Gifted poet and writer Olajumoke Verissimo doesn’t need much introduction. Her first book I Am Memory successfully took on a big challenge very few attempt-History; the painful part of Nigeria’s history. Jumoke is an all round literary head; having studied English literature at the university and furthering her academics in African studies; the artist has worked extensively with some leading Newspaper and media houses in Nigeria as an Editor and Copywriter.
A recipient of more than a few awards in her career, Verissimo has been hailed as one of those who will change the face of Nigeria’s literature; and as fans of her work, we see it already happening.
AFRIKAJUMP asked her some questions about life; work and aspirations.
As we say in Brazil, Vamoonezza! It means; let’s go!
AFRIKAJUMP- Olajumoke I consider you blessed and lucky; many artists have had to print books and works of art only to practically urge people to buy so they can survive, but your works get published, calmly and not in a do or die way, it seems. Your endeavors as an editor and writer in the print and web media also serves as a channel to perform your artistry. Which would you say is more enjoyable: Your career as a Poet or that of a literature/media person?
OLAJUMOKE- Thank you. Your words are very kind. As artists, we are both blessed and lucky. Yet, the idea of success—which I believe your question tries to address—is rather subjective. You have to understand that the internet and the media can sometimes be overwhelmingly fictitious in defining the success of an artist. This is why the true realities of an artist are usually distorted in the media—like, good reviews of a book does not equal good sales.
In all, I’m eternally grateful for many things, even the mistakes I make. Nothing is a do or die for me. There’s so much to give and the length of life might not be enough for it, so why choose death when you can just do (imagine) life? Be immortal.
For most enjoyed career….let’s just say, I make efforts to enjoy what I do. Life is too short. As long as I can write, I’d be fine—I’d suffer my emotions, and be human. That’s fulfillment.
AFRIKAJUMP- What one major challenge did you have to tackle in your art to get to where you are now and how did you do it? Can you share?
OLAJUMOKE- Er…how do I answer this question?
I was lucky with my first book, I Am Memory. Yet, when I look back, there was just me struggling to stay afloat, fighting to stay sane. It’s been all small steps moving forward, and those small steps are still in motion. There’s no big story of being picked from somewhere and dropped somewhere—sorry. I’m not a movie star or a rock star, I’m a writer. Every day comes with a promise to challenge.
The truth is that we always try to put a structure to this thing, but a writer’s journey is not defined by plans in that sense. You can plan to finish a book in a year and it runs into years. You may hope to get a publisher in one-year and you don’t get one in ten. The structures in place only ask you to keep working – that is a challenge. You could become depressed wondering when and where you’d fit into a space in the mythical skies where all birds have enough space to fly. Until, your work is published and read, you are just trying everything. You’re sending out submissions, attending events, learning and forming opinions….this never ends. It’s cyclical.
You’re trying to keep your soul from wandering and it is the writing that captures it. You send it out, it finds a home. It gets a name. You hone the craft—you keep honing the craft. The challenge is cyclical. In all of this, you keep sane by understanding yourself above the noise: you remember how we dream differently, and you try to keep be.
In another dimension, I think we push our struggles differently as writers, as artists, so let’s just say I’m pushing mine with as much passion and self-will as I can power. I don’t know how you arrived at your condition, but there’s goodwill in it and that is promise.
Remember also, that this narrative is simply a writer outside life’s happenings in Nigeria. A writer struggling to put food on the table, trying to subsist.
AFRIKAJUMP- Deep. You are a picture of calm and innocence until one starts to read your works that address the heavier stuff in our society, Corruption, Imperialism, our history. Your bravery and fierceness in I Am Memory which you published in 2008 addressed topics many would rather wish away. Why did you take on this challenge?
OLAJUMOKE- It’s interesting that it all turned out the way it did. Bravery is a kind word. You are an artist, and you know we do not choose depression or restlessness to overtake our calm, yet anytime one visits one’s core values, which spurred one to be an artist, one settles for sanity, for calm, one writes the trouble—what you described as ‘the heavy stuff.’
Considering that I wrote I am memory under the influence of ongoing debates on media reports at the time—largely from members of Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA) at the Ladipo Labinjo close, Surulere, Lagos, and there was the host of artists at Committee for Relevant Arts (CORA). After the monthly meetings, it was not unusual to see the older members debate the state of the nation at different hangouts in Lagos. Perhaps, I was lucky to start attending literary and art events where fierce debates were the norm. Perhaps; talking politics with my dad made me question the society even more. It could also be that I was an angry teenager and then young adult who was alarmed at how the protective hold of my parents did not prepare me for the horrors on the street. Perhaps all of this influenced the tangent of the themes. I gave the first manuscript to a poet, Akeem Lasisi when I was about 21, or there about. I started the book as a commentary on reparations because of my ancestry which finds root in the transatlantic slavery. I wanted to understand what MKO Abiola, who was passionate about the cause was talking about. I did some research and it turned out differently. I showed it to the Master Poet, Odia Ofeimun and he made suggestions. You must as well understand, I didn’t know what I was doing. I was responding to the environment, innocently.
