Sat. Apr 13th, 2024

Author Questions & Answers Session With Haneefah Abdulrahman

Zakiyyah: Good Evening, Haneefah and welcome! We are very grateful that you accepted this interview. It is no news that female writers have been breaking boundaries and suppression over the years, and we want to contribute to uplifting these incredible feats in the littlest of ways we can. We would love for you to tell us about your writing journey.

Haneefah: Thank you for having me. It is always a pleasure to interact with people and impact on

people.

Zakiyyah: I have ten questions for you today, Ms Haneefah. I hope you are excited because we all are happy to have you.

Haneefah: Bring it on. I am indeed excited already to catch those bombs. 

Zakiyyah: Great! I always talk about how I admire your energy🥹

Haneefah: I am honoured.

Zakiyyah: Let’s begin then.

Every writer has had their very first contact with art or poetry. How did you first become interested in writing, spoken words and poetry?

Haneefah: I always answer this question in two ways because I first started writing in two ways at different times; First, unconsciously; when I was in primary school;  I didn’t know what I was doing was writing; I just knew I was putting my imaginations on paper, and then I didn’t realise the value of the intellectual property thus when I am done, I just tossed it into the trash bin or abandoned the paper which carried my writing wherever, for the wind to carry, for water to soak, for the sand to bury, for footsteps to print.  But at that time, I didn’t crown my writing with a form; I just wrote what I didn’t even know was writing. 

As a child, I didn’t play with my friends or know how to play Ten Ten or Skip. I still don’t know what I need to learn.  When other children played during break time in school, I was always lost in the world of my imagination. I created worlds, I created characters, I was a goddess, and I am still a goddess, creating, killing and doing whatever I want to with my feelings and imaginative worlds.

And now, consciously, when I realise I wrote when I started putting my writing in forms.

Zakiyyah: This is wonderful. Others find poetry consciously or unconsciously, and others follow the trend, but how you found it is powerful and beautiful.

I love to see that confidence!

Haneefah: Consciously, I started writing in 2017, when I started putting my work in forms. It began with poetry. My friend Victor Adekunle made me realise what I do is writing. I attended a computer school in 2016, so I went to the practical class after the theory classes. I was constantly typing, writing my thoughts; I never knew Victor was always peeping to see what I was typing until he said, “Haneefah, your words are beautiful. Please permit me to read one of these write-ups fully. I never get to read them because I am always only just peeping.” I agreed. He didn’t say anything until 2017; I was chatting with him at the cafe where I worked, and he said, “Haneefah, after reading one of those things you wrote, I read all I could find in the system you use without your permission. I am sorry. I couldn’t resist. You write so well. I want to introduce you to an online writing platform, ‘The Writers’ Cafe,’ he introduced me. For the first time, I put my work in a form; poetry. For the first time, I shared my work with not just any group of people but writers worldwide world.  The poem was about introverts. They liked it. 

In 2018, I joined the first physical Writers’ Club when I got to A.B.U Zaria, Creative Writers’ Club (I am the current Chairperson). It was fantastic meeting my kind writers physically for the time.  The first time I attended the workshop, the critiques were harsh. I witnessed someone being told he wasn’t fit to be a writer.  I wanted to send my work the next week, but my friend discouraged me because she was scared of the harsh critiques and thought it would be embarrassing, but I was determined. Thus I sent my work.

I sent my work because I believe you won’t be seen if you don’t go out there. I was nervous when it was time for my presentation, but I had to do it. To worsen the nervousness, one of the harshest critics who had graduated was said to be around. I started reciting, ensuring I was lost, forgot about the world, and recited my poem for the first time. For the first time, I presented my poetry in front of so many people physically; when I was done, I couldn’t believe how thunderous the claps were, there was a standing ovation, and I kept writing. I met Hill-Top Creative Arts Foundation in 2020 online during the pandemic, and the platform has contributed to the success of my writing journey. The journey is long, and the story is long. I should stop here.

Zakiyyah: Wow❤️

On to the next question. How do you balance your studies in English Literature with your writing and other creative pursuits?

Haneefah: A beautiful question indeed.

I have my flaws as a writer. I am always ready to learn, unlearn and relearn.

Zakiyyah: I believe any writer who needs help understanding this hardly succeeds. Writers should be able to accept criticism to move forward.

Haneefah: Exactly; Creative Writers’ Club Workshop, we make our members understand that constructive criticism is something every writer must go through to succeed as a writer; thus, every Thursday, they are encouraged to come back and grow.

