In Conversation: Ogo Ogbata
Egg-Larva-Pupa-Woman is as intriguing a title, like the story it tells. Written by Ogo Akubue-Ogbota, it is the stirring tale of a young Nigerian girl who metamorphosises into a woman of great courage when mysterious circumstances befall her family. In her own words, Ogo Akubue-Ogbota and why she hopes her readers will be inspired to defy the odds in their own lives.
Belinda: What inspired Egg-Larva-Pupa Woman?
Ogo Ogbata: I was inspired to write this book in commemoration of the African woman and the African spirit. Everywhere I turn, people are being tested economically, emotionally and socially. I felt the need to tell a story that would speak to our collective hopes and dreams, a story that would inspire and empower people, in Africa and beyond, to defy the odds in their lives. There has recently been a scarcity of strong female characters in African literature too and I wanted to create a fully fleshed out character who’s not only beautiful but a woman sculpted by the unpleasant circumstances of life, into a breathing work of art. We all need inspiration in our journey through life. Egg-Larva- Pupa-Woman is both inspirational and aspirational.
Belinda: Why that name and is it symbolic of anything?
Ogo Ogbata: I observed that butterflies are beautiful creatures welcomed everywhere. However, their start in life is quite slimy and ugly. Humans are like butterflies in a sense. Successful and confident people weren’t always so – they have evolved. Basically Egg-Larva-Pupa-Woman is about growth and change and hope. The successful nations of this world have all had humble beginnings. With faith and inspired action, our continent can morph into something beautiful.
Belinda: For those, who has no idea what Nigeria’s history comprises of, if they asked you the first time they meet you what your book is about, what would you tell them in a few short sentences?
Ogo Ogbata: Egg-Larva-Pupa-Woman is the story of a young Nigerian girl who metamorphosises into a woman of great courage when mysterious circumstances befall her family. Set in the vibrant capital cities of Nigeria, Uganda, Sierra Leone and Britain, Egg-Larva-Pupa-Woman fearlessly chronicles the history of Africa’s most populous and complex country whilst tackling big themes such as ethnic identity, economic hardship, domestic violence, gender equality, political corruption, entrepreneurship and self actualisation, as well as universal themes such as love, mother-daughter relationships, betrayal and forgiveness. Through a language of passion, poetry and deceptive simplicity, we see sisters and daughters, mothers and wives who metamorphose over time, juxtaposed with a nation’s fight for freedom, fall from grace and pursuit of an elusive destiny.
Belinda: Nkiru’s story serves as a lens for readers to learn more about life in Nigeria and its history during the 60s. What’s the story about Nigeria and your background that you were keen to get across to your reader or anyone who picks up your book?
Ogo Ogbata: The story chronicles Nigeria’s history from the early 1950s to the end of military dictatorship in 1999. It kicks off with the people’s clamour for independence from British rule. I captured the hopes and yearnings of the people, their joy when freedom is finally attained and the challenges that quickly follow. I wanted to remind Nigerians and indeed all Africans of how far we’ve come and what it took to get this far. What I most want to get across is the need for us African people to forgive one another and work together. We’d go so much further without the baggage.
Belinda: You explore different themes in the book, politics, history, disorder, domestic violence, dislocation and dispossession, among many others. But one thing stands out and that is Nkiru’s journey. Is that an element of life that you wanted to question and explore; people’s ability to endure the rough times?
Ogo Ogbata: Yes, indeed. Courage and focus are very important during challenging times – and we do live in challenging times at the moment, with the economic recession and political conflict in various parts of the world. However, another great quality the protagonist, Nkiru, has is her ability to reflect and change. Courage is being humble enough to see one’s wrong and make amends.
Belinda: Who are your influences when it comes to literature or for their writing style?
Ogo Ogbata: I have been influenced by a huge host of writers. As a child I was already devouring a great deal of the African Writers Series – works by Flora Nwapa, Buchi Emecheta, Chinua Achebe, Peter Abrahams and many more.
Belinda: How would you describe your writing style and voice?
Ogo Ogbata: Passionate, descriptive, full of suspense and impactful.
Belinda: Egg-Larva-Pupa-Woman tugs at you emotionally, especially as things just fall apart in the nation and for her. How important is it for you as a writer to bring these kinds of emotional facets into your work?
Ogo Ogbata: It is important to me that people connect to the story emotionally because emotion is the gateway into the world of the characters and the rich insights that can be gleaned from the reading experience.
Belinda: Egg-Larva-Pupa-Woman is set in an historical context; did you set out to infuse so much of Nigeria’s history when you started writing or that just happened as you went along?
Ogo Ogbata: A bit of both, I started off wanting to tell the story of this privileged girl forced to adapt and change when mysterious circumstances befall her family. However, when I began to research, Nigeria’s history took on a life of its own! So the end result is the juxtaposition of two evolutions – as the protagonist bleeds her country also bleeds.
Belinda: How challenging was it to write about Nigeria’s story through one woman’s journey and how deep did you have to dig into your memory bank for stories and images of Nigeria that you carry with you daily?
Ogo Ogbata: Writing this story was an emotional roller-coaster there were times when I sat hunched over the keyboard typing at lightning speed for hours at a stretch, times when I laughed out loud to myself, times when I had to literarily squeeze the words out ‘like hard shit’ (quoting a character in the book!). Some memories and images were buried deeper than others but I also interviewed lots of other people and raided historical archives.
Belinda: What do you want readers to take away from the book after reading Egg-Larva-Pupa Woman?
Ogo Ogbata: I hope my readers will be inspired to defy the odds in their own lives – economically, emotionally and socially.
Egg-Larva-Pupa Woman is published by Priceless Books
For more about author visit: Ogo Ogbata