A storybook conventionally refers to a piece of text which is bound between the covers of a book. Nikky Norton-Shafau however is redefining this conventional meaning through her transformation from human to storybook.
Nikky’s work centres around themes such as technology, storytelling, female empowerment and leadership, black identity and unusual spaces. Nikky not only writes about these topics, she also brings them to life. In the past, Nikky has performed her poetry at events such as Afro Tech Fest, Women Leading In Education and Beyond The Border Storytelling Festival. The performance of her work allows her ideas to take the form of a spectacular showcase enthused with energy and emotion.
I had the chance to interview Nikky and ask her about her transition so far and how this has influenced her as a poet and performer. Her journey of self-reflection and expression is a fascinating and inspiring one, and it is only just beginning.
What aspects of a storybook made you want to become one? It was an idea that came from a period of self-reflection. I have been figuring out what it means to me along the journey. It came from an impulsive moment writing down a random idea on a piece of paper (which I do a lot). As I have improvised my way into the project I have realized it is connected to many aspects of who I am – may relationship with reading, my family heritage and how I perceive the world.
How do you become a storybook? Do you have to change at all? What changes did you have to make? I am still figuring it out – I still look very human. I have however discovered that for me becoming a storybook means defining my own narrative – taking charge of it. It also means collecting stories via interviews, creating fantastical performances, looking for the magical in everyday life and doing a lot of listening. I have had to change in a way that has made me overcome any fears that now and again stop me from moving forward with a sense of play.
Where has your journey of becoming a storybook taken you so far and what has it allowed you to do? It has taken me to so many unexpected places. I didn’t expect to be speaking on alternative career paths at universities or meeting other strange people who see themselves as books. Part of the journey has seen me looking into my own family history and being re-united with my sister.
Were there any challenges you faced in becoming a storybook? Lots of trial and error but with each mini failure ideas and resilience came for the next chapter. I have been humbled by the way people have understood the metaphor I am creating. Other books have been challenging – they see me as their competition!
Your work and blog has a strong emphasis on self-expression and inspiring female figures, would you say that these are you main sources of inspiration for your own poems and performances? Self-expression and female empowerment come through my work but my main source of inspiration is staying present with my truth at the time of writing. I have been drawn to collecting voices that often go unheard.
On your website, it says how you like exploring ‘unusual’ spaces and places. I was wondering what it is about a place or space which makes it unusual for you and what ideas and feelings these spaces give you? I never feel alone when I create I see the environment as a member of my cast – a character. I suppose when I say unusual I mean spaces outside of traditional performance spaces where there are many dimensions and layers of narrative that pre-exist to explore. I would love to create a performance in the sky or under water – spaces that force me to expand what narrative can do when the boundaries of an expected environment are opened up.
Do you think that creative expressions such as poetry and performance allows a free expression of the self? Why? For me yes to a point. I feel I express my inner self the freest through this form – but it is never the full truth. I see the world through the lens of poetry, but I still find it restrictive to get to the core of what I want to say. Words are clunky, but I like playing with them.
Is there any message which you wish to convey through your work? What is it? First and foremost I just want to express my truth and creativity, but part of my truth is playing around with different schools of thought and being playful – what people take from that is what I am most interested in. It is out of my control, but I love hearing feedback that resonates and contrasts with what I felt in the moment.
How will you know when your journey of becoming a storybook is complete? Maybe it is a never ending story…Some people say that I already am a storybook. Who knows?
What do you think the future holds? Fun : )
If you want to see one of her performances, Nikky is performing ‘Her Secret Garden’ in the following times and locations:
- 2nd September 2018, 2pm Secret Location, London £5
- 9th Sept 2018, 2pm Chapter 1 Books, Manchester, Pay What You Decide
- 16th Sept 2018, 2pm Chapter 1 Books, Manchester, Pay What You Decide
- 7th Oct 2018, 2pm Chapter 1 Books, Manchester, Pay What You Decide
- 14th Oct 2018, 2pm Chapter 1 Books, Manchester, Pay What You Decide
- 27th Oct 2018, 2pm Chapter 1 Books, Manchester, Pay What You Decide
Visit her website ‘Becoming a Storybook‘ to book your tickets!
If you can’t make it to one of Nikky’s shows but want to hear all about her journey for yourself, you’re in luck! Nikky has a YouTube channel which documents and explores her work and her journey so far. She also has a blog on which she posts her work and a documentation of the festivals she has attended: https://mystorybookcase.wordpress.com/
Through her work and determination, Nikky has shown that we should not let ourselves be bound by any conventional definitions or imagined boundaries and instead, be true to ourselves. To learn more about Nikky, or to see one of her live shows, visit http://www.becomingstorybook.com to follow her on her incredible journey of transition, self-exploration and expression.
Written by Leah Bennett
Photo credits: Becoming Storybook