A.R.T’S INTERVIEW WITH CATHERINE LABIRAN

So we threw some questions at Catherine Labiran and the always delightful poet, author and activist shared thoughts on her new book of poetry titled Ayisat and her life as an artist. Check out the interview below.

Give us an insight into the creative journey of Ayisat.
The poems in Ayisat were written across my teenager years, so each poem gives the reader an insight to my experiences and what I was going through at that particular time. I have been fortunate enough to travel quite a bit and this reflects in different cultural references documented in the book. When I put this book together, I told myself that I was going to be as free as I could possibly be. At first, I was nervous to talk about certain topics because of how I would be perceived. However, I then came to the conclusion that my story is more powerful than my fear of perception. I then progressed to write and collate poems with a free and unchained spirit.

In what ways did you grow upon completing the poetry collection? And did this change or expand when the book got published?
Completing the collection helped me grow up a lot because it propelled me to put myself out there. Sometimes I can be really reserved with my art. Sometimes, I fall into the trap of being a perfectionist, which is a loser’s game. Making Ayisat taught me that imperfections can be beautiful. I included poems that I wrote when I was 16 to demonstrate my journey, not what the perfect poem could be. When the book was published, I grew once again because I had to make myself vulnerable to criticism and open to love. Once a book is out there, there is no taking it back. This process freed me from the restraints I put on myself creatively.

What can poetry lovers who haven’t read Ayisat be excited about?
If you know me, prepare to learn something new about me. If you do not know me, then here I am. Even though all the poems are not directly about me, they all show my thinking process.

Ayisat is dedicated to your mother and all mothers. How does that maternal mind state impact or reflect in the book?
Ayisat is my baby. I birthed this book, I have seen it grow up and go across the world. When I hand over copies of the book to people it is as if I am giving my child away to get married. The book is a collection of poems I wrote when I was experiencing the upside-down-inside-out-crazy-normal-quiet-loudness of being a teenager. This book is my journey in text.

Are there any poems or themes you’d love to revisit when you become a mother?
Definitely, when I am a mother I want to revisit the topic and idea of love. I have experienced love but never the love that a mother has for a child. I can only imagine how intense such a love is. Also, depending on the state of the world when I give birth, I am sure I will have to revisit my poems on politics. It’s bad enough living a corrupt world, but it is even worse knowing that your offspring is suffering at the cost of greed and evil.

How does your written poetry differ from your spoken word pieces?
I do not really think there is much of a difference between both forms. The only difference I can immediately think of is structure. When I write poems for the page, I have to pay attention to the structure, where I want words and the punctuation. However, when I write a Spoken Word piece, I do not really structure the poem or add punctuation because I know my mind would do that naturally.

Is there a dominant approach to your creative process or is each piece developed uniquely?
I think I approach every piece in its own unique way. When I create poems in my mind, I flip reality on its head. My mind births the abstract, filters dreams into reality and makes the reader question if there is a difference between the two. The world is a mysterious place, beyond what you and I know, and my poetry wants to demonstrate that. Also, in order to write I like there to be silence and I like to be alone.

What life experiences thus far have shaped you as a poet?
The biggest experience that shaped me as a poet was moving from the U.K to the U.S to pursue my degree. My transition made me a fish out of water. At first, I spent weeks, months, even, trying to work out how to breathe. The awkwardness of not knowing anyone, having an ocean separate you and your loved ones, drove me to pick up my pen in a way I have never done before. I have gone through isolation in the past, but this time I was not afraid of it. I connected with all that was lonely inside of me, all the little torn up pieces. I introduced my fragments to each other and then they weren’t so lonely after all. My best work has been produced ever since.

Literature lovers can get their hands on Ayisat at Lulu.com. So if you don’t have a copy click the link to see how you can get one, and if you do have a copy go ahead and get another for a friend.

