Catherine Onyemelukwe

Author, Blogger, Speaker

African Wealth, Books, and Music

Aliko Dangote, wealthiest African - African Wealth

Aliko Dangote, wealthiest African

Oxford University Welcomes Wealthiest African

Zainab Usman posted a notice about an event at Oxford University that was to take place this afternoon. My fundraising antennae are perking up – is Oxford, or are these students – seeking a donation from Africa’s wealthiest man? Or maybe they just want to hear his story.

Usman said, “In particular, the Oxford University Africa Society and the Oxford University China-Africa Network (OUCAN) are hosting [Aliko Dangote] in a conversation entitled ‘The Truth about Doing Business in Africa.’ My colleague Yasmin Kumi, President of the Africa Society and myself, as co-convenor of the China-Africa Network will discuss with him his experiences of doing business in Africa.”

I imagine Dangote could talk for days about doing business in Africa. I talked about him in my Lifetime Learners class. He could surely include the good, the bad, and the ugly! Zainab said in her post there will be a video available later. I’ll keep you posted!

Grammy for Malawi Prisoners?

Malawi on the continent of Africa

Malawi on the continent of Africa

The Grammys are over. I felt totally out of date – I had never heard of many of the winners, not to mention the MC, the other performers, and people in the audience that the camera picked out. I did however love the opening scene from Hamilton!

I actually only watched bits and pieces because I had read that an album by prisoners in Malawi was in competition. The NYTimes had an article about the group.

The author says, “In a makeshift studio near a carpentry workshop, 14 prisoners and two guards recorded an unusual album of lessons and loss, sin and forgiveness. Now it is going up against the works of well-known performers in the world music category, earning the small, impoverished nation of Malawi its first chance at a Grammy.”

Malawi with its neighbors. It's a long narrow country.

Malawi with its neighbors. It’s a long narrow country.

It was a heart-warming story about the musicians who told personal stories in their music. “Produced by Ian Brennan, an American who has wandered the globe in search of original music, the album, “I Have No Everything Here,” has been an unexpected boon for an overlooked nation.”

I didn’t realize until near the end of the presentations that the world music award had been given out earlier; it wasn’t part of the 3-hour prime time presentation.

Do you know who won?

Who Writes Romances in Northern Nigeria?

I was intrigued with the women in Kano who are writing popular romance novels for the local market. CNN reported that the women are taking chances with their writing, but are finding their voices in an incredible way.

Thomas Page - Twitter photo. I hope he doesn't mind!

Thomas Page who wrote article. His Twitter photo. I hope he doesn’t mind!

Thomas Page writes about the movement with wit and empathy. After describing a child bride, already divorced at 19, he says she began writing, and kept writing. “Soon entire novels emerged. Written and printed in her native Hausa language, they spurred on a whole literary subgenre — ‘Littattafan Soyayya’ (love literature) — which years later has grown into a prosperous cottage industry for the women of Kano.”

He talks about the New York photographer Glenda Gordon who has researched and published Diagram of the Heart, about the genre. She met with the women in Kano, and learned they often have an additional role besides author.

“In Kano, the life of a book exists beyond its final page, with writers taking on the role of agony aunts,” Page says.

He learned from Gordon that, “A lot of women write their phone numbers on their books. Prompted by the content of the novels, ‘other women call them up and ask for advice about their marriages.

‘”When I was hanging out with author Rabi Talle, she would have four phones, all with different numbers, and they’d be ringing constantly,'” Gordon said.

That’s exactly the way business people in Lagos behave. Our sons have several phones each, and often know who is calling based on what phone is ringing.

This story was on CNN’s African Start-up, which highlights African entrepreneurs. It reminds me of the Onitsha market literature of the 1940’s that I wrote about after meeting Kurt Thometz in New York, who edited a compilation of the stories.

Once again the vibrancy of Nigerian life, literature, and love is confirmed!

Were Slaves Ever Happy?

Ramin Ganeshram, one of our TEAM Westport participants, is an author and journalist with many awards to her name. Her most recent book is A Birthday Cake for George Washington, published by Scholastic.

From Dan Woog's blog a photo of the book.

A photo of the book from Dan Woog’s blog.

Her hero is Hercules, a slave and the chef for George Washington. As Dan Woog tells us on his blog, “Now she’s in the middle of a national cultural controversy.”

“Critics objected to illustrations depicting smiling slaves,” Dan says. Scholastic pulled the book.

Ganeshram was accused of ‘white-washing’ the lives of slaves with the cheerful faces. She says her editor would not listen to her complaints about the illustrations.

Critics also say she should have included the information that Hercules later escaped from slavery.

Her book came out of years of research about Hercules. She says in an op-ed on Huffington Post, “‘As a chef and person of color, I revere and admire Hercules. I wrote A Birthday Cake for George Washington to lionize him through one fictional moment in which he uses superior talent to overcome culinary disaster.'”

Toward the end of the HuffPost piece Ramin says, “Most pressing is the question of whether we can ever reach a place in our society where questions of race can be openly and objectively discussed, especially with our children.”

I long for that day!

Author: Catherine Onyemelukwe

Author, blogger, speaker. Born in New York, grew up in mid west United States, lived in Nigeria for 24 years, back in U.S. since 1986. Advocate for racial justice.


  1. Romance novels in Hausa? That’s pretty cool! I have a daughter who edits romance novels and a wife who’s writing a romance novel about a woman who has to choose between two men: a seemingly perfect husband who’s a dud and sexy older man who’s not. I’m urging her to title the novel “The Fog of Love.” No one else has used that title for a book, although there’s a board game with that name.

    • Yes, isn’t that cool? I wish your wife success in finishing and titling her novel. Let us know when it’s out. Maybe your daughter would be interested in connecting with the photographer or translator of the Hausa romances.