It was early 1987, and I found myself with my camera in Northeastern Nigeria in a village whose name I have chosen to forget. I was traveling alone. Airports and roads had been closed as the dry West African wind was blowing—the one they call the Harmattan. My room was essential: bed, table, chair. There was no electricity. The only small window had no glass pane. By night, mosquitos feasted on me. Malaria and dysentery were playing havoc with my body, and self pity was controlling my mind. By day I sat on the side of the road waiting for a vehicle, a truck, mulecart, camel, whatever, to transport me and my cameras somewhere-anywhere-else.
But I had one consolation. With my few personal belongings I had carried with me five paperback books: the autobiographical writings of a woman named Maya Angelou. I considered them part and parcel of my survival baggage. When I needed it most, these writings would offer me courage first of all, and then wisdom and humor, strength and dreams, passion and endurance, poetry and ideas...
Through my photographs of the magnificent art of Africa's women, I later came to meet Maya Angelou. It was to be the first of many visits... that finally culminated in a book Maya Angelou: The Poetry of Living. Forward by Oprah Winfrey (Clarkson Potter, New York, 1999)
Margaret Courtney-Clarke, 1998