‘In the definition of literature which takes note of places with its people, the essential force is its reference to the historical and experimental language’. Krishna Prasad quotes Tanure Ojaide in Prasad’s Post as you open the page of Africa Issue of The Wagon Magazine. Prasad is essentially preparing you to inhale and imbibe the sights and sounds and smells which have ripened beneath the sun shining upon the continent of Africa, drunk on the intoxicating Nile which travels 400 kilometers through Sudan and Egypt to join the Mighty Mediterranean.
The Africa issue wrapped in the ethnic art work of the very talented John Joshua Gibu is an invitation to a galaxy of shimmering new stars of that faraway continent where they place lanterns of unspoken words by your windowsill when you go to sleep tonight. A beautiful and thought provoking essay by John Looker on our deeply divided world and the grounds for optimism and love which transcends the barrier between “Us” and “Them”, you couldn’t agree more when he says that religion is a personal search for belief, even if it feels like stumbling through dark wood at night.
A literary treat is the enthralling “African Journal of Mothers, Flamingoes and Butterflies” by CS Lakshmi. She shares glimpses of her days from the Know How Conference organized by Isis ( taking on name from Egyptian Goddess who symbolizes creativity, knowledge and woman power) and WICCE ( Women’s International Cross Cultural Exchange ) . WICCE also happens to be an old English word for Sorceress!
The African Special edition has been put together with tremendous and admirable hardwork by Nyamu KJ,Peter Ngila and Margaret Muthee, young earnest poets. Opening with a haiku from Ghana by Adje Agyei Baah, and Mercy Nkuri from Kenya,be prepared to be blown away by Nigerian poet Akor EmmanuelOche who is arguably the first poet to write and translate poetry in Idoma, a language found in the Middle belt of Nigeria.
Adorned with Fani Koyode Omoregie’s (Botswana) contemporary One Act play, Claudia Cassoma’s (Angola) verses rooted to earth where she tells you “empowered Iam, quietly, firmly, not intimidated Iam doing it “, Agabaakin O Jeremiah a lawyer in making who composes verses wondering what use is romance without lit, Sharon Tshipa’s ( Botswana) fiction Revelation, review of Maakomale Manaka’s book by KJ Nyamu, Fayssal Chafaki (Kingdom of Morocco) poem dedicated to Ban Ki Moon over the issue of Morrocan Sahara, Poet / Old Singer Muhammad Ismail (Egypt) who sings that it’s love in unwritten verses, Peter Ngila’s review of A Handful of Dust, a short fiction collection, an interview of Zukiswa Wama a prolific South African journalist by Nyamu KJ, African Special issue of The Wagon Magazine is a mine of uncut diamonds, it’s an earth which breathes the fragrance of raindrops which once sang odes of love in the Nile, the banks by which where they grew red coloured rice, where grass swayed, silver fish swam, all of this much before the river inundated and our world became strife torn in the name of religion. Come let us cross that bridge of “Us” and “Them” with “The Wagon Magazine”.
It needs a different sensibility to appreciate works which has the smell of a different earth and sun. Its the same even when you read works of more known writers like Chinua Achebe, Ben Okri, Chimamanda Adichie – you need a different sensibility to appreciate it. The works in TWM are fresh and its rain earth smell has not yet got lost, its has the beauty of rough cut diamond, not yet polished – so in that sense I like it very much. Not without a word of criticism though – the fiction & one act play, I found a wee bit dragging – that tiring feel in the soles of feet after a long walk, by the end of the road. Perhaps a little editing from the originators would have done good.
My heartfelt appreciation to The Wagon Magazine for giving this brave opportunity to the upcoming young African poets to showcase brilliant talent. We look forward to more from The Wagon Magazine with the upcoming Ukraine Special issue as well as Korean, Chinese, Latin American specials in future with talent across the globe.
In New Delhi, after so many years a ride in a cycle rikshaw.
photo credit: Dibyajyoti Sarma
A poem by Arundhathi Subramaniam
‘May nothing be disturbed in the simplest place you know’
May things stay the way they are
in the simplest place you know.
May the shuttered windows
keep the air as cool as bottled jasmine.
May you never forget to listen
to the crumpled whisper of sheets
that mould themselves to your sleeping form.
May the pillows always be silvered
with cat-down and the muted percussion
of a lover’s breath.
May the murmur of the wall clock
continue to decree that your providence
run ten minutes slow.
May nothing be disturbed
in the simplest place you know
for it is here in the foetal hush
that blueprints dissolve
and poems begin,
and faith spreads like the hum of crickets,
faith in a time
when maps shall fade,
and the vigil end.