January 10, 2022
Presented by the Arts Council of New Westminster: Poets+ curator Tawahum Bige shares selection and creative process
|Tawahum Bige, one of the many performers of colour participating in Poets+, has been working with the New Westminster Arts Council for years.|
His partnership with the Council’s Stephen O’Shea has produced performance opportunities, reference letters, and mutual pursuit of creative freedom.
So when O’Shea asked Bige to curate the multi-poet online performance, he readily agreed.
“Stephen came up to me and was like, ‘I don’t really have an idea for an event, but I want to make the space for you to have an idea, and for that to be something we work towards because I want to put a little bit more control to the artist,’” says Bige.”
“That’s what was happening, rather than coming with his own institutional programming. I thought that was really awesome.”
With time, Poets+ came into being. And for Bige, one of the most important goals was bringing together poets who are also activists and community leaders.
“My idea is to bring folks who are in fact poets, but they do a great deal of other kinds of work, whether that’s Tin Lorica’s comedy, Justin Percival’s hip-hop music and really intense spoken-word, or Jillian Christmas’s music and spoken word,” he says.
He chose people who are well connected to the community not only to give them a voice, but to thank them.
“If you’re doing poetry in Vancouver, you can’t not know Jillian Christmas, who has made it possible in so many venues for us to do our poetry, whether it’s spoken word festivals or many years of slam organizing,” he says.
“I want to really extend my deep appreciation and gratitude for everything she’s done in the community.”
There are people who have already been around in the scene for a long time, but there’s also a mix of newer talent. Even now, Bige considers himself new — especially compared to poets like Jillian Christmas.
“Then you’ve got Tin Lorica, who runs an amazing poetry and comedy show out of Red Gate, Millennium Line, and really pushes that forward in new ways. I extend that gratitude to them as well,” he says.
“Justin Percival’s up and coming in the community and very involved in the Downtown Eastside, as well as performed through Talking Stick Festival and doing a mentorship with him. He’s a rising star, and I just want to uplift that.”
While he understands it’s an addition to their virtual portfolio as well, Bige hopes the performers involved come out of the event feeling like they’re valued in the community for the work they’re doing.
“I always enjoy receiving a random email one day to get to perform in a project. Then I’ve been picked just for what I do. And I hope they really feel the sense of that when they see everybody’ live together,” he says.
“They were picked because they are some of the best, and I also hope that they feel the sense of pride when it reaches a wider audience than just those who are able to hang out in the room with them.”
It’s a great time to focus on connection, with so many members of the community scattered and stuck at home under public health restrictions. Poets+ provides an opportunity for the folks missing live performances to participate as much as they can, even if it’s from a distance.
Bige’s set will be about 15 minutes of “as much back-to-back poetry and music as [he] can manage,” based heavily on their work as a land protector.
Learn more about Poets+ here.
An exciting new collection of performances from emerging poets of color is debuting through the Arts Council of New Westminster (ACNW) in 2022. To be officially released on Jan. 14, the hour-long compilation was curated by Łutselkʼe Dene, Plains Cree poet and spoken word Tawahum Bige.
In Poets+, Bige performs alongside Nisga’a spoken word/hip hop artist Justin Percival, queer Filipinx comedian Tin Lorica, and creative facilitator Jillian Christmas. Together, they cover themes of identity, oppression, and reconciliation.
The project was recorded and filmed at Fifth Chord Studios in New Westminster last summer. When it is released in the new year, it will be available to view through YouTube and Earshot digital Distribution System.
|Media Contact: Aly Laube|
To interview the artists or organizers, reach out to me here or at 7788081400.