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Profession: Market Writer

This is how I hope my children will earn their living: from The Shadow of the Sun by Ryszard Kapuscinski.

    Onitsha is the only market I know of that has spawned its own literature, the Onitsha Market Literature. Dozens of Nigerian writers live and work in Onitsha [the world’s largest market] and are published by as many local publishing houses, which have their own printing presses and bookshops in the marketplace. It is a diverse literature—romances, poems, and plays (the latter staged by the numerous little theatrical companies in the market), folk comedies, farces, and vaudevilles. There are many didactic tales, countless self-help pamphlets, such as “How to Fall in Love?” or “How to Fall Out of Love?” Many little novellas like “Mabel, or Sweet Honey That Has Passed Away,” or “Love Games, and Then Disenchantment.” Everything is meant to move you, to make you weep, and also to offer instruction and disinterested advice. Literature must be useful, believe the authors from Onitsha, and in the market they find a huge audience thirsty for wisdom and vicarious experience. Whoever cannot afford the brochure masterpiece (or simply doesn’t know how to read) can listen to its message for a penny—the admission fee to authors’ readings, which take place often here in the shade of stalls piled with oranges, yams, or onions.


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