Friday, June 27, 2008

laspapi is in the process of shooting a documentary on inner city violence focusing on young females. The scope will cover sexual as well as physical and emotional abuse. The project was commissioned by the Ajegunle Community Project, one of the 5 Non-Governmental Organizations that sponsored the V Monologues- The Nigerian Story.
In the picture, I show off my camera. He is named after the Lagos slang which means 'to comprehend'- Ja-si

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

laspapi sings the blues...

'Ain't no sunshine when she's gone, when she's gone away...'

Photo- June 18. 5pm. The office.

laspapi will be working with Mo Abudu, Talk Show Executive Producer and Host of 'Moments with Mo' in the new season as her script writer.

The Season will celebrate Africa in all its beauty, as it was then, as it is now and its potential for the future. Topics will have a wide range, covering-

1. Health and Beauty
2. Fashion
3. Dance
4. Music
5. Art and Culture
6. Business
7. African Kingdoms
8. Food
9. Our Resources e.g. cocoa, oil, rubber, etc
10. Relationships, (Love and others)
11. Ordinary people doing extraordinary things
12. Inventors

If you have ideas about this (and others) you'd like to see featured on the African theme, you can write me at
The Girl Whisperer

as published by the Suunday Guardian

of June 15


Boys II Men, they called themselves then, and hit upon a magic formula of creating hit-song after hit-song. One of particular interest to me was titled ‘End of the road’, a sweet, slow song with its poignant words- “And now we’ve come to the end of the road, still I can’t let go, it’s so natural, you belong to me, I belong to you”. You might wonder, why separate, when happiness and compatibility come so easily to the parties concerned? It is not always so clear-cut, however.

There are circumstances which sometimes come between the best-suited people, thrown up by fate (and sometimes by they, themselves), circumstances which prevent great loves from holding on to each other, which stop incredible love stories from happening. When I was conscripted for the compulsory youth service in Akwa Ibom state, I met a great number of nice people, male and female. There was my fellow youth service corps member, ‘kemi, who was one of the most gentle people I’d ever had the good fortune of meeting, but she didn’t continue in Akwa Ibom, truncating what might have become a great story in the future. But there was a certain female named Victoria, an indigene of the state who was still in school and she became really special to me. A daughter of a religious leader, she was young, sassy, bright and we met and synched in a way that came naturally to us. We would laugh together, take walks, meet to talk for long periods and then, the youth service year which many of us had reluctantly been part of but which had been so much fun and culturally enlightening was over and the ‘soldiers’ were honourably discharged. At the party organized for the departing members of the corps, Victoria and I danced, oblivious to every other person there. We had come to the end of our road. She wasn’t in a position to uproot herself and follow me back home and I wasn’t ready to stay behind.

Unlike the story of the King of England, Edward, whom in 1936, gave up his throne for an American divorcee, I couldn’t give up my life as I saw it and we therefore reached the end of the road even as we danced quietly that night. King Edward abdicated his throne for his true love, after trying all the possible ways available to hold on to his throne and this woman, Mrs. Simpson, at the same time. The English system refused a marriage to this ‘commoner’, refusing to lay a precedent that might upend their monarchy. Some claim it was that century’s most amazing love story, for he didn’t choose her over the throne of some remote hamlet in the Fiji Islands but over the throne of England. He handed over his kingship to his younger brother, George (who fathered the current queen) and paved way for another dynasty, reverting to his title, the duke of York. The Harry Belafonte song, tells the story. ‘It was love, love alone, caused King Edward to leave his throne...’

In the bid to make our dreams come true, how many of us would choose love over the circumstances that might better our lives, materially? Many have left families at home to ‘create’ other families abroad because of the necessity and immediacy of life, the need to make ends meet. Great love stories smashed to bits because the partners lacked the will-power and the strength to face the circumstances that threatened their own love-stories. By the way, that category includes those in jobs that have taken away the beauty of once they once had. If you return home by ten pm daily and have to be out by six am, you are married to your boss, seeing you spend more waking moments with him or her than with your once-great love.

Face reality, you will probably say. What will pay for the apartment, the new car, the plasma television? Love? It might not; there is also the possibility however, that love will find a way. My brother told me of a friend of his whom we’ve known for ever. His wife and he had always lived in one country in Europe along with their kids, then he got a great job in another European country and he relocated, returning home to his wife once in two weeks, sometimes once in three weeks. And this has been on for eight years. That love story’s gone, hit the end of the road, no matter what they might think. And even though they still relate together, are still great friends, it is the magic of love I am interested in. They can no longer be great lovers.

