In Conversation With... Vean Ima.
After a mini, ok maxi hiatus we are back with our “In Conversation” series. Our first ‘conversation’ is an in-depth interview with the poetical songstress, mother of four and wife of one (well she better as bigamy is illegal) Vean Ima. We connected with Vean via instagram but have also had the pleasure of her company in real life. Vean is a poet with prose that stops us in our tracks on a regular basis, from viral poems about Doria Ragland to sharing vulnerabilities that set us all free. Vean talks about her upbringing, the inspiration behind her poetry, accepting love and more! I loved reading this! Over to you Vean…
Please tell us your name and what do you do?
My name is Vean Ima and I’m a Writer and Poet.
How many children do you have and what are their ages?
I have four children, three daughters and one son aged 10, 6, 4 and 2.
What is the most challenging part of caring for children at different developmental stages?
It’s the constant gear changing. Speaking almost adult like to my 10 year old and then having to slightly edit my delivery to explain the same thing to my 4 year old. The three youngest whom I call my littles are quite advanced in their comprehension of things but I am also aware that their limited experience of the world means that I owe it to them to ensure they understand a topic or scenario fully, I’ve found that this ensures they feel confident, in control and are even able to explain it to others, which is very rewarding for me to witness. However more than their developmental stages, I have found learning four different personalities and love languages the greatest challenge of all, it’s tested me, but it’s a beautiful test and one I’ve learned so much from.
You have recently started to share your beautifully emotive poetry with the world. Please could you tell us what made you decide to share your gift?
I have been writing creatively since I was a child. Being a singer, my first foray into understanding the art of poetry and story telling was through songwriting. A career I dabbled in as an aspiring RnB singer, even being offered a music publishing deal in my late teens to write for artists. Once I'd discovered boys I would write songs about break ups and crushes, at the time I never actually viewed it as poetry, I just knew writing them made me feel better. In my thirties, becoming a stay at home mum who went out less and sang less, my writing just filled every gap, helped me process all thoughts and became somewhat of an obsession. I started blogging in 2016 but found it too much of a staged medium for the type of writing I had in my heart to do. I started the Grown Woman in December 2017 and haven’t looked back.
The primary source of inspiration has to be from every journey I have walked, every lesson learned, every loss I’ve accepted or fear I’ve conquered, thats when I write fearlessly because no one can argue with my journey, its not up for debate, it’s unapologetic because it’s my truth.
Your poem about Meghan Markle’s mother, Doria Ragland at the Royal Wedding went viral! Please could you tell us what inspired that piece and how seeing your work shared far and wide made you feel?
In one word surreal! We were watching the wedding at home with the kids and as is normal when I’m faced with anything emotional, or thought provoking words began to swirl in my head. There was just something about seeing Doria sitting there that just worked up a storm in my heart. As a mother I put myself in her shoes, imagining what was going through her mind seeing the baby she birthed and nursed wed a prince in front of an audience of millions! As a fellow black woman I though about the conversation she may have been having with herself relating to being THE mother of the bride, joining a family that once could have owned her simply because of the colour of her skin. Goose bumps plus tears meant I had to pen something! During the 30 minute drive from home to the in laws, after the wedding, I wrote a piece simply entitled, ‘what I think she was thinking’ and posted it to Instagram and Facebook, with only a few hundred followers to my name at the time the poem went viral with almost 10,000 likes across my platforms, countless shares and beautiful comments from around the world, which I truly took as God saying, see I told you.
You cover some really significant topics with very few words. Each word and combination takes us deep! What inspires you? What is the purpose of your work?
Thank you, I am inspired by everything and I mean everything! The primary source of inspiration has to be from every journey I have walked, every lesson learned, every loss I’ve accepted or fear I’ve conquered, thats when I write fearlessly because no one can argue with my journey, its not up for debate, it’s unapologetic because it’s my truth. I’m equally inspired by all women known to me or not. I watch you slay, I see how you interact with your partner, I read your facial expressions, I pick up on low self esteem or inflated ego's and in my mind I begin walking in your shoes, I work backwards attempting to see what your ‘trigger’ was. I’m fascinated by what makes you, you and then I write. Within my words you all become faceless, your stories merging at times but it’s all an attempt to uncover womanhood in all it’s glory. My purpose? I want women to know they are not alone, I need women to understand that walking in their truth is the ticket to unlocking their destinies, no other shaped version of yourself you try and create will fit the lock. I want my words to be a safe house and source of escape, my hope being as my words are read there will be whispers of me too, how did you know and the two most rewarding words of all, thank you.
How has social media impacted your art?
In it’s simplicity it has given me reach and exposure, connecting me with the most amazing women and fellow creatives who serve as a huge source of inspiration. Outside of social media, I would NEVER have met them and would have missed out on the support of new friends and the encouragers of my work who keep me motivated. For me it has been a positive impact. It’s when I contaminate social media with my own insecurities or allow myself to be swept up in it’s speed that my view of it becomes tarnished.
You have talked very openly about previous abusive relationships. What has been the biggest life lesson from these experiences?
The biggest life lesson for me is that though I did not deserve any of it, It has in a twisted way been the making of me and I love who I have become. I love that it has given me art, because I was able to survive. I almost gave in to suicidal thoughts and right there and then, my story would have ended, tied forever to my abuser(s). I was more than that. I survived, won and now help others. I bloody won and it feels good!
