The Lagos Review: Top 10 Essays of 2021

2021 has come and gone and with headwinds from the Covid-19 pandemic, many have described the year as a challenging one for cultural enterprises.

But challenging or not, The Lagos Review did not shirk its responsibility of bringing illuminating cultural criticism to the fore.

In the year under review we had the good, the bad and the ugly but what is without question is that at TLR we brought our readers pieces that provided insight and analysis while expanding the frontiers of literary and cultural discourse. 

Find below our 10 most read essays of 2021. Many thanks to the writers who have trusted us with their writing and to the readers who have trusted us with their time.

  1. Hold it! Chimamanda created the Akwaeke Obscenity, Onyeka Nwelue

Novelist and film-maker Onyeka Nwelue weighs in on the literary feud between Chimamanda Adichie and her former mentee, Akwaeke Emezi, arguing that Adichie may be more complicit than she lets on. The essay’s thrust  is his understanding of Igbo cosmology and ontology, especially the Ogbanje phenomenon, and he muses about the integrity of co-opting Ogbanje into urgent conversations about identity, gender and sexuality.

  1. The Best South African Musicians of all Time

At TLR, we are wary about lists but this particular exercise in curating South African musicians has been exceedingly popular among our readers—perhaps because the canon is clear when it comes to South African music which has brazenly fought and reflected on the inhumane injustices that the land has known.

  1. The Murder of Alhaji Ayinla Omowura, Dami Ajayi

This rather expansive review of Festus Adedayo’s Ayinla Omowura: Life and Times of an Apala Legend takes its freewheeling impulse from the recent attention paid to Apala, that aging music genre, on account of both intellectual scholarship and a feature film by one of Africa’s best auteurs, Tunde Kelani.

  1. Remembering Dipo Sodipo, The Pope of the Basilica, Dami Ajayi

Intended as a short tribute to Dipo Sodipo, the late one-man band toast of low-key Abeokuta shindigs, this piece acquired virality and engendered conversations around the well-known but hardly spoken about quiet legend who has been dead for close to two decades.

  1. Demystifying Ayinla Omowura: Review of Tunde Kelani’s Ayinla, Joba Ojelabi

Trained pharmacist, Joba Ojelabi earned his stripes as a cultural critic with this erudite review of Tunde Kelani’s Ayinla. Equal parts doting and critical, Ojelabi understands the tribute this fictional biopic pays to Ayinla Omowura and the Apala genre as a whole, but his weighty analysis of the liberal repurposing of Omowura’s discography is the real gem of the piece.

  1. The Lagos Review, Top 50 Songs of 2021, thus far by Dami Ajayi et al.

It is now tradition that a gang of writers—Dami Ajayi, Fatiat Saliu, Ayodele Ibiyemi, Emmanuel Daraloye, Jerry Chiemeke, Udochukwu Ikwuagwu—gather intermittently to write about the best songs in the soundscape. This piece released mid-2021 had already placed Wizkid/Tems’ Essence at the top before the surge of a global appeal.

  1. Akwaekwe Emezi is not an Ogbanje: Anonations in Igbo Tradition, Cosmology and the Ogbanje Spirit, Onyeka Nwelue

Published prior to the escalation of the Adichie/Emezi feud, Nwelue’s instructive essay on Igbo tradition especially as a repository of the otherworldly Ogbanje borrows heavily from the author’s personal quest for understanding and fervent desire to safeguard Igbo tradition from woke and extreme creative expressions.

  1. There’s plenty drama in Baby Mama, Peju Akande

Peju Akande’s scathing review of Nollywood flick Baby Mama streaming on Netflix is a masterclass on how to parse a piece of work gracefully. New Nollywood seems deserving of all the knocks it is getting of late and Ms. Akande’s film review is telling.

  1. Kemi Adetiba and JRR Tolkien Walk into a Bar, Joba Ojelabi

Ojelabi’s second appearance is a testament to his diligence while his inventive title demonstrates his aptitude for humour, tradition and intersections. Approximating Tolkein’s imagination and Adetiba’s invention is definitely raising the bar.

  1. Why it is hard to love King of Boys: The Return of the King, Daniel Okechukwu

This punchy character critique of the small-screen sequel to Adetiba’s King of Boys is both scathing and endearing. It is what makes criticism resonate; it comes resoundingly from my place of love.

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