The end of the road. That is the place you reach when circumstances tell you there must be a choice made, for it is always about choices. It is about whether you choose love over your bank balance, whether you search for alternative routes when the road peters out and there are seemingly no more options.
Do not ask me what I would do for we all have different destinies. True, sometimes, the choices are very hard ones, the job that prevents you from doing what your heart tells you to do, for it really is a war between the choice your head would make and that which your heart, would. The mind and the heart. Once, I debated these choices too but now I am grown and I wear the cloak of the Whisperer. Unlike many others, I can have only one option when true love is at stake, only one choice no matter how fool-hardy it might seem. I choose love each time. Emphatically.


laspapi's been busy with the auditions for the up-coming stage performance on the roots of African Dance commissioned by Obuks and Elvina Ibru. The dance-drama featuring some of the best dancers in the land, will trace the roots of most dances back to Africa, the motherland.

Those of you who have wondered why Tap-Dancing looks so familiar will realize it's because it came out of the Western Nigerian Bata dance. There are dances from all over Africa featured.

The Executive producers of the work are Obuks and Elvina, laspapi directs the performance (which he also wrote) and it will be ably choreographed by Frank (of the 1st Big Brother Nigeria House).

In picture 1,from left, Elvina and Obuks contemplate some of the dancers at the auditions. In picture 2, Frank runs some of the dancers through their paces.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008


Kachifo Limited, the publishers of Farafina Magazine and Farafina books, are proud to announce the release of an affordable, paperback edition of Sefi Atta's new novel Swallow in Nigeria. Swallow can be found in all major bookshops.


Swallow is the story of two friends Tolani and Rose; working class girls from entirely different backgrounds with nothing in common except their hustle and struggle not to be crushed by the society. They work at the Federal Community Bank and through their experiences; we see the way people in authority take advantage of those under them and we experience their hardships and frustrations. Sefi very expertly paints a picture of the typical Lagos life like no other writer can. Everyone has their own hustle to which they cling, for therein lies their daily bread or hope for a better life.

In this richly textured narrative, Sefi explores the themes of class and morality. The protagonist is female and displays admirable strength and courage in a world that constantly gnaws at everything she believes in and holds sacred. Her characters are real and we quickly identify with them. We share in their pain, their joy, their hunger and their sweat. They are like our neighbors, our colleagues and our friends. As usual Sefi's prose sings in clean, uncluttered sentences, laden with humor, satire and wit. Sefi blends the past and the present well with her excellent use of flashback such that one flows seamlessly into the other.

She closes with an emotionally charged ending with Tolani overcome with grief and questioning who her real father is and her mother's morality. Though Rose is a lady of easy virtue, we feel her pain because at the end of the day, everyone swallows something or the other to get by. Mrs. Durojaiye swallows her pride, Sanwo swallows his morality and threatens to tell on his Uncle's wife, Tolani swallows her values and beliefs and tries to swallow more… It simply goes on and on.


"In this unique novel, outstanding new literary talent Sefi Atta takes great strides in style and form, to bring wit and passion to the heartbreaking story of Tolani and Rose, two young women struggling, not always successfully to make an honest living in contemporary Nigeria… Atta tells in an eminently readable voice the irreconcilable nature of two friends' fates."

Tsitsi Dangarembga, author of Nervous Conditions.

"Tender, fierce, vivid and memorable – a bold, distinctive novel from a writer who doesn't compromise her integrity."

Leila Aboulela, author of Minaret

"The bustle, chaos and fast rhythm of Lagos jump from the pages of Swallow, Sefi Atta's new book. It is fiction steeped in life."

Veronique Tadjo, author of As the Crow Flies

"Sefi Atta has woven a quietly intricate powerful tale that pulls from problems of gender, class and Lagosian life. It's a novel whose many colorful characters, compelling story, distinct place and turbulent time will stay with you long after you've read the last word."

Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu, author of Zahrah the Windseeker

"Sefi's Swallow is a triumph of the terse. It throbs with laconic intelligence and the veritable Sefi Atta denoument."

Tade Ipadeola, author of A Time of Signs


Sefi Atta was born in Lagos, Nigeria in 1964 and was educated here, in the United Kingdom as well as in the United States. A former chartered accountant and CPA, she is a graduate of the creative writing program at Antioch University, Los Angeles. Her short stories have appeared in journals like Los Angeles Review and Mississippi Review and have won prizes from Zoetrope and Red Hen Press. Her radio plays have been broadcast by the BBC. She is the winner of PEN International's 2004/2005 David TK Wong Prize and in 2006, her debut novel Everything Good Will Come was awarded the inaugural Wole Soyinka Prize for Literature in Africa. She lives in Mississippi with her husband, Gboyega Ransome - Kuti and their daughter, Temi.

