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Funmi Iyanda
Lagos, Nigeria
Funmi Iyanda is a multi award-winning producer and broadcast journalist. She is the CEO of Ignite Media and Executive Director of Creation Television
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Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Now read these

Ha, I finally have it. My ultimate super hero persona, think I should go on secondlife and design an avatar to match. She'll have catwoman's style, no cape please (watch Incredibles again), Queen Amina's bearing, Funmilayo Kuti's Spirit and Mma Ramotze's wit and soul. What? You don't know Mma Ratmoze, Perious Ramotze, the first and only female private detective in the whole of Botswana! I had heard about Alexander McCall's famous series on the female private detective of Botswana, I stopped short of buying the books a number of times plagued (shame on me) by some pseudo intellectual aversion to "soap lit" (just created that). It was after listening to that part of Chris Abani's TED talk about the majority of people learning and forming opinions based not on some high faluting scholarly work (great such as these may be) but on Popular culture. Imagine a TV talk show anchor getting beyond herself tut tut tut! I bought the first in the series in Johannesburg (prefer the African covers) and was transported to the innocent lazy afternoons of my youth when l would read countless (would love to collect them now) numbers of Agatha Christie, Ian Fleming and James Hardley Chase series without any embarrassment.

Mma Ramotze is the deliciously fat (why should a super hero be slim?), eye wateringly witty, winsomely resourcefully, smart and ingenious private detective of Botswana, the only lady one, nay the only only one. She applies herself to the noble cause of finding out the truth about knotty issues like runaway husbands, rouge doctors, fathers and missing children whilst drinking her excellent bush or driving her tiny white mini van. We are with Mma Ratmoze through her own personal battles and the unique extremes of Africa, the beauty and the beast all in a warm comforting funny journey. You may cry and laugh but I dare you not to like Mma Ramotze, the only lady private detective of Botswana. She is better than Miss Maple, better than Hercule Poirot and certainly more sensible than that James Bond. Never has female empowerment come in a better package. Now who's going to make the movie? I love it.

At what point did you embark on life as you know it now? Do you recall that crossroad? What would life had been if you had taken a different road. Are you happy on this path? I remember my crossroad year, not that I knew it at hat time. One decision to follow my friend to visit her friend's boyfriend in his office in July 1994 and I took a turn for the life I know now. What if l had not gone with her? What if I didn't argue with the men that day and never wrote that first script? What other life could l have had?
Reading the Ceiling by Dayo Forester is fascinating in this respect as it follows Ayodele down different paths from the crossroad. We meet Ayodele as a young 18-year-old school leaver determined to do away with her virginity on her birthday. Four different men, four options, four life paths. Down these roads, we encounter junctions that enrage, enmirth, exasperate and sadden us for Ayodele. Peppered all along the routes are the realities of life for women in Africa, the comic, the tragic, the triumphant. My favourite Ayodele life path sees her a stubborn struggling teenage mother and eventual wife in polygamy. It is her most fascinating and strangely most empowered life path. The book drags a bit at the beginning but takes off by first life path and keeps you going till the end. I like it.


MsMak said...

The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency. I own all the books in the series and read them a few years ago. I did notice on thing however:

In EVERY one of the books, there was at least one of instance of Nigeria portrayed in a negative light. Now its been a few years so i can'te recall verbatim, but we were referred to repeatedly as a country of crooks, a bad place, a place where nothing works, a dirty place, etc.

Usually the main character would be driving/walking etc, and thinking how beautiful Botswana was or something, and then next there would be sort of "thank God Botswana is not like that bad country Nigeria.."

In the first book i was surprised, but let it go. But to single out one country and make a point to negatively mention it in like, 4 or 5 books? Haba! That is driving a really bad message home to your readers. It sha bothered me a lot.

By the way, i hear Jill Scott will be playing the role in the screen adaptation...

Anonymous said...

After the first one, I sought out the rest of Mma Ramotse's adventures, and fell in love with Botswana.
I had recollections of times in the old Western state when everyone knew one another - and other people's licence plates by heart, courtesy was fundamental, and typewriting / shorthand were the ladylike skills to pick up when not discreetly husband hunting.

Unfortunately Nigerians don't seem to have a good reputation in Botswana according to Alexander McCall, abi you haven't gotten to that part yet?

