Ladies and gentlemen, Synners from all over the world, welcome to another edition of the Syncity NG Literary Lords and Ladies show where we celebrate writers of African descent.
Our guest today is none other than Ayodele Olofintuade. This Ibadan-born writer who spent her growing years shuttling between Lagos, Ibadan and Abeokuta is the author of Lakiriboto Chronicles: A Brief History of Badly Behaved Women (2018) and Eno’s Story (2010). Her short stories have been published in several online literary journals. She is an investigative journalist, and researcher.
Ayodele Olofintuade: Thanks for having me
Syncity NG: Let’s begin. When was the last time the Nigerian space showed you ‘pepper’ because of your feminist and queer views, art and lifestyle choices?
Ayodele Olofintuade: Ah the showing of ‘pepper’ occurs almost every single day. TBH Nigerians dislike diversity and they will try everything they can to force you to conform, no matter how violent they have to get.
Syncity NG: Sad. Misplaced priorities I might add. I mean, don’t we have other things to do than meddle in other people’s businesses? Smh. How do you handle these daily outbursts from those who ought to know better?
Ayodele Olofintuade: Over the years I’ve learnt how to fight back, but more importantly, to protect myself without necessarily having to create an echo chamber. The treatment is worse when you’re a woman, there’s someone out there ready to tell you how to live your life, or discredit your personal choices and your work simply because they think you’re ‘too loud’ or ‘too agressive’.
Somebody walked up to me recently to remind me that he ‘fucked’ me some years ago.
1. Making a sexual claim on me
2. Making an attempt to slut-shame me
3. Claiming my head space for that moment
He then proceeded to ask me if I was queer at the time. I honestly don’t remember that particular encounter, because if I had sex with him like he claimed he wouldn’t have to remind me.
But these are one of the many ways women, are degraded and reduced in this society, particularly queer women. People attempt to reduce you to a sex object, and in the process strip you of your humanity.
Syncity NG: Did writing fiction come naturally to you or was it the perfect avenue to communicate your ideologies?
Ayodele Olofintuade: I’ve been writing before I knew the meaning of ‘ideology’. And I write to entertain and hopefully, to make some money, so ideologies are the last things I consider when writing. I simply write from a place of truth.
Syncity NG: Let’s talk Lakiriboto Chronicles. Does it mean what I think it means? Something about vagina and walls?
Ayodele Olofintuade: The first time I heard the word Lakiriboto was in the early 90’s. Abass Akande Obesere sang about a girl who turned down his advances, so he threatened to tell her parents that she’s Lakiriboto.
After some research I discovered that Lakiriboto was originally used by the Yoruba to describe a particular kind of kolanut that cannot be divided into segments naturally. They also use it to describe ‘women’ who do not have ‘vaginas’. Which means they know and acknowledge people who are gender non-binary.
Thirdly it is used to describe women who do not follow societal rules, women who do their thing, not minding whose horse is gored, long as they are not harming anyone. Women often described these days as ‘children of disobedience’.
As a street slang, and in the way Abass Akande Obesere used it, it describes queer and gender non-conforming people, the L word… Lesbian.
Syncity NG: What was the reception of the book like? Especially in a country where (feminist or queer) women (in general) are ‘supposed’ to be silent? Were people offended at the use of the title?
Ayodele Olofintuade: Oh people were shocked and offended, trust me, but people are buying it and its been getting mostly positive reviews, so really, people who took offense are the usual suspects.
Syncity NG: I remember reading and thinking to myself –this is the perfect material for a play. What other ways has your craft brought in revenue asides the obvious book sales?
Ayodele Olofintuade: Come on, this is Nigeria! (laughs). But you can never tell, someone might be brave enough to option it and make it into a movie.
Buchi Onyegbule actually made a play of it during my reading at the German Embassy earlier this year and it was fantastic.
Syncity NG: Lol. This is Nigeria indeed. Paint us a perfect picture of your ideal life.
Ayodele Olofintuade: A lot of quiet, making a steady income, travel (of course!) adventures, love, but most importantly that Massa Jaysus should keep homophobes and misogynists far away from me.
Mystiquesyn: 1. Do you live in Nigeria? (Asking for obvious reasons) 2. Why did you leave Children’s literature (Eno’s Story; I believe it was in the NLNG shortlist) for something different? 3. Between fiction and journalism, what pays your bills?
Ayodele Olofintuade: 1. Yes, I live and work in Nigeria.
2. I still write for children, I have written several children’s books after Eno’s Story but they are all targeted at children living in low income communities.
The answer to your third question is kind of fifty-fifty. I sell short stories so I do make money off fiction too, in a way I’ve been able to balance both journalism and fiction writing.
SERENADEME: So AY how old are you and does society frown at your dreads?
Ayodele Olofintuade: You may call me Aunty Ayodele (laughs)
And secondly you know what I think about the society and their ignorant opinions. The people that matter love my dreads… And yours too.
Syncity NG: Special thanks to our beloved guest. Her books can be gotten at all @PAGEBookstore outlets.
Ayodele Olofintuade: Thanks so much for having me on your show, I really enjoyed myself immensely. @SynCityNG