Memos on Nonfiction

I’m pleased to share a PDF of the craft lecture I presented to participants of Tampered Press’s nonfiction workshop, held between January 8 and 9, 2021. In it I attempt close readings of essays by Teju Cole, Yvonne Owuor, and Amitava Kumar, using their work as prompts to consider notions of place, language and grief in the writing of nonfiction. Share widely, but contact me for reproduction.

Onwards to 2021!

Available Space

“Spazio Disponibile” installation view, The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery, Toronto, 2020. Dawit L. Petros/Tiwani Contemporary, London.

My essay, in the New York Review of Books Daily, is a reflection on “Spazio Disponibile,” a recent solo exhibition of the multimedia work of Dawit L. Petros alongside Maaza Mengiste’s second novel, The Shadow King. I am grateful for my friendship with both, these many years, as I continue to learn from them how history is an evolving proposition.

And more: Lucy McKeon interviewed me for last weekend’s NYRB newsletter, and wrote a sharp, generous profile.

40 Under 40 Africa

A tremendous honor to be included on Apollo Magazine’s “40 Under 40 Africa” list. Much gratitude to the judges. I’m in such great company.

The list features 40 people below the age of 40 who were born, are based, or have worked on the African continent—and who are transforming the way that art is made and experienced, both in Africa and on the world stage.

I was featured under the “Thinkers” category. To work my way to a world of greater clarity. Onwards.

Openness to the Unfamiliar

I wrote a short essay in response to a question posed by the editors of Words Without Borders: “Can international literature make us better travelers?” I was drawn to the work of Pita Nwana, whose novel Omenuko is considered the first novel written in the Igbo language, as well as an lecture by Chinua Achebe, where he denounces the work of T. J. Dennis, a missionary stationed at Onitsha.

“Sometime this year I will embark on a journey through nearly dozen towns of southeastern Nigeria, to research a book I am writing. The ethnic composition of those towns, and the language spoken, is predominantly Igbo. I will arrive with a sense of alienation from Igbo, a determination to immerse myself in the language, and a mastery of English. The matter for me, as I suppose it was for Dennis, is the terms of such an Igbo-English exchange. On my trip I hope to treat Igbo with the same attention I have paid English all my life—to consider, for instance, the subtle shifts in meaning in a word as it is used in a range of Igbo dialects.”

Read more. There were other responses by M. Lynx Qualey, Tomaso Biancardi, and Shahnaz Habib.