Monday, 11 July 2016

DIKE CHUKWUMERIJE SAYS DON’T BE YOUR WORST SELF



Q: You are a lawyer and a performance poet, do you see any conflicts?
A: How can, when they are both steeped in theatrics, depend on research, require the marshalling of facts to tell a concise story, and demand a basic command of the art of oration?


Q: How did you study law in the first place?
My father said, ‘Study Law’. End of story.

Q:You are one of those who has popularized performance poetry, how did this come about?

Looking back, I think there are two things I did that caused this. One, translating the tribute poem I wrote for Chinua Achebe into a video.

Two, creating Night of the Spoken Word (NSW) as platform for using performance poetry to entertain a non-literary crowd.

Both were quite novel steps and helped in no small way to get the message out.


In addition, my performance poetry is usually aimed at the average person. I don’t use complex or obscure metaphors. And I speak in my natural voice. All of this contributes to increasing accessibility.

Q:You are an active member of Abuja Literary society and even got an award for service, how did you come to know the society and what has motivated you to be committed to it?

A friend of mine, Dare, told me about ALS. I think it was in 2009 or so. And I went and found it to be exactly the sort of thing I wanted to do myself. Rather than go off and duplicate what already existed, I decided to help in any way I could. So, I started by coming on time and helping with the chairs and, eventually, a space opened to host and I was asked to do so. ALS is a unique forum where Nigerians from all walks of life can come together over a shared interest in literary things. I think this is a beautiful thing.

Q:You write and have a lot of following on Facebook. Was that your intention in the first place?


Yes. I wanted a space where I could experiment with writing and get instant feedback, and also connect with people over shared views.

Q:Your spoken word event has grown and become synonymous with a quality literary programme, can you take us through how it all began?

It started with an idea I couldn’t shake, namely to communicate poetry differently to the public, to communicate it in a way that people would be willing to pay to come and watch it. After I got tired of talking about it, I decided to go out and do it.


So, I did my first show in Feb 2013. It was a collaboration with the Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA), and was a success. This encouraged me to go on.

So I did the first edition of Night of the Spoken Word (NSW1) in September that year. It was a collaboration with ALS and the Lifestyle Bookstore in Silverbird Galleria. That too was a success. So, I continued.

There have, of course, been challenges with funding, logistics, finding partners, satisfying audience expectations and so on, but I’ve managed to hold at least 2 editions of the show every year since, and have seen massive growth in attendance.


At NSW4, I introduced tickets for the first time, which was an important step for the event.

At NSW5, I moved the event out of Silverbird Galleria, which was another important step for us, and I also began to experiment with collaborations with other art forms, like Drama and Dance.

At NSW6 I worked with a wonderful team of people and we came within touching distance of our objective of bringing in 1000 people to watch poetry.

Now, we’re getting ready for NSW7, which will be an Independence (Oct 1st) Weekend Show, with many of the innovative twists for which NSW has become known. For instance, it will be our first time doing a 3-day show. So if you miss the Friday show you can catch it on Saturday or Sunday. Also, it will be our first time staging what I call a Poetry-for-Stage Production. So, in summary, this is how it has been; conquer one mountain, face the next.

Q: With a benefit of hindsight, can you say that reading law was good and necessary for you?

Yes, it was. One, I made life-long friends while at it, and picked up vital skills and aptitudes. Law is a very multi-disciplinary course and equips you with a mental flexibility that allows you to fit into and do many things in Life.

Q:What final word do you have for all the young people looking up to you?

Be yourself. This, however, is not a license to be your worst self. What it means is from time to time stop and ask yourself: ‘Is this what I really want to do?’ Answer honestly. And then act on that answer with courage and dogged determination.