LOVE IN COLOUR

Writer Zeynab Mohamed reviews Bolu Babalola’s debut anthology, Love in Colour

02.09.2020

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Bolu Babalola’s debut anthology, Love in Colour, harmoniously brings together tales of love from far and wide. Bringing forgotten mythological tales back to life - taking ancient themes and serving them up with flair and relatability - for a new audience.

While love is a universal human emotion, it’s rare that we see a black woman as the focal character in love stories. While they may be intertwined in a tale of love with their romantic partners, Bolu repeatedly demonstrates that her characters possess the independence to make a choice that best serves them. In the tale of Yaa, for example, we’re constantly reminded that she is exceeding the bounds of her partner, she's a stand-alone character, a driving force (“the power has always been with you, Yaa”).

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The anthology fills a void, bringinging a new perspective, with stories that feature love in diverse communities and cultures. Characters that are enriched with the complexity of love, without being shackled by race or trauma.

Typically, I wouldn’t say I was an anthology reader. And yet, Bolu’s anthology masterfully captures the magic of long-form storytelling. The narrative and characters are fulfilling; featuring tales from different parts of the world, from Africa, Greece to South Asia.

I couldn’t pick just one favourite character. I adored Siya who “didn’t allow herself to be bound by the rules of nature” and lead the fight to save her nation Wagadou. And Naleili - a story reimagined in a modern-day high school – who not only learns to feel comfortable in her own skin, but feels “free within it”.

Though, I was instantly charmed by Osun. Osun, a reworked African folktale, is a story of gods and goddesses. Osun, a goddess who is unable to find a relationship where she can be her true self - until she meets Erinle. Erinle, is an “earth-born”, a human being, who wins a place among the high borns, the gods. He enters Osuns’ life as if it were predestined, where nothing and no one can do anything to stop it. Erinle, not only truly sees Osun, but dares her to want.

A running theme throughout the anthology, is this concept that to be loved is to be seen. In the story of Attem, the character Ituen states: “I’m just looking for someone who sees me as I see them.” Bolu’s lyrical prose has the power to transport a reader to a different world. Beautifully coupling the surrealism of folktales with tropes of realism and female empowerment.

The mythical nature of some of the tales do nothing to deter from Bolu’s ability to create narratives and characters that are genuine. Weaved with layers of nuances, Bolu ultimately portrays a love that is accessible. Laced with both pleasure and perils. An energy that remains “as fresh, as vital, as fertile as it had always been.”

Love in Colour,by Bolu Babalola, is available to buy here

images |  boluberry

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