Arts

The Nigerian-British Writer Putting Black Joy on Stage and Screen

Theresa Ikoko joins a wave of young Black writers, producers and directors carving out space in an industry that has been prone to either exclude them or crush them with expectations demanding that their work cover only issues of race.

On Friday, her first movie, “Rocks,” which she wrote with Claire Wilson, opened in Britain. It centers on the joy and resilience of young women of color a group rarely given mainstream attention in British film and positions Ms. Ikoko as a major new voice. “There’s so much more that comes with being Black apart from dealing with racism. And that has meant creating work that also focuses on Black joy” she said.

From left, the actors Yasmin Mwanza, Yvette Boakye and Heather Agyepong in the 2017 touring production of Ms. Ikoko’s “Girls”

Growing up, she never knew any writers, or that writing was something people were paid to do. The youngest of nine, she was raised by a single mother who came to Britain from Nigeria a few years before Ms. Ikoko was born. Despite having little money growing up, Ms. Ikoko said she had never felt poor.

She developed an early love of reading and storytelling, thanks in part to the work of Black authors like Malorie Blackman, Sister Souljah and Eric Jerome Dickey. In a program she worked on that organized drama workshops in London prisons, she started to see the power of storytelling — and whose stories got to be told. “I was falling in love with giving people the power to be whatever they wanted to be,” she said.

A scene from “Rocks,” Ms. Ikoko’s first film, which opened this week in Britain.

Ms. Ikoko is currently at work on her third play, for the National Theatre, and is developing a movie for the BBC. More than anything, though, she’s determined to lift the undue burden on writers of color — herself included. “Hopefully,” she said, “I’ll be part of the people who are going to do all of that sticky unpacking work.”

“Is it magic? Does it change the world? Does it speak to the Black experience? Does it speak to the Black experience for non-Black people? Is it also not white gaze?” she said of the thoughts that run through her head when she sits down to write.

Watch the trailer of Rocks, her first movie here;

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CqXhMYjasHM

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