in Issues

Friday 5 January 2024


A photo of Roseline at LOATAD

Time by itself means nothing, no matter how fast it moves, unless we give it something to carry for us; something we value... ~ Ama Ata Aidoo

  1. I think of my residency at The Library Of Africa And The African Diaspora (LOATAD) in terms of time, possibility and perfect chance. I think of it as divine clocking; one  that has ticked its way into changing my life, literally. Time started doing its thing when I submitted my LOATAD application less than 10 minutes to the deadline. Life had made me forget the timeline after the open call. I only realized the deadline had reached when a writer friend asked if I had already sent in my application. 

  1. I tried to get into LOATAD in 2022 and was unsuccessful. So on this second try, I sat in my parents home panicking and considering not submitting because I could not possibly craft a worthy application in less than 24 hours. I say to everyone who has asked me how I got into LOATAD that God whispered an ingenious idea to me in the middle of my finicky and I ran with it in doubt and pleading faith. Typing as fast as my fingers could manage.

  1. In my letter of motivation, I write, “I  need time and space away from the noise, demand and familiarity of home to give my writing a new chance.” and I mean it. The year had been tough and I could not, as I had done in the past, mine this toughness into my writing. Everything around me had a stifling sameness and I wanted to do a new thing with my writing. I knew LOATAD; this brimming hub of books, culture, history and sheer African possibility was going to offer me this newness. You can imagine my animation when I refreshed my email on a hot Friday morning to see “Congratulations on your successful 2023 WAW Residency application!”  That I did not open that email immediately but instead ran out of my room, fell to the floor and screamed the whole building down for about 10 straight minutes is a gross understatement. 

    Writer in Residence at LOATAD

  1. When I collected myself, I told everyone who mattered to me that the stunningly unthinkable had happened. That my writing, this thing I often wonder if I really know how to do is taking me out of my home country for the very first time.

  1. Sometimes all a writer needs is a chance. LOATAD gave me this chance. LOATAD is the reason I entered an airplane and saw the clouds up close for the first time in my life. The reason I lived in a new country, met new people, read new books and ate new food for a whole month. LOATAD is the reason I am now bold enough to write essays about my environment and self in the most distinct way possible. 

    A picture of an Airplane in the blue skies

  1. My residency started the moment I landed in Kotoka International Airport, Accra. James, a very kind and thoughtful driver was sent to pick me up from the airport. In the minutes he drove me to LOATAD we talked about the people, air, politics, education and diversity in both our countries. I asked questions about Ghana and he answered in an effusively calm and honest tone, delivering both criticism and patriotism in a way that influenced me to try and do the same. In that car ride I learnt that Ghana was more than this unitary systemized nation we were taught about in secondary school government classes - that it was in fact an ethnically diverse country with a radical political drive and a thriving culture. 

  1. The first person I saw when I arrived at LOATAD was Seth Avusuglo, Head of LOATAD Physical, a.k.a our residency manager, the one who had given us an orientation via zoom, the one who made sure my trip from Ebonyi, Nigeria to Accra, Ghana was seamless. 

  1. Seth showed me to my room and told me that Amanda Thomson from the just concluded Here and Now Writing Residency programme stayed in this room, that it was from here she wrote about birds and nature and everything in between, that it will be from this room that I would do the same with my writing. I think intention informs the finest kinds of writing. I would even argue that it produces the best kind. Seth understood my writing intentions enough to put me in a room that established precedent for this new idea I was exploring. I will always remember this with fondness and gratitude.

Window view at LOATAD

  1. I sat in that room, prayed for some minutes and went down to eat dinner with my fellow residents. I might need to write another essay to describe the good food at LOATAD. But just know that Chef Vida did not use our stomach to play and for this I am thankful. Our first dinner together was not as awkward as I expected. Everyone was warm and eager and cool. We played card games over noodles and eggs. We laughed. We quizzed each other. We cheered. 


  1. There was the unassuming, brilliant and mind-blowingly beautiful Tahnia who had given me the warmest hug when I mentioned my flight was stressful. There was Ese, an ebony dazzle of deep witted literary charisma. Kwame who  spoke lots of Twi,  and whose Akan philosophy made him act like an ancestor. Jeff who was not part of our cohort, but whose visits became an excellent addition to it. Then there was Akumbu; LOATAD’s  publications manager, whom I consider the warmth that nudged us all into a kind of comfort. We all loosened up during the card  games and talked and talked and went to bed late. 

