The light was gone, sucked back into the black wires that hung off the roof and stretched across the expressway, leaving the kitchen a study in blurs. Ogugua popped open the plastic crate of eggs and felt around for the matches, his pupils widening to inhale the grey air. It was so much quieter here in Owerri than it had been in Lagos. In the sky outside his glass doors, when he looked, he could see the moon hanging low and round, steeped in urine.
The match hissed and exploded into fire once Ogugua touched it to the leaking gas of the stove and he capped it with his frying pan, the one with the loose screw in the handle that he was always tightening with a butter knife. He couldn’t help comparing everything now to everything that used to be. Even the eggs here were different from the ones in America, where he used to call home, where the woman who used to be his wife still lived. Those yolks had been pale, smelling of a thick rottenness that made him peel them out and eat only the gelatinous white. But here, when he cracked them open, the eggs spilled out pools of fat yellow blood that sizzled with volume. Ogugua lifted the frying pan and touched a candle to the stove’s fire, setting it on the counter in a pool of its own wax.
He had arrived in Lagos with his daughter in early July, when the rains were still determined and flooding. During the flight, he fed her small spoonfuls of his airplane dessert, a piped thick cream with reduced fruit spilling over and staining the top. She batted her hands at the spoon and chuckled in his lap and sweetness smacked through her lips. Ogugua kissed the top of her head.
I DIDN’T KNOW MUCH about Robert Irwin’s work when I wandered into the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden a few weeks ago. I knew that he was a contemporary of a few other artists I admire, James Turrell among them, and that he was the first artist to win a MacArthur Genius Grant in 1984, but I could not recall seeing his work at the Hirshhorn, the National Gallery of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney, or any of the other museums I visit on a frequent basis.
The exhibition is called Robert Irwin: All the Rules Will Change. Step off the escalator, walk a few feet, and before you, floating at about eye level, is a white sphere. It is split in half horizontally; a thin band of black pulses at the center. Instead of appreciation, comprehension, even confusion, your mind generates a series of questions. How can it be that this sphere is floating? And what exactly is in the middle of that … that thing? Is it some kind of light? Can light be black? Can black light pulse? Step closer to the sphere, look behind it. Ah. A clear plastic tube connects the sphere to the wall. Indeed, from this vantage point the sphere no longer resembles a sphere; it is actually a wedge of curved plastic. Or metal. Or something. You still cannot tell what is happening in the middle.
Congratulations to Kimbilio Fellows Lesley Arimah (’15) and Tope Folarin (’15) for being nominated for the 2016 Caine Prize. The Caine Prize for African Writing is awarded annually to an African writer of a short story published in English. Tope won this award previously in 2013.
At a ceremony in London on July 4th, South African writer Lidudumalingani (pictured with this post) received the 2016 prize
Listen on the link below to the BBC’s TheCulture Frontline interviews with the 2016 finalists, including Lesley and Tope.
“Everyone had done it, he supposed. To some degree, they had all told their little lies.” These are not the opening lines of Julie Iromuanya’s striking debut novel Mr. and Mrs. Doctor, but they may as well be. They are the thoughts of Job Ogbannaya, the protagonist. Job’s approach to lying reflects his pursuit of the American Dream. Like many others, he has come to America to “make it.” But Iromuanya’s book asks, what happens if you can’t make it? What happens if your new country swallows you whole and threatens to keep your dreams from coming to fruition? What then? Do you return to your native land? Do you simply work longer and harder? Or do you lie about not having made it and pretend everything is all right? Instead of doggedly pursuing his dreams of becoming a wealthy doctor, Job opts to pretend that he already is one, until his lies grow too big to untangle.