It’s not easy, but you know what they say about even the things you enjoy gets tiring sometimes, but the ability to keep going even in exhaustion makes you powerful and keeps the fire burning. 

When I applied for English Literature, I applied because of its versatility rather than because of my writing. Most of my coursemates do not write. Writing is like a ‘jara’ course in the courses we study. We have so many bulky and critical courses to concentrate on. English literature is an unending course. Balancing my studies with my writing and other creative pursuits is sincerely hard, but I pull through with the power of determination, sacrifices, hard work, time management etc. My coursemates ask me how I do it because it seems impossible with our workload in school. People call me goddess, boss lady etc., because they see how much I multitask. Sincerely it takes so much energy to pull through these things.  There are many stories of the pain I go through to gain.

When you are passionate about something, go for it; the hard work will pay off, the swollen eyes will go down, and the several headaches will subside. Keep going.

Haneefah Abdulrahman

Zakiyyah: I’m sure members will take this as advice.

How do you envision the future of Nigerian literature and its place on the global stage?

Haneefah: I have an Indian friend who is a writer who loves Nigerian literature. He is always eager to read Nigerian Writers; thus, whenever I have a soft copy of any good Nigerian book, I share it with him. He reads, and afterwards, we discuss. Nigerian literature is one of the world’s most significant types of literature. It is the closest to reality, even in its fictitious form. Nigerians are very talented; even writers no longer in Nigeria are making it big out there. Look at Nnedi Okarafor; she even took part in writing the script of Black Panther. Look at Tems; she wrote the song Rihanna sang for the Blank Panther Movie, and she was even nominated for an award in Hollywood; there are so many of us taking over the global stage; Sadiq Dzukogi, Abu Bakr Sadiq, Onyeka. There are so many instances. Nigerian literature has a great future even beyond the global stage if there is a possibility of a stage beyond the global.

Zakiyyah: I hundred per cent agree with this; the strong spirit of resilience and determination among Nigerian writers tells well for the future of literature in the country!

Haneefah: Exactly, Zakkiyah!  You are one of those resilient writers!

Zakiyyah: Thank you☺️

What impact has your role as Chairperson of the Kaduna Branch of Hill-Top Creative Arts Foundation had on your creative journey?

Haneefah: Wow!

To me, Arts is to express and not to impress. It is not a competition zone. I tell my mentees that whenever they submit their works for some writing competition, they should have a genuine ‘why?’; thus, it should be a competition within themselves and not to be better than others. It is a battle within the self. 

Being the Chairperson of Kaduna Branch Hill-Top Creative Arts Foundation has impacted my creative journey as it has given me an avenue to help others grow, to watch people become, to create events, to seek funds and help to make those events happen, to see others express is therapeutic, it is sweet.  Being the Chairperson of Kaduna Branch Hill-Top Creative Arts Foundation has given me a family I am glad I have, and I will not trade their trust and love for anything!

Zakiyyah: ❤️❤️❤️. As a Nigerian living in Nigeria, what challenges have you faced as a young writer in the literary industry, and how did you overcome them?

Haneefah: Many. Countless! Society, being a woman, the fact that some platforms are making literary platforms become a ground for the dirty political floors (This annoys me the most). How do I overcome them? I avoid hypocritical literary media. For instance, a particular literary platform reached out to me to be part of their platform. Still, I rejected the offer because they thought they had to criticise another platform and a particular person to get me to join their platform. And I told them I could not be part of them because of that act. I wouldn’t say I like to work with hypocrites—so many challenges. But I overcome all of it by being me, working hard, praying, being consistent, ignoring and avoiding negative energy, minding my business regarding unnecessary issues etc.

Zakiyyah: I’m enjoying your answers, Haneefah. 

Haneefah: Thank you.

Zakiyyah: Can you share your favourite memory or experience from your Imodoye Writers’ Residency involvement?

Haneefah: Zakkiyah, there are so many sweet memories; picking one is tricky. Is it the fun of being the only lady amongst the residents and having the finest room? Is it cooking and Chukwudi always saying, “Haneefah, you cook like an Igbo woman; your food is always delicious”, or Sir Olalare Fagbola, whom I call Papa, always appreciating my cooking and scolding Attah and Chukwudi whenever they try to look for trouble? Is it going on a tour; of the palace, the library, the hill, eating from the best Amala Joint in Ilorin, or visiting Kwara State University, where we attended the Theatre Arts Department Play Festival?  Is it having fun at the lakeside? Is it mentoring the students? Is it going to the market? Is it discussing our writings?  There are so many beautiful memories. So many.  I felt nostalgic the day I left the residency because I had connected deeply with the people I met there.

