As a self-proclaimed lover of arts and stories; I have never been a ferocious reader. I love books though and I worship literature. But I have always been selective about the books I read.
Growing up, I loved reading Harlequin,silhouette and James Hadley Chase novels when I had the chance.
I also loved reading African literature as a kid; most especially the Lantern Books – they were my favourite. I loved the way their words were easily written for children and young readers to comprehend and I would always wish I was good with words like that. But I loved writing stories more than reading novels.
As a teenager, I enjoyed watching foreign movies and books; getting lost in the world of young American teenagers acting like teenagers. The manner at which the books were written or the movies were acted, I enjoyed it all and with time I began to place myself in that vague and imaginary world; wishing I was born into that world.
So I began to write stories about that world. The first two books I wrote were not decidedly with an African setting; fictional towns that weren’t remotely described with an African setting.
I was producing from my head the things that I had imagined. I would often try to switch the plots and characters to a Nigerian setting but I’d get bored and would eventually give up.
Eventually, I distanced myself from everything; reading and writing.
Fast forward to the point in my life when I came in terms with my passion. I knew something wasn’t right, it was like a black hole sucking out happiness from me. I had to find myself. So in the path of rediscovering myself, I resumed writing. I couldn’t believe how much it worked and I was in time getting some sort of healing.
I developed my first ebook, ABATE and I decided I could balance the two sides that I loved both the foreign and the African stories into one single story.
I decided I didn’t want to just write about Africans only, since I am a product of both African and Western cultures.
So I incorporated a novel with a blend of African and western characters. My heart was in the story and I continued with it.
Many people told me it was good but it would be better if all the characters were white people, that way people would “understand” them.
Now, this amused me because I knew what exactly I wanted my novel to be. I wanted to be known as an African writer who could blend both African and western cultures together.
I really wanted to be recognised as the modern African writer that could write about the behavior of young adults and teenagers in Africa because I feel many novels aren’t doing justice to that.
There are a lot of good and brilliant Africa novels that we’re mostly based on the war because the writers were born during that era; the early post -independence era and pre-independence eras and they wrote stories about that era.
I want to create this new era of the 21st century. The new African age where young adults use Google to solve most of their assignments; where they listen to the modern afro-pop and foreign popular music; where they understand what popular culture means and where the young adults believe in creating a new identity for themselves as the future generations of the continent.
Now, those (both home and diaspora) who are familiar with the common stories that describe how Nigerians, Africans in whole, are supposed to be; the dark skin, the overzealous interest and commitment to shallow issues, the diseases, the corruption. When they read about the modern contemporary African literature, they believe they are unrealistic because the stories don’t conform with the patterns they are used to.
This is because they have already stereotyped the way literature from each parts of the world is supposed to appear. The American novels have parallel difference from the African novels. So are the novels written by Indians and by the Latin-Americans.
But who says we can’t balance both? Who says there can’t be multiple cultures in a single story? Who says we can’t view this modern literatures as a forward movement for the literary world.
Everything is changing. Teenagers are changing everyday. Many parents don’t understand their kids because the kids are caught on between adjusting to their native culture and adapting to the modern popular culture.
I will end this by saying we do not need to stereotype the world of African literature. Instead, we need to embrace change and embrace the upcoming writers. Understand that they are writing about the world they grew up in.
History is very vital to every culture. However we were born into The Africa that we understand. The Africa after the colonial era, after the military era, the Africa under the democratic era, the Africa that combine two or more languages in one sentence.
Further reading-A piece written by the Nigerian Novelist, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – THE DANGER OF A SINGLE STORY. (TEDx talk).
Comments and likes are encouraged.
(Photo credit no1&3- instagram user; @kelechiamadiobi.
Photo credit 2 – instagram user; @Emmanueloyeleke)