Tag Archives: Nigerian speculative fiction

The Encounter

By Nnamdi Anyadu

If you play at Hoplus’ trench, the chance you’d find yourself breaking a sacred rule on some occasion is high. Higher than if you play at Arjin or Kowi, for instance. The girls here are wild and mother warns me every time to be wary of their company, though she knows she cannot stop me from coming here – Hoplus is the closest play-area for teenagers around our home – so she constantly reminds me of why the rules are in place. For safety and balance. I nod every time, saying I understand, but it does not stop her from repeating herself the next day.

I know the Sacred Seven like the end of my own caudal fin. Never shed a tear. Never perform dishonesty. Never travel to any of the other tribes without the chief’s blessing. Never swim to shore or contact a surfacer. Never wield your gift for destruction. Never take the life of a fellow sea creature. Beware the halls of Tada; never venture there.

Mother does not know, but my closest friends – Kaumi, Jauni and Pkeni – and I have broken one, or is it two of the Sacred Seven? Thanks to Pkeni’s temper. It was she who got angry after she’d lost a race to Jauni and picked up a rock and smashed the head of a crab with it. We watched the poor crab twitch till it stopped moving. Perhaps we considered the crab’s life of little importance because it is crustacean; if it had been a fish and had bled blood, I’m sure we would have acted differently. So we performed dishonesty and did not report the incident to an elder. Instead we focused on cheering Pkeni up and told her that she was faster than all of us and that it was only because she had had a heavy breakfast that she had been slowed down this time.

* * *

Right now, Kaumi is speaking of adventure as we twirl about Hoplus. She is the oldest of the four of us, the leader of our little clique, if you will. Most times, she decides what games we play.

She is saying her cousin, Sorai, has given her information about something we should all go see. She is claiming that far away at the beach, a shoal of young surfacers are having a jubilation. I do not see how this is our business. I do not see why we should all go see it.

‘Are you afraid?’ Jauni asks me when they all realise I am not showing any signs of enthusiasm at this unnecessary escapade.

‘I’m not. But it’s dangerous. And we will be breaking a Sacred,’ I say.

‘Since when do we care about the rules?’ Pkeni says, frowning.

Only she can say this. The rules mean nothing to her. Or maybe they do, but her constant anger never lets her think straight.

Everything within me is telling me to stand my ground, but you see I was not here at the trench yesterday; I was busy with Mother. Kaumi, Jauni and Pkeni teased a shark. They say it chased them for about half a mile. I missed all of that action.

‘Okay, but we won’t stay long. We’ll come back soon, yes?’ I say.

‘Of course we will.’ Kaumi says.

‘Sure,’ Jauni says.

Pkeni does not say anything. She just smiles and licks her lower lip. I know in her heart she is thinking me a coward.

* * *

As we swim toward the beach, I notice the current of the water lessen and I feel myself move faster.

‘Stop. We’re here,’ Kaumi says.

We bob our heads against expiring waves to survey the beach and behold, there they are: a school of young surfacers, drinking from red things resembling shells. Behind them are tall trees and funny-looking structures. They are moving their bodies in an awkward fashion and hollering like demented souls. This all seems so disorganised, and their music is loud and nonsensical.

The encounter

‘We should leave,’ I say to Kaumi.

‘Leave? We just got here,’ Jauni says.

I see the glint of excitement in her eyes. She is clearly fascinated by these odd beings.

‘We’ve seen them,’ I argue. ‘Now, let’s go before someone notices our absence back home.’

‘Sssh,’ Pkeni says.

Only she can shush a person when they are making sense.

‘Don’t tell me to be quiet,’ I say and Pkeni quickly places a finger over my mouth, pointing to my left.

A few yards away from us, a surfacer-man and a surfacer-woman are entering into the water. Surfacers look so weird. They don’t have gills on their necks. They don’t have scales over their bodies. How do they even stay warm? They have arms in the lower parts of their bodies and they move with it. Four arms? What is a person doing with four arms? Ugh.

The surfacer-man and surfacer-woman are swimming toward us now. They seem to be performing some kind of play. The male has his forearms all over the female. And the female seems to be enjoying it for she is smiling a soft smile.

She is the first to see us.

‘Jesus! Jesus!! Jesus!!! Aaahhhh!!!!’ The surfacer-woman screams.

