Unlearning Strongwoman Podcast

1. Power Is Daily Negotiation, Mainly with Myself - Naana Orleans-Amissah

October 31, 2022 Tolu Agbelusi/ Naana Orleans Amissah Season 1 Episode 1
Unlearning Strongwoman Podcast
1. Power Is Daily Negotiation, Mainly with Myself - Naana Orleans-Amissah
Show Notes Transcript

In today's episode, Tolu Agbelusi speaks to Naana Orleans-Amissah about what it means to step into and fully inhabit yourself as a woman. Whether it's rejecting motherhood as matyrdom, learning that strength is also carving out space to be with yourself and replenish, acknowledging that there is strength in saying 'I am not okay',  or facing yourself and being honest with where you could have done better, this is a foray into one woman's journey of self discovery which offers  many learning nuggets.

The episode transcript is available here.

Naana is currently the Director of Strategy at Media Monks, a writer and founder of NOA VTF.

Connect with Naana and watch her Found Art series over on
Instagram: @Noa_vtf

I am always keen to hear your thoughts, so do leave comments or feedback:

The music for Unlearning Strongwoman is created by Shade Joseph

Naana Orleans Amissah:

Becoming a woman and stepping into my womanhood has essentially been a process of learning that I write my own rules, and that's scary because who knows if the rules work.

Tolu Agbelusi:

Hello, good people. Welcome to Unlearning Strong Woman. I am your host, Tolu Agbelusi, and this is our first episode. My guest today is Naana Orleans Amissah. She is a formidable woman, one of the best event moderators around, the director of strategy at Global Advertising Firm, Media Monks, founder of NOA VTF, which is her creative company, but those are just details about what she does. This conversation is about more than that. Thank you for agreeing to come and speak with me on Unlearning strong woman. You know that I've been interested in having discussions about what strength is to different people, particularly because the conversation often tends to be around what it isn't, and denouncing the strong woman tropes. So I'm all down for denouncing, but I'm also interested in what we hold in its place. So my first question is, what is a strong woman to you?

Naana Orleans Amissah:

Gosh, this is a big question. It's interesting that I don't immediately think of one woman, but I think of characteristics of women that I've known and I immediately think of my mother, um, and this quiet faith that she had. and it was a r, you know, when We'd wake up and she would be upstairs in the living room, the family living room. Um, and this is when we lived in Tokyo. And she'd be there in her nightgown and she'd have a pot of hot water and lemon, and she would've just been sitting quietly. And I remember thinking, I mean, also, why would you do that? I was a kid. I was like, Why isn't she playing? Why isn't the TV on? Why isn't music like, you know, I'm like, What? What is this? And as I've grown older, this idea that you carve a space for yourself to feel yourself, to hear yourself, to be in touch with yourself, I think is a real, um, expression of strength. Because I think it takes some solitude and also a moment ofpause, to check in with yourself and figure out what it is that you need, and that moment of reflection and that moment of offering yourself what it is that you might need, um, I think is such an incredible expression of strength. I mean, we were rowdy like, you know, she had two kids, you know, her husband's, brother's kids would come from, uh, Canada. My cousins from Yokohama would turn up. There were like four teenage boys wolfing down everything in the fridge and the freezer and the stores nearby. There were three girls whining trying to play, you know, hide and seek or cops and robbers mean, I think about this and I'm like, I don't know how she managed it, but she managed it with a firm hand and actually a lot of curiosity. So I think the first characteristic of strength is offering yourself that time and that grace and that. um, reflection to figure out what you need. And then I also think that the flip side of that is a characteristic of my grand, my great-grandmother, um, who had married a really wealthy guy, but he died in his thirties and she was left to raise seven kids, two of whom were a set of twins. And this is, you know, 19, I don't know, twenties, Cape Coast. So it wasn't that this was easy and she did everything she could and all seven kids went to school. All seven kids, you know, had a vocation or graduated from university. Um, and this wasn't, you know, this wasn't to be taken for granted because it wasn't that long ago that Ghanaians could go to university, could finish higher education. So there's this tenacity of I will make it what come, what may, and my own grandmother, my paternal grandmother also had that, you know, she had married my grandfather who'd lost his job at UAC, and she used to make what they call sweet bads so bags of sweets, uh, that she would sell or that her kids would take to school and sell, right? Um, and there is something about both the pause and the, the sigh of, okay, let me gather myself as well as the, I have been gathered. I am now going to go and do the thing that I need to do. And I think both these things together complete the story of strength. And I think that typically when we talk about strength, it's the, I'm blazing a trail. Uh, nothing will come in my way. There is no obstacle. Um, and often for black women, it's also associated with being angry, having an attitude, um, being seen as not human. But I also think this. Other part of it. This, it's almost like, I don't know, the thing I think of as an avocado.

Tolu Agbelusi:

Okayyyy.

Naana Orleans Amissah:

So the avocado's whole, right? And then there's a seed in it, and when you split it, there's one half and the other, and then it comes together. And I feel like you need both things. Very weird metaphor, just go with it.

Tolu Agbelusi:

I I'm going

Naana Orleans Amissah:

but I think both things exist. It is both it's both the kind of pause, the softness, and it also the resilience and the focus. And together not one or the other, but together. This is what makes for me a strong woman. Gosh, that's so weird. I've never said this before.

Tolu Agbelusi:

That's the beauty of these things. That is also why I hate to send the questions in advance.

Naana Orleans Amissah:

Yeah, but you know, it almost makes me, Oh gosh. Here I am. I was gonna say, it makes me teary and you're gonna be like, What are you like? Every time I'm in conversation with like an artist, I have a moment where I cry because I think I notice something new. And I don't think I've ever been in conversation with both my mother's spirit. Her grandmother's spirit and my dad's mother's spirit together. I don't think I've ever brought them together to sit together. Um, and I know they didn't meet, but it's somehow very nurturing and I feel somehow the, the arms of these women who have made me right. And uh, yeah, that's really special. I mean, okay, we're like four minutes in and I'm already like o ask gentler questions, just ask easier questions next time. Cuz I can't be invoking the spirits so early in the morning.

Tolu Agbelusi:

You went straight to the characteristics and the women, and if you hadn't, what I would be saying is who are the women who immediately come to your mind with that definition and why? Um, so yeah, you kinda went straight there organically, which is great

Naana Orleans Amissah:

but it's also very revealing to me. Right. Um, I've never thought of it this way. I mean, my great-grandmother that I talked about who raised her seven kids, she, I mean, I wouldn't say that I never met her, obviously, but she wasn't a nice woman. I mean her, no, her nickname was Tantri Sebɔ, which is the, uh, the tiger of Tantri, which is where we come from. And she wasn't named that because she was graceful and feline. She was mean She really was. And I think, from my, my standpoint, I think she was mean, and she was hard because she was taking on the role of, of, um, protecting and providing for her children. And she was in a state of survival. Right? And so it's interesting to me that I would, Strength does not mean nice and strength does not mean polite necessarily. Right? And, but it also means it, um, that it's, it's complicated because she achieved something incredible. But how hard must that have been? How lonely, how infuriating you don't get married and have seven kids and then, you know, Mr. Man dies off within 10 years and you're left with, with seven children.

