ChickenBones: A Journal
for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes
I couldnt also believe that Binyavanga had actually written these words in his article
The Ancient Wise Man always comes from a noble tribe
(not the money-grubbing tribes like the Gikuyu, the Igbo or the Shona)
Books by Chimamanda Adichie
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Books by Binyavanga Wainaina
Kwani? / Discovering Home
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Fidelity Bank and the Binyavanga Wainaina Jibe
By Uche Nworah
Businesses always seek to add value to their shareholder investments; at the same time, they aim to satisfy the interests of other stakeholders. It is in juggling these stakeholder interests that conflicts arise but it is always in the best interest of the business to satisfy the interests of the businesses core stakeholders first.
Many businesses in Nigeria are beginning to re-appraise their true corporate social responsibility (CSR) roles. Few have gone a step further and have incorporated CSR as a core part of their daily business activities, just like other business activities such as production, marketing and sales. In this regard, companies like MTN, Globacom, UBA and Oceanic Bank readily come to mind. These companies have now created special Foundations into which fixed percentages of their annual profits are channelled to be used for corporate social responsibility initiatives.
It is probably this line of thinking that influenced Fidelity Bank Plc and their arts loving managing director, Mr. Reginald Ihejiahi to sponsor the creative writing workshop which recently held in Lagos Nigeria. The bank invited Nigerias Orange prize award winning writer Chimamanda Adichie as the lead facilitator. Kenyanborn Commonwealth prize winning writer, Binyavanga Wainaina was also part of the facilitation team, likewise Nigerianborn fountain of Afro-centric knowledge, the very respectable Chinweizu.
I heard about the workshop before travelling to Nigeria from the UK and had included it in my to-attend list while in Nigeria. Unfortunately I didnt make it to the workshop due to other engagements but I was able to catch up through the several media reports about the workshop afterwards, especially the report filed by Ahaoma Kanu of the National Daily newspaper. I was almost singing the praises of Fidelity Bank for coming to the aid of arts in Nigeria through the sponsorship of the creative writing workshop while granting an interview to Ahaoma Kanu at the Ikeja office of the National Daily newspaper, when in the course of our banter, Ahaoma raised the issue of something Binyavanga Wainaina had written about the Igbos in his article titledHow To Write About Africa.
I couldnt believe my ears and had to actually search for the article myself on the internet to confirm that Ahaoma wasnt peddling pepper-soup joint rumour. I couldnt also believe that Binyavanga had actually written these words in his article The Ancient Wise Man always comes from a noble tribe (not the money-grubbing tribes like the Gikuyu, the Igbo or the Shona).
I have since read and re-read the said article trying to understand from where Binyavanga was coming from, unfortunately I could not. Therefore, it will be difficult for me to rationalise his reasons for fuelling further the stereotype of the Igbos beingmoneygrubbing people.
Had I stumbled upon Binyavangas prejudiced and biased view about Ndigbo while the workshop was still on in Lagos, perhaps I would have endeavoured to attend one of the sessions with the hope of engaging him in banter to find out the source of his money-grubbing theory.
I would also have used the opportunity to remind him that Richard Ihejiahi, the man who facilitated his trip to Nigeria is of the Igbo tribe, and that the bank itself (Fidelity Bank, formerly Fidelity Union Merchant Bank) was co-founded by another Igbo man in the person of Chief Onwuka Kalu of Onwuka Hi-Tek fame (Okpuzu of Igbo land). I wonder if Binyavanga would have turned down the offer and the money from Fidelity Bank to take part in the workshop had he known that his honorarium was coming from an Igbo bank managing director. Would he have still gone ahead to also grab or grub his own share just like the moneygrubbing Igbos?
Perhaps Richard Ihejiahi and his team at Fidelity Bank were not aware of Binyavangas views about Ndigbo; I would really love to know what they would have known had they been aware of Binyavangas Igbo bias. Would they have still paid his flight ticket, put him up in a five star hotel and feted him like a celebrity if they knew what he thinks about them?
Perhaps this would serve as a lesson not only to Fidelity Bank but also to other Nigerian businesses that are increasingly importing foreign experts to facilitate seminars and workshops in Nigeria. My advice is that they should check out the credentials of such people and their antecedents before signing their cheque. Were this (Binyavangas race blunder and prejudice) to have taken place in the western world; it would have been classified as a public relations disaster for all the parties concerned.
The case of Jade Goody and her racial slur against Shilpa Shetty while both were in the United Kingdom Celebrity Big Brother house should be used as a case in point. In the aftermath of the crises, Channel Four lost a major advertiser Carphone Warehouse which pulled out from sponsoring the reality show as it didnt want its corporate image to be tarnished by association. Within days after the crises broke out, Jade Goody lost several of her endorsement deals and major high street shops stopped stocking her newly introduced line of perfumes. Till date, the various parties are still licking their wounds and counting their loses.
What Binyavanga said about the Igbos also reminds me of Baroness Dianne Abbott who visited Nigeria in 2006 and was feted by Nigerian government officials on tax payers money, only to come back to the UK to write a damning article about Nigeria, comparing Nigeria to her home country Jamaica in an article titled; Think Jamaica is Bad? Try Nigeria.
