What does Ake Festival 2019 theme ‘Black Bodies, Grey Matter’ mean to you?
For me, it represents the black body and its mental health as foremost and relevant. A description that, sadly, seems radical even though the year is 2019.
Which African or Diasporan novel do you think best explores the Black Body?
Yaa Gyasi’s ‘Homegoing’ (I know, I know).
You are asked to write an African femme fatale as an alien. What physical attributes would she have?
An Afro, eyes wide and round and glassy, a ring sitting pretty on the nose, tattoos on both sides of the face.
What book would you give to a dark-skinned young woman who has expressed an intent to buy bleaching cream?
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s ‘Americanah’.
Does the African writer have a specific role to play in the current world order?
A duty to the self, yes. I believe the writer is first an ethical person, and if that’s the case, a duty to the self would invariably serve a larger purpose in the current world order.
Which person do you think best represents an African perspective in the ongoing discourse on gender?
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.
You’re giving a talk at a symposium on mental health, which African novels will you reference?
Bassey Ikpi’s ‘I’m Telling the Truth but I’m Lying’ (not exactly a novel, but very relevant).
Name a character from an African novel that you could rewrite as a different gender, and why.
None that I can think of right now.
What two things should every teenager understand about mental health?
(a) There is no shame in mental illness.
(b) Self-care is the most important thing in the world.
What is your vision for the Black Body?
Free and shameless.