    Card games at LOATAD

  1. The next morning Seth gave us a tour of the Library. Everything at LOATAD means something. The posters of books, the placement of pictures, the arrangement of chairs, the organization of books, the positioning of lighting, the documentaries playing in the background etc. It was during the tour that I fully understood the efficacy of where I was, and what it would continue to mean for my future artistic endeavors. I was limitlessly surrounded by  literature and I could swim in all its glory.



  1. The best part about being surrounded by books at the residency was that I did not have to figure out what book to read all by myself. There were recommendations from Seth, who knew a ton of things about every book, word from my fellow residents about their excitement, curiosity or criticism of a book, then there were, believe it or not, whispers from the books themselves calling you and pulling you in, even as you sit or walk casually in the library. 

  1. If all LOATAD did was open its doors for us to come in and read and write it would have been more than enough but the opportunity this residency affords transcends just reading and writing. The thing is, the Library Of Africa And The African Diaspora is not just a library, it is a movement. Meaning you will discover new and powerful parts of your work here, meaning your work will take rooted and meaningful shape here, meaning you will be able to visit places of interest, and talk to people who have done and are doing transgenerational work. Meaning you will have no choice but to think of your body of work as an entity, as something capable of doing unprecedented things on the continent of Africa and beyond. We had a workshop with the renowned publisher and editor Ms Sarah Odedina about navigating the publishing industry as an African writer, it was insightful. The excitement and interest she showed when I introduced myself and my work has filled me with so much hope and great promise.

  1. I essentially went to LOATAD to write a series of vignettes on leaves. Had I not visited the Aburi Gardens and touched the trees and leaves myself, I would not have been able to write the kind of pieces I wrote. Would not have been able to make my fellow residents admit to never looking at the leaves I described the same way again. There is an inside joke about Nchuanwu leaves among us now. I packed the leaves with so much emotion, it started to mean many things. 

    Nut Meg tree, Aburi Gardens

  1. We visited the Nketia Archives of the Institute of African studies in the university of Ghana and the first thing Aunty Judith said when she saw us was “Look at all this Africanness in you!” with her bright, perfect open toothed smile. It was a brief but empowering moment. She spoke so masterfully about archiving, about the preservation of audio visual collections at Nketia archives, about the need for digitization of audio visual materials and how important it is for posterity, for heritage, for culture, for memory, for us. We talked about music and art and literature too. I left knowing that my work, everything I do, was too important to be lost, too important to not be preserved. 

    Institute of African Studies, University of Ghana

    With Judith Opoku Boateng at the J H Kwabena Nketia Archive

  1. The drive through James Town was to see people existing, living. To see monuments and buildings, to witness a history so present in the evolution of a place. The visit to Cape Coast and the Elmina Castle was to see where things happened, to understand the extent of the crime and wickedness that was slavery and to hear the gory stories of how Africans were treated by the colonial masters. I learnt that there will always be a kind of heaviness about our African history, but it's also time to be free from its aftermath.  

    Cape Coast Castle

    A portrait of a writer at Cape Coast Castle

  1. The visit to Kokrobitey institute also deserves a separate essay and if you've met Aunty Renée  you will understand why. I don't think I have met anyone who has made me so aware of sustainability, design and my environment as an African, as a woman, as a writer, as a creative, as a person, in the way that aunty Renée has. Listening to her meant understanding that real literacy is not just the ability to read and write but also the ability to read your environment, to know what nature gives you and what you are obliged to give in return. Aunty Renée made you observe your environment to know that everything you need is already here; it is on trees, on soil, in the ocean, it’s everywhere. Nothing on this earth serves only one purpose. A waste is never just waste. A trash is never just trash. A glass is not just half full or half empty; it is also an earring, a chandelier, a vase, bathroom decor, an endless possibility in the making.

    Flash cards at Kokrobitey Institute

Kokrobitey Institute Accra

The thing is, I cannot successfully describe my experience at the Kokrobitey institute to you in writing. I couldn't possibly use language to capture everything. Kokrobitey Institute needs witnessing, and like aunty
Renée said when I told her about my nature writing - a moment when she excitedly asked for pictures and videos of my artistic process and I had almost nothing to show, "You can not always depend on the written word." - a moment in which she showed me catalogs, flash cards and footage; a documentation of processes and outcomes made by her,  as well as interns, residents and workers at Kokrobitey. So I pray you meet the incredibly stylish and deeply sagacious Aunty Renée one day. I pray you get a chance to visit the Kokrobitey Institute, nobody can fully tell you, you must experience it  for yourself.