Recommended Retail Price: N1000

Available also on

Sunday, June 08, 2008


‘Who has seen the wind, neither you nor I; but when the trees bow down, you know it’s passing by...’ There is a breed of men and women whose very nature makes them as mercurial as the wind. They are able to slip out of the tightest restraints, flit past the strongest doors and many a man or girl has chosen one of these as a potential future partner only to learn to his or her utter dismay, why many before who made similar choices had failed. These people are infamous for their elusiveness and the many hearts they have broken. For some of these ‘children of the wind’, their instability stems from many reasons. These include a deep-seated fear of commitment, an inability to stop sowing wild oats and sometimes, as simple as it might sound, an inability to find a suitable partner. The son of the wind is not to be mistaken for the philandering man who looks at women the way he does because deep in his heart, he is still like a kid in a candy shop and can’t stop grabbing at the sweets. This one (and the majority of men fall into this category) gorges himself on the different flavours until he falls ill and begins to find the sweets he once craved so much, nauseating. Then he recuperates and after a while, resumes diplomatic relations with the opposite sex. His female equivalent does much the same thing.

Not so, the children of the wind. These ones are elusive, and are often, even if they were the ones who initiated the relationship, unable to take the relationship as far as the partner might want.
As a friend once wrote, the problem in these situations is that many see where stronger parties have failed in their bids to ‘snare’ the children of the wind, but are not discouraged until they find that their own exertions amount to nothing. And then the bitterness starts. There are many who have been hurt and ‘branded’ by the children of the wind and who spend the rest of their lives holding the sources of their pain in unforgiveness.

Where does the Whisperer stand? The Whisperer, in his own days of rage and before he lent gentility, was regarded by many as a chieftain in the ranks of the children of the wind. He would feint, evading grasping fingers as he ran whatever gauntlet was in issue at any particular period of time. Around the world and on every continent, there are people who can regale you with tales of the Whisperer’s infamy, people who will spend hours cataloguing his ‘exploits’ , of how he wounded this one and wreaked havoc in the life of another. The Whisperer does not see these long-gone incidents as badges of honour but as things that happened because he had not yet grown into the fullness of maturity and his calling as a Whisperer. For the librarians who feel it is their destiny to keep archives, the Whisperer advices a change in vocation. People tend to walk in the direction they are facing, so why face things of the past and which are of benefit to no one?

If the man, who has ‘wronged’ you, gives you no thought, it might be better for you to dust your clothes, and get on with the business of living. We each have only one life to live and every second counts.
How to know who the children of the wind, are? It’s not as difficult as it sounds. An unwillingness to yield to long-term commitment is a tell-tale trait, and you are advised to let this kind of people live their lives. Do not feel a compulsion to play a central role in the emotional upheavals that usually follow the affairs of these people.

Is there any kind of being such as a wind-catcher? One who can hold on to a child of the wind no matter how much he or she twirls and turns and attempts to elude the grip of the catcher? Yes, there are, but often, the catcher is of the same stock as he or she who would escape and they usually complement each other. Sometimes, an individual is given the grace to be the one who will hold on to the wind. Sometimes, the wind itself waits to be captured because it needs a certain type of person in its own life.

If you are not called to be a wind-catcher, do not try to force it; you will be resented for your tenacity if the wind-child ever decides to break free and seeks to escape. A misshapen relationship will come into being if this person seeks escape and cannot find it, the relationship knocked out of any proper shape or definition, until someday, an escape, for you cannot hold the wind forever.

On to lighter matters, a couple of months ago, that most respected of film houses announced through their massive television station outreach that the Whisperer had won a night for two at a hotel somewhere just at the edge of Lagos, his name being drawn at a raffle . (This Whisperer loves the movies). After the presentations, filmed and broadcast on TV, the Whisperer finally made it to the hotel which shares names with an insurance company, to claim his prize. The manager hemmed and hawed for a while and said he’d call but he is yet to do so. Somehow, the Whisperer’s prize became trapped in space. I would like the night I won, restored to me, its rightful owner, so I may sit in quietness and solitude for one night and think of the days of thunder when I ran with the children of the wind.

