56 Years of Nigerian Literature: Nike Campbell-Fatoki

by - 14:07

Today, as I get closer to the end of my celebration of Nigerian women writers, it's all about Nike Campbell-Fatoki.

Photo via Pulse.ng
Writer of the historical-romance fiction, Thread of Gold Beads - which was published in 2012 - Campbell-Fatoki worked for years in International Development, and now currently works for Municipal government in the Washington DC area. In her own words, Thread of Gold Beads:
... chronicles the fictional character Amelia, daughter of the last independent King of Danhome, King Ghebanzin ... [who] searches for her place within the palace amidst conspirators and traitors to the Kingdom. Just when Amelia begins to feel at home in her role as a Princess, a well-kept secret shatters the perfect life she knows ... A struggle between good and evil ensues causing Amelia to leave all that she knows and loves. She must flee Danhome with her brother, to south-western Nigeria. In a faraway land, she finds the love of a new family and God. The well-kept secret thought to have been dead and buried, resurrects with the flash of a thread of gold beads.

The story is set between the late 1890s and early 1990s,  during the French-Dahomey war of Benin Republic, but also takes place in Abeokuta and Lagos in South-Western Nigeria. Indeed, Campbell-Fatoki's maternal great-grandmother fled the Dahomey kingdom in the 1890s to western Nigeria, (similar to Amelia in the book). On why Campbell-Fatoki wrote the book, on one hand she wanted to 'preserve some of this history' through her writing. She however 'didn't go in planning to write historical romance/fiction - something she raised in this interview on Under the Neem Tree:

I was merely drawn to and inspired by the stories I had heard about the last independent Kingdom of Dahomey, the French-Dahomey war told by her grandmother as told by her grandmother and the research that revealed so much history and legacy. I for one didn't know that there existed an army of female warriors in Africa until I did my research. I knew I had to bring that era to life. 

Thread of Gold Beads has also been translated into French and was published August 2015. Nike is also currently working on her next historical fiction novel set in 1800s Abeokuta, Lagos and FreetownHowever, Campbell-Fatoki does not only write historical fiction. In her recently published short story collection, Bury Me Come Sunday Afternoon, the lives of contemporary Nigerians (in Nigeria and the diaspora) - is the focus. Or as Campbell-Fatoki explains via an email interview on Nigerian Reporter

The stories address societal issues that we experience of witness daily - mental illness, religious fanaticism, child sexual molestation, domestic abuse, to name a few.

Why were these stories for her new collection? Because they 

... focus on social issues that we face daily but do not readily speak about. We are eager to jump on issues of world hunger, free trade, national GDP - macroeconomic issues, but we fail to address the issues that affect us directly, our daily struggles as individuals. I want readers to look into the face of what they fear and call it by name. Only then can we begin to address them and find solutions. 

In a blog post explaining the inspiration behind the collection, Campbell-Fatoki goes into more detail writing that: 

Each story draws from my witnessing what others have gone through or my own experiences. We must peel back the layers, go beyond the surface to understand others and their personal motives. For those that have been misunderstood, those that do not have a voice, those that have been dealth a bad hand, [BMCSA] is also for you.
The draft of the short story Searching for Miss Anderson, for instance, was written 'while in a hospital room watching over my son in January 2015.' And the others: 

'Losing My Religion' draws from my experiences growing up in religious establishments and how if we as people can be led like sheep to the slaughter if we are not careful. 'The Hunchback' was inspired by the community of Makoko in Lagos and what they endured during the 72-hour vacate notice in 2012 when one of the inhabitants was killed. 

Campbell-Fatoki also founded Our Paths to Greatness - celebrating the accomplishments of Africans within and outside the continent. As explained on the website, 

... it provides access to educational and professional opportunities, leadership training to undeserved Africans in Africa and in the diaspora, fosters and facilitates African arts and cultural education and collaborated on sustainable development projects for the African community. 

Definitely also check out Nike Campbell Fatoki's website to find out more, and her blog to follow her musings

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