Tega Ohwerhoye hails from Delta State, Nigeria. He holds an M.A (International Relations) from Coventry University (UK); and a B.A (English [Literature Emphasis]) from Redeemers University (RUN), Nigeria where he served as the department’s Public Relations Officer (2011-2012). He currently works as an Administrative Officer in a Housing Firm. He has worked with the Debt Management Office (DMO); National Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA) and BMG Research, Birmingham, UK as a Market Research Agent. He taught Literature-in-English at Darlington Crest College, Abuja, Nigeria and is also a member of the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) Network. He loves music and paintings.
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How and when did you start literature writing?
I started writing in 2010 when I took a Creative Writing course back in school. I remember the lecturer coming into class one day, then he said we should look around us and write down whatever came to us from what we saw. That was my first real attempt at literature writing.
Do you remember the first poem that you wrote? What was it about?
The first poem I wrote actually meant a lot to me and it was titled “Rainbow Veins”. I started thinking of the rainbow as a being and as I did that, the colours started to mean other things to me; I began to see how we sometimes share similarities with the inanimate.
What inspires you to write?
People and things I experience are my main writing inspirations.
How has mentorship contributed to your writing?
I had a lecturer who was my mentor. He wrote only critical essays and helped to put my work in check; to see that I could actually find meaning in what I wrote. Also, when I am done with a piece, one of the first things I do is ask questions my mentor would have asked.
Which writers have been most influential to your writing?
Musicians have had more influence on my writing and I like to think that a real musician is first a writer. However, being exposed to James Baldwin and Langston Hughes did a lot for me.
What do you love most about being a writer?
Being a writer comes with a lot of pressure; yet, there is a certain fulfilment or satisfaction I get from writing that I do not get from anything else.
What plans do you have in the future with your writings?
For now, I just want to write and enjoy it and have people experience my art. The future will take care of itself.
You are one of the most-consistent Nigerian writers who submit to SLM, what motivates you to constantly submit to us?
I always look for opportunities to share my work, platforms where writers can get feedback. SLM is not only one of those but also a convenient one.
Is writing personal to you and what does it mean to say writing is personal to you?
To say writing is personal to me is to say I am in what I write, down to every word. So yes, writing is very personal to me. My writings are birthed by my experiences.
How did you develop your writing? Who or what contributed to your development as a writer?
I read and I listen, more of the latter than the former. Sometimes what I write is a long string of words my ears have picked up from different people, places and at different times. I listen to a lot of music too; artistes like Benjamin Clementine and Ibeyi top my playlist.
How has the internet contributed to your success as a writer?
This would depend on what you consider success to be. What the internet has done for me is help me stay in touch with the literary community and expose me to a wide range of writers, especially young Nigerian writers. It has also created a platform where I can conveniently share my works.
What challenges have you faced as a writer?
Getting honest criticism. These days, everyone seems to tell you your work is good but when you ask why they think it is, they’re unable to tell you anything concrete. You hear comments like “This is deep” and no explanation for what ‘deep’ is.
How have you challenged yourself as a writer?
I look up to a few colleagues who have taken the bold step of publishing. Additionally, I set targets for myself; I make a mental notes of the subjects I find difficult to approach in my writing and I try to write about those things.
What career field do you work in or are you studying in and how do you manage combining your other demands with your writing?
I currently work in a Housing firm. My role sometimes demands qualities a Creative would/should possess; knowing this helps to remind me that I cannot afford to lose touch with my writing.
Are you working on a book, if yes, what should your readers be expecting?
Yes, I am working on something and that’s all I'd say for now.
What qualities do you think contributes to being a good writer and more particularly, poet?
I think being able to write one thing, and have it mean different things to different people is important. I like metaphors and I think knowing how to use them helps a writer to do ‘less telling' and ‘more showing'
Who are your favorite Nigerian writers? (Mention up to 5)
In no particular order, they are:
What are your favorite Nigerian books? (Mention up to 5)
Shuttle in the Crypt
Season of Crimson Blossom
Oil on Water
No Longer at Ease
What impact do you hope that your works make?
I hope that everyone who reads my work find themselves in it.
What is the best advice that you have gotten as a writer?
To write, just write, keep writing; even if it’s a line or a word, write.
What advice would you give to writers that read this interview?
I think it should always be content over form. I come across a lot of pieces, poems especially, that lose meaning to rhymes and stanzas. You’d discover that when you’re thirsty and go for water, you just gulp straight down. You do not pay a lot of attention to the bottle unless the water doesn’t taste right. That is how writing should be, content over form always.
Tega Ohwerhoye was interviewed by Oyindamola Shoola.
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