Jesus must be the name of all the other surfacers, because as she screams this, the jubilant company on the beach begins to run in our direction.

‘Wetin?’

‘What’s that?’ I hear them say as they approach.

‘Mammy-water,’ the surfacer-man says, pulling the screaming female out of the water.

A surfacer throws a handful of sand at our heads. Another throws a stone. This is our cue. We turn around and make for home. Some pursue, diving into the water. Others throw things at us. Something hits my left shoulder. Another hits my waist. I dive into the water. I swim for dear life. Into the deep, I go. When I am certain I am away from their reach, I turn. Pkeni is before me, Jauni beside me. I do not see Kaumi.

‘Where is Kaumi?’ I ask.

Jauni looks this way and that. Pkeni stares at me. I swim upward, break the surface and look at the beach. The surfacers have Kaumi. They are beating her with clubs. She is trying to break free but the surfacers are way too many. One stamps his feet into her face. Others imitate him. I scream.

Jauni is beside me now. She is shaking uncontrollably. In the distance Kaumi looks lifeless. She isn’t struggling anymore. More surfacers are appearing on the beach and pointing towards the ocean. I cannot even tell when it started, but I am crying and wailing now.

nnamdi

Nnamdi Anyadu writes short fiction and poetry. His works has appeared on the Nwokike Literary Journal, Brittlepaper and several blogs. He is currently working on a novel.

 

 

Editorial

Better Late than Never

This edition of Omenana is late, over a month late.

It is our intention to publish a high-quality quarterly magazine, however, everything that could delay the production, did. It’s been a crazy four months, but we are happy that Omenana 7 is here now.

In the time between the last edition of Omenana and this one, we were reminded why it is of great importance to continue producing this magazine. Through it, we encourage more writers to look to the extensive materials we have on the continent called Africa for speculative fiction.

I was interviewed by a Nigerian newspaper not long ago and I used the opportunity to dwell on why we are doing this, and how far we intend to take it. You can read that interview here (Speculative fiction is the natural state of storytelling). I also published a science fiction piece titled Family Meeting on the fast-growing literature site, Brittle Paper.

This month, we are happy to introduce stories from new voices and established writers of the speculative on the continent. We hope their stories speak to you as they did us.Also, we are spotlighting Sunny Efemena, who illustrated this edition and has worked on other editions in the past.This edition of Omenana closes with an essay on African sci-fi and literature and its impact on technological advancement on the continent by my co-editor, Chinelo Onwualu.

Meanwhile, we are very happy to announce the start of a partnership with Okadabooks.com, an online publishing portal. All editions of Omenana will now be available on Okadabooks.com, where you can access and download various formats of the magazine. No fear, Omenana remains free, and will remain that way for as long as we can manage.

Enjoy,

Mazi Nwonwu

 Afrinewsia   

By Yazeed Dezele`

At peak noon the sun became a ball of molten lava blazing over the cloudless yellow skies of Abuja, capital city of the United African Republic. Skyscrapers glinted pupil-searing bright like towering cuboid mirrors. Hot silver rays of sunlight poured into the still clear waters of Jabi Lake at the city centre and long serpents of steam began to rise into the atmosphere. Spanning this lake was the Balewa Bridge, a marvel of steel cables and graphene tarmac six lanes wide, which lines of remote sensing auto-navigated SUVs ate up. The chiefs, alhajis and madams in the backseats of these cars dozed like fat pigs, their bloated skins fanned by ultra air-conditioners while at the ever-bustling El-Rufai Bus Stop at Berger Junction double-decker buses belching smokeless Afrosol fumes flocked like drunken whales.

Their working class passengers, all clad in reflective long-sleeved jackets and sunglasses, rested their heads on leather cushions, occasionally jerking out of their sleepy trances to see whether they had reached their destinations. Before alighting they would take deep breaths, grit their teeth and put on their government-approved cooler-helmets before dashing out into the streets. They left black footprints of soot on the melting concrete sidewalks as they ran past. There were no taxis. Those green-striped driverless vehicles which operated from the City-Trans headquarters at Nyerere Crescent had been run out of business at the beginning of the heat wave three days ago.

