So today, I took a dive into one of my antique collections and picked “Lokotown“, a collection of interesting short stories by Cyprian Ekwensi. If you’re familiar with literary works of the ’60s and ’70s, Cyprian Ekwensi needs no introduction. Works like Jagua Nana, Jagua Nana’s daughter, The passport of Mallam Illia, and The Drummer boy would readily come to mind. However, for the benefit of readers who haven’t read his works, I’ll do a brief introduction: Cyprian Ekwensi was an outstanding chronicler of Nigerian city life. He was born in Minna (Niger state) in 1921 and educated in Ibadan, Ghana, and London. He taught Biology and Chemistry before joining the Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation and later became Director in the Federal Ministry of Information. He was a great short story writer and novelist. He died in 2007.
The book “Lokotown” is a collection of nine interesting short stories: Lokotown, A stranger from Lagos, The Ivory Dancer, Timber Money, Under the Almond Tree, Coin-Driver, Spider’s Web, Fashion Girl, Glittering City.
Lokotown tells the story of people who lived in Lokotown, a town mostly inhabited by men who worked with the Nigerian Railway Corporation and their escapade with Lokotown sensation- the elegant, fashionable and exploitative lady called Konni. Beyond the plot of the story, I was enthralled by the fact that in times past, the Nigerian Railway Corporation employed so many people that the economy of a whole town was tied to its fortune. Men had jobs and could support their families.
One story that really caught my fancy is “Coin Diver“- a beautiful love story. On the Atlantic shore of Freetown in Sierra Leone, Charlie, a poor coin-diver tried very hard to win the heart of Nancy, a beautiful lady who sang like a canary. After trying without success, he sailed to Canary Island in Cape Verde and bought himself a canary (a bird) with all the money he had. His thoughts: If I can’t have Nancy, I can buy a canary to sing for me. The news of the bird soon got round and his house became a tourist centre of some sort. Nancy’s fame was gradually being overtaken by the canary. Nancy and Diamond Joe (Charlie’s bitter rival) offered a price for the bird. Charlie declined the offer. Out of jealousy and desire for Charlie’s attention, Nancy got rid of the bird with the help of Diamond Joe. Charlie was enraged. However, to Charlie’s surprise, Nancy declared her love for him by comparing herself with the canary. Her words: ‘Charlie, I – I think I kin sing as well as the canary. Will you put me in your cage, I mean -your house-‘…Will you? I promise to sing for you everyday and for ever as my voice is good –‘.
On the whole, I think the book “Lokotown” is a great read and a collector’s item.