Is My Writing Political?

No. My writing is not political. For me writing is mainly about the aesthetics of the work.

As a fiction writer, I think I would be presumptuous to imagine that I have an understanding of politics good enough to take on the role of political commentator, especially through my work. Writers are not political scientists. While some writers also work as journalists and scholars in the field of political science and other social sciences, one feels that an overlap of these is, more often than not, dangerous. Writers of prose are often very uneducated in these fields, yet they find themselves faithfully carrying this responsibility – overshadowing experts who have spent years in the field and in these specific areas of research.

The problem here is not only that this lack of in-depth knowledge blurs our understanding of what is actually taking place in different countries, but also that writing that is mainly political tends to be myopic and limited, and in worst cases ends up failing at both.

African writers constantly find themselves in debates about whether the role of the writer is to comment on politics or not. Writers like Leopold Senghor, (whose work is truly phenomenal), and Chinua Achebe are among the forefathers of African literature who championed the notion that writers need to use their pen to comment on the political landscape. I tend to differ. For me, while stories do exist within a certain political environment, I believe that the role and/or appearance of politics in my stories is similar to that of religion, gender, race, and geography. Therefore, even when politics do enter a story, the writing itself is not primarily political, and most importantly not aimed at that.

In my other life, I am deeply concerned about the education of young Africans. I also support women’s initiatives to improve lives and strive for personal independence. But, even with these issues that are very close to my heart I believe there are ways, and platforms, to engage, and my fiction is not one of them. I try very hard not to mix fiction-writing with activism or advocacy.

I think that writing that is free of, and above, politics temporarily liberates the mind and sets us free to imagine and inhabit alternative places in different ways, and fosters in us continuous intellectual growth.

In the twenty-first century most of us live in and have an affinity with more than one country, which further limits our grasp of the political scene in the country we might be residing in.

Most political commentary one hears at after-reading parties and literary gatherings tends to be threads and snatches of gossip and what the media (including/especially social media) is saying. And if discussions among prose writers about politics are anything to go by, then perhaps the writer needs to rest the weary pen when there is no fiction to write.