Nigeria and indeed Ndigbo do not need two-faced friends at this stage in our national life. While recognising that Binyavanga has the freedom to write whatever he likes protected by poetic license, it is also important to recognise that Ndigbo also have a right to correct any wide-off-the-mark prejudiced comments about them, as such do indeed create misunderstandings and even affect the psyche and sense of identity of the younger Igbo generation.
Again I wonder if Binyavanga is aware that his new chum, Chimamanda Adichie is also Igbo, and if in the course of his interactions with her, she had exhibited any traits to make him come to the conclusion that Ndigbo are truly bigtime hustlers as he insinuated in his article.
And speaking about Chimamanda, I would like to believe that she is not aware of what Binyavanga said about her people; else one would have expected her to demand a clarification or even an outright apology. Perhaps it is for this reason that she should mind the company she keeps. As an Igbocentric, Im sure that she knows that even the elders would counsel her likewise.
Since Binyavanga and his race in Kenya do not like money, nor grub for money like the Igbos, I do hope that he went to Nigeria for free, or that he left part of his cheque for the use of local orphanages in Nigeria or even in his home country, else if he goes ahead to spend the Fidelity Bank cheque he must have received, then I dont see how different he or members of his race are to the Igbo race he derided.
It would help the African literary course if Binyavanga sets out to educate himself a little more about the Igbos seeing that he is now benefiting from them. While he is at it, he might as well educate himself about other African tribes and races so that he would be in a better position to educate his readers and inform them accurately about their culture instead of reinforcing stereotypes that are well-worn and outdated.
I am sure that Chimamanda Adichie, Reginald Ihejiahi and all the other Igbo people Binyavanga came in contact with while he was in Nigeria would have shown him a sample of Igbo hospitality, the next stage will be for them to teach him the age-old Igbo mantra of hardwork (Igba mbo, onye luo, ya erie), and that being enterprising is not the same as grubbing for money.
Perhaps an apology from Binyavanga Wainaina and a clarification from both Fidelity Bank and Chimamanda Adichie may be necessary at this stage to prevent the Nze na Ozors in Igbo land from calling on their Chi and on Amadioha to be on Binyavangas case. We dont want that, do we?
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posted 18 August 2007
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Binyavanga Wainaina, a Kenyan writer, is the founding editor of Kenyas only literary Journal, Kwani?. He lived and worked for ten years in South Africa. He has been writing from Nakuru, Kenya for the past two years. He is now based in Nairobi, Kenya. He has been published by various literary journals around the World. He writes regularly for the Sunday Times (South Africa) and the East African (Kenya). He has also written for the Guardian (UK), The Mail and Guardian (SA), The Cape Times and the Cape Argus (Cape Town).In July 2002 he won the Caine Prize for African Writing – Africa’s most prestigious literary prize.
The Caine Prize for African Writing is named in memory of the late Sir Michael Caine, who was Chairman of the Booker Prize management committee for almost 25 years. The patrons of the prize are three African winners of the Nobel Prize for Literature: Wole Soyinka, Nadine Gordimer and Naguib Mahfouz. The two African Booker Prize winners, J. M. Coetzee and Ben Okri, have joined the Council of the Caine Prize.
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By Binyavanga Wainaina
Binyavanga Wainaina tumbled through his middle-class Kenyan childhood out of kilter with the world around him. This world came to him as a chaos of loud and colorful sounds: the hair dryers at his mothers beauty parlor, black mamba bicycle bells, mechanics in Nairobi, the music of Michael Jacksonall punctuated by the infectious laughter of his brother and sister, Jimmy and Ciru. He could fall in with their patterns, but it would take him a while to carve out his own. In this vivid and compelling debut memoir, Wainaina takes us through his school days, his mothers religious period, his failed attempt to study in South Africa as a computer programmer, a moving family reunion in Uganda, and his travels around Kenya. The landscape in front of him always claims his main attention, but he also evokes the shifting political scene that unsettles his views on family, tribe, and nationhood. Throughout, reading is his refuge and his solace. And when, in 2002, a writing prize comes through, the door is opened for him to pursue the career that perhaps had been beckoning all along. A series of fascinating international reporting assignments follow. Finally he circles back to a Kenya in the throes of postelection violence and finds he is not the only one questioning the old certainties.
