For World Poetry Day I choose ‘ If’

I’m not really a poetry person which is ironic because I have an exercise book filled with poems I wrote as a teenager( no, it wasn’t Of ‘Roses are red, violets are blue’ orientation, was some serious stuff)and I have a first degree in Literature.

For those who may not know, studying Literature involves a semester of at least 30 books, not counting lengthy plays like Wole Soyinka’s ‘The Bacchae of Euripides’ and learning the at least 20 poems including Ullyses, The Rape of Lock and ‘ The Rime of the ancient Mariner’- mostly pieces that were out of print so you had to lay siege at the Library with spy skills that would put Sherlock Holmes to shame.

Even after four years of that poetry is not my thing but there are four pieces that touch me and yes, I like.

  1. 1. A telephone conversation by Wole Soyinka 
  2. The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge 
  3. When you have forgotten Sunday  by Gwendolyn Brooks
  4. My personal favourite, ‘If’ by Rudiyard Kipling which I will share.       

If 

If you can keep your head when all about you   

    Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,   

If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you, 

    But make allowance for their doubting too;   

If you can wait and not be tired by waiting, 

    Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies, 

Or being hated, don’t give way to hating, 

    And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;   

    If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;   

If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster 

    And treat those two impostors just the same;   

If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken 

    Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools, 

Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken, 

    And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools: 

If you can make one heap of all your winnings 
    And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss, 

And lose, and start again at your beginnings 

    And never breathe a word about your loss; 

If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew 

    To serve your turn long after they are gone,   

And so hold on when there is nothing in you 

    Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’ 

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,   

    Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch, 

If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you, 

    If all men count with you, but none too much; 

If you can fill the unforgiving minute 

    With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,   

Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,   

    And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!

Now, do you see why I choose ‘ If’?

Let’s do a Mental Health check!


Today is the International Day Of Happiness. Ironically enough, it comes after a weekend of suicides in Nigeria. 

On Saturday, a 500 level student from the Ladoke Akintola University of Technology (LAUTECH), Ogbomosho, Oyo State committed suicide by hanging. His friends said they’d returned home from a night of reading to find Adesoji Adediran dangling from the ceiling. According to them, there was nothing strange in his behavior when they left him that Friday night. In fact, a close friend of the deceased described him as as “funny and lively”, not the usual candidate for suicide. More on Adediran’s story here.

Just yesterday ( Sunday) a doctor asked his driver to park while he got out of the car and jumped off the Third mainland Bridge in Lagos and that was that. This is the reality: what appeared to be foreign practice is slowly becoming a norm in Nigeria; it’s clearly not about location, it’s a state of mind-such a pity!


Mental health is important and we really need to take it seriously. Last week, I heard of a guy who went on his FB page and told his friends that he planned to take his life. No one took him seriously. Some even taunted him, daring him to go ahead and next thing they knew they were drafting RIP messages while others cursed him out for being silly. 

I suspect for such people it’s a bit more than the surface sadness we all face for a limited period. I think they must have reached a point where they can no longer control themselves. It’s a disease and like many diseases can’t be controlled by sheer will power.

Barbara Kingsolver perhaps puts it more succinctly. She says: 

There is no point treating a depressed person as though she were just feeling sad, saying, ‘There now, hang on, you’ll get over it.’ Sadness is more or less like a head cold- with patience, it passes. Depression is like cancer.

What can we do then?

1. Watch our mental health really closely 

2. Seek help if we think things are getting out of hand 

3. Watch out for our friends closely and ask them questions. 

This graphic I found on the net profers some great solutions to maintaining happiness as well.


Depression and other forms of mental health are things we hardly ever discuss in this society but perhaps it is time we do. 

With this , I bid you Happy International Day of Happiness and dare to ask you, ‘How are you doing today. I mean, really?I would like to know.’

U.S President Trumps favourite quote is by a Nigerian writer

US President Donald Trump is said to have welcomed Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny to the White House quoting What he said was his favourite Irish proverb. 

Always remember to forget the friends that proved untrue. But never forget to remember those that have stuck by you.

The thing is, the proverb which is a quote from a Poem isn’t Irish but was written by a Nigerian Banker called Albashir Adam Alhassan. 👇🏾
  

Perhaps Albashir should reconsider his career choice? A poem he wrote about 10 years ago is being quoted by the Number one Citizen of the world! Awesome, if you ask me.

Update 

So this poem that was supposedly misquoted by President Trump turned out to have been plagiarized by the Nigerian writer in question.

