Nnamdi Ikwuazom Wenga, better known as Uncle Wenga, is a “Native boy. Proud of his origins, Onitsha, which is by the banks of River Niger, he shares with InlandTown TV his journey so far in writing the book Heartbeats by the River. He also shares how he overcame the darkness as a survivor of child sexual abuse. Uncle Wenga has demonstrated that you can be “a creative” no matter where you are.
Can we get to meet you?
I’m Nnamdi Wenga Ikwuazom, and before you ask, “Why Wenga?” I was born with the name Patrick, but I didn’t like it, so I made up my own. Wenga means “We Endure Now, Greatness (is) Assured.” This is my 13th year with this name.
I’m a poet, a teacher, an anti-rape activist, and an outspoken supporter of women. You collect if you beat a woman I know. I also run the Lake Foundation, which is dedicated to the criminalization of rape, child abuse, and sexual molestation.
We now know the origin of the name “Uncle Wenga.” When did you start writing?
I began writing when I was 5 or 6 years old. It started in primary school. When you grow up in a book-loving family, you have no choice but to read. I began reading at an early age. I would take books and newspapers from my older cousins and begin writing. It became ingrained in me.
You must have been a difficult child?
I was, indeed. I disappointed my mother a lot, but she still loved me.
What inspired you to write Heartbeats by the River?
Wow! Heartbeats by the River is a stunning work of art, and I am honored to have written it. “If God were words, poetry will be God in the lyrical form”.
I grew up in Onitsha, which is on the banks of the Niger River, and poetry became my heartbeat at the time. It was the only way I could express myself. An opportunity to tell the world that “Hey! This is my picture. This is my personality.”
The first title that came to mind for Heartbeats by the River was “Native Boy,” but after consulting with my best friend about which would be a better name, we decided on Heartbeats by the River.
Both titles stood out for me. I’m a Native boy, but people believe that you have to live in these big cities before you’re considered “bougie” or “tush,” so I had to prove that you can be “a creative” no matter where you are. You define your environment, not the other way around.
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Heartbeats by the River contains several deeply personal poems, each of which arose from something larger than myself. I received the book at a time when I was suffering from depression. Heartbeats by the River saved my life after I attempted suicide.
I must say, you are truly inspirational. Were there any authors who influenced you while you were writing Heartbeats by the River?
No. It was just me. I believe that 90% of writers do not read. We only read when we come across something interesting.
Heartbeats by the River is a four-part collection of poems: “Love has Colors”, “Whispers and Random Thrills”, “The Local Flavor”, and “Life, Immortality, and Musings”; which of these four sections did you enjoy writing the most and which were the most difficult?
Part 4 is a part of who I am. It was just me talking to myself. It was just me talking about the realities of life in its most basic form. I believe in Immortality. Life doesn’t end here, it’s a gift that only the brave can accept. Love has colors was something fit for hell. Let’s avoid that.
In terms of Immortality, do you consider writing to be a spiritual or therapeutic exercise?
Writing is both for me. You discover that your musings aren’t always coming from you when you write. It is derived from a higher source. There is a higher power that guides us as we write. As a writer, you may set out to write something different but end up with something completely different, leaving you to wonder, “How?”
You don’t choose poetry; poetry chooses you. Poets are poetry’s oracles. It’s quite spiritual. When I write about Africanism, child abuse, depression, and death, I’m writing from a different plane, one that I don’t understand. And sometimes, when I re-read my poems, I’m taken aback and wonder, “Did you write this?” Poetry is a divine calling, and poets are prophets. We are divine beings, and writers are gods of their creation.
I completely agree. We’re all miniature gods running around. Where did your support for rape come from?
You caught me off guard there. This is somewhat personal, but I’m glad to have recovered from the trauma, which allows me to speak about it.
I am a child sexual abuse survivor. I couldn’t talk about this a few years ago. I told my story about a year ago, and I’m grateful to my friends who supported me through it all. They demonstrated to me that humanity is not a hopeless cause.
