Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Interview with Sarah Ladipo Manyika

Featured in the current cycle of Exclusively Independent is In Dependence by Sarah Ladipo Manyika (Legend Press).

In Dependence is Tayo and Vanessa’s story of a brave but bittersweet love affair. It is the story of two people struggling to find themselves and each other – a story of passion and idealism, courage and betrayal, and the universal desire to fall, madly, deeply, in love.

Here is an extract from an interview Sarah had with London-based Nigerian writer Ovo Adagha for African Writing online.

How would you describe the peculiar motivations that derived it? And was it based on a biographic foundation?

I am very grateful for the attention the novel has received thus far, and intrigued to see what aspects of the novel readers find themselves drawn to. My intention was to write a story of unfulfilled love fraught with the weight of history, race and geography and intertwined with questions of belonging, aging, religious faith and family secrets. I also hoped that the novel might speak to the complexities of contemporary Africa, its Diaspora and its interdependence with the rest of the world. I was drawn to write about all of the above simply because these happened to be themes and ideas that I was thinking about at the time of writing the story.

How long did it take to write? And would you say your 'intentions' were accomplished?

It took me several years to write this novel. At the time that I began to write the novel I was looking for a really good love story set in geographical locations and historical periods that I was particularly interested in (namely West Africa from the 1960s to present day) and because I did not find that story, I ended up writing the story that I wanted to read. And so in that sense I accomplished what I intended. I wrote a novel and was lucky enough to find a publisher that wanted to publish it.

I find that there are significant issues of imperial literary history, Pan-Africanism, racism and colonialist discourse buried in the narrative. Even your characters – especially in the early stages of the book – are mired in heated discussions on these and other precocious issues. I found these discussions fascinating and in some ways I am reminded of the insurrectionary elements in Soyinka’s The Interpreters and Clark’s America, Their America. Were you perhaps striving to stimulate your readers to a higher level of awareness or is this an insightful style of delivery you are naturally drawn to?

Imperialism, Pan - Africanism, racism and colonialism are all raised in the novel because these were issues that my characters would have been discussing at the time and issues that touched them personally to one degree or another. Soyinka and J.P. Clark emerged as significant authors in the 1960s and this too is why a reader should not be surprised to find references to their works by one or more characters in the novel. I am particularly intrigued though, by your use of the word “precocious” to the extent that it’s one of the adjectives that I might use to describe Vanessa, the main female character in this novel. I find myself increasingly drawn to women characters that do not conform to what society expects. “Insurrectionary,” perhaps?

To continue reading this interview click here


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