Sefi Atta; A Worthy Ambassador.
Sefi Atta was born in 1964 in Lagos, Nigeria to Abdul-Aziz Atta -who was the Secretary to the Federal Government of Nigeria and Head of the Civil Service until his death in 1972- and Iyabo Atta.
Sefi attended Queen’s College, Yaba, Lagos [Great School!!!] and Millfield School in England. Her tertiary education was at the Birmingham University from which she graduated in 1985 and proceeded to train as a Chartered Accountant. Sefi evidently caught the writing bug while working a white-collar job. In an interview with Geosi Reads, she stated, “I never wanted to be a writer; I just had stories I wanted to share so I learnt how to write and kept going. If I could sing or paint, I would.” In 2001, Sefi graduated from the Creative Writing Program which she had embarked upon at Antioch University, Los Angeles, USA, and hit the ground running.
The playwright and novelist who particularly enjoys writing plays, has several short stories, plays and three feature novels under her belt. Her short stories have appeared in journals such as Los Angeles Review, Mississippi Review and World Literature Today.
Sefi has won prizes for her short stories from the Zoetrope Short Fiction Contest and the Red Hen Press Short Story Award, and was a finalist for Glimmer Train’s Very Short Fiction Award and the Caine Prize for African Literature. In 2004, Sefi was awarded the PEN International’s David TK Wong Prize.
Her debut novel, ‘Everything Good Will Come,’ published in 2005 was awarded the inaugural Wole Soyinka Prize for Literature in Africa in 2006; in 2009, the NOMA Award for Publishing in Africa had her name on it for her short story collection, ‘Lawless,’ -published as ‘News From Home’ in England and America- .
If you are asking whether she hangs around basking in the ambience of all the recognition, the answer will be an emphatic no! According to Sefi, “I’m always working on something new and while I’m working, I’m absorbed with my characters, their conflicts, my language and settings. I’m in another place and it is a shock to come out and consider my previous works.”
Sefi’s second novel, Swallow was published in 2010, and her most recent effort ‘A Bit of a Difference’ was published to rave reviews in 2012; reviews which she has chosen not to concern herself with any longer. Sefi was hailed as “One of the most original, imaginative and gifted fiction writers in Africa, and arguably the best of her generation,” at the NOMA Award in 2009, and was a recipient of the prestigious THISDAY Award in 2012.
Sefi served as a visiting writer in 2010 at the Ecole Normale Superieure de Lyon, Northwestern University in 2008 and the University of Southern Mississippi in 2006. She was also on the jury for the 2010 Neustadt International Prize for Literature. Sefi’s Lagos-based production company Atta Girl supports Care to Read, a program she initiated to earn funds for legitimate charities through performance readings.
Sefi lives an interesting, letter-filled life as she travels the world attending literary meets, promoting her books and engaging in theatre. Home however is Mississippi, USA with her husband Gboyega Ransome-Kuti, and their beautiful daughter, Temi.