Politically charged spoken word event a first of its kind

Sunday October 20 2013

Dennis Inkwa.
Dennis Inkwa. Photo/COURTESY
Kenneth B on stage in full gear.
Kenneth B on stage in full gear. Photo/COURTESY
2nd runner up Wanjiku Mwaura.
2nd runner up Wanjiku Mwaura. Photo/COURTESY
The winner Raya Wambui (second from left) giving her victory speech.
The winner Raya Wambui (second from left) giving her victory speech. Photo/COURTESY
First poet on stage Checkmate Mido.
First poet on stage Checkmate Mido. Photo/COURTESY
Guest poet Julian Heun(Berlin).
Guest poet Julian Heun(Berlin). Photo/COURTESY
Guest poet and Uganda chapter winner Rehema Nanfuka.
Guest poet and Uganda chapter winner Rehema Nanfuka. Photo/COURTESY
The MC Ogutu Muraya.
The MC Ogutu Muraya. Photo/COURTESY
The judges(from left) Sitawa Namwalie, Cindy Ogana and James Wamathai.
The judges(from left) Sitawa Namwalie, Cindy Ogana and James Wamathai. Photo/COURTESY
A section of the audience.
A section of the audience. Photo/COURTESY
FAITH ONEYA
By FAITH ONEYA
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The first poet stepped onto the stage and raised the bar when he began his performance by beat boxing.

His name is Checkmate Mido and he describes himself as "human beatbox, poet, musician, writer and actor".

"Bang, bang, bang!" were the words that introduced his politically charged poem.

The line "Question mark, question that" punctuated his verses and breathed life and drama into his performance.

Checkmate paved the way for Obala Dan, who is currently pursuing his Masters degree in Literature and is a veteran Kenyan spoken word performer in his own right.

His lines were humorous and he had his audience in stitches in a matter of seconds.

One by one, the other artists took the stage and enthralled the audience with poetry infused with commentaries on social oppression and struggle.

The Westgate mall attack, politics, post-election violence, poverty and poor leadership were dominant themes.

EQUALLY TALENTED POETS

The three judges Sitawa Namwalie, Cindy Ogana and James Wamathai, in making their comments, observed that they had a difficult time selecting the winner as all the poets were equally talented.

"The poets are equally talented, they are all at the same level but we did not judge them by their reputation but by their performance today."

Wanjiku Mwaura, who has performed alongside some of the leading South African Poets like Mphutlane Wa Bofelo, Qbibo Intalektual (Swaziland) Napo Masheane (South Africa) at the Johannesburg Arts alive international festival, was the 2nd runners up.

Obala Dan took the second position while Raya Wambui emerged the overall winner of the contest.

"I haven't slept much, we had only 6 days to prepare our pieces," Raya told DN of the competition "I did a lot of editing, but I was not expecting to win. My message to all the poets is to keep writing. "

Raya will be a guest performer in Mali.

She will also get to tour the country before and after her performance.

POETRY IN DIFFERENT LANGUAGES

English and Kiswahili were apparently not the official languages of the performance as the guest performer Julian Heun ( a writer and slam poet from Berlin, Germany) performed his first piece in German.

The poem, about the 'little voice in your head' , was performed dramatically and its rhythm and intensity managed to capture the mostly non-German speaking audience's attention.

Nanfuka, who won the Ugandan chapter of the competition with her poem A Traumatised Generation was also a guest performer.

Initiated by the Goethe-Institut South Africa, the Spoken Word Project is a poetry slam competition whose goal is to enable stories to travel across Africa. Kwani is the local partner.

In keeping with this spirit, poets pick themes based on top three winning poems of the previous host country.

The Kenyan poets worked with the theme of social oppression and struggle.

Over the course of the year 2013, this pattern will continue throughout the remaining African cities.

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