Kamnelechukwu is as beautiful as her name. Her voice is a blend of milk mixed with purehoney. I first heard her talk at the Author’s Talk programme organized by the Kate Tales Foundation. I have always been a fan of her work but it was really great putting a face to the art. And so when the website was ready, she was top on my interview list. In this interview, she talks about her book BRAVE, photography, her phobia for flying roaches and her friendship with Romeo Oriogun – Winner of the 2017 Brunel Prize! All in 20 Simple Questions! When I read through the email, I felt as though I had come out of a liberating theraphy session. It has a lot of soul! Enjoy!
1) THE AFRO READER: Hello Kam! Thank you for granting us this interview. Could you please tell us more about yourself?
KAM: My name is Obasi Susan Kamnelechukwu. I am a storyteller, wanderer and photographer whose idea of living involves capturing memories that would eventually outlive her. I am voracious, a fierce chocolate lover, wine drinker and foodie. I actively enjoy living in my head which most of my friends find weird but it’s alright!
2) You recently published a book online – BRAVE. How do you feel about it?
For someone who has a Phd In Procrastinaton. Publishing that book felt like winning a war. It still makes me feel heady when I think about it. Small victories yeah?
3) When did you realize poetry was it?
Last year in August when I got into a mess I was sure was going to kill me. I wrote the poems for brave in two nights, eyes swollen, knees quaking. I had been writing for a while before then but after I finished writing the poems for brave and seeing the effect it had on me, it was then I had my epiphany.
4) What is the message in your poetry and what are your readers reaction to it?
If I absolutely have to say, it would be that my poems contain so much hope, a sense of belonging; the idea that someone sees you and accepts you the way you are, not having to hide and then so much courage. I usually get messages from people with ” How dare you Kam?” and I instantly get it, they feel seen,heard and spoken for.
5) Romeo Oriogun, winner of the 2017 Brunel prize, wrote the introduction to your book. It seems like you both are kindred spirits… Mention some of your favourite poets and why?
Romeo is a gem. we are each others spirit animal in a way. I feel cornered lol because you see I read voraciously and in my head all the authors are my besties with me.
I was diagnosed with ADHD when I was 21, so I have trouble concentrating and reading long things because my attention is usually shortlived but my favourite people to read would be Adedayo Agarau, Yrsa Daley Ward, Rupi kaur, Warsan Shire, Sarah Aluko, Upile Chisala, Nayo jones, Ijeoma Umebinuyo, Romeo Oriogun, Akweke Emezi (her prose is poetry to me), Eloghosa Osunde (Everything she writes is gold), Tj Benson (when he writes his occasional one lined heart breaking verses), Chidera aka theslumflower etc. they all have vulnerabilty at the core of their writings, most of their work helped me lived and for that I am eternally grateful.
6) What other authors are you friends with and how do they help you become a better writer?
I am actually very introverted so my circle is small but if I must say Agarau Dayo and Romeo Oriogun helped kill my tendency to run to paths that lead me to fear and complacency. They have a knack for knowing the difference between what I had in my head and what was already written down.
7) You take beautiful pictures too. Is it the poetry that influences your photography? Or is it the photography that influences your poetry? Are they mutually exclusive?
I like to think they complement each other. when I started making images and posting them on instagram, I realized people loved the words and much as they did the images. my images serve as the yin to the yang of my poems, did that even make sense?
8) Do you view writing and your art in general as a kind of spiritual practice? You once put up an Instagram post about seeing a particular image in your dream before you took it. If that is not spiritual I do not know what is.
LOL! I knew that post would haunt me but no I don’t. Dance is a spiritual practice for me. My writing and art come from an extremely personal space some times spiritualty influences them but it isnt purely spiritual.
9) What did you edit out of your book BRAVE?
A lot of anger,rage and curse words. I first wrote the first draft when I thought I was going to die, but by the time I was ready to publish, I realized I didnt feel the way I felt a year ago. I was softer and healing.
10) All poets have several words that come up over and over again, words or sentences that reflects the theme of their poetry. What are THREE of your absolute few words?
My favourite words would be LIGHT, BE and LOVE.
11) Does writing energize or exhaust you?
Writing isn’t the first language of expression I would have chosen but since my writing comes from a place of vulnerability I would say it energizes me, in as much as words don’t come easily to me, it does make me feel like I have done something with my life.
12) Your poem For Mudi was so raw. I feel like that is what true love should look like. A love that makes your heart two sizes bigger than your own chest. Kam, how would you define or describe true love?
*I am grinning cheesily* gosh! I really love that poem. True love for me as I am learning is seeing and accepting without the need to tweak or fix the other person. It is showing up everyday and choosing to do it again and again. Like I told my self two days ago. Love is not an expectation party.
13) What is the most liberating thought you have ever had?
It is one of the poems in my book.
“You don’ t have to go through hell to find heaven”.
It freed me from having to constantly have an anxiety attack whenever good things happened to me, and discarding the need to feed myself doubt, asking If I was good enough to have good things happen to me without struggling, crying and suffering for them.
14) If you could go back and whisper in the ear of your 15year old, what would you tell them?
I would tell her this:
“The love you give yourself, is the one that will heal you”
15) What gives you joy?
90’s Music, Light, my friends, And of course chocolate icecream.
16) What scares you?
Fear scares me to death. the idea that my fear would paralyze me to not do anything worth remembering. that is the source of my anxiety. but I am deathly afraid of dogs and cockroaches (Especially the flying ones)
17) What inspires you to write poetry?
Music, heartbreak mostly self-inflicted and sad movies. My poetry most times come from a sad place.
18) Advice to others and best advice you have gotten?
Read as much as you can, dance by yourself, travel, and embrace vulnerability it will save your life over and over again.
The best advice I have ever gotten would be “Show up for yourself and surrender to your power, do not be your own nightmare”
19) What book are you reading currently?
Amy Tan “The Kitchen Gods Wife”
20) Describe African poetry and literature!
If I were to describe african poetry and literature it would be one word and it is:
Kamnelechukwu is a Documentary photographer and storyteller from Ebonyi, Nigeria. She holds a degree in Computer Science. She acted as a contributor for the NORTH IS NOT NOT team whilst travelling and changing narratives about Northern Nigeria in 2016. Her Ongoing Project seeks to document the male body and its issues which it rather chooses to internalize by using silence as punishment and also defiance as well as how it deals with the decision to define ourselves, name ourselves and speak for ourselves than have others do it for us.
This is her first book. Download Here.
Follow her on INSTAGRAM!
Subscribe to her Blog Here!
Conversations is a MONTHLY interview series with some of our favorite poets, novelists and book enthusiasts. If you enjoyed this, share with everyone you know. This is our FIRST in the series. Please, subscribe and join our mailing list so you do not miss out on any!