Because the air was perfectly still, as though trapped in a glass vacuum, the only natural-grown tree in the whole city, a gmelina everyone was proud of, was dying. Its gnarled bark peeled off in dry flakes and its branches were covered in a mass of crisp biscuit-leaf hair. As the day wore on, the smell of burning natural-grown grass began to fill the air. The patch of matted green around the tree had suddenly sparked into flames.

In Daye’s living room the air conditioner struggled with the heat-strangled air. He was sitting on the edge of his desk, a shaky index finger hovering above the touch-screen of the flat monitor in front of him. He was glaring at the headline on the Ministry of Environment’s website that screamed: Deadline for surrendering all Organic Waste Elements is 4 pm today. His heart throbbed against his rib cage, cold sweat poured off his body. The digital clock blinked 2:15 pm.

“Organic Waste Element?” he muttered to himself. His finger was hovering at the edge of the screen where there was a highlighted box tagged CONCUR.

“She’s my mother, you bloody bastards!” he roared suddenly at the screen.

Leaning into the E-glide chair he breathed in jerky snorts. The outburst seemed to lighten his head a bit.

He heard footsteps lumbering across the living room towards him.

“Na wetin be dat, my pikin?” came the feeble voice of an elderly woman from behind him.

He quickly switched away from the euthanasia page.

“Nothing Mama,” he said, narrowing his brow at the screen with affected seriousness. Afrinewsia, the government propaganda news page, swarmed into focus. It was showing the pyramidal glass headquarters of the Intercontinental Space Agency. An inset picture showed some space-suit clad astronauts standing on parade, their captain holding the Republic’s flag. They were listening to a farewell address from the Kenyan-born President Ole Sunkuli. Daye wondered if their lunar expedition would be affected by the heat wave.

“You no wear helmet, eh? Na only God go help us for dis kind heat o,” she said, re-adjusting the cooler-helmet she wore.

“Amen o,” Daye’s replied, his lips moving of their own accord.

“When dem say dis wicked heat go stop, sef?” Ma Braimoh asked and shook her head.

Without waiting for a reply she shuffled over to her favorite E-glide armchair and settled her massive frame in front of the ceiling-to-floor TV. She adjusted her spectacles and punched the buttons on the armrest, one at a time. The TV switched on.

His mother out of the way, Daye returned to the Ministry of Environment’s euthanasia page. He knew what would happen once he touched the CONCUR box; within 30 seconds, a Waste Chopper helicopter carrying four green-uniformed men would be dispatched from the ministry headquarters to come and whisk his mother off.

“Na wa o,” lamented Ma Braimoh from her chair. “How dem go arrest somebody go Sahara just because him cut one tree?” On the TV screen the Green Police were holding a press conference to parade the five men convicted of the tree-felling. A Libyan-born officer was briefing journalists.

“This continent will not tolerate planet-killers,” the officer was saying. “Every criminal arrested will go work, for life, on the labour camps of the Green Sahara Project. This should serve as a lesson to others.”

Daye didn’t turn to look; the sight of the Green Police always cast a dark cloud of fear over him. The news took Daye back to his boyhood a quarter of a century ago when his mother would take him to the Mandela Parklands in the foothills of Mount Kilmanjaro. The Parklands had been established to protect the last remnants of some of Africa’s finest species and they would venture far into the vast blanket of natural grass fields to learn their ancient woodland secrets. The reserve had contained natural trees of every color shape and size. Baobab, acacia, flame-of-the forest, gmelina, mango, cashew, shea butter, you name it and it was there. They would stand and listen to the whispers of the rustling leaves while inhaling the sweet aroma of bark and loam.

“Trees dey talk o,” she would say. “Dem dey talk about bad-bad things wey go happen for future.” Then she would point at the skies where Daye would gape at the black-tailed hawks gliding through the evening skies. “See, those birds dey bring good-good message wey go come quench the bad things for ground.”

As he grew older Daye had dismissed her stories as primitive nonsense. But that was years before the natural forests of Africa began to go extinct.

Today the forests were artificially bred in greenhouses and out of bounds to the public – fenced by electric wire and 24-hour CCTV surveillance. Daye wished he could show his own ten-year-old daughter, Cheena, what a live forest was. He doubted if she even knew what an iroko or shea butter tree looked like. Once, in the years after the Tree Crime Act was passed, he had climbed the only natural tree at the centre of his secondary school. He had been expelled as a result.

As if sensing his thoughts, Cheena spoke up.

