Sunday, September 20, 2009

The 'Travula' Visits Bookaholic Blog

Our Bookaholic Blogger for the month of September is Kola Tubosun, who has quite a huge online presence that's hard to describe. There are however three things you should know:
  • Editing this piece was quite challenging, lest we cut off beautiful sections you'd love to read. It's long but will sure not only enlighten you but make you chuckle.
  • Kola is a Fulbright Scholar who blogs as KTravula
  • He's a September child, so happy birthday to him in advance!
Who is Kola Tubosun?
I’m a young man who has lived most of his life in the city of Ibadan where I was born, raised, and where I had all my education up to the University level. I’ve also lived in Akure, Ife, Lagos, Eldoret, Jos, Ogun state, and recently, Providence and Edwardsville. (He sure likes to tavel!) I like to see myself as an open book on which a few memorable things have been written so far. I can be mischievous, and I like to play fun pranks on close friends, and I try to find fun and playfulness in everything, no matter how dire. I like to sing. I’m a graduate of Linguistics from the University Ibadan, and my curiosities about language have influenced a lot of the things I’ve involved myself in.

What will a book about your life be called?
What’s the Friggin’ Mystery?

Why did you start writing KTravula?
I started the blog mainly to document my observations, impressions and activities while I’m in the United States. I suspected long before I left Nigeria on the Fulbright FLTA programme that the experience would be a memorable one, but I did not know the extent, and I wanted to have some place to write down the things that intrigue me. So you’d be right to say that my first motivation was a purely selfish one. The other reason of course was to be able to keep my friends back home in touch with what I’m doing, every step of the way. That way, they would be able to warn me when I begin to deviate, or change in a way that I may not be able to see for myself. Hence the blog, and a few other private notebooks I have.

What are your blog names/personalities?
My first online personality was “Villageois”, meaning “The Villager” in French. That personality died sometime before I entered the university. Then there was “gwatala” which took me over in school and on That soon gave way to IGwatala. I’ve also written with the handle “Baroka” which I adopted when I started writing for as a freelance journalist, and when I registered my Twitter account. But most times when I write serious stuff like poetry and short story, I use “Kola Tubosun” which, I might add, is also an online personality crafted from my full names that are often too long to pronounce for a lot of people.

When and why did you start writing your blogs?
I started writing on my first blog iGwatala in May 2006 while I was in Jos almost rounding off my National Youth service and when I needed an avenue to connect with the living world. Sometimes the distance and a constant loneliness make it necessary to write something. In any case, there were so many things going on in my life at that moment that I needed to let out steam. Keeping a blog then kept me sane and intellectually active since I always had something to look forward to every time I travelled for up to an hour to the nearest internet cafe. I started ktravula two days before I travelled to the United States to begin my Fulbright programme. That was on August 10th 2009.

Five blogs that you always visit and why?
I visit Jeremy’s Blog to catch his interesting perspectives on Nigeria. He’s an “Oyinbo” Nigerian so his views always give a certain perspective that you may not get from a Naija resident/citizen. I visit Bookaholic Blog to catch the latest gist in Nigerian literary circles. You do have some nice interviews, and opinions too. (thanks for the kind words!) I also visit Story Time, where interesting fiction pieces from all over Africa show up once every fortnight. It’s one of the most active prose fiction sites in Africa today. I frequent Aloofar’s blog, but he seems now to be on a little break. I hope he returns soon. I also go often to Jude Dibia’s, and Jumoke Verissimo’s Blogs to read fiction and poetry. I have so many blogs on my Google Reader all for different reasons. There’s Verastic, Solomonsydelle, Loomnie and Tolu’s Blogs for their very eclectic and often stimulating contents. That’s not more than five, right?

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
I’d change nothing, not even my sometimes untameable inclination to break every rule.

What is the last thing you read that made you laugh?
A poem, “The Skinhead’s Lord’s Prayer” by Amatoritsero Ede. It’s published as Hitler’s Children” in his new book.

Who is your perfect audience?
The audience that responds, that speaks back and don’t just listen passively.

