Hello again, Nairobi: KSG Creative Writing Workshop
As it turns out, the feeling of love I had for SHOFCO was mutual! After the graduation ceremony last year, I got asked back to do a writing workshop with the girls at the Kibera School during their holiday program.
Timehin’s TED: 1m Views, Top Ten and a Bonus Chat with Chris
My brightest moment of 2017 is the gift that keeps on giving! TED was a wonderful opportunity; I met so many brilliant people, witnessed first-hand the genius that exists on the continent, and got a chance to speak about something I care deeply about to an audience that keeps growing.
Domestic doings: African Mobilities and the Gender Expression Exhibition
East to West, home is best, blah-di-dah--my TED talk may have been described as a ‘love song to Lagos’, but my relationship to the city is rocky, at best. In any case, I’ve been invited to speak at two events in UNILAG in the past year, the first being the African Mobilities project in October 2017.
Curated by Dr. Mpho Matsipa of Wits University, African Mobilities brought together Olalekan Jeyifous, an artist with a background in architecture, and Wale Lawal, the founding editor of Republic Magazine, to create a conversation about urban realities, innovations and futures in Lagos.
I was invited to offer insights into what the gendered implications of these futures and realities might be, and at first I felt a bit out of my depth because I don’t have a background in building design or urban landscapes. But as the conversation deepened I realised I had a lot to say--a lot--and even almost got into an argument with someone in the audience. Typical.
A bit more my speed was the Gender Expression Exhibition on March 9th, organised by Titilayo Adeyeri, a final year student of UNILAG whose courage and can-do attitude I find very inspiring. I was a speaker alongside Chisom Ogbommuo, a UN Youth Envoy and the founder of Conversation Cafe, and Abimbola Izu, a banking and legal technocrat.
It was a relaxed, fun evening with frank conversations about navigating gendered bias and discrimination in Nigeria, and I really enjoyed speaking with the students who came up to me afterwards to disagree, seek clarification or just say hi.
Hello Kenya! SHOFCO’s Kibera School for Girls
Almost four years after my first trip out, I was invited back to East Africa by Shining Hope for Communities (SHOFCO), an awe-inspiring non-profit that works on holistic urban regeneration in Nairobi, to give the commencement speech at their first graduation ceremony ever.
Founded by Kennedy Odede, a movement-builder who was born in Africa’s largest slum, Shining Hope uses healthcare provision, water and sanitation, sports, women’s empowerment, girls education and a host of other initiatives to improve the lives and prospects of people living in Kenyan slums.
The Kibera School for Girls is one of SHOFCO’s earliest initiatives. The school graduated its first set of students in December, and I was invited to join some of their donors and partners for a week of full-on SHOFCO enlightenment and fun. The scale of impact that SHOFCO has had in Nairobi’s slums is immense, and my favourite thing about their model is that community members are at the forefront of the majority of the projects. Poverty is a lack of resources, but certainly not of ability, intelligence or drive.
I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know the friends and partners of SHOFCO, visiting the sites of the libraries, clinics, and ICT centers, and hearing about the history and impact of SHOFCO from its people. It is no exaggeration when I say that KSG’s students are exemplary in every sense of the word, and I’m still so honoured that they wanted me to be part of this special moment in their history. I loved, loved, loved becoming part of the SHOFCO family and came away from my time in Nairobi extremely hopeful for the future of our continent and the world.
November news: Unilever, UN Women, and other unexpected things
Becoming the sort of young person that people believe can offer advice to other young people was, shall I say, not quite part of how I envisioned my life a few years ago, but here we are!
I got invited by Unilever (at somewhat short notice, as sometimes happens) to give a speech at the launch event of one of their social initiatives, Heroes for Change. I wasn’t quite sure what to speak about, and then my dad had a medical emergency during the weekend that kept me up the entire night before the Monday morning event and made it impossible for me to either fully flesh out or memorise my speech.
As it turns out, speaking from the heart involves a little rambling but can also be very powerful. I really enjoyed hearing back from the program participants about my off-the-cuff call to courage, and I was a bit surprised by some of the interpretations they came away with; people are deep! It was a wonderful day all in all, and I got to meet one of Africa’s most famous actresses, Omotola Jalade-Ekeinde. Unexpected perks of the speaker life!
