We spoke with the Nigerian-Canadian writer about life since the success of her first book, collaborating with Roger Mooking, how to start a creative journey as a member of the 2SLGBTQI+ community, and much more…
francesca ekwuyasi (who spells her name all lower case) is a writer who won wide acclaim for her bestselling debut novel, Butter Honey Pig Bread (2020). In addition to being an award-winning author, ekwuyasi is a multidisciplinary creator who makes films, visual art, audio stories, and more.
Ekwuyasi, who identifies as queer, was born in Lagos, Nigeria, and is currently based in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Her work traditionally explores themes of faith, family, queerness, consumption, loneliness, and belonging.
Earlier this year ekwuyasi released Curious Sounds: A Dialogue in Three Movements, created in collaboration with Roger Mooking, a Trinidadian-born, Canadian-raised talent who is most known as the host of the Cooking Channel’s Man Fire Food and Everyday Exotic. The multi-faceted non-fiction book created by the two extraordinary Black artists is essentially a collage of ideas about making meaning through life’s rhythms and about finding beauty in the chaos.
As Curious Sounds continues to receive rave reviews across the country, we spoke with ekwuyasi about what life has been like since the success of her first book, what the process was like collaborating with Mooking, starting a creative journey as a member of the 2SLGBTQI+ community, and much more.
What is life like for you since the success of Butter Honey Pig Bread?
I’ve been blessed with more creative opportunities and the space and resources to pursue them. I feel incredibly encouraged by the gracious reception of my first novel. I am encouraged to take more creative risks but mainly affirmed by the truth that nurturing my craft of storytelling and art-making is a worthwhile, generative, and sustainable path for me.
Curious Sounds is a very different entity from your first novel. How did you find the process of collaborating with Roger Mooking?
Collaboration is a significant element of my art practice, so I brought lessons from past collaborations into this project. This is an untraditional type of collaboration for me because what I’ve written in this book is in response to the body of work that Roger created. So I listened to the SoundBites album, spent time with the paintings, and read the microstories — then wrote my reflections on the aspects of the work I found most compelling. In the process, I discovered that my words were best suited to contextualize and draw relationships between the different facets of Roger’s work through conversations with him. I enjoy reading and writing about art and reading art criticism— spending time not just with the art object but with other people’s thoughts and reflections on the art object. So, the book has been a cool opportunity to contribute to that realm of art appreciation.
What are some aspects of Curious Sounds that people may find interesting?
The conversations between Roger and me span several themes, from awe to grief to magic! Folks may find it interesting how our reflections on the creative process flow across mediums, cultures, and even belief systems. In Curious Sounds, we both engage in new ways of making art and meaning.
Many up-and-coming LGBTQ+ authors and artists will be reading this Q&A. Do you have advice for those starting their creative journey?
Do it. Follow your desire to create and honour it by giving your best to the process. The world is massive, and possibilities are infinite, and as Nigerians say, This life na one. This means you only have one life, so why not give yourself every chance to live it brilliantly.
Can you tell us what you are working on next?
Yes, I’m writing! I’m writing novels, short stories, plays, film scripts, journal entries, love poems, to-do lists, and art exhibition reviews.I’m curating a show featuring some of my favourite contemporary Black artists; the title is Burnt Sugar, and it opens in spring 2024 at Critical Distance Centre for Curators. I’m also carving time to pour energy into my visual art practice.
Curious Sounds: A Dialogue in Three Movements ($24.95) by francesca ekwuyasi and Roger Mooking is available now. Buy it here: arsenalpulp.com.