AFRICAN TALES: Barrett champions the Motherland in his writing.
“We are suffering from a brain drain in my country,” says A. Igoni Barrett, commenting on his devotion to his homeland of Nigeria, which figures prominently in his work. “Nigerians go abroad and do well. I don’t want to be like so many of our writers and live abroad.”
The 32-year-old writer, whose growing oeuvre includes the lauded story collection, From Caves of Rotten Teeth, is headlining the Talking Trees Literary Fiesta later this month in Treasure Beach. As far as his career goes, Barrett resolves to use his writing to help transform his country, insisting that Nigerians should read high-quality writing about themselves and their situations from writers at home.
“Some people say that my stories are tragic and dark, but I like to think of them as redemptive stories about my country. I write some of them — for example, “My Smelling Mouth Problem” —in the tone and accent that Nigerians use when speaking English. That is a humorous voice,” says Barrett, who discovered his voice while pursuing agriculture at Ibadan University, going on to win the BBC World Service short story competition in 2005. “When I talk to my father I realize that there is so much of Nigeria that I do not know. Nigeria is a highly populated country with more than 150 million people. In Lagos, you can live on the same street with your brother and not see him for years.”