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?
The first thing I see is a pair of massive statues, cloaked in flowing stone robes, staring at each other. They are two literary titans, heroes mythologised for the impact they have had on the world in the name of their Nigerian heritage. Chinua Achebe and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie smile at each other over Lagos, so tall and so regal they can be seen all the way from the airport. The city hums with life beneath and around them, a city barely a quarter of an hour away due to the high-speed rail network that winds through it. They are glowing in the sun.
You’ve been selected for a mission to the moon. Which African author are you taking and why?
Uzodinma Iweala. So that we can joke about how we fulfilled our parents’ wishes by getting advanced degrees, but are now writers, much to their continued chagrin.
What invention do you think would change the lives of Africans today?
An avid user of public transportation, a continental high-speed rail network would change the face of Africa. If what exists in Japan today could be exported to the African continent, it would allow for such unfettered movement of goods and people that it boggles the mind and taxes the imagination.
Two things you’re doing when not reading or writing?
Catching up on TV and sleeping.
To what extent has African literature envisioned an African future?
In centering Africans, a massive and monumental shift is being made. For so long, the stories about Africa and Africans centered colonialism. Even in post-colonial stories, there was always a way for the Global West to see itself. But the future is decolonised. It involves shrugging off laws and oppressive structures and traditions bludgeoned into being during the colonial era. It involves recognising the individuality of specific African nations as well as the diversity of tribes within them. To speak of Africans specifically and entirely is to envision an African future. The African future is us.
What book do you think best captures Afrofuturism?
Octavia Butler’s ‘Kindred’. Afrofuturism, having morphed into something far beyond its American origin, always seems to contain in it (at least, thus far) a grain of the imperative to grapple with the past. As forward-looking as it is, it is also very Janus-faced. The past is unavoidable. And I think this is one of the biggest imperatives in Afrofuturism.
You wake up one morning to find that you’ve grown a pair of wings. What do you do?
I fly to my father’s village to see once again where he is buried and to pay my respects.
Name one book that made you think differently about the world.
Kamel Daoud’s ‘Meursault Contre-Enquete’ (The Meursault Investigation) showed me in extraordinary fashion what it can mean to center the perspective of the colonised and to attack the coloniser using the coloniser’s weapons.
What is the most difficult part of your creative process?
Resting. I am haunted by the drive to produce, produce, produce. It is an ongoing process, learning that sometimes the best thing I can do to a story is wait for it.
What is your African dream?
A space station. Many space stations, indicators of Africa’s status as a leader in interstellar travel and commerce.