Saturday, June 07, 2008


‘Fading away like the stars of the morning
Losing their light in the glorious sun
Thus would we pass from the earth and its toiling
Only remembered by what we have done.’

So last Thursday, Jinta and I, set off on an expedition to see the last resting-place of our father who left this world for a better place 13 years ago. It was a small plot, somewhere in Ikoyi. We stood quietly, mused and looked at that grave, the end of all men, that final equalizer. I had never seen my brother that close to tears.

Our father, Olu-Okun also known as ‘Supremo’ by members of his club; a name fastened upon him by his children when we got to hear of it. ‘My Supremo, may you never die’ was the clarion call whenever he appeared where his friends were.
Olu-Okun, whose forebears were known as ‘Omo Ol’ofa (Son of the Archers), a man of many parts, like most men; some very good, some...well...but he was my father. There were many tales...his humour...his doggedness...his temper...
And I remember those who were his friends and family- Frank Okoisor, Joe Oladimeji, Joe Mensah...

And the relative who cried as she told me of his kindness- ‘Broda mi paid my rent for this place I moved into, when times were very hard for me’
I remember him when I was about 9 years old, as I stood outside, just looking out on to the street, an adult Christmas party going on in the house...He, with that cologne that was his trademark...Old Spice... giving me part of the meat in his hand. I remember him playing scrabble with us at the back of the house, and that word, ‘Qua’ which I met for the first time. I remember the many nights we all would just sit at the back and sing on dark, dark nights... ‘My ship is on the ocean, ‘twill anchor by and by...’. The late-night picnics at the beach at a time when Lagos was a safer place. I remember his Opel Rekord, and then the Toyota Crown.

I remember going by train from Lagos to Kaduna when I was ten, with him and the Lagos State Sports contingent. He was a sports administrator then and I sat in his cabin and watched the rail tracks, a thing of wonder, and tagged behind the sports men who filled the whole train, entire communities cheering as we went by. I felt like a part of the team, decked out in Lagos State colours, a little runt the boxers on the train called Ghaddafi, for some unfathomable reason. I loved the name. And the early, early morning electric lights of the city of Kaduna as the train entered, a beautiful sight.

I remember tales from my mother of a time when I wasn’t born, when Supremo had an exchange of words with a taxi driver who didn’t know when to leave well off, and the taxi driver following him all the way home, still calling him names, and my father getting out of his car and flattening the taxi driver on the bonnet of the man’s vehicle and the taxi driver yelling out, ‘I surrender’. And an old rival whom my father when in his 30s, thought winked at my mother on Broad street. The man didn’t do any winking for a while after that.

The electric train set he bought me, tracks and all, which operated on batteries, and the smell of the plastic of the train..the ‘Noddy’ books he gave me, the ‘Der Spiegel’ book on the 2nd World War from UTC when I was eleven. I remember him buying the jerseys for my football club, X-20, not that it helped us play better.
The books from his library, Mutiny on the Bounty, Black Beauty, Lord Of the Flies, Treasure Island, Tom Brown’s School Days...hundreds of them...Books that gently but effectively led me to the vocation I have chosen now...I would enter the world of those books and walk and walk, and on those sojourns, he never called me back. I will always be grateful for that.

Supremo, who was a member of the Lafiaji Boys Club, who chose boxing as his sport of choice, and boxed his way through secondary school, and then schooled abroad on a sports grant. In secondary school, he was a self-styled ‘Billy Oguns’. I laughed myself silly the first time I heard that name.
I remember entering puberty and not remembering the good times...The clashes...the confrontations...the sadness

I remember him saying off-handedly, ‘Wole has a photographic memory’. Tension in exam halls later made me doubt the total accuracy of that statement, but that confidence in my abilities kept me going through many, many tricky situations.

I remember driving him to work one day when his official driver didn’t show up, and seeing branches with leaves, stuck on car wipers as we passed Western Avenue. Me asking him, whether I should do the same, and he nodding a ‘yes’. And then coming down the bridge onto ikorodu road and realizing there was a full scale riot on the expressway, thousands of people charging towards us holding weapons, the still-smoking remains of charred vehicles everywhere. He beside me quietly saying, ‘Wole, turn...turn’. Me turning the car on that expressway, a tight turn for a large car...other cars trying to do the same as the rioters charged, baying for blood... finally succeeding in turning and accelerating away, both of us laughing in relief. He still went to the office that day. We used a different route.

