My Farafina Experience – Pamela Naaki Tetteh


I’d applied twice before. Each time, I knew, immediately I sent off the mail, I knew I wasn’t going to get in. But this year…

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June 9, 20:40

The email comes, but I don’t see it until four, five hours later. It’s a day early, so my initial reaction is disbelief, then wariness. Is someone pranking me? (But it’s signed with her name!) Why would anyone prank me like this? Of course I screenshot it and send it to all my friends, but it isn’t until the list comes out and I see my name on it -number three- that I fully believe it.

The next days are a blur. I spend my days in a TV-induced semi stupor, and my nights on the internet, doing intense ‘research’. I read possibly every single review on the workshop ever written, I google the words ‘farafina’, ‘chimamanda’, ‘workshop’ cons tantly, I look at pictures, I read tweets, I look for videos (there are very few to be found). I am coming apart at the seams. I google all the names on the list (I tell myself over and over, it’s not weird). Finally, I break down and text a friend: is it weird?

June 20

It rains heavily, all morning. I am too nervous to eat, my throat is closing up, I speak as little as possible. ‘Make friends o!’ my mother yells as the taxi pulls away. I expected traffic, but there’s none. Still, the drive is long, and I fall asleep. My sister is in the backseat, chattering nonstop on the phone. She prods me awake when we get to the bridge and we stare up at it through the car windows. It’s formidable during the day, utterly beautiful at night. The hotel is quiet. A cold lobby, a loud television and a smiling receptionist meet us when we enter. I get my room key, no fuss (for some reason, I expected a long drawn out argument at the front desk, possibly some tears and my having to call Okey). After unpacking my things, fiddling with everything in the room and taking pictures, my sister leaves, and I realize how hungry I am. I text a few friends and their replies are eerily similar: ‘go and find something to eat now’, ‘go downstairs, I’m sure you’ll get something’ etcetera. Ignore, ignore. I fall asleep feeling a multitude of things, but mostly, hungry.

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Where Our Fears Have No Name: My Farafina Workshop Experience – Umar Turaki

This is how it starts out. Twenty-three strangers sitting around a conference room in silence, waiting for her.

It is after she walks in and sits down, alone and unencumbered by protocol, that everyone begins to let up. We slowly realise it is OK to breathe; we realise it is OK to be.

She takes each of umarus apart, story by story. She tells us what is worth keeping and what can be improved. She teases us. She asks for opinions about a story, about any topic. Without saying so, she tells us that we can call ourselves writers, that our writing is good enough. She tells us to use details in unexpected ways, the way you might use a nail file to skin a cat. She never “teaches” us. Rather she gists. And in her gisting, she has taught us.

Slowly, like night flowering into day, I understand that it has stopped being about her and has become about other things, because this has never been about her.

It is about Chinaza Boy and the unassuming way he uses language to beautiful effect, how we sit in a Chicken Republic and talk about Chinua Achebe and the joys of reading, the way we rejoice in the mutual secret that we are both slow readers.

It is about Kunle and the way his beautiful, incendiary texts poke for trouble, and the way he pulls on my beard, testing my patience, and the way we laugh about it later. I know he wants to do it again and I will kill him if he tries.

It is about Ama and her enchanting voice, about the wisdom that appears to reside even in the sound of it, how she uses metaphor with startling originality.

It is about Fatima and the passion she exudes when she speaks and writes about justice and law, and how she manages to pull herself together and navigate this terrain of endless reading and writing even though she is smack in the middle of the holy month of Ramadan.

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What the Farafina Creative Writing Workshop Is – Nnamdi Anyadu

It is:

I. Twenty-three writer-people googling each other before they arrive for ten days of reading and writing at a beautiful waterside hotel in Lekki, Lagos, Nigeria.

II. Emails of short stornnamdiies, of creative non-fiction pieces, of links to Wikipedia pages.

III. Reading.

IV.  An excellent reception from Okey Adichie — the man with the warmest smile; making Kenechi Uzor’s acquaintance, sharing a hug with Enajite Efemuaye.

V. Meeting Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie for the first time. Reminding yourself to breathe. Hearing you’re in a safe space, amongst kin, within your tribe. Unbuckling your shield. Viewing the humanity of fellow tribe folks. Taking first notes: It isn’t unusual to feel self-doubt. Writing comes from a flawed place.

VI. Writing exercises.

VII. Being charged by Aslak Sira Myhre to affect his life through your writing, to affect the world, to tell your truth, to go where it hurts, to go where it matters. Taking second notes: What isn’t written isn’t part of the world. Normal is good enough.

