Psychiatrist Nora Nneka on the cultural audacity to own her identity as an artist
Dr. Nora Ekeanya—artistically known as Nora Nneka—is a community psychiatrist, storyteller, and poet currently based out of Kansas City. Raised by Nigerian Immigrant parents in Florida, Nora has used creative writing as an outlet throughout her life. However, her work was met with hostility from her parents, shredding her notebooks in an aggressive statement against her creativity. As an adult, Nora is reclaiming her creative work through poetry and essays.
Her multi-faceted identity informs her creative work, writing stories that embody her childhood experiences alongside her career pursuits and experiences as a Black woman in America. Her essay, The Sense of Touch, discusses her journey into motherhood as she heals the emotional wounds inflicted by her own mother. The essay was published in the Dec. 2020 edition of Isele Magazine and received the 2022 Isele Prize in nonfiction.
Her visual poem IDENTITY was released July 2021, winning 2nd place at the Queens Underground International Black and Brown Film Festival.
“IDENTITY is talking about me as a person, my identity, and how I’ve navigated this conundrum of being a Nigerian, of being a woman, of being a black woman. IDENTITY is all of my identities, and it ends unfinished: ‘This is my anxiety, but it’s just the way it is,’” says Nora.
She discusses the risk that Black people face when visualizing and sharing their stories with white creators following her own negative experiences in the production of IDENTITY.
“You take the risk of being the person of color who is educating white people on your trauma and how to treat you,” says Nora.
The emotional labor that she experienced throughout the production of IDENTITY allows her to recognize red flags in future endeavors. She suggests that POC working in the creative industry explore their collaborator’s history and talk with people who have worked with them before. Additionally, drafting a written agreement holds everyone accountable for their piece in the collaborative process.
Nora is focused on uplifting other Black creatives in the area, using her platform to guide exposure to underpromoted artists. “The Black artists that are on 18th & Vine, the small Black-owned businesses, people running their own side projects—they are not getting publicity, and a lot of Black artists are feeling disenfranchised,” says Nora.
Kansas City contains a wealth of Black producers and artists—Seen Collective, Strange Fruit Femmes, Natasha Ria Art Gallery, Fresh Factory KC, No Divide KC, April Communicates, Black Honey Creative, Equal Minded Cafe, and InterUrban ArtHouse—all being vetted art collectives with Black and LGBTQIA+ affiliations. The organizations promote artistic collaborations from a lens of social and cultural awareness, using the arts as a force for change in the community.
The Natasha Ria Art Gallery will host a discussion on mother-daughter relationships Jan. 21, 2023. Nora is a featured speaker and will pair her personal experience and psychiatric background to explore the complexities of maternal roles in adolescence.
Nora continues to share her story through writing, having just released her debut book Swallowed Words—available for purchase on Amazon, Apple Books, and Barnes & Noble. Additional links to her work can be found on her website.