Meet Sarah Ladipo Manyika!
Learn more about Sarah's work and process in her digital interview below. Come talk to her in person and see what she has been up to at our Open House on August 15th!
1. Tell us briefly about the focus of your work. What are some of the themes you are exploring these days?
I’m in the process of completing a novella that is, amongst other things, about loneliness, displacement and one woman's determination not to give up hope. I was hoping that my next project would be lighter in tone, but “race” in America has raised its ugly head in very visible ways recently, which has drawn me back to writing about race. This time round I find myself thinking about what makes it so difficult to talk about this topic, what are the barriers to empathy, and what are the global threads that link the racialized experiences in America to the racialized experiences of people around the world. And so it is that with my next project I am traversing the multiple cultures and nations in which I have lived and traveled, from Africa to Europe and America. I grew up in Northern Nigeria (now home to Boko Haram) and studied at universities in England and France (home to increasingly virulent anti-immigrant sentiment). I currently live in America where I am raising my teenage African American son in the context of a land still struggling, deeply, with its racist past. These disparate threads of my personal narrative are, for the first time, coming together in the form of short, audio stories.
2. What are you looking at, reading, or listening to right now that is influencing your work or process?
There is an experimental element in much of what I’m currently reading, watching and listening to which both inspires me and gives me added courage to experiment with content and form in my own work.
- Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Buried Giant, which I’ve just finished, has me thinking about the nature of memory and forgetfulness on the individual and national level.
- Kendrick Lamar’s album “To Pimp A Butterfly” which I re-listen to just has me thinking. Period.
- Bernardine Evaristo’s Mr. Loverman, which I’ve just begun, has me laughing and crying, and delighting in the sweetness of the English language that comes from multiple global infusions.
- Anna Deavere Smith’s “Notes from the Field, Doing Time in Education. The California Chapter,” is what I’m most looking forward to seeing/experiencing in the next few weeks.
3. What does a typical day in the studio/office look like for you?
I don’t have a typical day, but an ideal day is one in which I spend several productive hours writing, and several more reading.
4. What's the best advice someone has giving you about your work? The worst?
Good advice abounds, the difficulty for me is adhering to it, but here are two wise thoughts that I’d like to do a better job of remembering.
From Marilynne Robinson:
“We experience pain and difficulty as failure instead of saying, I will pass through this, everyone I have ever admired has passed through this, music has come out of this, literature has come out of it. We should think of our humanity as a privilege.”
(From The Paris Review Interview with Sarah Fay. The Art of Fiction No. 198)
From a Yoruba saying that speaks to me of the need for balance and moderation, between giving too much of one’s self and too little.
Eni to ba dun ladunju, lila laa nlaa tan; eyi to ba koro pupoju, oun la ntu danu
Roughly translated, “The too sweet ones, are the ones we lick to its end; the bitter ones we spit out.”
5. Are you involved in any upcoming shows/events/happenings?
I will be participating in a couple of this year’s Litquake events (the Bay Area’s Literary Festival). This will include an “in conversation” event at the Museum of the African Diaspora with author, Chris Abani (October 11th) and a reading with the HAZEL Reading Series at Litquake’s Litcrawl (October 17th)
6. Is there one particular thing you are most looking forward to at Project 387?
Time. Time to write and to interact with fellow artists. What an incredible gift this is. Thank you Project 387!