VIII. Writing exercises. Emails. Writing exercises. Emails. Reading. Reading. Reading.

IX. Making friends. Debating Michael Okpanachi over cigarettes. Listening to Umar Turaki talk film. Realizing Ifeoluwa     Nihinola has an editor’s eye and Ama Diaka should make audiobooks.

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The Letters Learned at the Farafina Workshop – Funmi Akinsola



A is for  how astonished you are when you receive Chimamanda’s email telling you are one of the lucky 24, minus one eventually, but not your one.

A is for Aslak, the teacher, who makes you think profoundly of your simple pieces, talking about the many other places in the human heart and homes you can take your story.


Breathe… Is what you try to do intermittently as nervousness and insecurity creep over you in the midst of these brilliant writers.


Chimamanda’s charm displaces your fears and makes you comfortable, not only on the first day but every day as you grow, searching your soul, finding your voice and speaking your truth.


Disbelief: is what you feel when the class breaks into applause at your Wangechi Mutu inspired story.


Insecurity is what you still feel sometimes: you feel like a fraud, wondering why you are here in the first place. Insecurity forms a ball in your throat and you begin to choke, choke until you give in to tears as you inform Bianyavanga- you don’t think – you are a good writer.


Kuku Kill Me is the slang for class and the title of the Farafina 16 short film.

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My Farafina Story – Miracle Adebayo


I arrive Lagos late, sweaty and not-so-fresh-looking. The rowdiness of Lagos is a total contrast to the city of Ilorin that wears serenity like a colourful coat.

Walking into my room at the hotel, I am tempted to collapse in bed and just absorb the freshness and beauty before me. I mean, it is not every day one comes home to a well-made bed with crisp white sheets.

I resist the urge and rushmiracle downstairs for my first class.

When I enter, I hold my head high, even though I am quivering inside. I hate being late to anything, especially a class.

I find a seat beside the Queen herself, much to my dismay.

Five minutes later, I have gathered my wits. I take stock.

There are twenty-two other people in the room, besides Chimamanda and Eghosa Imasuen. Twenty-two people, who — I did not know at the time — would become important to me in many ways.

I steal glances at the Queen.

She is beautiful. She is beautiful in a pure, unadulterated and simple way. She doesn’t have so much make-up on so you can tell that she has that kind of beauty where she’d look good in rags.

Chimamanda has a wry sense of humour. Translation: she loves sarcasm. This is the first connection I have with her. I am a fan of sarcasm and so hearing/seeing her dole out sarcasm in juicy bits, gives me a certain satisfaction.

The truth is, I came prepared to hate her guts. I had formed an opinion of her based on others’ opinions of her. Ignorance is not bliss; it is a prison. It is better to defer forming opinions about people we know nothing of until we have an idea what they have been through, their ideals and what informs their beliefs.

When you form an opinion of someone you have not encountered personally, you create a prison in your mind.

So yes, this is me admitting my myopia.

She is not a – how do I say this? – bitch. She is nothing like any of us expected. She is simply human.

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Rejection is Part of the Writing Process (Adichie, 2016) – Chika Onwuasoanya

How do you feel having been taught by award-winning writer Chimamanda Adichie?

I got questions like this in varying tones after the workshop. Yet the truth is: that is not the point. When you encounter Chimamchikaanda, you come off feeling like you have touched light. That’s poetic. I mean you come off knowing that this is a human, who has become special becomes she believes in humanity, humaneness. So it did not feel like sitting next to an amazon, which it really was, it just felt like sitting next to a big sister, who knows what it feels to be your age, and be unsure, and who was willing to help you anyway she could.

We were twenty-three in the Farafina workshop this year, and none of us will be able to write about Chimamanda without choking on emotions, none.

“If you are looking for money, please get a job.” –

That was the second gem she threw at us on the second day of the workshop. I caught this gem and kept it. But before I talk about why she said that and what she said next, let’s talk about the very first gem.

I applied four times for the Farafina Workshop, or was it five? I am not sure, so let’s stick with four. Every year since 2013, I have been applying for the Farafina Creative Writing workshop. I think once I got the rejection mail, other times, I did not get anything.

On Thursday the 9th of June 2016, I was in church. It was night. The email of acceptance came in and I quickly went outside to jump up and pump my fist in the air. This my personal story of perseverance set the tone of the workshop for me.

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Answering Chimamanda’s Call – Akwaeke Emezi

I became a fan of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie only last year, on the abandoned dance floor of a gay club in Syracuse, with a music akwaekevideo DJ throwing up selections on the TV screens scattered between empty pink and blue strobe lights.

