At Naijasistas Christmas Book Fiesta, women read in affirmation of women, nation
By Anote Ajeluorou
Although the ‘Naijasistas Christmas Book Fiesta’ organised by Bola Essien-Nelson didn’t quite make good on its promised greatness, the focus was on how God had been faithful to the band of women writers, and also using them to affect their generation for the better
The ever active organiser, Bola Essien-Nelson, had her hands full that afternoon in the balancing act of trying to welcome her guests that were trickling in and also speaking up at a radio station trying to get the hang of her reading event to the public. It was one of the functions’ rooms of newly opened Radisson Blu hotel on Ozumba Mbadiwe Avenue, Victoria Island, Lagos.
There had been a huge buzz on facebook in the months leading up to the event after the first one in August. Essien-Nelson is facebook and internet savvy; her two books, The Dairy of a Desperate Naija Housewife Twenty Ten and Twenty Eleven first came into being as blogs. Problems of finding bookshops to sell her two books led her to setting up her own ‘Bookstop’, an innovative model that stocks books of over 25 Nigerian women writers from fiction to inspirational books.
A stickler to time, Essien-Nelson only allowed five minutes after the 2pm time advertised before she kicked off the show. She saw beyond the two tables that had barely filled up; she would not stand for lateness. She still had a warm smile and a huge for latecomers. Her first writer to arrive was Abuja-based lawyer and writer, Umari Ayim, author of Twilight at Terra Cotta Indigo; then Dupe Olorunjo with her The Aireginan Dream and Betty Abah withSound of Broken Chains and poet, Renee with her soulful piece, ‘Sugar’. Oke Ofili, author of How Stupidity Saved My Life also made it, alongside Essien-Nelson’s husband.
Some of the other authors advertised did not show up. But this did not dampen Essien-Nelson’s spirit as she nimbly pushed ahead with the event. To rouse her guests, she caused them to stand to their feet and dance to music. The turntable wasn’t of much help, so she turned her guests into a choir of sorts, and they sang, clapped and danced to their own music.
Essien-Nelson told her guests that she had been planning the event for a long time and that it “wasn’t just another book reading; this is something special to me. This is a real moment of testimony for God’s faithfulness to us, His children”.
Unlike the usual perception where women seen themselves as their own enemies or adversaries with constant infighting over flimsy things, Essien-Nelson said the Naijasistas book initiative was conceived as a means of women providing affirmation for each other to blossom and reach for higher goals.
She stated, “Women are supporting women in Naijasistas. Women are known for fighting themselves, but not this one. Other women who are not writers are also partnering with us to provide upliftment for women doing sundry things through the Naijasistas facebook group. These books by Nigerian women will benefit Nigerian families”.
Ayim took the first shot when she read an excerpt from her Twilight at Terra Cotta Indigo. She explained later on that her own personal experience of a failed relationship inspired her to write the book. In the excerpt she read, a completely disoriented housewife finds it hard to believe that the man with whom she spent the night and with whom she made love is her husband. Ayim read crisply and neatly.
Olorunjo, a pastor, read from her The Aireginan Dream, where she takes on Nigeria’s middle class with its docility in not being able to fashion out an alternative voice and position to government’s lack of direction in positioning the country for greatness. She said, “I’m passionate about Nigeria; I believe in its future. Yet Nigerians don’t have to live poor with the country’s enormous resources. I had a dream, a vision, an impartation on how Nigeria ought to overcome its problems. It is what inspires this book”.
Renee also read from her Blackberry an emotionally charged poem, ‘Sugar’, with which she invested so much emotion in her rendition as she inhabited the peculiar intensity of her poetic world where love divine reigns.
Nevertheless, Naijasistas Christmas Book Fiesta didn’t turn out a spectacularly an event as it ought given the hype it got. It took on the character of Essien-Nelson, who wielded the microphone to a poor measure. A usually short event was made to drag on to the point of boredom. However, free gifts were given out to the audience. A 7-foot tall Christmas Tree was also auctioned, with proceeds going to two charities for children being supported byNaijasistas.