In Polo Babalola’s fairy tales, the princess was not once white

An ancient story of the Assante tribe tells of the marriage of the Ghanaian princess Ya, but in love in color Ya is one of the social figures who cheats on his childhood sweetheart. Rewritten as a deadly stiletto-heeled lesbian woman, Nefertiti is an ancient Lesotho legend, a schoolboy with a skin condition who has impressed the captain of the athletics team. Mythical stories from Africa occupied a place in the first appearances of the British-Nigerian writer Polo Babalola (31), but also stories from Persia, China, and Mesopotamia. Babalola draws folktales from her patriarchal past and turns them into modern love stories starring women of color.

Clad in an orange shirt, with perfectly manicured nails and casually pinned hair, Bolu Babalola emerged from the elevator of a massive building in Keizersgracht for the interview. She became a popular Tweeter when she portrayed herself as the girlfriend of actor Michael B Jordan (over 20,000 retweets and 134,000 likes in five days). In addition to the sharp reflections of millennial culture on social media, Babalola writes novels and television scripts for BBC† Love in Color (2020), her first novel, has become Sunday Times Bestseller† She was last month in Amsterdam due to the publication of the Dutch translation of her book.

When you sit down, Babalola quickly gets to this point: love in color It is a tribute to the stories that ended up on the margins of history. “Colonialism has taken away our language, our stories – it is a form of dehumanization,” said Babalola, who was born in London to Nigerian parents. “It makes me sad because it is precisely stories that tell the history of a people.”

The book contains ten popular novels and three original stories. love in color It started as an idea from Babalola Publisher. But she did not want the original stories to be randomly written without modifications. Folk tales wherever they come from. She is without exception “paternalistic and masochistic,” she says. “In these stories, women are flattened and at the mercy of male desires. No way I will retell it this way. I had to make them feminists, with the woman at the center.”

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The main characters of love in color† Both Beauty and the Beast. They are strong personalities with their own thoughts, desires, and emotions. Sometimes they are stubborn, sometimes they are burdened with deep insecurities. They choose who they want to love and in what way. Take Siya for example, based on an ancient legend of the Soninke people of West Africa. In the original novel, Sia is a helpless young woman who is rescued by a hostile army officer. In Babalola’s story, lovers must rescue each other. Now Sia is the leader, armed with a bow and arrow. “I’m sorry for having to do this,” says the enemy, when he finds out that he has to duel a woman, “you looked so beautiful on your back.” Sia tilts her head and says, “You’ll look pretty on your back too. Lifeless.”

Babalola regrets that romance in books or movies is often dismissed as frivolous or frivolous. She describes herself as a lover of love and a “romantic connoisseur”. Romantic comedies are her favourite When Harry Met Sally† “Of course there is something trivial in love, but it is also serious and profound; something that determines many of our actions.” And she went in search of forgotten myths and legends to extract rich love stories from. The search for love prevails in every story: how hard it is to find it or hold on to it.

Telling long stories

Keeping track of these forgotten legends was not easy. Most of the stories in the book have rich oral traditions, but few have been recorded in writing. In her searches, Babalola found blogs where enthusiastic amateurs write the stories their grandmothers used to tell, which they heard from their grandmother.

“In each iteration, the central themes return, with slight deviations. This is the art of translating tales: everyone sets their sights on them. This assumption made it easier love in color to write. This is my point of view on stories, my version. In this way, my story becomes part of a long history of storytelling.”

In many tales, the woman is flattened and at the mercy of male lusts. No way I will retell it this way

One thing was certain from the start: Black female readers had to admit themselves as the hero. Precisely because Babalola did not often see herself represented in the stories she grew up with. †friends It’s one of my favorite TV series, but I’ve never seen myself again. But it’s about a group of friends, so I can relate to that.” And so, she says, whites in Europe might appreciate stories that take place in a different culture than theirs. “You can always identify yourself in humanity. No matter how different we are, in every story there is an element by which you can identify yourself, as a person, as a woman.”

In her youth, Babalola was acquainted with the stories of the Brothers Grimm, Hans Christian Andersen and Disney. “In European love stories, there is a specific image of who is worthy of love. You have to look a certain way. Blonde hair, blue eyes. Stories like Snow White use the whiteness of her skin to describe her beauty.” She’s received the most touching reactions from women of color who said they felt like seeing for the first time and that they too deserved romance.


Out of ten novels in love in color Six from Africa. “But Africa is not the only place affected by colonialism, nor is it the only place that has been overshadowed by European narratives,” Babalola says. She did extensive research into stories from different cultures. She asked her friends from different parts of the world for small details (such as an Iranian friend: “What do you eat on Sunday?”), looked at photos of architecture and read each story by so-called allergy readers and experts. of related cultures. Everything to prevent her narration from failing to do justice to the rich tradition of stories.

love in color Conclude with the love story of Babalola’s parents. The story is about a Nigerian prince and princess who adore each other, it is a tribute to their relationship. “My parents are really good friends, it is a relationship based on equality, respect and partnership. Only now I realize how rare that is, not only for their generation but also for theirs. Their relationship set the standard for me: I will not date someone who treats me worse than my father treats my mother. And he worships the earth that walks on her “.

She hopes that stories about love, in their different narrative forms, different time periods and genres, will have a binding effect. “Stories of strength, love and lust unite us. And because of the hope of happy endings.”

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