Friday Five: 5 Things That Will Change Your Mind About Things You Thought You Knew
Friday, September 18, 2015
This week's guest is Dilman Dila, writer and filmmaker from Uganda. He manages the literary magazine, Lawino, and recently published a collection of speculative stories, A Killing in the Sun. And his films include What Happened in Room 13 (which has attracted over two million views on YouTube) and The Felistas Fable, which was nominated for Best First Feature at Africa Movie Academy Awards (2014), and which won four major awards at the Uganda Film Festival (2014).
His story "How My Father Became a God" was on the Short Story Day Africa longlist and has been collected in the (rather exceptional) Apex Book of World SF 4.
Dilman's taken our Friday Five challenge in a unique way, choosing five different topics - from books to food to monsters - and how they can challenge our assumptions...
1. African Science Fiction and Fantasy
This is a growing genre, riding on a recent wave of specfic from the continent, but that is not to say that it is a recent import into the continent. European conquerors have whitewashed African histories but reading works in the genre - including those that were told orally for centuries before labels were applied to stories - will change your mind about what you think of Africa. For example, the Acholi folktales about Hare using weapons and devices he manufactured to defeat his enemies indicate the Acholi believed, and told stories about, science and invention.
2. The Palm-Wine Drinkard and other works by Amos Tutuola.
When I first read Amos Tutuola's The Feather Woman of the Jungle, I knew I had found a hero to look up to. Before that, I thought an African writer was supposed to dwell on stories like those of Chinua Achebe.
Discovering Amos will give you a totally different view of storytelling from the continent, especially when you realise that he wrote in the fifties. That feeling that he is a hero became cemented when I read The Palm-Wine Drinkard. It's sheer magic. If there is any book I could kill for, this is it. One item will be struck off my bucket list the day I make it into a movie.
3. Other people's food.
There is an African saying that a child who doesn't travel thinks his mother is the best cook. I think a child who doesn't eat his neighbors' food will not know of other cultures. You can understand a group of people from what they eat.
4. Abasezi and other African monsters
The world is flooded with Hollywood monsters, most of which are from the mythology of Europe. In Uganda, we have popular monsters, but they hardly ever appear in written works. Yet, growing up, you will hear of them every night around the kitchen fire as your mother cooks supper.
Abasezi have the power to resurrect the dead, for food. It's the reverse of what we know as zombies, for a zombie eats living humans, but these basezi eat the zombies.Recently, I heard of a corpse that refused to be eaten unless the musezi (singular) bought it a mobile phone so it could talk to its relatives. There's an anthology coming out later this year, featuring exclusively African monsters. Look out for my story in it.
5. Rocks and caves of ancient humans
When I visited the cradle of mankind, in Johannesburg, it got me thinking about what we are told of early human beings. I stopped believing the archaeologists. They work with only bones and stone tools, but they have absolutely no idea how those people lived. They have no access whatsoever to the perishable tools and clothing those people might have used and so they can't really know the level of intelligence or the knowledge of the world that these people had.
As a specfic writer, I imagine them differently. There's my story coming later this year in AfroSF 2, it's based on human-like creatures who have lived in the darkness of caves for millions of years, but who I think are our ancestors. I believe we need to investigate more into our history rather than swallow whatever scientists tell us without chewing it first.