Anonymous said...

u must be a winch!!!
i'm just about ti read this very book, now,now...borrowed it from an oyinbo colleague today!wish i cldsend a pic of me holding the book...will read it and come back to ur review...
what a coincidence!
from Aberdeen,Scotland

Marin said...

Hi Ms Iyanda. Funny, I just wrote about the "The ladies detective agency" series some days ago on my blog. The movie is already being made in Botswana, you can check this link for more information about the film version:here.
I have all the books in the series, apart from the last one, "The good husband of Zebra drive", which I just recently bought in audio book format - it is great too. In fact, I'm off to the movies immediately it is released!!! Glad to see that so many other people enjoy this book as much as I do.

Anonymous said...

I think you mean Mma Ramotswe. She would be very angry with you for misspelling her name.

Soul said...

I find half the time that the answers to most thing are very simple. Unfortunately, I think education makes us forget this and makes us try impose a set of the unfamiliar onto situations which do not require it.

Personally, I have found more wisdom, courage and inspiration in the simplest of texts.
I have also found more decent living examples on the pages of a fairytale than I have found in the page of some religious texts.

Marin said...

Yes, you guys are right about the potrayal of Nigeria. rember the story about the fake doctor? But, to be honest, many people in Africa think like that about Nigerians. I remember some Kenyan classmates who said that when they were leaving Kenya, their parents told them to avoid Nigerians. They were quite shocked that we were just regular people too.

jjc girl said...

Loved the Mma book too. She reminds me of a dear friend of mine who runs a recruitment agency outside Nigeria.
BTW, it seems Nigeria bashing has become something of an international sport.

Iyaeto said...

Hmm. The #1 Ladies Detective agency series was on my mum's reading list last year. My younger sister introduced her to the books. She loved the books so much. I never got round to reading the books but she gives me the gist.I think I'll have to read the books now.

Anonymous said...

the movie for that mma ramotswe book is going to be filmed shortly and i think jill scott is playin mma ramotswe

Pamela said...

Ilove this series. One of my best friends(canadian) was posted to Nigeria after years in Botswana and all her friends there begged her not to come here. They felt she would just disappear! After 2 months in sleepy Calabar she was laughing at the fears and also sad at how little Africans really know about each other. She actually stayed on in Naija for 2 extra years in very modest circumstances oh! no be jeep with plenty servent expat at all. Well she gave me her Ma Ratmotse series and I noticed all the negative Naija refferences too. I found them funny and Im sure the British author did too. He was just recording the general perception of Nigerians there.

MsMak said...

@ Pamela:

I mean no disrespect, but if you're Naija like i assume, then the idea that you find repeated and deliberate negative references to Naija funny is pretty sad.

Like JJC said, Naija bashing has reached a dimension even i can't understand. Like Marin mentioned, i too have Kenyan friends who told me they were warned when going to the U.S; one of them dated a Naija person for years and her father REFUSED to speak to him.

As a nation, we have a worse reputation than even stateless Somalia or Rwanda after their genocide. This inspite being the first country to always send peacekeeping forces to whichever country needs help in Africa.

I am not HAPPY with many things in Naija, and i am not one of those who believes we can talk bad about our people, but noone else can. But when we are singled out and constantly portrayed in a negative light to the EXCLUSION OF OTHERS, i smell a rat. In five or so books in this series, the only bad country in the world is Naija?! Haba!

What makes it worse is when our own Naija people sit and laugh and say, "ehen, so?" or "i found it funny". If you continue to laugh as other people disrespect you and not speak up or do anything, expect it to continue. And one day (just like Rev. Fr. Mathew Kukah in Kenya) you too will be on the receiving end of it. Believe!

I loved the books. But we all should be thinking of what we can do to change/stop the Naija-bashing. Enough!

Atutupoyoyo said...

I really like the character of Mma Ramotze. But I must confess to not being a big fan of the books. As msmak said the Nigeria name checks start to grate after a while and the descriptions of Botswana are far too idyllic.

On a side note I think Minghella's version of the film will be great. He is a wonderful director but I do question the casting decision of Jill Scott as the heroine. We will see sha

Anonymous said...

Did you hear of the Jena six? Please give it audience on your show or blog about it. Shame on America O!

Anonymous said...

man dat book is lovely....... i read 2weeks ago. my only grouse with d book are d references 2 9ja as a terrible place. nice book anyway

Mizz Odus said...

Just thought to tell you I'm a fan. I wasn't one before I stumbled unto your blog but I am now. I'm 20 yrs old and I'm glad to discover you're more than just "another one of those women in City People".

laspapi said...

