Sentinel Poetry Magazine January 2003
MY E-CONVERSATION WITH KOLA BOOF
By Nnorom Azuonye
November 2002: I developed at interest in the person known as Kola Boof following a profile of her and her work, which I had read at nathanlewis.com. At the time, Nathan Lewis was my Guest Poet and I was crawling about on his site to find out anything about him I could use to make his profiling fuller. The short biography of Ms Boof which I read portrayed her as a victim of religious and social abuse and ostracism who had somehow found her own way of making sense of her world. I also read reports of her alleged shooting in the Los Angeles area, and earmarked her as a possible future interview subject and guest poet. Conversation continues >>>
December 2002: I contacted Kola Boof, or the woman believed to be Kola Boof and requested to see some of her poems for inclusion in the January 2003 issue of Sentinel Poetry (online) magazine monthly of which I am editor. She replied and promised to send some poems the following week and alerted me on a feature appearing the next day in New York Times. She sounded kind of excited about the feature titled "Mystery Enshrouds Kola Book, Writer and Internet Persona." By Julie Salamon.
When I read the article, I found that it was not exactly flattering, but rather raised questions about her credibility as a person if not as a writer, and demonstrated how many were drawn to her initially on the basis of information found on the Internet and the outrage that always exists when it is learnt that a person has received a religious death sentence but soon pulled away and made efforts to dissociate themselves with her - except for a handful of university professors. Salamon certainly tried to show through her reported consultations or research that Boof's might be a phantom Fatwa - a publicity ploy…but can she write?
I said to myself, this is the time to interview Kola Boof whether she is the genuine article or the finest spoof of our time I wanted to get her story on record. This interview was conducted entirely by e-mail with the hope that at the end of it, there might be a possibility to create a kind of consistency in her so far profoundly inconsistent story. All I can hope for is that Kola Boof will be honest with me and that you can make up your own mind about her and her work.
Nnorom: Thank you very much for accepting to do this interview. Let us start with the most basic question of all. Kola Boof is your pen name. What is your real name?
Kola: Naima Bint Harith is my real name, although it's never been public before... because there are relatives still in Sudan and Egypt who I felt had to be protected.
Nnorom: I have just read a preview of your forthcoming book "Diary Of A Lost Girl" written by Solomon Amadou, the editor of the book, in which he gives your real name as Naima Alu Kolbookek. Your former publicist Lee Ni Ying gave it as Naima Bahri. You have just told me it is Naima Bint Harith. Which one is it really? If it is the one you gave to me, which you said was never made public before, why would you allow your book editor give your readers the wrong information about you?
Kola: I instructed my publisher and publicist to list my name as one that could not trace me to anyone in Omdurman or Kom Ombo, Egypt. I was told by Police that this was one way to throw people off the track of finding and hurting people whose only crime is that they are related to me. If I am to have a future as an activist--I must protect people whose only crime is that they are related to me and my family. I don't care about providing accuracy for historians, etc. My goal is make changes in the politics and lifestyles of the common people. Unfortunately, I will never get full credit for my life...because my life is not mine. It's the people's!