I Began Reading Books When…

Hauwa Shaffii Nuhu in Conversation with Muhammad Gulani

This interview was conducted in May 2019.

“Fast forward to teenage hood, I loved poetry and began to scribble some words down and here I am.”

Ayamba: Thanks for agreeing to speak to me. You are the creative director of ABUFEST, the only campus-based Arts festival in North of Nigeria. Can you talk to me about the day the idea for this festival first came to you?
Gulani: Well, the festival started at a small scale gathering of friends sometime in 2017, and I decided to capitalize on it in 2018 and the year after. It was then called the ABU Day of Literature but as we decided to go bigger, we saw the need to change the name to what it is today, so as to be able to encompass everything we want to do.
Ayamba: What are these things you want to do?
Gulani: We want to celebrate Art. We want to create a space where we can share stories of Northern Nigeria and live in the words of sound – through poetry and music – we want to afford every artist a platform to showcase her work.
We believe there are discussions that are important to have in our spaces and that’s what we want to do.
Ayamba: All of these are very much needed in our literary space and I can’t say enough how grateful myself and Arewa at large are to you for this. Let’s talk about writing. How did you start writing?
Gulani: Funny story. I used to be a very shy person and writing helped me get into another world where I was more comfortable and that began writing for me.
Fast forward to teenagehood, I loved poetry and began to scribble some words down and I here I am.
Ayamba: Wow. Did you grow up reading books?
Gulani: I began reading books when I was in my teens. 15- 16yrs, I guess and what became the issue was then access to books.
Ayamba: True, access to books has always been a problem especially if you are a Nigerian. Now that we are talking about books, what are you currently reading? And what was the last book you read that you loved?
Gulani: I’m currently reading: What It Means When a Man Falls from the Sky by Lesley Nneka Arimah. The last book I read and I loved was Everything Good Will Come by Sefi Atta.
Ayamba: Arimah is one of my favourite writers right now. Her book is a work of genius. I’ve heard you recite poetry and it’s so beautiful. As with Hassana Maina and Hauwa Saleh. Generally, I’ve noticed that poets from our part of the country –north of Nigeria– are excellent poetry reciters. Do you think there’s a reason for this or is it merely coincidence?
Gulani: [laughs] well, I think poets from this part of the country are excellent at what they do. I feel we put in our best, and of course, there is just so much to say.
Ayamba: True. Let’s go back to ABUFEST. How has the experience been convening it?
Gulani: It’s been an incredible experience, full of lessons and triumphs. I and my team have had the opportunity to meet, interact and work with amazing people and organizations.
But with every start up? The challenges are just so glaring.
Ayamba: I can imagine. What do you have lined up for this year’s edition? What should we look forward to?
Gulani: During the 2 day span of the festival, we will be having 21 amazing guests this year at #ABUFEST19 who will be discussing issues ranging from Governance to Publishing to journalism and even Consent.
We are also making plans to hold 2 writing workshops alongside our partners at the Yasmin El’rufai Foundation – one with secondary school students while the other with students and members of the university community.
We shall be celebrating poetry and culture during our ABUFEST19 Poetry and Dance night.
Of course, we shall be bringing back Music, food and exhibitions to our stands.
Not forgetting our ABUFEST X AMAB Bookstore that will be housing over 100 tittles. #ABUFEST19 seeks to challenge the status quo
Ayamba: Sounds fantastic! I can’t wait. So are you working on a book that we should look forward to?
Gulani: I’m currently working on a poetry collection titled White Spirits.
Ayamba: That’s amazing. We’ll keep our eyes open! We’re rounding up so can you please teach us how to say I love you in your dialect?
Gulani: I think it is easy. I speak Hausa. So it’s: Ina Son Ki. But we are Africans so we ask: Have you eaten?”
Ayamba: Hahaha true. Thank you sooo much for talking to me, Gulani. I enjoyed this. Thank you very much too. I feel honored.

Muhammad Gulani is a political commentator and the Creative Director of the Ahmadu Bello University Arts Festival, (Zaria Nigeria)
The Ahmadu Bello University Arts Festival is with the aim of it becoming the premier literary and Arts engagement for, and of institutions in Northern Nigeria.
In 2015, he self published his collection of short stories The Dream and Other Stories and is currently working on his debut novel titled From This Jay To Jaan
His articles have appeared on The Jour Magazine and YBCNews among a host of many others. They have gained traction and have helped shaped the minds and thoughts of people on issues concerning government and the politics that shape the nation.
His work has helped shape the creative space of Northern Nigeria by organizing festivals, Open Mic evenings, Book chat and reading sessions earning him the name Lola Shoneyin of the North
The Annual festival held this year on July 27th and it brought together the biggest assembly of young creatives from Northern Nigeria)

The interviewer, Hauwa Shaffii Nuhu has her bio in the members’ profile section.

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