Tolu Agbelusi:

Yep. At any time. But at that time, especially,

Naana Orleans Amissah:

Right, and at a time also where even though in the kingdom I come from the Fanti kingdom, women are, have a lot of power and we inherit from our mothers. So there is a lot of, you know, respect and independence for women, but seven children is a lot. And it was still a colonial time. It was still a time when men had the upper hand economically and she had to do all of that. So I, I think it's a really interesting question because strength I think these days has so many connotations, you know?

Tolu Agbelusi:

Mm.

Naana Orleans Amissah:

but I think it's a very complicated question to, to ask, and it's an even more complicated question to answer.

Tolu Agbelusi:

If you could think of three women who you would say have widened the sphere of possibility for who you get to be in the world, and by that I don't just mean people in your family, it could be some kind of public figure, but it could also be people who are close to you. Um, who would those women be and why?

Naana Orleans Amissah:

God, I feel very grateful, uh, that I get to answer this because I think the women that I'm going to mention are really special. So one is my aunt. She's my dad's cousin, Auntie Maria Sekyi. And again, it's so interesting how influences seep into you, right? Um, I loved anti Maria because she was her own woman. I remember visiting her when we were little. So on Sundays we'd go to church and if we'd been good after our nap, the treat was we'd go to for a drive. if it was, if we were really good, um, we would go to one of my, one of two of my dad's cousins, right, Who would either be Auntie Maria who I'm gonna speak about, or, um, Auntie Baba ,Auntie Sisi Baba Auntie Sisi Baba would make us homemade ice cream, which was a treat in itself because I didn't know people could make it. But Auntie Mariah would fry us sweet potato fingers. Now, apart from the fact that this was such an amazing treat as a five, six year old, Auntie Maria also had at the top of her teeth, some gold, uh, edging. So a filling, and I just couldn't believe that the sun could shine out of a woman's mouth. Forever. I would just look at her and just be staring. And I'd always get knocked on the head like, Ah, Naana, stop it. And I was just like, Who is this woman who has gold in her mouth? It, it just used to just, I couldn't, I couldn't, I couldn't process it. But she was, for me, a complete woman in the sense that she was a Fanti Ghanaian woman. She would bust out some Fanti, she would give you one withering look, if you thought you were going to play the fool in her house, um, she would cuddle you. She was cultured. And by that I mean she knew the Amanzi, she knew the customs of the Fanti people. You know, this is a woman who also had, um, trained to be a nurse. She loved classical music. And I, what I, when I think about her and I think about why she's important to me, it's that she was comfortable in all of who she was.

Tolu Agbelusi:

Hmm.

Naana Orleans Amissah:

She was comfortable having come from a coastal village in, in, in Ghana. She was comfortable having married one of the leading diplomats who served Ghana at her independence. She was comfortable sitting with her cousin and reminiscing and eating tatale and aboboi or having Fante Fante or frying the sweet potato. And then with one sweep, she would be speaking the Queen's English, uh, reminding you that grammar was important and we were not here, to shame the family. And think when I imagine what it is, not even imagine, but when I articulate what it is that she offered me, it was this ease and fluidity between worlds. Amongst worlds. Because what it is to be a woman is, is layered. It traverses multiple spheres and what it is to be a West African Fante woman of an old family who was also a diplomat's wife. What are you doing? I mean, she went to Australia in the sixties.

Tolu Agbelusi:

Mm.

Naana Orleans Amissah:

and I raise my eyebrow because, you know, Australia doesn't have the best, um, dealings with brown folks. Let's leave that there. Um, and I think she rooted me very strongly in what it is to be Ghanian and Fanti. And I didn't even know it. I didn't even know it. And now, as a 44 year old woman, I mean, we joke about it all the time. We'll go somewhere and I'll bust some, I'll say something and you're like, Gosh, yeah, yeah, I'm really local. And I'm like, Yes, I am And I think, uh, I, I love that. And I, when I think of my mother, she was the same. You know, people who knew my mother would say, um, damn Irey was cool. You know, this is a woman who had like bouncy curls and she'd be driving a red Jensen Healey sports car through the streets of Accra playing Marvin Gaye. I mean, and this is like eighties, you know? Um, but woe betide you, you were rude or you were disrespectful. I remember, um, the devil must have possessed me because I said to my nanny sometime when I was like, Five, Shut up. Hey To this day I remember it. I mean, as I was being punished by my mother, Well first I was punished by the nanny and then I ran across the road to go tell my mom's best friend Auntie Rosie and she punished me. And then I was really chastened cuz I was like, Oh dear. So when my mom came and uh, she was told. She was like, in Fanti. She was just like, And exactly who do you think raised you? How very dare you? And one of the things she was telling me is like, this is not how we behave. Um, I also had to write lines cause then my dad got involved. But I'm saying this to say that she was a badass. There is no other, there is no other way to describe it. She was a badass. And I, I, I talk about these women with such reverence because it wasn't like their lives were easy. Yes, they were in diplomatic circles. But my mother had lost her mother at the age of 10. You know, she had had her heart shattered by her first love. Um, she married my father who had been married before. And so she gained two bonus sons. And blending a family together is not easy. She had her own demons and her own foibles. Right? Um, and these women were. Very graceful in the face of coups, famine, drought. You know, this isn't, these aren't easy things to experience or rise above or even rise below. You know, I don't want to suggest that strength is only standing on the podium, getting a medal, Getting flowers strength is also just enduring

Tolu Agbelusi:

Yes

Naana Orleans Amissah:

the impossible

Tolu Agbelusi:

And that is part an important part of the conversation, right?

Naana Orleans Amissah:

and it often doesn't even look like strength.

Tolu Agbelusi:

That's too yes yes. And it's those quiet moments

Naana Orleans Amissah:

And it certainly doesn't feel like it.

Tolu Agbelusi:

No. And you probably might not recognize it as strength. It's just looking back or somebody else looking on at what it must take to be able to hold whatever you held together, together at the time. And it doesn't mean that that's something that we want for ourselves and that we don't want the circumstance. But if the circumstance comes you wanna know, you can deal. You know?

Naana Orleans Amissah:

and the circumstance will come. the circumstance will come

Tolu Agbelusi:

why come will come? because that's life.

Naana Orleans Amissah:

You know? I mean, Yeah. I mean I think about that just as we were speaking. I was thinking about, you know, we Ghana for a number of reasons. We hadn't had rain. There had been a change in agricultural policy. There was a famine in 1983, right? And I know like lots of people listening to this are like, Oh my God, that's so like foreign. Do you not think we're living through that? Now? This the biggest living crisis in the UK of all time. You think people aren't, aren't, aren't chronically malnourished. People are not, are eating one meal. and they're buying it and it has to already be cooked because they don't wanna put on electricity. Right. So I, I'm saying this not to get political or to, to, to, to, to, to tell you my leanings that sometimes these moments of, these moments of despair touches all and fundamentally they, what they, they require of us is the same. A kind of fortitude and a kind of pragmatism

Tolu Agbelusi:

So before technology interrupted, we were talking about how strength was this two-toned thing, which wasn't always shouting. Sometimes it's the quietness in being able to endure the moment.

