Skip to main content Skip to search Skip to search

Interviews, Recommendations, and More

The Chat with Roger Mooking & francesca ekwuyasi

This week, we’re in conversation with the collaborative duo Roger Mooking and francesca ekwuyasi. Their multidisciplinary project Curious Sounds: A Dialogue in Three Movements (Arsenal) is a rich and insightful conversation between two artists working across many creative fields.

Publishers Weekly raves about the book, saying, "The unorthodox structure is part of the appeal of Curious Sounds – there's a sense of a mind spilled onto the page, with sharp insights scattered throughout. The results are both odd and enchanting."

Roger Mooking_RM1_credit Lumenville Inc.

Roger Mooking is a celebrity chef, restaurateur, cookbook author, and visual and recording artist born in Trinidad and raised in Canada. He is the host of such television shows as Man Fire Food, Heat Seekers, Greatest of America, and Everyday Exotic and has appeared as a guest judge on such programs as Chopped and Guy's Grocery Games. As a musician, he has released five solo studio albums and won a Juno Award as a member of the soul/R&B trio Bass Is Base.

francesca ekwuyasi_colour 2-web size_credit Wren Tian-Morris

francesca ekwuyasi is a writer, artist, and filmmaker born in Lagos, Nigeria. Her work explores themes of faith, family, queerness, consumption, loneliness, and belonging. Her writing has been published in Winter Tangerine Review, Brittle Paper, Transition Magazine, The Malahat Review, Visual Art News, Vol. 1 Brooklyn, and GUTS magazine. Her story "Orun is Heaven" was longlisted for the 2019 Journey Prize. Butter Honey Pig Bread is her first novel; it won the Writers' Trust of Canada Dayne Ogilvie Prize for LGBTQ2S+ Emerging Writers; was shortlisted for the Governor General's Literary Award, the Amazon Canada First Novel Award, and a Lambda Literary Award, and was longlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize. In 2021, Butter Honey Pig Bread was named runner-up in CBC's Canada Reads competition.



Curious Sounds is a creative delight—a rich and lyrical collaboration between two great artists. Why did you want to collaborate on a book like this? What were your goals?

RM: I love francesca, her talent and spirit. After reading her book I knew that she was unusually gifted and chatting with her confirmed all of my suspicions fully. Curious Sounds required both a collaborative leap of faith similar to jumping into a raging whirlpool off the edge of a waterfall, and a kind of trust that can only be shared by like spirits. I knew that francesca would understand the artistic language and the chaotic world I had envisioned and would be uniquely able to balance it with her grace and ability to craft a story out of the hysteria. The goal was threefold.

Firstly it was to make something to let people know that there are still people trying to make beautiful things in the world; original, creative things to help us all make sense of the madness that is about.

Secondly, it was important to create a slow tactile experience that met and challenged the frenetic energy of our current planet, this juxtaposition is central to the whole endeavour for me. Most importantly, this collaboration is meant to inspire others to give themselves permission to expand their own perceived boundaries and express the true fullness of themselves.

As francesca so eloquently says in Butter Honey Pig Bread, "Hold it gently, this hungry beast that is your heart. Feed it well."

"Hold it gently, this hungry beast that is your heart. Feed it well."


One of the ideas that really resonated with me is the notion of presence in art, of entering a kind of flow state in order to create and be present with the act of creation. Can you talk about this more and why it’s so important in your work?

FE: The concept of flow state is referenced in so many books about creativity, I reference a couple of them in Curious Sounds as a way to contextualize conversations that Roger and I have been having for a while. It’s also something I’ve experienced while writing, art-making, and even sometimes doing mundane chores like laundry. I think it can come with routine, but it’s not quite the same as autopilot. It feels like a reward woven into the creative process, so that process itself becomes the driving purpose behind creativity.

RM: All of the music, visuals and micro stories were created from this place. There was no intent to ever release any of it and I imagined it rotting in my closet forever, so there was no strategy or ulterior motive beyond expressing what needed to be expressed from that original creative and emotional spark. All the creations were formed by unobstructed presence. There was no commercial interest during the creation phase, and given how obtuse the book is, I think that purity shines through. It means a lot that you got that sense from experiencing this book. Thank you.

There’s also a deep exploration of mortality and loss, and the ways art makes space for processing loss and working with grief and inherited trauma. In what ways has this collaboration helped you to work with these themes?  

FE: I’ve experienced quite a bit of loss in my life, and so has Roger. So themes of grief and healing have come up in our creative practices individually. I think that being in intentional dialogue and collaboration about those themes as well as being in creative practice helps me move through and transmute grief, for sure.

RM: I’m not an academic by any means but recent academia is beginning to quantify the healing powers of music and the arts. This is something that I believe humans know intuitively, and many spiritual practices have espoused for centuries, but have lost a connection to over time. The disconnect is tragic and this collaboration is about leaning back into community to rekindle the power of art and love to work through loss, grief and trauma. The whole adventure broke and repaired my spirit simultaneously, and I continue to bask is this afterglow.

