Photo credit should read JOEL SAGET/AFP via Getty Images

Author David Diop's debut novel 'At Night All Blood Is Black' makes thesInternational Booker Prize Shortlist.

Author David Diop Makes International Booker Prize Shortlist

The International Booker Prize has selected French-Senegalese author David Diop's debut novel 'At Night All Blood Is Black' for its highly coveted shortlist.

David Diop has been named one of six select authors to have made it onto the 2021 International Booker Prize shortlist. Diop's debut novel At Night All Blood is Black is the only African novel that features on the 2021list. The international award recognises the best fiction novels that have been translated from a foreign language to English.

Read: Kenyan Author Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o Nominated for 2021 International Booker Prize

At Night All Blood is Black was first published in 2018 and the English version in 2020. The novel was critically received across the world. The book is an homage to Senegalese soldiers who fought in the first World War shoulder to shoulder with their colonisers the British and the French.

The historically-influenced novel is written in the active voice of its protagonist Alfa Ndiyae, a young recruit from a village in Senegal. Diop attempts to make sense of the psychological tension faced by Alfa Ndiyae, who is caught up in the madness of a war that weaponised Black bodies for its own agendas. Ndiyae is subsequently driven to revenge on white soldiers after witnessing the terrible death of his best friend Mademba Diop and, so, heads into the enemy lines.

Diop was born in France, raised in Senegal from childhood and later returned to France to complete his studies. At Night All Blood is Black was translated from French to English by Anna Moschovakis. Other shortlisted authors were Argentinian writer Mariana Enríquez for her book The Dangers of Smoking in Bed, Benjamín Labatut, from Netherlands, for When We Cease to Understand the World. The Employees by Denmark's Olga Ravn, Russian author Maria Stepanova'sIn Memory of Memory and The War of the Poor byÉric Vuillard from France also made the list.

Africa's literature giant and highly favoured Kenyan author Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o was snubbed. He made history by being the first person to make the long list as both author and translator for his novel The Perfect Nine: The Epic of Gikuyu and Mumbi.

The winners of the International Booker Prize stand to be awarded 50 000 pounds. The winners will be announced on June 2, 2021.

Photo by C Brandon

Senegalese Icon Baaba Maal Releases Music Video For “Freak Out”

Veteran singer Baaba Maal releases a new record called “Freak Out” featuring The Very Best.

In anticipation of his upcoming album Being—coming out on March 31—Baaba Maal has released a new track called “Freak Out” featuring The Very Best.

“Freak Out” will be the second track on Maal’s upcoming album. It is a vivid emblem of his musical expertise, and his ability to fuse both the past and present. On this song, Maal works with producer Johan Hugo, who fuses his electronic production with a uniquely modern African sound. The song unravels, and analyzes the world of social media, and how people navigate it. The record features Malawian singer Esau Mwamwaya, who is a part of The Very Best, a collaboration between London’s Radioclit and Mwamwaya. The Very Best has a sound that can be described as a fusion of an Afro-Western mix of dance, hip-hop, pop, and the traditional music of Malawi, and their sound flows seamlessly with Maal’s sonic exploration on “Freak Out.”

In a statement about the record, Baaba Maal delves into the message behind the song.

It became a song about being careful what you put on the internet. It might seem funny or popular when you do it, but it might have consequences and you will have to live with those all your life. There are things you should keep to yourself,” said Maal. “Mystery is important in life; you don’t need to shine a light on every little thing you do. You don’t have to give away your soul for the sake of a little bit of attention.

Maal further explained that his song is calling attention to the idea that the internet should be a force for good.

“The internet should be used to make humanity feel good about themselves. It is so powerful, it can be dangerous and sometimes it just seems the internet has just caused a constant freak out,” Maal continued.

The accompanying music video for “Freak Out” features candid scenes from Baaba’s appearance at Podor’s Blues De Fleuve festival appearance, and is both riveting and distinctive. Watch the David Darg-directed music video below.

Baaba Maal - Freak Out Ft. The Very Best (Official Video)

Photo: Ayobami Adebayo

Emmanuel Iduma Reckons with Nigeria’s Past and Present

The author addresses the personal impact of the Nigerian Civil War in his book, 'I Am Still With You,' which releases this week.

Emmanuel Iduma was named after his uncle – an uncle he never got the chance to meet. His father’s brother disappeared in the Nigerian Civil War, also known as the Biafran War, in the late '60s. 34-year-old Iduma attempts to find out as much as he can about his uncle’s life and death, and in the process, uncovers stories about the war. As he journeys across city after city in the former Biafra region, he reconnects with relatives, and visits sites that once held significance during this not-too-distant time in Nigeria’s past.

