Wednesday 16 September 2015

Berlin: With friends at the Graphic Novel Day

Needs be done
My visit to Berlin in the weekend presented an unscheduled opportunity to provide some moral support to a few friends of mine at an event they were present for.
I had found out through a posting on Facebook that Bibi Bakare-Yusuf, the publisher of Cassava Republic, Sylvia Ofili (She needs a Wikipedia page) and Elnathan John were going to be at the 15th International Literature Festival.
Through collaborations with the Goethe Institute in Lagos, Sylvia and Elnathan were working with graphic artists to create two graphic novels based on themes of the boarding school experience and the coming out of a young man respectively.
As graphic as it comes
Before their presentation, we listened to Wiktoria Lomasko’s presentation titled “Opposition with the Pencil” where as a Russian, the recent retrogressive reforms to the freedom of expression in Russia had put people like her in fear and threat of persecution and prosecution.
She and her collaborators had found ingenious ways to critique the system through art and illustrations, it then dawned on us how the stifling of opposition and other voices in the public space in Russia could never be a welcome development in the 21st Century. The allotted hours was not long enough for her piece which was translated from Russian to English, but we began to understand what forces of repression the Putin government brings to bear on alternative thought.
The Nigerian graphic novel
In their presentation titled Imagined Realities, they discussed the inspiration, drive and collaborative difficulties in creating graphic novels and conveying ideas between cultures and distance that meets the expectations of sponsors and publishers alike, whilst opening up a new interest groups and readerships in Nigeria and beyond.
Knowing Sylvia as a writer of socially diverse topical issues and Elnathan as a novelist and satirist, I was quite intrigued by this new direction of storytelling they were charting, both ventures will be completed within a year.
Significant social media friends
Bibi, Elnathan and Slyvia were friendships I formed through social media from my blogging to Twitter. I first met Bibi just over 4 years ago when she was visiting Amsterdam for a few days, Sylvia was reading my blog when I was in hospital in September 2009, and she sent me a large bouquet of flowers on my first day of chemotherapy, the 5th of October 2009 then visited me in Amsterdam in December.
We last met in October 2010 in Stockholm. I first met Elnathan in Berlin in June 2015 at Ebe Ano (More talk about that in another blog.) We have met again in London before this new meeting in Berlin again.
After their session, we retired to the author’s tent for a few hours of catching and reminiscing, if they had not been partying too hard the night before, we might well have had another rendezvous at Ebe Ano.

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