@ mizz odus- if you'd sat down to watch any episode of "New Dawn", you'd have known Funmi wasn't like wharreva.

Never heard of the book series before now but I'll look out for it.

At the negative reference to Nigeria, sometimes the best revenge is living well. Which might be what pamela meant by finding those references funny. Some nations because of their prominence and style will always be talked about, as will some people. We can correct our negatives and bridle our citizens who are excessive,and then the rest of the world will wake up to the fact that Nigeria's a much better place than they think.

Funmi Iyanda said...

@all, abeg sorry say l just dey come join una o, na condition make crawfish bend, so where where we?
a. so jill scott is playing mma Ramotzwe? l like Jill's vibe and music although l suppose it will be too much to ask that smeone who is African be cast in that role uh?

b. wrong spelling? you get the name, l get the car bo! besides na jakande school l go :-)

c.9ja as punch bag, l know, l did raise my brow at that stereotype but l am firmly against self censorship or undue political correctness especially in art. The fact is that if we were not Nigerian we would probably feel the same about Nigeria given what people hear about us, see in our very popular movies and even have experienced with our few but loud bad eggs. Which people have a sound view of others really? Is America the land of milk and honey and heroes that our people believe it to be? Stereotypes whether positive or negative are just that and in comedy, stereotypes are great fodder. Who does not laugh at the many Igbo jokes ditto the Irish jokes and the Ijebu jokes. The solution to our bad image really is to tell our own stories and tell them well. We can also try fixing our economy, repairing infrastructure, killing (yes l said it, they are mass murderers jo) corrupt government officials etc so that our people are not in continous economic flight and penury.

pamela said...


I still say I found/find it funny.

I found it funny that they were so terrified and so wrong... like people thinking they could sail off the edge of the earth in 2007. If I met any expressing such terror Id laugh in thier face. The British author loves Botswana but obviously pokes fun at it, maybe a tad condescending, and the constant "thank God Im not in Nigeria" inserts subtely mocks the irrational fear. Just my thoughts.

Anonymous said...

abi funmi i was wondering why jill scott has to be mma ramotswe....i guess denzel washington will kuku ma be mr.jlb matekoni ...........abi now...i love d book and i read d 1st 3 two years ago....i found 3 more series of the book at 'borders' but since i am broke i go in there to read them...i have finshed 1 already 2 more to go...cheapskate like me i know

Onibudo said...

Sisi mi,

I would not touch Mcall's book with a barge pole. I am honestly sick of the stereotype of Nigerians and fail to see how I should support a book that deals it from the bottom of the deck of cards. I know the self loathing we Nigerians trade in but for the sake of posterity it is something worth making a stand upon.

Onibudo said...

My sister ,

I had to comeback after reading the comments as well as yours on stereotypes. Haba I wan blow gasket . Stereotypes are not just a opinion flourish they are powerful models for framing reality. When they are pervasive they evolve into received wisdom that the very victims internalize and adopt as standards. In short they evolve into self fulfilling prophecy. I was part of a wedding where everyone was dancing to Yahooze song. Go figure . To dismiss the power of stereotypes is to ignore that there are many Nigerian children whose only exposure to any information about their country of origin is through what is the public domain. I have spent all my working life fighting the power of stereotypes to shape peoples life chances and reduce their possibilities. My sister we have to agree to disagree on this one.

Anonymous said...

I absolutely love Reading the Ceiling. It is so lovely to see the new crop of African writings. I agree the beginning wasn't very gripping, but if you continue it is really worth a good read.

Anonymous said...

@ onibudo....have u read the ni 1 ladies detective series?she hardly mentioned 9ja........i dont know if he bashed ur in other books tho!

Funmi Iyanda said...

arakunrin mi, but eeti ka iwe na ke (you havent read the book) and we only disagree in aspects. Yes stereotypes fuel ignorant reactions but l have always been only marginally concerned about what others choose to say about us, maybe because l dont confront it everyday? But then that was also a conscious choice. What l do confront everyday is the FACT that we should not be living the way we do and should have been shamed enough into doing something about it, that way we'll have have the last laugh.
BTW, me self l go anoda wedding wey dem dey dance serious serious to yahooze o, Olu maintain swears he didnt mean it to be a glorification of 419 but its taken on a life of its own. Abeg help analyze that.

Anonymous said...

i like d yahoozee dance and i will dance it o..............