Akwaeke Emezi

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Akwaeke Emezi (born 1987) is Nigerian-born writer and video artist of Igbo and Tamil descent.


  • I think multiple realities exist. Most colonised countries had their cosmology, their ontology, their metaphysics colonised too. They’ve been told that what was there before wasn’t real. My dad’s a pretty conservative Christian, but he’ll still get a pastor to come to the hospital [where he works as a doctor] because someone’s been working black magic. I say to him: “If you don’t believe in it, why is the pastor there?” He says: “You don’t need to believe in something for it to be real.”
  • …I read literally everything I could get my hands on – the shampoo bottle, the cereal box. My mom didn’t let us have books at the table or we’d all have read. We didn’t always have electricity, so I read by candlelight. I read really fast too. My parents realised I’d run out of things to read and were like: “We need to buy you way more books.”
  • …The novel is autobiographical, so I used my life as a chronological skeleton for the story, which meant revisiting a lot of things that were immensely painful. It was also a process of discovery – I had no outline for Freshwater, no idea how it was going to take shape, but it built itself as I was writing it.
  • …Whenever you write something biographical, everyone in your family doesn’t share the same memory. So your version of the story is not necessarily their version of the story, and part of the flexibility in having it fictionalized is that there’s not really a need to adhere to the strict facts. Because everything is colored by memory, especially when you’re pulling from childhood memories. There’s a little bit of wiggle room. This is my story of these events, as I remember it, as I experienced it…

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