Again, we bring you #Babishai2016 Poetry Festival Guest Interview. This week, it’s Oswald Okaitei from Ghana; poet, performer and playwright.
Oswald, thanks for agreeing to this. As a child, you acted in twenty episodes of a Ghanaian children’s drama series, By The Fireside. How old were you, what roles did you play and was that a foundation for your art?
You are welcome. I was 13 to 15 years old during the period of production. I played several roles. Prominent amongst them include Agya Koo (KwakuAnanse’s good friend), The Hawk (As in the Hawk & Hen Tale), Nana YiadomBoakye (King) etc. Yes, By The Fireside has been the basis for my current arts status. It moulded me artistically and nurtured my interest for Ghanaian folkloric arts—especially my style of poetry.
As a playwright who has written, directed and produced several plays including Beautyfyl Nonsense (A political comedy), Who Stole The Casket? (Emancipation tragic-comedy), When It Turns Red… (Peace play), In Man’s Libido and In The Bag Of A Woman (Social comedies) at the Centre for National Culture (Accra and Cape Coast) and the National Theatre of Ghana respectively, what is your process of engagement with themes? Do you have a cast always on standby and which is your own favourite play to-date?
Yes, Play House.kom, my production house (a theatre company) has constant cast and crew. All are my favourite, but I think the most appreciated is In The Bag Of A Woman.
You’re quite prolific. In one of your plays, Who Stole the casket?, you explored the theme of emancipation in form of a tragic comedy. What do you feel the play has achieved?
Thank you for the compliment. Who Stole The Casket? tells the story of how Africa lost her political authority and the journey to fetching it. The characters in the play are symbolical and in a quite simple way, explain what would seem a rather complex history.
The main theme of the #Babishai2016 Poetry Festival is Abundance: Poetry from Contemporary Africa. How does that speak to you?
There are many phases (evolved and original) of the African contemporary poetry and they have a lot to serve the society—immediate and farther.
When you think of poetry in Uganda, what images come to your mind?
Ugandan tourism sites/ items. Uganda Poetry festivals, especially Babishai Poetry Festival, has done a lot of good works setting the tourism of Uganda in a portrait.
During the #Babishai2016 Poetry Festival, we will hold a children’s poetry session under the sub-theme of Children’s Poetry and its Accessibility. How important do you think it is for African children to have poetry created for them?
It is very vital and crucial: creating a generation of African poets who would grow to appreciate Africa and understand the role they can play in putting the African continent on the world map through poetry.
What diet would you recommend for poets?
A lot of vegetables and natural foods.
What are you looking forward to at the #Babishai2016 Poetry Festival?
A common platform where focus will be placed on celebrating a new generation of African poets and telling the world that beyond the known African Poetry legends, there is a promise of hope for the next generation in the field of poetry.
Any parting words?
I believe that poetry has an immense contribution towards curbing the high level of unemployment in Africa and the world at large. Therefore, corporate institution/ governments should be ever ready to invest in that regards.