By Josephine Igbinovia
For twelve -year old Katya Samuel -Anyagafu, writing is a part and parcel of her entire being. She spends
most of her time reading or, surfing the internet. She uses her time judiciously, sharing them between academics and social reading and then, and then, there’s this sudden urge to put pen to paper, and start writing.For her, writing short stories is a passion as she is used to buying cardboard papers, cutting them in rectangular forms, writing stories on them and gluing them together for her friends to read. Katya who has just published her first book, ‘The Flute Dancer’, spoke with Vista Woman recently.
Tell us about yourself?
Katya is a young maiden who wants to make a positive difference. I am someone who loves books and can read novels from morning till midnight and I often read myself to sleep. I also love the internet and spend valuable time reading up issues on the net. It’s one of my favourite pastimes, but I spend more time reading. I like reading Chimanda Ngozi Adichie’s books. I adore her works so much because I find them absorbing and captivating. I have lost count of the number of times I read her Purple Hibiscus .
What inspired the writing of ‘The Flute Dancer’?
Nothing in particular inspired me. When I was in primary four, I read a book The Magic Stone written by a nine year old girl . By the time I got to JSS One, I started earning little pocket money which I used to by cardboard paper which I would cut into rectangular shapes, and then glue together. I would then write a story on the cardboard paper and present it to my friends to read. I also read the works of Wole Soyinka and Chinua Achebe.
Their level of creativity stun me and I hope that one day, my book will be popular worldwide, like Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart and Chimamanda Adichie’s Purple Hibiscus. These helped me a lot because I did not only read them but also studied their styles of writing. Then, I have this flute which I was given in school. One of my aunties told me the folktale about the flute dancer which is what the book is all about.
Do you want to be like Chimamanda?
I adore her but I don’t want to be like anybody. I want to be me.
What is the book about?
The book is about a young girl called Omamma, whose mother died at childbirth, while giving birth to her. Her father, Mazi Obi, was distraught by the death of his lovely wife, and hoping to give his motherless child a good mother, he married his late wife’s friend, Onyechi. But his new wife hated his daughter and maltreated her. But Omamma’s luck changed when she danced her way to the heart of Prince Obinna, the only son of Igwe Ogalanya of Umueze, who chose her as his bride.
I added other things that were not in the folktale. I tried to make the story relevant to my generation and so, I made the heroine Omamma to attend school to emphasize the importance of education. I have come to realise that some people who have talents either as dancers or musicians drop out of school in pursuit of talent and money. I don’t think that is right and so, the Flute Dancer had to go to school and became a professional nurse to become more relevant to her community Umueze.
What message are you passing on?
The message I am passing on is that no one should drop out of school because you think you have a talent that will fetch you money or fame. Don’t try it because being a drop-out is one of the worst things that could happen to a young person. You can be a dancer like Kaffy and yet be a graduate. Peter and Paul Okoye of P-Square are graduates but they are still traveling the world with their music. Education is worth it. Omawumi, the famed singer is a Law graduate. Actress Tonto Dike is a graduate and so many others.
You used a lot of Igbo words? Do you understand Igbo language?
I am an Igbo girl from Umunze in Anambra State. I understand Igbo very well and I can speak Igbo though not so fluently. I did Igbo language in my junior secondary school but later opted for Yoruba .Why?
Because I live in Lagos and also live among Yorubas. We have to imbibe the culture of our immediate environment.
What was the response of people around you when they saw your book?
There is always this expression of surprise. My friends, teachers and church members were astonished. When I started the book; some people felt I wasn’t serious but when the book was completed, they were shocked because they never imagined the book would become a reality. Some people asked if I really wrote the book, but this baffles me and I wonder what they expect a girl in SS2 to write on- Tortoise and the Fly?
My English teacher, Mrs.Ifeoma Loveday, knew about it and encouraged me. She was the only one who read my story when it was still in my handwriting, before type-setting. Some people even told me to write more because it could be my path to greatness. I have spoken with some interesting Nigerians since the book was published. I have spoken with government officials, members of the House of Representatives, established writers, to mention but a few.
I remember what Mrs. Helen Ovbiagele, the Woman Editor of Vanguard Newspaper told me when we spoke recently. She suggested that I do a sequel to the book and I agree with her. She talked like my mum who said the book is a summary, that it could be extended. I guess I ended the book at a convenient spot because I wrote during the holidays and I needed to end it and return to school.