Change Many Can See

“‘The winds of change are blowing. We are change. You will see'” (Okorafor 112).

In Act I of Lagoon, one of the most prominent uses of visual and digital media is the video message that Ayodele spreads throughout Lagos. This particular scene presents readers with a modern take on invasion suggesting the interconnectivity that the internet provides for people now can potentially be both harmful and helpful. The inevitable change is coming, but one is ignorant to what that might mean. When Ayodele states “You will see,” she hints at the inevitability of it while also admitting that because of the technology the people have they can now all be witness to this change. Instead of the few that experience the androids’ message, for example in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick, in hopes of change, Okorafor allows many to hear Ayodele’s message which provides a broader spectrum of reaction. Richard Deckard may go back to his life like nothing ever happened, but Lagos will be forever changed by Ayodele whether for good or bad.

May the Force Be With You, O

“[The president] wished he were at his home in Abuja with a glass of cool Guinness, watching Star Wars on his high-definition wide-screen television. He loved Star Wars, especially the more recent installments. There was such honor in Star Wars. In another life, he’d have made a great Jedi knight.” – 84

The neat things about this paragraph is that it shows science fiction is an acknowledged and important part of Okorafor’s universe. That might seem like stating the obvious, but in my experience it’s pretty rare to have 21st century characters directly cite the flood other media available to us in their thinking. In much the same way the protagonist in a zombie movie might have never seen or heard of these “dead-walking things” before the Outbreak, Okorafor could have glossed over other frames of reference for aliens. Showing these shout-outs and references not only makes the characters more sympathetic, but reflects how culture influences our thinking. These frames of reference stack on top of one another as time goes on, until Star Wars and District 9 form a sort of mosaic that gives Lagoon more complexity and nuance by having a conversation with the works that inspired it.

Supplements: Lagoon

Okorafor, Naijamerican Eyes on Lagos: text and photographs from a talk about Lagos Okorafor gave earlier this year, archived on her blog. I showed some of the images in class.

Okorafor’s own web site, with some biographical information about her and publicity materials for her various books (which gives a sense of the range of genres she works in). There is a video interview in which Okorafor talks, among other things, about how she chose writing as a career.

David Smith, Crisis in Nigeria as President drops out of view. A report from the London Guardian on the 2010 absence of then-Nigerian president Umaru Yar’Adua. Six years have since passed, and Lagoon, published four years since this event, is quite self-conscious about choosing this particular moment for its setting.

Nathaniel Bivan and Risqah Ramon, “Nigerian writers shouldn’t focus on fame, money – Nnedi Okorafor,” Daily Trust (Abuja), September 24, 2016: a recent interview, with some remarks on genre that we’ll talk about in class.

David Esizimetor and Francis Egbokhare, Naijá (Nigerian Pidgin): A descriptive article about the language, from the Language Varieties site, which also has good concise definitions of the linguistic terms “pidgin” and “creole.”