Black Boy Review

The Afro Centre for African Literature

Growing Up was Full of Books, Bruises, Laughter, Curiosity, Needles, & Threads, Worrying Over My Flat Chest & Playing with My Brothers

BLACK BOY REVIEW

Ama Asantewa Diaka is a Ghanaian poet, storyteller, and spoken-word artist who performs as Poetra Asantewa

Her debut collection is exploring womanhood, the body, mental illness, and what it means to move between cultures. Renowned for her storytelling and spoken-word artistry, Ama Asantewa Diaka is also an exultant, fierce, and visceral poet whose work leaves a lasting impact.

Touching on themes from perceptions of beauty to the betrayals of the body, from what it means to give consent to how we grapple with demons internal and external, Woman, Eat Me Whole is an entirely fresh and powerful look at womanhood and personhood in a shifting world. Moving between Ghana and the United States, Diaka probes those countries’ ever-changing cultural expectations and norms while investigating the dislocation and fragmentation of a body—and a mind—so often restless or ill at ease.

Vivid and bodily while also deeply cerebral, Woman, Eat Me Whole is a searing debut collection from a poet with an inimitable voice and vision. – Barnes and Noble

BLACK BOY REVIEW: I’m so happy to be talking to you. And that I’m writing out these questions listening to your 2019 album- The Anatomy of Paradox. How long did it take you to come up with the entire album?

AMA: The writing process took a couple of months – say 3- 4 months. The recording part took about 6 weeks

BLACK BOY REVIEW: Now back to your new poetry book? Is this your first book? How long did it take you to write the collection?

AMA: Technically this is my first (full) book. I have a chapbook that was released in 2019 as part of the African Poetry Book Fund. It took me almost two years to write the collection.

BLACK BOY REVIEW: Your collection is about womanhood and personhood in a shifting world. Does this come as a feminist intervention?

AMA: Hmmm, that is a good (and hard) question. My collection is seated in personhood, and my personhood is entrenched in womanhood and so I see why you would ask that, however, understanding that feminist interventions are specifically designed for the collective benefit of women, I would rather that assertion about my book was made by women (or at least of women), than by me.

BLACK BOY REVIEW: Are we going to be expecting the same voice and style that we have heard from your spoken word?

AMA: When I am writing poetry, there is no stage version of me, neither is there a page version of me. There is just me. I just happen to be a person who presents poetry both on the stage and on the page. So, I think the answer to this is that the same proclivities that are seen or heard in my spoken word, are also present in my book.

BLACK BOY REVIEW: How did you meet your publishers? And staring at the beauty that is the book cover design, how did the design come? Who designed it? Was there a particular idea to it?

AMA: I’m represented by Rena Rossner of The Deborah Harris agency, who brokered a publishing deal with my current publisher (Eccobooks) from a list of options. For the cover – to be very honest, I was of the mind that I wouldn’t get much of a say on my cover – an idea I had of the publishing process, so when my editor asked me what my ideal cover looked like, I was pleasantly surprised and thankful too. I remember telling her that I wanted something both abstract and striking, and Awo Tsegah’s art fit that description perfectly.

BLACK BOY REVIEW: Who are your models? Do you have any? Who are the people that inspire your art?

AMA: I do have models, they are constantly evolving and increasing, and some are simply constant. I feel like I mention Ama Ata Aidoo and my mother in every interview, another person whose work imprinted on me in my pre-teens is Efua Sutherland. The people who inspire my art are my peers, and my community.

BLACK BOY REVIEW: What was growing up like? Did it influence your art or the woman you have become?

AMA: Growing up was full of books, bruises, laughter, curiosity, needles, and threads, worrying over my flat chest and playing with my brothers. I’m most certain that my childhood has influenced the woman I am and the woman I am becoming.

BLACK BOY REVIEW: Which African author would you love to have a dinner with?

AMA: Namwali Serpell and Jennifer Makumbi

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