“To explore questions I don’t have answers to” – Ope Adedeji talks about her burgeoning interest in African religions
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“To explore questions I don’t have answers to” – Ope Adedeji talks about her burgeoning interest in African religions

In Omo Omo Omo, Ope Adedeji’s inventive use of shadows as both a menacing real-life presence and metaphor for the marginalisation of African indigenous religions under Western colonisation leaves readers with a particularly captivating narrator who must reconcile her sexuality with her mother’s disapproval. Omo Omo Omo has been longlisted for The Short Story is Dead, Long Live the Short Story! (2018)

What was the germination of your story? 

I started to think of this story one day walking home from work; I thought my shadow was following me. Technically, it was. But I started to imagine a situation where shadows had separate identities from the bodies they were a part of. From there, my mind escalated to a number of things, like having a chat with a babalawo via text message! I’ve seen an ifa consultation website (though I think within Santeria) and I think that’s lit. Perhaps that’s where the idea came from. I mean you get to text pastors, so why not Ifa priests? 

I wrote the first few sentences, but had no idea I was going to write about the things I wrote about. I like exploring the metaphysical, magic and the spiritual in my work, especially in a way that normalizes the things we ordinarily deem strange, the things that we were taught to consider weird because of westernization/“civilization”. 

So this story was born out of my need to explore questions I don’t have answers to. Not right now, anyway. 

Ope Adedeji

In what way would you say your writing is political?

I don’t call my writing political, ever. But as a Nigerian woman, living in Nigeria, in a space that reeks of patriarchy, and is still heavily influenced by religion and culture in a way that is detrimental, I find myself writing about things that confront my person. Sometimes, I try to be subtle. I’m not sure if I achieve this well enough. I like to write about ‘nothings’ too – like about someone obsessed with fingers, or shoes. I like to stay in between, wide awake but also a little bit asleep. I would write anything as far as I’m interested enough to take up my pen – in this case, computer – and write. 

What are your opinions on religion, especially regarding how it is talked about in African literature?

I’d like to see more Ifa, Oya, Yemoja, less White God. At this time, I’m reading more magical realism books by Nigerians/Africans – think Oyeyemi and Amos Tutuola. Because of this, I’m thinking a lot about religion, not personally but in terms of the African traditional religion and our gods so easily discarded for an invisible foreign God – and don’t get me wrong again, these are thoughts only. I don’t think these gods are written enough about in African literature in a way that normalizes their existence. I mean now. We’ve had some good books in the past. I’d like to see more of these from millennials. 

What lesson are you hoping readers will take from your story?

I’m not sure. They’re free to take any meanings and lessons they want! This is really what I want, for my readers to interpret my story in their own way, and bring life to this story in ways I hadn’t imagined. 

I like exploring the metaphysical, magic and the spiritual … in a way that normalizes the things … that we were taught to consider weird because of westernization/“civilization”

Ope Adedeji

What advice would you give to beginning writers?

I’m a beginning writer too, so I’m giving an advice I’m trying to take: to read good, and I mean very good books – think Toni Morrison, Haruki Murakami, Leo Tolstoy etc., and to be deliberate and mindful about writing. (Ask people for recommendations on what books are good or great!) And if there are bad books you want to read, read them to avoid writing like that. Punctuate too, it’s just as important!