The power of Spoken Word, Literature and Art

Spoken Word Rwanda (SWR) - the first of its kind in Rwanda, is about bringing people together to celebrate the expression of self.

Spoken Word Rwanda (SWR) - the first of its kind in Rwanda, is about bringing people together to celebrate the expression of self. They do this through a dynamic fusion of poetry, storytelling, hip-hop poetry, dance, song and any other powerful avenue of artistic self-expression.

Since its premiere on July 11, 2011 in Kigali, Spoken Word Rwanda (SWR) has been a phenomenal success as seen with its large audience, as well as its coverage in the local media. Performers from SWR have displayed their talent at the Celebrating Young Rwandan Achievers Awards dinner in August 2011, an event that is held every two years by the First Lady of Rwanda to reward the achievements of Rwandan youth abroad and in the Diaspora.

Reflecting a rich multi-lingual Rwanda, performances are in English, French and Kinyarwanda. People do poetry readings from diverse backgrounds, ranging from secondary school students, performing artists, young professionals and visiting tourists, against a backdrop of different nationalities. From a young audience to an older one, this platform has shown how the love for spoken word spans across generations.

This initiative takes place twice a month, at a local lounge in Kigali known as Shooters Lounge-bar.

Plans for SWR this year include publishing a periodical anthology of poems from Rwandan youth collaborating with the soon to be opened Kigali Public Library and organizing a literature and arts festival, which this paper will illustrate.

Annual Festival

As part of its planned activities for the year 2012, SWR is organising its first annual festival, with the theme, “Promoting Spoken Word, Literature and Art.” Set to take place this weekend from March 24 to 25, 2012, this two-day event will bring together spoken word artists from the region to promote and celebrate the expression of self and share experiences as poets, writers and performers. The festival is the first of its kind in Rwanda and arguably within the East African region.

Emerging from popular modern poetry recitations, Spoken Word events around the world and within the region have grown to become part of evolving cultural and artistic movements. The SWR Annual Festival will be an opportunity to introduce this cutting-edge culture, which is as entertaining as it is educational, into Rwandan society.

The Festival will feature readings from renowned writers from the East African region and Rwanda; creative writing workshops and spoken word performances which include traditional Rwandan poetry known as Ibyivugo, modern spoken word, and song amongst other things.

Activities will be hosted by SWR in partnership with the Ishyo Arts Centre, MTN, Positive Productions, Kwetu Film Institute, the Rotary Club of Kigali, KFM and Igihe News.

Already SWR’s twitter feed is bustling with excited poetry fans. In a buildup to the festival, twitter fans are following @SpokenwordRwa, and networking using the hash tag, #SWRFestival2012 

As part of this event, leading East African writers Doreen Baingana and Billy Kahora will be visiting Kigali to run creative writing workshops and talk about writing and publishing.

Doreen Baingana won the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for ‘Tropical Fish’ in 2006 and is the current chair of FEMRITE (the Ugandan Women Writers’ Association).

Billy Kahora is the Managing Editor of the Kenyan literary journal Kwani. He has written one book on creative non-fiction, ‘The True Story of David Munyakei’ (2009), as well as the scripts for the 2010 film ‘Soul Boy’ (dir Tom Tykver) and ‘Nairobi Half Life’ (release Feb 2012).

Also part of the day activities is the talented Collin Sekajugo, who will take the audience through a dynamic fusion of art, spoken word and music.

Highlights of the Day

Various activities have been slotted for this event, and include:

Spoken Word Performances with poets from Rwanda, Uganda, Burundi and Kenya,

Creative writing workshops and readings from visiting writers from Kenya & Uganda,

Spoken word/performance poetry workshops,

Film screenings on issues that touch upon Rwanda’s emerging arts, culture and theatre scene,

Local visual art exhibitions from prominent Rwandan artists,

Networking forums for all poetry and literature lovers.


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