Fresh from his stint at Poplar Union Theatre, showcasing his piece ‘Triple Threat’; We spoke with Sonny Nwachukwu about his experience of being Black, Gay and Disabled. The writer, director and choreographer also ventures into how the acceptance of the label disabled has empowered and informed a unique perspective in his art:
You studied psychology at university, what inspired you to switch to a career in the Arts?
I’m Nigerian and I was always encouraged to get my qualifications and degrees. But while I was studying I began to take dance classes and thats where my passion grew. By the time I finished university I knew I wanted to pursue a career in the arts.
Tell me about your project Circles and the philosophy around choreopoems?
Last year I was commissioned by ‘Unlimited’ to create a choreopoem. Choreopoems use spoken word and choreography to create a vocabulary that characters use to express their needs and wants in a more primal sense. It’s almost ritual. Circles is about post traumatic slave syndrome and generational trauma. Once black people were liberated from slavery, they were expected to just get over it without truly healing from the trauma. The piece explores how this effects the black community today and awareness of what trauma is.
How do you think as black people we can heal from this?
Since working on the project I feel that a stronger sense of community can bring about empowerment and foundation for growth.
How has art helped you communicate better in regards to your stammer?
I’ve always had a stammer and my struggles always stemmed from feeling as though I wasn’t being listened to or feeling a lack of urgency in responding to my needs. However once I found my voice in the arts it helped me to express myself in a whole different way. However, I believe my stammer also gives me a unique perspective as an artist, they work hand in hand.
Speak to me about when you started to identify as disabled, how that has empowered you?
2 years ago I decided to identify as disabled. I know that I have to work twice as hard as anyone else because of my stammer, ie interviews, presentations and public speaking. I was very reluctant to call myself disabled because I’m black and gay also, it was like one more thing to overcome. But I find it empowering now and owning my truth, has in turn, added truth to my creativity.
Tell me about you new project triple threat?
It’s a piece that explores the experience of navigating being gay, black and disabled in society. It is not a ‘woe is me’ project, it’s empowering; Telling a story that even with all these marginalised labels you can still progress to do what you want.
Who or what artists inspires you?
Maya Angelou, I draw a lot of inspiration from her and admire the creativity in her vocabulary. Also Ru Pauls Drag Race, I think it’s beautiful to see people who come from such difficult backgrounds, then use that pain to create art that brings joy and emboldens others. It’s lead to gold. Alchemy.Ntozake Shange is my favourite artist, she inspired me to create work in a nonlinear way and also created the choreopoem form.
What advice would you give to any artist who identifies as Black Gay and Disabled?
Come through. Your voice matters and you are important. It’s scary and it’s hard out there, but you matter.
Instagram : @jnr_nwa
Interview and Photography by Daniel Bailey