Bisi Adjapon wrapped up day five of Afrolit Sans Frontières on Instagram Live from Accra, Ghana on Friday, March 27, 2020.
The Afrolit Sans Frontiers Virtual Literary Festival is an initiative from writers of African origin curated by Zukiswa Wanner. Sixteen writers from 10 African countries are sharing their work from 15 different cities in English, French, Lingala, and Portuguese to a global virtual audience online over eight days. Since the festival started on Monday, audiences have interacted with Richard Ali Mutu in Kinshasa, Leye Adenle in London, Rémy Ngamije in Windhoek, Namibia, Hawa Jande Golakai in Monrovia, Liberia, Maaza Mengiste in Zurich, Switzerland, Mukoma Wa Ngugi in Ithaca, New York, USA, and Nozizwe Cynthia Jele in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Day five of the festival started with Yara Monteiro in Alentejo, Portugal before Bisi Adjapon wrapped up the day’s proceedings from Accra, Ghana. Adjapon is a poet and writer of the critically acclaimed novel, Of Women and Frogs, which made the Daily Trust’s Top 15 novels of 2018, and whose short story version was nominated for the Caine Prize. A former International Affairs Specialist, she won the US Foreign Service Civil Rights Award for Human Relations. Her work has appeared in McSweeney’s Quarterly, Washington Times, and Brittle Paper. She founded and directed the Young Shakespeare Company in Virginia, USA.
Bisi Adjapon started her session by welcoming everyone to her very hot base in Accra, Ghana then she started reading from her novel Of Women and Frogs. The passage she read is when her protagonist Esi has her first period and the joy of learning that as a woman she is now a conduit of life. At question time, we learnt that the protagonist is like the writer but less braver. Esi, who is precocious, did things that her writer wished she would have done when she was at that age. The book title came from the Ghanaian urban legend that when a frog jumps onto a girl then she automatically turns into a man which is a terrible thing. Incidentally Bisi to this day, because of this, is still deathly scared of frogs even though she knows that such a conversion cannot happen.
She introduced the audience to “supi” which are relationships between girls in boarding schools in her novel. She believes that some Ghanaians are actually bisexual as the Akan people had no labels in the past. It is Christianity and the westernisation of Ghanaian culture that has changed things, making homosexuality or bisexuality appear in a negative light. The Ghanaians are now more religious but yet there are more incidents of sexual impropriety between pastors and their congregations.
On her book having a lot of sex, she doesn’t know why there is such a stigma about it. She spoke about how women have “two mouths,” the lower and the upper mouth yet the people talk about food (which is for the upper mouth) but not about the other mouth. She questioned the refusal to write about sex which is known to be very important for women’s (and men’s) physical wellbeing.
Her writing routine is mainly working in the morning when she is most productive where she maps her work. She loves to dance, have chocolate and take her wine to get her creative juices going. She also shared that she is currently working on a new novel with her new agent.
On whether she would be interested in a movie adaptation Of Women And Frogs, she shared that she had been approached by Netflix to do a pilot. As someone who has a background in theatre, Adjapon is also very interested in a collaboration with anyone interested.
To wannabe writers, she advises that you don’t talk about it but you write. Write your truth as this way you are not stifled in your work.