“I Would Change How the World Perceives Women”
– Frances Ogamba
Kanyinsola Olorunnisola: Congratulations on winning the Koffi Addo Prize for Non-fiction. Your entry was absolutely amazing. How did it feel winning? I doubt you were surprised, I mean you were nominated for both the fiction and non-fiction categories. You were the star of the event already.
Frances Ogamba: Thank you, K. I must confess that when my name was announced I wasn’t as thrilled as I was when the shortlist announcements came. Making the two shortlists was my real win, like it was quite surreal. When friends crowded around me at Kampala and asked how I felt, I was short of words. I didn’t know what to say, didn’t want to hurt their feelings. (Lol.) Yet, winning began to feel exciting only a day or two later when my name splashed across many news sites.
“In social justice, activists who rage in their small Twitter and Facebook corners, who hold up placards in the face of injustice or a need are rebels.” – Frances Ogamba
KO: So, what next for Frances Ogamba? Should I clear my shelf for the next Booker-winning novel?
FO: A collection of short stories perhaps. Almost every writer I meet wonders why I am not writing one yet. Writing a book-length story is equally appealing but I am struggling with what ideas to stretch that long. I sincerely admire people who wake up with their heads brimming full with novel ideas.
KO: What does the word “rebel” mean to you? And I mean that in two contexts: social justice and the African literary traditions.
FO: I choose to think of ‘rebel’ as the act of going against the norm, shattering boundaries and daring to spill over the lines. In social justice, activists who rage in their small Twitter and Facebook corners, who hold up placards in the face of injustice or a need are rebels.
Storytelling, as an integral chunk of the traditions in Africa, is thriving and has no fixed styles of delivery. What happens is that writers respond to contemporary times through their stories, and sometimes the literature we read from other continents influence us. But then the human mind is fluid and assumes any form when hit by a thought or an idea. This is why we have writers narrating in styles so different from what we are used to. This may be a form of rebellion. Look at Tram 83 for example, what the author did with all those characters and events, cramming that entire world into a book, replicating the noise in our heads.
KO: Who would you describe as the ultimate rebel? Why?
FO: There are many women and men who speak up against hostile customs. I don’t think of any as the ultimate rebel because all their fights are valid. But I respect people who fight from very uncomfortable corners, especially in religiously conservative societies. I revere women especially (because they bear the brunt of unjust laws) who speak up in countries like Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Iraq, South Africa, Nigeria and the other countries like these where women are placed many rungs lower than men. There is Mariam Awaisu, there is Fakhriyya Hashim, there is Alaa Salah.
KO: If you could change one thing about the world…just one thing at this exact moment, what would it be?
FO: I would change how the world perceives women.
Source: From the Rebel Issue (October 2019)