November was an eventful month; I also got invited to do jury duty by the EU in Nigeria and UN Women for their Gender Equality comic contest alongside Albert Ohams, a political cartoonist, and Moji Makanjuola, a gender advocate. Cartooning in Nigeria is a very male-dominated industry, so I was thrilled that one of the young women who entered the contest made it into the top 3. Her name is Awele Emili; you can see her work here.
Abuja is a great place to hobnob with the powerful; the awards ceremony ended with a very affirming conversation with Mrs Toyin Saraki, founder of the Wellbeing Foundation Africa and wife of the Nigerian Senate President. She told me she thought I was very funny, asked for my barber’s number, and we had a delighted laugh over our shared love of Hermès accessories. Okay, okay, our conversation was more serious than that but it felt just as good as if she’d said those things! Haha.
AKE Arts and Book Festival; meeting Ama Ata Aidoo!
I’ve been an attendee at a few Ake festivals, but this year I got invited to be a moderator (yes, life upgrade!) and I couldn’t have been happier about the timing.
The 2017 theme was ‘This F Word’, and the whole festival was about the intersections of feminism and literature: the representation of women and our realities in literature, African women writers historical and current, African feminisms, the impacts of gender(ed bias, for example) on publishing, women in film, women in journalism and political resistance, women, women, women. It felt like home in more ways than one.
I especially enjoyed moderating the panel titled ‘Silencing the Silence: How We Talk About Rape’, which focused on the way sexual violence is framed in the popular imagination. It was an insightful and illuminating conversation with four brilliant and powerful women: Ayodeji Osowobi, the founder of Stand to End Rape, one of only two anti-sexual violence and survivor support organisations in Lagos; Laure Beaufils, the British Deputy High Commissioner to Nigeria; Jude Kelly CBE, artistic director at the Southbank Centre and founder of the Women in the World festival, and the inimitable Professor Pumla Gqola, who authored the seminal work “Rape: A South African Nightmare”.
(If I look tired in that photo, it’s because I was: the panel was the first one of the day, and I had spent most of the night before responding to phone calls from Otodo Gbame evictees informing me that they had been brutally attacked. They were sleeping in front of Government House following a JEI-led peaceful protest that I attended just before leaving for Abeokuta, and police forces attacked them. 158 people were illegally detained, including women, an elderly man and several minors, and many more were beaten and injured.)
The absolute highlight of the festival for me was meeting the guest of honour, Ama Ata Aidoo. Now, Ama Ata Aidoo is a giant of African literature (hello?!), and possibly the most original voice of her time, so of course I completely spazzed out when I got invited over at breakfast to say hello. And then during her talk in the final event of the festival, she broke down in tears describing how my awe made her feel, so of course I started crying in my seat because, reasons. Best of all, the festival convener, Lola Shoneyin, organised for me to do a conversation with Ms Aidoo for the BBC, so now there’s incontrovertible evidence that Ms Aidoo actually knows my name. She said to me, “so you can actually talk!”, and that was the best compliment of the whole festival.
Lamide Akintobi, who is one of the many inspiring women I met at the festival--literally too many to name--made a great recap video of the Ake experience that you should definitely watch. And most importantly, you should make plans to attend this year’s edition!
Tanzania 2017: The Road to TED Global
I’m so excited to finally be able to share this news with everyone, considering how long it’s been sitting in my email inbox. Following my talk at TEDLagos, I’ve been invited to speak at TED Global 2017 !
The program is so impressive that I’m a bit awed, myself. I’m scheduled to speak on Aug. 30th (same day as urban development thought leader Robert Neuwirth!), and sandwiched between literary giants like Nnedi Okorafor and Bibi Bakare-Yusuf, serial entrepreneur Ndidi Nwuneli, and the Presidents of Mauritius and Rwanda, Ameenah Gurib-Fakeem and Paul Kagame.
Needless to say, I’ve been working my socks off crafting a talk worth listening to, and I can’t wait to share it with the world. I’m grateful to Kelly Stoetzel, Emeka Okafor and Chris Andersen, among others on the TED team, for all the helpful advice and support so far.
