Klorofyl: The City Issue – A Review
“When one is happy, a city appears joyous; when melancholy, all we see is suffering; when lonely, we see stretches of unoccupied space, or worse, crowds of people to whom we do not belong.”
A boy in a black suit with a jaunty hat, leaning on an adult’s cane, insouciant expression on his face. This is how the City issue of Klorofyl Magazine greets you.
If they hadn’t named the theme of the issue you would be hit by the digital citiscape on coarse tarmac from the first page. The design leaps out at you in clean antiseptic lines.
I’m told by the Captain’s Log that this is the third issue of Klorofyl, but it is my first. I didn’t have enough time to read earlier efforts, but issue three is a thing of beauty. I should point out that I read the whole magazine in a single sitting, which is convenient when writing a review but perhaps not the optimal manner in which it should be enjoyed. I imagine coming to the magazine over several of days, returning to some images, working my way to the end in the lateral undulations of a sidewinder.
It’s interesting to me that the Editor-in-chief speaks of the various opposites and absurdities of cities, echoing the opening lines of ‘A Tale of Two Cities’ which speak of foolishness and wisdom, darkness and light. I don’t think it was intentional. If so, more kudos.
The magazine is chock-full of images of everyday urban Africa that bring recognition to inhabitants, and a pang of nostalgia to those in the Diaspora. There is nothing that I did not find intriguing but there are stand-out pieces:
Schoolgirls walking past a street market (with what looks like a downed telephone pole nearby) set the scene for ‘The Bariga Philharmonic’ which is classic slice-of-life fiction with lines like ‘a man and his wife on a bed built for one’, and this is no romantic Bob Marley notion of sharing a room on his single bed. ‘Jibola Lawal captures this urban moment with virtuoso skill. The punctuation lets the narrative down, and I am not sure if that is because of the formatting, because full stops sometimes resemble commas.
Bola Famuyiwa’s ‘Let’s Fly’captures the intensity and joy on the faces of children who are unaware of the existence into which they have been born. ‘I’m not that old’, a poem by Tosin Otitoju could be about a city or a lover.
Anifalaje’s rumination on pedestrian crossing lights as a reflection on choice in life reads like compressed philosophical rhetoric, an elegant expression of ideas. Alabi-Isama’s Makoko series is touching, a slum-on-water, the evil-twin of Venice.
I loved ‘I hear she is beautiful’ by Abayomi Ogunwale. Epistolary, but moving at a sharp clip, it persists in the mind long after reading. Mawoni’s ‘Burning Money’ exposed my ignorance of the severity of economic hardship in Zimbabwe. Whoever heard of a trillion-dollar note?
With much respect to the other photographers, Jide Odukoya is the star of this ‘zine, but perhaps I am biased because I recognise a lot of the scenes. Jide shows considerable width and breadth in his documentation of city life.
Quick mentions: Read Oyeyemi’s ‘Gene of Greatness’ and Ifedigbo’s ‘Rains in the City’. See ‘Electric Pole’, by Bola Famuyiwa, ‘Road less travelled’ by Jibola Lawal, ‘Lion’s Tears’ by Tosin Otitoju, Eleanor Bennet’s ‘Balance Carefully’ and the ‘City Life’ series by Alawode.
I would say that the narratives could do with more rigorous editing. Clichés, dangling participles and lazy adverbs run wild, leading me to the idea that the magazine is more concerned with the visual than the literary. There are so many medical doctors in the collection that one wonders if the editor stood outside the gates of Medilag with a semipermeable net designed to catch literary types.
Reading the magazine was an enriching experience and I would recommend it.
[Klorofyl is a free download]
© 2012 by Tade Thompson