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11 Interesting Facts About Chris Ubani

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Source: utne.com

 

People think that writing is writing, but actually, writing is editing. Otherwise, you’re just taking notes.”

      Chris Abani

[caption id="attachment_5550" align="aligncenter" width="350"]Source: truthdig.com Source: truthdig.com[/caption] Early Life Born 27th December 1966, in Afikpo, Ebonyi (Nigeria), to an English mother, Daphne, and a Nigerian Igbo father, Michael. In 1968, young Chris, his mother and four siblings fled Nigeria to escape the Civil War (1967-1970). They lived in England for three years, and subsequently returned to Nigeria in 1971. Abani started writing stories when he was 6. He had his first piece of short fiction published when he was 10,  wrote his first novel, a thriller entitled Masters of the Board (1984), at the age of 16, which was about the narrative recounts the attempt of an ex-Nazi officer to seize power in Nigeria. The military government in late 1985 jailed Chris for 6 months as a result of the contents of the novel. His second novel, Sirocco (1987), again elicited a violent reaction from the authorities, who destroyed all copies of the book, closed down the publishing house that had issued it and arrested the writer once again, holding him for a year at Kiri Kiri maximum security prison in Lagos. Upon his release, Abani resumed the literary studies that he had started at Imo State University, Owerri. In 1990, the staging of his play Song of a Broken Flute, which challenged the regime's position on human rights, once more led to the author's arrest and this time, he was sentenced to death without trial. He spent another year and a half at Kiri Kiri, among which six months in solitary confinement, and was eventually released thanks to his friends' financial intervention. He left for London shortly afterwards, with a BA in English from Imo State University in hand, he obtained an MA in Gender and Culture from Birkbeck College, University of London; and has gone on to further obtain an MA in English and a PhD in Literature and Creative Writing from the University of Southern California.   Abani's memories of his experiences in prison inspired his first collection of poetry, Kalakuta Republic (2000). Among his numerous works are GraceLand (2004), which features sixteen-year-old Elvis Oke, an Elvis Presley impersonator living in Lagos, Dog Woman (2004), a series of poems inspired by a sequence of paintings by Spanish artist Paula Rego, poetry – Song for Night (2007), novel – The Virgin of Flames (2007), poetries – There Are No Names for Red (2010) and Feed Me the Sun (2010). the virgin of flames Abani's works have earned him many literary distinctions such as the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award (2005, for GraceLand) and the PEN/Beyond Margins Award (2008, for Song for Night). DID YOU KNOW THAT … 1.      Abani’s first novel, Masters of the Board (1984), was found in possession of General Vatsa, the purported leader of the conspiracy against the Babangida regime in late 1985. 2.      While in prison, he was tortured by electric shock; and has escaped assassins. kalakuta republic 3.      In 1990, 10 minutes into the production of his university play “Song of a Broken Flute,” Abani was given an ultimatum: sign a document confessing to treason (which carried the death penalty) or sign the death warrant of all his friends in the play. 4.      While in prison, he spent solitary confinement in a six-by-eight-foot hole. 5.      Abani is also an accomplished jazz musician who plays saxophone sets (which he taught himself) at his public poetry performances. 6.      His works have been translated into French, Italian, Spanish, German, Swedish, Romanian, Hebrew, Macedonian, Ukrainian, Portuguese, Dutch, Bosnian and Serbian. 7.      Abani has taught in numerous countries around the world such as Gambia, Nigeria, South Africa, Qatar, Thailand and UK. 8.      His grand uncle was a traditional priest. 9.      He writes longhand first and then transcribing it onto the computer, which he calls his ‘first step of editing.’ 10.  Abani has confessed to being unable to write while it’s quiet. He once took the train to Heathrow Airport and write in the departure lounge just to have energy around. 11.  He was once in a Nigerian band called The Funky Dreads. [caption id="attachment_5551" align="aligncenter" width="500"]Source: sampsoniaway.org Source: sampsoniaway.org[/caption] In addition to being a writer, Chris Abani is also a Professor in the Department of Creative Writing at the University of California, Riverside (U.S.A.) He is also the founding editor of the Black Goat independent poetry series, an imprint of Akashic Books.   By Olusola Agbaje 

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