Renée Neblett with Roseline at Kokrobitey Insitute

Renée Neblett with Roseline at Kokrobitey Insitute

Renée Neblett

  1. My favorite spot at LOATAD was under the stairway. Under the warm light, where  Mbari was clearly written on the wall. Mbari being a  concept of Divine in the Igbo society popularized by Chinua Achebe. Meaning “Art as celebration," meaning to bring life back into art by bringing art into life. The Igbo girl in me adored that space.


  1. I also loved the library area opposite my room. Where the shelves are filled with books from all walks of life. That area with  grey couches and a center table was the assembly for a writing ritual. I and Tahnia, my fellow resident and now bosom friend, met there early in the mornings, talked, laughed, read, shared stories and wrote into the night. Ask Seth, his conclusion about us is that we don't sleep. 


  1. We stayed up because we could, but also because we were building what I am certain has become good ground for our powerful bodies of work. In other truth we were up to make up for procrastinating. Critique sessions are compulsory at LOATAD. You will hear about what your work has done and what it can do better. Shout out to Akumbu for moderating the sessions with so much grace and purpose.

  1. I describe our critique sessions as a gentle tearing apart and a deliberate piecing back together. To have my writing read with so much intention, care, excitement and respect has been deeply precious to me. Every week before our sessions  I am jittery because I have written a new thing and don't know what to expect, but each time I am met with honesty and constructive feedback. Critique sessions showed me how brilliant my fellow residents are and how far and deep they see. They see truly & they see beyond. It also exposed me to the stunning, important, infinite and diverse work we are doing. Gave me the privilege to be in  the midst of writers who would make their mark in this world. Every week I come as I am. Sometimes with so many words, sometimes with unfinished sentences, sometimes with scattered thoughts littered across the page, but this is how I come. I leave differently. I leave sure. I leave knowing. I leave prepared.  I leave with everything I need to move my work forward. I leave above all else, a better writer than I came.

    Critique Sessions at LOATAD

  1. I left  LOATAD inspired to pay more attention to my world. I left with a hunger to create something that will outlive me. LOATAD exists because one woman, Sylvia Arthur, woke up in 2017 and decided that African Literature mattered enough to be accessed, platformed, recognized, funded, preserved and celebrated in this way. It’s life changing. 

  1. Ama Ata Aidoo was right about time. The one Month I spent at LOATAD ran like the speed of light and I couldn't believe it was over. And although, it moved fast, it gave me something to carry, something to value. It gave me memorable movie nights and fresh palm-wine, gave me access to over 4000 books, gave me opportunities to network, gave me life long friendships, gave me the right to look at my parents and say here, look at my writing, look at all the things it's capable of and for this I will always be grateful. 

Tuesday 18 July 2023

Keep your heart safe and your writing spontaneous

Black and white photo of a black girl in Afro

If I am to be a great writer then everything I feel should be considered a gift, including the deep urge to do anything but write. So much of writing is channeling emotions, actions and inactions and pressing them into sentences. If I feel sad, it's a goldmine, if I feel joy, it's a thing to interrogate. Even my anxiety and desire to disappear is a budding exposé. It is as though writing does not allow for dormancy and aloofness of feeling. No emotion is safe with me. If I don't express it today, it will crawl into a story I am writing tomorrow or I will just be continually burdened by it. Maya Angelou must have felt this when she said,

 “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”

What I am constantly thinking about are the ways in which I must tell these stories, especially since a certain kind of readership and relevance is important to me. 

It's been months since I last wrote on this blog. I created my blog spontaneously and it is this spontaneity that has sustained it ever since. Of all the 58 posts I have written on here, only few of them were actually ‘planned.’ There is a surge before any post is written. I am not one of those writers who sit down and draft and plan, it just never works for me. Some of the best ideas I have gotten, even outside the writing space, did not come from planning and scheduling. It is usually me mindlessly scrolling on the internet or watching something till I have an aha moment that sends me to google doc or my notepad or WhatsApp( yes I text myself like myself is another person) Sometimes it's a dream. I have dreamt a poem before. I woke up and wrote it and it was fire. Sometimes it's during my Bible study or prayer time, I may be inspired to write a poem about grief because I read about empty jars in the Bible. The mention of fine fabric in the Bible may inspire a short story about warmth. I am going somewhere. 

There is a creator I recently started following on Instagram, Keyede, and I really love her content. Her video on procrastination made me wrestle with my thoughts a little bit. She spoke about the sudden 3:am resolution we have to get our lives in order after wasting valuable time doing something unimportant and how it is not sustainable.  In her words,

“ If you are honest and self aware enough, you will admit that these spontaneous intervention schemes, they don't work”

Don’t they?

