SEVEN performance poets from Singapore and Kuala Lumpur will stage an hour-long spoken word performance at Lit Up 2013 this coming weekend (19 to 21 July).

“Spoken Word” is story-telling, poetry and intelligent thought – in short, words jumping right out from their pages.

From birth rates to migration to feminine identity, these seven women will bring to light a collection of introspective, observational and amusing spoken word pieces through solo, duet and group performances. The troupe collectively explores the themes of objectification, colonialism and socialisation evolving in today’s post-modern social soup.

Here’s a taster from a piece about being ‘othered’ due to tokenism and race/ethnicity:

“I am a shadow of my country.
I eat foods that complement my skin tone,
Rice shovelled from hand to mouth
Tongue trails the acid from elbow to wrist.
Remove me from the bodies i’ve been
Made to inhabit, separate me from my skin”

The Interview

I asked one of the seven poets, Nabilah Husna, for insight to the performance.

“She Walks Like a Free Country” is an awesome title for a spoken word performance. How did you come up with it and how does it tie in with the festival’s “Progression” theme?

Thanks! We love it, too. We were toying with the concept of anthropomorphising a country or state and gendering it – what if woman was a country? Would the same rules apply to her as they are to those who identify themselves as women in this day and age? The question of women’s ‘freedoms’ tends to crop up when any talk about progress towards egalitarianism is made. It perfectly captures the strength of our show, and of each of the troupe’s members as both women and poets: strong, unapologetic, perceptive – essentially the dispositions we feel contribute to any form of progress, whether personal or in a broader socio-political sense.

2. Why an all-female troupe? Is there an underlying feminist message?

Anyone who knows me understands that I’m vocal about my identity as a feminist, and while the seven of us went in knowing we related with feminism in some way, we made it a point to write pieces that did not explicitly label particular ideologies. It is inevitable that when you bring seven strong women poets together, the result would be intersection-related discourse when hashing out ideas for the poems, whether they’re about race or gender or national/cultural identity – all of which are, by default, feminist in nature – which is brilliant.

3. Why seven poets and how did you select the team?

The Malaysian poets were selected based on their previous collaborative work with Singaporean poets over the last few years. The Singaporeans each embodies something inimitable in terms of language and delivery. They’re each amazing performers with their own style of putting together a compelling performance. That we’re all heavily involved in the spoken word scene in our countries was also a large qualifying factor. As for seven poets…the fact that seven is a spiritual number is a complete coincidence! A good one though!

4. This is great collaborative stuff between Singapore and Malaysia. Do you plan to do more collaborations like this? Why was this important?

I hope so! Going to Kuala Lumpur for Wordfest was incredibly enriching and inspiring for Victoria and me; we met the Malaysian counterparts of our troupe and we happily indulged in the spoken word scene in KL. The thing I took away most about that trip was how much we learned from one another’s styles and delivery. I couldn’t get enough of the brilliant talent there and really look forward to heading back to explore more collaborations. With this troupe, I think there’s huge potential to take it further after Lit Up – it is exciting to be able to work with like-minded women and have a safe space to suggest ideas that I would not normally try if I were writing and performing solo. Being able to do that with regional poets exposes us to a lot more than the style that becomes all too familiar if we work only locally.


A Singapore-KL spoken word performance at Lit Up 2013

“She Walks Like A Free Country” features:

  • Sheena Baharudin (KL)
  • Jennifer Champion (SG)
  • Elaine Foster (KL)
  • Nabilah Husna (SG)
  • Victoria Lim (SG)
  • Raksha Mahtani (SG)
  • Melizarani T.Selva (KL) 

Performance times:
19 July: 8.30pm – 9.30pm. One of two opening performances.
21 July: 4.30pm – 5.30pm

For more information:

Lit Up 2013 festival details:

19 to 21 July 2013
Opens at 7pm on Friday 19 July
Aliwal Arts Centre, 28 Aliwal Street Singapore 199918

For the full programme and more information:

[Related Lit Up 2013 post]