Naana Orleans Amissah:

and the surrender, right? Because once you've gone through the hard thing, you have to process the hard thing, right? And that's hard. That takes strength to do.

Tolu Agbelusi:

The processing.

Naana Orleans Amissah:

Ya.

Tolu Agbelusi:

Hmm.

Naana Orleans Amissah:

And I think, yeah, I think, that's hard.

Tolu Agbelusi:

It's interesting that when you were talking about some of the women in your life who have added to you know who you are and how you get to see the world. You mentioned a couple of times that you didn't even notice at the time how what they were doing was seeping into you, and I'm gonna come back to that on the other side of that coin, uh, there are the positive things, but they're also the things that you, you later decide are not for you. But before we get there, I'm interested in how women step into themselves, how we step into our power. I think I can track back to the season when I can say, ah, that's when the women nest hit me from the girlhood. Like, it's clearly not age, the thing that that clicks. And as somebody who believes in introspection, do you know when you stepped into your power in that way? Like, Oh, I'm grown now.

Naana Orleans Amissah:

What a great question. I mean, I think I've only, So I think I've been saying probably for the last couple of years, this is my time. And I think that's me stepping into my power. And it's interesting, right? I always thought that you'd become a woman when your body changed. Sadly for me, my hips have taken a very long trip and, are not really coming my, you know, as a Ghanian woman, I'm like, yes, when you are 20 will come when you have your first child it'll come when something, ah, it has never come. We are not that woman. Um, so I think for a long time I confused physical change with womanhood. I, I may well have stepped into womanhood quite late. I don't know because I don't know what the marker is. But I would say that it's certainly in my forties that I feel like I've stepped into it. And today I know I'm, I'm in it. I can't tell you a definitive date, but I can tell you a time when I felt like I've spent 20 years, maybe not 20. 18 years, 17 years, pouring my energy into my child, restructuring everything about my life for them

Tolu Agbelusi:

Mm.

Naana Orleans Amissah:

This is a choice I made, right? It was important to me for lots of reasons. Um, and even during that time, I made very clear to myself and my child and those around me that motherhood was not martyrdom for me. Being a mother did not mean that I had to not be anybody else or not accept any of the other parts of myself. But motherhood is demanding and so much as I wanted to, to feed those other cells, there wasn't much energy left, right?

Tolu Agbelusi:

Mm.

Naana Orleans Amissah:

You have to do the homework, You have to do the spelling check. You have to check that the cello's been oil that the strings have been, I mean, you know, all those things feed the child, um, or remind the child to clean up. Um, There was just a time when I was like, If I don't take care of myself, if I don't take myself seriously, I'll be a walking dead person. My soul will never recover. And so I feel like now I've definitely, I, I, I know I'm a woman now. Um, and even though the hips are still not arriving, whatever, I know I'm a woman because I have spent time hanging out with myself, and I'm very well aware of who I am and what my flaws are and where there may be areas for growth, but I also really like myself, And I think that's the moment when, for me, I stepped into my womanhood. And it's not that when I say I like myself, that all the parts that I like are good I mean, you, you know me really well, right? So often when I'm saying stuff, I'll be like, I'm just telling you it's not because I'm a good And what, what I mean by that is this is the reality for me. This is who I am. And I like it because I'm being true to myself. And so I think stepping into womanhood I've laterly understood is, at least for me, not necessarily physical, but it is a spirit. It's almost, well, it's not almost, it is a spiritual, uh, realization that this is who I am. These are the parameters that make me the human, that is Naana. And I cannot compromise that and expect to feel or act from a place of power or truth. And so, and I say it's spiritual because it really is like I have to wrestle with that, you know? And you, and you've been there when something has happened. I've called you. I'm like, Tolu Tolu is this ridiculous? Or Tolu I'm really scared, or Tolu this is freaking me out, right? And that takes a lot of vulnerability on my part to be able to say that and accept that. But it is in that vulnerability. I feel that the strength comes, that I can say, this is troubling me. I can't do this on my own. Help me. Right? And, and for me, that is, that is an expression of faith, right? That my friends will catch me or my community will catch me. But it's also an expression of faith in myself that, in saying that things are not okay, I'm not gonna fall apart. And that's paradoxically where the strength is. Right. So it is a beautiful time. I mean, it's my time. It's your time, auntie. In fact, I am, I am that woman I love. I mean, This is, my season people, this is my season. Don't come and trouble me. not come and trouble me. Uh, so, uh, but it's, and it's delicious because it has been so hard. won

Tolu Agbelusi:

So when you say it has been so hard won

Naana Orleans Amissah:

Yeah.

Tolu Agbelusi:

and, and I guess I'm just trying to break down.

Naana Orleans Amissah:

Why has it been so hard won?

Tolu Agbelusi:

Yeah. Like what, what is that process? Obviously you can't pinpoint a time, and that would be hard in any event, but that spiritual journey, that moment of awakening, like, yeah, I got some power you know, I'm not bowing down so that I can be destroyed. Uh, whilst everybody else lives that moment, like what was going on in that season, let may not say time to make you think, No, I need to reclaim myself. And then obviously continuing to do it on a daily basis.

Naana Orleans Amissah:

Ah, not every day suffering. That's, that's, that's the truth. As we say, I can't come and kill myself. I mean, it just can't be, This can't be it. Do you know what I mean? This ca it can't be that. Every day is a moment of unrelenting pain.

Tolu Agbelusi:

Yeah.

Naana Orleans Amissah:

Or work. And I think you really hit the nail on the head. There was a moment when I was like, I need, I can't live like this, so I need to change something. But the reason it is spiritual is because it's a daily practice. It's not that I got power once and I kept it. Power is a daily negotiation, mainly with myself, right? And it's a daily reconnection and reaffirmation, and it's a daily meeting of myself and deciding that today I'm going to do, I mean, this morning I woke up and it was so interesting. I was like, God, my body hurts. But then I was like, I wanna play some Lizzo because I can. And I was joyful and it was a very small thing. Nothing has changed. I still have deadlines. I'm still a parent. You know, the cost of electricity is still criminal, but. in this moment. I was like, Look at the fact that I can hear this music and dance. I get to speak to my sister today. I get to do some, I get to choose how my day is going to feel, even if I don't know what it's going to be like. And I trust in myself for that. So to come back to like, why was it so hard won? I think because for me, womanhood was an uncertain thing. I, I just didn't know what that was. I didn't know how, I didn't, I knew that there were women

Tolu Agbelusi:

Mm-hmm.

