Monday, June 27, 2005

On an Ambiguous Adventure

A short note to Kenya Hudson who unilaterally declared an end to her blog experiment the aptly-named Ambiguous Adventure...

A couple of comments/observations:

Those who research the blogging phenomenom have noted that:

  • The vast majority of blogs are abandonned after 90 days.
  • Most bloggers experience an existential crisis at some point. Usually this comes down to the blog not living up to their expectations. There have been numeous high-profile instances of this.

I've noticed, in the past few months, that life has intruded more than a little on your ambitious adventure causing a little matter of ambiguity to come into the picture.

I believe that you're in good company and 10+ months of blogging would be well beyond the call of duty as those statistics would attest. We all blog for different reasons and get pulled in different directions. For my part, my crisis came after 6 months when various insanities at work and other life issues raised their head - some of which continue to this day.

My blogging hiatus and its consequent resolution came from a curious direction and I was surprised that my voice returned, refreshed by a 96 year old woman who calls me Frank and who caused the discovery of a community I didn't know I had.

But to engage you a little, Kenya, I'll simply suggest this: there's a paucity of voices such as yours on the web.

I am hoping that you'll rather consider this period a time out rather than an end. Unilateral acts are a little much in this day and age. Just ask the Croats about declaring independence in the past decade knowing that opportunist Milosevic types were itching to take you on and the costs they have suffered. Or take these recent ones for example which led to this: Zimbabwe Slum Dwellers Are Left With Only Dust. Metaphorically, and with some tongue in cheek, you're leaving your slum readers in the dust a la Robert Mugabe and lobbing some tear gas surreptitiously supplied via Malawi to boot.

Thus I'll also suggest a different track. I have long seen this web thing as a conversation engine and even though some conversations fizzle out, many will pick up the strands and you've started quite a number that we, your readers, are all trying to digest and weave together.

And will you resist the opening about Mugabe's continuing misdeeds (and the sanctions-breaking Malawi connection) that begs for your kind of dissection? If I wasn't spread so thin I'd be weighing in myself on the idea of a government preparing for over a year for the propitious moment to raze the accomodation of and destroy the livelihoods of 300,000+ of its citizens without notice and moving them into camps under the guise of "driving out the rubbish" (and political opposition) - something that reminds me of what happened repeatedly in Nigeria under military rule in the slums of Lagos and other towns; a government so far removed from the everyday concerns of those it is supposed to serve. I've touched on slums and squalor in the past, I wonder what you thought about that piece or my other ramblings.

And since I know you don't confine yourself to Africa, how about this one: Bitter divide over plan to wall in Rio's slums. Should we be building walls around modern day ghettos (to prevent the collateral damage of stray bullets ) or deal with the social ills that give rise to the gangs, Bus 174 episodes and Cities of God?

I'll also ask you some of the questions that I've been asking the technical audiences I've been speaking to since the African toli has been scarce of late:
  • How did you get on the web?
  • What caused you to land your flag on this here internet?
  • What caused you, your friends, or family to live, shop and commune on this here web?
  • And what will it take to make you stay?

The internet is full of mysterious wonders. As an example, The Girlfriend and I were emailing links to her graduation pictures to friends and family and all of a sudden we saw some photos from the graduation at Tech, the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology at Kumasi A friend in Ghana, upon seeing her photos, signed up to Flickr and spent a few minutes uploading their graduation photos at some Internet cafe or other (or maybe it was a couple of hours, internet connections being what they are in Ghana). I can't tell you how wonderful it was to see the colourful glimpses of graduation done Ghana-style among the global graduation tag at Flickr even if only temporarily (the photos were since made private for some reason much like you're heading for the private sphere). And indeed we've already seen some great visions of the Ghana goes Flickr meme. Great sights and the sound of those voices again...

Lastly, a matter of serendipity:

aventure ambigue

Last summer, I lost my copies of the novel of your eponymous blog, Cheikh Hamidou Kane's L'aventure ambiguë both the original and the decent translation. Well I think I lent them to someone, I'm always giving out my best books and have for example, bought Camara Laye's L'enfant noir and Ken Saro-Wiwa's Sozaboy at least 5 times, not to mention Milan Kundera's Book of Laughter and Forgetting, Julian Barnes' A History of the World in 10 1/2 Chapters or Patrick Chamoiseau's Texaco which speaks cogently to the slum life that is the modern wold.

Rather than heading to Schoenhof's Foreign Books and bankrupting myself on books as I normally do since my wishlist is so huge and I too believe in compulsive book buying, I've been periodically checking Amazon and eBay for a used copy. Thus it was that last Thursday, some kind soul sent me a pristine copy of the book which arrived in a battered envelope (it had been advertised as being in acceptable condition). This internet thing is something: receive one of African literature's greatest works for $4.50 after just 2 clicks?

That I received the book on the same day that you apparently went all formal and declared a case of unsustainable blog development is a cause for some head-scratching on my part.

I'll be re-reading said ambiguous adventure in coming weeks, right after I'm done with Suzan Lori-Park's Getting Mother's Body which you should also read if you haven't already. A friend hipped me to it and its vibrant and cacophonous sound of the African-American experience is asserting itself in my ear whenever I can spare fifteen minutes - far more refreshing than the increasingly sclerotic Toni Morisson. And Lori-Parks has more groove than almost any living writer or playwright; I hope you managed to catch Topdog/Underdog if it passed your town (there's even a DVD about the struggle and creative process behind that great achievement. By the way, did you hear that Terry, and by transposition, Stella now has now lost her groove in a mix of sexual confusion, age and cultural misunderstanding. That could be the next entertainment in our silly season of discontent now that MJ has been released from a hysterical witchhunt.

I've been looking forward to engage you in the conversation about the ambiguous adventure, asking for example how the novel measured up with Mariama Ba's Une si longue lettre which I would have thought was more in your line (which again has a good translation). This short note is turning out to be a long letter... And for the record, what caused you to go with The Cheikh's words in your allusive blog title?

tradition modernity

And what about Kwame Gyekye's Tradition and Modernity that I spotted on your reading list a few months back, I read it last year and have alluded to it in passing. We find ourselves mediating tradition and modernity daily and I wonder what the analogues of the blogging world were in the traditional past. Gyekye would have some provocative thought on the issue I'm sure. I also picked up a used copy of his African Cultural Values. All secondary school children should read it and not just Ghanaians or Nigerians, all American kids would do well to get some of his flavour and learn about cultures that have influenced the world but that aren't normally advocated. And why the hell is the book out of print in this country? Isn't he the greatest? A philosopher from the old school full of scholarship and learning and still vitally relevant today. I've been meaning to start that conversation on tradition and modernity for a while. But will I have a forum? And, if so, will you lead the way?

Do take your time before you resurface, I know it's difficult to regain balance. I fear there is much I don't do justice to myself. Still I firmly believe in Gabriel Garcia Marquez's maxim:
Any idea which couldn't stand a few decades of neglect isn't worth anything.

Thus a literal and figurative head nod in your direction Kenya.

I remain subscribed in Bloglines.

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Unknown said...

What do you mean by sclerotic? was not helpful.

Koranteng said...

Toni Morrison's writing has become so high concept, so evidently laboured over that there is no air or indeed life in them.

It's as if the arteries have so hardened that there is no room for movement in her later novels. Thus the sense of sclerosis or more properly arteriosclerosis: the "thickening, hardening, and loss of elasticity of the arterial walls result in impaired blood circulation".

I continue to read her works but I miss their earlier vivacity. One hopes that she stops trading on past glories...