Amaka Nwabeke: God inspired my venture into spoken word poetry

Amaka

Amaka Nwabeke, fondly called Amakason, is a poet, fiction writer, and ultimately a Christian. She began performing poetry in 2014 and has since then performed on several notable platforms alongside distinguished personalities. She is the convener of The Spoken Word Poetry Conference (S.W.P.C), a poetry conference, which she pioneered in 2014.

In 2020, she released her debut Spoken Word album titled Emergence; the same year she also released her first book titled, The Sun. The amazing poet whose love for the word of God made her venture into spoken words, share her inspiring journey, and the impact of her work in this interview.

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My Inspiration As Spoken Word Poet
I GET inspiration from life; people’s experiences, my experiences, the Bible and so many other things inspire me. I don’t see inspiration as some air that falls on us once a while. I believe that we can be inspired every day if we are deliberate about seeing life from a place of wonder and awe.

What Motivated Me To Venture Into Poetry And Fiction Writing
As cliché as it might sound, God-inspired my venture into spoken word poetry. I wrote my first poem on a sad day. When I saw how writing about how I was feeling helped me feel better, I started writing poems consistently. At first, I would just read out from my book to the audience. Then in 2014, I went to Calabar to write an exam and that was where I met the guy that changed my life. He simply just told me that instead of reading the poem from my book, I could try putting the words in my head and then say them without this book. I thought it was pretty cool and proceeded to try it. At this point, I still did not know it was called spoken word poetry or that it even had a name.

I took that guy’s advice and performed a piece the next day to a small gathering of people in Calabar. I did not take it too seriously; I was simply just reading my poem without the book. I got back to Lagos shortly after that and was having a chat with my friend Jessica Ibazebo. I can’t remember if it was a chat or even an argument, but I do know that she asked me if I had heard about someone called Jackie Hill Perry. I told her that I had not. She proceeded to show me Jackie Hill Perry’s poetry video called Jig-a-boo.

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I remember watching Jackie perform and feeling a kind of knowing in my heart that I could do what she was doing. A week after that, I performed my first official spoken word poem titled Amakason.

Inspiration Behind My First Book The Sun  
The Sun is a story that was majorly inspired by life in general. It’s about a promising girl named Dikachi, who was born out of wedlock and dropped at the feet of her aging grandmother. It is centered on my life and most of the questions I received after the book came out were, ‘Is it your life story,’ ‘did it happen to you.’

In the book, Dikachi was raised by her grandmother who took care of her to the best of her ability but could not do much because she was limited in her knowledge and people live or teach you based on what they understand. Technically, it’s about my life, but not fully about me, just a few things; no writer writes without putting a bit of himself or herself. So, The Sun is a bit of me, but not my life story.

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The Spoken Word Poetry Conference (S.W. P. C), And It’s Impact
SWPC is an event where people come together to listen to wholesome amazing poetry accompanied with music and worshipping of God through words, life, and everything that comes in contact with it.
 
The feats recorded, we had full halls of almost 500 people, like Nosa, Folabi Nuel, Gaise Baba performing. So far, we’ve had nine editions of consistent community and just gathering people to come to hear the word of God. We have people who make SWPC their festival yearly; it’s held on the first Saturday of every year. I’m really proud of what SWPC has been able to do, particularly because I didn’t know it would get this far.

When God told me to do a conference, I remember we didn’t even have a team. I just called a couple of guys asking if they could perform poetry, now we have a 16-man team put together that makes the conference happen. We started very small, the first conference was about 30 people in attendance and the first conference was the same year I started poetry, 2014.

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Releasing My Debut Spoken Word Album Emergence Same year As My First Book

No, it was not exactly planned. I didn’t begin the year with either of those two things on my to-do list. It truly just happened. I had written The Sun years ago, but every time thoughts of publishing it cross my mind, I always developed cold feet. The year 2020 was just the year where I dammed it all and walked on water.

Releasing Emergence was very time-consuming for me; I had to write a lot, which wouldn’t have been an issue if I were going to be indoors the next day; but I had work during the day. But God filled me with an immense amount of strength and I am truly grateful to Him for that.

Memorable Moment While Performing On Stage
I was performing a poem at this event in Lagos and a lady was crying in the hall while I performed. I made a mental note to speak to her later to perhaps give her a hug and find out what I had said that hit her that deeply. Unfortunately, I forgot. Prayed for her when I remembered though. Never forgot that moment; it made me realise the impact that words can have.

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The Messages I Addressed In Emergence
Brokenness, the Lekki Shooting, temptations and dying to self, worship, competition between creatives and how unwise it is and many more.

Challenges Young Writers And Poet Face In Nigeria And The Solution
Generally, poets are not very respected in Nigeria; we have come a long way. I have to say, it’s an art form that people are gradually respecting, but we still haven’t gotten to the pinnacle yet. We would get there, some of the improvement is by pulling out great content, working hard to make people realise it’s not a joke; this is serious and beautiful art.

Another issue we have, which also stems from the first one that I mentioned, which is the fact that we are not as respected is that because we are not as respected, we are not as paid as should; we are underpaid. Some people just think that it’s just poetry; you just write words and put it together and that’s just silly. It’s creativity. The fact that I made it simple doesn’t mean it’s simple but shows that I am good at what I do.

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Poets need to make demands; if you believe that what you are doing deserves this particular amount, call it out. There are unique dynamics to all these things; if it’s free or paid, all I’m saying is, we should demand because people don’t know.

What I Would Change If I Were The President Of Nigeria For A Day
I would make quality education more accessible to the poor, especially at the primary and secondary school level; emphasis on ‘quality though. People should not have to break the bank to get a good education. I don’t know how possible it is to get that done in a day, but it’s something I will put in the works. Maybe, sign a lot of scholarships one day.

Three Women Who Inspire Me And Why
Jackie Hill Perry, because of how much of an awesome poet she is. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie because of how well-read she is and how she has placed Nigeria on the global map as a writer. I mean, who has 16 honorary degrees from several universities around the world if not an absolute genius. I love her complete courage in standing for what she believes to be true and damning the consequences.

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TY Bello, because of her deep connection to God and vast level of creativity; I love her.

My Brand In Five Years
It’s always hard for me to answer this question; plus no one really knows the future. I am at a much better place than where I thought I would be five years ago, but, wherever I am in five years, I hope to still be pleasing Jesus. That’s the most important thing.

To Young Women Out There
Live like it’s your last day; love without holding back and never let fear dictate what you do or don’t do.

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