Modern Griots Interview: Jane Odartey

Jane Odartey is one of my friends from college. She is also a photographer, poet, and funny, too. Here is my interview I did with her:

1) Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Thanks so much for featuring me on your wonderful blog, Reese!

Home used to be Ghana, but then I moved to New York because my Ma made it her new home. I value simple things, like strong laughter, good friends who would tell you about the spinach between your teeth, and people who would laugh with you even when the crowd around you looks down their noses at your “lack of civilization.” I love life only because of the people I love. I also find that ice cream and tall glasses of milkshakes are a necessity.

2) When and why did you become interested in poetry and photography?

I used to write poetry when I behaved bad. I wrote it as an apology to my mother. It felt improper as I came to know poetry in a sandwich of fear; my sixth
grade teacher made sure of that. In my junior year of college, I met Professor Grace Schulman; she convinced me that I ought to give poetry a chance.

Growing up, we took pictures, like once a year. There was always a need to look perfect for the pictures. It was a real fuss. When I got my first camera in high school, I wanted to take pictures of things that didn’t matter. I wanted to shoot them as they were without any preening. It was, however, in college that I realized my love for the art. I was working on majoring in Business Management and all that calculus was weighing me down, so I thought a semester of Basic Photography would be some sort of therapy; it proved to me more than that.

3) What are your other interests?

It is my weakness and my strength that I have several interests! Walking around aimlessly, people watching, crocheting, blogging, talking to strangers, reading, browsing through YouTube…

5) Why is your site called WeirDlit?

I have this notion that what is weird is a lot more unique. It is the things that are pushed to the side by society as too complex to break down. I like the unspoiled, like a little boy trotting in his mother’s high heels. WeirDlit = Weird + Lit(erature). WeirDlit is the language of that in us which is least corrupted by our mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles, brothers, sisters, friends, etc. The part of us that, although is not immune to the ideas of our environment, refuses to be brainwashed by it.

6) Who and what are your major influences?

I love nature. I love the rain, watching it pour is just so nirvana-ish. Otherwise, I am highly influenced by the

works of Man Ray, Moholy Nagy, Garry Winogrand, Thomas Hardy and Gertrude Stein.

7) This blog centers on afrofuturism and afrosurrealism? In what ways are your life and art reflective of either futurism or surrealism, or both?

My work is more surrealistic. I find surrealism to be a necessity to the sort of abstract art I aspire to create. An example is the work End Of The Day, which is a composition of four images I took in Ghana. When you focus on the background, the clouds curve in a shape like the coast of West Africa. The golden color is a symbol of what it used to be called: The Gold Coast, and the little spears are a symbol for the way we used to live and still do in some part of my continent. I didn’t set out to create this image as it is. I never set out to make anything into anything. I let my subconscious guide my work and when I am done, it takes me weeks to recognize what I have created, or I never do recognize it.

10) What are your future plans?

I hope to exhibit my work someday somewhere. It is my aim to publish something. I also hope to become a professor and teach creative writing around the world.

9) Where can readers find out more about you and your work?

My art blog:

My daily blog:

Thank you again Jane for doing the interview and take a look at her work on her websites. Also, if you are interested in fashion, check out Jane’s Mawusi shop.

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