Atinuke is a Nigerian storyteller. She draws upon her recent ancestry from Yoruba land, England and Wales, and more ancient origins of Spain, Portugal and China, to tell stories from both the world of folktales and contemporary life. She lives in Newport with her husband and two sons.
As a writer, Atinuke has something in common with fellow Nigerian writers such as Chinweizu and the late Ebereonwu. They are one-name authors. Unlike many others that parade their first and surnames, they simply attach one appellation to their books. Where Atinuke’s experience is, however, different from the others is that she mostly writes children stories.
Her story, Anna Hibiscus’ Song, co-authored by Laurent Tobia – who did a marvelous illustration of the book – is currently garnering acclaim especially by western mothers whose kids have found it very inspiring. It is the story of Anna Hibiscus, who lives in ‘amazing Africa’, where she happily jumps from the top of a mango tree to a traditional playground and to the communal kitchen where her ‘mothers’ are pounding yam. The fervour with which foreign readers have so far greeted the tale is reminiscent of the international applause that first announced the beauty of Amos Tutuola’s The Palmwine Drinkard.
In some of the Internet postings on the book, a reader who simply identifies herself as Carrie writes, “Very fun series featuring a little girl who lives in Africa with her family, in a big white house. Lots of adventures, and each one has a great moral. Chloe loved reading these each night with me. I loved that each chapter was a story in itself, so we could read one chapter and she was satisfied.”
One of the lessons from Atinuke’s writing is that literature gives a writer an opportunity to recreate his or her background and dialogue with his past. Also, it shows that African tales still command an appeal among foreigners. Of course, Atinuke has also proved that to produce a worthy children’s literature there is need for ample illustration, in which case the author should be humble enough not only to contact a good illustrator, but to also be ready to share authorship with the artist.