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Catherine Labiran: AYISAT – A Poet Spinning Words to Outlive the Weaver

Catherine Labiran

Photo by J. Jamie Photography

The greatest magicians
Are unaware
Of the hat
And rabbit between
Lips
Are buried alive in
Cradles
Sawed in half
Whole
Juggling bodies in
Wombs.
My mother,
Yours.
– Excerpt from Magic by Catherine Labrian, from her book of poetry Ayisat, published by Wordjar.

 

 

 

Poet, author and activist Catherine Labiran is an embodiment of passion and determination. An artist who, despite her young age, is traveling an adventurous path heralding her as a voice for the future, yet one whose words, spoken and penned, evoke captivating insights into today’s world.

Born in Staten Island, New York, with British-Nigerian roots, raised in Harrow, London and presently living in Atlanta, Georgia, Catherine’s eclectic background resonates through her persona. Always bubbling with an infectious smile and often Pharoah-esque braided hair, she exudes a knowingness well beyond her years.

Catherine’s poetry oscillates efficiently between page and stage; at the dipping point in the centre you will find a firmness of purpose guided by fluid poetic sensibilities. There is a maternal awareness about her poems, whether in the actual context of the piece or from her perspective as the omnipotent performer, with some of her titles – By the Hand that Held You, Love, Cereal – suggesting that cradle of motherhood carved for the children one could say her poems are to her.

Catherine Labiran the poet

Photo by J. Jamie Photography

Speaking about the poem Magicians (excerpt above) and the sense of motherhood which subsumes both poetry and poet, Catherine says:

“The poem is dedicated to my mother and to all mothers, they are the true magicians. I owe my existence and everything I do to my mother. She embodies all the greatness in the world. I often start my poetry performances with this poem, so I that I can set the scene that all these words coming out of my mouth come from her. “

Heavily influenced by hip hop culture, she performs her poems with rapid-fire exuberance, picturesque rhymes and an unaffected hip hop bravado. Watching her perform with that confident smile painting expressions of joy and pain fills you with a certain assurance that there is truth in these words.

Only 20 years old, she has already racked up an impressive body of artistic achievements: winning the 2010 SLAMbassadors UK competition; teaching and hosting events at Harrow Arts Centre, London; getting featured in the National Association for the Teaching of English SLAM DVD, distributed to schools across the UK; being on the ’12 Poets for 2012′ committee responsible for creating the official Olympic poem, Eton Manor; getting to be a ‘buddy poet’ with Wole Soyinka at the 2012 Poetry Parnassus event; being one of 30 winners of the Stratford East/30 Nigeria House award which aided her in setting up her first non-profit organization, Twelve (XII) Talents, targeted at providing free literary workshops and performance opportunities for adolescents.

Ever the creative spirit, Catherine, in November last year, released her premiere book of poetry titled Ayisat. The book, launched in South Africa while she was performing at the Word N Sound poetry and music festival, is published by Wordjar (a publishing outfit run by her brother, Francis Xavier Labiran, which gives young writers a platform). The release of Ayisat fulfilled one of Catherine’s many dreams:

“I decided to publish my first book when I was 19 in order to document my early experiences growing up, writing, traveling, becoming the young woman I am today. It has been a roller-coaster journey, I have many stories, I have seen many stories and have had many stories shared with me. It is these stories that I converted into poetry in Ayisat. I wrote this book so that my children could read it and understand that I went through the things that they will experience, I think they will find comfort in that.”

Ayisat is dedicated to Catherine’s grandfather Ali Jibrill-Ellams, who passed away when she was a child but whose presence remains strongly felt by the poet.

“I feel him and have felt him throughout my life. Through my successes, trials and tribulations, he has been my strength and shield. Also, the name Ayisat was given to me by my grandfather. It is arabic and it means ‘she who lives and is well’. I strongly believe the meaning of this name embodies all that I am becoming. Someone who does not only exist but LIVES. Currently, Ayisat is in bookstores, libraries and homes across the globe.”

Ayisat is available for international purchase, and can be found in bookstores, libraries and homes across the globe. If poetry is your passion, Catherine Labiran’s journey into truth is an exploration you will love to experience.

