting. After listening to everyone around the table drivel about how i could improve my very unsatisfactory performance on my Sunday show, my boss said to me “i don’t think you have a personality on Sundays”. Of everything he said i was most perplexed by that. He later explained that everyone liked the acid tongued, gossip ridden alter ego that i displayed on weekday mornings when presenting the entertainment digest ( a character named Mizz Infotainment who made a guest appearance only ten minutes a day). He said i needed to give the people what they wanted. I should become the authoritative figure on information (well soft cell trashy gossip). In my defence i told him that i felt it was unhealthy for me as an individual and as a professional.
Though during my internal monologue, i was really saying “wasn’t i already giving the people what they wanted, haven’t i given you people enough of my soul already?”. My friend is found dead with stab wounds in the woods, i have to be funny, witty and crazy, my aunt is in hospital with a lump in her neck, i have to be funny, witty and crazy, she dies a week later, i have to be funny, witty and crazy, I’m going to a funeral at twelve noon, my mother is in hospital, i get dumped in the morning, i still have to be funny, witty and crazy. Funny, witty and crazy have come to define me. I had conditioned myself to supress pain and all forms of other emotion because i have to be funny witty and crazy!!!!!!!
I had been told a fair few times that i was nothing close to my persona on the radio. People said when they listened to me on the radio i was insane and overly hyper. General unqualified pseudo psychotherapist had come to a conclusion that i showed schizophrenic and slightly bi-polar traits. I had successfully turned myself from campaign journalist cum custodian of the fourth estate to radio buffoon and still it wasn’t enough? They seemed to be breeding superstars in this place and until i had come full circle as a ten minute persona of my own invention, i was nothing close. My friend Banjo says maybe I’m looking for relevance. I think i have become a victim of my own invention. Fun sometimes doesn’t seem so fun anymore. I reckon i have created a monster. But hey, bills have to be paid and mouths to be fed. No time to check into rehab just yet.

Monday, 19 April 2010

WELCOME TO MEDIOCRE-CITY

I love the Nigerian spirit. The gift of the hustle, the ability to turn water into wine, the resilience to shine even in an eclipse, it seems like the Tupac poem reads we are, “the rose that grew from concrete”. We can be scum that always finds a way to rise. The latest street motto screams “hustle or dye trying”. It is what has come to define our identity, Naijapolitanism.
Even i consider myself a prime pedigree of the hustle movement. When people question my hustle credibility, i utter with fire in my eyes, as though about to get into a trash talk spar “you say you are from the street, but i am the street. Ask them my name and they will tell you”. (Google me bi@£%h)
However, despite my admiration for our messianic ability to raise the dead, i am starting to wonder whether this has let to the mass mediocre metropolis in the making.
People wake up from sleep and embark on missions without a destination or blueprint in sight. A friend of mine once made a lot of hype about starting a magazine. She raised funds to start up and solicited my support in the process. As any good friend i was supportive. Along the way i realised there was neither rhyme or reason to the publication. I couldn’t tell the audience or demographic, there was no advertising or marketing strategy. Well none that made much sense to me. Plus there was no concrete plan to where the publication was going. In the end it all seemed like a ploy to climb some social ladders.(after two publications it came to a halt) As you know in Lagos its important that you have an occupation that makes you relevant in the gatherings.
“so what do you do?” with that irritating smirk and annoyingly eager widening of the eyes like they are really interested in knowing you or what you can do for them. And then they would reply “i am a designer. I design based on order but I’m working on my ready to wear line”.
In order words i go to my mothers wardrobe, pack all her unused Aso-ebi fabric ,cut out images from magazines because i cant sketch,(and probably cant thread a needle either) and then get my tailor in Costain to fabricate each style. I would then get my skinny friends to model them, get my photographer friend to photograph the models in my designs and do a mass viral campaign on my new collection. It hasn’t gone without notice that a multitude of designers seem to work primarily with Ankara fabric (using the pseudonym AFRICAN PRINT)
One would have to give an A plus for effort at least. Fashion is just one aspect of it all. There are events, magazines, television shows, websites, workshops, courses, seminers.etc etc etc all selling you the same brand of mass mediocre hysteria.
Without deliberately trying to sound like a “101 in ideas development lecture”, with every idea comes a blueprint on identity, demographic, marketability, sustainability, profit and investment potential, with an exception to fun or experimental projects of course. The scam can only last for so long. Though some have successfully made an art out of it all, being pedestrian that it.
After all said and done, even i have numerous occupation cloaks. Radio presenter, TV host, writer, PR consultant, blogger, content producer/provider, voice over artist, poet, plus i definitely see room for plus size designer somewhere in there. I better run off to Evans and Monsoon websites to fabricate my first collection. Oh and look out for the Guerilla Basement magazine too.(just joking.. but i foresee a coffee table book though) You never know. Somewhere in all of this one has to admire the feat we undertake. Just can’t knock the hustle.

