University Graduate to create book of poetry based on Mary Slessor

A University of Dundee graduate followed in the footsteps of one of the city’s most famous citizens to research her new collection of poetry.

Fiona Cartmell travelled to Nigeria to study the work of Mary Slessor, a jute mill worker who became a missionary in Africa, as inspiration for her new book, which details inspiring tales of women in history.

The journey is instrumental for Fiona, who graduated in Creative Writing in 2013, in putting together the compilation of poetry to capture Slessor's history in a new way.

Fiona is still in the process of writing and hopes to revisit Nigeria in the near future to further understand Slessor.

Slessor first travelled to Nigeria in 1876 where she was the first European missionary to visit the community of Calabar.

After learning the local language she started to teach the population and worked to protect the native children from brutal practices, where newborn twins were killed as they were believed to be cursed.

Slessor worked to promote women’s rights and even went so far as to adopt unwanted children as a result of the region’s beliefs.

Fiona’s journey to Nigeria was a chance to see the impact of Slessor’s work in person and an opportunity for her to understand the area she dedicated so much of her life to.

Paul Preye Egin, a twin himself, met with Fiona during her time in Nigeria and told her how he owed his life to Slessor’s work.

Fiona said, “Mary Slessor was an amazing and inspiring woman so I decided to visit Nigeria – the place she loved and dedicated her life to.

“I decided to make the journey alone despite concerns from my family and friends. At the age of 65, I wanted to show that I could still do something adventurous.

“There have been many biographical books written about Mary so as someone who is mainly a poet, I wanted to find a different angle.

“My aim is to use poetry, perhaps in a performative way, to create something inspired by her journey, but weaving in the universal journeys of women.”