Can I also add that one of the hugest lessons and one I’m still a bit raw and fragile over however is the revelation that in my conditioning, I always linked abusive relationships to men I was emotionally connected to. I think I needed to see a bogey man to to validate the abuse I was in receipt of. Outside of ‘romantic’ relationships I allowed abuse to be renamed or often ignored, all the while it was killing me slowly and as barbarically as any cruel man ever could. Every relationship where someone uses their influence, power and strength negatively against you, is abuse. Friends, the dogma of the traditional/ cultural version of christianity I was raised in and issues within my family have all contributed to the abuse I’ve been subjected too. It wasn’t until my thirties I realised all of these versions had impacted me in equal measure. No more bogey men, time to call a spade a spade and allow the healing to begin.
You have been in a nourishing marriage for six years now. What has your marriage taught you about loving yourself?
I have been married to my husband for just over 6 years and we've been together since 2007. The decision to commit to this love has given me the permission to breathe, no performances, no meeting expectations, just me being able to be authentically me. His love is nurturing and safe, I have literally worked through all of my issues and long held pains with him having a front row seat, seeing me birth my ugly, my defeated and my scared, emerging on the other side with him still calling me beautiful. I’d never had that before. Even when we have problems, even in the arguing, I am safe. I first met him in my late teens, we often say if only we’d started our relationship way back then but God had other plans. We married at 32 and 33 years old, grown, slightly hardened (me) but wise. Within the confines of this marriage I came to the full realisation of self love.
We can see that you are an emotionally conscious mother from the parts of your family life you share online. In terms of emotional parenting how does your experience or parenting differ from the way you were patented?
Oh wow! Well by nature I am emotional and very in tune with my feelings. A typical mother hen who has been called ‘Earth Mother’ for as long as I can remember and more recently, the ‘Black Mary Poppins’! My mother lost her mother when she was 10 years old, had an awful step mother and was sent to another island to live up until 16 years old with a couple who had no children of their own, a time she still speaks fondly about but ultimately she was left with no mother of her own to learn from. With my mother I learnt everything through watching her. Growing up we never had a FULL CONVERSATION about periods, sex, sexual health, race or identity etc, Just Seventeen Magazine was my saviour (apart from race and identity!). I wrote a poem with the opening line- My mother speaks in parables and prayers, Green bananas, salted fish and avocado pears… it is an ode to my mother. She loves with prayer, a timely scripture, food, food and more food, encouraging words but no nitty gritty. I think it just was too uncomfortable for her, not what she was used to and I never enjoyed seeing her uncomfortable. She’s literally my favourite person on the planet but for the void I was left with in that area from her inability to talk truthfully in my youth, has made me go in deep with my own children. Self love, self worth, body positivity, race, racism, colourism, bullying and more are all on our agenda. I tailor conversations to their comprehension and no topic is off bounds. My 10 year old with her freedom to interrogate me over everything the universe and it’s inhabitants have to offer proves to me that I’m heading in the right direction. My motto is..let’s talk.
What does your self care look like?
Self care for me is that MOT. It’s that timely check in. It’s securing any loose mental paving and taking the time to slot it right back into place, before I fall over it. I am not stringent about how self care is performed in my life. Any attempt at caring for self in this busy time we live in can only be positive. Some say its not a manicure or pedicure, it's not a night out or shopping. I say self care is anything we need it to be. When people start telling you what your self care should look like, we have a problem! So I often take an hour upstairs alone, in thought, in prayer, meditating on positive things to seek clarity, with strict orders that no little people should attempt to come and look for me! It’s 3 minutes in the mirror telling myself I’m doing a great job, I’m smashing it and I’m beautiful as tears fall down my face. I go to events alone and I indulge with ice cream and wine in front of a juicy detective box set or a Netflix documentary.
What do you do for fun as a family, as a couple and on your own?
As a family we love being outdoors, if the weather is nice we will be at a park, the bigger the better, we are suckers for the seaside and can often be found causing havoc in Westfield dubbed our second home by friends who can’t understand why we love it so much. I’ll tell you, it’s local, kid friendly and opens late! As a couple when we do get that rare chance to spread our wings we love eating out, a cheeky night away or we’ll settle for an Indian on the sofa while someone has the children for us. For my alone time fun, being a mum of four means silence is actually fun, I kid you not. I literally get excited when the hubby and kids leave me for a day in the house. I have the time of my life doing whatever I want, not sharing treats and get time to work on getting closer to my dreams.
Do you have any events coming up that we should know about?
I will soon be launching my online shop, where I’ll be selling my poetry as prints for your home and my quotes on bags and different products. Much of my words are positive affirmations so a deck of affirmation cards is also in the pipeline too. I cannot wait!
Family outing or Day time date - Family outing
Yrsa Daley Ward or Nayyirah Waheed - Nayyirah Waheed
Book club or Night club? - Night Club
Trainers or Heels? - Trainers
Beyoncé or Solange? - Solange
Early morning or Late night? - Early Morning
Pen and paper or keyboard/ touch screen?- Keyboard
Peach or Nectarine? - Nectarine
Coffee or Tea?- Tea but only peppermint
YouTube or IGTV?- Youtube