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The Reservations of the Legends

By Ezewi Jennifersoter

She conceived great men on different soils with the image of mind sturdy.
They came as individuals with love, on the field of crucial race, driven by ardor: strung out in pursuance of the herculean task weighing checks and balances.

They came on varied days; yet embraces same route from different paths.
Oh no!
“Come over here and wipe your tears because:
‘GHANDI’ Is enroute to New Delhi!
I can perceive the fragrance of his foot prints from here.
Yes!
His echoes heals the broken hearted with confident satyagraha.”

On the soil of the apartheid spleen roars an assemblage who calls LUTHER!
The dreamer that roars change with a stentorian admiration beyond decibels:
“I have a dream!
Where the oppressed children will be among the ruling parties someday.
Yes!
I must achieve this or set the ball rolling because: non violence is a way of life for courageous people.
Oh yes!
I am on the white soil that unifies states with acronym; I was instigated by passion to be enroute to forward ever with the docket of equality!”

These heroes understood their quest from the onset: building bridges for the generations on and on!
Regardless of the fact that it might cost their lives, yet are they tirelessly dogged to exhume the dignity of equality in certainty.

On this non violence had they emerged from different soils, speaking unification with different tones.
The laughter in this pain gets boosted by the pacifism of the unabashed attribute of these change seekers; clamoring:
“Our names soars beyond boarders in recognition, but that is not our nub.
We solely wish to pursue, overtake and recover change!”

When two bowed to rigor mortis on recumbent: their voice still echoes from the pacific camp, knowing that ‘One’ stands visibly on shaky grounds; commanding the attention of dignity from achievements in the field of victory, legacy and pace setting.

“Look here! ‘Mandela’ stands on the visible path of change laughing onward to fulfillment with the attention of remedy specialties as ‘The Global’ views on bended knees with good wishes towards the south side of Africa.”

Oh no!
The star has fallen: the cloud is dim!
Blubber twists the mood of nations.
Weeping saturates the gaze of loved ones.
What a day of ‘fifth’ when December sings at the time of CAT on 20:50 in the midst of 2013:
“Tata Madiba!
The last of his kind has fallen.
Rolinhlanhla!
The unforgettable hero lives on!”

As the wind blows the echoes, voicing vociferates:
“Our course enjoys relaxation in victory, but our names enjoys a dignified reservations of presence on after-math; because our names awakes the significant of good works to scoop out the reserve we preserved in dignity.”

The record of the race gave account that these Social Prestige came from different race with one voice, speaking in unism:
“freedom from segregation!
The oppressed must be free!
Equality, equality!
Egalitarian must emerge.”

My Name My Identity: Femi Amogunla from 30 Nigeria House Project

Femi Amogunla

In Conjunction with

Theatre Royal Stratford East London and Bank Of Industry

Presents

My name, My identity

An Award Winning Project (30 Nigeria House), 2012

Oruko mi ni Olorunfemijuwonlo Amogunla

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Watch the video “My Name My Identity” here.

My name is a song;
I can sing it as I want;
in Soprano High or Bass deep.
O-lo-run-fe-mi-ju-won-lo
Oh! It jars your ears.
(beat) I should shorten it?
I won’t. I will not reduce my name to F
A letter. And call it a nickname.
Or funkify it as P-h-e-m-m-y spelt P-h-e-m-m-y
Why?
Or change it to Famozo
…or its other version Famoshi
So that you might feel it?
My name is my identity.

My name is history.
History of valiant Yoruba men and women in battle.
Moremi, Ogunmola Afonja Kunrunmi
My name is their victory.
Amogunla, son of that famous warrior who killed an elephant with his cap
Kindred of Uthman Dan Fodio
Nnamdi Azikwe
And Achebe
Yes, that’s me!

I am every African who fought
And who still fights to keep his names
My name is history of a generation.
I lose it; we lose a story.
A string.
A line.
It becomes distorted.

My name is a symbol.
A symbol that rises early in the morning when my mother screams: Fe-mi.
It’s a sign of control, of power.