Another Nigerian writer, Elnathan John says Albashir must have’ lifted’ the poem from an old collection. He says that running it through a plagiarism checker would reveal that it was. He’s got proof too:


All I can say is that this saga  has the makings of a good story- there are definitely lots of twists and turns! Oh yeah and President Trump does know his onions afterall- he was right the whole time…

  5 women who inspire me  

It’s International Women’s Day and women across the world are being celebrated for …just being  women. The mere fact that you’re female and have to navigate this very complex world we live in- mostly staggering on 👠 is a great achievement. Well done!

Still there are those of us who have gone the extra mile to make something of ourselves and change the world, while inspiring others. I’m sure you have a mental list of people who inspire you.

I do.

Top on my list is my mother, gone many years now but every now and then I stumble into something of hers that inspires me: Her old tapes, a movie about the Roman Empire, her cookbooks( she was a caterer) an old sweater she either knit or crocheted ,  her diary of shopping lists, accounts of her journeys or this old dress of hers I was finally able to try on properly last week.👇🏾


Here is a list of some other women who’ve inspired me:

1. Michelle Obama

 Aside from the obvious reasons-poise, dress sense, charm, fitness buff- she seems to have a word for every occasion. I realise that many public officers have speech writers who do the dirty work but how many public faces are able to deliver with such expression and meaning?

2. Eugenia Abu 

I first met Mrs Abu at Wuse Market. We were there shopping with my friend when she( said friend) tripped and almost fell. Eugenia who herself was with someone stopped instantly and asked with such concern, ‘ Are you okay?’ She waited till my friend had regained composure before she went her way. I met her a year or so later while in the line of duty- as journalist attending a Chevening Alumni networking do at the British High Commission. I reminded her of the Wuse Market incident. By the end of that evening I’d left with her card and an invitation to her book reading-a great experience. I have since met with her in various scenarios – for career advice at some point- and each time I come away marveling at her humility, kindness and her ability to juggle so many things at the same time. As of then, she was a Boss at NTA, a columnist and editorial board member at Thisday Newspapers, still writing , mentoring a tribe of youths on a one on one basis all the while keeping a home.

3. Lupita Nyong’o

Lupita inspires me because she was given pineapples ( as opposed to lemons) and she didn’t stick to just making pineapple juice. She made pineapple turnover cake, Zobo juice and fruit salad from it- basically the works! When she won an Oscar for her almost non speaking role in 12 Years a Slave many said that would be the end of her career because she’d been thrown up to the highest point and would have to keep proving that she deserved it. How wrong they were. Miss Nyong’o is probably one of the most multifaceted actors in Hollywood with hands dipped into many genres of the creative industry : acting, producing, modeling- she’s been featured on the cover of several reputable magazines -and trying her hand at rapping. Yes, you read me right. In an upcoming blog, I write about how she branded herself for opportunities in Hollywood. Watch out for it!

4. Marian Keyes

One of my most prized possessions is a collection of three books by one of my favourite authors, Marian Keyes.
There was a time in Nigeria when you couldn’t order stuff from Amazon. We knew this – my friend and I -and we were excited to find this quaint video and book club along Murtala Square in Kaduna that had alot of books, including a few written by Marian. Still we were limited and couldn’t get new books by the author.

So back to Amazon. In the course of things, I fell in ‘like’ with Marian’s hilarious books and emailed to tell her so, adding that it was unfortunate I couldn’t see her new stuff in Nigeria. They mentioned Amazon then and I told them it didn’t work in Nigeria-this was around 2007. They asked for my mailing address and  I gave it to them.Imagine my surprise a few weeks later, when a  huge package with  three autographed books from Marian arrived. Wow. Why does she inspire me? Reading her books introduced me to characters  who got me thinking,  ‘wow, Me too!’ even with the disparities in culture and geographical location amongst others. Now, with each piece, I try to create that feeling of deja vu. When we read a good book it’s one of the feelings that make us turn the page…

So that’s my list. What about you-Who is that one woman  that inspires you? Today is a great day to appreciate her.

Happy International Women’s day, ladies!

In Defence of The Interpreters

In Defence of The Interpreters was originally written for and published by 234 NEXT Newspapers.

