You know an in born writer when you meet one. At 13, Osieka Osinimu Alao, discovered he was gifted with the power of the ink and at 21 has three published poetry volumes, two unpublished plays and many prose manuscripts. Despite the poor reading culture among Nigerians, he has chosen to break the norm and soar higher. He is a young writer with an edge.
Interview by: Damilola Ososanya
My name is Osieka Osinimu Alao. I was born on the 12th of December, 1992 to Professor Johnson Sunday Alao and Mrs Serah Asabi Alao in Jebba, Kwara State. I am the second of two children. My elder sister, Idumaese, is a final year Linguistics student of Nassarawa State University. I am currently a 200Level English student of the Redeemer’s University. I am a young writer with three published poetry volumes which are Epidocyle (2011), Apocyle (2012), and the recently released Blood and Ink (2013). In addition to studying and writing, I sing and rap, draw and paint, I also act and I really love theatre and film making.
What was the first piece you ever wrote?
The first piece I ever wrote was a poem inspired by sadness and loneliness. I can’t exactly remember the title but the content was sullen.
What is your favorite genre?
I can’t really say which genre is my favourite for now, but poetry seems to be the genre many people link to me.
When did you discover you had a passion for writing?
I started writing when I was thirteen years old, or rather, that was when I discovered I was gifted with the power of the ink. Ever since this feat was revealed to my senses, I have always wanted people to read my works hence the yearning to be published on a grand scale. Everybody’s life cannot take the same turn; some start early while others maybe later. I am blessed to have kicked off at a very young age; I am just twenty one years old with three masterpieces of poetry, two unpublished plays and many prose manuscripts. Every individual has the genius instinct in them waiting to be whetted to full capacity. My writing prowess was brought to light by sullenness. I remember vividly I was in JSS3 then and on that fateful day I was saddened by almost everything around me; the food, friends, boarding school and bullying, freedomlessness, and all sorts. So I sat in the classroom shrouded in loneliness, most of my folks were out for sporting activities but I wasn’t motivated to do anything cheerful. I felt bitter in my soul, somehow that prompted me to write something down about how I felt, and then later, I discovered that it took the appealing shape of a poem or so I thought. Today many people find it hard reconciling my writing with my age; they feel probably that the quality of my work ought to be from an older mind. I am gifted and that’s the grace that abounds.
Where do you get most of your ideas?
My writing though materialised by persistence, drive, and hard work has spiritual foundations. I was created by a super-mortal force, one I can’t directly control except partly through supplications from a purified being. I discovered the voice when I was thirteen but definitely it had been like a seed implanted within, that moment of discovery was only the moment of fruition. The way the poems are birthed is a function of genius instincts. The more the genius instincts are probed the more delivery will be actualized. I can typically write anywhere anytime as long as the muse God captures my consciousness. I share Plato’s notion that artistic creation seems to be rooted in a kind of inspired madness, what I would like to tag as ‘Divine Madness’. To me, creative writing is the super-normal process, that is, the ingenious ability of consciously probing the subconscious by vigorous thinking, some sort of mind exploration indebted to the physical world, in order to bring into reality the existence of a new idea whose style stimulated by self in society and society in self ought to be different in makeup and piloted in the direction of an original bearing. I don’t wait for things to inspire me, I can seek inspiration from anything; material or immaterial, seen or unseen. It is in seeking that one is able to offer inspiration. For example, researchers often times go about looking for that next clue. Same with some writers too who can travel far distances just to cook up that next masterpiece. My three collections on closer examination resonate with that sole voice drawn from a powerful and resilient spirit.
What is your favourite place for thinking?
I love quiet places where there are walls. Most times, I feel I can read things from walls; I seem to see writings only visible to me. I love walking around naked in my room often. I like tapping ideas from crowded places, streets, loud music, travelling and unconventional circumstances. Even my own life inspires me; every move and mistake.
Who is your favourite author?
My favourite author is Wole Soyinka.
What do you think makes good writing?
I as an individual love taking new bearings; being permanently fixed almost to a state of conventional slavery does not magnet my fancy. In as much as my three collections are characteristically similar, each collection has its own distinct style and structure which are uniquely stringed by threads of floweriness, creativeness, newness, orderliness and fearlessness. Those are the tenets of good writing. I always like to perceive tastes differently hence my thirst for newness; something refreshing to the heart, to the senses and wholly to the soul. I am not afraid of seeking new forms and flows in writing. When I write I only put one thing into consideration, that is, my expression and not the acceptance. When one puts acceptance first, one limits the bounds of one’s expression. Considering acceptance won’t make one go the distance, one has to focus on the expression, because it is the quality of expression that determines one’s ascension. One must not wait for the world to accept one, one must make the world accept one; what matters most is self-acceptance.
What made you fall in love with writing?
I am in love with writing because the Goddess of writing is too sensual, sugary, and spiritual to be ignored. She always gives me an experience to behold, real or surreal.
How do you beat out your writers block?
I have never experienced writer’s block. I am immersed in a flowing stream of words and ideas that every minute I could conjure up a piece. It might not be developed at that time, but definitely I would be able to scribble down something that can be cooked properly.
Challenges you’ve faced as a writer?
There will always be one bump or the other from time to time; mortality is not a bed of perfection. Africans, particularly Nigerians, don’t like reading, be it whatever type, style or makeup of literature. Hence, the urge to buy books at any given time is usually at the zero level. Quite a number of quality books enter the market every now and then, but most people don’t even spare a little amount to acquire one or two books. Most of us are not adventurous when it comes to intellectual matters as regards literacy. Most people don’t want to task their intellectual selves, and that is why we are still pathetically underachieved. Nobody wants to invest in the publishing and promotion of books; only a few maybe, rare I must admit. People don’t want to buy books and read; why? Nonchalance and laziness are the answers. I am blessed to have parents who have supported me so far. Truthfully speaking, I have not realised much from my works. The penetration rate of my works has been really slow due to the climate in the nation. There are no efficient publicity outlets and bookshops are even afraid of investing in one’s works because they fear a scenario of unrealisable funds. Where are the constant bookfares? Where are the sponsors? Where is that student that is supposed to buy this or that book? Where are the so called mega publishing houses? Where are the books reading campaigns? Where are the government officials that are supposed to look into literacy and book circulation? What are the literary associations doing to better the horizon? Another issue much overlooked is the fact that authors, be they poets, novelists or playwrights, are celebrities like their other counterparts in the music and movie industry. They need to enjoy those little benefits too. For instance, corporate companies like Globacom and Peak Milk will rather have musicians, actors and sportsmen as their ambassadors but will rarely have writers on their lists and ironically these companies claim to be supportive of education in the country. Most of these companies will often times invest in singing and sporting talent hunts but rarely will they organise literary ones. Some of these companies are trying but they can definitely do more; they have more than enough funds for this worthwhile course.
Where do you see your works in five years?
In the next five years, I want to be a world class citizen whose universally acclaimed works will be passport into any nation. I want my works to be studied in schools and universities around the world. Every day, I pray to continually be happy and fulfilled, for that is where satisfaction lies. I want to use my blood to ink the slates of history.
Memorable experiences you’ve had as a writer?
Getting my poems published by AuthorHouse UK was a memorable feat in 2011. I was featured on NTA AM Express sometime ago. I was a guest writer at Abuja Writer’s Forum last year. My works have been used in some schools, Writers’ Associations, and creative writing competitions.
Damilola Ososanya is a representative from Redeemers University.
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