“Don’t you even have one cookie of sense in your skull, Big Momma?” she asked. She was curled up on the sofa by her grandmother, her tiny eyes peering from under the visor of her cooler-helmet. “Tree-felling is an unnecessary waste of our natural resources.”

Ma Braimoh cleared her throat, swallowed and fell silent.

Daye hadn’t noticed when the little girl had come in. The way she crept around the house these days, like a tiger cub sniffing for flesh, sent a shiver down his spine.

3pm. The dilemma gnawed at his stomach with steel claws.

A soft hand landed on his shoulder and Daye jerked his head to see his partner, Nnena, standing behind him. Her head was turbaned in a towel filled with ice cubes; she hated wearing the cooler-helmet because they made her scalp itch. She looked like she was carrying a mountain on her head. The scent of boiled sweat and concentrated perfume seemed to be fighting each other to escape her armpits.

“How far?” she asked.

“Honey,” Daye sighed and leaned against the back rest. “I don’t think I can go through with this.”

“Oh puh-leeease!” she snarled. “Why can’t you ever use that archaic thing you call a head. We are in the twenty-second century now!”

“I know,” said Daye. “But she’s my mother.”

“Fuck you and your mother!” Nnena barked, smacking the back of his head.

“Wetin be dat, my pikin?” Ma Braimoh asked, raising her voice from the other side of the living room.

“Nothing, Mama!” Daye said, trying to sound calm. Nnena hissed.

“Listen to me, homo-sapiens man,” she whispered into his ear. “We need that Geriatric Compensation to upgrade. Maybe you enjoy snorkelling in this filthy Pacific Ocean of sweat, but I don’t. Cheena needs a Robot Dancer toy, like every other child her age, and I’m tired of eating synthetic rice and beans every day! The stock we have now is the last we have to eat before-”

“Alright, alright! Just let me think.”

“You will have to choose between me and your primitive hag of a mother.” She said and left him.

“My pikin, food don ready?” Ma Braimoh asked as Nnena swaggered past her. Nnena simply tut-tutted and walked into the bedroom. Cheena giggled, her eyes following every word and action.

Daye shook his head, rubbing at the spot on the back of his head where Nnena had smacked him. A mere tap, but it had felt like the club of a sledgehammer. Nnena was right, he thought to himself. His mother didn’t have long to live, after all. Why deny his family’s comfort for her sake? He thought about his daughter. He should be her hero, not her zero. Still, Daye wished his mother were a “primitive hag” as Nnena put it, then it would have been easier.

3:30 pm. Thirty minutes to go. Daye’s heart accelerated its thumping on the church roof of his chest. Eternal banishment to the Green Sahara Project labour camps stared him in the face if he did not give up his mother. He saw himself and thousands other convicted planet killers hunched over the glowing red sand dunes of the great desert planting trees until they collapsed like dehydrated fish in the molten furnace heat.

Afrinewsia

The thermometer dial blinked the room temperature: 30 degrees. The air conditioner was beginning to resurrect from the dead as the heat wave petered off for the day. It would return tomorrow afternoon a hotter molten ball.

“My pikin, wetin be U-A-V?” Ma Braimoh asked suddenly. Daye craned his neck to look at the TV. In the news the Ghanaian-born vice president, Efua Akwase, was beaming from ear to ear and shaking the hands of three Nigerian-born engineers who had recently been awarded the Nobel Prize for physics. They had invented the Blue Mary, an unmanned aerial vehicle built to transport goods from internet auction sites directly to the homes of customers. Daye felt a glow of pride, a feeling that was axed in half when he remembered his present dilemma.

There just must be a way out. Daye switched to the Mambilla search engine and typed in: How to save your elderly parent from state-euthanasia. As he surfed through the list of solution sites that turned up on the screen, an Afrinewsia page caught his eye. He found his hand giving in to temptation, and before long he was perusing through its contents.

Afrinewsia: the dawn of a new Africa! it read, and went on to describe the achievements of the government. The space program: Soon Africans will be vacationing to space. Afrosol: the first greenhouse-friendly motor spirit to go into public use. He focused on one section that read:

Made in Africa auto-navigated cars now ply the streets. The poorest Africans now live in radiation-proof homes. With the double-digit rate of technological advancement, analysts have forecasted that our Republic’s economy will overtake that of Oceania to become the world’s new superpower in a decade. We Africans should therefore sacrifice to save Mother Africa and the planet. The elderly, the terminally ill and prisoners are usurping our scarce natural agricultural resources. They must be given up for neutralization.  Surrender your Organic Waste Element and do your part for the Republic . . .

