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?
Giant billboards welcoming everyone to the 2118 edition of Aké Fest. Billboards are sponsored by the federal government’s cultural arm which reminds everyone to avail themselves of the free book share kiosks at major intersections all over the place or simply download and read short pieces while commuting courtesy of the good people of Nigeria.
You’ve been selected for a mission to the moon. Which African author are you taking and why?
Prof. Chris Abani. Because his conversations will keep me engaged all day and all night and when he wants me to shut the hell up, I can read his works and keep figuring out how I can be better. And do better.
What invention do you think would change the lives of Africans today?
Anything that would allow us to move without barriers, especially on our continent. Visa free travel is a start, but whatever makes it easy for an African to go from Jinja to Durban, Bulawayo to Port Harcourt, Gaborone to Fez without hassle, would make a huge difference in how we live and see ourselves. No African should be uncomfortable or unwelcome in any part of this continent.
Two things you’re doing when not reading or writing?
Watching tennis and figuring out how to serve better.
To what extent has African literature envisioned an African future?
As novelists describe a better Africa with cities and characters that are varied and different we can see glimpses of a bright African future. A. Igoni Barrett’s ‘BlackAss’ and the forthcoming ‘A Stranger’s Pose’ from Emmanuel Iduma come to mind. But so do the work of great non-fiction writers: Noo Saro-Wiwa, Mona Eltahawy and Sisonke Msimang.
What book do you think best captures Afrofuturism?
‘Hardly Working’ by Zukiswa Wanner. This writer pretends to take the reader on a travel journey, but what is really going on here is that the reader is left chapter after chapter pondering how to find a better way for Africa. If we look inwards – even after all our external experiences and adventures – we can find great solutions here at home.
And if I may add, anything I read from the pen of Maaza Mengiste, Imbolo Mbue, and Taiye Selasi seem to be rooted in the past but having the effect of leaving me pondering the future. Go figure.
You wake up one morning to find that you’ve grown a pair of wings. What do you do?
Try to figure out how to hide it in my clothing so as not to show off but ensure there are holes for easy access when I need to spread them and soar.
Name one book that made you think differently about the world.
‘A Return to Love’ by Marianne Williamson.
What is the most difficult part of your creative process?
Refining my ideas so they make sense to everyone who isn’t in my own head.
What’s your African dream?
I want to see an Africa where every single one of us is at home, regardless of creed, sexual orientation, marital status, albinism or lack thereof, material wealth or particular weirdness. Where all of us are valued and celebrated and all our narratives unveiled. An Africa where writers and other creative freelancers in particular get paid for their work without hassles and our biggest validations come from home, with the global North’s accolades, if, and should they come, elicit an ‘awww that’s so sweet’ sentiment only.