Category Archives: Society

On Baldwin Again


“…a very complex country which insists on bring narrow-minded…”
– James Baldwin.

As an African, I have often thought of Baldwin as being central to understanding the African-American experience. The biopic/documentary, I Am Not Your Negrofurther underscores this and makes his position accessible to a new generation. I have been fascinated by him because to be an African, which is my insistence and protest, is to aspire to be the heir of all that is Africa, from Egypt to the Genocide in Rwanda to the African American population in the United States and elsewhere. That these experiences are organic and umbilical to mine.

This quote struck me.

And I think how the more things change the more they stay the same. In surveying the inter-African intelligentsia of which I am a part, the seemingly deliberate desire to be narrow-minded cannot be missed. In the argument for component countries, for example, or in the intelligentsia’s arguments for the ideological fruits of poststructural, globalised world of which the African people are the victims. In the desire to be accepted by members of a frame of reference based on excluding you.

Africa as a country is my argument. And this Africa is immensely complex. And it requires a broad based engagement with it, in its triumphs and catastrophes, its vagaries and variations. I am black. And everything black, to the precise extent of its blackness, is organic to me. And I will not say no to any of it.

I think that only when we have defined for ourselves the scope of what to be African means and accepted the reality of our descent and the validity of our dreams can we then become anything in global terms.

Hiding behind things, as adjectives and adverbs, is self defeating when what we are are nouns and verbs.

On Boogie Street…

As a person who keens a lot to melancholy, certain songs speak to me, capture my mood well. So, today, I’ve thought to share one of my all-time favourites. Boogie Street, recorded by Leonard Cohen in 2001 for his album Ten New Songs. Boogie Street is, of course, the mental and physical space in which we live while we are still young, still beautiful, or still happy.

– Ra.


Video HERE

A sip of wine, a cigarette,
And then it’s time to go
I tidied up the kitchenette
I tuned the old banjo
I’m wanted at the traffic jam
They’re saving me a seat
I’m what I am, and what I am,
Is back on Boogie Street

And, oh my love, I still recall
The pleasures that we knew
The rivers and the waterfall,
Wherein I bathed with you
Bewildered by your beauty there,
I kneel to dry your feet
By such instructions you prepare
A man for Boogie Street

So come, my friends, be not afraid
We are so lightly here
It is in love that we are made
In love we disappear
Though all the maps of blood and flesh
Are posted on the door,
There’s no one who has told us yet
What Boogie Street is

On Little Women Unseen


Image and text (c) Fati Abubakar 2017

“A girl at Kaleri Secondary School in Maiduguri reads.”

“There is a stereotype created for the Northern Nigerian woman. She is an uneducated woman who can’t speak eloquently. Or she is an illiterate street hawker who will end up married at 14 to a man old enough to be her father. Or a young woman with a rich father who funds an expensive lifestyle. These and more prevail. The society rarely acknowledges the modern educated Northern woman who reads.”

This is a nod to my Bookworm sisters in northern Nigeria and elsewhere. There’s light and magic in those books. Keep reading, keep living, keep speaking up.

– Ra