Spotlight on Tope Folarin: “I don’t want to continue being an artist for long.”

Africa39 author, Tope Folarin (Winner of the Caine Prize for African Writing, 2013).

Excerpts from Henry Akubuiro’s profile of Tope Folarin (Source: The Sun):

Folarin isn’t that sort of writer driven by socio-political con­vulsions. “I get interested in the desire to create something beau­tiful,” he says. “For me, that is what it is. A lot of my fiction, at the moment, is based on moments and things from my life. So, my goal is to depict these things. It is like being a photographer, in a sense. Everybody can take a pic­ture –we all have cameras on our phones –but a photographer can see the same thing you and I see, and captures something impor­tant at that moment. As a writer, I probably see what other people see, but I capture and render it on a page in a way and manner that captures the beauty and power of that moment.”


When Folarin won the Caine Prize in 2013, it created hoopla among Africans, especially those who felt he and others like him born and raised weren’t authentic African writers. So, is he an Af­rican writer? What really deter­mines an African writer? “I don’t know what that is supposed to mean,” he returns in a taut face; “I am a writer. He adds in amplified decibels, “I am not sure I know what that is.”


If you are one of those Nigerian writers lamenting that you aren’t grabbing the headlines for all your talent, the reason may have less to do with your quality but just advantages writers enjoy in the West. “[There], we have a society that a kind of provide institutional support. I think there is recogni­tion in the US that a writer needs time to develop their talent, away from the marketplace.”

On his career as a speech writer for the White House:

Folarin admits, “Sometimes it is hard at the beginning to get a salary or money from writing that will sustain you. In my case, I am in keen to write and be engaged with government. I am interested in foreign policy; I am interested in politics, so I would like to con­tinue to have a foot in that world; I don’t want to continue being an artist for long.”

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