#Speak Up : A conversation with Lanaire Aderemi

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With the emerging pool of young creatives from Nigeria, Africa, poets and their rhymes are beginning to garner a lot more listens. One of such individual is Lanaire Aderemi. Lanaire Aderemi is a 17 year old poet and spoken word artist. On stage, she goes by the alias Verse Writer. Starting her poetry journey at just 7 years old, Lanaire has written over eighty poems which she kept in journals. In 2013, she started her personal blog where she shares her poetry. She published her first poetry anthology “Of Ivory And Ink” recently, a collection of specially shortlisted poems from 2012-2015. An award winning writer and performer, she speaks about sociopolitical issues such as Feminism, Neo colonialism, Hyper masculinity and Racism. An avid reader, evident in her literature, Lanaire intercalates ideas from a wide spread of writers. Being an energetic performer, she has performed at events such as the Lucid Lemons’ The Lemon Curd, the Kings College Gospel Society in London and The Self Expression Exhibition (TSEE) in Lagos. A young achiever, she was a nominee for the SME100 Nigeria’s “Nigeria’s 25 Under 25” award for the Active Citizenry Government Engagement Category.

 

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Lanaire Aderemi at The Lucid Lemons Lemon Curd event

I got to snatch some time from her busy schedule and had a fulfilling interview. And by the way, Lana (as I like to call her) has a really cool persona.

Read interview below:

What does “being creative” mean to you?

Lanaire Aderemi: Being creative means thinking a lot but not too much. Thinking a lot about anything really, but translating your thoughts and ideas to reality. Being creative is a bit like mixing colours in a paint palette. So for instance, to create Purple – I’d have to mix two primary colours (red and blue) together. Being creative is trying your best to stay connected to your initial thoughts, i.e your primary colours so you can create purple. Being creative is thinking critically about how best to mix red and blue because how you do this can make a difference in how you view your work as well as how it’s interpreted. Being creative is enjoying the process you take to convey your thoughts and emotions and ensuring you include that element of you into achieving purple.

How did Poetry start for you? What was the propelling factor?

Lanaire Aderemi: In my primary school, we had a poetry lesson once a week. Anytime, my creative writing teacher walked into the room, I was so happy. Learning how to write limericks, haikus and free verse as a seven year old instilled what I now think was an inextinguishable desire to tell my truth and the truths of others. I found poetry, I discovered poetry. I found and discovered it as a seven year old. The support I recieved by my family and friends when they read a poem I wrote about Nigeria that appeared in my school’s yearbook was probably what motivated me to continue writing. From then, I kept a diary and recorded my thoughts and feelings, most of which were in poetic form. When I was 8, I recieved the Jumoke Fola Alade Award for poetry (the only poet I had seen perform at the time but my favourite). Winning that award pushed me to continue writing.

My book, Of Ivory and Ink is made up of thirty poems. Thirty poems with thirty different themes. From my newfound love for a culture I rejected to my pleas to readers to take care of our environment. My book is also a sort of discovery channel: from learning to love myself on my own terms to how I dealt or didn’t deal with sadness and grief. My book is full of realizations about others as well; from friendships and break ups of friendships to learning to appreciate my individuality and uniqueness. I think Of Ivory
and Ink means different things to me at different points in my life but it was always mine first.

What has changed since you started writing Poetry?

Lanaire Aderemi: I think my subject matter has changed. I used to write a lot about my self and my emotions. Nowadays, I tend to write more on social and political issues such as race and feminism. I still write about how I feel, I still document my thoughts but my thought processes have changed slightly. I wrote of Ivory and Ink from a more accepting-of-things perspective however my narrators were very introspective which hasn’t changed. Although, my recent poems are more defiant, more unwilling to accept lies packaged as ‘truths’ which is why my narrator questions everything. I question everything.

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Can you tell me about your book, “Of Ivory And Ink”?

Lanaire Aderemi: My book, Of Ivory and Ink is made up of thirty poems. Thirty poems with thirty different themes. From my newfound love for a culture I rejected to my pleas to readers to take care of our environment. My book is also a sort of discovery channel: from learning to love myself on my own terms to how I dealt or didn’t deal with sadness and grief. My book is full of realizations about others as well; from friendships and break ups of friendships to learning to appreciate my individuality and uniqueness. I think Of Ivory
and Ink means different things to me at different points in my life but it was always mine first. My writing was always for me. This truth is essential in understanding what Of Ivory and Ink is. It was and will always be poems that i wrote in my
journals. Of Ivory and Ink tells stories of intimacy with my ink which whoever picks it up to read, to realize, to discover will realize and discover.

My process is quite simple. I pray and I start writing.

Among your write-ups, I find” Have You Ever Been Free?” particularly intriguing, what influenced that piece?

