‘Pemi is one of my favourite people. One of the best listeners I know, maybe because she’s an award winning story maker. She’s also one of the most stylish and individual people I know. In short, she is bae. As usual, quotes from me are in italics. I hope you enjoy this as much as I did.
1. What does your name mean to you?
It’s interesting that a name is called out several times a day but we hardly ever think about what it means until someone asks us. Asks us to pay attention.
Oluwapemi means ‘God completes me/pays me’. And because I’ve answered this question before in another forum, I’m going to paste an excerpt here: “I sometimes wonder if my parents foresaw the restlessness. Maybe they knew I’d need this reminder, that God completes me: that the hollowness has been filled. That whatever I seek isn’t there, but here.”
2. What’s your favorite childhood memory(ies)?
Ooh, there’s many. I loved snuggling under a blanket on the living room floor while it rained outside, reading Harry Potter with a cup of hot Milo. I remember hiding at the stairwell and jumping out to scare my mother and sisters. I remember hot bowls of tapioca and distant voices of happy adults from an evening party downstairs. A favourite would be the fuzziest – making mud moin-moin and setting them on the roof of the gate house to ‘cook’. Now, this memory is obviously faulty because of the logistics but I refuse to question it.
Haha, mud moin-moin. Oh God.
3. What is the unique thing about growing up female and Nigerian?
The first thing that comes to mind is the patronizing attitudes towards us. Like we’re children being accommodated. Shudder.
4. How have you tackled any of these unique challenges?
I don’t know about ‘tackling’ but I try to have these difficult conversations with the people I see everyday. I have confronted people I work with who I hear spouting dangerous rhetoric. I’ve been laughed at, scolded – but once or twice, someone says: “I never thought of it that way oh…”
5. What do you do professionally at the moment and why do you do it?
I work as an architect and interior architect. One because I’ve spent so many years doing it, it’s mindless. The other because design makes me really happy. There’s nothing, then there’s something!
6. What was your trajectory? How did you get to this point?
I went to University, I did a Masters, I started working.
7. What are you passionate about? (cringe)
Cringe right back. Stories and feelings they evoke in me – either reading them or writing them.
8. What are three lessons you’ve learned in the past year?
One. I’m not a good person. It was jarring to see how I’d unconsciously hurt some people in my life. I learned not to be complacent, even in the seemingly easy relationships.
Lesson two from the past year was not to settle. It wasn’t until after I abandoned ‘comfort’ and made a radical change that I opened myself to new opportunities.
My third lesson was that there’s a difference between over-sharing and vulnerability. And your heart knows the difference, who are you fooling?
*phew* these lessons.
How did you come to a place of realizing this about yourself (not being a good person?)
Haha! I also learned the lesson of oversharing. Trying to force connection where it isn’t or it can sometimes just be a cry for help.
Well, it was pointed out to me. By people I know who are actually interested in seeing me grow, and not from a sinister place. I fought it, of course. “You just don’t understand where I was coming from..” Or “I feel attacked..” But after enough time passed, I had put enough distance between my hurt and facts and I started to see how I had been selfish in some ways and outrightly manipulative in others. It was the hardest lesson. I haven’t recovered yet, and some of these relationships are still fractured.
9. Are you happy at the moment? What can you do to be happier?
Right now while typing this reply? No. I don’t know anymore.
10. Who inspires you? Why?
I’m going to say Asa. This might be because I saw her perform on Sunday but I’m happy with this answer. So, I’ve watched Asa evolve from this quiet woman on stage holding her guitar to her chest to this other leaping and dancing woman who is so comfortable in her skin and art and is such magic to watch. That’s inspiring! I want to grow into ‘Pemi 2.0 this instant and just ‘be’ so beautifully and naturally that everyone can see this is it.
11. What are you reading at the moment?
Karen Russell’s ‘Vampires in the Lemon Grove’. This is another woman who inspires me. My fiction aspires to the effect her stories have on me.
12. What would you say to the teenage you?
Hey, cool cat! Don’t stop jumping out of windows.
What kind of teenager were you? Lol!
The kind who jumped out of windows at school? Haha. I don’t know what kind of teenager I was. The facts are: I had maybe two friends – the phone at home never rang for me; I was president of the Press Club (my friend’s little brother who’s now at my High School just told me that was the ‘un-coolest’ thing to be, in case I had illusions); I was too introspective for my mother’s liking; I hated my breasts. These are the facts – what kind of teenager does that make?
13. What would you like your future self to remember/ keep about this season of your life?
In the words of Yrsa Daley Ward:
“You will come away bruised
But this will give you poetry.”