Award winning author Kaine Agary x-rays her new novel, The Garden of Graves

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KAINE Agary, the ebony skinned woman who wrote Yellow Yellow, an award winning novel and also in charge of Wetin lawyers dey do sef, a talk-shop programme that cuts across Africa.  She is presently working on another block buster that might clinch another award, The Garden of Graves.

ENCOMIUM Weekly had an interview with her in her Yaba, Lagos office, where she told us what is in the offing, her talk-shop and reluctantly about some other personal issues.  Enjoy.


How is life?

Life is good, I am not complaining.  I am alive.

What are you currently working on right now?

The year has just begun, we are just planning our event for 2012, hoping to do some edition of Wetin lawyers dey do sef, that we did last year.  We did one in Ghana, one in Nairobi.  We hope to do those two again.  We also want to do some more in Nigeria.  We also hope to do another one which we have been planning for years but has not come to pass, Wetin lawyers dey do sef for women.  As for the writing aspect, I am working on a novel, though it is not complete, the talk show has kept me busy. I am also pursuing a law degree, so my hands are filled up.  When I get to writing, I get to it, there are other things I do with my life other than writing.  Though I write every week, I have a column in Punch newspapers.  My life is not driven by writing novels, writing novels is a hobby for me.  Though I am in the middle of trying to finish another novel, it is almost finished but I just don’t have time to concentrate on it. I am not under pressure to finish it.

Would you say that writing is improving in Nigeria?

I think so, but there is a lot more.  I think with all the workshops and initiatives to improve people’s writing, I think writing is getting better.  Though there is a lot more and I guess, the more you write, the better you get.

What can be done to sustain it?

For me, the business of publishing suffers because of distribution.  If you don’t have food distribution, when the publisher gets your book out there, they can’t make good returns on the investment and they can’t invest more into developing new writers.  We really need to address the problem of distribution.  I am not one of the people who believe Nigerians don’t read. I think Nigerians read especially if you write what they want to read.  I think if we could sort out the issue of distribution and the issues that make it difficult for publishers to get good returns on their investment, that will be good.

Since writing is a hobby for you, how often do you find time to work on the novel?

I write every week for Punch newspapers, I also have to write for talk magazine, even though those are not fiction. I think I still do a lot of creative writing.  For the novel, the story is always going on in my head, I can’t tell you the time I sit down at the computer to type it out.  But I can tell you that I write very late at night.

What would we expect from the new book in terms of storyline and theme?

It is still set in Port Harcourt, it is a story about grieve and nostalgia.

Why are you using Port Harcourt again?

I grew up in Port Harcourt and I love the Port Harcourt that I grew up in. I don’t know if any other work of mine will have Port Harcourt as its setting.  I wrote a short story which was published some years ago.  The people are from Rivers but the story started in Port Harcourt and ended in Lagos.  I can’t say any other work will be set there, it all depends on the story you are telling. But a lot of times, my jump up point is Port Harcourt.

Are you also addressing the plight of women in this novel?

There might be a little of it, there is a way women are treated when they lose their spouse.  By the time people read it, they can conclude. When a writer writes, people have different interpretations to it.

You have not told us the title of the novel?

In A Garden of Graces, Port Harcourt used to be a garden city, like I said, it is set in Port Harcourt.  In the novel, the garden has lost its glory and full of violence and deaths.

What should we expect from this year’s Wetin lawyers dey do sef?

We should expect this edition of Wetin lawyers dey do sef in Nigeria.  The first one will be in Kano sometime in March.  Then, we will go to Accra, Kumasi in Ghana.  We also plan to do another edition for women in Abuja around August and September, then Nairobi.  We also have something we do entitled ABC of Piracy.  The focus of the programme is on students because very few law students encounter the subject of intellectual property in their LL.B programme.  We want them to know that it is another viable section of law they can get into.

Tell us what Wetin lawyers dey do sef is all about.

Wetin lawyers dey do sef is an interactive talk shop between lawyers and different sectors of the society.  We have done two editions, one for the entertainment industry, which is the most popular then, one for small businesses.  We are planning for the women as well.  Basically, we want people to understand the law that defines their relationship and their existence in the state they live and work in.  For entertainment, the workshop covers everything from contract to label issue.  How they can protect themselves, how to advance in their profession.  Everyone needs to be aware of the law that regulates the state they function in.  It makes the law accessible.

So, would you say that the objective of the project is gradually being realized?

I think so, because there is more awareness about the name, there are more doors that have opened for us.  The people we can’t reach through Talkii magazine, I reach through my weekly column in The Punch.  We are also partnering with different organizations on the same leverage.  We are not where I want us to be but I think we are getting there.  It’s been challenging but we will get there.

How long have you been doing it?

I have been running it for more than seven years now. I took over in 2004 when I returned to Nigeria.  The talk shop started in 2001.  It was first Let’s kill all the lawyers, but some lawyers said the caption can instigate violence, so it was changed to Wetin lawyers dey do sef.  It was my cousin that started it.

Who funds it?

We rely on corporate sponsors, we also have some income generating initiatives.  We have a merchandising arm, we have a printing press, where we do commercial printing.  We also do some consulting.  We have done jobs for Lagos State Ministry of Finance, we have also done jobs with Federal Ministry of Labour.  These are the ways we raise money.

Let us go a little bit personal, are you in a relationship?

I wouldn’t answer that, what difference does it make it I answer that?

What really do you want in a man?

I don’t have an ideal man, I can’t say, I don’t know.

The impression we have of Kaine Agary is that she is not interested in marriage?

For me, my attitude is if it happens, it happens.  My life is not going to be put on hold if it doesn’t happen.  If it happens, great. If it doesn’t, I am not less a woman.


This story was first published in ENCOMIUM Weekly on Tuesday, June 12, 2012

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