Hi Eric great to meet you, can you give our readers some background information on yourself please?
My name is Eric Ngalle Charles, I am a Cameroonian born Wales based writer poet and playwright.
So what got you interested in writing and the arts?
I wrote my first poem when I was about 8years old, I wanted to compliment my mother, for she was my father. However my mother did not understand my humour, she thought I was mocking her for the fact that many men went through her bed chambers. ‘’Dearest mother, you are beautiful like the snowflakes of Siberia, everybody knows where you are, no one dares’’ this earned me my first banishment from my village. I moved to my maternal grand father’s house where I started reading African newspapers posthumously. My maternal grandfather was a British Colonial governor and had the luxury of newspapers being delivered albeit three months late.
Your run a company called Black Entertainment Wales, an arts organisation that provides a platform for artists in the BME communities to showcase their work. Do you feel BME creatives in Wales are supported?
The bar for support for BME creatives is too high. Plus the very fact the Wales itself is a minority in the grand scheme of things means at times it doesn’t know sometimes how to deal with its BAME creatives. Organisations are making strides in the right direction, I am now on the board of directors for Literature Wales, We have FIO making strides, and we have support from other creatives like Charlotte Williams and Isabelle Adonis. There’s hope.
You are also a playwright how do you approach writing in this art form?
I guess I am fascinated by ‘’blindness’’ What can provoke someone or something to invoke blindness from the gods. I am not an ‘’OBWANJE CHILD’’ as described by Ben Okri in Famished Road, however I carry such marks, and I strongly believe that we must not cut off that link between the land of the dead and that of the living. I write to maintain the link. In most of my plays, I perform rituals, either through singing an ancient song that my ancestors used when communicating with the gods, or simply pouring liquor or water onto the ground and invoking the gods. During my last performance in Palas Print Caernarfon for the Literature festival in June with Ifor Ap Glyn the National Poet of Wales, I performed Molikilikili (stick insect, who insist on bringing down the great Iroko tree by pushing it to the ground, most people mistook its antics for press-ups) and I did an invocation using Welsh leaves and Welsh water. Yes, the gods are playwrights, they use us to poke fun and make merry.
Get the Chance works to support a diverse range of members of the public to access cultural provision Are you aware of any barriers to equality and diversity for either Welsh or Wales based artists/creatives?
The way information is dispersed, community centers, libraries are not stocking the right information, and institutions that have powers that control information on activities do not have foot soldiers. There is disconnect between creatives and those institutions that should support them.
There are a range of organisations supporting Welsh and Wales based artists and creatives, I wonder if you feel the current support network and career opportunities feel ‘healthy’ to you?
Two of such organisations have been helpful and healthy to me because I am very persistent, other people once you knock them they lose the ability to stand up. I believe in the power of my story, I know what I write and I am willing and learning to learn how to write.
If you were able to fund an area of the arts in Wales what would this be and why?
Public performance arts. We should encourage young and emerging talents to showcase their work and to get paid for doing so.
What excites you about the arts in Wales? What was the last really great thing that you experienced that you would like to share with our readers?
Event’s organizers such as the Hay Trust, Hay Festival are embracing diversity, for me I am currently talking with the National Trust to see if I could perform my plays around their various premises. I just came from Cameroon last month as part of a ‘’Bridge Building’’ initiative supported by Wales Arts International which will see Artists from Wales going to Cameroon and Vice versa. As a result of my first visit, I have been invited back to Cameroon by the authorities to perform at the South Cameroon Cultural Festival. Effectively I am passing the baton to the future generation.
2 thoughts on “An Interview with Eric Ngalle Charles”
More courage brother Eric. You are making great artistic strides here in the UK and elsewhere.
Thanks for your comment Nsah.