Naana Orleans Amissah:

and I knew that there were girls and I absolutely had no idea what it meant to go from being a girl to a woman. I saw that some people had had that transformation, but I was like, So where's the book, How do I do this? Am I just gonna wake up one day with my hips and then I'm gonna be a woman? Is that the thing? Cuz okay, I'm waiting. So I hadn't understood. Gosh, that reminds me of something, Tolu I think the first, one of the first moments in which I took a step towards my womanhood was leaving my marriage because it was at that moment in my life that I understood that you didn't just collect these experiences of, you go to school, you get the diploma, you find the guy, you marry him, you have the baby. You have to actually build your life. You had to build it. It was an active process, and it was a daily reconciliation of what it was that you were building to. And I don't mean like I'm gonna become a ceo, I'm gonna have a portfolio, I'm gonna build generational wealth. No, I don't mean that I, That also is part of it. But what I mean is the internal architecture that needs to be imagined designed. Built and maintained for you to be, to have integrity as a person, to have integrity as a woman, I just didn't understand. I didn't understand that. I don't know, maybe I was born a dreamer. I just thought, ah, he's a guy. He's become a man. I'm a girl. I've become a woman. I, I didn't understand it, but I remember being in my marriage and at some point thinking, this ain't it, and collecting my things and leaving, and I couldn't explain it. I didn't know how to articulate it. All I knew was if I stayed again, my soul would shrivel. And something very strong in me was like, We're not gonna let that happen. And I think that was the first step towards my womanhood, because first of all, I was claiming my personhood. I was claiming the value of my own life, you know? And I wasn't just letting life happen to me. I was like, Oh, I can choose it. I can choose to do this thing. And so when you say, what was the moment? I think it was in a moment where I'd been so disengaged with the core of who I was

Tolu Agbelusi:

Yep.

Naana Orleans Amissah:

And in that moment I took a brave but also wildly, wildly risky move. I think about like, honestly, I think about it and I'm You're nuts. Um, but also you're brave and also damn, your intuition is hardcore. Cause I could, I didn't know the words, but I knew I wasn't gonna stay. Right. Um, so I think that it's hard won because it's a lot of eye opening, you know, or soul opening and coming to coming, facing your soul is not pleasant. I don't know. I don't know All these self-help books. like it was not pleasant because you have to see who you are. You have to look with your heart at what your soul is made for from, and how often you have neglected that and disappointed that that's a lot of pain. That's a lot of realization. It's a lot of grief. It's a lot of looking at missed opportunities and looking at your own stupidity. I have to say it, it's like you knew that was a bad idea, but you went in anyway. That was a bad idea and you did it again. I mean, come on. That's the truth. That's the truth of it. And if you have good girlfriends, I'll be like, Okay, listen, I love you, and sometimes you're cute, but this was stupid. I have no other tender way of telling you, and you have to tell yourself that because until you do that, you can't hear it from anyone else. And it, ah, the shame will also come here. Like, ah, so a whole Irene's daughter, a whole Irene's daughter. This, this is the choice you made and now you're here crying. What will you not be doing but crying? You'll be crying. This was a bad, like, you have to be, you have to go through this multiple times. And it's only in doing that, that you can be back and be like, Tolu man, that was a bad

Tolu Agbelusi:

but it's gone

Naana Orleans Amissah:

I don't know what was going on. I just, let's not even talk. Let's not even name it that time in my that period in my life,

Tolu Agbelusi:

But yeah, you do that, but you're like, you know, it's gone. We're here Now we move

Naana Orleans Amissah:

know what I mean? It's like, but for the grace of God, we are here. And then you start sending like an auntie, you're like, Ah, sis man. That was not, that was not a plan. You know? So, um, I don't, I don't think it is a, I don't think it's a one time movement. I don't think you take that step just once. You take it multiple, multiple, multiple times. And at least for me each time is scary. It's really frightening. Um, I'm also like, I'm tired. am i already not perfect. Come on, I, how many times do I have to do this? Um, but, and I think it is a process, right? I think what womanhood looked like to me a year ago is not what it looks like to me now. Yeah. So I, I don't think it's a one time deal. I don't think it's a one time experience. I think because life is ever changing. Cause you as an organism are ever changing The path to how you connect with the truest element of your womanhood will also change. And for me, in the season or in this time, it looks like relief and the sigh of arrival. You know, I'm gonna put my bags down for a minute, dust myself off. Take in the view and be like, ah, you know And someone wants to pull up a chair and sit next to me and we can have a Star beer and some chichinga you know, Kebab in Ghana, that's, that's our kebab right? Uh, your version is, Suya If we're gonna do Star beer and Suya or malt and Suya, ah, I'm ready. Because joy is a beautiful thing. And celebrating womanhood is a beautiful thing. And the celebrations don't need to be, like you said, loud or public, but they do need to be marked. And we need to do that to have the complete picture of what it is to be a strong woman. And for me, this is it. Right? And it's, it's, it's literally this. It is, if you've been listening to this, you'll notice that the pitch of my voice changes. And when it's like this, when it's tender and it's soft, this is my truest voice. But it's also a very vulnerable place for me to be. So I'll be like, Ah, quickly, let me just cover that up. let me Let me, be Raz for two minutes. You know, because it's not an easy place to be all the time, but I do need to tap into it at least a couple of times a day. You know, I need to at least visit that room where my soul is and remember her and connect with her. And yeah, remember that this is strength. I don't know how you've gotten me to say all this stuff. I don't even know what kind of I don't know Womanhood, retreat, This is because let me tell you,

Tolu Agbelusi:

Girl, it is beautiful

Naana Orleans Amissah:

in the morning

Tolu Agbelusi:

to you say all

Naana Orleans Amissah:

I don't know where you're pulling this from.

Tolu Agbelusi:

my pastor is preaching. Let her preach. I'm, I'm the congregation. I'm listening this morning.

Naana Orleans Amissah:

Ah is Amen. Amen

Tolu Agbelusi:

I figure the next question because before that we had been talking a lot about the things you had picked up subconsciously from women around you who you watched growing up, which helped you to define what strength was. And so I'm interested in the other side of that. In some of the things that you picked up from women around you, whether those women or other women, which you have had to let go of as you have gotten older, which you have realized actually these things don't belong to me. They don't have to be part of who I am. so that you've to unlearn them And what are those things?

Naana Orleans Amissah:

