We are so neglected in the Abuja Literary Scene – Aisha Kabir Muhammad

Halima Ahmad Katun (HK) of the Hill-Top Creative Arts Foundation had a chat with an amazing upcoming teen poet: Aisha Kabir Muhammed. Aisha won the Andrew Nok Poetry Prize organised by the Yasmin Literary Foundation in 2019. She has been published in online magazines like Syncity, Agbowo Art and Litirieso. Also, she has a short story in CWC Kongo’s “my name is sorrow” anthology.

H.K: How would you describe yourself?

Aisha Kabir: I am a quirky girl who is in love with cats, art, volunteering/humanitarian works, plants, my family, mythologies and most importantly, food. 

H.K: Hahaha, food is really important. Now, I know a lot of people do not think there’s a difference between question one and this, but tell me about yourself

Aisha Kabir: Oh, now I see the difference. I’m a Law student (God knows how this happened) a writer, essayist, poet, avid volunteer and proud mother of a cactus named Godiya. 

H.K: Wow! A Cactus, nice. So, who or what is your muse? Please, identify if numerous.

Aisha Kabir: My muse is everything, and everyone! I get inspiration from the news, from my mum, my experiences, my friends and the places I travel to, and school which is the most unlikely place. But I have written a lot about lecturers and the system. 

H.K: Speaking of the system, do you think your immediate environment is supportive of young poets and writers like you? 

Aisha Kabir: My immediate literary environment is divided into two spaces, school and home. School, is in ABU Zaria and with Creative Writers Club (CWC), Kongo and other literary communities in the Zaria-Kaduna axis. I would say yes, it is very supportive. But for the Abuja environment where the Abuja Literary Society is the biggest literary community, it isn’t. They put teenagers and children in the same category and for someone like me that doesn’t work out well. The adult programmes are at night and they’re the ones most writers of my age would like to go to. I have to wait till I’m at least 21 before I can go for their Open Mics because no one will let me out of the house by 7:00 pm in the night in a big city like Abuja. I feel like there should be more writing workshops and Open Mics for writers of my age. We are so neglected in the Abuja literary scene and we really have to struggle much more than the adults but I guess that’s why we’re so amazing.

H.K: It seems you do a bit of everything but do you think you are a better poet or writer? If you were to choose, what would you go with?

Aisha Kabir: I think I do both pretty well, I write more poems than stories because penning down stories is tedious for me and it takes so much time. So, I barely do it. I am sure if I wasn’t so lazy, I would write better short stories. After my essay was published in Agbowo, I thought “maybe I write better essays than short stories.”. I wouldn’t want to choose one of them and leave the rest, that would be torture for me. 

H.K: Does writing energize or exhaust you? 

Aisha Kabir: The process of imagining what I would write is energizing and the process of writing down poems and essays is energizing. But you see, these short stories and their characters they exhaust me. I let the characters tell the stories and they always end up going too far and making me sound like a crazy person (Is that how I sound right now?).

H.K: I honestly think all writers have a little bit or probably a lot of craziness in them. It comes with the territory. Which brings about the question of originality. Do you try to be more original or deliver to readers what they want? 

Aisha Kabir: I am original to the core! I remember I was writing a story one time, about a girl and gave her certain elements that were in my life and my friend read it and said everyone would think it was me and I said: “I’m not writing for them, I’m writing for me”. I really don’t write for people. If you give me a prompt, fine, but I feel like when I start writing to give readers what they want, I won’t write well. I take critics very seriously, but when it comes to the characters and plot, that’s mine, no one touches them. 

H.K: If you write more for yourself than for the people, so, do you put your works out there? Give me instances if you do.

Aisha Kabir: I do! I always like performing at Open Mics even when fear wants to kill me. I’ve performed at Kabafest 2019, at almost all of CWCs workshops, at Bees Poetry Open Mic, in Ilimi House and so much more. Apart from performing, I like to submit my works to literary blogs and magazines. 

H.K: Very impressive. Are you published? If no, do you intend to publish? And when.

Aisha Kabir: I am published, but I don’t have my own collection of poetry yet or a novel. I would like to publish a collection of poetry and subsequently short stories and my memoir.

H.K: What was your early experience where you learned that language had power? 

