Spoken Word Festival
The fifth staging of the Rex Nettleford Arts Conference takes place in the Year of the 100th anniversary of the birth of the Hon. Louise Bennett Coverley, OJ, Jamaica’s icon of the Spoken Word, and the 100th anniversary of Jamaican born, Claude McKay’s veritable anthem, ‘If We Must Die’. This year is also the 100th anniversary of Marcus Garvey’s UNIA, and has been dubbed largely through Ghana’s outward reach, ‘The Year of Return’ – itself echoing Garvey’s call for repatriation, with its global invitation to diaspora Africans to return home some 400 years after that fateful departure.
All of this is happening at the dawn of the fourth industrial revolution, an era that is exploiting and expanding the impact advances in modern technology and digitization might have in our lives, and in unprecedented ways. While spoken word as an artform gained currency in the 1980’s as part of the so-called “post-modern” art movement in North America, it has its roots in the oral traditions of ancient African cultures and carries the elements of call and response, distinctive rhythms, word mastery and the combined intention of education, entertainment and community building. In style spoken word is clearly kin to dub poetry, birthed here, umbilically linked at the Edna Manley College’s ‘Tree of Life’.
Conscious of all this the Spoken Word Festival will pay homage to these energies and events by placing technology in a call and response conversation with tradition. It will foreground in film (still a critical medium for entertainment and information dissemination in this fourth industrial revolution) the noble contributions to Jamaica, the Caribbean and the world, made by these honorees. This will be complemented by poetry offerings from some of the most dynamic and important poets of our time and space; essentially marking the moment, by grounding with griots!