Iduma, who trained as a lawyer before becoming a writer, shares his findings in his memoir, I Am Still With You, which was released on February 21st. The book is about the war, to be sure, and the necessity of remembering what happened between Nigeria and the secessionist state of the Republic of Biafra, during which over a million people were reportedly killed. As he writes in the book, “My family’s loss is not just our loss, perhaps a third of Biafran families could speak of someone who did not return.”

But it’s also, more so, about how a personal story is “invariably connected to an historical one,” as he tells OkayAfrica. In the pages of his book, Iduma sets out looking for the correspondences between the historical and the personal, confronting what the facts of the war mean to him. It’s a vital recollection, and one that’s all the more poignant in the run-up to Nigeria’s elections this weekend.

Iduma, who wrote the much-loved travelog, A Stranger’s Pose (which made the 2019 Ondaatje Prize longlist), has received a number of grants and awards for his writing, including the Windham-Campbell Prize. After spending several years in New York, where he both taught and received his MFA, he moved back to Nigeria, just as the pandemic took hold of the world, and began writing his latest work.

Iduma spoke to OkayAfrica about his hopes for both his book and his country.

Interview has been edited for length and clarity.

This is a memoir about you recovering your origin name story and also locating yourself within your country’s history. When did you realize there was a bigger story to tell than just your own?

That came first – the sense that it was bigger than my own story. As far as I can remember, I always knew about a war. As I recount in the book, my father would talk about it in anecdotes or just in passing, and then it became clear that I was named after my uncle. So the war was always, at least especially after my adolescence, something that I felt was part of my identity, part of my story.

Once I became conscious of how my writing could, in a sense, attend to history, I felt there was a story there; there was something I could write in relation to the Biafran War. At the outset, I thought that it would be fiction, that I would write a fictional story about the aftermath. But I started writing a novel and I realized the story was deficient.

The idea I was working through was that the protagonist’s father had been killed during the pro-Biafran uprising, 10 years after the war ended, and, many years later, he goes to find out about his father. Of course, this was similar to my own story, and I hadn’t thought about it; that it was actually a story about how I was going to go look for my uncle.

So I turned to non-fiction. At that time, my father became ill and eventually passed on, and I felt I had to go through my father’s life and absence at that point, in order to write the story of my uncle, and, therefore, of the war. It started from the larger story, and then I found a way in which the personal narrative could enter into that larger stream of history.

The cover of the book I Am Still With You

Photo: Algonquin Books

You let the path you take unfold before you; sometimes you get the answers you seek, other times you’re left frustrated. What surprised you most about your travels?

I think that it would be that I had overestimated the possibility of a story. I really felt that once I began the journey, things would unfold almost naturally, in a linear fashion, right? I would go from point A to discover something that will take me to point B and onwards. It didn't occur to me in a clear sense at the outset that this is not how memory works. Memory doesn't unfold in a linear fashion. At its best, it’s circular or cyclical. So my real surprise was that I didn't get those histories or those recollections handed down to me in a very straightforward fashion. More importantly, I had to, as soon as possible, take responsibility for the story. I had to just simply dive in and go as I was led – by fortuitous encounters or just by sheer grit and tenacity.

The book comes out at a very pivotal moment in Nigeria's history, with the elections this weekend…

This wasn’t planned [chuckles].

What are your hopes for the country?

As I was saying to my wife, I'm very nervous. Because I am old enough to have been aware of all the elections since ‘99. I mean, ‘99 not so much, but from 2003 onwards. I have been quite aware of how things unfolded. It was always simply a question of two major political parties, which are usually clones of themselves in some way, without ideologies except, so to speak, the ideology of holding onto power or refusing to let go of power. I don't think anyone really expected Peter Obi to be as popular as he has become, and, for that very reason, just the sheer scale or scope of hope is nerve-wracking. Because you almost immediately see through this moment to realize that people are just really eager for change.

So even those who are ardent supporters of Peter Obi have almost, in some cases, become fundamentalist in their approach where they're not willing to even imagine that there is a good reason why someone else would vote for either Bola Tinubu or Atiku Abubakar. I’m going to be watching very keenly.

To move past the emotional aspect of it, I really hope that something shifts in the sense of political participation that younger Nigerians have. I think it has already shifted, as a result of the protests in 2020, as a result of Peter Obi’s emergence. I hope that this doesn't devolve into any kind of violence, but also that there is not just simply a sense of despair if the preferred candidate of young people does not win. I really hope that it changes the tenor of political participation in the country. I think it already has, but I want to see how that will become clearer or evident after the elections.

One of the reviews of your book says it’s “a powerful contribution to modern Nigerian history, particularly significant in an age of ethnic conflict around the world.” What would you want its contribution to be?

