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MEET.

AFRIKA SPEAKS BACK: WORDS HAVE POWER

MELBOURNE VIC.

What do you do when your history is written by someone else, and you are made out to be the villain of your own story?

The Pin was invited to attend Afrika Speaks Back at the newly opened Afro Hub for Africa Day.

Curated and hosted by Sista Zai Zanda (Pan Afrikan Poets Cafe), Afrika Speaks Back brought forth young and talented artists who, by way of expression, created a broadened sense of identity as they performed works that touched on a variety of subjects, punctuated by musical performances (that raised the roof!).

What’s really important about Afrika Speaks Back is that regardless of the day that it falls on, it gives a voice to Afro-diaspora and Indigenous people. Both Afro-diaspora and Indigenous people share written histories that have been authored by the explorers that colonised their ancestral land and diminished their societies - finding power in words Afrika Speaks Back aimed to set the record straight and the stories too.

MEET THE ARTISTS OF AFRIKA SPEAKS BACK.


SISTA ZAI ZANDA//
I am a storyteller educator and radio producer I am also of Zimbabwean heritage, I live in Australia and I am a proud African.

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THE PIN. What does it mean to be a person of colour in modern day Australia?
Right now I think there are some tough times for sure, it can be very challenging, but at the same time it’s a beautiful time to be here [Australia]. Increasingly there are more people of colour who are doing incredible things in their own little sector of the world (for me it’s the arts) and I am completely wowed and amazed. I think we’re in a space where we really have to push boundaries a little and for me that’s great because I am a boundary pusher and I really like breaking ground, so it’s a really exciting thing for me right now.

Do words have power?
Words have the utmost power and it starts with ourselves, the way that we talk to ourselves. For example, I never thought I would be a storyteller and I had to tell myself that I was one and get into my head and realise what that voice and what that script was that was telling me I couldn’t do that or that it wasn’t a valid profession. Once I changed the way I was thinking with those words everything flowed from there and became.

Where do you feel you have a voice?
Well I am very privileged because I have hosted a radio show for the last 6 years so I pretty much have a voice every Sunday [laughing]. I am very comfortable getting on stage and speaking to people and organising events. I think it’s because I was able to overcome shyness at a young age. Personally, with my friends I feel like I have a voice because I am heard, I’m accepted, I’m welcomed and I am also very privileged. I’m just loud I have a voice everywhere let’s just put it that way. I have to remind myself not to speak sometimes.

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Why is it important to events like this right now?
It’s representation. I now understand it as representation matters.

I grew up in a country that became independent from [British] colonisation when I was young so for me when I watched T.V. everyone on was black, black, blackity, black! - The billboards were black, black, blackity, black! - everything was black around me. So when I came to Australia I was like oh, ok very different.

Though I had previously live in Germany and knew what it was like living in a different cultural space, there was still a different feel from coming from a German speaking space to an English speaking space. In Australia, I could actually read everything and have access to all the material around me because I came from an english speaking former colony. Even though I had all this information, what I really missed was content that was deeply nuanced, complex and reflective of myself. That’s why I try to create these safe spaces that allow people to have that nuanced interaction and be able to talk about the complexity of who we are with one another and share. It’s very transformative and very healing - we need that.

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KAT CLARKE //
Words have power, we are stronger when we’re able to voice exactly how we feel and when we are able to voice for our people and I think that is something that can make change. Without sharing voices and stories we become limited. The power of words can help us build each other up and that is important.

THE PIN. Where do you feel you have a voice?
Here in Afro Hub I definitely feel I have a voice. Being someone who is Indigenous, I feel so welcome to come in here to share my voice in this space. I can only hope that I have a space that opens up and I can provide something like this because we need more culturally safe spaces where  you’re able to feel like you without having to be validated. You can just be you and that’s what I love about a space like this. I am here and I am home.

 

ASTRID MBANI//
I feel I have a voice when I share my written work and spoken work.

THE PIN. Do words have power?
ABSOLUTELY. Absolutely. I feel what I do with my work is see the world in a certain way and I try to give people a sneak peek into it and I only have words to do that. I am glad for the spoken word.

 

 

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KAIIT//
I identify myself as a proud Gunditjmara and Papua New Guinean woman.

THE PIN. Do words have power?
Words have so much power. For me that power is in my writing. I’m not a huge on telling a lot of people what's going on with me and my feelings, so when I write that’s the highest power I can give them.

Where do you feel you have a voice?
I feel like I have a voice in places like [Afro Hub] with people that maybe originate from similar places that I am from. For a long time I wasn’t able to relate to the people from the area I grew up in, but just having this here and being with like minded people and beautiful people of colour is a great space.

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ELIZABETH ETTA//
I think I feel I have a voice through my creativity, my art and through my writing. That's what empowers me and that’s what gives me a voice.

THE PIN. Do words have power?
Absolutely they do! I think words have the power to uplift or to tear you down. I think words have the power to create things in the universe, even God created everything using words, so that absolutely yes they have power.

 

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CHIDO MWATURURA//
I’d say one of the first places I had a voice from a little baby’s point of view is with my siblings, they played a really big role for me growing up. My parents were there too but I always wanted to be like my siblings. I  found I have always had a voice with them and I have always been able to say what I think and what is true to me. On stage I also feel like I have a bit more of a voice, because in real life it is a bit hard articulating what I thinking in real time. So, at least when I get on stage, I have had a bit more time to process things and sound a bit more eloquent.

THE PIN. Do words have power?
I think from today’s event demonstrated that words do have power. Just sharing experiences from today, people sharing common experiences and saying I totally agree with that and I am totally not a lone. Like when KAIIT was singing her song about being in the year 2000 something and said 'I wrote this song because I wasn’t sure where I fit in until I found a the right group of people', I was like actually, I can relate with that - I think that’s really powerful.

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These interviews have been condensed and edited

Photo credit: Produced by Ntombi & shot by Ashlyn Farenden with the exception of Kat Clarke^ & KAIIT*

^Taken from Facebook
*Taken from Instagram