Spoken word poetry is a form of art performed by those who are good at writing, speaking and expressing feelings of deep literally work. This is usually done through an entertaining manner in which spoken word artists attempt to get their meaningful and impactful messages across to an individual by a play on words.
These words more often than not relate to a larger group of people who may find themselves going through a kaleidoscope of thoughts and emotions. With Namibia being lucky enough to have a diverse set of talented individuals such as musicians, artists, designers and dancers, we as a country can proudly add spoken word performance to that list.
When the topic of spoken word poetry is brought up one cannot help but make reference to the countries very own poetry guru, Ryno Platt, known as Playshis. Over the years he has managed to help address social issues through poetry which he felt needed to be placed in the mainstream of the Namibia narrative.
Playshis has touched on issues such as Gender-Based Violence (GBV), corruption, freedom of speech, the recklessness of road-use culture, the school-girl pad situation, the condition of the Namibian education and health sectors and environment protection.
In a one on one interview with The Lounge, Playshis revealed that through his performances he has tried to address the issues in his own capacity and at times in collaboration with others.
Playshis speaks mostly to young students and he has been invited a number of times by an international college that also has presence in Namibia to address them on the use of spoken word in addressing social issues.
“In my talks I give the students a quick background of my experience with poetry and my transition from using it to just express my own internal conflicts towards using it to speak on social matters that affect our communities.
During the talks I usually sketch a quick picture of our social conditions as well as the roles that poets and artists can play in being voices for greater good in the community. I also utilise these talks to enable students get a broader picture of how people live in different parts of the world and the manner in which they use art to deal with society’s issues”.
The interactions between himself, local poets and the students through the art of poetry has been a unique experience, one that has proven to be interesting and satisfying. This experience always reminds him of how important it is that poets speak up for their countrymen.
It has also shown him how people can be very different but also similar as people have the desire to speak up when things seem off.
The driving force behind Playshis’ need to speak on issues through poetry stems from the sense of responsibility he feels as an artist. For him, poetry is a platform for a greater good as opposed to just using it as a means of personal expression.
“I believe that anyone with a platform should address the ills of society and be a voice in the community if they are able to do so”.
Despite Namibians making use of alternative methods to speak on the issue on different levels, Playshis highlighted that these methods are not used often enough and this is why societal challenges still exist and even growing.
He stresses the importance of advocating the idea of speaking more openly about community problems by constantly keeping it in the lime light.
“We have to keep bringing attention to it, we have to keep reminding the public that what is wrong should be addressed, looked at and improved. We have to keep reminding them that they deserve better from their fellow citizens as well as from their leadership”.
He explained that some social issues in Namibia are just not individually based as many of them are practised by a group which has now become a norm for many.
“I’m no expert on these issues, but I do know that it’s not just a couple of individuals that are the problem. The issues stretch across all levels of society and class, and the bigger picture needs to be addressed in order to apply the correct remedies”.
With poetry being a great medium to try and solve these issues, Playshis urges the public to voice their opinions and shed light on their troubles in a positive way through any means possible, be it through writing, music or dance.
He further recommends the art of speaking up when people notice something wrong in society or in your community.
“If you have a platform to address issues in your community then do so. Make that noise until the people realize that change is necessary. Make that noise until those in charge do something to bring about change”.