Chika Unigwe: Bridging Europe and Nigeria, Tradition and Modernity

Writers are often a mixture of their past and their present. They write about interests and experiences, which are not always the same thing. Or perhaps take ideas from the world around them and stories they have been told. Chika Unigwe has followed a similar trajectory with her first three novels, the third of which she is preparing to publish next month in both Dutch and English.

Entitled, Night Dancer (Nachtdanser), it follows Mma, who is forced to deal with her hidden past when her mother, Ezi, passes away.  As well as inheriting everything Ezi had to own, she also inherits her mother’s bad name. Mma now has to answer questions about her mother’s life such as why her mother fled to a new town and who or what was she escaping from? Alone, she becomes desperate to learn more about her father, of whom, she knows next to nothing.

The book explores the relationship between a mother and her daughter, but also how the modern world contrasts with the traditional in contemporary Nigeria. On returning to her hometown of Enugu, Ezi built up a life for herself as a prostitute while simultaneously raising the young Mma. As Mma seeks to unravel the reasons for Ezi’s flight home, her grandfather and father cling to tradition and place all the blame on the young Ezi. Are they right?

The book and Unigwe’s writings across all spectrums is more multi-dimensional than that. The backdrop to this fairly typical family storyline (one that could be written in almost any country) is the 2002 Miss Universe riots in northern Nigeria. The riots, started by Muslim youths in Kaduna, left 100 people dead and over 500 injured. It also led to the relocation of the Miss Universe contest to London. For Unigwe, the incident is a perfect example of the clashes between modernity and tradition, how sometimes they can work, but often the contrast between the two leads to violence and oppression. For Mma, the problem is more personal as are all the stories we do not hear about in Europe.

Born in 1970s Enugu, Unigwe moved to the University of Leiden in Belgium to complete her thesis and PhD. She has published stories in journals and magazines such as Wasafiri, Moving Worlds and Per Contra. She has been shortlisted for the Vrouw en Kultuur debuutprijs (Culture Debut for Women) prize for first time female novelists and the Caine Prize for African Writing as well as winning the 2004 BBC Short Story Competition.

The Belgium-based author, is best known for her novels On Black Sisters (known as Forta Morgana in Dutch) and The Phoenix (De Feniks)The Phoenix, her debut novel, was the first ever written by a Belgian author of African descent, meaning Unigwe has become an  model for aspiring black women across Europe.  It deals with a young Nigerian lady married to a Belgian national in Turnhout.  The story follows her as she deals with the death of her son and the news she has terminal cancer.

On Black Sisters, meanwhile,  takes another aspect of Unigwe’s life, that of the emigration/migration of a young person from Africa to Europe. In her case, it was as a student to Belgium, but in the case of the protagonists; Sisi, Ama, Joyce and Efe, it is as part of a prostitution and human trafficking racket to Antwerp’s red light district. Typical for the intellectual and social way Unigwe deals with subjects on multiple levels, the book is not just about young women being trafficked and forced into prostitution, but is about gender politics, corruption and the nature of immigration itself.

Chika Unigwe’s multiple works that include poetry (two collections), articles and short stories have helped to promote awareness of the lives of African women in Europe. These can be seen as hyper-local issues such as life in Belgium for black women or for immigrants as a whole, or for the clashing cultures and ideas of modern Nigeria, but can also be applied to those same culture clashes across Africa and indeed, across Europe too. As Unigwe continues to develop her writings and her themes, she will continue to ask questions and prompt discussions across the continent. She will also, through her works, promote more black women authors in Europe, and that can only be a good thing.

Jessica Hathaway is a freelance writer from England.

Editor’s note: Chika Unigwe was recognized as an outstanding writer on the 2010 Black Women in Europe Power List.

Tiffany Williamson Becomes one of Pokers Best Female Exports

Photo from Wikipedia
 

The game of poker is a very male dominated game.  In recent years, that image has changed a bit as many high caliber female players have risen in the ranks and proven that they can play poker just as well as men.  While the Americans tend to corner the market on top female players, Tiffany Williamson of London has risen to become one of the best European female Texas Holdem players.

By day, Williamson is a corporate lawyer for Davis Polk & Wardell in London but by night she is a feared poker player that has proven her worth on the biggest stages in the game.  She first burst onto the live poker scene in 2005 after qualifying online for the 2005 World Series of Poker Main Event.

Williamson won her $10,000 buy-in entry via an online satellite tournament and took her spot in the field in Las Vegas, NV amongst a field of 5,619 players.  At the time, this was the largest field for a poker tournament in the history of the game.  An amazing $7.5 Million in prize money was to go to first place.

Only one woman has ever made the WSOP Main Event final table in Vegas and as the event started to enter the later stages, Williamson looked poised to become the second.   She became the last woman standing in the field and was still alive with two tables left.  Ultimately, Williamson would fall short of the final table and finished in 15th place.

While not quite the final table of nine, her 15th place finish was the 3rd highest finish ever for a female player and the highest finish ever for a black woman in the WSOP Main Event.  She took home $400,000 for her finish.

Since her deep run in the 2005 Main Event, Williamson has played in various professional poker tournaments but on a part time basis.  Her no-nonsense fearless approach has not made her many friends while at the poker table, but her opponents still respect her play.

Williamson has had some mild success in event since her deep run and has a total career earning just shy of $500,000.  This is good enough for 34th on the Women’s All-Time money list and she even ranks 125th all-time for England’s all-time list.

Williamson has proven that European women have much to offer to the poker world.  She has successfully balance her career and her love for poker and has been able to become successful in both.  Hopefully more women poker players will take inspiration from Williamson’s story and aspire for greatness in the game.

