Tanaka also known as T.Ffuego is a slam winning, multi published, international spoken word performer. He is a black, queer artist whose poems cross leaps and bounds throughout his intersectionality. From speaking on his conflict and resolution with masculinity, his experiences having lived both in America and in the UK, to how being queer and African tends to make you a walking coffin to your culture
Q: How old were you when you first started writing and how old were you when you first performed?
I was 17 when I started writing and performing.
Q: What made you want to write?
When it comes to writing, it was never really an option for me, it was something I had to do. The only outlet I had where my feelings were valid for the first time.
Q: A lot of your writing is centred around decolonisation, trans identity, personal relationships and liberation from daily life in city culture. What influences you the most to write and how do you feel when you write?
What influences me to write is all the topics you touched on. As a black trans masc/man ever since I stepped into my identity I never felt like I had a voice. Writing for me is an act of resistance/rebellion. I get to say whatever I want, however I want and no one can really tell me different, because it’s art.
Q: What does your writing process look like? Is there a space or time of day when you feel more comfortable writing?
I write everywhere! On the train, in my bed. My poetry tends to come to me like a freestyle rap.
Q: How did being raised in America and the UK have an impact on you?
Being raised in the USA and the UK, added to my writing heavily. It was in America I even found poetry. It was all by accident I started performing my own. And I think it’s the fact I’ve had many different experiences with all different types of people that has led to so many stories to tell.
Q: Your performances can often feel on the cusp of life and death, humour and sadness. How do you manage the balance between them in your writing and performances?
I would say in my writing I tend to let my mind go as dark as it wants to without a filter. But in the performance aspect I naturally am a charismatic person so me and my poetry is already a juxtaposition. I also know that the audience came to see a show, and I’m a showman in all honesty, so I think laughter is always needed and it adds release of tension. I don’t want my audience to feel like they are constantly going to be thrown of an emotional cliff cause that won’t allow them to trust me.
Q: Do you think it's becoming easier for POC trans writers to break through and be heard? What needs to change?
I think the reality is I think there are more people willing to hear us for sure. But there’s also a mould of what type of trans people can break into the mainstream. I think I’m the only dark-skinned, fat trans poet I know. And I know I can’t be the only black fat tranny that writes poetry lol. So I’m definitely aware in that arena that certain privileges are still there. So my fight is truly for talented trans black and POC folk who wouldn’t be normally be seen as conventionally beautiful to get a chance to be heard if on bigger platforms.
Q: You have so much confidence when you perform your writing and it seems to come naturally to you, do you ever get nervous before going on stage? What advice would you have for any nervous writers out there?
I 100% get nervous no doubt. Especially if it’s new material - you don’t know how people will react, so there’s so much uncertainty in performing in general. But I definitely have a constant fight or flight reaction and my body takes the nerves and decide to fight. So my confidence is the fight reaction.
Q: And lastly what’s next for Tanaka, what are you working on after the coronavirus hopefully leaves us?
What’s next for Tanaka Fuego is that I have a new poetry film coming out called Barbershop being released possibly in a few weeks time. So definitely keep up to date with my socials @tanaka.fuego. More performances too, I even am being asked to take part in a lot of Instagram live conversations on mental health. Since that is something I’m very passionate about.
Published: 19/04/2020 by Queerdirect
Edits by Tamar Clarke-Brown