Salamatu Sule is the founder of Fahimta Literary Discourse that seeks to advance the cause of African literature. The author of two books — Oma, The Drummer Queen and Orchestra of Her Last Rites — she is well versed in poetry and children’s literature. Both genres, she says, “share similarity in terms of diction and rhymes”, which “makes it easier for interchangeability.”
Salamatu started her writing career as a poet before gradually transiting into children’s literature. In 2017, she introduced Spilling the Ink project in when she first noticed people’s apathy to literature. “So I decided to raise people’s interest in books by bringing authors to discuss their book projects, as well as the musical adaptation of their works believing that people will find literature interesting,” she offers.
It hasn’t been a smooth ride, however, promoting literature via Fahimta Literary Discourse. The bottlenecks include finance and acceptability. She says,” Not too many writers, publishers, bookstores and the reading public understood the impact that the agency was set out to achieve, but I believe we shall get there somehow.”
As an agent, she has facilitated the translation of some works, for example, Being Don Quixote, and The Book of Life by Li Peifu, recently into Hausa language. She also facilitated a conversation to translate Abubakar Adam’s Seasons of Crimson Blossom and Elnathan John’s Born on a Tuesday. “I was not able to conclude the conversation with the German Embassy before the former ambassador was changed. Translation to another language is not easy as the works have to be domesticated thereby even to an extent altering its originality,” she says.
Why did she concentrate mainly on writing children’s books? “My aim is to contribute to this genre to not just increase the number but to boost the art,” she responds. The writer was in Lebanon not too long ago for a cultural exchange. It would be nice to know how that has impacted on her writing.
She explains, “The programmes have helped me a lot. The Lebanon experience, as well as that of Germany, has further exposed me to assessing the socio-cultural and political issues, as well as their literature. Don’t forget Lebanon has peculiar political and social issues like Nigeria. They have had long civil wars and religious conflicts, but have, overtime, managed to live as one, in spite of these backgrounds. I appreciate the Wole Soyinka Foundation for providing the platform for Nigerian writers to have cultural exchange programmes.”
Her book, Oma… , is an inspirational story for the girl-child, and, by extension, women. She adds, “It is about determination and self-awareness. Oma, the Drummer Queen is a folk narrative showing the place of the girl in a male dominated environment.”
Her debut poetry collection, Orchestra of Her Last Rites celebrates womanhood. The author says it is predicated on a historical figure, Inikpi the legendary. Writing poetry comes to me very natural, as I had started my writing through the poetic medium, and I do not write my kind of poetry in a complex way that makes it hard for a reader to comprehend its meaning. My readers have often come back to appreciate my style.”
What influence does the Igala culture have on her works? The writer says plenty, “My works have always reflected my Igala culture traits. In Orchestra of Her Last Rites, my central concern was the state of womanhood through the historic Inikpi, while in Oma, the Drummer Queen, the character’s name is bearing my root, even though the work is set in Iseyin, Oyo State of Nigeria. “
In some of her poems, you will notice verses in Pidgin English. She says, “My romance with Pidgin English started out from the university when I came in contact with a course, Nigerian Pidgin English. It was quite hilarious that most of us the students took the course for granted, and failed woefully. That was when I picked up the interest.”
She once said her writing is a painful passion and pleasure. Taking her to task, she explains, “This is an expression that defines the state of the industry and how we pay little attention to the growth of reading culture and generating revenue for literature. Writers individually struggle to increase readership, as well as promote their works. You write, edit, self-publish and even promote and distribute your works. This shouldn’t be so, but it’s a passion that one must not falter.”
Of course, the Nigerian environment has influenced her writing. “Nigeria is a country with social, cultural and political issues. So, as a writer, I tried not to idealise but to portray the situation (ood, bad and ugly) through my literary lens,” says the author.
With a tone of unpublished manuscripts, it won’t be too long before a work is out of press. She hints so, “I do have manuscripts and those that are begging to hit the press. I look forward to coming up with two children’s works that are quite relevant to today’s discourse and a collection of short stories very soon.”