Born forty-three years ago in Michigan, United States of America, Teju Cole was raised in Lagos until he was seventeen when he left Nigeria for Kalamazoo College where he earned his Bachelor’s degree in 1996. He later did his graduate studies in Art History at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, and Columbia University, New York. Teju Cole’s writings and photography are erudite, sophisticated and cosmopolitan. Important to him are formidable writers like James Baldwin, John Berger, Wole Soyinka, Aleksander Hemon, Derek Walcot and V.S. Naipaul. He understands how Literature works. The canvass of his imagination is wide and broad. His images are lucid, enchanting, robust, richly textured and inspiring. This writer is on fire, but he doesn’t advertise it, which makes him dangerous. To read Teju Cole is to read a high-minded writer with fascinating turns of phrase. He is the author of Every Day is for the Thief, Open City, Known and Strange Things, and Blind Spot. Based in Brooklyn, New York City, he writes on photography for The New York Times magazine. He has also written for The New Yorker, Granta, The Guardian of London, Transition, Next on Sunday, among other publications. Cole has given lectures, readings and interviews on various platforms across the world. In 2015 he won Windham—Campbell Literature Prize. His novel, Open City has won Time magazine’s Best Book of the Year award and the Hemingway Foundation/PEN award. On Sunday July 29, 2018 at The Jazzhole, Ikoyi, Lagos, Teju Cole had a conversation with Kunle Ajibade, Executive Editor of TheNEWS and PM NEWS, the last four questions of which were from the audience, even as these were moderated for clarity and precision. For a start, he read in full a non-fiction narrative, “Water Has No Enemy”, an essay he published in Granta magazine, number 124, recounting an encounter with Lagos in 2012. The audience obviously enjoyed it as well as the following conversation:
Ajibade: Some of those who read that Granta essay on Lagos and your novella, Every Day is for the Thief accused you of Afro-pessimism. What is your response to their accusation?