Um, so many we may need longer than the hour. I would say one of them is this relentless demonstration to oneself and to the community that one is industrious. Um, so we have the saying, or at least the saying was said to me a lot by my aunt when I was growing up, Bɔ wu tsir na y3 adzi which literally means hit your head and do something, which means use your initiative and find something to do, which also means that there is always something to do and no time for you to just lounge around. And, um, I remember a couple of years ago when, you know, the nap ministry rest is resistance came back to the forefront, right? So it wasn't a new idea because we know that activists were talking about it in the sixties. Um, but when it came back into certainly my consciousness, a couple of years goes, I remember rolling my eyes and thinking, ah, that's for these Americans. They are just too much. What do they mean? Um, And then I remember taking a sort of workshop with, uh, or was a conversation about rest with, with a now friend and she was talking about she'd actually come. To our offices to talk about burnout. And in hindsight, I didn't understand what burnout was in my head, I had the answer of course. I was like, Oh, when you're burnt out, it means that you're tired and you're stressed. Um, and what I hadn't understood was that it was this sort of draining of your soul to the level of complete apathy, um, where the battery of your body and your mind and your soul just doesn't like move at all. There's like no needle shift day to day. But anyway, one of the things she asked was, um, where did you learn your work ethic? And I remember being so humbled and I was like, Ah, I'm going to just have to eat my words. Maybe my African American sisters knew something. Let me just eat my, let me just eat my meat pie. Um, and it really was so humbling and also so such a moment of grief to understand that I had been pushing myself in a way that wasn't even my own drive. And I'd been scared to, um, listen to myself and almost frightened that if I did, I would be acknowledging that I was a failure because I wasn't Being industrious and industrious didn't even mean that I was doing anything important. I was just doing something. And much as it, it's humbling to say that I've learned or I'm in the process of learning how to take time for myself and rest at a deep level. That's what I'm learning. One of the many things that I have had to reconsider and re-articulate for myself is, who am I doing this for and why am I doing it? And it certainly was a lesson that was taught to me as part of what it meant to be a woman. You know, men could relax and sit and be served. Men could come and put their foot, feet up after a hard day at work and watch matches match of the day because that is what some men in my family did watch. And then they would be served right. There would be. What you guys call chin, Chin, there would be tidbits, malt, beer. Do you know what I'm saying? And it would be a woman serving them. And this is not to say that you mustn't care for or nurture the people you love. It's one of my love languages. But I also want the option to be like, I'm tired and the chin chin is in in the cupboard and your two legs are really working. So please help yourself. I also want that option and not to feel that in any, that saying that in any way diminishes me as a woman or makes me a bad host or makes me somehow agre, you know, aggressive or um, or somehow less than. So I think that's definitely been something to be aware of and to pay attention to so I can make considered choices for myself in my best interest. I would say another thing is this idea I picked up really young, that to be pretty or beautiful. Is to not be intelligent. I'm not entirely sure where I picked it up from because the women that surrounded me were exquisite. They were so stylish, they were so beautiful, and they were so smart. But somewhere along the way, and this may not have come from women, this may have come from hearing men talk about beautiful women. Um, I decided that if I had to choose one of them, I absolutely would choose intelligence.

Tolu Agbelusi:

That is the second part of this conversation. There's, there's a thing that you may get from the women around you, but then there's also the societal conditioning which also seeps in from wherever it comes from.

Naana Orleans Amissah:

Right. Um, and, and look, there you. I know that historically, and certainly right now, there are many genders in the world, but when I was growing up, there were two genders, right? Um, and the thing is, those two genders inhabited my world. So if I wasn't learning it from the woman, I would've been learning it from the men who would've been conditioning, the woman who would've been conditioning the men, right? So it's not that one, um, exists in a vacuum. How one thinks impacts how one behaves and how one behaves ultimately impacts how we are taught to think and behave, right? So they're all interlinked. And I remember knowing really young, and I can't tell you when I made the decision that if I had to choose between being pretty and smart, I was absolutely always gonna choose being smart. And so the idea that I could be a, an attractive woman always felt like a. And always felt like something that would be used against me. And to be fair, it sometimes has been. Um, and even saying this makes me think, Oh my God, I'm opening myself up for so much eye rolling. And who does she think she is? Well, I think I'm cute and on some days I think I'm goddamn beautiful. And that's just how it is. Like I said in the previous, this is my time.

Tolu Agbelusi:

I mean, if it's what happened, it's what happened So,

Naana Orleans Amissah:

It's time. So I will say it. Um, but it has been used by men and by women against me as if I didn't ever have anything more to say or to contribute. Um, and I'm very aware that there are privileges to being attractive in the world. Uh, and this isn't a boohoo situation. Um, and I also want to add that women are complete worlds of their own. And their physical presentation in the world is one aspect of who they are. And it shouldn't feel like that one part is somehow unacceptable or all of who she is. And I would also say that splitting any part of, of ourselves means that we are not integrated, right? We're not our whole selves. And so we don't have whole experiences. And so learning to, learning to carry that lesson and learning to be okay in my own skin, in the moments when I feel beautiful, or in the moments that I feel cute and I'm like, um, you know, and like sometimes we joke about it, you know, um, is certainly something that is a work in pro in progress. And on the flip I've also had to learn that when people behave in ways that feel like they want to diminish me, that's on them. And I have to trust my gut. And we had this conversation, do you remember we were a few weeks ago, it was you, me, and my partner, and we were having this conversation about the vibes you get right from women. And he was like, Ah, as well, women. And I was like, it's not just women, Men have it too. But you know, like in learning that I can be all of myself and not any one part of myself should be hidden because of what other people fear. I have also learnt the third lesson, which is my gut is my best friend. My gut is absolutely on point. And often I have, I've, I've said this to you before, I have absolutely no proof. I have absolutely nothing tangible, and yet I know this to be true. Um, and that has taught me to really trust my gut. and it isn't, I think the corollary to that is I've had to unlearn that I don't have to be a nice girl. I don't have to be a nice woman because if I feel your vibes and they're off, listen, I will go back to my village in country wear my wrapper and come for you. Like I don't have be nice and I care. You know? And, and then I'm like, Listen, I'm my great grandmother's child, you know what I'm saying? And us for her, she was called Sibɔ Tantri Sibɔ. So she was really a big cat and she was the lion or as a leopard of Tantri and that wasn't cuz she was sleek, as I said. And feline, she was fierce. And so if you take me there, then you will meet me there. Right? I feel that's like a real Auntie Maxine thing. If you come for me, I'm gonna come for you. But in all of this, I'm saying part of having to accept how I am received in the world is that I also need to trust my gut. And my gut doesn't need to be based in a legal fact. It needs to be based on the truth that my gut senses things and I'm a feeler of the world. I understand energies and I feel them, and I need to trust that. And then I would say the last thing that I'm learning to let go of, and this is a big one, is what it means to be a mother and a good mother.

Tolu Agbelusi:

Okay.

Naana Orleans Amissah:

And that my humanity, Means that I will have limitations as a mother, and that doesn't make me less of a mother. It just makes me a human mother because there are things that I don't know, and there are things that I'm not good at and things that challenge me and things that put me in a bad space where I'm not able to be my best self. And it's important that I don't compare my motherhood to anybody else's because they're not in my shoes. Um, and also my experience of motherhood isn't a movie. I'm not here to make a poster for people to say how cute that was or to rate me. I'm here to do the best that I can for me so that my child can live in the world as the best version of themselves. And I strongly believe that motherhood is not matyrhood. I don't believe that I should matyr my whole life for my child because that's a bad example to set for my child. And so learning that my experience and my presentation of motherhood is valid, it is incomplete. It is imperfect and it is not to be compared to anybody else is a massive, massive lesson that I'm learning every day. And you know, in my culture, there are so many expectations that come with motherhood. Not to say that there isn't in the Western world, they're just different expectations. And I think I've been trying to write my own rules and um, I absolutely believe in respect, but I don't believe in fear as a synonym for respect so that my child doesn't have a voice. Uh, but that also means that my child has a big voice. And sometimes I'm like, Ah, so do you really not fear me? Do you not fear me? Are you just talking to me anyhow? You know what I mean? And I have to learn how to do this, and I don't always have a reference point. So I think, oh gosh, becoming a woman and stepping into my womanhood has essentially been a process of learning that I write my own rules. And that's scary because who knows if the rules work and also what are the rules? And also are they rules? Should I write rules? Um, and who will stand with me when I write these things that maybe they don't agree with, uh, and maybe they have strong views on. Um, and how do I stand tall and be honest about who I am, where I'm struggling, where I'm growing, where I'm damn amazing, and where I'm not gonna have other people dampen my light? And I think I said it in a little earlier when we were talking that, you know, it took me leaving my marriage to understand that my life was my own and that I could mold it in my own hands. But there's nothing more scary than freedom because now you can't bitch and complain about anyone else. It's just So I'd say those are the four lessons, or four themes. That I'm learning to shape differently.

