Interview with Nigerian author Dr. Kennedy Obohwemu
By Stacy Wood (Editor, First Edition Design Publishing, Florida, USA)
Opening your novel, you give a short background of Nigeria’s more recent pop culture history. Can you explain how this creates a sense of relevance for readers?
Nigeria is a country with rich cultural heritage. There are over 520 languages and over 250 dialects and ethnic groups. My novel portrays that uniqueness. It was my intention to let readers know the origins of the major characters. The opening pages give readers a taste of what is to come.
In your Prologue, you explain that Nigerian writers have “a longing to make a difference in their immediate environment and beyond.” This statement sounds quite close to Chinua Achebe’s purposefulness in writing Things Fall Apart. Could you share the “difference” your novel attempts to make with readers? Is your purpose much the same as Achebe’s, a work that exposes the cultural significance of Nigeria through storytelling?
It is every writer’s dream to carve his name indelibly upon imperishable marbles. Like Chinua Achebe, Nigerian writers have an unshakable resolve to leave a lasting impression. It’s up to the writer to harness the resources at his disposal. Writers share the same basic characteristics. But our styles may differ. Mine is a delicate blend of poetry and prose. I believe in the power of expression which poetry affords every soul. Poetry adds fluidity to prose. When you read my novelTwisted, you’ll see poetry in motion.
You are a trained medical doctor with many accolades. What made you want to write fiction? Are there other forms of writing you are also interested in, such as medical research?
I don’t want to see myself as a doctor who happens to be a writer. I started writing long before graduation from medical school. Writing is like a sport to me, and I love the game to no end. My writing skills will prove invaluable in my medical career, because I love medical research. I see myself doing a lot of that!
African literature as a whole seems to possess a certain uniqueness in its organization of ideas and its execution of how a plot rises and falls; your novel showcases this ability as well. Does this pattern of development in writing stem from oral stories or does the patterning come through traditional education?
Every writer is unique in his own way. I like to see writing as a gift. It’s a passion that you cannot repress. How you express it ultimately depends on you. You may want to attribute a particular pattern of development in African stories. This may be partly due to our common battles. There are numerous internal challenges, and most dreams are never realized. The only way we can turn our defeats into victories, our fears into strengths, our shame into pride, are through our stories.
Mofe, the distinguished writer in your novel, was raised in Los Angeles. Why did you choose to develop this character as someone born and educated outside of Nigeria?
The 2003 research (that Nigerians are “the happiest people in the world”) was crucial. Reports were conflicting. Two separate international studies were in favour of the notion, and two other were against the notion. Are Nigerians the happiest people in the world? Are we the saddest? I tried to incorporate this debate in my novel, using real life experiences. To express a candid, unbiased opinion, I needed a “foreign presence.” Mofe lived all his life abroad. He was the “foreigner” who came into the scene to “find out things” for himself.
Read the concluding part of this exclusive interview here: http://www.mobiusauthor.com/KennedyObohwemu.html