What does Ake Festival 2019 theme ‘Black Bodies, Grey Matter’ mean to you?
It means that we’re taking a renewed look at ourselves, our challenges, our frailties, and our hopes and possibilities.
Which African or Diasporan novel do you think best explores the Black Body?
Nonfiction, mostly. ‘The Fire Next Time’ by James Baldwin, ‘Every Day is for the Thief’ by Tẹ́jú Cole, ‘We Were Eight Years in Power’ by Ta-Nehisi Coates, ‘Dreams from my Father’ by Barack Obama.
You are asked to write an African femme fatale as an alien. What physical attributes would she have?
She speaks all African languages. But you said, “physical”. Hmm. Our women already have all the right physical attributes jọ̀ọ́.
What book would you give to a dark-skinned young woman who has expressed an intent to buy bleaching cream?
‘Becoming’ by Michelle Obama.
Does the African writer have a specific role to play in the current world order?
Yes. Documenting our realities, in fiction, nonfiction, technology, film, music, and in any other way not yet invented.
Which person do you think best represents an African perspective in the ongoing discourse on gender?
Caster Semenya, Serena Williams, Chimamanda Adichie, Lọlá Shónẹ́yìn, Akwaeke Emezi, Michelle Obama, Yẹ́misí Aríbisálà…
You’re giving a talk at a symposium on mental health, which African novels will you reference?
‘Freshwater’ by Akwaeke Emezi and Bassey Ikpi’s (memoir) ‘I’m Telling the Truth but I’m Lying.’
Name a character from an African novel that you could rewrite as a different gender, and why.
Ifemelu in ‘Americanah.’ Would be interesting to see if she, as a man, would make different choices. My guess is that she’d make the same choices, but with different justifications.
What two things should every teenager understand about mental health?
That they’re not alone.
What is your vision for the Black Body?
That it thrives, in all dimensions.