I remember becoming a man and realizing all men make mistakes and that forgiveness is an essential part of life and I remember stretching a hand of reconciliation back to meet his outstretched hand. I remember leaving Ife, when I was in final year at the university there to go meet him at our home town’s annual celebration in Oyo, the Aawe day, and his happiness as I walked through the gate. I remember him calling my full name that evening as I walked in...Oluwole....the first and only time I can recall.

I never told you this, but I loved you, Supremo. And because memories of you live in the hearts of me and yours, you will live forever.

Aiye l’ajo, orun ni ile wa*

(*Life is the journey, heaven is our home).

Monday, June 02, 2008

The Girl Whisperer

as published by the Sunday Guardian

0f June 1, 2008


Once upon a time when full grown men were nothing but fledglings; when the most beautiful women were still manoeuvring their way around genuine and false suitors, when the world was young and innocence still a virtue, the Whisperer, himself a very young man, met a young female. She was as lovely as she was witty, fair to look at, beautiful to behold; she found joy and laughter in many things. The Whisperer at that time, had not come into his own, had not discovered in himself the ability to ‘see’ into the world of women, to know their subtle ways and the meanings of their many dark sayings, but she became his friend and for long periods, they would talk about anything and nothing. It was easy for them, for they both loved life and shared very many similar interests. This continued for a long while with the beauty that can only be found in the young and the young at heart. After some time however, the separation that has torn countless relationships and friendships apart came between them. As the more resigned like to say, ‘change is the only constant thing’ and twenty children will not play for twenty years. She went away to build her own life as the Whisperer did his, but they never got a chance to say goodbye, to tell each other how much their time together had meant and how he had hoped for much more than he had ever had the courage to say.

Sometimes, as time went by and the years flew, he would remember her goodness and all that she had meant to him. There are many amongst us; beautiful people, the simple, the powerful, the influential, the gregarious, the fun-loving, the crowd pullers, who sometimes during the course of their lives and day to day happenings, pause and seem to reflect. At these times, the mind has gone to a far place, in search of a time traveller, someone who was there but is now far away, and all they can do is hope and pray that someday, maybe, a prayer will get answered.

People grow up and different routes are taken, pathways sometimes taking us off the straight and narrow into dusty bush paths, but sometimes, we are able to make it back to where we were coming from and paradise is restored again. One day, out of the blue, she who had brought so much joy to him re-appeared in the Whisperer’s life again. The Time Traveller was back. There was no warning, no notice, and the circumstances of the re-union were extraordinary. It was as if the stars had come into alignment for a brief period, and she had used that singular opportunity to return to a place she once loved. The Whisperer sat stunned and speechless. It was like a visitation from another planet, only this time, the ‘alien’ was still beautiful in her heart and made many heads turn still. However, in her eyes now, was the knowledge that all women seem to be imbued with upon maturity but even with that, she had kept her girlishness, her effervescence, her happiness and her wit.
More than ten years had gone by and yet it seemed as if it was only yesterday, that we had walked down her quiet street in the gathering dusk, as I headed to the bus-stop to make my way home. This time around, as adults who have thirsted for water for a very long time without knowing, we sought to drink of each other’s experiences. We talked and talked, making up for lost time and the Whisperer knew that nothing had changed; things were still as they were more than a decade before when they had first shared their dreams. In her absence, she had been busy, as he had too, with a life full of triumphs and some sadness but she had remained true to herself.

And as they spoke widely over a range of issues, reality struck the Whisperer; he loved this girl, this girl-woman who still had the ability to play the strings of his heart like some ancient lyre. And another mystery was solved; how two people in their seventies can find each other again after three or more decades of searching and upon meeting, return to the place they once stood as if they were children. If I had not met her until decades after, when we were in our seventies, I would have loved her still.

I bet you would like to know how the story ended, if she and the Whisperer made the relationship a new reality. Were we able to overcome what naiveté might have held us down more than a decade before? Those are very good questions but that is my story and you must find yours.

Now, can it always work when a time traveller comes from the past and re-enters our lives again? It is not always a success story for as I once wrote, lightning rarely strikes twice. However, when it does, it burns up everything in its path.
There are many of us; whose yardstick for measuring the viability of those we come in contact with, is some long-lost time traveller. We meet new people and somewhere in the back of our minds, we are judging them against almost impossible standards, a long-gone partner, a distant friend who has gone to parts unknown but once knew us and understood our whims and caprices almost instinctively.

The Whisperer has found his own time traveller even though it took many years. My friend came back and sought me out. May you find yours, if over the years; your heart has quietly yearned for the return of beauty.