Arusha, here I come! #TimehinTakesTED
Norway 2017: Libraries, Literature and a Crown Princess Who Loves Books
My visit to Oslo was remarkable for many reasons, not the least of which was the unprecedented pleasantness in the weather (at least according to my host Camilla Houeland and my Instagram-turned-real life friend, Angelique Culvin).
I spent most of my stay in or around the National Library of Norway, where I was given a
walk-through of their awe-inspiring digitisation process by the Director and National Librarian, Aslak
Sira Myhre. But the highlight of my trip was easily getting to meet Crown Princess Mette-Marit .
I was introduced to the future Queen at the NORLA conference, where the Norwegian literary community discussed plans for their role of Guest Nation at the Frankfurt Book Fair in 2019. I was thrilled when HRH spared a few moments to discuss with me, highlighting that we have writing and feminism in common, as well as the fact that that she was also a single mother before joining the Norwegian aristocracy.
I also met the State Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Laila Bokhari, who was incredibly gracious (and probably has the best sense of humour in the entire Norwegian government).
It stayed bright and sunny while I was in the city, with the skies being polite enough to hold the snow until the two days when I was far away in Mo i Rana.
TEDLagos Idea Search 2017: White Sands, White Flags
In December 2016, the New York-based TED Talks team put out a call for innovative and compelling pitches for their Idea Search events in Nairobi, Kenya and Lagos, Nigeria.
I sent in a pitch titled ‘White Sands, White Flags; the War for Lagos Waterfronts’ and was selected along with twenty three other young Nigerians to present a six-minute talk at the MUSON Centre.
My talk focused on the need to demand accountability for Lagos State government’s campaign of forced evictions which recently destroyed an indigenous fishing village called Otodo Gbame, rendering over 30,000 people homeless overnight.
Other talks at the event included an introduction to a groundbreaking market stall design by the brilliant Ada Umeofia, the importance of ethical news reporting by Stephanie Busari, and the need to recognise the value of our names by Erikan Obotetukudo.
It was both incredibly humbling and gratifying to make my debut as a public speaker on the TED stage, and to receive such a positive response from the audience. I was especially delighted by the chance to meet other women in the media afterward, including Arit Okpo who wrote this (rather glowing!) review of the event.
Ghana 2016: Feminism in Arts, Culture and Sports
This weekend-long convening by the AWDF afforded me literally the biggest hotel room of my life, besides an invaluable opportunity to learn about historical and current resistance movements across the continent.
During our two days in Accra, the cohort deliberated on the ways in which feminist activists in arts and sports can strengthen one another’s work by forming strategic partnerships. I also discovered great projects like Moving the Goalposts, finally laid hands on a copy of the Voice Power Soul book from the African Feminist Forum, and got my very own ankara t-shirt from FitClique Africa.
The Love Mic, a closing event which was open to the public, gave me a chance to perform my poetry alongside gifted women like Toni Stuart, Sionne Neely, Rudo Chigudu and Jessica Horn (whose book ‘Speaking in Tongues’ is truly a masterpiece).
One of the most profound of these was a truly insightful talk about the student-led movement in South Africa by Danai Mupotsa, a brilliant and committed Professor at the University of the Witswatersrand.
AWDF has a long history of responsive women’s rights programming, and I was glad to be part of helping them envision some of that work.
Brazil 2016: Black Feminisms and Feminist Writing at AWID’s 13th Forum
Brazil was a beautiful, deeply affirming experience, and not just because I got to travel with the homie, Akwaeke.
The Black Feminisms Forum truly changed my life. I had numerous soul-nourishing encounters not just in the main forum events, but also in the cafeteria, by the pool, during the spontaneous parties… Women are truly magical, and I will always be grateful for all the Black, queer, trans, Indigenous, sex worker etc. warriors who I was blessed to meet in Bahia.
Besides all of the learning and connecting I was able to do, the forum also gave me my first go at facilitating a workshop on feminist writing, which was a humbling experience. And I will never forget all of the dancing we did, especially at the closing party where the all-female percussion crew Dida and DJ Lynnee Denise showed out.
I will always be grateful to AWID and the working group of the BFF, especially Amina Doherty, Nana Darkoa Sekyiamah and Valerie Bah, for making that magical space possible for me and so many others. Especially since I finally got to meet the inimitable Sokari Ekine!