Creating a character from scratch is always a fraught process. Contrary to what people think, they don’t come fully formed in the writer’s imagination. The character and the writer have to spend time together, find out what makes the other tick and then, work out how to make the relationship work for the story. Or, as I like to say; spend enough time with each other for the writer to decide whether or not to kill off the character.
In the case of Muniratu, Baba’s wife, in #lookingforbono, my intention was to create an unforgettable character, a complete opposite of her feeble, wily husband.
Everything about Muniratu is excessive. She’s uneducated, loud and brash, and with the physical attributes to match.
In short, she is designed to annoy.
But, it is not all bad with Muniratu. For all her faults, she is incredibly loyal, as evidenced by her relationship with the cobbler who lives across the street from her.
Muniratu’s character was partly inspired by my fascination with the Nollywood industry. Growing up in 1980s Nigeria, the industry had all but died. However, from the early 2000s, it went through a revival and is now a force to be reckoned with in its own right. Muniratu’s character gave me a chance to explore the industry from the perspective of someone who’s the least likely to succeed in it.
Muniratu, the character we loves to hate
For starters, she’s 35 ‘with a Nollywood age of 25’. She really, really wants to be an actress. She craves success and has no qualms about using sex to get where she wants. However, she doesn’t get the roles, because she’s not ‘young’, pretty or thin. Consequently, she doesn’t get the roles and is slowly being devoured by the industry. And with each year that passes, her dream of becoming a famous Nollywood actress and taking a young lover, grows dimmer.
There is a lot of sex in #lookingforbono. This is intentional. Nigeria is often cited as one of the most religious countries in the world. It is also a society that runs on sex and power. I wanted to show in a functional, yet humane way, how these two things fuel Nigeria’s economy and Muniratu’s character seems like the best conduit for this.
Yes, Muniratu’s character is complex. But then, so is life.
I’ve been searching online for the perfect image that would capture Muniratu’s character. I haven’t found one, but when I do, I’ll put it up on the Instagram feed.
You can also follow the story on social media using the hashtag #lookingforbono.