Interview with British-Nigerian Writer, Adura Ojo

Photo Credit: Adura Ojo

Photo Credit: Adura Ojo

Brief Biography:

Adura Ojo is an author, poet, blogger and a mother of two. She is the author of Life is a Woman Breaking Eggs, her debut poetry collection. She loves observing the world around her and teasing the voices within. In previous lives she was a graduate of English, Law and Social Work – not all at the same time. She also enjoyed work – as a lecturer, trainer and mental health practitioner. Her work has been published in Sentinel Champions, Sentinel Nigeria, The Poetic Pinup Revue, and a number of websites. She lives in the UK where she is currently working on her debut novel and a second poetry collection.

Geosi Gyasi: You’ve been blogging for some time now? What circumstance(s) led you to become a blogger?

Adura Ojo: I’ve been blogging for six years. I used to visit the Nigerian Village Square, a well- known Nigerian online forum. I read blogs and became fascinated with them.

Geosi Gyasi: How much of the blogging experience do you bring to your writing?

Adura Ojo: I blog spontaneously. Most of my poems are written the same way in less than thirty minutes. Though editing can take longer.

Geosi Gyasi: Do you think blogging has a place in modern world? And what mostly fascinates you about blogging?

Adura Ojo: We can’t always say all we want to say in 140 characters and any video on that popular website loses viewers quickly if it’s more than five minutes long. Blogging has a place. It would become more commercialised. That’s already happening. Almost anyone can just start a blog. I like that.

Geosi Gyasi: You blog from two places – thus – Life is a Woman and Naijalines. Could you tell me a bit about the two blogs?

Adura Ojo: ‘Naijalines’ is my personal blog where I write about anything that takes my fancy. ‘Life is a Woman’ (taken from the title of my book) is my writing blog. I share poetry and prose pieces and take part in writing challenges.

Geosi Gyasi: Do you mind sharing about motherhood and writing?

Adura Ojo: Motherhood is a privilege as well as a challenge. I enjoy both aspects. As a writer you need lots of alone time…I do. As a mother you cannot have lots of alone time…my eight year old daughter says so. When my son was growing up, (he’s in his early twenties now) I was a full time practising mental health professional. It seemed more straightforward. I had more energy then.

Geosi Gyasi: You are a graduate of English, Law and Social work? I am wondering if you could share that bit on your study of Law?  Have you abandoned it totally?

Adura Ojo: I read Law in the UK and graduated with honours. Right from my first year, I knew there was a possibility I would not want to go to law school. There were a few reasons for my decision. I don’t regret it. I wouldn’t say I’ve abandoned it; at least I haven’t abandoned the purpose for the law degree. I am an advocate of social causes rather than the law. That’s why I did a Masters in Social Work. My main interests are women and mental health. I get involved in selected projects that deal with these issues. These two issues also feature prominently in my poetry.

Geosi Gyasi: You were born in London and brought up in Nigeria? What memories do you have about your birth in London and your upbringing in Nigeria?

Adura Ojo: I can’t recall much about my early years in London. I was three when we moved to Nigeria. I can recall smells though. I have almost an allergic reaction to celery and suspect it’s to do with a childhood incident in the UK, possibly outside of my home. I have a lot of memories growing up in Nigeria. The first poem: “Happy Lizards” in ‘Life is a Woman Breaking Eggs’ is a reflection on those childhood years in Nigeria.

Available on Amazon

Available on Amazon

Geosi Gyasi: Having lived in the United Kingdom since your early twenties, do you feel more British than Nigerian?

Adura Ojo: I am both British and Nigerian. A Nigerian would describe me as ‘Britico’ and a British person would describe me as Nigerian. ‘The immigrant experience’ which I allude to in my book further complicates matters. I was born British. Socio-politically in the UK, I’m still seen as an ‘immigrant’ on British soil. Being Nigerian is central to my identity as much as the UK is my home.

Geosi Gyasi: What flaws, in your opinion, does the British society have over the Nigerian or vice-versa?

Adura Ojo: No culture is perfect. Cultures are complex. One culture does not have an upper hand over the other as far as these two are concerned. They are just different.

Geosi Gyasi: How often do you return to Nigeria?