I had read all her books by then and I’d enjoyed them, although they didn’t resonate with me in the ways that my favorite art does. To me, her books were important reflections of pre-existing conditions—important because all of this needed to be seen and discussed, because representation must be full. If anyone ever asked me what it was like to be a Nigerian immigrant at the time that I moved to the States, I could hand them a copy of Americanah and say, ‘Just read this.’ That documentation, like that of the war, matters. I knew the content of her talks and the things she’d famously said in conversations with Nigerian journalists who never saw her coming. I admired the tightness of her writing, the way she spoke, the overall body of her work, and when ‘Flawless’ was released, I was excited to hear her voice on the track, a Nigerian woman, one of ours, my skin prickling at the simple power of what was being said and who was saying it.

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Fear is a Thing That Evaporates! | My Farafina Workshop Experience – Eloghosa Osunde

DAY 1 

starts with plenty small talk in hushed tones, while we wait. We are trying to get to know each other, yes – but the main priority is to keep talking, even when we are repeating things – because we must quiet the anxiety. It is a silent agreement.

So, when we run out of things to say, we talk about hunger. Some of us, after much contemplation, decide to do something about it. We walk eloghosaout of the room in an awkward line.

When we come back in, it is with Coaster Biscuit and Burger Peanuts. It is not what we expected, but we laugh about it, because it works.

When Ms. Adichie comes in, a hand reaches for my own under the table. I know that it is my new friend. I don’t look at her. I just tighten my grip and together, we exhale.

It is before we’ve laid each other down and bare in front of the entire class in writing, it is before she pairs us up and asks us to write about what we know after 15 minutes, it’s even before we start the class properly. It is right there, when my new confident friend, hand still in my own, is asked to say her name and she can’t. It is when she begins to cry and apologise, her shoulders shaking uncontrollably. It is how she does this for all 25 of us – how every eye in the room is fixed on her, unbelieving, understanding. That’s when I realise it: that everyone in the room too, is human.

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If You Think June Was A Crazy Month For You – Edwin Madu

My people have a saying, it goes thus: “ze mbe si na ihe ya ji-achiri ihe egwu ya aga njem bu maka ya ezu ndiegwu”. It means that the reason the tortoise carries his instruments around is in case he meets other musicians.

I am happy to announce that I, the humble tortoise himself while carrying my out-of-tune instruments, met with edwin-2some of the best musicians ever. Before I gush about my new squad let me take you guys back a bit and we’ll go through what an awesomely crazy month June was for me.

It is not news that just before I attended the Future Ready University Conference, I got an email that said I was a selected participant for the 2015 Farafina Trust Creative Writing workshop – in other words, I was going to meet Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

Well I met her. She is amazeballs – I say amazeballs because there are no other adjectives in my kinda limited vocabulary. I talked to her, hugged her, was in her personal space. It took Jehovah’s intervention for the creep in me not to just emerge from his doormot. She speaks Igbo with her brother Okey, who by the way is the turntest person I have ever met. IN. MY. LIFE.

She did not come early on the first day of workshop and all of us sat around the U-shaped arrangement of tables. There was a certain silence. People who knew themselves before then talked and laughed. I tried to intrude on some conversations since I did not know a soul from before then. When she finally came, she apologised for coming late… I found it funny because we did not even care. She was there. Standing in front of us. The emails were not a scam.

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The Farafina Creative Writing Workshop – Yewande Omotoso

If someone told me when I was five or fifteen that at thirty-two I would sit in an air-conditioned room in Lagos, on Victoria Island, with a woman named Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and twenty other writers and I would sit for nine yewandedays and we would all talk about writing, our own writing and the writing of others, that there would grow a soft place inside me for all the participants and organisers of this strange meeting, that the meeting would come to an end but actually that things like this never end. If someone had tried to convince me of this it would all have sounded rather unlikely. I guess when I was five Chimamanda wasn’t yet Chimamanda the acclaimed author and Farafina did not have a workshop in its name; there was no Farafina, not yet.

Today I am grateful to have my own memories of what it was like to participate in the 2012 Farafina Creative Writer’s Workshop. And I struggle to write about it without using words like joy, profound, indelible. What struck me about the workshop and the manner in which Chimamanda led it was the intimacy she managed to create with us twenty-one strangers. The workshop days, eight-hour sessions, happened with plenty of humour, lengthy exchanges on the politics of writing, ethics, and what exactly is feminism. We were often asked to write true stories from our life experiences and then read them out to the class. In discussing our histories, our cultures, our prejudices and stereotypes there was sometimes offence taken. This brought with it many apologies, working through misunderstandings and always a burgeoning friendship.

There had been nine hundred applications to the workshop. Chimamanda took pains to explain how the selections were made, no one’s cousin made it through and there was no pandering to calls from big ogas who wanted their sons and daughters to be accepted.

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