Titi Horsfall is the author of two historical novels, From an Orphan to Queen Esther and Influence of a King. Now she has added another feather to her growing literary cap with the establishment of Prisenda Writers Residency Initiative in Abuja, the third in the country after Ebedi in Iseyin, Oyo State, and Prof. Wole Soyinka’s in Abeokuta, Ogun State. In this interview with ANOTE AJELUOROU, Horsfall speaks on the initiative and how it would lift the quality of ideas and thought in the country
What is the idea behind Prisenda Writers Residency initiative? Prisenda Writers Residency Initiative is a charity organisation that seeks to promote literacy. Our vision is to inspire great thinkers that will affect their generation and our world for good.
How long did it take you to bring the vision to fruition? The vision has been on for quite a while, upwards of three years on the average. I noted that writers live a very busy life with little or no time to think and reflect on ideas, which they need to deploy and conceptualise for good of society to provide solutions to their society. I met a number of persons who keyed into the vision and in January 2018, we found a location and from funds and saving, we created readers and writers’ delight where people come, relax, read, write and be creative.
How many writers can it take at a time? We started on a manageable scale. For the lodging, it’s one at a time. We have our eyes set on a wide target; we would grow as funds and partnerships come. For literary engagement, we have a meeting room that can cater for upwards of 20-30 persons at a given time.
Could you give us an idea of what it took to have this put into fiction? It is located in a serene environment in Durumi District, Abuja; it has taken a lot of savings to hit the mark due to set standards and we hope that anyone who comes in will be in a world that cajoles you to imagine, dream wide and big. We hope we have achieved that from feedbacks from guest’s and literary experts that have visited our residence.
In looking for partners that will help advance the vision, what sector will it be? First, we seek to enact a presence within the literary circle and educational sector to let the world know that the Prisenda Writers Residency has come on board. We seek collaborations from the educational institutions and similar organisations that are desirous of seeing an upward trend in literacy in our society. We also seek funding and international exchange of ideas to project Nigeria intellectually and creatively on the global scale.
Was it the challenges you had in writing your two books that gave rise to this vision of providing a space for other writers? I would say it was what I enjoyed. In writing my first book From an Orphan to Queen Esther, I had the luxury of space and time where boredom was not an issue. My time of solitude was not times of boredom; they were times when I was able to tap into my inner self and express myself creatively. I noticed over time, especially in the advent of social media, we become quite immersed in entertaining ourselves externally rather than taking our time to reflect and be creative, identify our innate gift, and know who we are. I believe it is time to go back to our youth and society. You’ve got to pause at a certain time in life, ask yourself, ‘where am I headed to? What is my purpose in life? When can I stop and think about my short term, long term goals, not just for financial benefits or popularity or fame, but to give back to the society?’ There are children in the streets, who are loaded with creative gifts and need someone to inspire them to keep going and moving and let the world benefit from the gift bestowed on them by God.
Could you walk us through the various departments and units that Prisenda Writers Residency has? Our slogan is ‘…the full expression.’ We want someone who comes to Prisenda Writers Residency to come with the mind of unbundling, unbundling themselves into full expression. It could be in writing, ideas about business strategies and solutions or the field of science, but we want to encourage you to express yourself intellectually and let the world get to meet you for who you really are. At the end of the day, it is your identity and purpose. We have what we call ‘Expression 1’; it is a mini-office where you have the space to write, develop your strategies, proposals, solutions and what you think the world is looking for and invention that will awe the world and will amaze people that it came from a little-known area in Africa. We have services to ensure you feel at home like the secretarial office that assists your business packaging, a business centre and we also provide tea and coffee. We have ‘Expression 2’ for lodging. There is a poetry section, book signing, digital library and boardrooms for development, writing workshop and other programmes targeted towards the literary advancement
What do you mean by thinkers? Will scientists also take advantage of this facility? Thinkers are people who allow their imaginations to move beyond boundaries – geographical, physical, personal, gender.
If you were to speak to policymakers, what would you tell them about the development of mind as against physical infrastructure bearing inmind what Prisenda stands for? The mind is who we are and it is ageless. It has the capacity to stretch and grow big and we need to tap into the mind of our people. When you build a road, school, a facility, people have to make use of these facilities. If we build the structure and leave the people without the mental awareness of what goes into road development, we are shortchanging them. For instance, if you have a contract to build a road, within the contracting process, get some youth into the chain of this process of capacity development to understand the technology that goes behind it, say soil testing or drawing of the route between the geographical terrains. In the process you have developed the physical environment and mentality of the people in the environment; that is a more tangible development for the people. I can imagine a youth who has gone through this process will next time seek resources and bid for road construction in the environment.
If you were to address youths on the noise social media generates, what will you tell them? Social media is positive in a number of angles and it has helped a lot of SMEs to reach out to the mass market that otherwise they wouldn’t have had access to. What we seek to do here is to address the issue of discipline. When you know you have a goal to achieve and a purpose the world is yearning for, you should disciple yourself to switch off from distraction. Focus on that goal, pursue it with passion, deliver it to the world and then you can switch back into the space of intellectual or social relevance. It’s all about discipline, control, and focus.
You’ve got two books. Are we expecting another from you soon? Yeah, I am working on a non-fiction, historical book. The working title at this moment is The Rivers Frontier: The History of the Niger Delta. It takes in pure history in terms of the Niger Delta, particularly the Eastern part, which is Rivers State and Bayelsa State. They are from pure historical perspectives, having engaged big weights like Prof. Alagoa, Prof. Cookie as well as Prof. Dike We are taking this a little further to a future that we seek. Having taken record and notes of the great wealth, the resources, the blessing that have been amassed within these regions, intellectually and materially, we need towards the future and drive for that desired goal. There are so many wetlands around the world that have the same geographical terrain almost similar as we do in the Niger Delta. That is the future that we see and that is what The Rivers Frontier seeks to address. We take our past; we look at the modern, the current and the future because eventually, the future will become history someday.
Why allure does history hold for you? I love history because within a breath you see the beginning and the end and you learn from it. Learning from experience gives you a jumpstart. I can read from history how decisions or the interplay of human relations for societies, what the consequences were of those actions. History shows you within one breath the beginning and the end and then you learn from that and ensure that you surpass or are better off than what was.
So if a writer wants to come to Prisenda what’s the process? If a writer is interested in getting in touch with the Prisenda Writers Residency initiative, he or she can access this online at www.prisender.org. You send us your request and we review your literary desires and what you plan to achieve and we would schedule you for appointment and use of the facility.