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On the Shape of this World 


Shape of this World

By

Richard Ali
I’ll teach you to trace a line

On the scales of fish

How words curve in a parabola

And detonate

How the word bomb so new

Is the single idea shaping this world

—here, palm my palm, hear
Laila thirsty and old by the wishing well

Qais dissolved to dust already
There, when the woman said

We need no umbrellas from the rain

And Bakunin nodded in his sleep
Armah wraps arms around Ngugi

A thing that blows up between them
There is a gated city of lovers drowned now by the sea

—You. Have. No.  Right. To. Be . Listened. To—

Off Cape Town where a tortoise carries all our tears
And we throw our lives away each day

Emphasis dies in a heart beat
Here’s the secret

The heart is the shape of the world

The world is the shape of the heart

And the universe keeps on expanding, will not

Forget the explosion of creation nor the implosion

Of full stops, shit goes to shit inevitably
Trace this line on fish scales in your sleep

It will all be gone by dawn.

On the Rape Culture in Nigeria

photo-jul-06-8-03-25-am1
Reverse descent of Man

 

On the issue of the rise of rape in our societies and its current popularity on social media, I have chosen an engagement. There will be no emotive post about it from me. I have instead accepted to join the board of trustees of Karniel’s Next Generation of African Men’s Initiative (KNEGAM Initiative) based here in Abuja. Its stated objective is to “empower boys so they overcome challenges as they transition from boyhood to adulthood”.

I see no justification for rape at all except a disregard for the sanctity of a body that is not yours. Yet, everywhere I see various cop-outs that more of less justify this traversing of another’s body. Whether the victim is male or female, a child or an adult, there is only one implication. I believe that the point of 5000 years of civilization is the privileging of the human body as being above that of any other animal from which it is, in fact, indistinguishable. The implication of a rape culture is to turn us all back 5000 years and more, so we are no different from any “lower animal”. We thus become lower animals. This eventuality I will not accept.

So, I will do my little bit to work with kids so they have a balanced sense of self and know where they stand as inheritors of many centuries of advancement and civilization and thought. The initiative is targeted at male kids because they are most in danger of inheriting bad assumptions as a result of the current power relations in society.

KNEGAM Initiative is run by a friend of a friend, Uchenna Idoko, in the name of her son. I thank them for asking me on their board. I am certain it will be a platform to fight bad ideas that threaten to send us all back to the times of pre-history. I hope my contribution will be concrete.

 

– Ra.

On Narratives and Leaving Venice 

Venice as seen from Plaza Romana

I’ve been away for a week to Vicenza, a town in northern Italy about an hour’s drive from the Venice proper (the island). 

Purpose was to attend a training on crafting narratives (and alternative narratives) in countering violent extremism particularly as it relates to the police force. A necessary aspect of this is, or course, the concept of community policing. 

I’ve left with a greater understanding of these ideas and techniques which will find even further application in other roles outside my small one in a small corner of the government. Roles I hope to announce in the coming days.

It has been a pleasure learning from the faculty from the United States Institute for Peace, the State Department and Hedayah. And to be among my new friends from Kenya, Uganda, Senegal, Tunisia, Morocco and Kosovo who have shared in my education. Our hosts, the Carabinieri, particularly the Centre of Excellence in Stability Police Units (CoESPU) did and okay job.

Many thanks to my colleague and the MoI MSG, Hajja Falmata Gaji, who shared the group work and the pasta with me. And, of course, gratitude to our superiors who insisted on our attendance. 

I hope the things we have learnt will be of use to the country as they have been of value to us personally. 

Ra. 

On Why I Will Attend @KabaFest

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The class of people who knock all initiative while doing nothing at all are curious.

In the last days, I’ve seen posts disparaging the export of 72 tonnes of yams. The most curious was on the grounds the yams could have been turned into some pharmaceutical syrup. The yams have always been there. The industrial chemical process to produce the syrup does not need pioneering research. Yet these geniuses did not act. That Audu Ogbeh’s action signals a shift in public policy, a shift in which they can fit, escapes them by the length of two stadia.

Then there has been a call for a boycott of the Kaduna Books festival, ostensibly either because of the perceived character of the State governor or extrajudicial actions of the Nigerian State, the massacre of Shias, in Zaria. That the festival is a private initiative of Lola Shoneyin ‘s Book Buzz Foundation, leveraging on available public sector spending at the time of Kaduna State’s golden jubilee, misses these activists by stadia as well. Nor the fact that there will always be complaints about the State, endlessly pressed into service, for whatever purpose yet there are no alternatives to collaboration, from policy to projects, if the Arts is to be moved forward in this country.

The class of people in these two examples really do not want anything.

How the country moves forward will be decided by those of us, whether Audu Ogbeh or Lola Shoneyin or a few hundred others, who not only want things but are willing to work and act to bring what we want about.

If we are to survive and thrive, it will be because of those who summon platforms out of thin air and not those who wonder why things they have not done are not done differently or in a manner that pleases them.

These curious little bundles will always be marginal. My aim has always been to sit across the board from the history of my times and make my moves. Where can I do this, with all the knowledge and experience I need, other than at an arts festival that will draw other writers who share my vision for my times? This is why I stand with those who act. There must be purpose. There must be something one, as an individual artist, wants.

To the entrepreneurs amongst you, the Minister of Agriculture has given you a wink. To the art lovers, there is a city next week where your thought and presence is welcome.

– Ra.

On The Trick Against Stereotypes

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Dali's image of a Titan tearing itself apart

What’s the great trick? To know the stereotypes about other people yet treat each of them as an individual. Even when the stereotype proves itself right time and time again.

For me, it is an insistence that people are people, subject to flaws but also capable of the highest accomplishment. It’s hard sometimes. But that’s why it’s an insistence, isn’t it?

The Ijebu guy who cheated me cheated me, not all Ijebu people. The Igbo girl who jilted me jilted me, only she did. The Hausa chap who manipulated me over a commission did so, him alone.

I’m not saying we should be blind to ethnicity or nationalism or any categories. I don’t think that is possible. Even I have to catch myself on occasion. What I’m saying is we should not insist all individuals must square into these phoney boxes just so we can be “offended” and “angry” and feel better at not having given each of them a chance.

I’m from central Nigeria. This is our ethos. As I understand it. Rest of my countrypeople, can we not at least try this? Hard as it is but still try?

The hideous lies you’ve told about each other in the last weeks frightens me. Because I know these are informed by the worst examples. And that these slanders do not hold true for most people. Give each person a chance to err or to impress. Equally.

Ugo belu, egbe belu. As my new fried, Danda, would say, “He who feels what is good is not good for him should put his head in a mortar and see how he likes it.” This putting our head in a mortar, let’s not do it.

– Ra.

On #Kwibuka

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At the Genocide memorial at Kigali a few years ago

It’s #Kwibuka season here in Rwanda, in remembrance of the genocide twenty three years ago. The country shuts down to remember its dead, killed in one of the darkest periods of our continent’s history.

It’s a sombre, solemn period. It even rained this morning, as it did that April. A few years ago, I visited the Genocide Museum in #Kigali and afterwards, I sat and wept. I felt sad, connected, lost. Never again, we say, we desire, never again. I join all of Rwanda in the spirit of Kwibuka. #OneAfrica

“Remember. Unite. Renew.”

https://kwibuka.rw/