KD: As the world slowly crawls out of a global pandemic that necessitated a measure of compulsory solitude, do you think there is a connection between isolation and creative work? And can you be open on how you spent the lockdown if at all it was made compulsory in your corner of the world?
Alexis: I’ve been in Nairobi for much of the year, and we’ve had varied degrees of restrictions in place. I’ve spent the time gardening, making tea, on the phone, staring into the sky, haggling with our dog, making elaborate meals for my loves— all in all, a quiet idyllic set up. I, for one, have been glad for the silence (in some ways) the lockdown has re-introduced into my life. I find myself doodling more, journaling more (thanks to Suleika Jaouad!) and reflecting in a less extractive way than before. In some ways, I’ve become more hungry and protective of connection, and the lovely people in my circle during this time, so I wouldn’t fully consider this period one of isolation. I’m thankful none of my family has been infected, but as someone in the high-risk category, there is an underlying static that’s pervaded my generally mundane day-to-day, and that fear is hard to shake. We keep at it I suppose.
KD: You once described yourself as “anti-colonial,” and one can only imagine your indignation for racism. Do you think there is any form of racism faced by black writers in literary circles and how can these issues be addressed?
Alexis: We do end up haunting ourselves, don’t we? But yes, I did say that, and still hold fast to that identity. De/Anti-colonial knowledges are so critical and necessary, especially now. I’m doing what I can, in minor ways, to contribute to growing this archive and canon, by excavating all the wonderful out-of-print African writers I can get my hands on. You’ll forgive me if I don’t get into the big and small violences enacted within our literary spaces — which, by the way, intersect with ableism and class and heteropatriarchy. I’ll just remind us of my favourite James Baldwin quote: “We’ve got to be as clear-headed about human beings as possible, because we’re still each other’s only hope.”