It is often said that prostitution is the oldest profession, however that is to be disputed with the theory that poetry or story telling is the oldest traditional profession.
Perhaps it may not have been considered a profession. Heaven knows that’s not how our grandparents saw it when they had to tell tales about how the witty hare outsmarted the hyena or coming up with short poems praising the tortoise for being wise.
But it should have been considered a full time job because they would do it night after night around the fire at the village, and the duty of telling stories was passed on for many generations.
How else would stories of prostitution being the oldest profession in the world have been disseminated if not through story telling?
Many may think that poetry is not a form of storytelling but it is. It is just a shorter and sometimes more rhythmical way of telling a story If you were considered a pariah in high school because you were overzealous in your love for poetry and storytelling, my apologies, but in 2015 it seems everyone is trying to be a poet.
The monthly Spoken Word show has seen a boom of young talents grace its stages, and the more seasoned ones have gone on to host sold out solo shows.
Playshis the Poet and Aswyn are among those who have had their own shows, with the former expected to host his second solo show on 30 September. Poetry is also weaving itself into music, although some might say music itself already poetry. Nunu Namises, popularly known as Truth, performance her awe-inspiring pieces alongside acclaimed guitarist Christian Polony and together form the band Blend.
Although poetry has been around since time immemorial, it has not always been as popular or recognised as an art form and a profession in Namibia.
“The performance poetry sector had to start from nothing, as any other sector of the entertainment industry, just like the music industry in Namibia. It took a decade for Namibian performance poetry to get where it is now,” Playshis the Poet explained.
He is perhaps one of the most recognisable faces on the poetry front. He recounted that Spoken Word Namibia was started a little over a decade ago by a group of people who truly loved the art form. They started out in a small lounge, before moving to the Bank Windhoek Theatre School, and finally moving over to the Warehouse theatre where it is now hosted.
“Today the monthly Spoken Word show fills the Warehouse Theatre. So it was just going to be a matter of time. If you stay dedicated to a cause and you ensure that the acts/ performers that you put on stage are quality acts then the movement will grow and become popular and in turn so will those individuals who make the actual show; the poets,” he said.
Playshis said that he does not think the recent boom of poetry is a fad, but it is merely growing, just as the music industry or the film industry, which both seemed dormant a decade ago have.
“Back in the day when you told people about a ‘'poetry' or 'spoken word' event, they thought it was going to be some boring poetry recital and that they would fall asleep. This is not what happens… We perform for you, entertain you, and keep you enticed, all while touching on a wide range of topics including serious issues. More people now know what we do, how much work goes into it and that we actually offer a quality-filled entertainment option. The poet’s role in the entertainment industry in Namibia and in our society is now respected a little more. And because of that, people now realize that you don’t necessarily have to get a musician as entertainment for an event, but you can actually get a poet to come entertain you and you’ll have just as much fun,” he explained.
Fellow poet and playwright, Hafeni Muzanima, said that he believed the poetry boom is as a result of a burst of artistic expression happening in the city at the moment. He said the fact that there are common faces steering the art form helps in popularising it because people are naturally drawn to storytelling accompanied by a familiar face and a strong conviction.
“Poetry is mportant because it humanises us in a time where we are quickly losing depth and the will to empathise with each other as humanity; the poets give way to that depth; that vulnerability, and in that way, the audience validates their experiences and feel understood through whatever they weren't aware that they are going through,” he said passionately.
He added that there seemed to be a sudden intelligence re-emerging among poets in the city; enlightenment, if you will, which makes this a crucial time to listen to poets who have experiences and stories which are eye opening and who aren't afraid to speak their truth as was the case in the past.
“It is almost like the resurrection of Machiavelli, Nkrumah, Michael Jackson and the reviving gospel of Tatekulu Mvula ya Nangolo, Lauryn Hill and Meekulu Maya Angelou. It's not new what's happening, but it brings back a rich human experience which went dormant for a while. Poets are exposing themselves to the methods and thinking of great legends and that's what Windhoek has been yearning for,” he noted.
Queen Flietes, better known as Queeny who rose to popularity a few years ago because of her witty and comical routines agreed with Muzanima, noting that being deep or thoughtful or aware of yourself and your surroundings is the in thing right now.
“Poetry allows us to eulogise a moment, to get over it, to free yourself and the next person going through the same thing. It's liberating, to put it nicely; A picture tells a thousand stories, whereas poetry paints the perfect picture and allows me to be the artist,” she explained.
Flietes said that people were in a place where creativity is being noticed and being praise, and should this mind-set fade people would be able to see who is really a poet and who is a dead fish.