Unveiling Sex in African Literature: A Review of Erotic Africa: The Sex Anthology.

First Published on creativewritingnews Feb 5. 2019

Length: 130
Genre: Erotic Short Fiction/ Poems (an anthology)
ISBN: if any
Publisher / Year: Brittle Paper, 2018
Source: https://brittlepaper.com/2018/12/erotic-africa-the-sex-anthology-read-e-book-exploring-millennial-sex-culture-and-romance-in-african-cities/
Why I Read It: My work was featured in the anthology, and because also it also has the work of some new writers that I respect. And it was published by Brittle Paper!
Date Read: 14/15 December, 2018
Reviewed By: Ernest O. Ògúnyemí

The first time I came across sex in literature, described with some attention to details, was in Patricia Cornwell’s “Black Notice”—that scene where Scarpetta lets the young and hot Talley cool her off. And there’s “Shopgirl,” a novella by Steve Martins. But the first time I came across real sex in African literature, it was in a small novel titled “Rainbows Are for Lovers.” I remember the book was slim, had a blue cover, a Spectrum bestseller in its days, and was a story about a guy being sacked by a boss, who wanted his girlfriend (or something like that). The guy tried his hand at a number of things in order to raise enough money to pay his girlfriend’s bride-price, so as not to lose her to his used-to-be boss. He followed every request in newspapers in order to get a job, but he never got one. Until he meets this lady, once the wife of an imprisoned politician in her father’s age-group, and they fall in love. And the story becomes a mad tale of love and hunger and fire and sex. That book is yet to leave me.

But, I would say, I have not come across an African book/anthology all about sex. There has been sex in African literature, yes. I’m thinking of that scene in Adichie’s “Half of a Yellow Sun” where Olanna feels something close to grace as Richard got inside her; and there is Okonkwo reaching for the knot at the edge of Ekwefi’s wrapper in the master’s “Things Fall Apart”. I’m also thinking of Lotanna reaching into Kamsi’s trousers, his lips and tongue dancing, Kamsi’s legs wrapped around the former’s waist in Arinze’s ‘God’s Children Are Little Broken Things’. And there is this part in Kiprop Kimutai’s ‘The Man at the Bridge,’ where both Kwambai and Franco are on the floor writhing like earthworms, and the air changing as the latter entered Kwambai. But one thing there hasn’t been is: sex stories told as sex stories. Nude sex—to put it simply. One thing about how we write sex in African lit is: We write it with our mouths closed, or we put a cloth over it, like the church in Rome put a baroque metal veil on Angelo’s The Risen Christ.

The writers in Erotic Africa, however, tell sex stories as sex stories. The body is not protected behind a veil of shame in this anthology, it is brought to us the way a new born comes: naked. Heads are not ashamed of been in-between legs, where the tongue works its magic on the clit. Even a Father knows how to rhythmically use his fingers, and a mulokole (born-again) cannot stop herself from dreaming of men who know how to walk a woman through paradise in those intense moments. There is a thread that runs through the stories in the anthology: the life they all have. Each story in Erotic Africa breathes.

These are stories about how sex can wound and how it can heal; how it can break and mend. Stories that teach us that sex can be taught, should be learnt for some, and that there is no shame in teaching what Brittle Paper refers to as “Millennial Sex”. But none of the stories in the pages of this anthology paints the same picture of sex that we, in Africa, have painted for a long time: that sex is evil, or could be evil when it is too much. Or better put: there is a way you have sex that is dirty. These writers give us dirty stories that are clean in delivery; dirty stories of, how I put it in my retweet of the anthology on Twitter, ‘RAW’ sex.

In Anthony Madukwe’s ‘Moonlight’ we learn that sex might as well be a spirit, like the devil in Eloghosa Osunde’s ‘Nightwind’, stretching itself through every part of us; that it could possess us anywhere. How it can make us become ‘forgetful … of common sense,’ so much that Madukwe’s character ‘feeds his erection in a public eatery’. This is nothing like the sex we read in Achebe’s “Things Fall Apart” when the big-man, Okonkwo, carries Ekwefi and reaches for the knot at the edge of her wrapper in the darkness—the kind of sex Kwoh writes that the husband of her main character gives her. The kind of sex where ‘his dick was the only contact he made with my body’, ‘my husband would not recognize my pussy in a lineup.’ (Indulgence, 16)

It might be said that Achebe described pre-colonial sex (in a flashback sentence of twenty-seven words), which is an indirect way of saying: sex in pre-colonial Africa did not have all the intricacies it has today. Accepted. But reading Jerry Edo’s ‘My Father’s Widow,’ which is, though not pre-colonial, set in a community in Niger-Delta, where they still practice widow inheritance, might show us that reaching a conclusion that sex in pre-colonial Africa wasn’t so full, that it dripped like the soggy centre of a burning woman’s body, is not all-true.

In Jerry’s story, his father’s widow, Otiti, knows how to teach him to weed her ‘overgrown’ farm by helping him to ‘the road to her farm’ (her breasts) first. She tells him to touch them, ‘play with’ them, and ‘suck’ one while touching the other. And then after keeping him patient enough to make him boil with passion, when her ground had become sodden, she asks him in.

In other stories people find love in the strangest place—like Zara, who plays a game and meets this woman who works a dildo into her body (Wouldn’t It Be Nice?); like the lady from The Sheer Review who gets a sex that won’t leave her for a long time in ‘The Hourglass Gallery’.

And there is the poetry, heavy and light, strong and tender, passionate and controlled. Chibuihe Obi’s ‘Self Portrait as a Building with Rooms’ is a rich poem about how sex can open doors to rooms you never knew existed inside you; it’s about coming to the understanding that ‘in the beginning’ God did not ‘bless me with a hole’ for nothing, that this hole is a doorway to entering the locked rooms; that, in fact, the hole makes me ‘whole’. Also, in Hussani Abdulrahim’s ‘How Do You Feel?’ that intense moment spreads out in fine detailed description, almost becoming what Toby Abiodun calls ‘an eternity of love.’ The place of sex becomes a place of oneness, too, as the last lines of Hussani’s poem reads: ‘Let me make you cross heaven,/ As we merge, losing selves.’

I have returned to some of these stories/poems more than twice, just to feed my mind their never fading beauty. And this is because, as the lyrics of a Naija hip-hop song goes, there is not ‘too much juice, too much salt’ to the stories. The heat of the stories never gets so hot that they cease to give you warmth, that they begin to burn. The stories are so real, I could not put my fingers on what was fiction and what was non-fiction. There is no line separating them in the anthology, all you get to notice is that the stories never bore.

I found Osinachi—the artist who designed the cover of the anthology—’s ‘You Handsome Lady-Killer,’ particularly very fascinating. A story about a guy who strangled a girl to death while on her. But unknown to him, his friend, Hassan, out of curiosity, already planted a camera in the room. This story might seem unreasonable, though, because why would I (you) strangle a girl to death while on her and still keep going? But one finds it fascinating when one considers the brilliance with which Osinachi delivers it, and considering the fact that a reason was given for the murderer’s action: he was paid to do what he did. Something that is becoming commonplace in Nigeria.

As a Yoruba saying goes: ‘shoki l’obe oge,’ which roughly translates as ‘You only get a little of a good soup’. Though very brief, each story/poem in this anthology gifts you a world you will return to for days. Probably months. Or years? As Raphael D’abdon wrote in his poem ‘Touch’ in the anthology: ‘I come, again and again,/ spilling seed, and names of lovers long/ gone.’

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