Adura Ojo: I was in Nigeria twice last year. I hope to be there later this year.

Geosi Gyasi: Have you been following the literary landscape in Nigeria?

Adura Ojo: I have to a certain extent. It’s vibrant at the moment with many young writers coming up. We’ll see how it develops.

Geosi Gyasi: Which writers among your contemporaries do you most admire?

Adura Ojo: Jude Dibia. I wouldn’t describe him as ‘my contemporary.’ He has three novels to his credit. Dibia has that ability to get into the mind of his characters and do it in a subtle, yet effective way.  For poetry, I love Somali poet Warsan Shire’s work. Her work is hauntingly beautiful.

Geosi Gyasi: At what point in life did you stumble on the art of poetry?

Adura Ojo: I studied English at the University of Ibadan in Nigeria. We read a lot of English and African poets: Keats, Donne, Okigbo, Clark, Soyinka, Okot p’Bitek, Wordsworth, Shakespeare, Pope, Milton and Shelley among others. My first poem was to my then boyfriend around this time. I was actually 17 though we first met when I was 16.  The poem I wrote expressed thoughts I did not feel safe expressing anywhere else. Poetry seems a medium I’ve adopted for expressing thoughts I do not feel able to express elsewhere. I did not write another poem until 2009. Thinking of it now, that was when I was ready and it all started to come out.

Geosi Gyasi: Your debut poetry collection, “Life is a Woman Breaking Eggs?” was recently published. What struck me about the book was the cover. Who designed the book cover? Did you have a hand in influencing the cover design?

Adura Ojo: Writer, Kiru Taye designed the cover. She did a fantastic job. I was clear in my own mind as to what I wanted. Describing it to someone else was not easy. I suck at sketches. After Kiru did a couple of draft images, I summed up the image in my mind as ‘a woman in a flowing robe, with attitude.’ Barely 24 hours later, Kiru sent this cover. It was as if she took a picture of the image in my mind’s eye.

Geosi Gyasi: Beyond the book cover are a number of poems that celebrate feminism? Are you often biased towards women?

Adura Ojo: Geosi, I don’t know what you mean by ‘biased towards women.’ I am a woman who is proud of my womanhood. I love to celebrate that with women and men alike. There are three sections in the book. The first two sections look at the human condition as a general landscape. The last section is perhaps the one that best meets your description, ‘celebrating feminism’ and womanhood. Besides that, there are a host of poems that look at different spheres of the human experience: identity, race, the diasporan experience, poverty, terrorism and poor leadership. Poems such as: “The Museum”, “Say My Name”, “Eggs Crack Easy”, “Nagging Area”, “This Land”, “French” and “Zebra Crossing” deal with some of these issues.

Geosi Gyasi: Could you give us a glimpse of what book you intend to write next? Would it be another poetry collection or fiction or non-fiction?

Adura Ojo: I have a novel that is 75% finished. It is about a young man and an older woman. I’m also working on my second poetry collection which promises to be of lighter subject matter than the first. I would like to think that the novel would be next one out. I could be wrong.

Geosi Gyasi: Could you comment on these lines from your poem, “A Woman Knows Her Place”: A woman knows her place/and how to get there.

Adura Ojo: I am surprised that you homed in on those lines. I was not sure that readers would get it. There were prevalent attitudes towards women and also emotional blackmail that one was exposed to, growing up within a patriarchal culture in Nigeria. It was not part of the experience in my own family but it was very much a part of the society I grew up in. The saying: “A woman must know her place”, we often think we’ve come a long way from that sort of thinking but it is still evident in people’s attitudes. My own approach is to twist that statement on its head. Yes, a woman knows her place. Not only does she know her place, she most certainly knows how to get there. It is empowering for women to define where that ‘place’ is.

END.

Follow Adura Ojo:

‘Like’ her author page: https://www.facebook.com/aduraojoauthor

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/aduraojo

Twitter: https://twitter.com/AduraOjo

Blogger: http://adura-ojo.blogspot.co.uk/

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One Response to Interview with British-Nigerian Writer, Adura Ojo

  1. Adura Ojo says:

    Thanks for the interview, Geosi. Looking forward to later offerings from your stable.

    Like

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