When I was writing the book, I was aware that I was working with history as it is given, or as it has been handed over to me. So I researched the history of the war. I went to all kinds of places, bought all kinds of books, just to see the range of writing that existed in relation to the war. It was clear to me that many people, both within Nigeria and outside of Nigeria would not have access to the same kind of records. And, not to take too much on myself, but I was aware that many people will come to the history of the war for the first time through my book.

In fact, I was speaking with someone yesterday who said to me that when they were 14, they read Half of a Yellow Sun, and didn't realize that it was a historical event that was fictionalized. They actually thought that the war had been made up by [Chimamanda Ngozi] Adichie. This person was the granddaughter of an Igbo family that moved to the UK around the time of the war. I was aware that people would come to my book in a similar kind of way, learning so much about Nigerian history. In that sense, I hope that it's a contribution to my country's conversation with itself.

In another sense, and perhaps what's closer to my heart and sensibility, is that I hope that it is clear that, as I think of it, the historical is invariably personal, right? That our stories as individuals or on the family level are only consequential, really, because they feed into larger narratives. I hope that that's what Nigerians and non-Nigerians who read this book get; that I am a story within a story, and my story is within a story is within another story, and it gets both even smaller and larger.

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Photo By Sean Zanni:Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

Trevor Noah To Host Prime Video's First South African Show

Trevor Noah is teaming up with Prime Video to Release the a new South African Show Called ‘LOL: Last One Laughing.'

Trevor Noah is taking his comedic chops to Prime Video with LOL: Last One Laughing, a six-episode stand-up comedy competition series that will be released in 2024.

Noah will be hosting the show, which will feature 10 South African comedians competing to see who can keep a straight face the longest while also trying to make their opponent laugh. The comedians will be given a list of challenges and scenarios in which they must maintain a stoic expression. Each episode will end with the "Last One Laughing" taking home a cash prize of 1 million Rand. LOL: Last One Laughing will be Prime Video’s first South African Original. And with Noah’s sharp wit and comedic acumen at the helm, it will be interesting to see LOL: Last One Laughing come to life in South Africa.

In a statement released to Variety, Noah said:

“I’m excited to be back home to host Prime Video’s first South African Original, LOL: Last One Laughing, and to have a chance to connect with my home audience... I am equally delighted for the opportunity to be working alongside my fellow home-grown comedy stars on a show that not only entertains but gives back to the South African production and charity communities.”

Ned Mitchell, head of Africa and Middle East Originals at Amazon also spoke highly of the upcoming show.

“Comedy, in all its forms, shines among South Africa’s most valuable treasures. Together with an A-list roster of this country’s incredible home-grown comedic talent competing for a great charitable cause,” Mitchell said. “Trevor and Prime Video are demonstrating the depth of our shared ambition to invest and elevate the very best of South Africa for audiences locally and around the world.”
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Photo by Nipah Dennis.

Idris Elba, Black Sherif and Sheryl Lee Ralph Join Kamala Harris in Ghana

Idris Elba, Black Sherif and Sheryl Lee Ralph recently visited a music studio in Ghana with Kamala Harris.

Idris Elba, Black Sherif,Sheryl Lee Ralph and other celebrities joined Vice President Kamala Harris in Ghana as she visited the Vibration studio at the freedom skate park in Accra, Ghana. Harris visited the community recording studio with the stars as part of her weeklong tour of Africa. The visit was a step towards highlighting the growth, talent and evolution of African creatives and the creative industry in Africa. Other notable figures who joined Harris on the tour included Baaba J, Ria Boss, and Moses Sumney.

In the past, British actor Elba, whose mother is Ghanaian, has been vocal about the West supporting and investing in African creatives. Earlier this month, he joined forces with Nigerian media mogul Mo Abudu to launch a joint film and TV venture that would support new projects from rising African talent in the continent and the diaspora.

While talking with the press, the “Luther” actor said that he and his wife first met Harris at the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit last year.

“[Harris] said, ‘Hey, I really want to come to Africa. And we said we’d love to do that,’” Elba told White House press reporters in Ghana, according to The Hill.

“If you ever go to Africa, let me know,” Elba said. “So here we are.”

The Golden Globe winner also mentioned that the creative talent pool in Africa is rich, and it was a good idea that Harris had visited.

“I think it’s a great signal for VP to come to Ghana, to come to Africa and be that interface to show the rest of the world that actually it is a fantastic place to sort of look at in terms of partnership and investment,” said Elba.

During the event, which gathered a crowd of creatives, Lee sang “Endangered Species,” after which she addressed the attendees.

“You must invest in yourself, in your art, first. And then you birth it out to the world,” Ralph said.

After her visit to Ghana, Harris will make a stop in Tanzania and then wrap up her African tour in Zambia.

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