Jeff Gardiner spent his early years in Nigeria, and like so many of Crooked Cat’s versatile authors, has written a second book. I cannot do better than leave it to him to illustrate his background story, where his missionary parents learned so much from the culture and philosophy of the people they went out to help. This striking cover just makes you want to see what’s underneath…
‘Igboland’ is a tale of passion and conflict set in Nigeria during the Biafran War in the late 1960s. The novel is inspired by the diaries and photos of my parents, Janet and Gerald Gardiner. They lived in Nigeria as missionaries from 1964-1970, and I was born out there in Jos.
Lydia and Clem in the novel are definitely NOT my parents, although some of the events in ‘Igboland’ are related to anecdotes my parents told me. My Mum also kept a journal, which was incredibly useful for contextual detail such as prices, food and weather. Mum did start a small dispensary to help locals with minor medical issues, and my Dad was stopped by soldiers suspected of being a mercenary.
My brother and I used to love looking at the slides of Nigeria and my parents would tell us the stories again and again. Amazingly, they are still in touch with Nigerian and British folk alike from their time out there. My parents still support the Omafu family who built and still run a mother and baby clinic, to help their local community.
My parents were actually in Idoma, which is just north of Igboland. Here is a picture of Oji villagers on a bridge. See if you can spot my Mum.
Mum ran a small dispensary, using mostly her instincts and very limited supplies. They often went to places where people had never seen a white person before. Where they lived was remote and right out in the bush.
This grass-roofed hut is the church in Angwar. You get a sense here of the remoteness of village life, with the dusty ground and hills in the background.
Below is an Idoma school, which you can imagine had very limited resources. At least they had shelter from the burning sun.
Janet and Gerald had to cope with a very different lifestyle in West Africa. Each day threw up new challenges: fevers; tribal conflicts; transport and communication problems; the difficulty of procuring clean water and edible food; plus the worrying onset of civil war. Below is a picture of a bush fire near their manse. My Dad is on the left holding my brother Trev.
‘Igboland’ was a pleasure to research and write. I learnt a great deal about the country that I consider my ‘spiritual home’. The Igbo tribe have an inspiring culture and philosophy, from which we in the west could learn a great deal. Igbo traditions and the brutality of civil war provide the backdrop for ‘Igboland’. It is a work of fiction, about imaginary characters; but the whole thing is rooted in a place and historical context that are very real.
Read ‘Igboland’ to find out what happens to Lydia and Clem when they leave their comfortable English homes to live in a place so challenging and different from anything they have ever experienced before.
For more details and photos, please visit Jeff Gardiner’s BLOG:
To purchase ‘Igboland’ visit Jeff’s WEBSITE:
Or buy the book on AMAZON UK:
I worked with the Igalas for six years in late seventies, employing many Igbos. I intend to write authoritative about their masquerades. My book however is about Tanzania in 60’s.
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