|Biola Olatunde, author of Blood Contract|
I was fascinated by her book, Blood Contract, so I quickly aquired it and dove in right away. It is about a man named Kenawari, who lives in Port Harcourt, a city in Nigeria, but not at the Izon village where he came from. He has married a white American woman, started a family, and for fifteen years, he thought that he left his old life far behind. However, Ken ends up being sent home to the Niger Delta to investigate a kidnapping at his home village. The story is an unfolding mystery as the reader learns more about the present day case that Kenawari is involved with, as well as uncovering the secrets of Ken's past and why he left the Izon, never intending to return. He meets new people in the tribe as well as people from his past, in a mysterious area that is shadowed with old secrets.
Before I read the book, I was unfamiliar with the Izon tribe and life in the Niger Delta swamps, but Biola tells the story so skillfully that I was soon there with Ken, throroughly absorbed in the plot and characters. I love how she tells an thoughtful story of the turmoil in a man's life while showing us a people who struggle to survive.
Now, let's hear from Biola:
What inspired you to write Blood Contract?
That is an interesting question Chaz, I wanted to correct an impression amongst my people that every one who lived in the Niger Delta was a militant. I had met quite a number of them and found them fiercely devoted to their watery seascape. They are generally hardworking, stoic and taciturn. I had a chance to live amongst a particular tribe of the Niger Delta and learned to respect them. I wanted to present them as the same as every other Nigerian with more reasons to question the rationale of being part of an entity that does not recognize them as equal partners
Your main character, Kenawari, is from one of the 250+ tribes in Nigeria, a different one from your own. How did you become familiar with the Izon tribe of the Niger Delta?
I worked with one of them as a broadcaster. Being of a curious nature I wanted to know his people and at first he was suspicious but gradually saw I was sincere so he would tell me about his tribe. The Izon makes for the fourth largest tribe in my country and the richest through its resources of oil and gas. It is however the most neglected part of the country until recently.
What message in Blood Contract do you want your readers to grasp?
Essentially, the message of Blood Contract is a social commentary of humanity’s failure to recognize fundamental rights of everyone, to dream, and work towards having that dream actualized. The human society is the same everywhere. Being a member of a part of the world that has been stereotyped as backward, it was ironic that we also discriminate against ourselves. I thought it was dumb to do that, human beings have a right to be rationale and the demands of the izon and tribes of the Niger Delta was genuine. I also did not want to write a romantic story of the bad guy and the good guy, but wanted to show that the society we live in accommodates all. The good, the bad and the ugly.
The difficulties that Ken goes up against - the poverty, the robber barons, and kidnappings that happen in his village - are those problems present in the Izon tribe today?
Of course those problems still exist not only in my country and in the Niger Delta but in every part of the world I imagine. We have not found Utopia yet anywhere I reckon. Kidnappings have gone on even in other tribes and armed robbers have become really daring, but not as a result of being Izon but as a consequence of the imbalance in the world generally.
What are you working on now? Could you share an exerpt? Would you like to tell us about it?
I am working on a novel close to my own tribe, the Yoruba nation. We are a race of ancient myths, religion that has existed for millennia. One of the myths of my race is called ‘abiku’ with its twin ‘emere’. Now while ‘abiku is simply repeated births of the same suspected human being into a family, the emere is assumed not to favour such repetition of incarnation but is viewed as a spirit being who comes to Earth for a particular purpose and executes its mission to the letter dying at the peak of such achievements. The ‘emere’ is dreaded, attractive and assumed to be able to bestow wealth, pain, heartaches depending on its whim. My novel is thus woven round such a suspected spirit being. The twist is though there are reasons to assume such of this particular being, Imole Ife the spirit being is much more than is supposed. I could give you a small excerpt:
So how did it all start? Might be a good question if we all do that you know, check for why we are here on earth, in terra firma, and see if we had a beginning. The classic argument about what came first, the egg or the chicken. We all have a story to tell and I want to tell you about a lot of things. I have wondered if I should just start from the middle of the story but how do I make you understand who I am really? From the mists of confusion and the several bandages that cloud the inner understanding of our journeys into matter?
You have written a lot of stories for radio and television, in addition to your blog and your novel. What kind of writing do you like best?
I have been trying to identify specifically what I like best! I have written most types, horror, detective, crime thriller, romance and the mystical. I generally love writing what I call ‘faction’. That is a mixture of facts as fiction about situations around me. Blood Contract was based on a true story and my current work is the same. Come to think of it my radio and television stories were based on concepts, myths and supernatural of my people and society.
I have never visited Nigeria, but I want to go. What are some of the things that visitors like the most about Nigeria?
Would dearly love to have you as guest, the first myth that will be broken will be that Nigeria is full of scammers. We are 99% hardworking, honest normal human beings. Hospitable, love a good story and have dignity. You will find history, culture and music that is thousands of years old. You will find warm dignified Nigerians proudly in their traditional costumes going about their normal business. You will find all sorts of human nature but basically you will find a resilient nation confident in her ability to always turn bad situations to good. You will find a value system as good as anywhere in the world confronted with the kinks of the human nature just like any part of the world. You will be home too except most faces will be darker than yours I guess. And that is what visitors find surprising when they come, that we are human after all!
Have you traveled? Do you think that it impacts your books?
Yes I have traveled, not far and wide as I dream and wish. Experiences I have garnered has taught me tolerance, charity of the spirit and acceptance that human beings are part of the garden of creation. We all make tapestries that goes into the loom of creation which makes all of this wonderful creation move, and vibrate. It has given me a balanced outlook and that affects how I write. I think what we get is a measure of what we put in, so I feel if we really try to see a bit of goodness in every situation it will in response to the laws of creation only return in multiples of like nature.
What book are you reading now?
I am reading two books actually right now. Okapi Promise by paula Boer and We were Seven by Merle Burbaugh. It is crazy, because I had started reading Paula’s book and my computer crashed..twice Bah!! But I am determined to finish reading it but I am also sidetracked by Merle’s book.