My name tells where I am from
That I am a Yoruba
That I am a Nigerian
That I love being both at once
Like an identity card
I don’t need to show it. It shows me.
I don’t have to shout it. It shouts me.
Shouts Yoruba, proclaims Nigerian.

My name has meanings.
It is freedom.
It is power.
It is love.
Love for myself.
For every part of me
Seen. Unseen.
Known. Unknown.
Written. Unwritten.
Loved. Unloved.

My name is like my dansiki;
I wear it as I want
In the sun or in the rain; it does not smell.​
I wear it in the cold or in the harmattan,
I stay warm
I can wriggle it as it pleases me
As I do bata dance

Bata drum with voice:
Olurunfemijuwonlo,
Iwo nko? Iwo nko?​3x

Let me sing as I want,
Let me wear it as I want.
Let me dance as it suits me
But never will I change it

Oruko mi ni Olorunfemijuwonlo Amogunla.
Ki ni oruko tire?
What is your own name?

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Some Words on My Name, My Identity

This thematic focus of this poem is the beauty of Yoruba/African culture as captured in the significance of a name, of my name. An African traditional name is more than just a name; it is more than just something we are called by or something that differentiates us from another. In fact, in the Yoruba belief system, what you are called, and how you are called goes a long way to affect what you turn out to be. In essence, African names define our cultural identity, lineage and on several occasions, the circumstances in which we lived and currently live.

In this award winning project by Femi Amogunla, he insists that he should be called by his name, the way it should be; not as an abbreviation or as a nickname because, it is believed that “whatever” you are called has a meaning.

The poet draws on personal examples of the challenges that he has faced when it comes to his name, and draws on how he has been able to keep bearing his name despite these.

The poem also goes ahead to show the challenges of holding on to this culture of naming in a fast changing world that seems to impose its change on one. The narrator refuses any other version of his name, and takes pride in what he’s called.

Rendered in English, this poem has a universal appeal, yet it is sprinkled with local Yoruba language, the poet calls the audience to a different language, to a different culture. It also makes use of accepted codes of culture like music.

Finally, it educates others about African lives, African pride and the struggle of the African past.

Check out our previous post on Femi Amogunla here.

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Digging Deep: Blogging Collective Call Out

HEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEELP!
ERM…HELP!?

Identity Detective is looking to recruit 6 volunteer detectives to contribute to the Bloggy Woggy Investigation Folder throughout 2014. As an identity detective you will use the F.L.U.I.D method to capture evidence as and when it falls in line with Identity Detective’s Brief.

Want to get involved?

If you are a creative, writer, observer, explorer, photographer, interviewer, or just to curious and like to talk about random things – Get in touch! Drop an email info@diggingdeep.co.uk to be sent Identity Detective’s Brief.

Please state why you would make a good Identity Detective along with any samples of work. This can be a short sample of writing up to a sheet of A4, a sample of 5 photos or 10 mins of video.

Find out more about the project here.

Right! This case needs further probing. Tweezers at the ready.

Check out the Blog – http://www.identitydetective.wordpress.com

Signing Out. // Identity Detective.

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MOBILE: 07577105847

http://www.diggingdeep.co.uk

THERE WILL BE TREASURE

@dig_diggingdeep

Download African Hip Hop: HENCH

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Sornen Ukoh is HENCH. Born and raised in Jos,Plateau State, this budding hip hop, spoken word and freestyle artist chose a career in music and liberal arts after graduating from Lead City University Ibadan where he studied Politics and International Relations. Inspired by top notch Nigerian acts such as MI Abaga, Mode 9, Jesse Jags and Ice Prince Zamani, Hench carves an artistic path for himself fusing golden age rap styles with imaginative poetry rendered over moving rythimic instrumentals. Hench is an avid reader, movie buff and art enthusiast who describes his artistic influences as “too many to list and forever evolving”. Currently focused on a mixtape project titled “Escape From Jay Town”, Hench lives in Lagos city.

Hench received recognition following his feature on MI Abaga’s Illegal Music 2’s hit track Ridiculous. Respected for his incisive lyrics and smooth flow, this is the dude who gave us the epic line: “if you ain’t tryna be rich then you ain’t broke enough“. The mixtape album’s title has gotten us curious and utterly excited!