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For July 1st through August 31st 2011
#1 – Justify My Thug by Wahida Clark #2 – Flyy Girl by Omar Tyree #3 – Head Bangers: An APF Sexcapade by Zane #4 – Life Is Short But Wide by J. California Cooper #5 – Stackin’ Paper 2 Genesis’ Payback by Joy King #6 – Thug Lovin’ (Thug 4) by Wahida Clark #7 – When I Get Where I’m Going by Cheryl Robinson #8 – Casting the First Stone by Kimberla Lawson Roby #9 – The Sex Chronicles: Shattering the Myth by Zane
#10 – Covenant: A Thriller by Brandon Massey
#11 – Diary Of A Street Diva by Ashley and JaQuavis
#12 – Don’t Ever Tell by Brandon Massey
#13 – For colored girls who have considered suicide by Ntozake Shange
#14 – For the Love of Money : A Novel by Omar Tyree
#15 – Homemade Loves by J. California Cooper
#16 – The Future Has a Past: Stories by J. California Cooper
#17 – Player Haters by Carl Weber
#18 – Purple Panties: An Eroticanoir.com Anthology by Sidney Molare
#19 – Stackin’ Paper by Joy King
#20 – Children of the Street: An Inspector Darko Dawson Mystery by Kwei Quartey
#21 – The Upper Room by Mary Monroe
#22 Thug Matrimony by Wahida Clark
#23 – Thugs And The Women Who Love Them by Wahida Clark
#24 – Married Men by Carl Weber
#25 – I Dreamt I Was in Heaven – The Rampage of the Rufus Buck Gang by Leonce Gaiter
#1 – Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable #2 – Confessions of a Video Vixen by Karrine Steffans #3 – Dear G-Spot: Straight Talk About Sex and Love by Zane #4 – Letters to a Young Brother: MANifest Your Destiny by Hill Harper #5 – Peace from Broken Pieces: How to Get Through What You’re Going Through by Iyanla Vanzant #6 – Selected Writings and Speeches of Marcus Garvey by Marcus Garvey #7 – The Ebony Cookbook: A Date with a Dish by Freda DeKnight #8 – The Isis Papers: The Keys to the Colors by Frances Cress Welsing #9 – The Mis-Education of the Negro by Carter Godwin Woodson
#10 – John Henrik Clarke and the Power of Africana History by Ahati N. N. Toure
#11 – Fail Up: 20 Lessons on Building Success from Failure by Tavis Smiley
#12 –The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander
#13 – The Black Male Handbook: A Blueprint for Life by Kevin Powell
#14 – The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore
#15 – Why Men Fear Marriage: The Surprising Truth Behind Why So Many Men Can’t Commit by RM Johnson
#16 – Black Titan: A.G. Gaston and the Making of a Black American Millionaire by Carol Jenkins
#17 – Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority by Tom Burrell
#18 – A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose by Eckhart Tolle
#19 – John Oliver Killens: A Life of Black Literary Activism by Keith Gilyard
#20 – Alain L. Locke: The Biography of a Philosopher by Leonard Harris
#21 – Age Ain’t Nothing but a Number: Black Women Explore Midlife by Carleen Brice
#22 – 2012 Guide to Literary Agents by Chuck Sambuchino #23 – Chicken Soup for the Prisoner’s Soul by Tom Lagana #24 – 101 Things Every Boy/Young Man of Color Should Know by LaMarr Darnell Shields
#25 – Beyond the Black Lady: Sexuality and the New African American Middle Class by Lisa B. Thompson
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By Charles C. Mann
Im a big fan of Charles Manns previous book 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus, in which he provides a sweeping and provocative examination of North and South America prior to the arrival of Christopher Columbus. Its exhaustively researched but so wonderfully written that its anything but exhausting to read. With his follow-up, 1493, Mann has taken it to a new, truly global level. Building on the groundbreaking work of Alfred Crosby (author of The Columbian Exchange and, Im proud to say, a fellow Nantucketer), Mann has written nothing less than the story of our world: how a planet of what were once several autonomous continents is quickly becoming a single, globalized entity.
Mann not only talked to countless scientists and researchers; he visited the places he writes about, and as a consequence, the book has a marvelously wide-ranging yet personal feel as we follow Mann from one far-flung corner of the world to the next. And always, the prose is masterful. In telling the improbable story of how Spanish and Chinese cultures collided in the Philippines in the sixteenth century, he takes us to the island of Mindoro whose southern coast consists of a number of small bays, one next to another like tooth marks in an apple. We learn how the spread of malaria, the potato, tobacco, guano, rubber plants, and sugar cane have disrupted and convulsed the planet and will continue to do so until we are finally living on one integrated or at least close-to-integrated Earth. Whether or not the human instigators of all this remarkable change will survive the process they helped to initiate more than five hundred years ago remains, Mann suggests in this monumental and revelatory book, an open question.
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By Melissa V. Harris-Perry
According to the author, this society has historically exerted considerable pressure on black females to fit into one of a handful of stereotypes, primarily, the Mammy, the Matriarch or the Jezebel. The selfless Mammys behavior is marked by a slavish devotion to white folks domestic concerns, often at the expense of those of her own familys needs. By contrast, the relatively-hedonistic Jezebel is a sexually-insatiable temptress. And the Matriarch is generally thought of as an emasculating figure who denigrates black men, ala the characters Sapphire and Aunt Esther on the television shows Amos and Andy and Sanford and Son, respectively.
Professor Perry points out how the propagation of these harmful myths have served the mainstream culture well. For instance, the Mammy suggests that it is almost second nature for black females to feel a maternal instinct towards Caucasian babies.
As for the source of the Jezebel, black women had no control over their own bodies during slavery given that they were being auctioned off and bred to maximize profits. Nonetheless, it was in the interest of plantation owners to propagate the lie that sisters were sluts inclined to mate indiscriminately.
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From The World and Africa, 1965
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update 29 March 2010