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Looking for Transwonderland: Travels in…

Looking for Transwonderland: Travels in Nigeria

by Noo Saro-Wiwa

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Noo Saro-Wiwa is the daughter of human rights activist Ken Saro-Wiwa, who was murdered by the Nigerian government as part of their efforts to keep Shell Oil Company happy. Sara-Wiwa grew up in Britain, but spent her summers in Nigeria until her father's burial, at which point she never returned. Now, decades later, she returns to travel all over the enormous (much larger than Texas) and diverse country. Looking for Transwonderland is her account of her travels.

Saro-Wiwa is the ideal traveling companion for Nigeria. She is both native and stranger, intimately familiar with the country's history and culture, while also standing slightly outside of it, which allows her to explain and describe Nigeria in a way that was clear and fascinating to this non-Nigerian, while able to travel and explore with the freedom of someone born in that country.

And Nigeria is more than worthy of a guided tour. It's a diverse place, with artificially created borders containing three major and over 300 minor people groups. The country's size means it's land encompasses both desert and rainforest. Sara-Wiwa travels all over Nigeria, hunting down wildlife refuges, historically significant landmarks and art while talking to people from all walks of life about life in Nigeria. Sara-Wiwa is an opinionated and humorous guide and I would love to accompany her through any other county she chooses to write about. ( )
  RidgewayGirl | Aug 30, 2017 |
When many Westerners consider Nigeria and its people, their first thoughts are likely to be the ubiquitous e-mail and telephone scams that promise the recipients fabulous sums of money if the senders are provided with advance fees or bank account numbers so that they can transfer money into the recipients' accounts. Others think of it as a nation of seemingly unlimited natural resources, particularly oil, whose wealth has been largely stolen by its corrupt leaders and Western companies and governments, leaving its citizens largely impoverished and uneducated. Those who have met and work with Nigerians who live abroad may consider them to be arrogant, bombastic, and quick to argue, particularly in comparison to Africans from other countries.

Noo Saro-Wiwa, the author of this book, is the daughter of the author and environmental activist Ken Saro-Wiwa, who was a member of the Ogoni people, an ethnic minority within the Niger Delta of southern Nigeria. He was the president of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People, a nonviolent organization which criticized the Nigerian government and Shell Oil for the degradation in Ogoniland that resulted from the harvesting of oil. He and eight other activists were tried and convicted by a military tribunal under President Sani Abacha of the brutal murders of Ogoni chiefs, even though the trial was widely condemned as being a sham, and all nine members of the Ogoni Nine were hanged in 1995.

Noo was born in Port Harcourt, Nigeria, but lived much of her life outside of her native country, particularly in London, where she and her siblings were educated while her father remained in her homeland. She, her mother and siblings returned in 2000, for her father's official burial, and in 2005, for a proper family burial after permission to do was finally granted by a democratically elected Nigerian government, but after his death she avoided returning there until she decided to return and write a book about her country and its people, and come to terms with her father's legacy.

Saro-Wiwa spent four months in Nigeria, beginning with a visit to Lagos, the nation's overcrowded and largely lawless capital, which she unforgettably describes as a woman with a "Gucci jacket and a cheap hair weave, with a mobile phone in one hand, a second set in her back pocket, and the mother of all scowls on her face. She would usher you impatiently through her front door at an extortionate price before smacking you to the floor for taking too long about it. 'This,' she would growl while searching your back pockets for more cash, 'is Lagos.'"

Her travels extend throughout the southern Christian dominated portion of the country and its mostly Muslim north, as she meets family members, old friends, guides, and random strangers along the way. She is a fearless traveler, who takes risks that made this reader occasionally question her sanity and apparent lack of common sense, but she managed to avoid dangerous situations. Her descriptions of the cities and regions she visited were rich and evocative, so much so that I found myself eager to visit a country that I had absolutely no desire to go to prior to reading the book. Her journey most notably includes a visit to Port Harcourt, where one of her brothers has taken up residence in the family home, and Ogoniland, where her paternal relatives live, which allowed her to reconnect with them and regain her sense of belonging in Nigeria. At the end of her journey she made her peace with the country that murdered her father, and although she spent most of her life in the West she felt a strong pull to return there permanently despite the country's numerous problems and challenges.

"Looking for Transwonderland" was a well written book that provides a grim and unblinking yet hopeful look at one of Africa's most prominent countries, which is deserving of the numerous accolades and awards it received after its publication in 2012. ( )
7 vote kidzdoc | Jul 4, 2017 |
So engaging, so compelling...you start the book thinking it is an account of a place you will never visit and you finish by imagining possible itineraries. A sort of pilgrimage to her home country, the author recounts a trip to the four corners of a broken country whose people still manage to carry on, even if they fail to keep calm while doing so. ( )
  jacoombs | Dec 24, 2013 |
Memoir meets travelogue meets popculture. It's ok, nothing memorable. The only thing I really got from this book was that the utter corruption of Nigeria where the begging letter scam is a whole semi-legitimate business, is that the utter corruption of the place is being replaced by the utter corruption and cruelty of the Islamic movement sweeping the country. It is opposed only by evangelical Christians and that means however it is, it's going to get bloodier and going to get worse for women. The rich who are obscenely rich now will get even richer, the poor who are begging on the streets don't really have anywhere to sink to, but if there is somewhere that is where they will be, and those who foster corruption will enforce their desires with violence. It's all kind of Haitian plus Islamic fervour.

Not a nice place, but great music. Everywhere has something!

( )
  Petra.Xs | Apr 2, 2013 |
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Ms. Saro-Wiwa writes perceptively about Africa's most populous country [Nigeria]. . . . For a country rich in both human and natural resources--one that has hugely underperformed its potential since independence from Britain in 1960--Nigeria in Ms. Saro-Wiwa's account seems diffident, even haughty in its attitudes toward the rest of Africa and indeed the world.
added by sgump | editWall Street Journal, Howard French (Oct 16, 2012)
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Being Nigerian can be the most embarrassing of burdens. We're constantly wincing at the sight of some of our compatriots, who have committed themselves to presenting us as a nation of ruffians.
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Noo Saro-Wiwa revisits the country her father gave his life for.

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