Download and enjoy his new singles!

DOWNLOAD: Coming Soon

DOWNLOAD: U No Sabi Rap

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HENCH: the Man, the Rapper, the Poet

Henchino
Sornen Ukoh is HENCH. Born and raised in Jos,Plateau State, this budding hip hop, spoken word and freestyle artist chose a career in music and liberal arts after graduating from Lead City University Ibadan where he studied Politics and International Relations. Inspired by top notch Nigerian acts such as MI Abaga, Mode 9, Jesse Jags and Ice Prince Zamani, Hench carves an artistic path for himself fusing golden age rap styles with imaginative poetry rendered over moving rythimic instrumentals. Hench is an avid reader, movie buff and art enthusiast who describes his artistic influences as “too many to list and forever evolving”. Currently focused on a mixtape project titled “Escape From Jay Town”, Hench lives in Lagos city.

Hip Hop from Africa: HENCH

Hench rap artist

Nigerian hip hop… Scratch that! African hip hop, get ready! HENCH is coming for ya! On the 8th of June, this young hip hop artist, acclaimed as one of J-town’s finest, will be releasing 2 NEW SINGLES: Coming Soon and U No Sabi Rap, from his upcoming mixtape titled Escape From J-town.

Hench received recognition following his feature on MI Abaga’s Illegal Music 2 hit track Ridiculous. Respected for his incisive lyrics, smooth flow and intuitive freestyle skills, this is the dude who gave us the epic line: “if you ain’t tryna be rich then you ain’t broke enough“. The track titles have gotten us curious and utterly excited – and how about that mixtape album title, huh? We can’t wait to hear what this emcee has cooked up.

Femi Amogunla: My Name, My Identity

From the groundbreaking 30 Nigeria House project, a young voice in traditional Yoruba poetry, evoking the rhythms of timeless wisdom, sings itself into the okan (heart) of African poetry. His name is Femi Amogunla.

poetic sight

Femi on NTA hilltop, Ile Ife, Osun state, for location check. Photo by Ogunniyi Temitope.

The man, the poet
Femi Amogunla is an actor, spoken word and voice-over artist based in Ibadan, Nigeria. He studied English Language at the Obafemi Awolowo University, after which he proceeded to the Royal Arts Academy for a Diploma in Acting where he graduated as the best acting student. Performance is one word with many meanings for Femi; many of them, he loves.

spoken word

Femi at Oranmiyan park, Ile Ife. Photo by Ogunniyi Temitope.

His project
In June of 2012 Femi was selected as one of 30 award winners for the prestigious 30 Nigeria House project, an initiative of Theatre Royal Stratford East and New World Nigeria. His project has seen Femi develop a spoken word piece titled: My Name, My Identity.

The poem My Name, My Identity focuses on the beauty of Yoruba culture as captured in the significance of a name, in this case, Femi’s name. In the Yoruba belief system, what you are called and how you are called goes a long way to affect what you turn out to be.

The narrator of the poem insists that he should be called by his name, the way it should be; not as an abbreviation or as a nickname because, it is believed that ‘whatever’ you are called has a meaning.

artists of the word spoken

Poetry makers. Photo by Ogunniyi Temitope.

The poet draws on personal examples of the challenges that he has faced when it comes to his name, and draws on how he has been able to keep bearing his name despite these.

The poem also goes ahead to show the challenges of holding on to this culture of naming in a fast changing world that seems to impose its change on one. The narrator refuses any version of his name, and takes pride in what he’s called, drawing from the Yoruba culture and history.

Rendered in English, this poem has a universal appeal, yet it is sprinkled with local Yoruba language, the poet calls the audience to a different language, to a different culture. It also makes use of accepted codes of culture like music.Finally, it educates others about African lives, African pride and the struggle of the African past.

