The QPL interviewee for our ‘Poetry’ month is the lovely Wana Udobang.
Wana is a broadcaster, writer, poet and filmmaker. The themes in her work cover personal identities, women’s rights and socio-cultural realities. She has worked as a freelance features producer and presenter for the BBC Radio4, BBC world service and Resonance FM. She has been a freelance writer and contributor for Aljazeera Online, Guardian UK, NEXT, Premium Times, BellaNaija and the Huffington Post.
Wana worked as a radio presenter and producer at 92.3 Inspiration FM in Lagos, Nigeria for over six years and hosts the television show Airtel Touching Lives. A CSR programme that places the spotlight on people going through difficult and extraordinary challenges.
Wana founded the 1k4cancer initiative which to date has raised over three million Naira in funds to assist women from low income families with their cancer treatment. She is a public speaker in the areas of gender advocacy, youth mentorship and is a well sought after moderator in the creative and culture space. She is an ambassador for the Mirabel Centre in Lagos. A crisis centre dedicated to the protection of victims of sexual violence.
As a short fiction writer and an alumni of the Farafina Creative Writers Workshop, her short stories and poems have been published in anthologies and online journal. She is a performance poet who has graced the stages of numerous festivals across the country and her spoken word album titled ‘Dirty Laundry’ was released in 2013.
Wana is the producer of the documentary Sensitive Skin, a documentary film about the skin condition Psoriasis and the poetry series ‘Words and Inspirations’. She wrote and directed the web series Room313 about people dealing with trauma, the short film Shrink and Mama Na Boy which was directed by Imoh Umoren. As a performer she has appeared in the web series Indigo and the short film Flip.
In 2015 along with Bukola Oye of The Sole Adventurer blog, Wana co-founded the discourse initiative Art Forum Africa a platform for discourse concerning the visual arts. Wana graduated from the University for The Creative Arts with a first class degree in Journalism.
- Why do you write?
Writing is catharsis for me. It also helps me navigate myself, the situations around me and the world. It gives me the chance and the opportunity to ask questions, to try to make sense of things. I suppose it helps me think, ponder and meditate enough to articulate all these questions that need answering. But writing for me is also freedom.
- You left your broadcasting job last year; where you ever plagued with fear that you may become invisible without that platform?
I certainly was and that was probably one of the reasons it took me much longer to leave. The fear of invisibility was not necessarily about attention but it was also about the fact that I had built and cultivated a community for my work, an audience that paid attention to my interests and the things I had to say and I also earned a living from that visibility. So yes, the fear was ever present in all sorts of ways. But I feel remarkably blessed and lucky that people get me and they are so supportive. These communities, be it radio, TV, poetry, events, have in many ways become family and I have made so many genuine connections beyond work that they keep encouraging me to grow and evolve. Every now and again I feel like if I have this big project I am unveiling who will show up; but I am also teaching myself that my best days are certainly ahead of me.
- Do you regard broadcasting an art form, and why were you drawn to it, and what should young entrants know to be the best like you?
I think communicating is an art and broadcasting is one of many media in channelling out that art form. When I was at university during my features writing class, I would write these features about really intense subjects and I wouldn’t attain the scores I desired. I went to ask my tutor what the issue was and he said to me that I wrote about really important things but there was no personality in the writing. He said he thought that the things I wrote about would make for better radio programmes and that was how I moved to the radio class in the next semester instead of majoring in print which was my original intent. To be honest I just soaked myself in radio from that day on. I would fall asleep listening to radio documentaries on American radio works, Canadian broadcasting service online, NPR, BBC and all kinds of radio programming available online. I literally ate radio every day.
For young people wanting to get in, I think it is really important to learn about content development, programming and technical production. I think people are too fixated on being popular, people listening to them and the sound of your voice. You need to be aware of who your audiences are, what their needs are, what their wants are and then knowing how to communicate with them. It’s also important to know who you are and what you are about so that the kind of work you want to create and your message can stay consistent. Also remember that the audience can tell if you are genuine or not, so it is important to be authentic. Study, and stay a student to learning. You cannot afford to be irresponsible with a microphone. People take your words hook, line and sinker so it is vital that you stay knowledgeable on all fronts.
- You have evolved into an authority/advocate in the Arts space, what do you want to work on personally or explore in that space the next few years?
I certainly would love to take my filmmaking up a notch, both fiction and documentary as well as my playwriting. I would really love to grow and evolve those areas of my work. I have a small production company now so I aim to grow that and increase the structure and output as we move along. The kind of work we will create will start to define itself as we evolve.
- Your work shows a lot of vulnerability in the subjects that you treat using film and writing, what do you want to contribute to the bigger picture?
I hope that I am able to create honest work and work that makes people want to be honest enough about their experiences. The bigger picture is for people to feel a sense of liberation, for empathy to become second nature. I think there is a transformative element to art and creativity and I hope my work will one day stand in that gap.