She also used words like habitual and repetitive, both words I cannot fully associate with my writing process. Is my writing habitual, is it repetitive? If I am to be a successful writer should it be?

I listened to Adele talk about songwriting in an interview with Apple Music and she said,

“Whenever I have a successful writing session or it's not really a session, it always comes at a really akward point in my day. I always try and pinpoint what it is exactly that has made that song end up being finished and me thinking it's good enough to be on a record to play to people, and I always try to work out what it is so I can sort of jar it and then use it whenever I wanna write a song but I never can.” 

She goes on to talk about how her ideas come spontaneously, often in the middle of the night. Now read Adele’s words again in the context of your writing experience, replace song with story andon a record to play to people’ with ‘published in literary magazines for people to read.’  Stay with me. 

I started actively submitting my writing to lit mags & presses when my writer friend sent me a message on WhatsApp, during our writing workshop together. I had read one of my poems in the workshop and according to her the poem was so good she tried to find more of my writing online but there weren't that many pieces,  but then she found my blog and saw that I wrote a lot here. She wanted to know if I did it on purpose. If I was one of those writers who only preferred to publish their own pieces without caring about the visibility that submitting to literary magazines could bring. My answer was no. I just had not been fully indoctrinated into the world of submitting to magazines and saying "attached below are five shorts,” or  checking if my work has changed to ‘in progress’ on submittable or waiting as long as six months to get either a rejection or acceptance. We talked about it and I started actively submitting. Like crazy. Like everywhere. 

In that same interview Adele goes on to say that being an artist comes from deep within us and it is a necessity that we have to put it out. She feels as though art has become a transaction, a trade. On one hand,  I understand but on the other writers, artists and creatives must eat. Is it even possible to draw a line between passion and trade when you desire to make the passion a source of livelihood?

I confess that the reason I stopped posting on my blog as much is because I am fighting. I am debating a lot of things. When I get a writing idea, I am immediately thinking about which lit mag to submit it to, if it fits their aesthetic, if I would get an acceptance. I would observe something and want to spontaneously make a blog post about it and just remember that there is a submission guideline I read that somehow suggests my observation would be a good fit. I legit used to write full blown short stories on this blog before and it was amazing. I don’t think I can anymore. I am constantly thinking of places to submit them to, almost like I feel my stories are more credible if they are published elsewhere. The thing about being in this unhealthy headspace is that I am getting nothing done. The urgency and spontaneity that fueled  my writing has been slowed down by the desire to have a certain type of status as a writer, and this type of  desire can quickly become a bland burden because it is no longer about what I want to share out of love for my craft but what is best suitable for a world someone else has created. I  like to think my writing flows from God to me and that the flow will never stop, that I write from a place of abundance but I keep contradicting myself by rationing my writing at the expense of status and visibility. All I do these days is bookmark open calls  and watch as their deadlines come and go. I am not actively blogging or submitting to lit mags, so Adele might be onto something with all this talk about trade. 

Sometimes I wish I could jar the things that made up one great story and recycle it to make more and better stories that will grow wings and fly into the world by themselves so I don’t have to do the choosing and waiting. Leave me and my wishful thinking(insert tears)

If at this point you are waiting for me to arrive at one big teaching moment or to hear what I am doing to navigate this, I am doing nothing. Okay this is something; this spontaneous purgation of  emotion that has become this blog post is something. I am also trying to just write without thinking of a home for the work. I think it’s a big mistake writing to appease an audience. As much as writers want to be read, Writing for readership is a risky thing. Readership cannot be the only foundation for which your writing stands. It is not solid to write solely for readers who might see your work and decide to go a separate way. It is safer to write first for yourself. Let the fulfillment be innate; for you first. Like Toni Morrison so graciously put it, 

If there's a book that you want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it”  

As selfish as it sounds, let it be you first. Write whatever feels like purpose to you. Tell the stories you want to tell, stories that matter to you.

This is a note to self really. I hope to look back at this post a year from now and be proud that I had the courage to stop seeking validation and just create. And I hope this is your testimony too if you can relate to this. If you read up to this point, thank you. And as always this post was all over the place. But I hope you got the drift. Bye 

Tuesday 18 October 2022


Black girl on twists wearing a black long sleeve shirt

I don't think I have ever felt this anxious in my entire life. Being a student in Nigeria does this to you; every month, you are one leg in and out of different opportunities because you are not sure when the federal government will end it's charade with ASUU. But one day you do a deep dive, you go all in, you decide to move on with your life and take on as many jobs/ opportunities as you can because the wait has become too long. Once you do this, ASUU conditionally calls off the strike. You look at the news. You go on Twitter. You panic. You wonder what this means for you. Then you start to cry.

