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.

2019 In Print

I send my gratitude to the editors, artists, curators, and friends who commissioned me to write essays this year, most of which appeared in print. A selected list, with links:

— “Beyond the Sea,” an essay on the philosophies of Édouard Glissant and Lydia Cabrera, in the May issue of Art in America.

— “Letters to Lina (II),” a second iteration of my correspondence with Lina Iris Viktor, published in a book accompanying her exhibition in Autograph UK, Some are Born to Endless Night.

— “Being With,” an essay on the companionship of Wura Natasha-Ogunji and ruby onyinyechi amanze, in a catalogue accompanying their exhibition, you are so loved and lovely, at Fridman Gallery, New York. 

— Two essays, “Aftermath,” and “Archive,” in The Journey edited by Sean O’Toole and Simon Njami.

— “Measures of Power,” in Chimurenga’s book on FESTAC ’77. 

— “Elsewheres,” an essay on artists and artistic practice in Lagos, in Practice Space, edited by Jo-Lene Ong and Rachael Rakes. Co-published by [NAME] Publications (USA) and DeAppel (NL).

— “Foreigners in a Foreign Land,” an introduction to the collaborative work of Arguiñe Escandón & Yann Gross in Peru, for the Earth issue of Aperture.

— “Notes on Happiness,” a short story in the Winter 2019/2020 issue of Hotel Magazine.

Thank you to William S. Smith, Lina Iris Viktor, Renée Mussai, Wura Natasha-Ogunji, ruby onyinyechi amanze, Sean O’Toole, Brendan Embser, Jo-Lene Ong.

Onwards to 2020!