Lanaire Aderemi: Thank you very much. I wrote that poem for a thirteen year old to present to her classmates on International Women’s Day although her teacher didn’t let her read it aloud. I now think it was because it was too true. But that experience inspired me to adjust a few things – to make my
words even more true, even more raw. For years, women have been told that they are not ‘allowed’ to be angry. I think I had enough of gender biased laws, gender discrimination and being silenced. Have You Ever Been Free was my way of asking people to ask themselves if they’ve ever truly been free. If their dressing hasn’t been policed, if they know women that were forced to have their genitals mutilated (most likely don’t know) or if they are aware of
prevalent issues in our society like child marriage that takes away girls’ right to education. But this poem was also inspired by a photographer. Malick Sidibe’s ‘Vue de dos’
photo series was more than a woman resting on her bed avoiding or staring at the photographer. It was about the male gaze, the negative experiences women endure, the issues women are afraid to speak about and the inextricable link between poverty and women – for poor women who might never have any agency.

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Lana at The Self Expression Exhibition (TSEE)

You’ve had a couple of performances recently, any favorites? And why?

Lanaire Aderemi: Oh that’s a hard one. I think my favourite performance was at a youth night in Jesus House in London. I think it was my favourite because after my performance, someone told me that I shouldn’t have spoken about an issue. He said my performance was exceptional but I shouldn’t have spoken about the slave trade. Although I understand that it’s a sensitive issue, I responded by saying it was important for us to acknowledge history – to not only remember when it’s convenient or lovely. But it also made me realize how whitewashed history has been for years and how this ‘Political correctness’ has found its way in schools history lessons. I was lucky to go to a school that taught me about the Battle of Hastings of 1066 but also the Transatlantic Slave Trade. But some people were not that lucky. And so, knowing that my poetry could educate people and allow them to unlearn what they blindly accepted as truth thrilled me. That night, many girls and boys came up to me to say they could relate to my words, that I said what they thought and spoke about what they were afraid to speak up. It felt amazing, truly.

Tell me about your process; pen and paper, computer or phone app, note books… How do you write?

Lanaire Aderemi: I have a journal. A plain journal – no lines. I write everything in there with ink – no lead. I find typing very difficult so rarely ever type. Although, I document my thoughts and observations in my note app called ‘Keep‘; I like to think of my notes in there as an archive. My process is quite simple. I pray and I start writing.

Have you gotten any bad reviews on any of your works? How did you handle it?

Lanaire Aderemi: For a long time, I didn’t take criticism well. But I’m much better. I remember being told I didn’t punctuate my poems too well. I was so shocked by that but I realized it affected the clarity of my work and was advised by my friend to start reading my poems aloud. I do that every time now. I write and perform and have also been criticised for my delivery. I was told I said my words too quickly which I have tried my best to improve. At the end of the day, if you can’t connect with the reader or listener, what’s the point of writing or performing? So I’m much better with criticism. I appreciate it.

Which writer would you like to converse with, and why?

Lanaire Aderemi: That’s a really tough question. I think Angela Carter. She wrote a book called ‘The Bloody Chamber‘ which I studied in A Levels. Her book subverted and transformed traditional fairy tales that stereotypically presented women as ‘damsels in distress’. I’d like to ask her about how she thought about such a beautiful collection of stories, her writing process and feminist literature that inspired her. I’d also compliment her for the sensuality of her prose; her words are so rich and poetic. That blend of prose and poetry is what I want to achieve. But she’s dead, so I have to watch her interviews.

What scares you the most?

Lanaire Aderemi: Not having peace. I try my best to live well with others and treat myself well. I can’t compromise my mental health, so deteriorating it is what I probably fear. It’s why I go offline a times and why I’ll never stop writing. I also fear losing me. Zimbardo, a social psychologist conducted a study on participants in a prison simulation in Stanford. He divided the participants into two groups: Prisoners and Guards and assigned the prisoners numbers as well as uniform. At the end of the study, the guards grew increasingly tyrannical towards the prisoners and the prisoners became passive and depressed. Being assigned numbers contributed to the prisoners loss of self and individuality. In Zimabrdo’s study, situational factors were a huge factor. In my world, being fed what you are on social media can put you in a de-individuated place which in turn means not having peace. That’s what I fear. Losing my sense of self and individuality. Not being who I know Lanaire Aderemi is.

Who are you reading now?

Lanaire Aderemi: Nothing actually. I’m about to read Zadie Smith’sSwing Time‘ though.

What is your favorite thing in the world right now?

Lanaire Aderemi: The colour blue. I love blue. Blue eye-shadow especially.

Ujah Godwin Ujah

Creative writer, interested in Photography and Poetry. Monstré.

1 Comment

  1. […] Lanaire Aderemi is a fast-rising author, poet and spoken word artist from Nigeria. In 2017, when she was only 16, the Verse writer had the gumption to write and publish her first book ‘Of Ivory And Ink‘,a collection of poems written from 2012-2015, covering a wide range of themes such as childhood memories, failure, and loss. If you’ve seen her perform, you can attest to her eloquent and conversational style which resonates around history, politics, feminism, race, religion and other things. […]

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