This, however, inspired me to establish The LAKE FOUNDATION. I’ve seen the conversations on social media about rape and adults being raped, and I believe we’re missing the big picture. Adults can speak for themselves, but what about the children who are unable to speak for themselves? The abused two-year-olds.
We must return to the drawing board. We must teach our children to be open. Parents should create a safe space for their children so that they can open up when the ugly appears. Parents and guardians should pay close attention to their children as well.
When that uncle or aunty starts touching them in their private areas, we should teach the kids to open up. They should be able to tell their mother or father or another adult.
I was a victim, which led me to a very dark place, but thank God, I triumphed.
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I’m glad you were able to rise above your pain and hurt to become the genius you are today. Your trauma must have had an impact on your mental health. What are your thoughts on men’s mental health? Do you believe the gospel is preached sufficiently in our society?
“Mental health” is not adequately promoted in our society today, particularly among men. Men are often told to be strong, but we are also human. Pain and trauma are not gendered. Men, too, experience pain and breakdown. I cry occasionally, not because I’m weak, but because it helps you release steam and pressure. We should spread the word and check on our male friends and family members, in my opinion.
Crying is not a sign of weakness, and no one should ever feel weak because they cry. Please keep an eye on your male friends and family members because depression is real, and the high rate of suicide among our men is extremely concerning.
How many books have you published to date, and which is your favorite?
I own three books. A Woman is More, Just Like Clay, and Heartbeats by the River. Heartbeats by the River was released on September 5th, 2021, and my second book was released on September 11th. My third book was released on January 15, 2022.
Heartbeats by the River was written entirely on my phone and sent directly to the publishers. Two more books should be available by the end of July. “A Day Longer” is one, and “Palmwine, Roses, and The Native Soul” is another.
The smallest but my favorite is “A Day Longer”. It was me acknowledging the supernatural forces and saying, “Yeah, we see you.”
Intriguing titles I must say, just hearing the titles makes me want to read the books. What inspires the titles?
“The woman” inspired A Woman Is More. It is a book dedicated to women because women truly are more. Women are undervalued, and A Woman is More illuminates a woman’s power.
The fluidity of clay inspired Just Like Clay. Poetry can be shaped into anything – love or war.
Palmwine, Roses, and the Native Soul was essentially me challenging westernization and reminding Africans that life was better before the “white men.” Africa is incredibly beautiful, and we must remember who we are.
READ MORE: My Onitsha Will Not Die! The Ojinnaka Obi Asika Interview
I’m fascinated by your intellectual, and I’m sure our readers would like to know how they can obtain a copy of your books.
My books are available on Amazon, Okada Books, Better World Books, and more than 43 platforms. You can get it by typing any of the book titles on Google and voila!
Who has been your most ardent supporter thus far?
As corny as it may sound, my mother has been my greatest inspiration and supporter.
When I was younger, she would always yell at me to stop scribbling on different pages of different books and to put it all together in one. She’s been there since the beginning.
I’m also grateful to my best friend Onyinye Mozie, who encouraged me to express my creativity.
“You can do it!” said my mother. and Onyinye said, “It’s about time you did it!”
What advice do you have for first-time publishers and writers in general?
Your writing should be motivated by passion rather than monetary gain. Whatever happens, you should never stop writing. Writing is also a form of meditation, so keep at it while remaining true to yourself.
That is also advice I would take seriously. Before I let you go, what three words would you use to describe yourself?
Psycho, Weird and Beautiful.
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Those are deep words, but I’d leave it up to the readers to interpret them however they see fit. How can people get in touch with you?
I’m more active on Facebook, so shoot me a message there. My Facebook name is Nnamdi Patrick Wenga. Instagram is @unclewenga and Twitter, @wengannamdi.
You can also reach me on Whatsapp +234 702 622 6139.
Thank you, Uncle Wenga. Are there any closing remarks?
I’d like to thank Inland Town Media for having me. It’s wonderful to have the opportunity to discuss the things that inspire you. Thank you for allowing me to learn.
It was a pleasure having you on InlandTown TV; we wish you continued success and hope to see more of your beautiful works.
InlandTown New Media – 2022.