Ken Bugul, Wolof for “one who is unwanted,” is the penname of Mariètou Mbaye Biléoma. Born in 1947 in Ndoucoumane, Senegal, Bugul has risen to prominent fame as one of Senegal’s most prolific and internationally celebrated writers. In the words of scholars Ada Uzoamaka Azodo and Jeanne-Sarah de Larquier, Bugul’s “tremendous contribution” has ensured her the title of “one of the most important figures in sub-Saharan literature.”
Following is an excerpt from her interview with Ngoundji Dieng of the Sengalese Newspaper Le Quotidien.
Le Quotidien: Some find you quite mysterious. How do you see it?
Ken Bugul: No, I am not mysterious. I am a normal human being with eyes and ears. So, there is no mystery. I do not hide. On the contrary, I am quite flashy. Mysterious does not fit my persona. There is no mystery. I write autobiographically. I uncover myself. I unveil myself. Sometimes people can say this like that Beninese student who said he did not want to meet me when I lived in Benin. He did not believe I could exist. I was a myth for him. He did not believe that such person could exist. That, I can agree with him on, but mysterious, no.
I say what I mean. I have gotten wiser with age, but I used to be very flashy. I dreamed of living in a glass house forever so that people on the outside could see how I live. Even when I am naked in the shower. That has always been my dream. As I am aging, I start to notice my skin sagging, and I say to myself: “That’s not possible! That’s not attractive.” Because I have always had a sense of what is beautiful. I would consider myself to be mythical rather than mysterious.”