Songhai 12 (New Voices in Nigerian Literature) is a product of a three week workshop organized as part of the Port Harcourt World Book Capital in 2014. The workshop was facilitated by Eghosa Imasuen, Obari Gomba, Adiela Onyedibia, Chiemeka Garricks, Lindsay Barrett and Molara Woods, while the collection of short stories was edited by Molara Wood and Lindsay Barrett.
When the book was launched early 2015, I looked forward to reading it. A collection of new writing from young writers was certainly something to read.
The cover design was the first turn off, it looked so poorly done, but I made excuses, maybe they had funding issues, the content is what is important not the cover.
The first story, The old man and the scroll is an epic failure of whatever the writer was trying to achieve. I read it twice; convinced I must have missed something the first time. Simple way to describe this story is that there’s no head or tail. The writer’s attempt to do something different failed.
Next is Dami Ajayi’s Old people’s Home. It is this story that propelled me to continue reading this anthology. I would have just dropped it after the first story. Here we get to see some mature writing. There’s an actual plot, theme, a sense of place and time. With this story you remember that Ajayi is a poet, with the way he sprinkles rhymes in his sentences.
Enajite Efemuaye’s The Peace Factor is a futuristic piece, a well thought out one this time. This story would make you sit down and think about the future of technology and all these biometric data we are giving out daily. The language is easy, and laced with humour.
The only other story in this book worthy of reading is Michael Okpanachi’s I am Sitting Here Looking at the Graveyard. While the weirdness of the story cannot be ignored it is still a good piece of writing. His narrative prowess comes to play with how he describes his character’s fascination with graves.
Anne Alaibo’s Dreams of Sunset opened with ‘Loila Graham’s eyes glittered with tears’, while The Best Chapter by Eketi Ette’s opened with ‘The afternoon sun blazed down’.
Kelechi Enwurum’s A is for Freedom, Ladi Opaluwa’s Maroon, Linda Masi Pension Mission, Ajumoke Nwaeze Lost in Brown Leaves, Chidumebi Philips, A Tale of Remembrance all followed the same tales-by-moonlight/Nollywood path. One story that astonished me is Bowls of Treasures by Wellington Nwogu. This story is even beyond Nollywood, my mouth was left open at the end.
The overall feeling one gets is that Songhai 12, like Nigeria, was a well thought out project that was abandoned half way. It is also obvious that the writers selected for the workshops are at different stages of their writing.