Vanguard (Lagos)

29 November 2012

Nigeria: I Have No Idea What to Do With U.S.$100,000 - Unigwe

interview

Chika Unigwe is the author on everyone's lips. The Belgium based, Nigerian born author recently won the LNG Nigeria Prize for Literature for her novel 'On Black Sisters street', which portrayed the lives of Nigerian prostitutes living abroad. In this short interview with Vanguard Learning, Unigwe tells her own story to inspire writers, readers and learners alike. She then tops it all up with the answer to a $100,000 question.

What inspired 'On Black Sisters' street?'

I was very curious about the lives of NIgerian prostitutes in Belgium. I wanted to know why anyone would come so far to work in the sex industry.

Tell us about your stay in Belgium?

I have lived here for about 15 years now. I learnt to speak and write in Dutch here, and I also took a few language lessons

Dutch is sometimes used as a synonym for something that is difficult to understand, how easy is it for you to write in Dutch?

It's not easy, it's my third language, but I like challenges.

Do you prefer writing in Dutch or in English?

It depends on what I am writing. English is certainly the handier language of the two for me.

How long have you been writing, and what inspired your writing career?

I always wanted to be a writer, but I have only done it professionally now for about six years.

What writers have influenced you the most?

My first influence was probably Flora Nwapa. I love Gabriel Garcia Marquez's magical realism, I love the expansiveness of Tolstoy's language. I love the way Bernardine Evaristo reimagines history and I love Alice Munro's prose.

What was it like winning the Nigeria prize for literature?

It still seems surreal. I am delighted, naturally, but I am also humbled by the honour.

What challenges have you faced as a writer?

Finding time, and being patient.

What's your advice to young writers?

Persist. Keep reading. Keep writing.

What's next for Chika Unigwe?

More books.

What will you do with the $100,000 prize money?

I have absolutely no idea.

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