“Poetry is for the bourgeoisie”; “Poetry is for the literary elite”; “Poetry is like wine, you need to be either a lover of the craft or an expert to enjoy it”.
That must have been what was going through the minds in the audience of the very first #IYAGriotNight. On that 12th of December, 2016, the few curious individuals who settled at the lounge didn’t know what to expect. A majority had never seen a live Spoken Word Poetry event before. Many were students of the University and as well as Silicon Mountain enthusiasts. For others, this was an initial visit to the erstwhile Alliance Franco Camerounaise. In its stead, “IYA: Food and Culture”.
“IYA” means “mother” in many Bantu languages.
“[IYA] is a canvas upon which the community is called to create. What you see now was once a dream in our minds. It represents the love our mothers, our IYAs had for us. In Africa, we don’t have a culture of mothers saying “I love you”. They show this love through meals; through the incredibly rich recipes handed from one generation to the next. That is what the “Food” part of IYA represents. But what many haven’t seen yet, which our communal ethos is built on, is the “Culture”. We have a huge repertoire of collective Arts that the world is dying to discover. The IYA Griot Nights is one more step in this direction.”
The IYA Griot Nights is a monthly event whose sole purpose is to remind us where we’re from. A griot is a professional oral historian. Our grandmothers were griots- they told stories of war, of love, of the stubborn child or the greedy king. Stories of “sense pass king”.
Poetry is just one form of oral expression. It is one of the most beautiful tools of storytelling. Spoken Word Poetry needs the artist to perform his/her poem. This makes it not only entertaining but especially important in conveying emotions to the viewers.
The Cameroonian spoken word scene has birthed global sensation like Stone Karim Mohamad. In Yaoundé, the Goethe Institute has hosted events and competitions that has seen world class performances. However, the impact of the Spoken Word Movement hasn’t reached this part of the country yet. But this is changing.
World class Spoken Word Performers include: Erykah Badu, Grand Corps Malade, Soul Williams and Souleyman Diamanka
During this first event, the audience was so inspired that a few had their own pieces read on the spot. Simo Jandie gave us a witty and humorous reading of his piece from his Facebook post titled: “My Power Bank”.
That evening, the photographer and media personality- Tito Valery, who happens to be a Spoken Word artist, shared a lot with the audience. He said when he heard about the event, he swore he would travel from Yaoundé to attend it. And he did.
Nine performers took to the stage: Monique Kwachou, Njoka Mavin, Leslie Meya, Malcolm Koh, Orlyne Passy Nopoudem (duet with me), Nzonda Kenneth and Erwin Ayota. Halfway during the performance, members of the audience opted, on the spot, to perform pieces of their own.
It was an emotionally laden event that ended with the audience looking forward to the next #IYAGriotNight.
Poets prepare your quills, viewers prepare your minds. A date has been set, the venue is maintained and the menu rich with emotions galore!
Pin your calendars! Saturday, 28th of February, 2016, we welcome you once more to the gust of Zeitgeist that IYA is blowing on the cultural scene of the nation. This time around, two critical conditions.
There would be a Spoken Word Poetry Know/Share session at IYA to teach the intricacies of Spoken Word performance. These would be 2–3 hour sessions facilitated by the Spoken Word Curator during which skills and techniques for better Spoken Word Performances would be exhibited real time.
Organiser of IYA Griot Nights: IYA BUEA Facebook iyabueaTwitter@iya_buea Nestled afoot Mount Cameroon in a colonial build that once house the French consulate, IYA is home to a world-class restaurant, cocktail lounge, literary café and creative spaces.
IYA, a one of a kind gastronomic experience, pays homage to Cameroon’s rich and diverse culinary and cultural heritage, balancing traditional elements and modernity in a multipurpose space. Check our website — www.iyabuea.com — for more information and do not hesitate to get in touch with us. It’s always a pleasure.
When I read this text in March, I felt like I had to give it life. Even if I didn’t have the technical skills required, I couldn’t help it.
And even when I did, I let it sit in my computer for all this while, gathering digital dust. I feel the time has come for me to let the world know what I can do and to judge me for it.
This is just the beginning. I would love to get your feedback and suggestions.
It is in French. But do not worry, I have another one prepared in English- a text another wonderful Ghanaian blogger wrote.
They are the words of a mother, saying goodbye to her child. Probably because she ( the mother) will be taken away because of the war.
According to the author of this text, it is the image you see that prompted her to write that piece. That she felt connected to the baby.
I found joy in the silence of your kiss-the one you took away.
I found peace in your touch-the one I won’t miss.
I searched my memory for the agony of my loss-your loss.
When our song came on SoundCloud, it spoke fondly to the rivers of my eyes.
I talk to myself now. Just like I used to before you came.
The song is no longer sad, I must admit. You were a fond color.
A hue of sorts.
A friend…of sorts.
Were you mine?
Were you my friend?
I no longer call. But you stopped first-my loss.
