Poda-Poda Stories is a digital platform and literary journal that gathers rich stories from Sierra Leone and the Sierra Leonean diaspora, founded by Ngozi Cole in 2019. The name “Poda-Poda Stories” comes from Cole’s high school days where she travelled to school via beloved mazda buses, called “poda podas”. As she writes on the site:
“I heard some of the most interesting stories of everyday Sierra Leoneans in those buses, and they are the heartbeat of my city, Freetown.”
Curating pieces which range from essays, poems, prose, interviews, to more visual mediums such as short films and featured photography, Poda-Poda publishes work by and for Sierra Leoneans, promoting the mantra: “Our experiences, our stories, our literature.”
We were delighted to have the opportunity to catch up with Cole for her Words on the Times – an AiW Q&A series inspired by the spirit of community and resilience, intended to connect the blog’s communities through their experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Words on the Times with Ngozi Cole…
Africa in Words: Could you tell us a bit about your work and the ways that the pandemic has affected your plans?
Ngozi Cole: I am Ngozi Cole, a writer, communications professional, and the editor of a digital literary platform, Poda-Poda Stories, which curates and shares everything about Sierra Leonean literature. I started Poda-Poda Stories last year, and I wanted to have a nice little launch event this year to mark the one-year anniversary, but COVID happened. I still want to make a live event, it will definitely happen post-COVID. For now, I’ll just keep celebrating all the writers and readers who have supported Poda-Poda Stories. It started off as an idea and it has come to fruition. I just want to thank all our supporters and readers from across the world.
AiW: In what ways are you working now that you weren’t before?
NC: I work remotely a lot now, and in a way I like it. It has helped me to be more creative and flexible. For my freelance work and interview series with Poda-Poda Stories, I conduct my interviews either via Skype or Zoom, which works perfectly as it means I can talk to people who are not based in Sierra Leone, and there are no geographical barriers.
AiW: What have you found most supportive and/or heart lifting in this time?
NC: I’m really excited for the art and cultural scenes beyond COVID. I think staying indoors has given a lot of creatives time to reflect and refocus, as well get creative ideas on how we can harness technology and the digital world for creativity. That really uplifts me, that no matter what’s going on in the world, art and creativity can still shine through.
AiW: How can our blog communities support you?
NC: By sharing the work that Poda-Poda Stories is doing. It’s been a very enriching journey for me to rediscover Sierra Leonean literature, either by reading and publishing stories, or talking to Sierra Leonean authors, and I hope to share that richness with a wider audience.
You can also submit your own stories to firstname.lastname@example.org