He loved the Republic, he really did. But his mother? How many natural resources had she consumed to qualify her as a threat to the planet’s existence?

 

3:45pm. Daye didn’t feel the itchiness pinching his skin as his sweat evaporated. His heart beat had gradually returned to normal. He had found his solution. It was on the site of a faceless blogger who claimed to be a former engineer for U-54, Africa’s scientific think-tank based in the provincial state of Zimbabwe. The site featured testimonies of customers from all over the continent for whom the engineer had built oxygenated underground cellars to hide their elderly parents – for just 100 million U-R pounds!

It would plunge him in the red, but there was a solution – that’s what mattered. Daye felt the invisible wet towel that had wrung tight in the middle of his stomach begin to relax.

“Cheena, please get me a glass of water,” Daye said over his shoulder, rubbing his palms as spasms of relief surged through his fingers.

“Fuck you, Dad!”

3:55pm. Daye glanced at the digital clock and sneered. Run, run, run, Mr. Deadline! Catch me in your dreams. He was so engrossed on the screen that he did not hear the sound of padded footsteps creeping up behind him. A hand tapped his shoulder and he craned his neck to see who it was.

Cheena was brandishing a silver badge. Her photo was embedded in the badge and carved underneath were the words: Green Police Junior Under-Agent Cheena Braimoh.

Daye’s breath froze out of him, accompanied by hot trickle of urine which dripped down from between his legs.

“Primitive planet killer,” she muttered, her eyes glinting under the visor of her cooler-helmet like molten red slits.

Daye broke into laughter. The kind of laughter you’d expect from a monkey thrown into a wrestling ring with a tiger. He tapped the CONCUR box on the screen without even thinking.

 

4:00 pm. The spinning roar of the Waste Chopper could be heard above them on the helipad of their roof. Seconds later, four men in green uniforms stormed into the house. They flashed their silver badges. No questions were asked. No statement was given. They hurled her out of the armchair like a bag of garri.

Cheena kept hopping from one leg to another chanting: “Yes! Yes! Yes!” Her mother stood by her, puffing her cheeks and patting her daughter’s helmet-clad head.

 “Eleleleleeee! Wetin I do?” Ma Braimoh cried. “Daye help me beg dem, naa!”

Daye remained statue-still in his chair perusing through the latest updates on Afrinewsia as though nothing was happening behind him. Her wailings floated to him as though through a long underground tunnel.

4:05 pm. The sound of the chopper had faded away into the distance. Silence fell on the house for a moment.

Then the breaking news icon blinked, and Daye clicked on the latest Afrinewsia update. A cloudy video popped up. It showed an astronaut in a spacesuit standing on a dusty silver landscape beside a lunar roving vehicle and saluting the U.A.R flag. The headlines screamed: Kalahari-1 mission successful! Nigerian-born Captain Nzeogwu lands on the moon!

The news hit Daye as though his brain had been plugged into an electric main. He shot up from his seat and ran round the house. He banged his balled fists on the wall, kissed furniture, and danced in circles.

“Long live Africa! Long live the planet!” he chanted. Daye lifted his daughter and threw her into the air as she laughed. “You are a pride to Africa! My little Planet-Heroine!”

Nnena rushed out of the bedroom holding her cell phone.

“I’ve just received the alert!” she squealed. “Big Momma was the 1 millionth waste element collected and the ministry is awarding us a 1 billion U-R pound bonus in addition to our Geriatric Compensation. We are rich! We are rich!” she yelled as she jumped in celebration.

Wild fire seemed to engulf Daye’s head. Laughing like a possessed hyena, he picked up his mother’s E-glide chair and slammed it into the TV screen. He took his computer monitor and smashed it against the wall, making Nnena and Cheena duck down to avoid the shower of glass.

Still laughing, he ripped off his clothes, and charged out into the streets, buck naked.

END

Yazeed
Yazeed Dezele was born in I991, in Abuja. He is a Social Entrepreneur and former Editor of ‘The Crescent’ (a Mystic Campus zine). He is currently struggling to hatch the stubborn egg of an African Science Fiction novel he’d being laying for sometime now.

