Jude Dibia är en författare från Nigeria som har skrivit tre romaner samt ett antal noveller, som har publicerats i både lokala och internationella antologier och tidskrifter. För sin debutroman Walking with Shadows (2005) mottog han ”the Ken-Saro Wiwa Prize for Prose” i sitt hemland. I boken tar han upp den känsliga frågan om rättigheter och friheter för LGBTQI+ personer i sitt land i en tid då nigerianska lagstiftare aktivt arbetade för lagar för att förbjuda homosexualitet och hårdare straff för LGBTQI+ personer.
Walking with Shadows är en djärv roman som öppet berättar om homosexuella i Nigeria och några av de kränkningar de fått uthärda. Dibia har fortsatt att skriva om dessa missförhållanden i sina noveller. När en lag mot samkönade äktenskap och förhållanden trädde i kraft i januari 2014 fattade Jude Dibia beslutet att lämna Nigeria. Han är den nuvarande fristadsförfattaren Malmö stad.
Malmö stad startade 2010 ett residensprogram i Malmö för förföljda författare och journalister. I samband med detta gick staden också med i det internationella fristadsnätverket International Cities of Refuge Network (ICORN). Under 2014 beslutade man att, som första svenska stad, utvidga residensprogrammet till att också omfatta övriga konstformer. Fristadsprogrammet innebär att en författare, musiker, bildkonstnär, tecknare, scenkonstnär etc. som är utsatt för censur och/eller förföljelse i sitt hemland erbjuds ett tvåårigt stipendium, fri bostad och ett nätverk i staden och regionens kulturliv för att kunna utvecklas konstnärligt och att få arbeta fritt inom sitt konstområde.
uppgifter från malmo.se
Organisationen ICORN firar i år sitt 10-årsjubileum och just nu pågår en ICORN-konferens i Paris där bl.a. Jude Dibia deltar. Innan han åkte till Paris fick jag möjlighet att ställa några frågor till honom:
Can you describe yourself as an author in three words?
I will leave this to the people and readers who know my work. I really can’t describe myself that way.
Have you always known that you wanted to become a writer?
I can’t say that I had always known, but what I can say is that I had always known I loved books and reading. Writing came to me much later and even then, I never knew I would become a writer.
In January of 2014 a new law came into effect in Nigeria that made it illegal to be in a same-sex relationship. But life for members of the LGBTQ-community was not easy before that either. Describe in short (if possible) how the situation in Nigeria was? How did it change after January 2014?
I think I captured some of what life was for certain LGBTQI+ persons in Nigeria in my debut novel. For a long time the Nigerian society has not permitted a freedom of expression for LGBTIQ+ persons. There was always hostility simmering underneath the surface but with the new law this hostility has reared its head and life is so much more difficult for many. Some gay men have been killed since that law was passed.
When did you realise that you had to leave your home country? Describe how it came to be that you ended up in Sweden and in Malmö?
I left on a self imposed exile and first shuttled between the United States and Europe and in that time I was introduced to ICORN through the network of a writer I respect a lot. I was vetted by ICORN and Malmö was interested in having me as their next guest writer. I accepted and left America for Sweden.
There are so many things wrong with the world, but the rights and freedom of ‘gay’ people isn’t one of them.
Many of the main characters in your novels and short stories are gay, and the issue of gay rights is close to your heart. Was there ever an option for you to “censor” yourself and write about other things?
I won’t say many of my characters and writing feature gay characters, but the rights of LGBTQI+ persons have always been close to my heart. I don’t believe in self censorship, so I write truthfully about issues. If these issues upset people or the government, then it is really their problem. There are so many things wrong with the world, but the rights and freedom of ‘gay’ people isn’t one of them.
I’ve only read your novel “Walking with Shadows” yet, but in that novel you have a very straightforward way of writing about relationships and sex. What have been the reactions from the readers?
The reaction has been overwhelmingly positive. There are some people who are very much against the views I expressed in that book, however, the positive feedback I have received far outweighs the negative.
One of the things that really strike me when reading “Walking with Shadows” is that in this setting, in a very modern urban Nigeria, and the characters being young, educated persons is that so many still thinks about homosexuality as a choice that you can make, or a disease that can be cured. And most likely this way of thinking is not uniquely Nigerian, but a common view in many places. What are your thoughts on this, how can this perception be changed?
People still need to be educated on the complexity of human sexual development and sexuality. The more literature that shows human diversity, the better. And not just literature, but film, music and the arts in general.
Where or how do you find new inspiration for writing?
I listen and pay attention to my environment. I’m a people watcher and find stories just watching people and listening to stray conversations. I’m also very interested in world issues, the news and history.
Can you tell us what you are writing right now?
I just completed a new novel and it’s been shopped around to different publishers. I’m also writing new work here in Sweden.
Have you had a chance to read any Swedish authors?
Not yet, but I have a list of authors and books by Swedish writers I am looking forward to reading this summer.
Do you have a favourite place in Malmö or Skåne?
I have not gone out much since I arrived in Malmö. Malmö is a quaint lovely city with beautiful parks and a cosmopolitan feel. I am sure before the year is over I will have a couple of favorite places to boast about.
Walking with Shadows (2005)
och fler noveller publicerade i antologier och på webbsidor.
Följ Jude Dibia på hans blogg.