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Some of the stories in this anthology portray bleak situations but moving all the same. My description of them is not confused, I write with a keen mind having read African Roar’s two previous offerings (Read my reviews of the 2010 and 2011 editions here and here). Africa Roar 2012 is the third anthology since it started out in 2010. And so far, the yearly anthology has not wavered in standard. The quality of its entries always holds its readers spellbound. It is with that experience you know you have come to reading unmixed African writings. To help fellow hitherto unpublished writers and open them to wide readership are some of the reasons StoryTime initiated African Roar. And it has been doing that good in that regard. There is no being superfluous about it; what StoryTime is doing for African writing remains (arguably) to be rivalled. It is in its third year now and the strength behind it still strong. Through African Roar, I have come to know writers whose creativity still dazzles me till present. African Roar story-select has always been near perfect. A proof of that is in the array of its yearly entries.
Let me tell you, in my own little observation, what African Roar has been able to do in these three years; it has told the continent’s stories unreservedly. However gloomy some of them might come; they are still ours, Africa’s. To maintain a positive pretense by sticking only to the unsullied side of Africa is to go maliciously one-sided: our African world is a mix of both the evil and the routine (if you could call ‘the routine’ good). Africa Roar does not cower to portray Africa in a fake present modern-day reality. Aside the little spoilers characterizing individual pieces, this yearly anthology is a good read anytime. Go read its archives, Africa Roar has paid its due. It has taken our stories trans-continentally. And Africa is the better for it.
I wouldn’t know the reason for the biographic annotation that graces the end of each story. It is a good thing in some instances but shallow nonetheless. For one, the biographic snippets spoil the critical mind of the reader to relate with the themes of the stories in the manner he sees fit. That publishing style only intrudes on the reader’s mind. I don’t give a hoot if what inspires Onyenezi’s You Smile is some Fela’s music as the authors goes on reeling about cultism being the main theme of his story. Laughably, he fails even in identifying his story’s main theme, which isn’t cultism. The best thing is to scroll over those disturbing annotations or only read them when curious to know the writer’s mind for a particular story. This attempt almost spoils my reading of the anthology. I found it particularly watery having to know an individual view of his story in the mid-process of my making sense of his piece. That does not do it for me as a reader to say the least.
The entries for the 2012 edition are few, fewer than past editions. Know now, some of the entries in this 2012 edition lack optimism, their views are quite grim. And this makes you wonder if they are not intentionally forced to be that way. I hold this belief because some of them are so unconvincing in their portrayal of the realities they write on.
Experiencing Africa; Some Lives.
“The Colours of Silence” – Ifesinachi Okoli
For Mum and Dad, 10 million naira changes everything. I find it hard to believe the cause of the domestic trouble in this story. However, the manner Ifesinachi uses colours to represent every turn the domestic abuse takes is splendid. The 10 million naira is the money which Mum wins in a lottery Aunty Melissa introduces to her. What questions belief is the suddenness of the luck in the winning. Ifesinachi does little to make her story believable. That Mum quite believes she will win the money even before she plays the lottery just seems far from reality and quite unoriginal. Lotteries are games of thin luck. Nobody knows when they will win.
“You Smile” – Chika Onyeneze
The “You” pronoun make a story so you-beaut. As common as this style has become, when properly used, it could make a piece good. It is how you relate with it that adds to its exceptionality. In You Smile, nothing is working as the lead character, You, suffers on. You Smile relates the socio-ills we always smiled off. Even in this piece, You only remains sane as he smiles on. He can’t act otherwise, everything is insane already. The constant smiles are the only thing that humanizes his sufferings. Various contrived reprieves maintain his smiles: religion, the usual banter amongst neighbours and Nduka, the bottles, and Nduka’s teenage pleasure.
“Soldiers of the Stone” – Uko Bendi Udo
Kulaja Giri is constantly rattled by the ghosts of his marshy pasts. He can’t forget them easily; the ghosts breathe hard on him, on his present, even when he relocates to New York. When Marco gangsterism spites Kulaja in New York, he wishes he could wake his past ghosts up, get back his Serra Leone militancy and assume his fearless self, the one he daily runs away from.
“The Revenge of Kamalaza Mayele” – Vukani G. Nyirenda
Kamalaza desires Kampeteu, but first he must battle the custom that bars out his sexual desire. When he fails in his pursuit, he will pick a newer pursuit with the flute as he seeks to even his misfortune with a misplaced revenge.
“We Can See You” – Abdul Adan
This is very much akin to the commonplace immigrant story and its usual after-trauma of home coming. If the foregoing were the only fascinations in this piece, then the reader might not be excited. Conversely, what this piece drives at are more than the limitedness in the usual telling and retelling of immigrant experiences. We Can See You ordinarily, yet remarkably, tells the individual trouble of a life that is liberated but imprisoned in the misfortunes of his kinsmen and friends. When Mahmud Yare comes home from America, he is everyone’s bread and so will suffer their ambush. Nothing will save him. But let’s see what Maghrib prayers will do in his dire difficulty. Beside all this, Abdul cursorily uses this piece as a commentary on the corrupt Kenya Telekom Company;
“Mahmud thought back to the days he before he left for America when he ran a phone centre for himself. He offered cheap calls to far places…but with the emergence of cheap cell phones, his service had become unnecessary and he expanded it to include international calls. He received no bills from Telekom, the government parastatal in charge of landlines. All he had to do was make a deal with one of the directors, and offer him a fixed sum, or something to wet his throat…and he was exempted from paying any bills whatsoever” (pg. 19)
With Ivor Hartmann, the publisher of African Roar, combining this with the publication of AfroSF (a new and also a yearly anthology of science fictions by African writers), I hope African Roar will not be the worst for it. One can only hope African Roar maintains its standard, or even surpasses it, in times to come. We, the readers, can only watch, read and hope Africa Roar won’t soon go under for AfroSF.