 

 

Speculative fiction in Nigeria: A new Journey begins

By Mazi Nwonwu

I was perhaps eight or nine years old when my father told us the story of his encounter with a mythical being. What people in my part of Enugu State, Nigeria, call Oku Ikpa. The word Oku Ikpa translates loosely as ‘wild fire’ and the creature would correlate somewhat with the phoenix of European mythology.  I don’t know why, but that story, told to me when we lived in the northern city of Kaduna — thousands of miles away from the place of incidence and on an afternoon of telling ghost stories — stuck with me.

I don’t know if my father’s encounter was true or if he was just making things up, but I don’t need to close my eyes to see him bowed before that ball of fire on a lonely hill road, emptying his pockets to find something that would appease it, his RoadMaster motorcycle forgotten where it lay. Perhaps I was fascinated by the mystery: What exactly is the Oku Ikpa? Where does it go to when day breaks? Why, when a hunter once fired at it (as the stories say), did pieces of broken clay and calabash cutlery appear at the spot he shot?

I am not sure these questions led me to science fiction, horror and fantasy, but I recall thinking that many of the supposedly strange stories I read from JRR Tolkien, Anne Rice, Stephen King or Philip Jose Farmer didn’t appear at all otherworldly. I soon recognised that a copious amount of material for fantasy and science fiction existed around me. It was then that the urge to take a pen and put to paper stories about the fabled dwarfs who are supposed to grant wealth, or about Ananmuo where spirits travel from when they come to rule the night. I yearned to weave fables set in unfamiliar and unheard of scenes and to have an Emeka walk across the Martian pole. These yearnings, in time, became too great to bear.

I think it was in early 2010 that I came across a call for entries for a science fiction writing workshop in Lagos. I was elated, for at that time I had already written some fantasy and science fiction shorts and was itching to get some training to help me with my writing. I can’t recall what story I sent in as an entry, but I was over the moon when I got an email informing me I had qualified for the workshop.  That workshop birthed what is Nigeria’s first science fiction anthology, Lagos 2060, edited by Ayo Arigbabu.

Lagos 2060 was supposed to be Africa’s first science fiction anthology but it lost that pride of place to Ivor Hartmann’s AfroSF because of publication delays. For it, I submitted a story titled ‘Annihilation’ that imagined what Lagos would be like 50 years into the future. Written in 2010, it was my second attempt at writing science fiction and, until last year, my longest short story.

Science fiction is still very new in Nigeria, but while we could barely find 10 people to contribute to the anthology in 2010, there are now hundreds of writers who will readily try their hand at the genre. Just as I did, more writers are recognising that we have a copious amount of material for speculative fiction here in Nigeria. That means we need platforms where these stories can be anchored. To help this along, Chinelo Onwualu and I present Omenana, a bimonthly speculative fiction e-publication.

Mazi Nwonwu is a Lagos based writer and journalist with a bias for speculative fiction written primarily for Africans and from an African perspective.

 

Interview: The World According to Ibrahim Ganiyu

Tell us a little bit about your background.

My name is Ibrahim Adeola Abidemi Ganiyu, (AKA Sir GAI). I’m a creative person by birth, graphic designer by education, illustrator by choice, animator by design and an all round artist by everything else. I was born in Ojota, Lagos on November 28. I am the second child in a family of three boys and two girls.

I’m a graduate of graphic design from the Yaba College of Technology, Lagos, and presently run a creative products and services company called Imperial Creations Studios Limited (ICStudios). I am also a partner at Playfactor Games Limited and have worked with and consulted for companies in product design and development, video production, advertising and TV content development.

My core strength is my creative mind channelled through my illustrations, animations and, most importantly, through my comics. I also lecture at Orange Academy and Graig Phillips College of Technology, both in Lagos.

I am an entrepreneur and creativity coach. I believe in creativity as a channel for human growth, development and societal advancement. I believe in creativity without limits.

I am married and have three boys, two of them are twins. I enjoy drawing, creating, developing ideas, reading, watching a good movie, playing video games, travelling and cooking.

What comics or characters inspired you to be an artist and illustrator when you were growing up and why?

