On the first day of the festival, alongside two other writers, I spent time at Lantoro High School speaking to the students about reading writing, and making a career in the arts. It was so heart-warming to talk with youths who had a genuine interest in the arts, and wanted to know how to navigate this thing they loved. I was somewhat heartbroken to hear they barely had books in their school library - a reality in various schools in Nigeria that The Book Banque works to alleviate. Oh, what a difference it would make for such children! For me, the memory of books were both an escape and inspiration in my childhood; one that I cherish. That, unlike my actual panel session, is a clear memory. For most of the session, I was anxious about talking in front of people. It felt like I was out of my body and watching myself talk. One of the other panellists, Lidudumalingani - whose Caine Prize winning story, Memories We Lost, is about a character’s experience of a loved one with Schizophrenia - talked about the need to take advocacy beyond just creating the art, and find ways to translate it for impact even at the grassroots.
There are so many things in life you can be romantic about. Writing, unfortunately, is not necessarily on the list for me. Especially when, there is a lot of wrath and a deeply ingrained culture of corruption which rids millions of a better life daily. So you can imagine how I felt listening to Prof. Soyinka when he encouraged writers to always reflect what is going on and keep one’s writing truthful and youthful. This gospel echoed that of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie at the 2015 Girls Write Now Awards where she gracefully reminds writers to “tell your story truthfully” and “forget about likability”. You see, life is honestly too short to be a shadow behind your words. Writing is such a powerful tool which has an unimaginable sphere of influence. Use it well - truthfully, and unapologetically. If you happen to be witty too, extra brownie points!