Author Irenosen Okojie arrived in the United Kingdom at the age of eight. He hails from Nigeria (Benin), and since then, black voices have ceased to be an exception in British lyrics, but Okoji feels there is still a certain limitation when it comes to the type of stories and characters. Yes, immigrant novels are essential, but he misses the variety of themes: science fiction, detectives, or adventures written or starring blacks.
Okoji is a famous writer, winner Caine Prize for African Writers in 2020, and a Member of the Order of the British Empire for services to literature. Use the now captured space to unlock others. He addresses what he calls “the richness of blackness” through his work, but as director and founder of Black to the Future, London Afrofuturist Festival It unites black creators until February around science fiction, a traditionally white and very diverse genre.
During a lively conversation at London’s British Library, one of the festival’s venues, Okoji, who did not want to reveal her age, talks about literature and what it means to be a black writer in a European country. Not learning to meet expectations of women. Their reference is older women who say what they feel because they have nothing to lose. “There is something beautiful about the last phase of a woman’s life. It is truly amazing and enlightening. They are models. “I’m not quite there yet, but I’m working on it,” he laughs.
listen Black female characters are central to her literature, as in her award-winning story, Grace Jones. Because?
Answer First, I am interested in showing the complexity of black characters because I am a black woman and because they are not usually represented in all dimensions as human beings in literature. I want to break those boundaries and alert people to the breadth of blackness. It’s the doctor, the scientist, the skier, the gravedigger.
K. You’ve said that more is required of black artists. How much influence has the Black Lives Matter movement had on the arts?
Answer: It is sad that the police felt the need to kill a black man in order for us to be humane. Even so, there is still a long way to go and black people are subject to even greater demands. For women it is a double burden: femininity and blackness. That’s what we call it A misogynist, the intersection between misogyny and racism. When you travel the world in a black body, you are well aware of the obstacles and the gaze that weighs upon you. For example, if I walk into an all-white space, I’ll be especially alert because I’m being scrutinized so intensely, as if I can do no wrong. You think about how you will be perceived, how you will behave and how it will affect your relationship with that person, and it controls you. Also, being an angry woman is not being an angry man. If you’re an angry black woman, you’re seen as some kind of horrible person.
K. Women are said to be empathetic, but the daily practice of anticipating how the other person you talk to is going to feel about us is forgotten.
A. When we arrive at a place, we have already guessed how others will react. Even though you fight with yourself, you adapt because you know you don’t want to adapt. You need to learn that model, speak your mind and put yourself first as a woman. Don’t care if you look like a horrible creature. It is liberating, but it takes courage. I think we put a lot of people before us. That’s why I love older women, because they’ve reached the point where they don’t care about anything. For example, my grandmother.
K. In Spain we say they don’t have filters anymore.
A. Exactly. They have lived their lives, they have experienced everything, and they owe nothing to anyone. They have nothing to prove, and seeing that is incredibly liberating. I think there’s something beautiful about the last stage of a woman’s life, and it’s really amazing and enlightening. They are models. I’m not quite there yet, but I’m getting there. People don’t understand what it takes to do that, it takes a lifetime.
B. In The New York Times Wrote years ago Meghan Markle’s accession to the British monarchy marks the beginning of a new interracial era. The pair are now accusing Buckingham of racism. Is it all an illusion?
R. [Markle] All she did was marry the man she loved, but the British press dragged her through the mud. I think it has to do with what I said earlier that when you’re black or mixed race, you can’t do wrong. To this day no one has been able to explain to me what she did that was so despicably cruel. This story speaks to a weak point and it is partly racism and misogyny. It’s all about not seeing humanity, seeing suffering and not caring. We all thought, oh, this is a new era … I still believe their marriage was serious and a shock to the monarchy. He is married to a mixed race woman and has mixed race children. England would accept it if it was smart.
K. You started and directed the Afrofuturist festival. Is science fiction the great unfinished business of diversity in the arts?
A. I’m very excited about this project, having worked with black artists for years, giving them space to show the breadth of black art in film, literature… The mother of all of these is Octavia Butler, one of the most incredible science fiction writers. He was writing in the 1970s and was incredibly pioneering. He predicted a Trumpian presidency and climate change. Later musicians like Sun Ra also paved the way. But the arrival marked a change Black Panther
K. There are those who feel that such commercial films distort the real message.
R. Black Panther Break barriers. All the audience went to see the film. Fiction has always been very white. It was a global phenomenon and I think it really opened up the space.
K. What has changed?
A. Now I can do this ceremony, but eight years ago I could not have done it. People have seen how enriching it is for all audiences, not just black audiences.
K. You talk about the pressure to adapt the work to a white audience.
A. Sometimes you need to simplify aspects of yourself to fit into a space. Sometimes there are things you have to be silent about, it’s hard like not talking about racism because people are going to feel uncomfortable. You often think: What battle do I want to do today? Should I fight or rest? When you need to appeal to a wider audience, sometimes those hard edges disappear, hiding anything that might be considered uncomfortable.
K. It is a very positive time for new voices to be heard, at least here in the UK. Will it last?
A. The windows open, but we don’t know if they close. I’ve had some critical acclaim and I’ve had some influence, so I’ve got to do it.