10 Days of Unravelling: What the Farafina Trust Workshop Taught Me – Ama Asantewa Diaka

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Ama Asantewa Diaka

When Ghana-based Nigerian singer, Villy, told me that taxi drivers in Ghana are ready to cheat you the minute they detect foreignness in your voice, I didn’t believe him. I remember telling him Ghanaians and Nigerians are siblings, and all he needs to do is speak pidgin. He laughed at my naivety and told me that the only reason they couldn’t cheat him was because he knew his way around.

I didn’t know my way around. I landed at Murtala Muhammed Airport in Lagos, my ignorance obvious.

A woman in a grey suit and flats rushed to help me with my luggage before asking if I needed a cab. I told her I needed to make a phone call first. She whipped out an old Nokia and I read Okey Adichie’s number for her off my phone. After a few seconds of talking to Okey she announced that we were going to Lekki.

“You get naira?”she asked as she wheeled my bag behind her.

That was when I made my first mistake: I replied in fine fine English instead of pidgin. My second mistake was not converting my cedis to naira before getting on the plane. The woman told me it would cost 200 cedis to take me to Lekki. I told her it was too expensive.

“You’re lucky o!” she said. “Some people, we charge them plenty dollars.”

I knew I was being cheated but I also knew there was nothing I could do about it. I had to get to Lekki.

The drive to Lekki took almost two hours. After getting lost twice, the cab driver, who kept calling me aunty and apologizing for his bad cough, finally found Lekki Waterside Hotel.

I was here.

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I had applied for the Farafina Trust workshop last year. I didn’t get in, but I got an email informing me that I had made the shortlist of 70 from which the final 25 were chosen, and encouraging me to keep writing. It was the kind of confidence boost that gave me the right to admit to myself that I was a writer.

And so this year, when I got the email saying that I had been selected as a participant, I let out a loud shriek and did a 10-second dance.

And so even though Arik Air had stressed me out, even though I was overcharged for the cab ride, I was here.

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On the first day of the workshop we met Chimamanda, and I watched her with quiet wonder. We took turns introducing ourselves and it was beautiful listening to everybody gush over her. When it was my turn I had few words, not because I wasn’t blown away by her presence, but because I wanted the taste of her influence to linger in my mouth longer.

The next 10 days were an unravelling.

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Farafina Trust 2016 workshop participants, with facilitators Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Eghosa Imasuen

You can often taste the sweetness of alasa right from the first suck. But until you have eaten out the flesh and chewed it into gum, you cannot truthfully judge how good the fruit is. This is what the people I met at the workshop were like. In the first few days, I knew I had met people I could call nice; but by the time we left the workshop, I had bonded with people I wouldn’t mind being stuck on an island with. (I refuse it IJN by the way. Already struggling with dumsor, I don’t need to be stuck on an island to test my level of madness.)

Sometimes you idolize someone from a distance, and then when you meet them their humanness further confirms their godliness – not the distant memory of a god kind of godliness, but the kind that sits in your head and feels familiar – the kind you discover in yourself. Chimamanda rolled her eyes, laughed the most, loved the hardest, offered herself as a safe space and taught us what she knew with all the badassness her being could contain. She recognized bullshit and called it as it was.

We had three facilitators in addition to Chimamanda – Aslak, Binyavanga and Eghosa. What struck me most about Aslak was the passion with which he spoke of words. His love for literature was so evident in his speech and his clear blue eyes that at the end of the class I was fired up to write something so good that it would elicit a similar emotion from others.

There was something about the way Binyavanga appraised your work that made you want to give your very best. He didn’t need to dissect a story before you knew it was flawed; he let you know if a piece of writing made him fall in love or if it bored him to death.

I hope every writer has someone like Eghosa in their life: to critique, to jest, to gently insult, to praise, to encourage and to let you know how silly you look using a font an editor can barely read.

Halfway through the workshop I was overwhelmed by all I was learning and I wished there were more workshops like that of Farafina Trust, in Ghana and in Africa as a whole.

The workshop taught me to go where it hurts, because it is only then that it matters. It taught me that as a writer my responsibility is first to the story; not to society, not to friends, not to family, but to the story.