Aisha Kabir: Wow, this is an essay waiting to be written… Okay, I’m Hausa but I don’t speak fluent Hausa (crazy, right?). Even before I started writing, I knew how much power language had. Because I didn’t speak Hausa, a lot of Hausa people in ABU Zaria assumed I was Yoruba, Egbira or even Fulani and they treated me differently the minute they learnt I was Hausa. I got a lot of Hausa friends over night. It still happens every day. I want to buy something from one Mai tomato and when they ask where I’m from because I don’t act or look Hausa and I tell them Zaria; they start telling me their life stories or giving me free things. It showed me that the language I took for granted when I was about 10 or so actually had power. It’s the same with English language and any other language. Owning a language and learning a language gives you power in ways you might not recognise but, it’s there. 

H.K: There is indeed power in words and language, and writing comes with so much privileges and experiences. It also affords us a powerful voice that compels people to listen. Anyway, what does literary success look like to you? 

Aisha Kabir: My book being sold across the globe, going on book tours in Australia, my book possibly winning a prize maybe and being a guest at literary festivals and spaces, teaching creative writing to children in village schools, this would be my literary success. I would primarily want to inspire people when I write and I would want to have amazing and unique content as a writer. I believe if I have these, the things I mentioned earlier would follow. 

H.K: Amazing. How often do you write? 

Aisha Kabir: If I say everyday you might not believe me, but I do write everyday. If it’s not poems in the corners of my Criminal Law notebook, it’s flash fiction on my WhatsApp status and since the pandemic began, I took up my big writing projects again.

H.K: I know your poems; you write about love a lot. Is there a significant trigger that fuels these words or is it just the idea of love more than the actuality that does it? 

Aisha Kabir: Oh! I think my love poems are less than my really gory sad poems but I publish the love poems more and you all love them more. There is no significant other, not right now though but there were some people who fueled the words before, imagine tame  I’m Taylor Swift, I take advantage of a new boyfriend keep the love poem in my head and when I break up with him I write them down along with a breakup poem. Now, don’t think I date to write poems, I don’t. I just write what I feel.

H.K: Hahaha, imagine dating to find inspiration for poems. I might be capable of something like that, or not. Well, do you hide secrets in your works that only few people can find? 

Aisha Kabir: Yes, there are so many secrets and most of them wouldn’t be seen by a lot of people except my close friends, the men I have dated and my mum. I pray my mum doesn’t read my poems sometimes because she would cringe. 

H.K: What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?

Aisha Kabir: Writing things down and research! If only I could use emojis in this interview to describe how that frustrates me. Ideas are lovely in my head, but the first draft, that beast cannot easily be tamed. It is an exhausting thing. 

H.K: Do you see yourself doing this as a career in years to come? 

Aisha Kabir: Yes, yes and yes! Before Law waltzed into my life, I wanted to study literature but I changed my mind and said I would do a professional course according to our society. I might end up writing books and owning an NGO instead of practicing Law (maybe for the money though) but I’d definitely always write, even if I don’t “blow”

H.K: Finally, I am a personal fan of your poems so can you recite one of your favorites for me?

Aisha Katun: It will be tricky finding a poem, but since you like my love poems, I would recite this one. It’s untitled though.                  


walk with me 

through this maze

where earth and sky

do a dance only the 

gods recognize. 


This brown silky soul, 

Feel, this body coated with

Zam Zam water and communion wine. You. 

H-K: Amazing, amazing. Okay this was really fun Aisha; this whole pandemic has been so draining. I really hope we come out of it soon. Thank you for Obliging me.

Aisha Kabir: You’re welcome, Amen to your prayers.

Halima Ahmad Katun hails from Niger State. She developed love for books at an early age. She recently bagged her LL.B from Ahmadu Bello University where she was an avid member and executive of the Creative Writers’ Club, Kongo. She served as a Public Relations Officer, Secretary and finally Head of Drama and Publicity. Her work was featured in the Anthology about sexual violence “My Name Is Sorrow” published by the Creative Writers’ Club, Kongo. She is also a staunch member of the Hill-top Creative Arts Foundation. She holds strong views on human rights, feminism, gender inequality and violence. Halima loves to read more than she loves to write and she hopes she can impact lives and make a difference through her voice and pen.