All it takes is a word like Motherfuckitude to give a whiff of what to expect – discomfort, candor, truth, courage. Delve deeper and you’ll find that ‘unapologetic’ might be the most appropriate word in the English dictionary to describe Poetra Asantewa’s debut.
Doused in cleverly strung words, mellow sounds, a distinctly hypnotic voice and, well, panties is a keen understanding of what it means to be Ghanaian and to live in contemporary Ghana. Poetra Asantewa’s spoken word album tells tales of womanhood, religion and society, among a myriad of other important topics. Listening to it, I saw glimpses of the likes of Anaïs Nin (for her unrelentless candor), Kahlil Gibran (for his accurate, yet unassuming socio-political commentary) and Regina Spektor (for her mellow tunes and expert wordplay) – all writers/artists I hold in extremely high regard for their unparalleled ability to capture the essence of human living and lives.
“We tie the love for our country to a chair and torture it with politics. We starve it and bribe it. Teach it tricks and parade it as party politics.” – Poetra Asantewa, Masked Commoners
I first encountered Poetra Asantewa, née Ama Asantewa Diaka, when I chanced upon snippets of her poems on Instagram about a year ago. Her use of photos to capture her writing was excellent and her words, boy, her words. Impressive. To say that she is carving a niche for herself in Ghana’s growing poetry and spoken word scene would be an understatement; her debut EP firmly establishes her as a pinoeer and gives an inkling of the prowess and promise of Ghanaian female poets like Dzyadorm and Miss Ndabi.
Mark these words: Poetra Asantewa will leave an indelible mark, not just on the creative scene, but also on our collective consciousness. The profondity of her work is a telling sign:
Naked Listeners delves into the curious relationship between outspoken women and society; bringing to mind recent events in Ghana where the socio-political opinions of women like actress Lydia Forson were whittled down to disparaging remarks about their sexuality or femininity:
“They only hear you when you speaking lewd. They only hear you when you show them nudes. They never wanna hear you when it’s about the people. Never wanna hear you when it’s about the country…I swear I have no panties on! Standing on the podium preaching about unification
Talking about how the masses have been destabilized and how we need to quarantine the brilliant to enforce a revolution. And somehow, nobody hears a thing. But let me say that I swear I have no panties on. And suddenly, I have your attention.”
P.O.A questions the power and relevance of words and language as well as the artist’s role and reason for being:
“The job of the artist is to think out loud. Your tongue became public property the minute you made a sound. You were given the pulpit so the masses could hear your stance. Not so you could jack off the fake preacher from behind the stand. Similes, metaphors, punchlines or puns. Your technique is at the bottom of the list of what should make us one. What is silence to an artist? What’s a bladder to do if not to take a piss?”
All Love hints at the artist’s versatility with its mellow tunes that are reminiscent of jazz/soulful artists like Nora Jones:
“Red or blue. Baby, black or white. Love is gonna thrive as long as we can make it work.”
No Panties is an allegoric/synecdoche tale of the complex woman; cleverly exploring themes which go beyond the vanity closet – self-awareness, freedom, self-definition, societal expectation:
“Everybody swears they know what’s right for Annie better than Annie herself does. They tell her: wear grannie panties or g strings, wear lace panties or boy shorts, slip on a good ol’ thong so the booty will pop. But Annie cares not what everybody swears they know because Annie don’t wear no panties.”
Poetry Ain’t Shit is soaked in contradictions and turns the lens on those of us who claim to dissect society:
“With your pronounced gestures and rising voice you tell me to be the revolution. All talk, no action religion. I should wade through the storm so you write beautifully about the experience? Pseudo-profundity is your middle name. Living life with a microscopic lens and seeing things bigger than they really are.”
Masked Commoners – my personal favorite – is an unmerciful exposé on pretense and does a good job of weaving in religious references and spatial musings:
“We tether our humanity to doing good for looking good sake. One man’s sorrow is another man’s headline. To become a blowout success from another man’s tragedy. Be your brother’s keeper becomes feed off your brother’s pain. We’re rewriting the Scriptures in blood, we are Judas Iscariot all over again. We juxtapose our monsters with our inner child and expect the purity of that inner child to triumph over our own evil, but we forget that sometimes, children are monsters too.”
Needless to say, there’s much to be expected from this poetress and I’m willing to bet her upcoming October 16 performance will give a glimpse of just how much is in store.
Written by Jemila Abdulai
Jemila Abdulai is the creative director, editor and founder of the award-winning website Circumspecte.com. A media and international development professional and economist by training, she combines her business, communications and project management expertise with her strong passion for Africa. Besides writing and reading, she enjoys travel, global cuisine, movies, and good design.