AFRIKAJUMP- Brilliant. What inspired your second book, Birth of Illusion?
I was writing this other book and then I got stuck. So, I started to put together a poem to capture the zeitgeist of private and public turbulence in the world in the last decade. Old poems got a slot and new poems found a place as well.
AFRIKAJUMP- I love when that happens. You know, like the saying one door closes another opens. Now say you are appointed by the government to help salvage Nigeria’s literary sector what three things would you primarily or immediately address?
OAJUMOKE- There’s no point making a list – the government should focus on education. Beyond literacy, which is not even available, we need a country of educated minds. A country with a history; A country where the parts can question the whole. Presently, everything in the country reeks of failure – usually, people suffer ‘curse of knowledge’ ours is a ‘curse of ignorance’. We are so ignorant of our illiterate state, we do not realise we have fallen down the continental ladder as a country. We’re going about as largest black nation. Please, if we have educated minds, the literary sector would thrive. We would create structures that won’t be subsumed under political thuggery and social despondency.
AFRIKAJUMP- Nothing like inept public office holders to bring the fire out of a patriot. Which author(s) are you currently reading, if any?
OLAJUMOKE- Ibrahim Al-Koni Scarecrow, Claudia Rakine Citizen, Sarah Manyinka Like a Mule Bringing Ice Cream to the Sun, Odia Ofeimun, A Boiling Caracas, and Ryan Holiday Trust Me, I’m Lying: Confessions of a Media Manipulator.
AFRIKAJUMP- What book by another writer did you wish you wrote?
OLAJUMOKE- This one is hard o. I’ll pick any of Toni Morrison’s books; Okay, I’ll stick with Sula.
AFRIKAJUMP- Your top 3 authors. This is a tough one, I know.
OLAJUMOKE- I’ve decided I won’t do this again. It is torture. If you insist, the current authors on my reading list. Once I’m done, the next authors I’m reading. If, you however, think you should really, really know. Whenever death visits, the last three on my lips could be taken as the final word.
AFRIKAJUMP- HAHAHAHAHA Well played. Any projects in the works you want us to know about?
OLAJUMOKE- Yes, but I’m superstitious.
AFRIKAJUMP- HAHAHAHA you are amazing Jumoke, thank you. Lastly, can you describe your city in one word?
You can get her new book on the link below
Photo by Seye Kehinde.
Unpredictable rapper from Ghana, Kay-Ara is back with more vim, more energy as they say in the country also known as Gold coast. The video of his recent single THE ACCRA CITY HUSTLE made by Percy Appiah AKA Fotombo and shot in Accra’s colorful and earthy streets is a live and unpretentious interpretation of the song, a great fit to this bossy track wherein Kay-Ara sounds quite mean, to say the truth.
We love it!
Kay-Ara’s tone in this tune is winning more fans to the Neospiritual- to use his terminology, and from his musical history or Rap-sheet if I may say, he deserves this long due acknowledgement.
AFRIKAJUMP hit him up in his Koforidua base to catch some of his current vibes in 7 questions.
AFRIKAJUMP- Kay-Ara, etis3n?
KAY-ARA: Me hu y3, I’m good, fine.
AFRIKAJUMP- From your social media in the past few years you seemed to be taking time off active music to concentrate on other goals and now you turn up in this hot video to a rude track, lashing people and what not, are you here for good this time and what have you been up to?
KAY-ARA: In 2013, I made the unfortunate decision of quitting music (for good, my thought at that time). And because of that I sort of cut off ties from social media, social circles and Accra in totality. However, in the last quarter of 2015 after suffering a broken heart I had an epiphany to return to this music business. I’ve been writing since 2015, still doing that so I guess I’m back for good. I’ve been recording a lot of songs. In the latter part of 2016 I recorded 30 song in 2 weeks. I also shot three videos the first of which is currently out.
AFRIKAJUMP- Holy smokes. I am sorry for your heart break but happy it brought you back to your senses. Congrats; for the videos too. What inspired THE ACCRA CITY HUSTLE?
KAY-ARA: Necessity. I’ve hated Accra since 2012 because I believe Accra broke my heart. For about 3 years I hated Accra and didn’t want to have anything to do with it. I therefore clung onto Koftown (Koforidua) where I invested most of my time in academic pursuit, politics and entrepreneurship. However, as it was to me, Koforidua lost the lustre for me and I found myself gravitating towards Accra more and more. It’s funny how around the same time I heard Omar Sterling’s Ibiza beat and I decided to write an ode to the city that causes me pain and joy. I decided to accept to be the big fish in the big city and grind till I get it. After recording that song I called Fotombo up so that we shoot in the streets of Accra to inform everybody that I am back.