Monday, 12 April 2010

HAUNTING THE MAN MARKET



If you have spent a significant or even not so significant amount of time in the world of recruitment and human resources, there are a few terminologies in the recruitment dictionary to get acquainted with. When people apply for jobs, they come in categories. Permanent positions; contract positions; temporary positions and temporary to permanent positions. They are all pretty self explanatory however what makes this piece of random information really interesting, is it's peculiar parallel to the world of dating.
Applying for the position of a girlfriend bears an uncanny semblance to the job market. The problem though is that most of us girls forget the position we applied for initially and automatically believe it should be permanent even though that wasn’t advertised in the first place. Let’s take a look at the temp to perm positions. In the job circuit, it could be a quick replacement for someone who occupied the position before, or it could be a newly created role in the organisation to experiment with, ultimately deciding whether or not the role is paramount to the organisations success. During the interviews they inform you that it may become a permanent position. The term “MAY” not being an absolute should inform you that after a set time, you are likely to become unemployed again and should you be applying for a girlfriend position, perhaps single again. On no account is one meant to assume that all positions are an open invitation to a permanent life of bliss.
On a number of occasions, my male friends have accused my gender collectively about their indecisiveness when it comes to what it is they are looking for. In defence i have to expound using the job market analogy once again, but this time round i take a leaf from the applicant’s book.
Most people looking for jobs need and like security so inevitably would like a permanent position. So they still apply for the temp roles hoping and believing that their qualities shine thorough and essentially they become indispensible to the organisation. There is also the constant wishful thinking that the previous inhabitant of the position will fully abdicate their throne and never return. The same goes for the temp to perm applicants. They work hard enough and prove themselves to the employers trusting that there is some room for a renegotiation. As for contract applicants, it says it all on the tin.
When applying for some jobs, negotiations take place too. You are asked what you want and sometimes, you know your wants can’t be met and you accept what you are offered again later hoping your perseverance pays off in the end. These situations and circumstances are perfectly normal within the applicant and job provider dynamics.
It may sound a bit insensitive to compare girlfriends to job applications, but sometimes people need jobs to get them through. Be it contractual, temporary or permanent, the job meets a need. Its never easy admitting that you live in a world of loneliness and solitude, plus you need someone to meet certain needs too. In the fairy-tale ending, we believe we will find a permanent and secure position in the organisation best suited for us. In the mean time though for some any role is good enough.

Sunday, 14 March 2010

REBRANDING THE GOSPEL



I once read in a book that if you needed to know the place of worship that was right for you, one had to think of them like your pairs of shoes. I was only sixteen at the time but let me enlighten you further. The book said churches were like shoes. They all had the same primary purpose; to protect the feet. So some churches were like high heels. They were pretty, sexy, exciting, but they hurt a bit and sometimes left you with blisters. But like you know , what’s a little pain for a world of glamour? Then there are those that are like pumps. Orthodox, routine, dated, not so glamorous and just plain boring.
I was more the pumps kind of girl. I like the stained glass in the church, the hymns, candles, frankincense, hommili and the solemnity of it all. The ritual has always been a part of my spirituality. Until i moved back to Nigeria and realised that in a bid to lure back its dwindling congregation, my orthodox church had started adopting a new design of pumps to market and rebrand itself. The first few times I attended mass, I couldn’t help but notice the priests had become more fiery and ferocious when delivering the sermon. At random moments, he would quote passages of scripture that weren’t included in the misille already assembled in Rome. He sometimes even without subtlety condemned the congregation. I always knew them to have very interesting senses of humour with a lot of metaphor and satire when it came to condemnation. At times they were poetic too, even parental using a lots of analogy and allegory to re-iterate their message.
Last week the Reverend father yelled at us he said “what have you sacrificed for the lord this year..common fasting till 2pm you cannot do..Later you will ask God please do this and that for me.” He was one of those heavily accented charismatic priests from the East of Nigeria. A bit hardcore for me. We seemed like the belligerent children being seriously reprimanded by a Father. I later asked my mother what this was all about. She said most people were now moving to Pentecostal churches because they said the catholic church was becoming repetitive and boring. I had a friend once tell me she had to change churches because the world was evolving. In her words “we are fighting fire for fire”. But you see, marketing and rebranding the church wasn’t just a Catholic or Anglican thing.
As part of my numerous private practices, I got a job to write and voice the advert for a new church somewhere on the Lekki highway. I found myself writing about the church like it was a new business club everyone needed to be a part of. I recently heard of a church event where both gospel and circular musicians were all paid to perform. Not saying that there is anything wrong with circular artists performing at a church, even rapper DMX recently organised a church concert. I was curious as to how lyrics like “what the f*&k do want from a Nigga” would go down with an American negro spiritualist congregation.
It all sounded a bit paradoxical to me. Well, Jesus did die for all our sins and didn’t come to save the already saved, so who am I to chastise.
I realised it had become much more than faith, worship, spirituality or just general hypocrisy Sunday worship. Churches needed to keep the numbers up. In order to do that re-branding was necessary. For those that built schools and orphanages, the figures needed to add up to maintain that. For those that bought private jets or were intending to, the figures needed to add up too.
It seems i just have to get used to the fact that my pumps have morphed just a little. They now have some kitten heels attached and have become slightly pointed; Further more a little uncomfortable too. Need I say, I also have to contend with a two hour Sunday Mass. Maybe it is time for me to move on. Goodbye to meditation and solemnity, hello to a shattered eardrum.

