From Aké to Kwani? Litfest: Ten Questions with Taiye Selasi

AkeThis year the Aké Review (the official journal of the Aké Arts and Book Festival) asked guests ten questions ahead of the festival – from whether they write in their mother tongue to what karaoke song they would like to sing.  

Two of these guests – Siphiwo Mahala and Taiye Selasi – are appearing this week as part of the 2015 Kwani? Litfest. As a way of reminiscing about the good times and inspiring conversations at Aké, while looking forward to more this week at Litfest in Nairobi, the Ake Arts and Book Festival have kindly given Africa in Words permission to share these conversations. Read ten questions with Siphiwo Mahala here.

Taiye Selasi will give a public lecture tonight at the Kenya National Theatre entitled ‘Capturing African Worlds’.  


Ten Questions with Taiye Selasi

SelasiWhen you are being creatively productive, who is your ideal audience?

Myself. Many artists have said it and for me it’s utterly true: my best audience is that being, resident within me, that calls the work into the being, offers it a form, and guides me in my vigorous efforts to birth it into the world.

What piece of work are you most proud of and why? 

Long ago I wrote a feature screenplay called JUNIOR. It was my first stab at screenwriting and a radical departure—both in form and content—from the fiction I’d written before. To be honest, I can’t no more say that I’m “most proud” of a single piece than a mother can say she’s “most passionate” about one child, but JUNIOR certainly has a special place in my heart. The script represents a turning point in my creative life, the moment at which I stopped being afraid to write about things I’ve never experienced and never will.

Would you write in your mother tongue and why/ why not? 

My mother tongue is English and it’s my great joy to write in it. That said, the English I write and the one I read are two different languages for me. The former is unique to my experience, enlivened by all the languages that shape my experience: Ewe, Yoruba, Italian, French, music. It belongs to me. The latter does not always.

At the age of eighteen, who was your favourite author?


If you had a chance to co-author a novel, who would you choose and why?

I would choose not to co-author a novel.

Youve been entered for the Aké Festival Karaoke, what song will you sing?

“Reach Out”

City or Countryside? Why?

Countryside. The silence.

What are your views on reviews and whether authors should read them?

I believe that authors should write only positive reviews of other authors’ work. The best and most effective negative review is silence.

What is your ideal writing environment? 

Direct sunlight, absolute silence, solitude, sense of safety.

What’s your Africa?



Interview reproduced with the permission of and thanks to the Ake Arts and Book Festival.
Taiye Selasi
 will appear this week at 2015 Kwani? Litfest as part of:

LitfestWednesday 2nd December, 7.30pm – 9.00pm
Public Lecture | Taiye Selasi – Capturing African Worlds
Acclaimed Ghanaian-Nigerian writer Taiye Selasi talks about her work and straddling different language worlds to capture African experiences.
Venue: Kenya National Theatre

Thursday 3rd December, 7.30pm
Kwani Trust’s Gala
Kwani hosts the winners of the inaugural Mabati-Cornell Kiswahili Prize for African Literature.
Readings by Taiye Selasi, Ken Walibora, Siphiwo Mahala
Mabati-Cornell Kiswahili Prize for African Literature presentation
Auction and Entertainment

Find more information about 2015 Kwani? Litfest here.

Categories: Announcements, News, & Upcoming, Conversations with - interview, dialogue, Q&A

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2 replies

  1. The above interview by Taiye Selasi is one of my best and favourite interview of the year 2015. I remember how I travelled to my parallel Universes while I was reading her debut novel “Ghana Must Go”. The sentences are fuzz and crackling on their elastic meanings. Pounce on their construction and bounce back again on their analogy and metaphor. Lastly, Taiye Selasi gives the world another view of Africa that we want to hear.


  1. Fiction Writing Workshop with Taiye Selasi, Nnedi Okorafor and Helon Habila: Ake Arts & Book Festival, Review |

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