If Nobel laureate, Wole Soyinka were to be cast in a movie, he would be a swashbuckling hero in a nineteenth century Western. But while others are wielding rifles, our hero would calmly take out a pen and silence the whole lot of them.
That’s what the playwright has been doing over the years: churning pieces that leave you silent, shocked, impressed or just plain confused. Plays like ‘The Trials of Brother Jero’ have attracted large audiences in theatres across the globe. In poems like ‘Telephone Conversation’, Soyinka leaves a racist landlord in a stuttering mass of confusion with the admission, ‘Madam, I hate a wasted journey. I am African.’
What leaves me most impressed with the soon-to-be 76-year-old, is his novel, ‘The Interpreters’. Had his other works not been as impressive enough to qualify him for a Nobel Prize, this book, I believe would have been a deal clincher in itself.
Set in post-colonial Nigeria, the novel is centred on six friends, who have returned to the country with foreign degrees, and high hopes of snagging rewarding jobs. First things first however: they have to fit into the system.
‘The Interpreters’ is a joy ride, manned by several drivers – characters if you like – who move us through a series of events, misfortunes and incidents that give us a peek into their journeys both as individuals and then, collectively.
Sagoe, the somewhat cynical journalist, faces corruption as he discovers that his American degree is not all he needs to attain a good job. Following an interview with a newspaper over a possible position, a member of the paper’s board demands for a bribe and explains, “… degree is too plenty… so everybody is rushing to fill all vacancy.”
Kola the artist starts to feel “feminine anger’ once Sekoni the frustrated engineer begins to sculpt inspiring pieces. Sekoni faces the danger of going to an asylum when the power plant construction he worked on is declared dangerous. When he insists on putting the plant to the test, his employers say he has gone mad. Egbo is haunted by his tortured childhood and finds solace in rivers and accounts of how his parents drowned in a river back in the Niger Deltan creeks. Dehinwa is the only female in the crew and her constant sparring with Sagoe hints at a possible romance. Bandele faces little drama but experiences it vicariously through his friends, who count on his sense of stability; while his acquaintances invite him for home cooked meals, hoping to listen in on gossip he is often privy to… We meet them at a club, in the early hours of the morning, each buried in his or her world but kept connected by scant conversation.
Bandele emerged from a cat-nap, unwrapped his eyes and inspected the scene. “It hasn’t stopped then.”
” The rain, no”
There is no central plot in this 253-paged novel but the subject matters are limitless: degeneration, disillusion, bribery and corruption, interracial relationships and tribalism, to mention a few. The language is highly poetic: “to the clang of iron bells and the summons of shared drums.” Through the juxtaposition of scenes of the past with the present, Soyinka reveals to us the fears, idiosyncrasies, grievances and thoughts of these characters. He also beams a torchlight on common practices that exist in Nigeria, even till date. In Chapter 7, a taxi driver tries to bribe Sagoe who is under the guise of a police man. The section reads, “In his hand was the crumpled 5 shilling note which he prepared to pass on.’
A couple of chapters earlier, we meet the members of the board who interview Sagoe. Soyinka gives his view of the then-Nigerian leadership, “They are products of missed nominations, thug recruitment, financial backing, ministerial in-lawfulness, ministerial poncing, general arse-licking, ministerial concubinage.”
This is all part of the system and the office messenger, Mathias’ statement when Sagoe asks him how he deals with stench shows how many handle corruption: “Ah, na so everybody dey say first time… but make you look me now. I just dey grow fat for the smell.”
In this Soyinka world, which spans Ibadan and Lagos states, a number of foreign characters are used to explore relationships between Nigerians and foreigners. Joe Golder is described as three-quarters white. He spends most of his time frying his face or gluing newspapers to it so that he can darken it and claim what he calls his birthright. In Peter the German, we see that it is not just Africans that try to inflect an American accent. Bandele says of the unwanted house guest, “No, German, but he thinks he is American.” And if a reader starts to doubt this possibility, he is brought short by the appearance of the character in question, “I’m Perrer (Peter). Hi!”
One of the major symbols in the novel is the presence of an albino in most of the characters’ lives. They are usually given an ethereal quality that either draws people to them or leaves them terrified. It is said of Simi, Egbo’s lover: ‘Simi broke men and friendships’. Sir Derin, another albino was the only member of the newspaper board, who ‘stood out’ at Sagoe’s interview.
Many have said that ‘The Interpreters’ makes no sense and that the diction in use therein is too highly strung. It probably is, if the novel has been compared with the works of literary greats like William Faulkner and James Joyce. Still, I have often wondered why it is so difficult to find it at bookstores. I see ‘The Interpreters’ as a cocktail of sorts, laced with humour, social realism and giving an insight into the neo-colonised system that used to and still pervades the Nigerian society.
And if it is true that a people can forge successfully into the future once they know about the past, then this is one novel many ought to read to set the ball rolling.