Hmm … I would say the first major comic character who influenced me was Superman, though I had come across Spiderman earlier. Superman just embodied the ideals of heroism to my young mind. I was greatly influenced by the art as much as the stories then. I got a lot of artistic influence from the works of artists like Bart Sears, John Byrne, Brian Bolland, John Romita Senior and later Junior, Jim Lee and others.

My greatest artistic (and creative) influence and drive came from Leonardo Da Vinci. When I came across the name in early secondary school, I was struck by his passion/thirst for knowledge and his continuous creativity. Even when he had no way of immediately actualising his ideas he would still draw them. The man’s thoughts, zeal for knowledge, exploration, diverse skill-set and style have remained constant sources of inspiration. Da Vinci remains my number one mentor.

What is the most challenging aspect of being a comic book artist in Nigeria?

The most challenging part of doing comics in Nigeria is hard to pin point to a single thing. It’s a composition of things: Creative excellence on the part of contractors (often arising from limited knowledge of the comic book business), the unavailability of good hands in story writing, art and graphics, and of course distribution remains a headache. Print production is still a game of chance. In all, these challenges are being confronted and I can see a break happening. We are creative people after all; we’ll find a way to change the situation!

You’re involved in a lot of other projects outside your regular job. Can you tell us which ones you’re currently most excited about?

I am quite excited about our new games development partnership and the projects we are working on. We have a fighting game set in a bus garage tagged GARAGE KOMBAT. We also have one loosely based on Chief Duro Ladipo’s work tagged FOREST OF A THOUSAND DEMONS in the works.

On other fronts, I am enjoying my integration into the Nigerian literary circle as I am seeing great opportunities for comic book production and partnerships. Our contact marketing arm EMPERATA is looking more into that. Also, our flagship comic book title DARK EDGE is coming up with some exciting stuff! We are looking at a short movie early next year as well as a stage adaptation of the DARK EDGE story. Our work on the INDOMITABLES Indomie Noodles advertising campaign also has me giggling with excitement. The brand is growing and a lot of stuff will be coming out from them soon!

We just also set up SYRUP COMICS, an entry-level, creator-owned comic book imprint that’s getting lots of young guys to create and draw some amazing new stories, characters and concepts. In fact there’s so much I am excited about!

What strategies do you use to carve out time for sketching?

Drawing is my therapy. I use drawing as my stress relief and I always find an excuse to do it. My sketches are only therapeutic when I’m not doing client’s work.

Sometime in 1997 I drew an Igbo lady dancing in a trance pose and this morphed into the first sword carrying woman I drew in 2001, and by 2003 I had started my collection of Angel drawings who were women representing various emotions: rage, love; ecstasy, love, etc. and usually carrying some bad weapons! (The whole Angels idea is now developing into a comic book and a novel graphic book – not a graphics novel).

I try to squeeze in at least 48 hours of free sketching time per week – snuck in between meetings, during lunch, on the BRT heading to a meeting, at home at night after the kids have gone to bed, as a time-out when work gets too tense and even in the bathroom! The trick is to know that the sketches are your life blood and for me I think best when I am drawing.

What are the most exciting comic books on the Nigerian market right now?

Well for me, comic books excite me based on content, concept and public reaction. Without mentioning own my stuff like JUNE XII and DARK EDGE (I just mentioned them didn’t I?), It’ll have to be GUARDIAN PRIME, UHURU, STRIKE GUARD and ERU.

What was the most discouraging time in your career and how did you overcome it?

Hmm … I guess the first one came when we had to close our second office at Onipan in 2003 due to Zenith Bank acquiring the building when we had not gotten enough strength to start out. It looked like a reset back then and that was the good thing about it. It was an opportunity to reset the business, check the model and reassess the structure of our operations so that when we finally rented an office in 2006, I knew what we had to do differently. And we did it.

The second was in 2009 when the company, ICStudios, practically folded up due to the global financial crisis. The company was in debt to the tune of N3 million and my staff all had to move on. Only my admin manager, Taiwo Lawal, stayed on and together we worked to get things back on track. It taught me about making hard decisions and it was during that period that I realised that if you’ve never ever have to question what you are doing then you may be in the wrong business. Also I knew that was the time to test if we had a solid business model or not. Thankfully we did and the waves passed. Determination, willingness to learn and grow and a large dose of creativity got us out of that crazy period and it’s kept us out of it since.

ganiyu