Zakiyyah: You made memories; it must have been an exciting yet eventful experience. 

You’re an author of a book called Shades of Becoming. What inspired you to write “Shades of Becoming”, and what themes does the book explore?

Haneefah: Yes. Yes. Memories I should write a book about. Tell tales of.

SHADES OF BECOMING is a collection of short stories…

It is inspired by the power of self, the supernatural, and magical realism. It is inspired by the marriage of reality and the ethereal.

It is inspired by human flaws and their ability to manage them.

For instance, the Story ESIM is about a girl who is stigmatised because forbidden things happened in their land the day she was birthed. She grew up with only her mother to relate with. She is trapped in a world with a dreadful witch whenever she sleeps, always craving yet not craving to feed on her. How did Esim overcome the challenges in reality and her nightmares? The story can be found in the book.

Another Story is Insanity, where a girl watches her grandmother fall off the cliff; she goes emotionally insane because she couldn’t save her.

Another is Out of the World, where the main character couldn’t control her supernatural powers, symbolising flaws but had to find a way to manage them.

And other stories with great themes.

Zakiyyah: Interesting!

How can NWF members access your books? Where is it available?

Haneefah: My books are available in Minna at Hill-Top Creative Arts Foundation, Abuja at Adams Pages Book Store, Sokoto at Book O Clock, and delivery is nationwide; those interested can also contact me directly.

It’s only available in hard copies.

Zakiyyah: Members interested in getting Haneefah’s book should let her know. 

To my next question: As a spoken word artist, how do you proceed towards creating and performing your poetry?

Haneefah: I do more Spoken Poetry. I write pick from any of my poems that it’s very connected to the performance; I put the words in my head and make sure the arrangement is dramatic and connects to the audience, so practice. If you see me on stage doing Spoken Poetry Performance, it must be dramatic, different, and powerful. Other than Spoken Poetry, I do more of Spoken Poetry.

Zakiyyah: Oh wow! I enjoy how dramatic your spoken poetry videos are. To be honest, you may want to share it with us after the session if you don’t mind.

Haneefah: Thank you, Zakkiyah. I will surely share it with you.

Zakiyyah: What advice would you give aspiring writers seeking to balance their academic pursuits and creative passions?

Haneefah: It is all about the marriage between passion and mindset. The bond between hard work and time management.  The inseparability of patience and endurance. It is the knot of discipline and believing in yourself.  It is not easily accurate, but you can go beyond your limit…?

Zakiyyah: And to my final question. What are some of your future goals and aspirations in the realm of writing and creativity?

Haneefah: My future goals and aspirations in writing are wide and wild. Some may not even come to life here on earth before death.  I would love to talk about them, but it is difficult to talk about them because I want to leave them in the lab until they are ready for the public eye. 

But I will say all my goals and walking towards thriving, and it’s every writer’s dream to thrive.

I want to be sure that my experiments are ready for the public eye before I take them out of the secret room, the lab.

Zakiyyah: Thank you so much for your time, Haneefah. We enjoyed today’s session, thanks to you. We’re looking forward to more of this. Thank you once again.

Haneefah: It’s a pleasure


Haneefah Abdulrahman is a writer, interviewer, spoken poetry artiste and podcaster from Nigeria whose work has appeared in Nigerian Review, Wisprout Project, Arts MuseFair, and elsewhere. She is a 2021 fellow of Ebedi International Writers Residency, a Pioneer fellow of Imodoye Writers’ Residency, and she was a Columnist at DailyTrust Newspaper. She is the Author of Shades of Becoming. She is the 2021 Winner of The Arewa Rising Literary Star. Born in Kaduna, Haneefah is an indigene of Kogi State. She is a student of English Literature at Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria. She is the Chairperson of the Kaduna Branch, Hill-Top Creative Arts Foundation, the 2021/ 2022 Chairperson of the Creative Writers Club, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria – Nigeria, the Editor-in-Chief of Literature Voices (LITVO) and the Editorial Assistant of the Moveee Magazine.

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2 thoughts on “Author Questions & Answers Session With Haneefah Abdulrahman”
  1. “I want to be sure that my experiments are ready for the public eye before I take them out of the secret room, the lab.”

    Grade1 wisdom

  2. Haneefah Abdulrahman’s interview here has inspired my silent muse. I want to be better , to know better and do better . I want to fulfill my dream of publishing and learning to unlearn and re learn. I also want to be part of the making of a beautiful literary society. So please
    How can I become a member of the Hilltop creative writers club as well as LITVO. Kudos Haneefah..

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