Author Questions & Answers Session With ⁩Shafa’atu Muhammad Balarabe


Zakiyyah:
Good evening, Shafa and welcome! 

Thank you for accepting this invitation. We are super honoured to have you in our space. Our members are so excited to learn and hear from you.

I have ten questions for you today, Ms. Shafa. I hope you are excited because we are all happy to have you here today.

Shafa: It’s exciting being here. Thank you for having me

Ohhhhh I am super excited 💃🏿💃🏿

Zakiyyah: Great 😁

Let’s begin, then.

Shafa: 💃🏿

Zakiyyah: Can you share a moment when nature profoundly inspired your creativity as a nature photography enthusiast?

Shafa: I had a friend who is a photographer. I barely took notice of nature. You can say I was oblivious to it till one time I saw him take out his phone to snap some wildflowers we came across on our evening strolls; he showed me what he had snapped after a few editing, and I was blown away, and I guess that was it for me because when I began poetry, I would always use elements of nature as my metaphors to describe everything I think was beautiful beyond reasoning.

Zakiyyah: It’s interesting how inspirations come to us in various ways.

Your poetry often delves into human emotions and experiences. What drives you to explore these themes?

Shafa: My own experiences in life, the losses, anxieties, and a few other things I have battled with mentally while growing up, I have always wanted to depict my life and struggles so that when someone who can relate reads them, they get that feeling of not being alone or different from the people around him or being a weirdo amongst everybody else in the world.

Zakiyyah: One of the potential benefits of poetry is expressing our emotions and giving our readers hope.

Shafa: Yes, it’s very wonderful

Zakiyyah: Winning the Professor Andrew 

Nok Poetry Prize is a remarkable achievement. How has this recognition impacted your writing journey?

Shafa: One of the impactful things winning the Prof. Andrew poetry prize has done on my journey as a writer is that it has made me more confident in myself than I have been. It was more than just the prize money or the certificate; it was being able to walk a room full of poets and writers you have looked up to, and they say your name. It’s confidence-boosting. I became confident enough to try going places I never thought I would have.

Zakiyyah: This is what recognition and acknowledgement do to one’s journey. It’s important to feel appreciated, making us believe in ourselves more. Congratulations, Shafa, more of this.

Shafa: Thank you ❤️

Zakiyyah: Being recognised as Poet of the Year and Writer of the Year by the Kaduna Hilltop Creative Art Foundation is impressive. How do you envision your role in fostering creativity within your community?

Shafa: Creativity amongst government-owned secondary school students, here where  I am from, is at times treated as something that’s unimportant and is left unattended; there are young creatives in these schools who are willing to step into the creative world but are not encouraged, I was told I was wasting my time by a schoolmate, I’d like to see this change, when I get the older and have resources, I would set up creative classes meant exclusively to government students, be a promoter of art and creativity just like I have seen my mentors do.

Zakiyyah: This is inspiring. May Allah fulfil your wish.

Shafa: Ameen Ameen.

Zakiyyah: Your works often touch on the power of voice and expression. What advice do you have for aspiring poets and writers seeking their unique voices?

Shafa: Everybody has a style. Finding it takes a little time or a little bit more. Do not let anybody convince you that you have to write in a certain way to be good or gain recognition; we are all different, and so are our writing methods. You will find yours; when you do, hold on to it and improve.

Zakiyyah: Keyword: You’ll find yours.

Shafa: Hexactly

Zakiyyah: Thank you Shafa. To my next question: Could you share a personal journey or experience that significantly influenced your perspective on advocacy for strong women and girls?

Shafa: I don’t think I have an experience or a personal journey. All my life, I have always advocated for equality for both genders in terms of education and opportunities, coupled with being around those who were doing so much for themselves and shared the same mindset, which got me more interested in adapting to advocacy.

Zakiyyah: Alright.

Can you describe a crossroads in your creative journey when you had to make a tough decision that shaped your path as an artist?

Shafa: Every month, there is a tough decision between attending school or an event, suspending activities to attend an art festival, juggling reading for a Tafsir exam, and attending a book reading. I have not regretted my tough decision because it has made me learn and achieve so much, Alhamdulillah.

Zakiyyah: How can poetry and creative expression contribute to fostering cross-cultural understanding and appreciation?

Shafa: The beautiful thing about creativity is that it brings together people with diverse ethnicities and cultures; how can poetry foster cross-cultural understanding and appreciation? It’s already doing that. Poetry has given room for unity and understanding amongst people of diversity. We all attend creative festivals where there are so many different people of different ethnicities and cultures, read poems and stories that are not actually from our localities, and sometimes adapt to them as our daily motivations and cultural experiments.

Zakiyyah: Fair answer🫶🏻

With your role as PRO2 of the Kaduna branch of Hilltop Creative Arts Foundation, what initiatives do you hope to champion to support local artists further?

Shafa: Providing information on workshops curated by the branch on easily accessible platforms like Facebook; not only that, the Kaduna branch of HCAF occasionally engages school-to-school visits where we meet creatives of young ages and encourage them (it’s pretty impressive seeing them do extraordinary things) I think being more present in visits like this and exploring more than just the schools but local communities too is a great way to be supportive

Zakiyyah: Thank you Shafa. To my final question, what aspirations do you have for your creative career, and what impact do you hope your work will have on others?

Shafa: Aspirations 😪❤️

Becoming an author before I am 24, having my collections of short stories and quotes with my name printed on them, actually becoming an internationally known artiste, and opening my own books store— the impact I want my work to have on others is when they read anything I write, they realise that it’s okay to be a bit different and to feel comfortable enough to voice out or write their feelings out.

Zakiyyah: Amin. Thank you so much, Shafa. I enjoyed conversing with you. I’m looking forward to watching you break boundaries. Thank you once again.

Shafa: Thank you for having me. This was fun, honestly.

Zakiyyah: It is our pleasure.

❤️❤️


Shafa’atu Muhammad Balarabe is a Nigerian Writer, poet, spoken word artiste, SWAG girl advocate and nature photography enthusiast. She has worked in upwrite magazine, the Pine Cone Review, Glacial Hills magazines, The Yelf website, the 2022 Bloom anthology, EngHausa kwaraption anthology, the Dreamy World anthology, the New Voices magazine and elsewhere.
Shafaatu Is the 2022 winner of the Professor Andrew Nok Poetry Prize, and she was also awarded by the Kaduna Hilltop Creative Art Foundation as the Poet of the Year in 2022 and Writer of the Year in 2023. She has performed at the international film arts festivals and other places. The Poets of the House and APNETI have featured her.
Shafa’atu is also the PRO2 of the Kaduna branch of the Hilltop Creative Arts Foundation.