Tolu Agbelusi:

Those are huge things. All of them be, and especially the gut thing growing up, I, I was always like, I knew something's gonna go wrong here, Something's dodgy over there with that person or that. But then, because like you said, there's no strict conk evidence for whatever, I would always doubt myself as to whether or not I was just being cynical or if whatever I was feeling was right. And most of the time, not all, but most of the time, I was right

Naana Orleans Amissah:

Well, it's there to keep us safe.

Tolu Agbelusi:

about whatever I thought initially. So as I've gotten older, that's something that I'm still struggling with. Um, but trying to trust whatever my instinct is a little bit more because I don't know why, but there's a reason it's there. Right.

Naana Orleans Amissah:

absolutely.

Tolu Agbelusi:

as my people would say, your buddy's talking to you.

Naana Orleans Amissah:

It lowers your anxiety. a, we have a saying in Fanti Mi akoma a to mi y3m, which means my mi akoma, my heart has fallen into my stomach, which means I'm no longer anxious. I'm like, I'm steady. Right? And I feel like when we don't listen to our gut, what happens is we, we doubt ourselves. And at least for me, I go into, let me give them a second chance. Let me be a nice person. Let me be, let me do the Christian thing. Right? But you know, Our JC here here did not suffer fools. He also wasn't about that. He was like, my friend, No. Oh, I'm not having this. And so I have to remember that. And not just that, but the, I, I guess the other thing, and I don't know, it's if it's an unlearning or if it's a relearning or if it's a new learning, but the other side of that is that I have to be comfortable with the consequences of the choices I make with my gut. And typically when I make a gut choice, it is not comfortable cuz I'm like, Damn. But when I haven't made those gut choices or followed through with those gut choices, here come those bad choices that I talked about earlier in the conversation. Bad, bad choices that require you to mourn them. Look at yourself in the mirror and be like, Ah, Naana, you knew better than this. What were you doing? Ah, not listening to my gut. And so it's a kind of circular lesson that I have to practice every day, right? What am I feeling? How does it serve me? How do I support myself and who has earned the privilege of standing with me while I do that? Because it's not, not everybody gets a pass.

Tolu Agbelusi:

Yep. And that is such a lovely way to put it, an apt way. Who has earned the privilege to stand with me in that way? Because if we're talking about peace as well, like the older you get, the more you realize no, some people just need to go.

Naana Orleans Amissah:

Yeah, but you know, look, and it's not easy, right? It's not easy, right? Because in the process of parsing or selecting who gets to stand with you is a reckoning of your loneliness and what you are willing to accept. So it's not that any of these choices are simple, easy, brownie or fried plantain choices. They're not delicious. They're not glistening at you and say, Oh yes, this is absolutely for you in the choice to to to do better for yourself. You have to lose something. And in that loss is mourning, right? And sometimes the best choice is the most difficult choice. And that has really hard to learn because I'm like, Well, that sucks. I mean,

Tolu Agbelusi:

that that is also antithetical to a lot of stuff that is said right now. You know, like, no things, Everything should be easy, everything should whatever. And I'm like, No. A lot of the things that are best for you are not easy. They're gonna push you way outta your comfort zone and be

Naana Orleans Amissah:

But we know this Tolu It's, We know this. Look at the universe. Look at the world We live in A butterfly. You think it's easy to bear to be there? Chomping leaves being eaten by birds, spinning yourself of cocoon, being in the dark, not being sure if you're gonna be able to flutter your wings out. Living for what? 20 something days after that like. That's not great. Like if you put it down on paper, that's not great Do know what I Or like the Big bang theory. Do we think that it was fireworks and beauty? No, it was heat and fusion and messiness. And we still can see the, the, the outcome of that massive, uh, creation. We see it in the stars. Right. And I don't even know how I've gotten here cuz I was not good at physics. Um, but I ju I, it's not easy. And I also think that it's also not doom and gloom and finding the middle of it isn't easy and that it is a moment by moment practice and it can be wildly beautiful. Is such a trip. I mean, who would know that on a rainy gloomy Thursday in August in London Town, we would be having this really kind of soul expanding conversation. And I said it last time, I was like, I don't know how you're pulling this out of me, because I don't even know that I have this within me. And sometimes when I say these things, I really feel this kind of real tenderness in my, in my heart, where I have to take a deep breath, right? Because I'm like, Ooh, these are really intimate things that I'm sharing and it feels okay to share them, but it also feels like I've opened a door and to a, a very personal space, right? And it's, it's that duality of is my truth and I'm saying it unfiltered. And also my truth is in the core of me. And that's a really. Really tender place that I don't invite many people, um, to see. And then I'm doing it on a podcast, which is so nuts

Tolu Agbelusi:

I know but I I appreciate that you have chosen to have this conversation. Cuz I said it, I said it last time and I'm saying it again. I'm sitting here listening like, Oh my gosh, preach. Yes. And that, and that like, you, you are, the whole point of this is that we all think things and we all process things differently and some people don't process. They, they stumble from think to thing and they know kind of. And so that in these conversations with different people, it's kind of like at some point in hearingwhat Naana did, and what I don't know, Sarah did, or whoever, we're able to piece ourselves together a little bit more. We see the things that we've done without being able to name. Um, and we also see the parts that we've been struggling with, but we didn't know how to get there, but somebody else has got there somehow. So their way might not be our way, but it helps to find out what their path to the puzzle was. And I think even in thinking about that on some of the things that you've just said, value is something that comes to mind. Like where we draw our value from. We're in a world where people tend to draw their value from what they do and on purpose. I didn't start this by saying, Ah, what do you do? You're whoever, whoever, whatever, because it's not about that. But you are a leader in your industry. You're director of strategy at Media Monks. You run, uh, NOA you started found art where you were speaking to artists all over the world. You do all of those things and more you mentor, you teach creative facilitator. Those are just a few other things that you do, and it is possible to say, yes, that's what I draw my value from and it, or that's part of what I draw my value from and, and people differ on that. So I do have to ask, or I am going to ask, what do you draw your value from and has that changed over time? So I will say I had to learn in my early twenties that my value was not what I did. So I got married really young out of university and had our child really young. I was 23 when Alex came into our world, and most people that I'd graduated with from the LSC wanted to go into M A because this was before the bus, right? We didn't know better. Or maybe we did. But M and a.

