Memoirs have become quite a thing in Nigeria as the vacuum for literature that is neither fiction or largely autobiographical grows. It is an indication of our growing tastes as a reading nation, especially for narratives that centre us Nigerians and our experiences. You see this shift in the number of personal blogs and vlogs that have gained prominence in the last half decade and in books like Yemisi Aribisala’s award winning culinary memoir, Longthroat Memoirs: Soups, Sex and Nigerian Taste Buds, which went on to win the prestigious John Avery 2016 award at the Andre Simon Food and Drink Book Awards.
Nigerian writer and art critic Emmanuel Iduma is wading into this space with his new memoir, A Stranger’s Pose. As the editor of the deacade old and well respected literary journal Saraba Mag and a faculty member of the MFA Art Writing Program at the School of Visual Arts, New York, Iduma is one of the few Nigerian writers whose careers started in Nigeria to gain international pedigree for work that centres Nigeria. He’s dabbled in fiction (The Sound of Things To Come) which was published in 2016 and ran a blog called the A Sum of Encounters funded by an Andy Warhol Foundation grant, and helped curate the Nigerian Pavilion at the 2017 Venice Biennale. It is from this wealth of experience and travel and his work traversing Africa as part of the 2016 Invisible Borders team (Invisible Borders is a non-profit that connects artists and creatives from several disciplines to travel across the continent documenting stories across media).
Forthcoming from Cassava Republic Press—globally on 16 October, 2018 and in the US on 7 November, 2018—A Stranger’s Pose is a mix of memoir, travelogue, and photography: an expansion of travel writing in African literature, a genre with little published in it so far. Emmanuel Iduma’s book, already named by Electric Literature as “one to watch,” comes with a foreword by Teju Cole, who has memorably called it a “Dream of a perfect book, a ballad with all the lyrics remembered.”
At 208 pages, A Stranger’s Pose is a immersive journey, in assuredly paced, transportive prose and striking photography, across more than 20 African cities. Its 40 black and white photographs are by acclaimed African photographers, including the famed Malick Sidibe, whom he met in Bamako.
It will be interesting to see where Iduma takes his prose and how his personal experiences shape the narrative that is eventually unfurled on A Stranger’s Pose. Early reviews suggest beautiful vignettes on the photographers, people, and migrants—including those making the treacherous journey to Europe—in search of home, safety and self-exploration. There are also illuminations of his difficulties travelling between different African cities, of his struggles to find visas, of his meeting with a Malian and perpetual intra-Africa migrant Idrissa, of the cost of intra-continental travel, and of the alienation of moving between languages—altogether an exposition of how divided Africa is. Iduma’s use of photographs extends his engagement of questions about love, life, migration, translation, heart-break, and personal tragedy. In the end, what we have is a reinvention of the notion of African travel writing: the continent through the eyes of a decolo
A Stranger’s Pose comes with blurbs by poet-professor-novelist Chris Abani (“Emmanuel Iduma writes with lyricism and stunning clarity, a lush yet elegant style that resists categorization… Only one word can hold it all, beautiful. This book is beautiful.”), and David Levi Strauss, author of Words Not Spent Today Buy Smaller Images Tomorrow (“Iduma’s book is a marvel.”). Noo Saro-Wiwa, author of Looking for Transwonderland: Travels in Nigeria, Nigeria’s best known travel literature book, has also described Iduma as “a refreshing new voice in travel writing.”
It is another big splash by Cassava Republic, who this year published She Called Me Woman: Nigeria’s Queer Women Speak, the first anthology of LGBTQ+ women in Nigeria. The publishing company, co-founded in 2006 by Bibi Bakare-Yusuf, was this year named winner of the Independent Publishers Group’s and London Book Fair’s Excellence Awards. In 2016, it became Africa’s first publisher to open an office in the UK. Among its many award-winning books are: Abubakar Adam Ibrahim’s Season of Crimson Blossoms, winner of the $100,000 Nigeria Prize for Literature 2016; Sarah Ladipo Manyika’s Like A Mule Bringing Ice Cream to the Sun, shortlisted for the 2016 Goldsmiths Prize; and Elnathan John’s Born on a Tuesday, shortlisted for the inaugural Republic of Consciousness Prize in 2017.
For media enquiries about Emmanuel Iduma’s A Stranger’s Pose and interview requests, please contact Lynette Lisk at Cassava Republic Press via [email protected]