AFRIKAJUMP- We are proud of you Kay-Ara; how do you feel about the reception of the project?
KAY-ARA: I’m excited! I mean I knew the kind of emotion I wanted to evoke from my audience and so that’s how we shot the video. And my objective for the video was accomplished. Can you imagine Hammer of the Last Two actually hit me up?! Me??? *screams and swoons*
AFRIKAJUMP- Yes we heard; cool one chale. What has been some of your challenges as an artist in your society?
KAY-ARA: Inadequate finance. Non-acceptance of new ideas with respect to the society, Prejudice and stereotypes. Classism (very serious issue in the music business), Lack of investors for initiatives. Poor mechanisms that do not work in favour of artiste. Pull him down mentality.
AFRIKAJUMP- I feel you bro. Do you want to share something with us you feel we should know?
KAY-ARA: Tell the kids not to choose this career path. Also, Accra is amazing because of new movements springing out. Koforidua is ripe for investment. I am about to f**k s**t up!
AFRIKAJUMP- Damn, that first line… I can’t say I don’t understand brother. Can you describe your city in one word? Or two.
Fam, you read the man, he’s back and for good this time. Peep the new track and video below; and show him love by linking to his internet pages. Peace
In keeping to one of our major themes of showing the best of Africa, and the rest of the world, we caught up with an artist on the rise, from Ghana’s Eastern Region.
Accra based POETRA ASANTEWA is a strong example of human and artistic metamorphosis. She has come a long way from the shy girl who was hesitant to take the microphone at an event we attended at Nubuke foundation in Ghana almost 7 years ago, to a fully fledged poet; writer; singer and more.
Poetra is evolving into an artist whose endeavors cannot be tamed. Her lyrics are unafraid; unbridled; passionate and yes, explicit – this lady owns her womanhood and sexuality hundred percent, a necessity for the progress of women, and women artists in Africa and elsewhere.
We are also proud of her entrepreneurial spirit. Her fashion label, ALIKOTO Clothing produces authentic and exciting Ghanaian fashion that matches all kinds of personalities and pockets. When Ama Asantewa Diaka isn’t being Poetra; the fashion designer and singer, you can catch her doing geeky tech stuff with computers. AFRIKAJUMP caught up with her to ask about some of her plans in 2017 and her wonderful work, in 7 questions. Enjoy.
AFRIKAJUMP- When did you realize you could make magic with words?
POETRA- I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember; my earliest memory of writing was when I was in class 4 and my classmates gave me empty exercise books to fill it with short stories. I always thought it was ordinary, I never thought my writing was a big deal until I started getting huge feedback after sharing my work on social media. So I guess, that was the moment of self-actualization; that was when I realized I could make magic with words
AFRIKAJUMP- In your piece with Akan, ‘Vote for me’ you were very vocal about corrupt Politicians in your society. In a world where many feel it is safer to keep quiet, why is it important to you to use your art for activism, and in speaking against societal ills?
POETRA- All we have is art, to be very honest. Art distills, art reveals, art hides in plain sight when needed, art tells the truth. And as an artist I am obliged to be honest with my art, and for my art to be relevant to my community. I cannot imagine creating work that does not directly or indirectly affect my community. There is nothing safe about being silent or turning a blind eye on issues.
AFRIKAJUMP- What challenges in your work made/make you throw your hands in the air, in a rage? And how do you deal with it?
POETRA- In Ghana, I don’t have the luxury to be just an artist. I have to be artist, promoter, organizer, sponsor, event coordinator – I have to be it all. And it is frustrating having to be all these things in order to get your art out there. But the desire to just create is an urge that never goes away. And that keeps me going.
AFRIKAJUMP- In 2015 you released your first spoken word EP ‘Motherfuckitude’ and it clearly announced you in your home country and beyond. What inspired it?
POETRA- Motherfuckitude is the result of coming from a place of struggle and emotional imbalance. It was a project to override my limitations, insecurities and ineptitude.
AFRIKAJUMP- You are a tech person who designs, edits, floats a fashion label amongst other interests, how has having several skills impacted your work as an artist?
POETRA- Having different skills means that each interest or skill seeps into the other. It means that my attention for detail is seen both in my writing and my designing; it also means that I struggle to juggle all these interests, but the struggle ultimately feeds into inspiration for more art.
AFRIKAJUMP- Any past, present or future project(s) you would like us to know about?
POETRA- Working on releasing a lot of new material this year, and working on my album!
AFRIKAJUMP- Can you try to describe your city in one word? Okay two words max.
To get lost in the words and voice of this artist check her Soundcloud page. You can get updates, LIKE her Facebook page. ❤