What do you bring back from your journeys?
I usually collect currencies, especially the coins. They’ve always intrigued me since I was young, and Nigeria had these beautiful 25kobo coins with images of workers building groundnut pyramids. My father used to have a collection of really old Nigerian currency notes. I loved looking at them. All Nigerians these days have become forced numismatics since they can’t seem to be able to spend any of the government-issued coins anywhere in the country. I also bring back pictures. I can’t get enough of taking pictures, especially of signs, structures, and strangers.

How does it feel teaching young Whites Yoruba language?
It feels great. It’s challenging to me as it is to them and I like the experience. I could connect with them more because they are young people like me, and they are quite eager to learn and discover new things. The experience also gives me a chance to see myself through the stranger’s eyes. I’ve recently asked them to read up a particular short story on Yoruba culture and write what they find strange and different about the people, and what they find equally similar with their culture. These exercises give me an insight into what they see when they look at me. But over all, it is a very fulfilling experience.

What does it feel like to be a Fulbright Scholar?
It feels good to be in company of people like Bill Clinton, Desmond Tutu, Kofi Annan, Laila Lalami, Arlene Alda the author and photographer, among others, but I like most the fact that it doesn’t carry a burden of too much expectations. That is, I don’t feel obliged to want to prove anything to anyone. I’ve always loved being able to do things that challenge, interest and benefit me intellectually It’s a great feeling to be able to put one’s wishes into reality.

Do Nigerians read? How do you suggest Nigerians can get reading more?
Of course Nigerians read, but they choose what to read. They also lack sustainable access to the modern tools of reading. Not everyone is well-suited to standing up for hours reading newspapers at a newsstand, but we’re not any less open to reading as American or British people, but they have more advanced means of delivering text to their populace. And even then, a growing number of teenagers in developing countries don’t read, and many of them can’t. To get Nigerians reading more, provide more stimulating reading contents, and they will read more.

What is your most treasured possession?
I would say my loyal friends, who put up with all the trouble that I, sometimes inevitably, am.

Mention five of your favourite writers, why?
J.M Coetzee, because of the reach of his mind, and the brilliance of his style. I’ve only read one of his books, “Elizabeth Costello”, but I’ve read a few more articles he’s written. I can’t wait to read more of him. Even his life is an intriguing book. Wole Soyinka for who he is, and for all he’s done on the page, on the drama stage, and on the world stage. His plays are profound, and his autobiographies a classic. And to think he’s still active today as he was long before we were born is truly impressive. Akinwumi Isola, for his dexterity with words, and for his many contributions to the development of written Yoruba literature. Maya Angelou for her depth, perspective and strength. Her fiction is engaging, her poems are deep and her life story even more captivating. I’ll give the fifth spot to both Arundhati Roy and Roald Dahl for their brilliance. For lack of space, let me put Salman Rushdie in a future list. His prose and his power of description are spectacular, and I’ve loved reading The Satanic Verses.

What inspires your writing?
I’m inspired by life itself, and the way in which it throws the unexplainable in our ways sometimes just to reinforce our awe of the unknown. I’ve witnessed more than a few incidents in America that could not have been just coincidences. Serendipity does it for me, most times.

Describe your writing in a sentence?: So far, my writing is a diverse mix of lived experiences of life’s little pleasures, retold to enlighten, to entertain and to inform.

Literature in a sentence: Literature is a collection of varying life perspectives told with the different means most accessible to the teller.

Philosophy of life
Give everyone the benefit of the doubt, if you can.

What is your greatest fear?
I have a great fear for falling down, literally, from a very tall height. I hate to think about it. It’s not so much a fear of heights as it is a fear of falling. There’s a difference. But don’t ask me why I still like riding roller-coasters or why I’m still fascinated by tall buildings. I also have a terrible fear of cold. Those who’ve been reading my blog will be familiar with this not totally unwarranted phobia. Again, don’t ask me why I signed up for the Fulbright Programme to go to the US at winter time. My greatest fear, however, I think, is losing the people I love. I hate to think about it.

If you could write your epitaph, what will you write?
“Here lies he who never stopped living.”

You can read Kola Tubosun's works here and here.

1 comment:

  1. Nice interview, checked out his blog and it was informative and cool too.