The Art Naija Series is a sequence of themed e-anthologies of writing and visual art exploring different aspects of Nigerianness. The first, Enter Naija: The Book of Places (Oct., 2016), focuses on cities in Nigeria. The second, Work Naija: The Book of Vocations (June, 2017), focuses on professions in Nigeria. Both anthologies were published by Brittle Paper.
The idea of Enter Naija: The Book of Places came to me in March of 2016, during my National Youth Service in Akure. While there, I was struck by the topography of Ondo State, its edible beauty: the coal-dark rocks and orgasmic-green hills, the clinical neatness of the slender roads of Ikare-Akoko where we’d camped, the sprawling serenity of small Akure. My one year there was an experience, and so I began thinking of collecting the experiences of others, the range of different places that we all feel strongly about. That we read about and feel transported to.
At 152 pages, Enter Naija featured 35 contributors whose nonfiction, photography, and visual art focused on 29 places in Nigeria. The places fell into the four regions of the country. The North: Kano, Jos, Abuja, Sokoto, Jigawa State. The South: Auchi, Port-Harcourt, Bori, Benin City, Oyigbo, Uyo, Ikot-Ekpene, Warri, Ukanafun Local Government Area of Akwa-Ibom State. The East: Onitsha, Enugu, Nsukka, Aba, Uzii in Imo State, Abakiliki, Umuahia. The West: Ibadan, Ado-Ekiti, Ile-Ife, Lagos, Iworoko in Ekiti State, Iseyin in Ondo State, Akure. Its introduction was by Ikhide R. Ikheloa.
Praise for Enter Naija: The Book of Places
This volume is a gathering of unsung, young but vibrant new writers, a worthy proxy for that army of storytellers who make social media reading an addictive pastime. This they do in song, in prose, poetry and video. Many of these names are regulars on Facebook, Twitter and the numerous blogs and journals that populate the Internet…[and they] fan out across the four cardinal points of Nigeria and tell their stories, lush narratives brilliantly broken up by digital art. Each city blessed by the sensitivities of these young writers comes alive, regardless of the canvas chosen. This is an unusual collection…retro-experimental. What a concept. This collection of narratives further expands the definition of the notion of home. It is coming at a time when calls are coming for a renegotiation of terms of engagement among the nations that live within the Nigeria millions call home. It is great that this generation of writers steeped in the three dimensional ways of storytelling on the Internet (YouTube, social media, blogs) have chosen to talk about home in their own inimitable way…a new generation of storytellers talking back to home.
— IKHIDE R. IKHELOA, Introduction
Enter Naija: The Book of Places is an invitation to engage Nigeria as an idea, which might not yet have materialised, but has at least begun to crystallise as more and more subjects begin to understand their power as citizens. It is a gift. A gesture made from a place of love. The book is free but priceless. It is a gambit not a gambol. The young compatriots…do not typify your ordinary Nigerian, for whom complaints usually signal strategy not noise. Individually, each stands out as an outlier whose outlook will mark the future. Collectively, they present a strategy to write about home by writing back home, from home. The bulk of them are university students or university graduates, some of whom are engaged in national youth service. [The anthology] invites readers to enter this impasse by taking a new approach. One that looks ahead instead of dwelling on the past. One that is inclusive instead of selective. Enter Naija: The Book of Places offers an entry point, one way of organising and building. It situates multiple places within a deeply fractured nation space…sending messages about the human condition and lived experience so that we, the reader, can mine them for meaning fleshed out of information about the plight of people(s). It allows us to join the conversation by assembling our own answers. It shows how irrespective of ethnicity/religion, elite interests lie only in the appropriation of wealth and labour for the consolidation of state power. It shows that the solution to our problems resides in our ability to build expansive and inclusive social networks that allow us to leave home in order to discover home.
— EMEKA UGWU, Chimurenga’s The Chronic.
A powerful literary project that reflects on the idea of Nigeria in terms of space and place…a groundbreaking project. Nigerian literature has historically not been self-aware about space and place. Places appear in fictional works but mostly as an accidental part of the narrative. Never as the central focus. That was why a work like Teju Cole’s Every Day Is for the Thief was so novel when it first appeared. Cole elevated the city of Lagos to the status of a character. Lagos wasn’t simply this place where his story happened to have taken place. Lagos was the material and metaphorical center of the narrative. The writers and artists in this collection do something similar, but they surpass Cole on one fundamental ground. Unlike Cole, they break the Nigerian literary obsession with Lagos. Their exploration of various geographies and urban spaces takes them all over the four corners of the nation—from Uyo to Nsukka to Kano to Ado-Ekiti. In his beautiful introduction to the work, the Nigerian book critic Ikhide Ikheloa makes a powerful case for seeing these writers and artists as the brave new future of African literature. As the editor of one of Africa’s leading literary sites and an avid promoter of new African writing, I am truly happy to present to you this powerful, experimental, and endlessly delightful work.
— AINEHI EDORO, Brittle Paper
Work Naija: The Book of Vocations seemed the next logical step—a focus on professions. It features 21 contributors whose nonfiction, memoirs, photography, poetry, and visual art render the lives of Nigerians in 23 occupations: commercial sex workers, priests, scavengers, photographers, beggars, teachers, Keke Napep drivers, hairdressers, akara sellers, shopkeepers, barbers, culinarians, doctors, fishermen, hawkers, a stage actress, construction workers, okada riders, musicians, morticians, cattle rearers, a desert guide, and of course the unemployed.
Its introduction is by Rotimi Babatunde, 2012 winner of the Caine Prize.
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