Lizzy Attree is a figure of importance in African writing, particular with her work as the director of the Caine Prize from 2014-2018, a director on the board of Short Story Day Africa, and as the co-founder of the Mabati-Cornell Kiswahili Prize for African Literature. She spoke to Carey Baraka about her short story on Enkare Review this week, A Funeral in Kumasi, and other things in-between.
The MMT buses from Cape Coast to Kumasi run on time. Luggage is weighed and ticketed; seats fill up from the back; and flip down seats are added into the aisle space. The teenager sitting next to Lucy borrows her novel, Arrows of Rain, and reads it as fast as he can. Failing to finish it before they arrive, he gives the book back without a word. The bus stop in Kumasi is packed and chaotic. Vendors saunter gracefully, balance baskets on their heads containing small plastic packets of water, sweets, crisps, plantain chips, cashews and toenail clippers. The centre of the marketplace has been shifted temporarily while a new bus station is built. Lucy and Ben take a cab to the Presbyterian boarding house where they will stay for a few dollars in spartan rooms that at least have a creaky fan and mosquito nets.
Our sense of self is normally tied to a picture of what home is for us. To many of us, home is defined by a particular location and with reference to a particular group of people. Should any of these factors change, then our entire conception of home, and therefore, our ideas of self, risk being destroyed. Think Jende and Neni, the main characters in Imbolo Mbue’s Behold The Dreamers, losing themselves in the United States because the US is not Limbe. Think Isaiah Bolton in Yvonne Adhiambo’s Dust travelling to Wuoth Ogik to pursue the memory of his father. But what does it mean when the physicality and demographic of home remain constant, but neither of the two can remember the person? Is the person’s home still their home?