Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Transformation, the fragility of peace & Wainaina's columns

On my way to a meeting, I board the train, and take my seat behind two friends, female, young, blonde; obviously, like me on the way to work. They, unlike me, bag a table and proceed to chatter and giggle their way through most of the twenty minute journey, then five minutes to the first stop, they whip out little purses, unzip them and in a moment, I stare transfixed as the table surface is transformed into a display to rival that of any salon. I watch as they carefully, slowly, layer by layer, lay on the make-up, seemingly unaffected by the jolting of the train- first, various liquids are applied to the whole face, or to pars thereof and then it is time to concentrate on the eyes with various wand-like implements, and then the lips are outlined, filled in, shaded and tinted with a delicacy of movement that would put Van Gogh to shame. As we pull into the station, they pack up their gear, put the purses away and lift their bags to leave the train- as they walk past my seat, I see that they are transformed- those amongst you who think that makeup does not work should think again....this was such a slick operation, miles away from my mother's spartan pancake and eye pencil routine when I was growing up...

A colleague waylays me in the small office kitchen, I had somewhat foolishly given her a copy of Half of a Yellow Sun at Christmas and so now she wants to know more- "Do these", she stumbles over the word, waves a hand, "differences still exist in Nigeria?" I want to say, well, yes to some extent but that things are a lot better now, especially among the younger generation like me and then I remember Kenya, my visit last week to some of the Kenyan blogs and forums and I realize how fragile our peace is. And so I stammer a reply, pointing out the role that economic tensions play in situations like this.To bolster my case, I quote from Winnie and Wolf, the fictionalized account (by AN Wilson) of the relationship between Hitler and Winifred Wagner, daughter-in-law of the composer which I read over Christmas. I describe how Wilson captures the mood in Germany between the wars, charting convincingly what it felt like to ordinary people. The humiliating grinding poverty following the First war and then the rise of Hitler and his thuggish hordes who appear to restore German pride and confidence and the economy....so what if as a consequence a small minority suffered, the majority were glad to revel in their improved circumstances....The lesson I think is that peace is fragile, no matter where you are...

I stumbled across this DFID supported site which seems like a good idea if you are sending money home

Nigerian writer Nnedi Okoroafor Mbachu who has dropped by here before is one of the winners of the Macmillan Writers Prize for Africa in the junior category for her book Long Juju Man

If, like me, you are a fan of Binyavanga "How to Write About Africa" Wainaina's, acerbic but thoughtful writing, my recent discovery of his columns for South Africa's Mail and Guardian will please you as it does me. His articles on the troubles in his home country of Kenya are poignant and insightful...

10 comments:

Kush said...

UK Naija your extensive reading leads me to believe you must have a literary day job (otherwise where do you find the time?). Perhaps UK Naija is your secret identity and you are a famous Nigerian author by day?

Waffarian said...

I have stopped doing that here, I now wait for them to waylay me with books written by African writers, in fact, anything about Africa goes, I am considered an expert(they never remember which country I am from anyway)

Last time it was that book "The white masai", oh, how shocked they all were that I had no idea of what they were going on about! I find it amusing that they do not believe me when I say I really have no idea.

As for half of the yellow sun, I thank God they have not figured out yet that I am from Nigeria....but I know they will come, sooner or later.

Lola Shoneyin said...

Hi UK, I'm still waiting to hear from you.

LS

Afrobabe said...

what do u mean by she dropped by? was she a blogger? does that mean there is hope? lol..

Jaja said...

Thanks for the links to Binyavanga's writing. I had only just been hearing about him untill now.

Talatu-Carmen said...

echoing jaja, thanks for those links to Wainaina's columns. It is good to get an "inside" perspective on the Kenya crisis--beyond the never ending talk of "ethnic" crisis in the NY Times. I've also found http://www.pambazuka.org/en/ a good place to get alternate news sources on Kenya.

Obinwanne said...

good write up...never been here before...will visit all the time from now...informative as well.

KemiMamaLopes said...

Thank God for make up!

Anonymous said...

I stumbled across your blog while taking a break from work. I find it quite amusing and interesting. I also find myself, like Kush wondering when you truly have time to read all these books.....dont get me wrong, I certainly admire your literary exposure.So I'm thinking perphaps you are some sort of recluse, well you did say you went out on New year's day.................Anyway, I also just finished the Half of a Yellow Sun, it sent shivers down my spine facing the reality of a genocide in ''our own backyard''

x.Caramel.x said...

LOL about the make up tranformation. Yes make up surely does wonders for us ladies =)