Interview with Hauwa Shaffii Nuhu
A SprinNG Women Authors Prize Judge
Hauwa Shaffii Nuhu is a poet and essayist from Nigeria, whose work has appeared on Popula, Ake Review, Lolwe, Arts and Africa, After The Pause journal, Bitter Oleander, 20.35 Africa, Memento, and elsewhere. She is a 2018 fellow of Ebedi Writers Residency.
She has an LLB from Bayero University, Kano, and is currently at the Nigerian Law School. A two-time shortlistee of the Nigerian Students Poetry Prize, she has been a guest at literary festivals and panels such as the Ake Festival and the Kaduna Book and Arts Festival.
Passionate about northern and women representation and amplification, in 2018, she was an associate producer of season 4 of the popular Hausa TV show “Haske Matan Arewa,” a program that aired on Arewa24, interviewing and showcasing exceptional northern Nigerian women and their work to the word.
She lives in Minna.
What is the most surprising thing that writing has taught you about yourself?
The most surprising thing that writing has taught me about myself is that the part of me that I thought was “weak” was not weak; it was “intense.” And there’s nothing weak about intensity. It requires a lot of strength, a lot of acquiescence. It is beautifully, wonderfully, even if painfully, human.
What was the first experience that helped you realize the power of writing?
I can’t quite remember the first experience; I think I have always been aware of the power of writing. But one experience that stands out was my encountering the poetry performance of Andrea Gibson. It’s been almost a year, but I am still completely stunned by their ability to explain the things I feel to me even before I feel them. The truth, intensity, and stark vulnerability that comes from their poetry and the performance is one that reaches into my core.
My first Andrea Gibson poem was The Nutritionist. My friend sent it to me, and I remember watching it on YouTube, my heart hurting and filling up so much, my eyes watery until the tears finally came pouring. It had been a while since a piece of art made me feel so acutely.
How does your law career and life as a poet rub off on each other?
To be honest, they don’t rub off. I had thought from my early days at the university that they would find a way to intersect. But the only thing that has happened is the realization that they are as distinct as any two things can be. Law requires many technicalities and strict abiding, lots of pre-laid down rules that you cannot maneuver your way around.
What big dreams do you have for your writing?
The most significant accomplishment I would have as a writer is to reach the people I write for wherever they may be in the world and make them know immediately as they read that it was written for them.
They say that poetry is rebellion; if this is true for you, what do your poems mostly rebel against?
I think my poetry rebels against silence.
Tell us about the last literary event you attended in Nigeria and what you think of the evolution of literature and literary activities in the country.
That would be the Ake Festival 2019. But virtually, it was the Quramo Writing Festival, where I hosted a panel on New Nigerian poetry and the manipulation of form. The evolution of literary activities in Nigeria has been such a wonder to witness; the writing community continues to improve the quality of work it churns out; young people are putting in so much work and doing the thing. It’s beautiful to see them get their dues.
Which five writers have been most influential to your creative development?
I think that mentorship was instrumental to my growth as a writer. I had all the right people around me at almost every stage of my writing career. I am not sure I’d have come this far without them. The Hilltop Arts Center laid my entire foundation and pointed me towards the right directions every time I arrived at a crossroad. I hope every young writer gets the opportunity to get steeped in such a community that values and exemplifies growth and togetherness.
What is your idea of literary success?
Reaching the people I write to/for.
No pressure here, but should we look out for a collection of your works soon?
I have a chapbook of poetry forthcoming next year with the African Poetry Book Fund + Akashic Books. I’m looking forward to that.
5/12/2020 02:44:10 pm
I love that she breaking the norm of what and how northerner women are seen. And not only is she doing that, she is bringing other into their deserved accolades.
6/12/2020 06:23:34 am
It's amazing to see that she's so much into poetry, despite her law profession and cultural background (as a Northerner). She inspires hope, in women especially.
7/12/2020 07:10:09 pm
Ocie, hello. What exactly do you mean by "...despite her cultural background as a Northerner"?
6/12/2020 08:56:32 am
When you hear persons that aren't just previledged but rather the worked the part, you are encouraged to know that you also have the right to do great things as well. Well done Hauwa
6/12/2020 04:36:52 pm
This is an audacious interview. I would be honoured to meet this woman.
15/12/2020 12:11:49 am
Using your writing as a voice against writing is great.💯
25/12/2020 06:29:18 am
It's always refreshing to see northern creatives, especially female northern creatives making the waves, with the underrepresentation of northern art, literature and creativity in the Nigerian space. And as a young writer, I hope I do get opportunities in such beneficial communities as well.
25/12/2020 07:09:18 am
I love this: 'the part of me that I thought was “weak” was not weak; it was “intense.” And there’s nothing weak about intensity. It requires a lot of strength, a lot of acquiescence. It is beautifully, wonderfully, even if painfully, human.'.
25/12/2020 09:03:16 am
I had a swell time reading three of Hauwa's works; my favorite being "when we talk of freedom" that is on "the republic Journal". Link: https://republic.com.ng/october-november-2019/when-we-talk-of-freedom/
25/12/2020 09:42:10 am
Just by her answers, you can tell she has a way with words. Very inspiring interview.
25/12/2020 03:57:54 pm
I love the part where she says her poetry rebels against silence because that's what poetry should be about.
26/12/2020 07:36:53 am
I am glad I got to read this. This just sparked a new motivation in me to keep doing poetry. I love how you can tell she's a poet just from her responses.
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