Bayan Layi : Blogging the Caine Prize

  I just talk without direction, like the harmattan wind that just blows and blows, scattering dust.  Me, I just like to say it as I remember it. And sometimes you have to explain the story. Sometimes the explanation lies in many stories, how else can the story be sweet if you do not start it from its real, real beginning?

I’ve avoided reading other posts on this story in an attempt not to be intimidated into not writing anything. I’m just going to list three aspects of the story that I really liked, and hope that if anyone is reading this post who hasn’t read the story, they will follow the link to download or online published at Per Contra and read it.

First theme – islamic schooling.

This is interesting to me: I have been writing a lit review for someone else’s project, trying to pick up academic literature on the interaction between ‘western’ education and the long held traditions in northern Nigeria (and Yorubaland). I like the way the story just ‘drops in’ our narrator’s isolation from his family when he was sent away to school.

Second point – white clothing. I spent a lot of time on ‘fieldwork’ feeling incomparably grubby compared to my fellow bus passengers. Apparently, the secret is not the kind of soap I was using:

Malam Junaidu gives his clothes to Tanimu the washman who buys water from the boys who sell tap water. Some day, Insha Allah, I will be able to buy tap water or give my clothes to Tanimu to wash and have a box where I will keep all my white clothes.

Third theme – Told from the first person, we get a child’s view of the society around him.  Perhaps we get more explanation than we would really get, but from my perspective, it’s all needed. I like the insights our narrator gives us to how his community works in an election.  Maman Ladidi’s house is in ‘ba’a shiga, men aren’t allowed’. ‘The women in the market wear wrappers carrying the candidate’s face’ ‘Plenty women are coming out to vote’.

It reminded me of NoViolet Bulawayo’s story Blak Power.  All makes me want to read more of Elnathan John’s work.


This post is part of the fourth week of Blogging the Caine 2013, in which a group of writers organised by Aaron Bady write about the shortlist for this year’s Caine Prize.

Africa in Words will be posting on each of the shortlisted stories week by week.  Read:

Gbesmisola Abiola on Tope Folarin’s ‘Miracle’ 

Rebecca Jones on Tope Folarin’s ‘Miracle’ 

Katie Reid on Pede Hollist’s ‘Foreign Aid’

Sylvia Gasana on Abubakar Adam Ibrahim’s ‘The Whispering Trees’

Read other responses to Elnathan John’s ‘Bayan Layi’ from:

If you’d like to participate in ‘Blogging the Caine 2013′ email Aaron Bady (aaron AT thenewinquiry DOT com) or join the conversation here or on twitter (#caineprize).

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6 replies

  1. Post-Caine prize – have you seen Elnathan John’s satirical column in the Daily Times?
    I came across it more recently via Carmen McCain’s blog post on last year’s prize ‘The Caine Prize, the “Tragic Continent”, and the Politics of the “Happy African Story”’ – a response to Bernadine Evaristo’s call, as chair of the Caine Prize 2012 judges, to ‘move on’ from images of Africa ‘that dominate the media: War-torn Africa, Starving Africa, Corrupt Africa’, on the Caine Prize blog.


  1. My Thoughts on Bayan Layi by Elnathan John | veronicankwocha
  2. A response to ‘Bayan Layi’ by Elnathan John | Multimodal Machaut
  3. My Thoughts On Elnathan John’s “Bayan Layi” | Afrocentric Confessions
  4. Elnathan John, “Bayan Layi” | Practically Marzipan
  5. Blogging the Caine Prize: Thinking Through Chinelo Okparanta’s ‘America’ « Africa in Words

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