Another key idea is working in the borderlands, a place of rich possibility for resistance and collaboration. For folks who haven’t read the book, can you share more what you mean by “the borderlands” and why it’s so vital to your creative practices?

FE: The borderlands is a term coined by Gloria Anzaldúa in the book Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza, it refers to the intersections of multiple societies and/or identities; akin to intersectionality coined by Kimberlé Crenshaw. I reference these concepts when I write about the importance of collaboration across mediums, cultures, and even identities as a means of cultivating solidarity. Among many things, Curious Sounds is about the enriching potential of collaboration, so I was excited to discover how many brilliant thinkers conceptualize collaboration beyond creative practice and into other arenas of human interaction.  

Looking back on the project—and now that the book is out in the world—what is the most important lesson you’ve learned from working with one another?    

RM: That your own traumas are not entirely unique, and you never know what someone is carrying in their heart and minds from looking at them on the surface or through that glowing smile they display publicly. Our individual coping mechanisms inform the way we move through the world and although seemingly individual, are also not so entirely unique.

Love Only Beyond This Point.


Excerpt from Curious Sounds

Introduction by francesca ekwuyasi

I was at a cafe, writing or trying to write, or perhaps lamenting to a friend about taxes—taxes being a stand-in for any number of tasks I must but would rather not do—or my existential dread or climate chaos or my tiny interpersonal dramas. Essentially, I was moaning about one woe or another when I received a call from Roger. “Yo, francesca!” “Hey, Roger!” “I have an idea.” I met Roger in 2021 when he championed my debut novel, Butter Honey Pig Bread, in CBC’s battle of books, Canada Reads. Our first meeting was virtual, and we talked about themes in my book—death, food, love, “madness,” the malleability of time, and consciousness—via computer screens, emails, phone calls, and texts. Our conversations have stretched beyond the scope and time of Canada Reads, where Roger valiantly defended my novel to the final round—they have encompassed our practices as creators and storytellers, our value systems, shared and otherwise, and led to a camaraderie rooted in artistry, deep curiosity, and wonder at and reverence for the conundrums of being alive. I knew Roger was working on something new because he is always working on something new. Roger is a vivid fire, endowed with a sharp and fluid energy that he directs through his many passions—music, food, visual art, and installations. Weeks before, he’d mentioned via text that he was working on some new music, an album titled SoundBites that was ignited by a 2015 Time magazine article, “You Now Have a Shorter Attention Span Than a Goldfish.” The article, by journalist Kevin McSpadden, explains that, according to a study conducted by Microsoft, “people now generally lose concentration after eight seconds, highlighting the effects of an increasingly digitized lifestyle on the brain.”

Roger was eager to play with this idea of a shortened attention span through music. The album would be short—nineteen tracks with a run time of nineteen minutes. Yes, Roger has a predilection for numbers and their symbolism. I was excited about this work and had already shared my thoughts and speculations on death for some potential interludes on the album. So when I answered his call that day at the cafe, I was expecting to hear more about the music, but I also learned that it had evolved into the foundational element of a more involved creation. “I’m working on an interactive experience, something immersive.” He explained that the album would direct the art, a soundscape for the visual elements of the experience. “I’m also writing these micro stories for each track on the album.” “Sounds dope. How will the stories be part of the work?” “They’ll be entwined thematically with the music and visual art pieces.” Then he asked if I would write about it. I come from a family of artists of one kind or another. As a child, I thought everyone did some kind of handiwork, a craft to which they are committed, because that's what I witnessed growing up in my grandparents’ home. My grandmother ran a school and invited artisans to teach us basket weaving, batik and tie-dye, and dance. She is always writing letters, queries, and memorials, even now, in her nineties. Recently she told me she wanted to write a book but worried it was too late. I told her respectfully that was nonsense; it’s never too late to create. When he was alive, my grandfather told us folk tales at night whenever the power went out, stories about the mischievous Tortoise and his many misadventures. My mother is a painter who makes her own pigments using clay, coal, dirt, and plant material. She’s also a storyteller who shares Yorùbá cultural histories through the medium of film-making. My cousin Chinedu is a cinematographer. My brother a self-taught musician, produces, writes, and performs. I'm listing some of the ways different members of my family express themselves to illustrate my belief that artmaking, storytelling, and creative expression are our birthrights as human animals. As living entities occupying space and time in this particular cosmos, we are always creating. Doing so willfully, intentionally with some kind of vision, despite all uncertainty, is what interests me the most. So when Roger invited me to join him in conversation about his art—the music, the visual art, the stories, and everything else, I said, “Sure thing.” What follows are conversations about the visual art and micro stories you see in this book and the music that informed them. However, they are also discussions about being alive, about creating with heart and curiosity, about being wild and what it means to exist in relationship to others. They are dialogues on wisdom and survival between me and my friend Roger. Together, we shoot the shit and ponder the human condition. We wax poetic about creativity as a great outlet to quell the things that damage. We embark on this dialogue in three movements that mirror the architecture of the SoundBites album. Please join us.

Reprinted with permission from Curious Sounds by Roger Mooking & francesca ekwuyasi  (Arsenal Pulp Press, 2023).

Comments here

comments powered by Disqus

More from the Blog