I attended the last Ake Arts and Book Festival and of course, asides the intellectual discourse that took place and was the main source of my interest, one of the major things that intrigued me was the hairstyle worn by many of the African leading writers. It is true that many of our female writers are admired largely by the West for their fierce stance on issues like feminism, and they go on and make bold statements on their African background, making sure that their authenticity as African writers is preserved.
So consciously or unconsciously, these women have put a trend on the African literary scene where a particular image is associated with the African female writer. This is not to say that I don’t like their choices, they might in fact not be aware that they seem to fit into this image of the African female writer seemingly created as a statement to advance ideologies like feminism, and therefore are fulfilling their roles as African female writers.
I am a young writer and I have a token of advice to my fellow young female African writers.
1. Dress like a true African mama
Number one, when you win the Caine Prize or any award, make sure you wear an African imprint top or dress with giraffes and lions or one of those West African multicolored traditional wears that pronounces you as a proud African writer.
This shows that you are not forgetting where you come from and that you are deeply ingrained with your African origin. When you wear that African attire, make sure you tie a scarf on your head to complete the dressing.
2. Use your traditional family name
Stick to your African name and make sure you correct everyone that doesn’t pronounce it well. If you have an English, kindly drop it and use the name your grandparents gave you during your naming ceremony.
Make sure that you don’t allow any British or American accents spoil the pronunciation of your name. In fact, as you teach them how to pronounce your name, give them the historical, etymological and spiritual background of your name. Don’t and I repeat don’t allow your name to be mispronounced.
3. Burn the fake hair
When you become a famous female African writer, you dare not put attachment to your hair. All those Brazilian, Indian, Peruvian or whatever hair you used to attach to your head, you must burn them. You are an African writer for Christ sake. Either go on low cut or keep your natural hair. Weave it or twist it but don’t dilute it. You are an African and you must be proud of your hair. You might inspire a low self-esteemed teenage girl that keeps relaxing her hair to actually believe that her hair doesn’t have to be relaxed out of its stubbornness.
4. Be inspired by the oldies
This is important. Make sure you have read Flora Nwapa, or Chinua Achebe or Bessie Head. How else would you have been inspired to write as a lady? And also make sure that you read their books when you were twelve or ten.
5. Be a feminist
Lastly, you can’t be inspired by the likes of Flora Nwapa and Bessie Head and not be a feminist. Are you out of your mind? That is what completes the icing on the cake. And your characters must also be strong female characters that refuse to fall into the patriarchal system they find themselves in. or your female characters must be sharp witted, who give the way forward in your stories.
And please, constantly deny that your characters and you are the same or have anything in common.
So my dear young African female writer make sure you remember the above guidelines, and when you move out of your African country, don’t forget to always refer to how you grew up.
I wish you all the best in your writing career.
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