Chika Unigwe, the Afro-Belgian writer of Nigerian descent whose book On Black Sisters’ Street won the 2012 Nigerian Prize for Literature, is currently taking part in the High Impact Tour, a six day road show and literature festival of six top writers visiting six English cities.
Ahead of the tour, which starts today and continues until 19 January, a video interview with Unigwe was recorded in Amsterdam, in which she said she wrote On Black Sister’s Street for herself, to satisfy her curiosity about something she grew up not really having a full understanding of. The novel tells the story of four women who’ve come from Africa to Brussels, where they become prostitutes, and the tragic, sinister murder of one of them.
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In a recent interview with Vanguard, Unigwe also spoke about On Black Sisters’ Street and how she came to the writing of the characters – marginalised women who brought the themes of prostitution, loneliness and human trafficking to life – with a blank slate. She had to clear her mind of any prejudices.
“I come from a very conservative, catholic home where ‘sex’ wasn’t a word we could use. Then I moved to Belgium and to my shock, saw prostitutes behind display windows.” She was told that most of the black prostitutes in Antwerp were from Nigeria, and this haunted her to the point that she had to write about it. “I think that first and foremost, On Black Sisters’ Street is a human story…themes of loneliness and prostitution are not the lightest of themes, but I hope the prose makes the themes much more digestable to the readers”.
Belgian married and Nigerian born writer, Chika Unigwe last week in Lagos became the second Diaspora writer to win Nigeria Liquified Natural Gas, NLNG $100,000 prize for literature. Her entry, On Black Sister Street, which explores sexual slavery and other precarious situations of women floored Olushola Olugbesan’s Only A Canvass and Ngozi Achebe’s Onaedo: The Blacksmith’s Daughter to clinch the coveted literary prize. In this interview, the serial award winning writer fielded questions about the book and her perception of the prize.
- On Black Sisters’ Street by Chika Unigwe
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