I know I wasn’t wrong this time, you were- our loss?
There is desire in the sheets we shared.
No. Not for you.
A longing…of sorts.
Sometimes I squeeze.
Sometimes I wash.
Last night, I made love to myself: A cup of milk, a movie, a laugh alone.
It featured our favorite actor- I won’t hate him.
I tried. But I like him more than I loved you.
Did you love?
Did you love me?
I look forward to never seeing you again.
I might smile when I do. Do not be alarmed, it’s my evil plan.
I would hatch a scheme to watch you crawl.
Seize your light and make you fall.
I do not hate you.
Hate is soft.
Hate is weak.
Hate is handicap.
You disgust me.
I will not forget you.
Or your bedroom hymns.
I will not forget the promises I made the day we met.
Nor the rage you left when you sent that text.
I will not forget you, my erstwhile soul mate.
And you should not forget that I loved you.
That I knew your soul and your desires.
The goals you craved and the prize you deserved.
I will not forget the reasons why you smiled.
Or how you blinked when embarrassed behind those balls of wonder I loved to kiss.
Yes, those…I will miss.
Yes, you’re right. I won’t miss.
If you read this, my erstwhile love, I will like to thank you for bringing me closer to myself.
For teaching me what I cannot stand and the desires I cannot condone.
I must thank you for letting me try to be human.
It’s a hard job. One I love taking weekends off for.
Remember: I meant every kiss.
And on this letter, I mean every hiss.
For your own good, let’s never meet again.
You might not recognize the monster you trained.
Let him tell you of heartbreaks. Of tears he hid and dreams he killed. Of the memories he replayed long after the kisses died. Let him tell you of rejection. Of unrequited love. Of emotions suppressed and denials endured. He could tell you of the time when she said: “This is not working out.” Or of when she needed space to think. He will tell you with a smile. While you hold your throaty lump tight. He will tell you the blouse she wore and the dog that strayed. He might tell you of the date. If you’re not lucky enough, he may only remember the hour and the minute.
Let him tell you of failures of the heart. Of the laughs he faked and the lies he told himself. Of the persona he forged and the mechanisms he acquired. He may tell you of the letter he wrote…and burned. He may tell you of the unsent SMS, or the cancelled voice note. He could recount the old pillows that saved his teary tale in cold, liquid embrace. He will tell you of the body weight he hasn’t been able to gain. Of his incessant penchant for jokes and laughter, of his book drug abuse and his writing exorcism.
He may mention his new resolve. His understanding of love and the day he killed affection. He could paint the clouds, but he won’t. He could tell you about the song on Trace at that moment, but he won’t. He could tell you of the matching shoes she wore and of the speech she had prepared. Yes, the speech, he will. He will tell you how at that time it made no sense to him. How he laughed with his boys and texted the next available glass heart. He will not tell you of the supper he left cold. Of the desires he left enflaming. Of the rage he carried, chiefly against fiction, for making him believe in soulmates.
Let him tell you of the decision he took. Of the vow he made. Of the smile he wore as he said to himself: I’m too old for this shit. As he deleted the pictures and edited his memory- a task he would tell you, was a waste of time, but that “I had to at least try”. He may mention that it was the day he realized he’d changed. The day he saw his own worth. The day he finally admitted to himself that he would never find what his was looking for, simply because he was always looking.
It was the day he said, earnestly, without reserve and believing with his soul: fuck this shit. I’m done.
I’ve written books with my eyes.
In my tales, you run me.
I am your formata- share of source and being.
Springs of sadness reek panic when you leave my side.
Mountains crash, Pompeii burns anew.
It’s the neoslavery you inflict deep, within.
You’re a curse. My curse.
You suave, savage witch,
Your fingers dipping my entrails; laying my essence bare.
I hate how my mind adores your savagery.
How your smile becomes my drug,
I am addicted, to your words, your touch, your mind bogging aura.
Who are you?
Why are you?
What do you want with my heart?
Why did you choose me to lay me to waste away from your waist, after an ethereal…taste?
Conquered and alone, I long for a graceful whif of your presence.
An innocent “I love you” whispered in my mind, changed everything.
Subdued. Imbued. Amused…by your ease, a regal feast of tact.
You own me, my love.
And there is nothing I can do about it.
As well as her kind gaze and warm smile.
They way she gleamed and held her head high.
She left her hand in mine.
Confident that the world wouldn’t mind.
Especially, when we went out to dine.
Fortunately, that time is now behind.
I remember my nickname.
She’d laugh at my sneer, knowing I’d go insane.
She’d pick on me when no one looked,
Only to make that face I’d hate to imitate.
Our kiss? She’d initiate.
Long, tender, nuzzle free meal I’d gleefully partake.
Alas, that time is in my wake.
I remember our goodbyes.
Her sad scream and dark eyes.
Long texts and fake fights.
The stakes were high.
I still hear echoes of her curses in the middle of the night.
The black hole in my soul, sucking, had never seemed so bright.