The Making of: My Name, My Identity

shooting scenes

On set: Mayowa Olajide, Femi and Elujoba Folusho. Photo by Ogunniyi Temitope

Filming the Project
Speaking about the filming of this poetic piece Femi notes the project exposed him to “varied experiences”. Shot in locations in Ile Ife, Osun State, the project took about three months to go through the lifecycle of pre-production to production to post-production. In order to fully capture the resonance of the poetry, audio was done separately from the shoot and as the poet puts it “that alone was hard work”.

poetic shots

There is music in poetry, there is dance in words. Photo by Ogunniyi Temitope

This being the first video shoot of his poetry, Femi says with a reminiscent smile, “I learnt so many lessons from the experience. It is one that I would gladly repeat. Now, I look forward to more recordings of my work”.

Crew
Sometimes it can take an entire village to see a project such as this grow from seed to fruition, that makes nothing more encouraging than working with a crew who give the best to the task.

shooting scenes

On set: Folusho (left), Femi (center) and Mayowa (right)

Speaking of the crew Femi says: “my director, Imole Adisa who is also the creative director of The Masque Troupe did a wonderful job. The bata dancer Folusho Elujoba is a force to reckon with. Also the effort of the cinematographer, Mayowa Olajide, who also doubled as the editor cannot be over emphasised. My costumier was Soji Gbelekale, so you know where the colourful traditional attires came from. The words all flow into one lovely poem and that’s thanks to Temitayo Olofinlua, the content director; she took the idea from the first draft and transformed it into a great poem.

dance to poetry

Folusho in motion. Photo by Ogunniyi Temitope.

Challenges
Nothing beats the stories of challenges we face during the production of a work of art. Femi shared some with us:

“While leaving for location, I told my wife I should be home in four – maximum five – days. This was because I had everything set – or so I thought. My location manager and I kept exchanging mails and all of that to be sure we won’t be spending more than a week.

on set, directors and actors

Director Imole Adisa (left) giving directions to Femi (center) and Folusho (right). Photo by Ogunniyi Temitope.

When I got to Ile-Ife, the first challenge I had was getting appropriate time for rehearsals as the drummer, my director and even my cinematographer all had unexpected issues to attend to. We kept scheduling and re-scheduling until we got it done after three days. The first thing we did was to do the audio session. We booked an all-night session and that was tedious. One person did the drumming. There were three different drums. So imagine, each sound after the other. It was demanding. I had to do the recitation every time he picked an entirely different drum.

Palm wine in calabash

The throat and the earth, they must be made wet with wine. Photo by Ogunniyi Temitope.

After two days, we headed for location somewhere in front of the Oni of Ife’s palace only to be sent away by someone who claimed to be in charge of the place. Meanwhile my location manager had spoken to someone who also presented himself as being in charge of the place. All the shots we had before the intervention had to be cancelled. It was quite difficult getting a place to use eventually but in the end, it all went well”.

A poet’s gratitude
The work at last a reality; the video completed and many lessons learnt, Femi considers himself “a better poet… hopefully” emerging from this unforgettable adventure. Expressing his joy and gratitude Femi says “Thanks to everyone for making this a reality. The amazing crew. The Theatre Royal Stratford East and 30 Nigeria House for the opportunity. The other 29 lucky winners. Let’s change our world, one word, one poem, one play, at a time.”

If like us you are eager to see, hear and resonate more with Femi and his world of expressions, the poet assured us his works – in video, audio and text formats – will soon be accessible via his website: http://www.ogbenifemi.com

Find out more about the 30 Nigeria House project here.. A.R.T is proud to be part of one of the projects under 30 Nigeria House, find out more here.

To Achebe

by Cuba Ukoh (@CubaUkoh)

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Tell me it’s not true, say it isn’t you

From childhood I watched

As age in its tender pace

Began to contour your face

Still I swore I would get to meet you

If only I wrote and wrote faster

My wish would come true!

But beyond day dreams conjured,

Life happened…

And as all things that come, they go

But even from death’s embers I know,

Your legacy shall eternally glow

And though now you tread a dead man’s path,

Things do not fall apart

Your words will always traverse my heart

As you remain for now and always;

A man of the people

 

Cuba