The Maisha Pioneer: Lifetime Achievement Award goes to Clementine Akuyo Brown

Photo Credit Maisha Galen and Timmy Miansangi

She has proudly represented the African culture in Sweden since 1977. Together with her fellow countryman the passionate Bedu Annan, she became one of the first teachers of African dance in Sweden. With this year’s [Maisha] theme in mind; a tribute to strong African mothers, and for a lifetime achievement with an inspiring approach, we present this woman with this honorary award.

About Maisha Galahttp://www.maishagalan.se/

The goal of the Maisha Gala is to recognize the achievement of women for the Black/African community in Sweden and Africa. It works to promote the African Diaspora involvement and include the voice of women on various issues of concern to the community. The Maisha Gala is a celebration of African culture that also promotes artists and young talents and the empowerment of youth. Maisha Gala is also networking and advocacy with the thematic approach and focus on pertinent issues.

The Maisha Award for Newcomer of The Year goes to actress, director and producer, Josette Bushell-Mingo

Photo Credit Maisha Galen and Timmy Miansangi

She is an Officer of the Order Of The British Empire (OBE) for her Contribution to the Arts.

She is the artistic director of both the National Swedish Theatre for the Deaf and TRYKK,who work for the promotion and development of Black Theatre and black art events.

She is a recipient of numerous awards and the director and producer of many acclaimed works.

She is the current chair woman at CinemAfrica, a non-profit organization who work to update the image of Africa, and to add to the body of African images and voices in Sweden, by distributing films and documentaries from Africa by Africans.

Ironically,her career spans over 25 years, but this brilliant woman has only recent come to our attention!

Ladies and gentlemen The Maisha Award for Newcomer of The Year goes to actress, director and producer, Josette Bushell-Mingo.

About Maisha Galahttp://www.maishagalan.se/

The goal of the Maisha Gala is to recognize the achievement of women for the Black/African community in Sweden and Africa. It works to promote the African Diaspora involvement and include the voice of women on various issues of concern to the community. The Maisha Gala is a celebration of African culture that also promotes artists and young talents and the empowerment of youth. Maisha Gala is also networking and advocacy with the thematic approach and focus on pertinent issues.

2012 Maisha Award for Artist of the Year goes to Mary N’diaye

Photo credit-Maishagalen and Timmy Miansang

The phrase “Lead by example” comes to mind when one thinks of this Sene-gambian woman.

She is the founder of Rock Africk which is an initiative with the objective of spotlighting and celebrating noteworthy African achievement, as well as an outreach to African youth in Africa.

She is a 2012 Semi-finalist in TV4’s The Voice, a vocal competition where the strongest voices across the country compete for a recording contract.

She is an Air Chrysalis songwriter and Hitlab artist. If Akon can sign her, we can co-sign for her.

She is the little woman with the big voice.Ladies and gentlemen,The 2012 Maisha Award for Artist of the Year goes to Mary N’diaye.

About Maisha Galahttp://www.maishagalan.se/

The goal of the Maisha Gala is to recognize the achievement of women for the Black/African community in Sweden and Africa. It works to promote the African Diaspora involvement and include the voice of women on various issues of concern to the community. The Maisha Gala is a celebration of African culture that also promotes artists and young talents and the empowerment of youth. Maisha Gala is also networking and advocacy with the thematic approach and focus on pertinent issues.

2012 Maisha Entrepreneur of the Year is Adrianne George Lind

Adrianne George Lind

She is the co- founder of the Women of the African Diaspora website and co-editor of BlackExpat.com

She is also the founder of JobsInStockholm.com (and JobsinGothenburg.com), and has created a platform to celebrate women of the African diaspora living in Europe with her multiple award winning Black Women In Europe blog.

She is enriching both ethnic and expatriate communities and impacting and influencing the lives of others through Social media.

She is building bridges and building brands, handling her business and proving that content is QUEEN, ladies and gentlemen the 2012 Maisha entrepreneur of the year is Adrianna George Lind.

About Maisha Galahttp://www.maishagalan.se/

The goal of the Maisha Gala is to recognize the achievement of women for the Black/African community in Sweden and Africa. It works to promote the African Diaspora involvement and include the voice of women on various issues of concern to the community. The Maisha Gala is a celebration of African culture that also promotes artists and young talents and the empowerment of youth. Maisha Gala is also networking and advocacy with the thematic approach and focus on pertinent issues.

Dr Nathalie Montlouis shares her doctoral thesis and highlights black women as ‘Anansy’ in the promotion and diffusion of their own interests by content sharing websites.

symbolic_violence

From the People who brought you Black Women, Hair Skin and Beauty..

Symbolic Violence and The Image of Black Women

Thursday 28 June 7pm to 9pm,

Pimlico Academy

 

Lupus Street, SW1

Tube: Pimlico Victoria line (5 mins walk)

 

Entry: 6.00  Pay on the door, first come first served.

This event is about female representation and the black female identity. Dr Nathalie Montlouis shares her doctoral thesis and highlights black women as ‘Anansy’ in the promotion and diffusion of their own interests by content sharing websites. We will cover..

  • The African Queen
  • The sketel
  • The label of domestic violence
  • The diktat of the ‘strong black woman’
  • Religion, make up and long sleeve
  • It’s not raining men

..interactive, with  short videos, photos and rare documents we illustrate and discuss  what it means to be a ”black woman ” in the 21st century. This event is a preview of a major conference on black women titled “Rebellion and Compliance of Womanhood within the African Diaspora” taking place in March 2013.