Engrossed by the themes of a socio-complex writer, whose radar is en route to recover the welfare of race, womanhood and common humanity

An interview with Nana Yeboaa, by Darko Antwi.

DARKO: If there is any single contemporary Ghanaian poem whose social depth has engrossed audience, and received a wholesome critique, for my Husband an Educated Fool stands out. How do you feel being the author of such extraordinary title?

NANA: The tittle of the poem itself speaks volume, it speaks to truth telling. As writers or authors, we are influenced by our social, cultural and political environments. The poem was written to address an issue that was concerning to the African woman, the influence of western education, cultures and systems on a family unit operating in a traditional sense. The clash between the educated (upper class male elite) and the uneducated (village/local/lower class female).

DARKO: To what extent is your latest book, Roots of a Woman, cast on the immigration experiences of the Afro-Canadian feminine population?
NANA: As a Ghanaian Canadian or African Canadian, I cannot speak for the whole African Canadian population. The reason being that even though we share a diaspora experience, the breadth and depth differs due to our various backgrounds.  Nonetheless, in roots of a woman, one can, I presume appreciate a yearning and appreciation of culture, of home whether it is Ghana, Nigeria, Jamaica or Haiti. There is a nostalgic feeling of African /black motherhood and or womanhood. Collectively, we as a group fight a common fight. That is, acknowledgement, respect and for our families. We are black women whose voices are often silenced, however as storytellers, authors such as myself seek to share and tell stories from home (Ghana) and stories of experience of our new homes (Canada). 

DARKO: Against the background of predominantly illiterate continent, how effective is literature (as a tool) in the women’s rights and equality campaign?

NANA: Illiteracy has been used to condone the African. From a western perspective, if you cannot read and write in English or French or any colonial language (which we predominantly do), you are deemed illiterate. In this regards, if we are to use literature as a tool for women’s rights and equality campaign, there needs to be appreciation for all aspects of literature, the oral storytelling as well.  A better development, understanding and appreciating of the oral narratives reach and educate more people in the hinter land. Music as part of storytelling. It’s accessible to  more people than the reach of books. This is not to say that we do not encourage reading and writing in colonial languages as well. A complete and equitable (equality) campaign must embrace all parts of the African literary traditions. 

DARKO: As a public affairs host of Literary Voices, at Toronto’s DORC Radio, have you any sign to believe that the next generation of the Ghanaian Diaspora may lose some basic values of their culture to the evolving trends of the Western Hemisphere?

NANA: The older generation who immigrated years ago has lost part of their basic values of their culture, which they deemed backwards. As they have castigated their cultural beliefs and taken others as their own, the question becomes, how much could they transfer to their children. Language is one such factor. The language which often holds cultural nuances are being lost upon our children because of sometimes unconscious colonial mental subjugation and elevation of colonial languages. Our traditional languages / mother tongues are not spoken with our children.
Irrespective of this, I must say, the recent year of return and afro beats music has made the African a “cool cat” in the Western Hemisphere.

DARKO:  In 2009 summer interview with Rob Taylor, you stated that “In order to fight [racial] prejudice, there needs to be a sense of value in society, and an acknowledgment that we all bring something positive to the world”. A decade after that statement, do you have any cause to believe that it’s a system that requires a complex approach than you thought? 

NANA: My understating and approach to racial injustice and how to fight it has changed. I do believe that more writers of African descent (by this, I include diasporas as well) need to write the narrative of the African experience. We need a voice or presence and inclusion. We need to create and demand our space and place in the world. We need to change our mindset, decolonize, imagine and re-imagine Africa and her children all around the world. We need to tell the African narrative, retell and tell of the futuristic Africa we want to see. This is a complex approach. But it could be realized through economics, politics, and definitely literature. 

DARKO: In almost every International Day of the African Child, you have celebrated African childhood. On that interest, could you share your hope in the plight of the modern African child? 

NANA: I believe the modern African child lives in an era that his life can be transformed. By this; I mean through technology. Technology gives access to information sharing across the globe. Access and use of hi-tech leap-frogs them into the future far advance than ours. Through the use of technology, imaginations have been brought to light. Scientific and engineering break-throughs have been brought about.

Albeit, that many children still suffer due to misaligned greed by adults. The plight of the African child can be changed when we listen, acknowledge and share their stories. We should, as well, engage and support their hopes, dreams and aspirations.

A celebration of African childhood has always looked at the negative of the struggles of the child, but not the triumphs that some have and continue to achieve, thus inciting hope.

Africa is rising to claim its place in the world. What we as adults need is to encourage an African story that is authentic to the African, and to instill pride in our children and the subsequent generations. We ought to teach children to dream, and to reach impossible dreams. With visionary leaders, the African of tomorrow can and will transform.  In light of International Day of the African Child, we also appreciate the children and youth who stood and fought for their rights. African children also have rights. 

DARKO: Apart from a few hundred released copies, your poetry, Lamentations by the Banks of the Volta, has since 2014 been available via electronic means. Is it suggestive that the fraction of ebook sales is higher than the physical version?

NANA: Since I work more with individual book shops, I find the sales better, I am not an expert sales person online, so I since de-listed the book in order to have full control.

DARKO: Your works (including anthologies you’ve been featured) have borne your pen name, until 
you recently introduced a middle name. Hasn’t that late introduction affected the stability of your pseudonym brand?

NANA: Not in the least, it has rather given the sense of completeness. It was also a rebranding strategy and reclamation of my personhood as an African in the diaspora. 

DARKO: At the malfunction / collapse of major blogs and national journals, is there any reason left, in your estimation, for writers to explore blogging and social media platforms?

NANA: Everyone needs an avenue to emerge from or to be listened to. Social media has brought many unknown writers to our bedrooms. It has made literature in its various capacities accessible to people from all over the world. If blogging is a “thing”, then I encourage, the more one writes, the better one gets at their arts and craft. If Facebook or Instagram is it, then I equally encourage. Voices need to be heard, everyone’s voice matters.

Read Previous Interviews here

                                                                   Nana Yaa Yeboaa
                                                                             Credit: Philjoe Multimedia

        Nana Yaa Yeboaa is the pen name for Bernadette Poku, a graduate of York University, Toronto. She is a spoken word artist and performance poet. Some of her poetry material have appeared in the Taj Mal anthology, and T.dot Griot: an anthology of Toronto Black storytellers. In 2014 Yeboaa published her first collection of poetry: Lamentations by the Banks of Volta. Her latest book, Roots of a Woman, is available at Amazon.