Nike Campbell-Fatoki: The activist, storyteller
Nike Campbell-Fatoki is a Ukraine-born Nigerian writer. She is the second of four children born to Nigerian parents. Both parents met and trained to be medical doctors in the Former Union of Soviet Socialist Republic (USSR) where they had Nike and her older brother. She was ‘shipped’ back to Lagos, Nigeria to her maternal Grandparents who were already looking after her older brother while her parents completed their studies.
She has worked for several years in the International Development field where she managed development projects and recruited consultants. She then moved over to the municipal government to work in finance and budgeting. In 2006, she began to develop a draft for Thread of Gold Beads. Life got in the way, and she put the script aside. In 2009, she dusted off the script and began work. Thread of Gold Beads is a book borne out of a yearning to tell the story of hope, faith, love and the strength of the human spirit.
Nike’s short story collection – Bury Me Come Sunday Afternoon has just been published by Quramo Publishing.
You juggle writing with your career as a budget and finance management professional. You are also a mother. Does juggling these different things make you feel like a superwoman?
On the contrary. I feel the most human, flaws and all, trying to strike a balance between work and personal life. I believe the skills I gained as a budget and finance manager have helped me in other areas of my life and vice versa. It’s a constant juggling act but I am my happiest.
At what point did you decide to pursue a career as a writer? How rewarding has it been since the publication of your first book in 2012?
It was in 2009 after my first draft of Thread of Gold Beads was completed. I decided to publish. It’s been rewarding, not monetarily at first, but more as a fulfillment of my passion. The feedback and reviews from readers have also been encouraging.
How do you deal with writer’s block when it comes calling?
I inspire myself by reading and surrounding myself with the creative arts – music, paintings, drama. Anything that spurs creativity works for me. I also have to force myself to keep writing even when I don’t feel like it. It’s like a moving train in a dark tunnel, you can’t see for some time but you keep going. After a while, there’s light.
The major characters of your new book – Bury Me Come Sunday Afternoon – are Nigerians living abroad, all with their personal struggles. How much of these struggles strike close to home for you?
Several do. The major stories which are diasporic deal with issues of immigration and identity. I have experienced these as an international student plus the pressure from home to do well regardless of not having the basic necessities of life. No one can really understand what it means to be alone in a foreign land unless they’ve experienced the culture shock, the inability to work, and pressures of school. If you’re fortunate enough to come to the realization early, that you can only be the best you if you stay true to yourself, then you begin to find your purpose and finally live.
Are there psychological connections between you and the female characters you created in the book?
The stories are 100% fiction. However, there are instances where I drew upon personal experiences and others’.
What informed the choice of the themes you discussed in the book?
Life informed my choices. I’ve observed the goings on in society and many are shocking – the unfortunate trending in fatal domestic violence incidents, stigmatization of those dealing with mental illness, mental disorders, the societal standards we all have to meet up to or risk falling off the high horses we’ve been placed. I use these stories to provoke us to think – who set these standards anyway? Why must we leave up to then? Why can’t we leave our lives being at peace with who we are?
The title is a bit ominous and pessimistic. Yet it contrasts the colourful cover the book has. Is this contrast – semiotic conflict, if you like- deliberate or accidental?
Is it? For me, death is not the end, rather it is the beginning of another chapter. Thank you re: cover. Bury me Come Sunday Afternoon is one of the titles of the stories in the collection. It was not deliberate. It just seemed like a natural fit after writing the story.
A lot of writers extend social activism they ingrain in their books into real life situations, are there social causes that you devote some of your time to?
Yes. I am an advocate for domestic violence victims, one of the stories centers around domestic viplence. I also support organizations who cater to the development of education, and health of the African child. I recently founded Our Paths to Greatness Inc., a nonprofit organization which supports activities in education, fostering African arts and education, leadership training and community development in African communities.
OPTG celebrates the accomplishments of Africans, dispelling the myths of our great continent and inspiring many to go after their dreams through supporting initiatives for underserved Africans, equipping them with the skills and resources to thrive and compete in the world. I started the Path to Greatness series on my blog – www.nikecfatoki.com/blog about two years ago. Seeing the vast talent across the continent documented in the series, I was inspired to start the nonprofit to mobilize like-minded people with a passion for Africa and Africa’s development to equip others in the African community both in the continent and diaspora. The organization is not limited to Africans. It is open to all who wish to give back through education, leadership training, arts and culture and community development. I believe we all have our unique paths to walk but we collectively, we can make a greater impact. More information on OPTG can be found at www.oupathstogreatness.org, www.facebook.com/optgafrica
You also write play and poems, which of these are you most comfortable with?
Poems come more naturally to me than plays. I recently just picked up writing plays, which I might add, are a joy.
Who is Nike Campbell-Fatoki?
I was born in Lvov, Ukraine to Nigerian parents who were medical students at the time in the Soviet Union. I grew up in Lagos, Nigeria with three siblings. I was very close to my maternal grandparents and they were very instrumental in developing my love for storytelling. They were superb storytellers. My mum was the one who was great at investing in books. It became customary for her to take my siblings and me out on Saturdays to buy story books. My childhood was filled with all kinds of story books. It opened up a world of possibilities and creativity.
I attended Queen’s College, Lagos, an all-girls’ school. It was there I made life-long friends. I began my tertiary education at University of Lagos Economics department and then transferred to Howard University. I graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Economics and minor in Political science. I immediately completed a Masters degree in International Development from American University also in Washington DC. I’ve worked in the international development field and now in municipal government for 15 years. Writing, however, has been my outlet for as long as I can remember. My first novel, Thread of Gold Beads was adapted to a stage play in the Washington DC area in 2014 and translated into French in 2015. I’m currently working on my next historical fiction novel set in Nigeria and Sierra Leone.