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  • #Nollywood Entertainment #Nigeria News: People Called Me Witch but That Spurs Me to Do More – Nnedi Okoroafor


    Imo State-born American Nnedi Okoroafor is a PhD holder in English from University of Illinois, Chicago and Professor of Creative Writing at Chicago State University. She is an associate professor of creative writing and literature at the New york State University, Buffalo. Since writing her first official story 16 years ago, Nnedi’s love, to view the world in a magical way that has infiltrated the globe through her fantasy, science fiction, and speculative fiction. In this interview, the author of Who Fears Death (2010), Akata Witch (2011), Zahrah the Windseeker (2005), and others, reveals her love for African Literature, her inspiration etc. Excerpts:

    YOUR view about African literature?

    I love African Literature. I have a Ph.D in literature and one of my dessertations was on African literature. I did my masters in Journalism before that. When I was doing my masters I was going to the university library thinking that I was going to research for my thesis and I ended up in the African literature section, reading everything there because it was interesting and the story telling was the best. I love Nigerian literature and oh!, I’m biased. I love Nigerian writing, by definition its always good from the classic to the present, its always good.

    Considering the role of Literature, do you think African writers have contributed to shaping Africa?

    Certainly, they have used their imagination, for instance if there is something wrong and for there to be change, you need imagination which brings idea that will lead to practical things.

    Practical things

    So as writers, we work with imagination and what we do is help people to imagine what could be, what shouldn’t and couldn’t be. While doing that we entertain as well which is extremely important to ones’ quality of life. Think about it, take out art, take out entertainment from life, there is no quality of life. Art increases ones quality of life. And writers are important in this.

    What then is wrong with Africa?

    Its bigger than that. The issues are bigger. We’ve dealt with colonialism, dealt with ourselves, we are not perfect people. But we have a whole bunch of issues both external and internal. I think writers play a big role in that, they have more jobs to do to make things better. And so is everyone.

    Favourite Nigerian authors?

    Ben Okri’s The Famished Road. I love that book, it transformed me as a writer. I also love The Palmwine Drinkered by Amos Tutola and Wole Soyinka’s The Man Died.

    Do any of these books speak to Nigeria’s challenges?

    Yes all of them do. Well, Nigerian writers all tend to speak to issues that are troubling the society, its almost the definition of Nigerian writing. And that has always been issues that people talk about, does African writings always have to address issues or politicised in some way? My opinion is that it doesn’t, you can have pure entertainment, like Nollywood version of literature. Even when they speak to issues it must not be too glaring like, this is why I wrote the book, this is my agenda.

    What genres do you concentrate on?

    All round. I say this because I read all round and that’s reflected in my works. I’m categorised as within science fiction, magical realism etc. I don’t really pay attention to the categorises. My most known novel Who Fear’s Death, blends the magical realism element and traditional African literature elements. It deals with child soldier, female genital circumcision issues and it got the traditional African literature, science fiction and it is set in the future. It got the magical realism because it deals with traditional Igbo rituality and so it got a lot of things in there and so, categories are not easy for me.

    What inspires you?

    Everything! By being here at Ake Festival am inspired. My parents are unique in many ways. After the Biafran war, they only stayed in the United States because of the war, they couldn’t come back. My father is a Cardiovascular Surgeon, my mother is very educated, she is a registered nurse/Midwife. They came to US for education and they prepared to get all that and come back here [Nigeria] and make a life for themselves but the Biafran war broke out and they ended up staying in America. They didn’t have that mentality of fleeing Nigeria.

    So as soon as the war was over, they took my siblings and I back to Nigeria just to reconnect everybody and we never stayed in posh hotels in Lagos, we went to the village. So from age 7 till now, that’s how its been for me. My connection with Nigeria is very close because a lot of my strongest memories both the good and the bad are real about this country. So when I started writing, my stories naturally flow from my memories about Nigeria.

    For instance, my title Who Fears Death, came from my cousin’s name Onyesonwu. As soon as I heard that name, I got the title of my book. My main character in the book is Onye s’Onwu so the book title is the main charater’s name. I listen to both the spirituality part of anything and those things blast in my brain, I do more research and people call me heathen and I say in all this, I’m just curious. I have also been inspired by Octavia Butler, Ngugi wa’ Thiongo and Hayao Miyazaki.

    What has been the feedback?

    I have received some hate mails, they called me witch, called me bad but that only spurs me to do more.

    Any Privilege being a writer?

    First of all, who I am and the fact that my parents are very successful in the US. That priviledge has come back and forth. So, I have that and as a writer, I think it includes that I can ask anything I want and I get it.

    This is something I never knew as a writer but learned as I go on and that is, it takes you around the world. Like I have been everywhere now and it just brought me back to Nigeria for Ake Festival. It keeps bringing me back here, I’ve been to the middle East, parts of Europe, South America, Carribean so many places and its all paid for. Its a huge privilege.

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