It taught me that my normal is enough.

That writing makes me god.

That detail gives my text credibility.

That there are no rules if I can get away with it.

That you can find safe spaces in people.

And that there are stories everywhere, all you have to do is look closely.

 

2015 Farafina Trust Creative Writing Workshop

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Farafina Trust will be holding a creative writing workshop in Lagos, organized by award-winning writer and creative director of Farafina Trust, Chimamanda Adichie, from June 16 to June 26, 2015. The workshop is sponsored by Nigerian Breweries Plc. Guest writers who will co-teach the workshop alongside Adichie are the Caine Prize Winning Kenyan writer Binyavanga Wainaina, National Librarian of Norway Aslak Sira Myhre, and others.

The workshop will take the form of a class. Participants will be assigned a wide range of reading exercises, as well as daily writing exercises. The aim of the workshop is to improve the craft of Nigerian writers and to encourage published and unpublished writers by bringing different perspectives to the art of storytelling. Participation is limited only to those who apply and are accepted.

To apply, send an e-mail to Udonandu2015@gmail.com. Your e-mail subject should read ‘Workshop Application.’ The body of the e-mail should contain the following:

  1. Your name
  2. Your address
  3. A few sentences about yourself
  4. A writing sample of between 200 and 800 words. The sample must be either fiction or non-fiction.

All material must be pasted or written in the body of the e-mail. Please DO NOT include any attachments in your e-mail. Applications with attachments will be automatically disqualified.

Deadline for submissions is April 30, 2015. Only those accepted to the workshop will be notified by June 2, 2015. Accommodation in Lagos will be provided for all accepted applicants who are able to attend for the ten-day duration of the workshop. A literary evening of readings, open to the public, will be held at the end of the workshop.

Americanah: One of the 10 Best Books of 2013

The year’s best books, selected by the editors of The New York Times Book Review.

FICTION

Farafina Books

The New York Times’ 10 Best Books of 2013

By turns tender and trenchant, Adichie’s third novel takes on the comedy and tragedy of American race relations from the perspective of a young Nigerian immigrant. From the office politics of a hair-braiding salon to the burden of memory, there’s nothing too humble or daunting for this fearless writer, who is so attuned to the various worlds and shifting selves we inhabit — in life and online, in love, as agents and victims of history and the heroes of our own stories.” ~ The New York Times.

Read the rest here.

The UK Guardian also named Americanah as one of the Best Fiction of 2013

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

So what should we get Chimamanda for Christmas?

I’d love to be given, as a present, a signed copy of Politics: Observations and Arguments, 1966-2004 (Penguin) by Hendrik Hertzberg, whose work I admire very much.” ~ Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

Photo Diary, 2013 Farafina Trust Literary Evening

So another Farafina Workshop has come and gone but not without characteristic glamour. On Friday 16th August the workshop participants, mentors, sponsors, well wishers and the everyone else who loves a literary fest gathered at Oriental Hotel, VI to mark the end of the 2013 Farafina Workshop.

Courtesy of our favourite photographer (ever!), Tolu Talabi, enjoy these glam shots from The Farafina Trust Literary Evening.

It was impossible not to be enchanted by literature at a venue like this.

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Binyavanga Wainana and Pearl Osibu

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The Beautiful Ms. Adichie

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The Adichies

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The Binj

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Eghosa Imasuen, 2013 Farafina Trust Workshop Facilitator

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The lovely Mrs. Imasuen

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A cross-section of the audience with Chimamanda Adichie

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Chimamanda Adichie and Ivara Esege

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Workshop participants, (l-r) Tolu Agunbiade, Maryam Isa, and guest (Tola Agunbiade)

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2013 Workshop participants (l-r), Damilola Yakubu, Adaora Nwankwo and Sifa Asani-Gowon

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2013 Workshop participants (l-r), Uchenna Ude, Okpanachi Michael

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2013 Workshop participants (l-r), Timendu Aghahowa, Gbolahan Adeola, Adulrashid Muhammad

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2013 workshop facilitators, Eghosa Imasuen, Aslak Sira Myhre and Binyavanga Wainana

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The Imasuens

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Chimamanda Adichie speaking about the 2013 Workshop and its participants

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Yona Oyegun-Masade, Kachifo’s Managing Editor

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Amatesiro Dore, writer and roving editor for Kachifo

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Efe Paul Azino, 2013 Farafina Workshop participant and prolific poet

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Artist, K’Cee (of Limpopo fame) and young fan

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Ahem, sorry did we say fan? We meant young talent

2013 Farafina Trust Literary Evening

You’re All Invited!

