Ben Okri joined us for an electric discussion of two works: The first, Every Leaf a Hallelujah, is both a masterpiece of YA fiction and a critical and timely tale. Environmentalism and adventure meet in a stunning and beautifully illustrated fairy tale which follows a young girl’s perilous quest to save her mother. The second, Astonishing the Gods (reissued by Other Press), examines the complex relationship between suffering and creativity, set against the stunning backdrop of an enchanted island.
This conversation with Executive Director and Chief Curator of MoCADA Amy Andrieux, following Okri’s creative approach to some of the most pressing matters of our time, is a must-see for anyone still captivated by the everlasting magic of fairytales.
Every Leaf a Hallelujah
By Ben Okri
Published by Other Press
Mangoshi lives with her mom and dad in a village near the forest. When her mom becomes ill, Mangoshi knows only one thing can help her—a special flower that grows deep in the forest.
The little girl needs all her courage when she sets out alone to find and bring back the flower, and all her kindness to overpower the dangers she encounters on the quest.
Ben Okri brings the power of his mystic vision to a timely story that weaves together wonder, adventure, and environmentalism.
Astonishing the Gods
By Ben Okri
Published by Other Press
A young man finds himself among invisible beings who have built a world based on one principle: that we must repeat every experience until we live it fully for the first time. “Only then can we find what we didn’t seek and go where we don’t intend to go.”
Ben Okri navigates the world at once as a writer, an artist, a musician, and a philosopher—in the process, he challenges our craving for the visual and the concrete. We read him not only with our eyes but also with our senses, our intuition. As his story unfolds we begin to inhabit the ineffable land that he creates, our imagination led to a place where what we once thought were fundamental truths are turned magically on their heads.
In the difficult times we live in, in an age decimated by injustice and inequality, Okri brings unexpected insights as meaningful as they are transformative.
“Maybe what seeks us is better than what we seek.”.
Ben Okri is a poet, playwright and novelist. He has published many books, including The Famished Road, which won the Booker Prize for Fiction in 1991. His other novels include Starbook, The Age of Magic, Dangerous Love, and Astonishing the Gods. He has published eleven novels, four books of short stories, two collections of essays, and three volumes of poems. He has invented a new form of storytelling called the “Stoku”, which is a cross between the short story and the haiku.
Amy Andrieux is a veteran of global cultural and arts programming with over 20 years of experience as a curator, writer, educator, and executive. An award-winning creative leader, Amy has retained top posts at TRACE magazine, MTV World (where she became the first Black Editorial Director at Viacom), Red Bull Media House / Red Bull TV. Her strategic vision has shaped programs for MasterCard, Gillette, Moet & Chandon, L’Oreal, Intel, and others. As a culture journalist, Amy has interviewed an array of notables including Spike Lee, Angelique Kidjo, Pharrell Williams, Wangechi Mutu, Rem Koolhaas, Bethann Hardison, Shepard Fairey, Jamel Shabazz, Edwidge Danticat, and many, many more. Currently, Amy is an Adjunct Professor focusing on the intersection of social impact/social justice and art + design at New School University, Parsons School of Design. She also takes pride in her work as the Executive Director and Chief Curator at The Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Art (MoCADA), for which she was awarded a Trailblazer Award from The 400 Years of African-American History Commission in 2020.