How Amsa Yaro Crapulli started her International Jewelry business


Amsa Yaro Crapulli, a videographer turned business owner, creates amazing jewelry.

Really, she does.

For her, It began with making beaded earrings, bracelets and necklaces and then continued till it was obvious that Amsa’s creations were no longer business as usual. Gradually precious stones and other uncommon materials were replacing the popular beads she started her trade with. 

She says,

‘I started making my own beads from paper and fabric. I also started teaching many how to make recyclable art, you know. Using things that are not the usual to make something wearable and worth keeping.’

‘Worth keeping’ is a phrase that probably echos in our subconsious as we scan shopping malls and market stalls, scoping out things to buy. Most of us want fashion accessories that stand out and thats what Amsa Yaro’s Yarolli brand has suceeded in doing. 

With this ‘beaded’ ring…

The Amsa Yaro studio churns out jewelry you want to wear with your carefully selected wedding , evening cocktail and smart casual outfits. I know i along with sizaeble number of clients that raid her online store find her jewelry impressive.

I recently had a chat with Amsa and she shared some of her trade secrets. Check out the interview below:

Amina: Tell me about Yarolli. Whats it all about?
Amsa: Yarolli is about wearable art. Making art that can be used in our daily lives and can add funky and eccentric style to our look. But I realised that having just Yarolli was a bit restricting because I have interest in other mediums so without clouding Yarolli over, I am, right now, working on developing a brand that would ring true to all I want to do. That is where Amsa Yaro Studio comes in.

Amina: Ah.Please explain further.

Amsa: This way, I can express myself as a mixed media artist another without falling out of my collective and still be true to myself. Yeah, it is like a collective because This covers my illustrations, fabric design, sewing projects, jewellery, painting, sculpture and all. I am Magpie of artsy things so yeah, things are crazy right now but they will fall in place soon. And if they don’t, it’s all part of the advent.

Amsa Yaro Studio

‘Queen Amina’ by Amsa Yaro Studio

Amina: I like that. Personally, I have come to realise that it is very important to enjoy the ride without too much fixation on the destination. Many dont seem to realise that, see? So what inspired you to start your jewelry business?

Amsa:What inspired me was my need to have productive hands or tools. I have always had the desire of making things and bringing ideas to life so making jewellery was my gateway craft. I started making jewellery while waiting for NYSC (Nigerian Youth Service Corporation which is a compulsory year long service for graduates) and this pushed me deeper into the crafts world where I helped myself with all the info I could get my hands through the internet. 


I started making my own beads from paper and fabric. I also started teaching many how to make recyclable art, you know. Using things that are not the usual to make something wearable and worth keeping. Then this grew to more than just jewellery and I allowed to myself to make and learn other crafts like crochet, printing and now, here I am, making sculptures, jewellery and other décor products from paper, fabric and anything I make an interesting art piece from. And if I can share what I make with the world, why not?

Masks!

Amina:Wow.Why not indeed? They say the grave yard has the largest gathering of talents on earth. It would have been a terrible shame if yours ended there. So now that you have all this up and running do you have long term plans of-building an empire round it? I guess what im trying to say is what is your vision for Yarolli?

Amsa: My vision for both Yarolli and Amsa Yaro Studio is not just to reach the level of making products for a vast variety of customers. I want it to become an ideal. An idea that is worth cultivating in our society. Being mindful about what we use and how we can give more meaning or an extra lease on life. My vision is to become a school of thought in which art can be brought into every day life but at the same time, valued because of the stories behind them. I hope to have spot one day where anyone willing to experiment with their creative side can come and express themselves without fear.

Amina: You seem to be checking all the right boxes! I think sharing knowlege is an intergral part of success. So when you say you want á spot’for those who want to explore their creative side, im thinking,’Na wa o, is she pychic?’ because really, my next question was and still is, how would you say your product has impacted others? 

Amsa: Oh wow. Impact is a big word. For me, having them happily buying it and taking them home is worth gold. I think my biggest effect is the customer actually realising that what they just paid for was made by something they would never think of but can be found all around them. Hopefully, this lets them find new ways of re-using materials and objects. Just as how a wine bottle can be used as a lamp stand or how paper can be sewn to fabric and such, limitless possibilities from things we easily discard as trash.

Amina: For the benefit of those reading this, could you tell us five things a person needs to start a jewelry business?

