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As a child, Chika could often be seen surrounded by playmates, classmates, Sunday school peers and siblings, telling meticulously detailed made-up stories. Her spellbound listeners often believed her hard-to-believe tales, laughing hilariously, shedding tears and probing her with further questions. After her tales, Chika would walk a distance away from her audience and scream “O kwa asi!” It’s a lie! Or “O kwa egwuri egwu” “It was a joke!” before fleeing to the safety of her home. That did not stop the kids from gathering around her next time and believing her every word.
Growing up to view life as a very ‘serious’ endeavor that should be approached with a similar attitude, Chika suppressed her creative mind, even denying its existence for years.
In 2009 while working on her doctoral degree at Howard University in Washington D.C., Chika read Olaudah Equiano’s autobiography. She noted with sadness, the little emphasis Olaudah laid on the time he spent in Africa – growing up, and as a slave after his kidnap – before being shipped off to Barbados. Chika became consumed with discovering this part of history that Olaudah missed out in his all-time bestselling work.
Her passion took her to the part of West Africa where Olaudah Equiano was born and raised, and where he was kidnapped. She also traveled to the Old Calabar slave port in her attempt to reconstruct Olaudah’s footsteps. Chika spent months conducting archival and library research, often using the Library of Congress, the Howard University Moorland Spingbarn research centre and other resources.
The end product was a lot of information on the mid eighteenth century West African world of Olaudah Equiano.
During her research, Chika came to realize that much of what is peddled as African history in the academia and media is often steeped in bias. She sought, therefore, to write Olaudah’s history with the facts she gathered, but wanted as many people as possible to read the book.
Chika’s next concern now became the most “user friendly” format that would make all that material easily accessible to as many people as possible.
How about a very interesting historical fiction novel, Chika’s mind told her one day. She laughed the idea off as ridiculous, at first, considering that she had never ever thought of writing fiction all her life. But when she dared to think it through, Chika realized that indeed, much more Africans will get to read the story of Olaudah Equiano if it is presented in an exciting form. That was when she knew it was no longer debatable; she had no other alternative but to write a historical fiction novel.
That very first attempt at placing her fingers on the keyboard in the name of creative writing ended up being one of six shortlisted out of 250 submissions made to the Penguin Publishers Award for African writing in 2010.
The demands of writing her doctoral dissertation and completing her studies weighed in heavily against a release of Before We Set Sail earlier than the first quarter of 2012.
Chika has since written several short stories and is currently working on two fiction manuscripts.
Chika is also passionate about Africa’s growth and advancement – something she has dedicated her life to studying.
Some of Chika’s academic and creative writing works can be found at : www.chikaforafrica.com