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

FAREWELL MCQUEEN


BY WANA UDOBANG
Once upon a time glamazons ruled the catwalk, with their Miami Vice style blazers and stomach length jeans. Runways in London
New York, Paris and Milan were clad in solid blocks of pastel colours along with shoulder pads and elaborate buttons. Just as fashion was about to experience a black hole, then came a young man. His name, Lee Alexander McQueen. Unbeknown to fashion, he would revolutionise its world in all its grandeur and entirety.
McQueen brought something dynamic to the fashion world stage. His shows were theatrical, they were grand, they were a circus, some might even go as far as saying it was a freak show. Essentially in the world of clothing design, McQueen gave the world something to talk about. He became the zeitgeist in the fashion game. Always daring to be different. He created the “Bumsters”, which ultimately spun the trend for the low rise jeans. He also birthed the scarf engraved with the motif of skulls draped on most celebrities and replicated across the globe. In his 1998 Autumn show, he featured double amputee model Aimee Mullens striding down the catwalk on intricately carved wooden legs. With an innately rebellious streak, he was never shy of controversy.
Although he didn’t come from a typical fashion pedigree, his accent to the fashion Oligarch is something that can be attributed to his taste for design, shock factor and sometimes the macabre. McQueen’s clothes have an air of craft and architecture to it, because somewhere along his career, his designs had surpassed pattern cutting and tailoring to become clothing architecture. His works have been more fascinating than Haute Couture. His days as an apprentice on Saville Row always came in handy as it could be traced in his impeccably tailored jackets. His sense of the ghoulish never went without a stare. One could see it in the celebrities attracted to his pieces of fashion iconography. Icelandic princess Bjork, Lady Gaga and Rhianna are just a few of his patrons. While Alexander McQueen was becoming the renaissance man for the Avant Garde , subliminally he was reconstructing fashion’s design history. He was doing what Film Noir had done to the world of cinema. Fashion wasn’t just frivolous anymore. It wasn’t just hemming together yarns of fabric or looking pretty in an outfit. This Scottish taxi drivers son had made clothing become art. Like Warhole and Damian Hirst he was crowd the l’enfant terrible(terrible child) of the fashion world.



McQueen’s clothes were sometimes unwearable and at other times difficult to adapt for high street fashion. He had also been criticised for going overboard. Despite all the criticism, he never compromised his fashion principles.
Alexander McQueen was a working class boy who grew up on a council estate in London’s east end. After leaving school with one O Level in art, he served his apprenticeship in London’s tailoring Mecca, Saville Row.
He would later apply to the prestigious Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design for the role of a pattern cutter tutor. But due to his very strong working portfolio, he was persuaded to enrol as a student and McQueen later graduated with a Masters in fashion design. McQueen served as head designer to Givenchy for five years before starting his own clothing line. Even he once admitted he had to tone down his love for the dramatic whilst working for Givenchy. He won the coveted award for British designer of the year four times and eventually awarded a CBE by the queen
Whilst Donna Karen was going through a spirituality overhaul and presenting boring pieces of loincloth on the runway (a total disappointment of course),Jean-Paul Gaultier had lost his sense of the bizarre(the cone bra worn by Madonna became his last memorable piece). But McQueen always kept in line with his vision of drama and extravagance. The McQueen woman was strong; she was a rebel, unafraid, and never shy of making a strong statement. That was Alex’s girl. That was the McQueen aesthetic
On the 11th of February 2010, Lee Alexander McQueen was found dead in his home just nine days after his own mother’s death and a couple of days to London fashion week. A British tabloid paper reported that his body was found hanged.
. As we mourn the loss this fashion demagogue, we ask who can take his place. Even Vivian Westwood had abdicated the throne as the queen of rebellious youth and teenage angst fashion, who could rule the runways again? Is fashion about to experience another black hole?
As the saying goes, “the world is a stage, we all have our entrances and our exits” McQueen left a bit early, but he waltzed of the runway with a standing ovation.