Yours for a Day: Inua Ellams

Inua Ellams, Poet, playwright and graphic designer
1. Your name, what you do (are doing) and your favourite African song/music video? 

My name is Inua Ellams. I am a poet, playwright and performer, also a graphic artist and designer. I am currently working on my next poetry book, a few plays and a long running series of portraits of hip hop artists, among other graphic design projects. I am a writer in residence at the Tate Modern, an Associate Artist at the Albany Theatre and an Official BT Olympic Storyteller.

I think ‘African song’ is too limiting a description. Africa is rich in oral traditions, the lone singing voice as entertainment stems from that tradition so, I consider anything of that ilk to be ‘African’. I also consider Hip Hop, Jazz, Funk etc to be African. If we are to specify a song by a contemporary African musician, my initial response would be something by the late great poet, Sekou Sundiata or  K’naan – the dusty foot philosopher but perhaps he has dwelled for too long in the west, indeed he speaks with a Canadian accent. So if I am to be more rigorous and choose artists whose sound is ‘African’, I think ‘Kothbiro’ by Ayub Ogada would have to be it.

It is haunting, heart breaking, gentle and incessant.  However, ‘Water’, ‘Upside Down’ by Fela Kuti are a hairs’ breath behind, I’m also fond of ‘E Be Like Say’ by 2 Face.

2. What are your memories of the Africa Centre and or hopes for the Africa Centre’s future?

My strongest memory is of reading a poem about my family, a weddings anniversary and a cultural difference to a heaving audience. My hope for the Future, is that the centre becomes what it ought to be: the first stop for information on all things African in Europe. I hope it becomes a centre for excellence, a magnet for African politics, home for progressive thinkers, to help voice those silenced on the continent…

3. ‘If you could take over the Africa Centre’s Auction Hall for a day – what would you do?’

Host an exhibition on African Graphic art and design in collaboration with


2 thoughts on “Yours for a Day: Inua Ellams

  1. dean flight says:

    i would have nick hosier of stomp radio to do an all day jazz fusion session . The drum was the first music . And music is our sanctuary .

  2. Nick Hosier says:

    Nick Hosier.
    I read that someone would like me to do an All Day Jazz Fusion set to help save the Africa Centre.
    Well you just let me know when, and I’ll be there with my boxes of vinyl.
    We can let this legendary venue go easily.


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