Naana Orleans Amissah:

wanted to be in M and A. Me I didn't want to mergers and acquisitions in the city. So they wanted to be in the banking world, do these massive corporate deals, make lots of money. I was like, I don't wanna work 20 hours a day. I, I, this is just not my thing. Um, and so I got married really young and I had Alex, I did have a career. I, I, I worked at Unilever, but while everybody was working the 20 hours going to Ibiza you know, high living it in the city, I was changing nappies, right? And then you have to ask yourself, So I've gone to this great school. I have a great degree. I've worked two years of my life in a professional setting. Is this it? And so, from a really young age, I had to try and figure out who I was and what drove me. And I would say that it's a combination of many things, right? I would say that I draw my value increasingly from myself. So, as you know, I, I meditate. And that quiet time is really important to me. As are the moments where I physically move my body, right, because it's in the movement of my body or sitting still that I understand who I am and therefore can fashion who I want to be, right? Um, but I would also say that I draw my value from the people who are closest to me. And I know that that may be a really unfashionable thing to say because I think that the narrative now is like everything is within you. You are just, you know, you are your whole world. I am not my whole world. Um, I am part of my community. I am part of the aunties who talk too much and keep asking me inappropriate questions. I am the arguments that I have had with people at work or my girlfriends. I am the books that I have read. I. Um, the vulnerable moments when I've called my friends in tears. I am all of those things and all of those things give me value because in connecting with somebody, I see that I, there is a space in the world held for me. I learn again that being vulnerable is not a terrible thing. I learn again that actually, yes, my aunties can be a lot. Ask me, Am I going to be married again? Will I have another baby? And what I really understand from that is that I come from a community of communality. We are a group-based people. And so the more the merrier. And also because, um, these are traditional values that are placed on women and they want the best for me, and that, that may be the circumference of their hope for me, but it is a hope that is really full, right? They want the best. They want me to have that because that, for them is the highest achievement. And it's not for me to discredit doubt them. It's to say, Do you know what in the world that they know, they want the best of that for me? Right? So I think that my value comes from my own sense and my own discovery of who I am day to day. Because I am not a complete woman yet, or I'm not a, that's not true. I'm complete, but I'm not finished. And I have a hand in fashioning who I want to be and how I want to live in the world every single moment, right? And so that, that I get my value from that. And I also get my value from all the roles that I play, including being a mother, being a friend, being a partner, uh, being a creative person, and discovering what I can do of myself and share of myself in the world.

Tolu Agbelusi:

Thank you.

Naana Orleans Amissah:

Did I answer that? Where I get my value from?

Tolu Agbelusi:

Yeah, I think you did, you certainly did. ,why you got something else percolating up there as to as to what and why.

Naana Orleans Amissah:

Well, no, I'm just thinking like I, I, I mean, I spoke off the top of my head, right? But my value, where do I get my value or where do I get my values? And I think I answered the second, the second one, where I get my values from the people around me, the people I surround. But where do I get my value? As in what makes me think I'm worthy?

Tolu Agbelusi:

Mm-hmm.

Naana Orleans Amissah:

Um, I don't know. I feel like that's a slightly different thing.

Tolu Agbelusi:

I mean, it could be or it could be the same.

Naana Orleans Amissah:

Hmm. I'm gonna leave it there because I feel like that's too hard a question to answer.

Tolu Agbelusi:

Okay. We'll leave it there. We'll take it as, as you have. you have done the demarcation for yourself though, that that's where you get your values from, but it's not necessarily where you get your value from. That works, I'll take it. Um, I guess

Naana Orleans Amissah:

You'll take in my friend. That's what I'm offering.

Tolu Agbelusi:

I will take it. I thank you. I appreciate it, My next question is, what scares you?

Naana Orleans Amissah:

So many things. I think one of the things I have learned in the last two years being in a really loving partnership is that I actually, I've been scared of a lot in the world. I've been frightened to stand out. I've been scared to be all of myself. Um, I have demarcated parts of myself, like my Fanti self from the graduate self, from the professional self, from some other self. And I feel like this part of my life is about integrating all of the parts of who I am, and that is what tempers my fear. I also think I'm scared that I won't have the courage to do what it is I'm supposed to do in the world, you know, fulfill my purpose. And the thing is, I'm not sure that I know what that is.

Tolu Agbelusi:

Okay. I can't speak about womanhood and unlearning and in fact, even from the answers you have given, I can't speak about all that without speaking a little bit also about sisterhood. Um, what is sisterhood to you?

Naana Orleans Amissah:

Gosh, can we have an easy answer like, what's my favorite ice cream flavor? Cuz I can tell you that, um, I mean, question rather, can we have a easy question? Um, so the first thing I would say is that sisterhood is something that I wasn't biologically granted, right? Like, I have three older brothers and I'm the youngest of the brood. So it's not something I grew up with. However, I went to boarding school at 10 and it was an all girl school. And I would say that sisterhood became safety and sisterhood is a place of honesty for me. Right? Um, I don't have many people that I claim as sisters, and I choose them very carefully. And I don't call everybody sis. Um, I have a cousin who I call my cousin's sister friend, or, or my sister, cousin, friend, rather scf because she is my sister, my cousin, and my friend. And those are all choices. And I would say that for me, sisterhood is a place where you can go and just rest. You can just come and lie on the couch and do nothing and relax. You know? It's a place where I don't have to make any particular effort, you know, I don't have to perform. Um, and I feel like sisterhood is also a teaching of values and culture by osmosis. So you see, or you feel a certain bond with people and through that you absorb the way they are. Right? Um, because you see, oh wow, this is something amazing that she has. So I have a, you know, I have a, one of the girl, women in, in the sisterhood is somebody who delights in beauty and she can find beauty anywhere and she can save a beauty at any moment. And it's so gorgeous to behold, you know, because I can be in a hurry. I have a sister, you know, her, Vanessa, with whom I'm wholly inappropriate. We say wholly inappropriate things and we love. You know, I have my crew and Antigua, who, with whom we talk about our partners, we talk about what it is to be a parent. We talk about what it is for one of us to not be a parent and what that means and what, and we expand the definition of that so that parenting is not a biological state, but a state of care. Because some of my girlfriends don't have children of their own, but they are hardcore aunties to their nieces and nephews. I mean, hardcore They will be having conversations about life, eh, Don't be disgracing the family, Jesus aunties. But I also feel like sisterhood is one of those experiences like Italian food that everybody thinks that they can make. And it's not true. There's a lot of surface. Nonsense, which people say is sisterhood and that isn't it. Right? There is a kind of false smushing together of people who identify as women to say, we're sisters and we're not. I don't like everybody and you're not my sister. It's not because you're black or female or you're Ghanaian or we went to the same, You are still not my sister to us. Still very much not my sister. And I think at the core of it for me is that my sisters and what sisterhood means is a care and a consideration, a place of comfort and safety, and a place where I can just sigh and be all of myself. Um, and I feel like we have that, you know, we talk a lot of like silly things, little memes, but I still think we can sit there and really talk about. Complicated, difficult, and sometimes seemingly simple things that are troubling us. You know, Hey, can you look over this email? Because

Tolu Agbelusi:

I might need a filter.

