Award-winning Abubakar A. Ibrahim on winning Africa’s biggest literary prize

Abubakar Adam Ibrahim may be the richest award-­winning author in Nigeria right now. He’s not just a  writer and journalist but a 2013 Gabriel Garcia Marquez Fellow, 2015 Civitella Ranieri Fellow, Africa39 Laureate, and recently was at the 35th Sharjahh International Book Fair, Dubai, UAE to talk about his debut novel, Seasons of Crimson Blossoms. Ijeoma and Bamunos reached out to him recently after winning the NLNG Nigeria Prize which going by what we know of him will not change this quiet, unassuming journalist and writer so much. Enjoy.

aai-jilljenning

 

  1. We only hear so much the writing career of Abubakar Adam Ibrahim. We are curious, as we are sure other fans of your work are, who the other A.A. Ibrahim is on a typical day. Care to let us in.

Writing is me and I am writing. The other me that there is is a very private person with a very private life. Perhaps someday there will be a reveal. But that day is not today.

       2. Congratulations again on your recent win of the 2016 NLNG Prize for Literature.

Thank you very much. It is exciting that Season of Crimson Blossoms won this prize.

       3. 2016 has been a huge year of recognition for African and Nigerian writers especially you. Its almost like a Pandora’s box of successive wins from being the recipient of the 2016 Goethe-Institut & Sylt Foundation African Writer’s Residency Award which you will take up at the Sylt Foundation´s headquarters in 2017 to being recently announced as the chair, Etisalat 2016 Flash fiction prize along with Ndinda Kioko, Odafe Atogun, and Tendai Huchu. Can you please share more about this.

 It has been an exciting year for African literature in general. A lot of amazing books were published by writers on the continent that have titillated our senses all year long. Cassava Republic set up in the UK, pushing the frontier of the African literary renaissance unto the world platform. So yes, it has been an exciting year for literature on the continent.

I have been fortunate this year too and it is a good feeling to get all these validation for one’s work. It is a validation for all the people who believed in my work and supported me. At least it shows they are not completely nuts. I am looking forward to judging the Etisalat Flash Fiction prize alongside some incredibly talented writers from across the continent and I am sure we are going to have a lot of fun reading all the stories and deliberating over them.

    4. Have you always known you wanted to write?

I have always known, at least ever since I was a teenager. And this knowledge has helped me make decisions that have helped me arrive at this point in my life.

I remember I use to clutter the house with pieces of paper in which I wrote fragments of stories and sometimes poetry, just random ideas that occurred to me. I was always reluctant to throw away these scraps of papers. Thank God for computers others my living space would have been an unsightly clutter of papers and books. I am fortunate to have parents who didn’t kill the dream I had of being a writer and letting me carry on doing what I enjoy doing.

  1. Growing up in Kano, I can certainly relate to Hajiya Binta Zubairu’s character in Season of Crimson Blossoms. Is she fictional or there’s a real-life version of her?

From the top of her veil to the sole of her feet, Hajiya Binta Zubairu is fictional. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t women like her who have been living their lives according to the dictates of the society, who have been conditioned to dedicate their lives to the service of others, be it their children, their husbands or parents. There are, I imagine, many women like her because our society is brutal in its prescription of the way of life certain people are expected to lead.

    6. A couple of the stories in The Whispering Trees, and recently your book, Season of Crimson Blossoms seems to talk about love, social issues and spirituality. Would you consider delving into a different genre like a thriller set in the North, perhaps?

 Hmm. I don’t want the thriller writers to accuse me of encroachment, make me a character in their books and give me a horrible death. So I will just let them carry on writing thrillers while I do what I enjoy doing the most. I may have had an idea or two, but maybe for now I will stick to literary fiction.

   7. Do you think the story of the Jos crisis has been well told by writers in Nigeria, thus far?

I can’t say if it has been very well told because that is a matter of taste. I just feel that perhaps the story hasn’t been told enough. What happened in Jos happened for a long time, over a period of a decade. It is significant because it reshaped the social geography of the state and changed the way a whole people live not to mention the legacy of horror that it has imprinted in many hearts and lives. I have been mostly disenchanted by the narratives of the Jos crisis because most of them are driven by the petty sentiments that manifested during and after the violence. Many of these writers were competing with the newspapers for topicality, to echo the killings and destruction without giving it an objective and critical context and so we have mostly had skewed narratives on the madness. But it is something I imagine people will write about for years to come and there will be varying narratives and perspectives that will emerge.

 

8. Habiba Malumfashi on Brittle Paper gave a glowingly beautiful list of things she loves about Season of Crimson Blossoms. Will that have a huge impact on your follow-up, if any?

 

Well, it is delightful that most of the reviews about the book have been really, really positive but I don’t let that get to my head. I am very self-critical when it comes to my writing and I always look to improve my craft.

9. You and the panel of judges for the Etisalat 2016 Flash Fiction prize have your work cut out for you. What will you be looking out for in the stories entered for the prize?

 

The number one consideration will be merit. We will be looking out for the most deserving story, the most compelling one. Flash fiction is a tricky business. Because it is a very short narrative it has to have verve and pack a punch and it should be original. I think most writers of Flash fiction are often desperate to pack in all this elements and end up sacrificing the art. But it is an exciting challenge and I look forward to it.

10. We are huge fans of your work. Thank you for taking time out for this interview.

Glad to hear that. Thank you for taking the time to ask me these questions.

Author Image: Jill Jennings

 

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