When did you know that you wanted to live your life as a creative?
I don’t think I ever thought or planned to live my life as a creative. I only planned on being a journalist, which was the plan I went with. I think the rest of it just happened on its own.
You are a poet. But you are also a journalist, and a filmmaker. Can you tell us how you became all these things?
I think of myself as a journalist first. I started writing poetry at the age of 16. It was a source of catharsis from some not-so-pleasant childhood experiences and it was always a great outlet. At some point I think everyone watched ‘Def Poetry Jam’ and that introduced many of us to performance poetry. I performed a few times in England before I moved to Nigeria, but then I just kept performing regularly when I started living in Lagos. As for filmmaking, I had always loved cinema and documentaries and decided instead of talking about it too much, I might as well start making it. I don’t know that I ever became any of these things; I think I just started to practice them and that’s what I am still doing - practicing.
Did or do you feel supported in your line of work by the people in your life?
I am quite lucky to come from a very liberal and non-traditional family. No one cares too much about your career choices as long as it is honest, you can take care of yourself, and you can live comfortably doing it. This is quite nice because you generally don’t feel like you have anything to prove or have any expectations beyond your financial obligations. So, I have always had room to experiment with my work without any pressure or opposition.
Why do you think what you do is important in Nigeria or for Nigerians?
I think assuming that it is important would be placing myself on a pedestal and thinking too highly of myself because I think there are people doing far more important work. However, I hope my work creates some kind of impact. My intention is to use my work as a way to interrogate our experiences and ourselves. Essentially, I am still hoping there is a place for that in Nigeria and amongst Nigerians.
What are you currently working on?
I am at the developmental stage of a documentary on blindness in Nigeria. It is a co-production with a friend of mine, Nkiru Njoku. We are also searching for funding as well.
I am also working on my second poetry album to be titled ‘In memory of forgetting’.
Where do you see your work going in the next 10 years or more?
I see myself still running my production company, WanaWana Productions, with fully funded award-winning films and documentaries. I also see myself traveling and touring the world as a performance poet and as a journalist traveling the globe telling more underreported stories but mostly long form journalism.
What advice would you have for someone who aspires to be in your position some day?
Focus on the work. Hype is great but the work is more important. Don’t conflate achievement with accolades. Make sure it means something to you, make sure it is important to you. Have a good attitude. Never give up. Innovate and learn to create your own opportunities. Just keep working.
Check out her films on YouTube: www.youtube.com/misswanawana