PUBLISHER'S NOTE: ArtBeats (or, in full, ArtBeats MEDIA) is the former brand name of Bravearts Africa until Jan., 2015
GENRE OF THE ARTS: Performance
Kayode Taiwo Olla had a chat with Lagos-based Atilola Moronfolu, one of the visible faces of Spoken Word poetry among the new generation artistes in Nigeria.
Atilola Moronfolu [Go to websites HERE and HERE TOO] has performed for the United Nations at the UNAIDS PCB Thematic Segment in Geneva, Switzerland and popular Spoken Word events in Nigeria events like Word Up, Unchained voices, Chill and Relax, Metro FM Open Mic, etc. She has also been featured on several Television and Radio interviews to talk about the Spoken Word movement in Nigeria.
Atilola is also an ambassador for the Hands Up For Her campaign in Nigeria by Beyond the Classroom Foundation, where they focus on the plight of the Girl Child, especially on the International Day of the Girl Child. She is an author of two books, one literary and the second a comic book.
In this interview she talks about her engagement with spoken word performance and comments on spoken word art.
What was your earliest introduction into spoken word poetry like? Can you share how you get to pick spoken word poetry as a thing you do?
ATI: I first came across spoken word around August 2011, when I was watching a feature on CNN. I contacted the person being featured, and we got to talk. In 2012, when I was trying to publicise my book, Antonyms of a Mirage, I started attending poetry events, and that was when I really got exposed to spoken word. I picked up the art from there, and later got serious with it. The rest, as they say, is history.
You’ve performed as a spoken word artiste in places—Nigeria and abroad; notable platforms like United Nation’s UNAIDS PCB Thematic Segement in Geneva. Can you share with us how the interesting renown came on from startup?
ATI: UNAIDS contacted a woman in Nigeria, and asked for list of female spoken word artists she knew. The woman, in turn, contacted i2X media. i2X media submitted names and videos of three female spoken word artists to UNAIDS, and I got selected for the performance.
Wow, that’s great. On composition now–do you think there is any real difference in the composition art of poetry meant for read and that of poetry meant for stage? And how does the composition art go for you in both?
ATI: Yes, there is a difference–spoken word is less structured than written poetry. Spoken word is more rhythmic in nature, with its intentional intonantions, punchlines, and word plays on imageries. On paper, those might seem like nonsense. For me, I just write, and when done, I rehearse.
It seems Ghana and maybe South Africa are in the frontiers of spoken word poetry and contemporary poetry performance in Africa, with pioneering voices like Atukwei Okai, Kwabena Asiedu Aboagye, Kofi Awoonor, Kofi Anyidoho and others. African oral traditions themselves are very rooted in performance and a large part of our African contemporary literary poetry are hence performance-oriented, borrowing heavily from the roots. Could we be safe to say of the ownership of modern poetry performance as essentially African, then?
ATI: I don’t think any continent can claim ownership of poetry. Poetry is an art, a form of expression. No country or continent can claim ownership of these things. Every culture just does it in their own way, just like music.
Hmm! Okay… I learn you are as well a director for teenagers on spoken word art in House on the Rock Teens Church in Lagos. How has the task of a director and coach of spoken word performance been like? Are there things you would say you have rather learned as director and coach of younger, aspiring voices, than as a performance artiste yourself?
ATI: To teach, you have to know. To know, you have to learn. In the process of understanding what to teach, I learn. In the process of teaching, I also learn. I also learn from my students all the time.
Wow. It’s been wonderful having you, Atilola. Thank you for your time.
ATI: Thanks for having me.
Kayode Taiwo Olla is the author of two literary works, Sprouting Again, a novel (2011) and Softlie, love poems (2013). He is the curator and managing editor of ArtBeats MEDIA.