Interviewed by John Haggerty
Read Kasimma’s lyrical essay, VOX POPULI, VOX DEI
John: One of the things I love about this piece is its playfulness with language, which stands in stark contrast to the very serious themes explored. What made you want to tell this story in this way?
Kasimma: I think that is how I write. I try to insert humor all the time, despite how serious the theme might be. I learned that from reading Soyinka’s works. He tackles very serious issues in his books, but one always finds something to laugh about on every page. I like to insert humour in my works because I believe that no matter how hard it was, how hard it is, how hard gets, a smile is your gift to you. Open it.
Slavery, along with the Native American genocide, are America’s great original sins. But history, as the old saw goes, is written by the victors and we are rarely forced to look squarely at these things. Can we be forgiven our ignorance?
To err is human, and to forgive is divine. There is a difference between not knowing and not caring to know. One who knows not, and knows that they know not, and does nothing about knowing not, is that fool that is spoken of. The past is gone with all its blessings and woe. The future brims with what we don’t know. We can right the wrongs of yesterday. We just need to know those wrongs and be intentional about righting them. A good place to start is by reading the stories of the victims.
I understand that oppressed groups feel that it might be necessary to shield themselves from the depredations of the majority by forming their own separate societies, but I still have that old (and perhaps naive) faith in diversity. What are your thoughts on this? Is a broader, more inclusive society possible, or even desirable?
Yes. I want unity in diversity. Nigeria, my country, is intensely diverse. We get-by by speaking English. That, I might say, is the only thing we gained from colonialism: a unifying language. Ofu nne na-amụ mana ofu Chi anaghi eke. Humans are all children of the same mother whether we agree or not. It is okay for any group (oppressed or not) to form their separate associations. But it is not okay for any group (oppressed or not) to form their separate associations simply to other others. Intention matters, always. Enyi mba bụ enyi: unity is strength.
Can you point us toward any Igbo writers that you think should be getting more attention?
All Igbo writers should be getting attention. All writers should be getting attention. But I always enjoy the works of these Igbo writers: Frances Ogamba, Innocent Chizaram Ilo, Ifesinachi Okonkwo, Ugochukwu Damian Okpara, Chibuike Ogbonnaya, Ifeanyi Ekpunobi.