Poetra Ama Asantewa Diaka is as a young and combative Ghanaian artist, living between the African country and the US. She doesn’t want to be boxed into the definition of “poet” or “writer” – she rather describes herself as a “storyteller“, since the term “encompasses all the ways she can tell a story” – as she explains.
Poetra’s approach to the world of poetry didn’t start suddenly, nor triggered by any specific event, but grew bigger and bigger thanks to the collaboration, in 2010, with a community of poets and writers who used to meet bimonthly to slam, perform and occasionally have conversations. This interaction led her “to slowly transform an inner frustration into performance poetry“. With her verses, Poetra crafts lessons of self-love and self-exploration: “My writing is a documentary of self, and the ecosystem in which I live in. My work is influenced by my experiences, the experience of others, my community, near and far. I use my writing to investigate, document, query and find answers. And I believe this heavily impacts on my life and the lives of those who interact with my work, even if it is to oppose”, she discloses to AfroWomenPoetry.
Mental illness and body perception stand out as her favourite topics to share with her readers, with the Ghanaian youth and with the African community:”It is prevalent in my work because I’m trying to initiate conversation, or highlight theme, or vent or document, ask questions or propose solutions“. All her verses are framed in a fair dose of feminism, intended as “refusing to confine [oneself] within the lines of society’s definition of who, what and how [one] should be simply because of [their own] gender“.
Her work is not only about producing pleasant and melodious compositions – she often combines spoken word accompanied by original soundtracks – rather, it’s a mission: “I aim to use my writing to analyze things from different perspectives, to view things in slow motion, to question things more, to appreciate things more, to observe things closely, to explore and to create an atmosphere to look at things more critically.”
This view is also reflected in her last work, titled “Hungry”, a spoken word “centered on the relationship between African youth and their respective countries or systems. It was born out of an observation of a lot of the youth migrating to other parts of the world – because of a lack of sustainability and growth at home.”
Poetra has interacted with few of her foreign fellow artists, both within and outside Ghana. As far as she is concerned, the collaboration between the artists’ communities is “fairly healthy, mainly inadequate“. She complains about the lack of programs and events for inter-creating, plus “there are lots of foreign residencies or programs which allows for very few artists to travel and interact with foreign artists. There are very few – or close to none such programs happening or organized for artists within the country.”
I am hungry for a love my country cannot afford.
I want a love
that will buffer my mistakes even before I commit them
A love that has mapped out the possibilities of my existence
and made room for each one of them
A love that doesn’t need me to clamour to identify as black too
just so I can swim in the opportunity pool
A love that doesn’t need me to be well versed in articulating
how high I am on the needy Olympics scale to be deserving of support
A love that doesn’t even need me to have an archive of pain
to be worthy of inclusion
I want a love
that doesn’t need me to work like there’s two of me
in this body just to be visible
A love that doesn’t require me to be
both pregnant and doula
trying to pull a nirvana out of my ass just for being different
I want a love
that doesn’t require me to be ridiculously multifaceted
in order to have a fraction of an equation at being equipped for survival
A love that doesn’t wait for another suitor to sing praises of my genius
before recognizing my worth
Or worse, only after I’m dead
I am hungry for a love my country cannot afford,
the way white lusts for a backdrop to outshine
(Hungry, by Poetra Ama Asantewa Diaka)