"Nigerian Literature is a Very Important Part of World Literature."
A Chat With Wale Owoade, Editor of EXPOUND
Wale Owoade’s energy and enthusiasm percolates to every segment of EXPOUND Magazine. He has a gifted team that sharpens his vision and helps him curate a first-rate literary journal. In its short run, the journal has caught the attention of poets, writers and serious contributors the world over who look forward to its juried issues.
Interview by Sanjeev Sethi
Briefly tell our readers about yourself?
I am a Poet and Editor and the Founder and Managing Editor of EXPOUND. I am an historian by formal education and a web and graphic designer by self-education.
How vibrant is the literary landscape in Nigeria?
Nigeria is home to many important writers. From Wole Soyinka, to Chinua Achebe, to Amos Tutuola, Ben Okri, Chimamanda Adichie, E.C. Osondu, Teju Cole, Helon Habila, Uche Nduka, Ikhide Ikheloa, Pius Adesanmi, Amu Nnadi, Tade Ipadeola, Abubakar Adam Ibrahim, Elnathan John, Chigozie Obioma, Amateritsero Dore, Su’eddie Vershima Agema, Efe Paul Azino, Halima Aliyu, Unoma Azuah, Emmanuel Iduma, Shittu Fowora, NiranOkewole, Olubunmi Familoni, Jumoke Verrisimo, Dami Ajayi, Gbenga Adesina, TJ Benson, Saddiq Dzukogi, David Ishaya Osu, Okwudili Nebeolisa, Oyin Oludipe, Adeeko Ibukun, Fisayo Adeyeye, Chibuihe-Light Obi, Samuel Ugbechie, Echezonachukwu Nduka, Rasaq Malik Gbolahan, Hauwa Shafii Nuhu, Jenifer Chineye Emelife and many others. With writers that have won the Nobel Laureate in Literature, the Man Booker Prize, the Brunel Poetry Prize and several other prizes, and recognitions at home and abroad, I can say that Nigerian Literature is a very important part of World Literature, which may sound as an overstatement, but actually is the truth.
What was the impetus to start EXPOUND Magazine?
It is important to state that before the establishment of EXPOUND, there were several other reputable literary magazines in Nigeria and Africa: magazines like Kwani?, Saraba, Munyori Review and outlets like Brittle Paper publishing the works of Africans and initiating engaging projects. As much as I know, EXPOUND is the first African-based literary magazine open to writers and artists from every part of the world. EXPOUND was established not just to be a magazine but a literary movement, an advocate, a statement and a new way of defining literature in Africa. Every year in Nigeria, either at a prize or award level, a book gets dropped for being personal, for not tackling social issues or for being too experimental. While all these are going on, there is a new generation of Nigerian (and yes, African) writers using the opportunity of the new media to read and connect with literatures from different parts of the world, some of them go as far to get published in journals and magazines like The New Yorker, Poetry, AGNI, Rattle and many others. The result of this connection is a new African writing distinct in theme, style and structure from what Africans are used to, and this movement is being unnecessarily criticized. I believe the strangeness of this new literature and new literary hustle is as a result of a prolonged isolation of African writing. EXPOUND was established with the belief that art is universal. We demonstrate this by accepting, reading and publishing literature without considering geography, race and color. EXPOUND was also established to be a supporter of personal literature as opposed to the literary structure and tradition we have here. The fact that new literary magazines and journals established after EXPOUND are using this universal approach is one reason to say that we have achieved a part of our goals.
In such a short period EXPOUND has become hugely successful. What do you think are the reasons for this?
I am happy to hear that EXPOUND is a success. Well, the first reason for this is because we are doing something different from what others are doing (which doesn’t necessarily mean that we are doing better than them). I recognized a problem and I began EXPOUND to solve it. We are successful because we have a mission and a goal and we have a team that is determined to achieve whatever goal it sets. The funny thing is that some of us are students and most are unemployed or fresh graduates but we are too passionate about art and dedicated to EXPOUND that we are not aware of how much physical and financial strength we are putting into it. EXPOUND is successful because of the dedication and support of Saddiq Dzukogi, Jason Mykl Snyman, Oyin Oludipe, Gbenga Adesina, Samuel Oluwatobi Olatunji, TJ Benson, Chibuihe-Light Obi and Gina Cicinelli Alequin. We have received several moral supports and we are grateful to everyone who has contributed to get us where we are today.
Besides the content, the visual element is praiseworthy. Why the emphasis on aesthetics?
I have always believed a work of art should be primarily celebrated because of its aesthetic and the issue of statement and theme should be secondary. EXPOUND was established on this idea. TJ Benson and Gina Alequin are responsible for finding artists and aesthetically impressive visuals, the aesthetic of Saddiq Dzukogi and Gbenga Adesina’s poetry is very appealing and to have them as a part of our editorial team is a major boost for EXPOUND. Same thing with Jason Mykl Snyman and Oyin Oludipe, our Fiction and Nonfiction Editor. When we receive a work of art at EXPOUND, what we look out for is its beauty which we believe is the first reason why a work of art should be celebrated.
When you peruse submissions can you make out which part of the world they are from?
Unfortunately, no, and it is something we are happy about. We do not either consciously or unconsciously trace the origin of a work; it’s one of our major editorial principles.
In an editorial call: is there ever a neutral decision or does personal bias play a role?
All editorial decisions at EXPOUND are neutral and without bias.
Which part of the globe is creating the best literary work?
From what we have received, read and published, the Americans are creating the best literary work. I narrow this down to the freedom and opportunities in their literary landscape, something we would give everything to have in Africa.
If you have space for one piece, and you have to choose from two equally well-written pieces, one from Nigeria and other from another part of the world, which one would you choose?
It is hard to say, because every work we publish is the best. We would choose the best among the two well written pieces. We have never used borders and geography in any of our editorial decisions.
With so much time and effort spent on the journal, does it impact your writing?
Yes, it does. What I have learnt to do is to plan my time between editorial activities, my writing and my academics. It’s both hard and simple. I cannot explain vividly here how my editorial duty at EXPOUND has affected my writing. For instance, I have been more critical of my writing than before. There is so much I have learnt and I am learning from EXPOUND. I will have to sit down and write an essay on it someday.
Give us a secret: what must a submission possess not to get rejected?
Any last words?
Thank you for thinking of us at EXPOUND. The Review Review is a place I visit to read about my favorite journals and I am always impressed by your work. Also, I want to use this opportunity to tell anybody who is interested in supporting us at EXPOUND to send a mail to firstname.lastname@example.org and tell us how they can be a part of or support our movement.
Sanjeev Sethi has published three books of poetry. This Summer and That Summer (Bloomsbury, 2015) is his latest. His poems have found a home in Solstice Literary Magazine, Off the Coast Literary Journal, Hamilton Stone Review, Literary Orphans, The Bitchin’ Kitsch, Pyrokinection, Café Dissensus Everyday, Section 8 Magazine, The Jawline Review, The Helios Mss, Right Hand Pointing, Revolution John, Futures Trading, The Aerogram, The Mind[less] Muse, Creative Talents Unleashed, Chronogram, Duane’s Poe Tree, The London Magazine, The Fortnightly Review, Ink Sweat and Tears, Sentinel Literary Quarterly, Allegro Poetry Magazine, Amaryllis Poetry, New English Review, The Galway Review, A New Ulster, In Between Hangovers, The Open Mouse, Otoliths, and elsewhere. He lives in Mumbai, India.