Teju Cole, born in 1975 like myself, is an eclectic American author of Nigerian origin, who has written a novel, a book of photographs, a collection of essays. According to Salman Rushdie, he is one of the most gifted writers of his generation. He also writes articles for the New York Times and the New Yorker.
His website is updated with these and other things, interviews, Spotify playlists.
And then there is Every day is for the thief, published by Einaudi in 2014, which is a kind of diary of his return to Lagos after 15 years living in New York. “‘An impossible return’, he calls it.
In Lagos, a city with a “non-linear nature”, Teju Cole wanders aimlessly like a cognitive vagabond, and it is in this restless and fascinating wandering that he finds his true contact with the city. He shuns familiar places, familiar faces, places linked to his childhood, his own family.
In Chapter 21 he recounts his difficulty in finding a record shop with ‘decent music’: ‘All that is available in most street shops is Nigerian music and the best of black Americans and famous Caribbean artists: hip hop, dancehall, reggaeton’. But Teju Cole’s tastes are more refined, more New Yorker, let’s say: he’s looking for something that gives him hope, an ‘elusive slice of sunshine’, his cultural niche. He is scandalised by the phenomenon of piracy.
He mentions ‘the adventurers of modern jazz, like Vijay Iyer and Brad Mehldau’.
He mentions writers Penelope Fitzgerald and Michael Ondaatje. A photo book entitled Lagos: A City At Work.
Pan-African greats such as Ali Farka Touré and Salif Keita. And above all, ‘that artist of the good life and wonderful name who was Fatai Rolling Dollar’.
Like Teju Cole, other artists and intellectuals of our time oscillate between their Mother Africa and the Western countries where they were born.
Director Alan Gomis was born in France, to a Senegalese family, and is active in Senegal as a filmmaker trainer. With his fourth feature Felicité, set in Kinshasa and shot with an entirely African crew, he won the Silver Bear at the 2017 Berlin Film Festival. The author’s dual cultural identity is expressed in a double register: on the one hand realistic and almost documentary, even in the vocal performances of the protagonist with a composite group of musicians called Kasai Allstars; on the other hand symbolic and cultured, as when a composition by Aarvo Part rings out (but performed by the Symphonic Orchestra of Kinshasa), and in the recurring dreamlike inserts that are so much art cinema and therefore France.
Younger is Moses Sumney, born in 1990 in the United States of Ghanaian parents, who moved to Ghana with his family when he was 10 years old: but by then he was too ‘Americanised’ to be able to integrate in the African country, so he returned to California and began – very belatedly – to make music. His first album, Aromanticism, was released on Jagjaguwar in 2017. In 2018, he released a protest track, Rank & File, a modern, tension-filled spiritual dedicated to what happened in Ferguson in 2014: a (white) policeman killed a black boy, but it was considered by (white) prosecutor Bob McCulloch to be self-defence and this triggered several waves of revolt from the African-American community.« Nodi Palestra »