Produced by Guest blogger
This guest blog is written by MA Media & Communication student, Esther Sandra Mene about their experience attending the Rising Voices event.
I attended a transformative event called Rising Voices that took place with the aim of creating visibility for Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour (BIPOC) writers in the Dorset area. This event was co-funded by Bournemouth University and the Arts University Bournemouth, and it was hosted at the Lees Lecture Theatre on BU’s Talbot campus.
The showcase was a resounding success spearheaded and presented by project director, Dr Aanka Batta, and supported by Dr Brad Gyori as the principal investigator, James Cole as the creative lead, and the communications team of Esther Sandra Mene, Vanessa Adjei, and Oluwatosin Janet Idowu. It was also co-hosted by Suchismita Ghosh.
A night of diversity and cultural celebration:
As attendees entered the enchanting hall, it became evident that Rising Voices was not just a literary event; it was a celebration of culture, heritage, and diversity. People wore attire representing their respective countries and regions, creating a vibrant tapestry of colours and traditions. An ambience of excitement and joy pervaded an evening dedicated to embracing and showcasing the beauty of multiculturalism.
Poetry as a vehicle for love and equality:
Throughout the event, poetry served as the medium through which love and equality were passionately advocated. Poets from diverse backgrounds took the stage, each offering a unique perspective on their culture and experiences.
With passion and grace, these writers emphasised the importance of connecting with one’s cultural heritage, recognising it as a source of identity, strength, and pride. Vanessa from Ghana shared the soul-stirring poem “Medo Wiase” (The Love of My Life), stressing the importance of self-acceptance and celebrating the beauty of black women.
I was personally honoured to present the poem “My Culture, My Heritage,” an opportunity to share insights and feelings tied to my cherished Nigerian roots.
Embracing identity – “My Hijab, My Choice”:
One particularly poignant moment was when Ibtissam Lotfi stepped forward to present her poem, “My Hijab, My Choice.” In a world that often misunderstands and misrepresents hijab-wearing women, Ibtissam’s powerful words shattered stereotypes and affirmed the agency and strength behind her personal choice. The audience was moved, recognising the importance of respecting, and appreciating diverse expressions of faith and identity.
A multilingual tapestry of voices:
The richness of Rising Voices extended beyond cultural diversity to linguistic diversity. Poems were rendered in various languages, including those from Nigeria, Ghana, India, China, and more. This linguistic tapestry illuminated the beauty and power of words, reinforcing the universal language of emotions and human connection.
Translations enabled everyone to appreciate the essence of each piece, fostering a sense of unity and understanding.
Beyond poetry: A memorable spectacle:
Rising Voices was not solely focused on poetry; it was an immersive experience of art, music, and dance. Spectacular performances captivated the audience, celebrating different cultural expressions. From traditional dances to soulful musical renditions, the event showcased the talents and artistry of BIPOC individuals in the Dorset area. The stage truly became a platform for their voices and talents to shine brightly.
A call to embrace and respect:
Rising Voices left an indelible mark, reminding everyone of the importance of embracing and respecting diverse cultures and identities. It transcended boundaries, fostering unity among attendees from various backgrounds. The event was a testament to the power of art and creativity in promoting inclusivity and equality.
In conclusion, Dr Aanka Batta, the event’s director, delivered a powerful message, urging everyone to remember their roots and embrace their cultural backgrounds. Dr Brad Gyori, as the principal investigator, encouraged attendees to spread love and harmony within any community they find themselves. James Cole, who played a crucial role in facilitating the workshops, emphasised the importance of speaking out and not hiding in the face of fear. Through the medium of poetry and performance, their message resonated: keep speaking, never give up, and continue to make your voice heard.