Editors, critics, detractors and admirers grope for apt adjectives to describe her explosive personality. From her controversial writings, political and religious views and carefree — even risqué lifestyle, everything about this self declared “womanist” is the stuff of memorable movies.
Born Naima Bint Harith along the banks of the Blue Nile in Omdurman to an Egyptian Archeologist and an Oromo mother, Kola Boof writes that she witnessed the brutal murder of her parents at the tender age of seven.
In an high-octane online musing titled How to Make Generations, she writes that her parents were executed by the Jaffer Nimeiry regime in Sudan in her presence “for the crime of acknowledging our country’s slavery in public and for my father’s campaign in the 1960s against the building of Lake Nuba and Nimeri’s wood cutting crisis.”
But instead of destroying her, this horrendous childhood experience planted the seed of defiance and rebellion that gave birth to the controversial personality she is today.
“It started when my birth parents were murdered and I stayed outdoors all night with the bodies,” Kola told DN2 a sister magazine with Thoughts&Ideas an online interview from her home in the USA. “Years later in America, when I was around 14, my psychiatrist explained to me that staying with the bodies that night made me fearless. He said that it made me an emotional exhibitionist.”
Opposed to slavery
She explains that her parents were killed for openly voicing their opposition to slavery and racial discrimination that are still rampant in some parts of Sudan. Although little Kola moved in with her Egyptian grandmother, the grandparent decided the girl was too “dark-skinned” to be assimilated in a family that for so long had tried to get rid of black blood in its heritage. For this reason, she was eventually placed for adoption by Unicef where she was taken in by Americans Marvin and Claudine Johnson, her foster parents who took her to the US in 1979.
After her naturalisation in 1993, the 40-something year-old mother of two returned to North Africa where she hopped across Libya, Egypt and Morrocco where she would be paid a party girl in state functions or star in low budget Arabic movies. During this time, Kola was already putting her thoughts on paper having developed a passion for writing while growing up in America.
“As for developing a writing style, I would say that I tried to copy the pacing of the old movies I loved as a kid,” she explained during an interview with Kam Williams of aalbc.com, a website exclusively dedicated to African-American Literature.
“The integrity and ethos of what I would write, however, came from the films of Ousmane Sembene and from reading Richard Wright, Toni Morrison, Sylvia Plath and Alice Walker,” she adds.
Kola also explains that other “mothers” of black literature like Maya Angelou, Ntozake Shange, Grace Jones and Gloria Steinem have greatly shaped her writing. Hence it comes as no surprise that even though the fiery scribe has penned numerous books that have sold in more than 12 countries, her titles always stir bittersweet emotional reactions from the reading public.
In recognition for her achievements as an author amazon.com, a popular online bookstore, has a page exclusively dedicated to her. Kola’s vivid prose ruffled feathers in 1997 when she was expelled from Morocco for reciting verses from her anthology Nile River Woman, branded inflammatory and blasphemous by conservatives. Her autobiography Diary of a Lost Girl was delayed for several months after publishers turned down the manuscript because Kola didn’t allow editors to sanitise it. She wanted a book that was true to her character and vision as an artist. Not what publishers thought was politically correct.
Years later, her acclaimed collection of short stories Long Train to the Redeeming Sin was forced out of print in 2003 after her publisher’s premises were firebombed by extremists in Morocco.
The outspoken writer says that her brand of feminism focuses less on ideologies and more on the daily struggles of black women whom she says are down-trodden, oppressed and silenced by racial supremacists and abandoned by the only partners supposed to stand up for them — black men.
“I embrace the ancient ritual of baring the breasts to show respect for the circle of life and to celebrate the eternal power of womankind and the African woman’s legacy; the true African creed, the true African religion,” Kola explained her animistic beliefs during the aalbc.com interview. Kola also takes the world’s main religions head on, arguing that they are institutions devised by men to enslave and colonise women.
“We need to abolish the man-made religions… everything by men should be phased out. It’s time for us women to legislate the way in which we worship God and the way in which our children are taught about women,” she says.
To push home her controversial position on matters of faith is her new book The Sexy Part of the Bible. Set in modern West Africa, Europe and the United States the novel features a diabolical young African hellcat called Eternity who miraculously survives several rebellions to unmask a powerful secret.
The term “Sexy Part of the Bible,” explains Kola, was a racist term for West African women by white explorers in the 1600s. “The missionaries taught their sons to see white woman as “the virtue” of the Bible and to consider the black woman as “the sex” in the Bible,” she writes.
This unflattering opinion on religion has landed Kola in hot soup. In 2003 an investigative UN human rights report released in Switzerland identified her as one of the several Sudanese personalities tried in absentia by a court in Khartoum and sentenced to death by beheading.
But Kola Boof is no stranger to life on the run. She claims to have been a high-ranking SPLM spy travelling the world soliciting funds for the former rebel movement.
In support of independence
“In 2004, I went to Israel and gave a speech that resulted in guns and ammunition being given to the South Sudanese rebels,” she says. However, SPLM representatives in Nairobi claim that there are no records to prove that Kola ever worked for the movement as she says.
The controversial author’s popularity is confirmed by the fact that some of her books like Diary of a Lost Girl and Long Train to the Redeeming Sin are very popular on amazon.com.
During her days as a party girl-cum-spy in North Africa the outspoken writer claims to have met and mingled with the high and mighty of the Maghreb including Muammar Gadaffi, deposed Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and former powerful Sudanese spiritual leader-turned opposition activist Hassan al-Turabi. Depending on the importance of the information she was seeking, Kola admits in her biography, sometimes she used her feminine strengths to open up the hearts of men.
However all the events and incidents in Kola’s wild career seem to have been eclipsed by her alleged dalliance with Osama bin Laden in 1996. These allegations have been missed by many as publicity stunts.
Although she is believed to be somewhere in the United States, Kola no longer reveals her whereabouts or identity for security reasons. “My sons and I move around a lot but we are happy and we have a good comfortable life,” she says in our online interview.
“Our home is like a fortress and we are all armed. Both my sons are younger than 12, but they are expert gunmen. I had to teach them this way.”