Noo Saro-Wiwa, a Nigerian author and freelance journalist, has been named as one of the “30 Most Influential Female Travellers” in 2018.
In an article by Conde Nast Traveller, a travel magazine in London, Noo Saro-Wiwa alongside other women that were featured were said to “push all the boundaries – when you need a role model for how to exist in a globalised world, look to these trendsetters, past and present, first”.
Born in Port Harcourt, Nigeria, and raised in England, Noo is the daughter of the iconic activist, Ken Saro-Wiwa. She attended King’s College, London and Columbia University, New York.
An award-winning writer, Noo’s first book, Looking for Transwonderland: Travels in Nigeria, was selected as BBC Radio 4’s Book of the Week in 2012, and named The Sunday Times Travel Book of the Year, 2012. It was shortlisted for the Author’s Club Dolman Travel Book of the Year Award in 2013 and was also nominated by The Financial Times as one of the best travel books of 2012. The Guardian newspaper included it among its 10 Best Contemporary Books on Africa in 2012.
The book has been translated into French and Italian, and in 2016 it won the Albatros Travel Literature Prize in Italy.
This 42-year-old Nigerian writer grew up in Surrey, which she describes as ‘a bountiful paradise of Twix bars and TV cartoons and leylandii trees, far removed from the heat and chaos of Nigeria’ where you see ‘machine guns, tuxedos, army fatigues and evening frocks together at an airport.’ Her book Looking for Transwonderland: Travels in Nigeria, is a brave first foray into travel literature; Noo’s father Ken Saro-Wiwa, who campaigned against government corruption, was executed by the military dictatorship of his country in 1995.
Noo had spent childhood summers in Port Harcourt on the Niger Delta but after this, she didn’t return for 10 years (except for his funeral and burial), wanting nothing more to do with the country. But in time she began tackling the subject of homeland, the same way she’d approached writing guidebooks (on Ivory Coast, Guinea, Madagascar, Benin, Ghana and Togo for Lonely Planet and Rough Guides) and writes that she came ‘to love many things about Nigeria: our indigenous heritage, the dances, the masks, the music, the baobab trees and the drill monkeys’.
‘I’ve been amazed by how many people have written to me and told me they knew nothing about Nigeria and how I opened their eyes,’ she says. ‘I feel I have a responsibility there.’ She’s now penning a book about Africans who live in China, a country she’s fallen in love with (‘after China, everything feels very boring,’ she says), then plans one on the Niger Delta, followed by Switzerland, which she calls ‘the heart of darkness of Europe’.