Amsa: Oh, it’s really easy to start. You pick out a name and register it. Done. You have a business. The not so easy part is making it more than a registered name at CAC.

  1. Secondly, You need to be dedicated to what you have started. You need to have passion for it. I think That’s one of the reasons why I am still on it. I started this because I love the arts. The process from start to finish gets me going. I have many failed starts oh. But that’s what business is about. It’s a risk worth fighting for and I will keep fighting the good fight.
  2. Get the right tools. They don’t have to be expensive. I believe that even with this crazy economy, you could find a good set of tools, beads and findings with 20,000.
  3. Get a good phone. Again, it doesn’t have to be expensive but ensure it has a good camera. This way, it reduces your need to find a photographer because you start up budget is small. It is also very useful for your networking and marketing as well.
  4. Find an angle. By that I mean, who is your target customer? What kind of customer would you want to make for? Do you want to make coral bead necklaces only? Then brides-to-be, wedding planners and bridal shops are your target audience. You want to use semi precious stones, then stylists, high end retail and gift stores are who you should look at.


Amina:
Thanks so much for your time, Amsa.

Amsa:Its been a pleasure.

Just a bit more about Amsa …

Amsa made her wedding bouquet for her walk down the aisle in 2015

Amsa is a graduate of Mass Communications from the University of Maiduguri with a post Graduate Degree in broadcast Journalism from Fanshawe College in Canada, where she now lives, creates and sells her art mostly online. To order some of the amazing pieces featured on this blog and more , like her page Amsa Yaro Studio or order from her Facebook online store

Shamitabh: Film Review

”Fear exists where people die. Nobody dies in the graveyard” – Amitab Bachan, Shamitabh

 I had many a tear dabbing moment watching this movie. Bollywood has done it again: Slum dog millionaire, My name is Khan and now this.
Great story telling, done in layers and pulling at almost every human emotion possible.
You truly feel for the protagonist: his victories, hopes, fears and yes, tears.
Shamitabh deserves an Oscar in 2016. I’m not Indian and have no personal interests but I will be rooting for it along with any great Nigerian creation or actor that gets nominated.
With this movie comes the same heady reactions I had to classics like Superman, The Scarlet Pimpernel and A few good men. A cape draping moment replete with Punjab laced music and amazing attention to photographic detail….attention, cinematographers!
Amitabh reprises his status as Bollywood’s best in this movie. Although his character wears old-man -scruffy like a second skin, his lopsided cynical smiles and sarcastic jibes casts him as the main character. Whereas we have watched Amitabh for years and appreciate his deep mellow voice, this is the first time we are forced to appreciate it independent of his looks and his oh so impressive personality.
Amitabh’s jealousy of Shamitab is an echo or the lifelong argument of who is the greatest; the voice actor or the television star? To paraphrase an old 80s song, Did video really kill the radio star? Is there more effort put into video acting than radio? What is an actor without a voice? How best do you capture the hearts of an audience- through mere sound or with a combination of that and video?
Bachan’s Character says they can’t make a movie without sound but once the production is released, it is referred to only as a ‘ Picture’
Whiskey is used as a metaphor for voice while water represents acting.
He says, ‘ no water, whiskey. Whiskey doesn’t need any water.’ To which the only prominent female character in the film screams, ‘ whisky is made from water. Without water, there is no whiskey’
And so the wheels of thought churn to life and this debate continues in one’s mind long after the movie is finished.
Two hours twenty minutes and not a boring moment, for me at least.
My goodness, who wrote this script? It’s the same question I asked after I finished the movie Hot Rod, season one of ‘ how to get away with murder. ‘(Yes, Shondra Rhimes but I knew that before I began the series.)

Classic movie: a mute wannabe actor meets a drunk impoverished never do well actor appreciated only for his voice. Through joint talent their work elicits praise from both local and international fans but only one is the face of this duo and there begins the problem.  But there is more to this story line. It is moved forward by a series of twists and turns that is embodied in the clash of characters and a display of high strung ego cum jealousy that more often than not becomes a companion to fame.
I will say very little about this movie except for the fact that nobody does tragedy like Bollywood: just take a moment, think back… 
In this cocktail of genre’s lies deep the message around team work and the need for joint effort.  The movie description says it us an ‘ode to film.’ I say it is that and far much more.
And just as two started with a meeting in the grave yard, they reunite there, culminating in a bitter sweet ending.

PS: Sorry , wrote this last year but I feel its never too late to review a good movie.