We caught up with the globe-trotting Nii Ayikwei Parkes on a recent getaway to Ghana visiting family (“To the Batcave, Robin!”). The performance poet, editor and author is behind many of the coolest literary events happening in the UK like the African Writers’ Evening Series at Poetry Cafe in London. His debut novel, Tail of the Blue Bird (2010), is a detective thriller that pulls apart the delicate ties binding urban and rural space, community and difference, mysticism and modernization in Ghana.
Check out what Mr. Parkes had to say during our rap session.
5 Questions. 5IVE ON IT.
ADA: How did you fall in love with the word (spoken + written)?
Parkes: I grew up in a loud household – everyone’s always talking and cracking jokes, laughing, so it was natural. I was born in England. I grew up in a house where Ga was spoken and outside English was spoken so there was a curiosity about languages that came out automatically as a result of that contrast between indoors and outdoors. My parents spoke English and everything but at home they spoke Ga with us and I do that with my kids, too.
We moved to Ghana when I was four and again it was a huge contrast because suddenly there was ten times more languages and I think because of that I would repeat things and you fall in love with words – with the music of words – by repeating things. Someone would say something in Ewe and I’d want to repeat it and then in Twi and I’d want to repeat it and I think that’s where it started.