You wonder what conditional means; if you are in your final year, you will be done before ASUU gets the chance to strike again, but if you are not, you can only hope and pray. Your parents or guardians want you to be happy that the strike is finally over and you want to be happy, but if there is anything you know about public universities in Nigeria, it's that they don't care if students have been adequately taught before the strike, they don't give two cents about the mental state of the students whose lives they have paused for months, all they want is to continue this race against time, to give out exams in a twinkle of an eye and admit new students as soon as possible. If we had a system that worked, we would start the session afresh and let students take their time to settle in and be properly educated. Being away from school for this long does something to you! You lose zeal. You lose motivation. Schooling now becomes a case of, 'let's just go and finish what we have started.' Why do students have to be the ones to suffer every time the federal government and ASUU start their back and forth? 

Nobody is really interrogating the effects and magnitude of this long pause in a student's life. In Nigeria, you almost don't have the luxury of just being a student. You are compelled to find something that gives you some sort of meaning or value, something that your certificate clearly can't give you upon graduation. Let's not start talking about the rate of unemployment in Nigeria or the gross underpayment of those already employed. That's a story for another day. 

Brown girl lookig at the camera

It is easy for anyone to sit on their impetus and say students should have used the strike to do something productive or at least read their books. While that is not entirely a wrong suggestion, it is often said without good faith, in a way that is conveniently ignorant of the reality of things. Not every student has the luxury of finding things to do. Heck, not every student wants to! Not every student can read without the structure of a functional academic session. Some students just want to be students. Is that too much to ask? Why does everything in this country require mental gymnastics and a lot of rigmarole? 

This is all to say students in Nigeria have felt different strings of emotions following the news that ASUU has called off the strike. We have gone from numb, shocked, sad, and hopeful. Most people are worried about the financial, academic, and mental implications of returning to school. The nerve of some federal universities to summon students to school with immediate effect, do they know we are in different parts of the country? Some people are not even in the country. I saw a rumoured timetable from my school that suggests we are writing exams in December. I have seen many types of wickedness, but this one takes the cake. This post is a rant and will probably do nothing to change anything, but here are a few tips to survive this period if you are overwhelmed by anxiety like me.

  1. Breathe, accept the situation and stop being in denial. Start slowly packing your bags and getting ready. You will be stretched and stressed but go to school and do your best if you believe in God, like I do, pray & praise. God is with you. You will not fail. Here is a heartfelt Prayer for students returning back to University by Mazino Malaka. It gave me strength. You should listen to it. 

  1. Try not to feel pressured by other people's achievements because you are about to hear many versions of, 'I earned in domestic and foreign currency and I turned Udemy and Coursera upside down.' It's good that they have moved mountains, but don't let it make you feel less than.  ASUU  and FG shouldn't have let this strike go on in the first place, so it's okay if you did not do and undo these past months. It's okay if all you did was not die.

  1. I don't know what this means, but find a way to read smart, adjust your reading pattern to suit the times ahead. Maybe join a reading group, consume summaries from different people or solve past questions. All I know is there is no time to overspend time on one particular course.

  1. If you are working remotely, renegotiate working hours, any sane employer should understand, except you lied that you were not a student when you applied. If you are like me and you can't totally stop work, take a day or two and focus on the bulk of your work, use the other days for school work. If you can quit work totally, then fine. It would be best if you had all the time you can get.

  1. Be ready to give weight watchers and body shamers gbas gbos, and this is my personal favorite. Stop enduring the nasty talk. Take it from someone who has endured it her whole life. Ignoring or pretending it doesn't hurt always leaves you feeling helpless and worthless. I think it's time to teach people emotional intelligence the hard way. Here is a template; if someone comments on your weight loss or gain in a lackluster or intrusive way. You can say "Don't talk about my body like that, you sound unintelligent and insensitive,"  say  "my body size should not concern you in this way, are you a pervert,"  say  "you must really be bad at time management and lacking in common sense for you to take out time to talk about my weight like this." As you people can see I am ready for everybody this period, the Roseline that used to suck it up, retired after her many visits to Nigerian hospitals these past months ( One day I will write about this in detail)

Black girl with hands Akimbo
As you can see my hands are on my head. It's only God that can do it at this critical point.

I am still walking through my anxiety and panic attacks while planning my life. Try to do the same. It's hard, it seems impossible, but try. I am genuinely praying for all of us who have to go through this. Also, if you know a Nigerian student, send them money, you can start from me. I highly recommend. 


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