Sope Martins is a linguist, writer, and the author of the children’s book ,“ The Greatest Animal in the Jungle”. In this interview by KINGSLEY ALUMONA, she talks about her experience in Smooth FM and Plus TV Africa, children literature, and her next book projects.
How was your childhood and growing up like?
I was born in Lagos and spent an idyllic childhood here. From the age of six I led a pretty nomadic lifestyle, moving between countries and through a variety of schools. But, I never felt adrift because my home was where my family was. My time away shaped me into the bibliophile and linguaphile I am today. I grew up with my nose in books —I was such a fixture in the libraries that I had a special spot reserved for me. At boarding school, I was surrounded by diverse nationalities so my appreciation for other languages and cultures never wanes.
You have BA in Linguistics and MA in International Studies. How come you are into radio and television broadcasting?
My foray into media was serendipity. I studied Italian and Linguistics, and International Relations and Diplomacy with the intent to forge a career in the Civil Service, working for the foreign office. However, around the time I graduated from my Master’s programme, there was a hiring freeze within the Civil Service. My career path was derailed. So, I came to Nigeria to regroup and be with my family. While looking for work here, my brother asked; why not radio? The rest is history.
What type of entertainment did you offer in your Smooth Breakfast programme at Smooth FM, Lagos?
I worked with Smooth FM for slightly over five years co-anchoring the Breakfast Show, where we talked about everything under the sun. The show was a mix of inspiration, business, news analysis, sport and entertainment. I also anchored the weekend Book Review Show.
What type of books did you review on Smooth Book Review?
The books I reviewed on the Smooth Book Review were broad in scope. I reviewed fiction and non-fiction, novels, anthologies and poetry. I even reviewed plays. When I wasn’t reviewing books, I interviewed authors and publishers to give my audience a deeper insight into what it takes to get a book from an idea into a reader’s hand. The one thing all episodes of the Smooth Book Review had in common was Afrocentricity. Every book I showcased was by an African or focused on Africa. It was a way of showcasing the creative brilliance that thrives in our country and continent.
What television station did you work for and what was your job description?
For a brief stint, I worked with Plus TV Africa. While my job was ostensibly that of anchor, in reality I focused on content creation and production, which means I spent most of my days conceptualising shows and working to bring them to reality. I was a jack of all trades, researching, producing and much more.
You have interviewed many literary icons like Chimamanda Adichie, Seffi Atta, Angelique Kidjo, among others. Who among them did you enjoy working with the most?
Each person I have interviewed stands out of the crowd. I couldn’t choose one above the others because I took away something different from each one. With Chimamanda Adichie, I was blown away by her mind and the poetry of her thoughts. Sefi Atta is one of the warmest and kindest people I have ever met. Angelique Kidjo’s energy and drive to make a change are still energising me and prompting me to do my part for the cause all these years later. Everyone is different. Everyone brings something unique to the table.
At the recently concluded Ake Festival in Lagos, you were the moderator of the panel “Through the Eyes of A Child”. What were the major highlights in the panel discussion?
The Ake Festival was such a triumph of bringing so much talent and creative energy under one roof, it’s a major highlight every year. “Through the Eyes of A Child” had some fantastic takeaways, but the one thing that kept coming up was the reinforcement of the reality of children as people too. It sounds commonsensical, but sometimes adults, especially within the “be seen and not heard” context of our society, can forget that children have likes and dislikes too. They are capable of brilliance and they do not like being condescended to. As children’s authors, it is incumbent upon us to entertain and educate without preaching or dumbing ideas down. Children are aspirational readers – what they don’t understand, they will very quickly learn.
Could you tell us something about your children’s book “The Greatest Animal in the Jungle”?
“The Greatest Animal in the Jungle” is the story of a mouse named Afuwe, who wants to be anything other than a mouse. The book is about his journey towards appreciating himself just as he is, even if he has to turn into four other animals to realise his worth!
What inspired you to write the book?
We live in a world that constantly pushes us to compare ourselves and our lifestyles to others. “The Greatest Animal in the Jungle” was my way of saying you’ll be happiest being the best that you can be.
What is your greatest challenge as a radio and television broadcaster, and as a writer?
My greatest challenge as a writer is finding that peaceful space within me that helps me focus my creativity amidst the noise of TV, social media, the stresses of daily life and, most importantly, Lagos traffic!
What are you working on at the moment?
I am currently working on two projects – my next children’s book and my first novel.
What advice do you have for young people, especially the female ones, who are aspiring to be like you?
Spend some quiet time each day to connect with yourself as a person, away from your relationships with others. Learn who you are—know yourself so that others will not tell you who to be. Determine your worth and make sure people treat you accordingly because the world is your mirror. What you put out, is what you will get in return.