Noo Saro-Wiwa was brought up in England, but every summer she was dragged back to Nigeria - a country she viewed as an annoying parallel universe where she had to relinquish all her creature comforts and sense of individuality. Then her father, activist Ken Saro-Wiwa, was murdered there, and she didn't return for 10 years. Recently, she decided to rediscover and come to terms with the country her father loved. She travelled from the exuberant chaos of Lagos to the calm beauty of the eastern mountains; from the eccentricity of a Nigerian dog show to the empty Transwonderland Amusement Park - Nigeria's decrepit and deserted answer to Disneyland. She explored Nigerian christianity, delved into its history of slavery, examined the corrupting effect of oil, investigated Nollywood. She found the country as exasperating as ever, and frequently despaired at the corruption and inefficiency she encountered. But she also discovered that it was far more beautiful and varied than she had ever imagined, and was seduced by its thick tropical rainforest and ancient palaces and monuments. Most engagingly of all she introduces us to the people she meets, and gives us hilarious insights into the Nigerian character, its passion, wit and ingenuity.
In this combination travel narrative and personal memoir, Noo, who was raised in England, seeks to explore and understand the country where she was born as well as her father, Ken Saro-Wiwa, a respected Nigerian writer, television producer, and environmental activist who was executed on false charges by the Abacha military regime in 1995. Many of her observations are bleakly comical: the Transwonderland of the title, an amusement park touted in a travel guide, turns out to be a few rusting carnival rides surrounded by unmowed grass and perplexed children who can t afford to ride them. Others are tragic: unreliable public infrastructure, the decay of historic sites, and the theft of artworks. Most damaging of all is the absence of the social contract whereby work is honestly done and honestly rewarded. Employers delay payment of wages for months; public servants seek bribes; government funds are repeatedly squandered or embezzled. In a passage that is all the more stirring for its emotional restraint, Saro-Wiwa describes how she and her family received the skeletal remains of her father in 2005. She has come to love some things about Nigeria its natural beauty, its fascinating indigenous heritages, its music and dancing but finds that her native land couldn t seduce me fully when all roads snaked back to corruption, the rottenness my father fought against and the cause he died for.