Neema Komba is soft spoken with a shy laugh. On Sunday March 15, 2015 the 27 year old Tanzanian became the second winner of the Etisalat prize for Flash fiction, following in the footsteps of the inaugural winner, the Nigerian writer, Uche Okoronkwo, a female.
Sabinews caught up with Neema a short while after the awards to get her views on the prize, what inspired her to write the story and how she became a writer. She spoke to Peju Akande and Toni Kan
Sabinews: Congratulations Neema
Neema: Thank you.
SABINEWS: your story is called, Setting Babu on fire. Who is Babu and why set him on fire, what happened?
NEEMA: The story is about a girl who was molested as a child. When she grows up and she is in school she gets hallucinations that she sees the molester. She sets herself on fire thinking she is setting the molester on fire.
SABINEWS: What gave you the idea for the story?
NEEMA: I really don’t know, I guess seeing a lot of kids go through a lot of upsets especially the girls.
SABINEWS: Is that common in Tanzania, sexual abuse, assault of minors?
NEEMA: It is common. I hear about it a lot.
SABINEWS: What do you do for a living?
NEEMA: I make soap.
SABINEWS: That is what you do? A writer who makes soap? Do you have another vocation?
NEEMA: I studied Accounting
SABINEWS: So are you working as an Accountant or Schooling as one?
NEEMA: I run a soap business
SABINEWS: How did you come into writing?
NEEMA: I started when I was twelve. I write poetry and fun poetry. This is my first shot at fiction actually. I think I tried when I was twelve till I was thirteen.
SABINEWS: How old are you now?
NNEEMA: Twenty Seven, so it is been fifteen years since I started writing.
SABINEWS: Is there any writer in your family?
SABINEWS: What does your mum do?
NEEMA: Financial analyst.
SABINEWS: And your dad?
NEEMA: A teacher.
SABINEWS: What does he teach?
NEEMA: No, he is like an Education person so he is a teacher of teachers.
SABINEWS: So where does the writing come from?
NEEMA: I have no idea, it just came to me. I guess when you are young and you are trying to express yourself nobody understands, so your pen and paper become your friends.
SABINEWS: You know they say writers can be a bit quirky and stuff?
NEEMA: I am kind of crazy.
SABINEWS: You think you are?
NEEMA: I think so.
SABINEWS: Do you have siblings?
Sabinews: Do they write?
Sabinews: How many do you have?
Sabinews: And you are number what?
Sabinews: So, you were a kid and they were all grown and you had nobody to play with and you started playing with words?
Sabinews: Now that you have won this prize do you think you would write more poetry and fiction?
NEEMA: I am trying to get myself into fiction right now.
Sabinews: How did you hear about the prize?
NEEMA: Short story day Africa, it is a South African social media page that promotes whatever happens in Africa.
Sabinews: So, do you have the Etisalat network in your country?
Sabinews: So, what would you do with your money?
NEEMA: Invest it in my soap business.
Sabinews: How big is your soap business?
NEEMA: It is not that big, it is a garage operation at the moment. It is only a year old.
Sabinews: Thank you very much and congrats.
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