Our lovely contributor Naturelle caught up with Kojo Baffoe, Editor of Destiny Man Magazine, Poet Extraordinaire and all round nice guy to chat about Africa Day and why being a writer makes him nervous amongst other things. Peep…
Your relationship with poetry is on-off but never over…when did you discover you liked writing and why do you think it’s got such a hold on you?
For as long as I can remember, I have enjoyed writing, in one form or another. There is no particular moment I can refer back to. My father always encouraged me to write my thoughts as a way of making sense of them and I was also probably influenced by the fact that he writes as well. Poetry happened organically where my thoughts on the page started to change form and I found I enjoyed that space. For a long time, however, I wrote primarily for myself and sanity. Writing helps in deciphering one’s thoughts and feelings. Often, when we are engulfed in a situation, the act of writing it out helps us make sense of all the bits and pieces.
In terms of my relationship with poetry, at some stage, I used to spend a great deal of time on writing, performing, organising gigs for others, etc. I wrote poetry for many years before actually performing and getting involved with the scene in Joburg and beyond. I was actively working to build a career within that space. I have since grown into a different space and haven’t really been involved in performance or writing much. My focus has been on other forms of writing and other aspects of my professional life.
As a poet and public speaker you are exposed and vulnerable, open to scrutiny. Where do you think your confidence comes from?
The beauty of poetry is that one can cloak so much with words :-). While I may share what seems to be a lot, I do think through everything that I communicate to ensure that I am comfortable with putting it out. My writing and speaking is a reflection of who I am so I try to be as true to myself as I possibly can to ensure that I am not having to keep up with whatever I put out. The writing is a lot easier because one is acting in isolation and you do not have to be there when others engage. I still become extremely nervous in both instances.
You have a mixed heritage. It must be difficult to call one specific place home but maybe you can tell us what you love the most about Ghana, Germany and Lesotho and how they’ve influenced your writing.
It actually isn’t difficult at all. It is the reality I have lived with my whole life and I feel I am the richer for it. I can draw inspiration, wisdom and understanding of the world – and my place in it – from all the places that birthed and bred me. Culturally, I can dance between the spaces, creating an awareness that works for me. Each one is a part of who I am in different ways and I am grateful for that. As I said before, as my writing is an extension of who I am, each space comes through in how it has helped mold me as a person. Add that I live in South Africa, and I am truly blessed to be able to draw from such a richness of culture and understanding and heritage.
Tell us about Children of the Stars poem that you wrote for Ghana’s 53rd Independence Celebrations.
“We are the travelers. We carry the world on our backs. We leave our footprints in the sand for our children to follow” This conjured a picture of people who took responsibility and left a legacy for their children. Looking around even with our freedom and privileges this isn’t the norm. What you think of born free generation and the pressure to see freedom as a burden VS opportunity?
I actually wrote it for the 50th Independence celebration event that happened in Lesotho. I was brought up with a very Pan-African ideal that was born out of Kwame Nkrumah’s ideals at independence. We are all links in a chain that goes back in time and we each have a responsibility to carry it forward as we are representatives of our people/family, in the present. Ghanaians have always been travellers, traversing the continent in search of opportunity to better themselves and their families. My own family went from Ghana to Germany to Ghana to Uganda to Lesotho to Swaziland to Lesotho and back to rebuilding the relationship with Ghana. Also in there is South Africa and the UK. Life is about opportunity and the freedom to be able to pursue those opportunities. Those who know more than I talk of the different kinds of freedoms, ie political, economic, etc. I am more interested in the freedom and space to be able to recognise and take advantage of opportunity.
How has fatherhood changed you?
Fatherhood has reinforced the values I was brought up with, including responsibility, duty, focus, commitment, etc. It also gave me a greater understanding of what I am here to do – help create a solid foundation for my children to be able to pursue their dreams.
How is the Destiny Man gig going and what has it meant for your career?
Destiny Man is great. I’ve been here for nearly two years and it was the next logical step in terms of my career. The different projects I’ve worked on, the different businesses I have run or been involved in, the writing I have done – it all prepared me for my time at Destiny Man.
What would you like to be remembered for?
Having contributed to making life easier for at least one person. Having been able to help create the kind of world our children can flourish. I want to be remembered for having done the best that I can.
Africa day is coming up on May 25th. Please share some words for our African brothers and Sisters.
We have so much more in common than we have different. And now is the time to take advantage of the increased attention on the continent and create a future that is on our terms. We have everything we need on the continent. Let us use it to evolve and grow. I sincerely believe the digital space is a great opportunity to create greater understanding between us, let’s use it positively instead of constantly focusing on the ‘otherness’ of each other.