How To Be An African Writer

First off, don’t live in Africa or in your country, in my case Nigeria, but perhaps you can live in Lagos; the less preferable but acceptable option, if you wish to get published that is. Claim to love Africa—no, actually love Africa—even though you might know nothing of who Africa is. If we were to test that idea (the idea of you knowing nothing of the woman you say you love), I would ask you some questions about her, like, how many countries does she hold in her belly? Who is she; what makes her her? Now that I have mentioned that, I have to add that despite your relentless affection for the-Africa-you-do-not-quite-know, you must also despise Africa for the idiosyncrasies that make her Africa, for example, our rigid regard for certain things and certain ways and blah blah blah. You must find all of those “certain things” profoundly annoying and you must grow philosophical with your annoyance, deeply so. You must also speak with a certain intonation to defend your Africaness and while you are writing be sure to add native vernacular—relevant or not—to your work to prove your Africanness. Wear African prints as caps (most necessary), shorts, crop tops, blazers (they can also go as underwear, I think, if you are into that sort of thing) on the regular. Adore certain people, worship certain prizes, be interested in certain topics and while we are in the subject of topics, I might as well tell you now that you are required to bear the role of sex advocate, sex publicist and sex educator and of course, by sex I do not mean gender.

Be on Twitter or Facebook. Tweet. Or write paragraphs. A lot. Or perhaps the better word is “rant”. You must learn to rant. Listen to a certain blend of music by certain musicians. Attend book and art festivals and fairs where you will be swamped by an unceasing number of books written by people who have brown skin majorly, because these are the kind of books that will help make your writing African. The words in them will show you the way while their authors sip a bottle of beer, could be water or apple juice as well, at a bar in San Diego or Chicago, or perhaps New York and perhaps not sipping beer or water or apple juice at all. Maybe holidaying in the Caribbean. It doesn’t matter, these are your teachers, listen to them. And after, you sit and you write. Ignore African non-fiction, there isn’t much there—what’s journalism in Africa anyway?

But perhaps, say, you wanted to be something wild, out of the ordinary, bursting from the sky like a rock from space—live here. By here, I mean Africa and I don’t mean VI or Lekki or Abuja (not to say your experiences as a resident of those places are invalid but aren’t those areas already overrepresented in the stories we read? And you claim to be showcasing Africa to those who can’t see her, and as such, shouldn’t you also see her, whole, in inclusions of her scars and stretch marks?). Move to a less metropolitan area; Ilesha, Ado-Ekiti, Ogbomosho, there are hundred more local towns of the sort in Nigeria alone, not to speak of the entire continent. Breathe our air, see if you can stand it, see if the Africa you wear as a badge on your chest cares for you as intimately, or shall I say as superficially? And of course you will leave, after a year or two or three or ten. You will leave; they always do. And I will not blame you neither will anyone, afterall, all you want to be is an African writer, not a sexy fiery rock bursting from the sky with a force like forgetting.

But then again, what do I know about being a writer or being African and consequently being a conscious blend of both? I would, if I were you, not listen to me.

Spread the love

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *