Performance poetry has a strong effect on people’s feelings and thoughts. Poetry of a specific area speaks hugely about that culture and politics.
Globally, with the blowout of performance poetry as a growing art form, there is an opportunity to use the art to propagate and express thoughts on the many blunders in society.
Performance poetry takes place in bars, theatres, streets, cafés, universities, private institutions, international organizations, and literary and cultural festivals.
The performance poet is an agent of change. He or she uses his or her words to incite the audience to join in a struggle to address a societal issue or to push an agenda. These issues addressed include gender discrimination, corruption, and robbery, among many others. Examples of performance poems used for advocacy is Vitus Speakz’s “THE MOVEMENT”, which speaks strongly against individuals who judge and badmouth the progress of their fellow colleagues.
Since the poet is an advocate, he needs to be well read on what he is talking about. Besides, advocacy is quite a difficult one. The poet has to address the subject and cover many related issues within the performance of one poem – which is usually less than five minutes. Thus a call for creativity with the choice of words; with a few words, the poet must be able to paint a full picture of the subject he or she is addressing.
It takes a good artist to be able to produce a poem that is creatively appealing to the audience and, at the same time, calls them to action.
Over the past decade, many Ghanaian artists have used their art as a means of inspiring their audience to join in a course. These advocacies range from keeping Ghana clean to fighting against governmental policies to the fight for gender equality.
More Ghanaian performance poets are employing art as a means of advocating a cause. As a result, unlike its early stages in Ghana when poetry was used solely for entertainment purposes, the art has gradually become a medium for social change. Perhaps what catalyzed it was an increase of social problems over the years, or probably an influence by social and developmental advocacy agencies. There is evidence to support that introducing arts and poetry in general education and curricula improve student imagination, narrative skills, and develop a sense of ethics towards society. Studies carried out in various parts of the world suggest that participatory social programs that include art and poetry induce positive changes and social cohesiveness in the community, improve the physical environment, and encourage empathy.
Poetry is also known to influence environmental politics. Public health interventions in Ghana have positively used poetry, drama, and songs to make developmental change communication more effective. The growing practice of performance poetry as a global phenomenon, especially among the youth, demonstrates that it provides a platform to discuss social issues at multiple levels through personal experiences. There is no exhaustive list of human right issues that gets voiced through the poems but they are inclusive of social inequity, gender-based violence, mental health, adolescent sexual health, aging, education, environmental issues, refugees, immigrants and minorities, and global conflict zones.
This art form is ideal as policymakers globally are trying to frame methods of advocacy that provide alternatives to top-down approaches and to young artists building their own ways to voice their challenges. It is essential that governments and corporate bodies acknowledge and fund performance poetry as an upcoming form of art to strengthen the movement globally.
The writer, Kayleb Ahinakwah doubles as a spoken word artist and host of the Read A Book A Week Show that airs on Radio Univers 105.7FM every Wednesday at 3 pm.