Naana Orleans Amissah:

saying everything I need to say

Tolu Agbelusi:

Yes.

Naana Orleans Amissah:

that too. Or this thing is coming to my inbox and it's making me super anxious. Can you help me? Or, I'm really scared and it doesn't make sense. Can you just, do you have space to listen to me? Um,

Tolu Agbelusi:

Yeah.

Naana Orleans Amissah:

or sometimes it's like we're out in public and we see something and we just look at each other and we're like, Don't look at me. Please don't look at me. If we're gonna get in trouble, do not look at me. Totally. Don't look at me You know? Or sometimes it's like a suspicion that one or either of us have had.

Tolu Agbelusi:

Mm-hmm.

Naana Orleans Amissah:

And we haven't said it to the other,

Tolu Agbelusi:

and then it plays out

Naana Orleans Amissah:

then we do. And it's like, Oh my God. Yeah, me too. And then you're, then you just feel so seen and you feel not crazy. Right? So I think for me, that is what sisterhood is. It's um, and it's diff there is a, there is a substantive and experiential difference between the relationship you have amongst your sisters, then the relationship you have as a female amongst your brothers. Cause I also have some incredibly nurturing, kind, loving relationships with men that I consider my brother.

Tolu Agbelusi:

Mm-hmm.

Naana Orleans Amissah:

And it's a different thing. But principally I would say that it is a place of safety. And from that safety, everything else arises because when you feel safe, you can be, you can be silly, you can be creative, you can be doubtful, you can be scared, you can be anxious, you can be surprised. Right? But at that, at, in the, in the hammock of safety that is created in true sisterhood, you can be all of who you are and any part of who you are. Right. And I also think that it's not necessarily a peer relationship because my sister, cousin friend is 17 years older than me. Right? Um, I have that with a woman who's 20 years older than me. Um, I had that with somebody who was 17 years younger than me. Um, and I definitely have it with my niece. Um, you know Stephanie, who. I have a really special bond with. So I don't think that it is a pure relationship. I think it is a network relationship, and it's really, I mean, I talked about a basket, but actually what I was thinking of is a kenten, Sorry, I talked about a hammock, but what I'm really thinking about is a kenten, like a woven basket, you know? Uh, and it's all of these weaves and wes, uh, that make it,

Tolu Agbelusi:

That's a beautiful way to think about it. What brings you joy?

Naana Orleans Amissah:

Oh, food Um, food connection. I mean, I probably would say the answer is connection, right? And in that connection food, it's connecting me to my memories. It's connecting me to my culture. It's connecting me to discovery. It's connecting me to travel, it's connecting me to people's time and patience. Um, And then it could be poetry, right? It could be when you're reading and you're like, Mm mm and you don't know what to do with yourself. Should you underline it? Should you highlight it? Should you post it? Should you text a friend like you, you don't even know what to do anymore. You're like, ah, you know, Um, it could be, um, a really good hug, like a really good hug. You know, one of those my dad used to give them and my partner gives them. Um, and it's one of those hugs where you're like, you're held strongly, but also with care. So you're not squashed, but you're absolutely, uh, again, connected. Right? Um, you know me, I love a walk. I like to just walk and ramble and see what's around me. I like to sit in the sun. I think I have a lot of joy.

Tolu Agbelusi:

And I guess my very last question is, do you ever think about legacy? And if you do, what do you want yours to be?

Naana Orleans Amissah:

I mean, I do, and I, it's something that I've often wrestled with, I think, or the legacy I would like to leave is really with a well-balanced child, or of course adult. I want Alex to be a well-balanced adult who has the courage and the sensitivity to be the best of themselves, whatever that means. And that's it. That's my legacy. I, I, And it's not, That's it, That's like a huge thing, right? Because you're talking about somebody else's life. I, and the flip side of that is a kind of like, on my deathbed, I want to be surrounded by love. I want to be able to think about the relationships that I had, because ultimately that's it. And I know this from moments when I've been at my lowest. It isn't anything that I achieved externally. It it, it's the memories, it's the conversations. It's the words of kindness that sustain me. It isn't ever writing a brief or becoming strategy director or head of my department. It's none of those things. I never think about that. Do you know what I mean? It's always the strength of the relationships that I have created. And they don't have to be many, but they do need to be depthful. And I think it's an odd way of saying it, but at the moment, when I leave the earth, I think the legacy of love is also something that I want, right? Because I know that I would've built these amazing relationships. I can go in love, I can go surrounded by love. I can go giving love. I can go, um, exuding that, and not fighting it because I will have fulfilled that. I will have, I would've filled each vessel that I, I meet with as much love as I'm able to, and that's the legacy that I want, right? It's like that I've received it so I can give it out. And that Alex is the best person that they can be. And I don't mean that even in a like West African mama's voice, I literally mean if the best person Alex is going to be is to be the kindest person, the quietest person, um, the most observant person, um, an animal whisperer, um, then that's what it is. And, you know, that's taken me some time to get there. Um, but yeah, ultimately my legacy is one of support for Alex or foundational, um, structure and one of love

Tolu Agbelusi:

A legacy of love is such a beautiful way to end this conversation, which has been affirming in so many ways. I love to speak to people and come out thinking, I didn't think I was gonna get all of that, but I learned like, if this thing never goes anywhere else, this was useful for me, But uh, yeah, it's been lovely just hearing the way you work through things and also the, the continuous, cuz you mentioned, At different points with different questions. This is a step by step. This is a moment by moment. This is a day by day. It's that commitment to actually fully inhabit myself. It's not just going to happen. I have to put some work in, and it's a daily practice of, of coming into my own and making sure that I'm where I need to be. And that's, that's a good lesson, um, to remember at a time when constant doing might, you know, edge us out of the introspection that is necessary to take stock and figure out where things go. So, thank you

Naana Orleans Amissah:

Thank you for, for having me and for allowing us to talk on a really intimate and fulfilling level. You know, there's so much. Empty chatter these days. God, I really sound like an auntie you know, like there's so much just empty, frivolous chatter that it's really surprising not because it's you, but it's surprising in my day to day to have a conversation in which parts of me that I don't typically share, um, get to come out and play. So thank you for that

Tolu Agbelusi:

Good people. Thank you for rocking with us on today's episode of Unlearning Strong Woman. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did. You should definitely check out Naana's interview series called Found Art over on Instagram. All the details will be in the show notes, so much to take away from today. But if I could reduce it to a statement, it would be this. Stepping into the fullness of who you are is a choice and a daily practice, which requires you to take time and space to rest and process who you are, what you need, and how to feed your soul. We will be back with a new episode at the end of next month. In the meantime, it will be great to know what you thought about this episode. Hit me up on Instagram or Twitter at ToluAgbelusi is the handle. Details and spellings will be in the show notes. Until next time, this is Unlearning Strong Woman.