Seun Kuti @ a past Farafina Trust Literary Evening
Seun Kuti @ the 2011 Farafina Trust Literary Evening

To mark the end of the 2013 Farafina Trust Creative Writing Workshop, Farafina Trust will be holding a literary evening, which is open to the public.

As always, the literary evening presents an opportunity for writers, literary enthusiasts and lovers of the arts to mingle and interact.

Date: Friday, 16th August 2013
Time: 5 p.m.
Venue: Oriental Hotel, 3 Lekki Expressway, Victoria Island, Lagos

Everyone is invited, so please bring a girlfriend, a boyfriend, a potential friend, an enemy (it might change their lives!).

Farafina titles will be available on sale.

See you there!

Selected Writers for 2013 Farafina Trust Creative Writing Workshop

Chimamanda Adichie

In April, Farafina Trust called for entries for the 2013 Farafina Trust creative writing workshop, inviting writers from all over the world to submit their short pieces. From the numerous applicants, twenty-five outstanding writers have been selected to participate in the workshop this year, which will be taught by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Eghosa Imasuen, Binyavanga Wainaina and other writers of note.

The selected writers this year are:

1. Zenique Gardner (USA)
2. Maryam  Shuaib (Minna)
3. Tolu Agunbiade (Ketu)
4. Timendu Aghahowa (Ikeja)
5. Abdulrashid Muhammad (Abuja)
6. Uchenna Ude (Lagos)
7. Udoh Charles Rapulu (Onitsha)
8. Gbolahan Adeola (USA)
9. Lilian Izuorah (Minna)
10. Suleiman Agbonkhianmen ( Lagos)
11. Nicholas Ochiel (Kenya)
12. Yakubu Damilola Daniel (Kwara)
13. Kelechi Njoku (Abuja)
14. Lesley Nneka Arimah (USA)
15. Tajudeen Sagaya (Lagos)
16. Adaora Nwankwo (Onitsha)
17. Chidinma Nnamani (Enugu)
18. Arinze Daniel Ifeakandu (Kano)
19. Okpanachi Eyo Michael (Zaria)
20. Okechukwu Otukwu (Delta)
21. Dami Adeleke (Lagos)
22. Faith Tissa (Anambra)
23. Sifa Asani Gowon (Jos)
24. Efe Paul Azino (Lagos)
25. Aima Ojehomor (PH)

CHIMAMANDA ADICHIE WINS AMERICAN PRIZE

Chimamanda Adichie

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

 Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s third novel AMERICANAH has been awarded the 2013 Chicago Tribune Heartland Prize for fiction.

The Heartland Prize is a literary prize created in 1988 by the Chicago Tribune Newspaper.

According to Elizabeth Taylor, the literary editor of the Chicago Tribune, the prize is awarded yearly in two categories, fiction and non-fiction, to books that are concerned with American issues, causes and concerns.

“We loved AMERICANAH. It’s a powerful, resonant novel and we would be delighted to celebrate it and try to share it with a wider audience,” Taylor wrote.

“I’m very pleased,” Adichie said on receiving news of the prize. “You never know what will happen when you write a novel. And for me, a Nigerian, to have written this book which is partly about America, and to receive this quintessentially American prize means that I have said something about America as seen through Nigerian eyes that Americans find interesting. I take that as a wonderful compliment. It reminds me of the ability of literature to make us become briefly alive in bodies not our own.”

chim Past fiction winners of the Heartland Prize include Jonathan Franzen for his novel FREEDOM and Marilynne Robinson for her novel GILEAD

The prize will be awarded on November 3, 2013 at an audience-attended event hosted in partnership with the Chicago Humanities Festival in Chicago.