It’s 2118 and you’ve arrived in Lagos for a book festival. When you step out of the airport, what is the first thing you see?
A century from now? I haven’t landed on Lagos soil in over two decades, so I have no reference for imagining the future. Maybe flying cars in the sky?
You’ve been selected for a mission to the moon. Which African author are you taking and why?
No sane person would select me for a mission to the moon, no thank you very much! But if I had to be stuck there, I’d go with Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani. I could be wrong, but her writing suggests she has a great sense of humour. I need to be able to laugh at life’s absurdities.
What invention do you think would change the lives of Africans today?
Gosh, something that would vacuum all trash and magically give everyone electricity and clean water? That would be great! Just think what that would mean to children doing homework, not having to strain their eyes. And not having to trek to far flung places to fetch water that isn’t always potable, etc. That would be wonderful.
Two things you’re doing when not reading or writing?
I’m almost always playing tennis or dancing. If I could, I’d be a professional dancer.
To what extent has African literature envisioned an African future?
Hmm, I’m not sure how to answer this question. I’d say our literature has envisioned a future where there is gender equality, where children may express themselves, where political honesty and accountability isn’t a fantasy.
What book do you think best captures Afrofuturism?
Nnedi Okorafor’s books. It’s not my favourite genre, to be honest, so hers are the only ones I’ve read. I really enjoyed ‘The Book of Phoenix’.
You wake up one morning to find that you’ve grown a pair of wings. What do you do?
Scream. Then after I’ve recovered, fly around like Angelina Jolie’s Maleficent. Swoop down on my friends and scare them for fun. Once, at Kruger National Park in South Africa, I did try to fly. I stood on a chair, flapped my arms and leapt. I ended up in bed with a leg wrapped in gauze.
Name one book that made you think differently about the world.
‘The Immortal Life Of Henrietta Lacks’ by Rebecca Skloot. That non-fiction thrilled me from the first sentence and didn’t let up until the last. What scientists did to that woman is unbelievable. I’ve always been suspicious of healthcare systems, but now I know that science is both a wonderful and deadly force.
What is the most difficult part of your creative process?
Starting. Unlike most writers, I’m an extrovert. I’d rather be out lolling on the beach with friends or playing tennis than holed up in a room writing. I enjoy socialising. However, I’m a stickler for deadlines, so once I start writing and get into a rhythm, I keep going.
What’s your African dream?
I’d like every child to have access to books and discover the magic of disappearing into them. I want teachers to de-emphasise rote learning and encourage reading for fun. I want Africans to read all literature but pay particular attention to books written by Africans. We are storytellers. Our voices need to resound everywhere.