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HomeEducationAuthor Okereke Delves into Makoko Culture with New Novel 'Water Baby'

Author Okereke Delves into Makoko Culture with New Novel ‘Water Baby’

EDUCATION- Acclaimed Nigerian author Chioma Okereke, resident in the United Kingdom, has launched her latest literary work, ‘Water Baby’, following the success of her first novel, ‘Bitter Leaf’.

The Novel ‘Water baby’ is a captivating collection of stories that delve into the intricacies of the Makoko people in relation to their environment.

Speaking on the sidelines of the reading session organised for the public presentation and unveiling of the book in Lagos, the author said the novel is a coming-of-age tale portraying the societal pressures on a young woman trying to escape the confines of her community and explores wider issues including climate change, digitisation, gentrification, and resettlement.

Speaking on the crux of the book, Okereke explained that it’s centred around a “19-year-old baby yearning for a different existence in Makoko (the floating slum off mainland Lagos, Nigeria), where she can escape the future her father has planned for her.

“With opportunities scarce, Baby jumps at the chance to join a newly launched drone-mapping project, aimed at broadening the visibility of the informal settlement and her community against her father’s wishes.

“When a video of her at work goes viral, Baby finds herself with options she could never have imagined – including the possibility of leaving her birthplace to represent Makoko on the world stage. With the new opportunities presented, she must now determine her true place in the world and where her future lies.”

The author, however, identified climate change, urbanization and digital divide as major issues confronting those at the Makoko waterfront.

Okereke said, “The process of researching ‘Water Baby’ opened my eyes to the myriad issues faced by the people of Makoko.

“These challenges are not just local; they are reflective of broader global issues such as climate change, urbanisation, and the digital divide. Through the novel, I aimed to highlight the resilience and ingenuity of the human spirit in the face of adversity.

“I hope that readers will be moved to consider the lives of those in underrepresented communities and the systemic issues that perpetuate their struggles.”

Speaking about her writing, Okereke said it was a reflection of her belief to adopt the power of literature to effect significant changes in the society.

She added that through the novel she aimed to inspire a sense of empathy about Makoko slum for Nigerians to rise up to make meaningful solutions to societal issues.

She revealed: “My writing is a reflection of my belief in the power of literature to effect change. The public presentation of my new book is an invitation to readers to join me in envisioning a world where social responsibility and compassion guide our actions.

“And I hope that the book encourages readers to look beyond their immediate surroundings and recognise the interconnectedness of our global community.

“By bringing attention to Makoko and similar communities, I hope to inspire a sense of empathy and a desire for social justice. My goal is to use storytelling as a vehicle for change, to spark conversations, and to motivate individuals to contribute to meaningful solutions.”

Emphasising on the significance of the novel, the author said, “By telling Baby’s story, I aim to humanise issues and bring them to the forefront of readers’ minds, and to foster a sense of global citizenship and social responsibility, thereby inspiring readers to become advocates in their own right, working towards a more just and equitable world for all.”

The novel which is set in Makoko, a floating slum off mainland Lagos, Nigeria, has a theme of aspiration, identity, and the challenges of living in a vibrant but underresourced community.

The character Baby, the protagonist, is a strong and determined young woman who dreams of a better life beyond her community while the setting of the novel is done in Makoko, a unique and fascinating community built on stilts in the lagoon, and offers a vivid portrayal of life in this under-resourced and often overlooked community.

The author employed the descriptive and engaging writing style that brings the characters and setting to life.

Accolades for ‘Water Baby’

Ola Awonubi, Author of ‘A Nurse’s Tale’ said, the novel “Is a beautiful, evocative work. Her character lingers, and her writing glides like boats through the lagoon, releasing the angst, scent and sound of Lagos.

“Sometimes you come across a phrase that captivates you so much with its sweetness that you have to stop to taste it over and over again.”

For Foluso Agbaje, the author of ‘The Parlour Wife’, the novel is a “beautiful story about the biggest floating settlement in the world.

“The writing was so rich that I could smell Makoko, I could taste the food and I could hear the characters. Chioma Okereke’s humour made me smile even when reading the saddest scenes.

“She gave the people of Makoko dignity and highlighted the importance of community,” Agbaje added.

Chika Unigwe, author of ‘The Middle Daughter” described the book as a “Gorgeous, sterling prose,” saying Okereke gives us a “moving story of loss, love, commmunity and dreams.”

The author enjoined the government of the state to revamp critical segment of the state like Makoko.

She said, “I hope that the piece inspires the government to see that there are real changes that can be made to allow people to live more comfortably and also improve Nigeria as a whole because Makoko is part of Lagos State whether we like it or not.”

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