For starters, it is crucial to introduce Dike Chukwumerijie for those who are not familiar with the name. He is one of Nigeria’s leading performance poet and the founder and creative director of NSW (Night of the Spoken Word) Simply Poetry which uniquely uses performance poetry; interacting with a live audience.
NSW debuted in 2013 and has since, ran through to recent times incorporating other major shows as it goes on like the, Made in Nigeria (MIN), Let’s Be Honest, Man Made Gods and other shows which help Nigerians mark special periods.
My first contact with Dike happened three years after his debut of the NSW show when a mentor purchased for me his book, Urichindere and a compact disc of his just-concluded NSW show which was held in Abuja.
Reading Urichindere, a book narrating the growth of a boy to man stunned me into realizing how stories are told differently. At the time, I graduated secondary school, and I could connect with the joys and fear of Urichindere as he went through his. Extensively, the book captured so much, ranging from the experiences that come with being a broader, a teenager in those politically uncertain times, a secondary school lover, and a child birthed by typical Nigerian parents.
As I read the book, I would laugh, cry and, snap my fingers when something hits home. I remember posting soon after, that it should be included in the reading syllabus for all secondary schools, I still hold that feeling. As for the disc, it cracked after too much playing. Dike would come on stage, tell stories with poetry, all the while, having either dancers who would interpret his words with their movements or a guitarist who would create sounds.
There was always something that accompanied his acts, there was joy, there was a pain, there were strong emotions I could not contain, and I knew I had to be part of this.
And the opportunity came, in my first year at the university when Joy, a member of the team contacted me to help create awareness for the MIN show he was bringing to Enugu. The experience was a dream, I distributed flyers, ran radio ads, spread the word on social media and the day of the event, I handled the press.
I remember having goosebumps so many times during the show as Dike burnt “102 years of Nigeria’s history to 120 minutes”, with poetry. He took us through the military regime, the 80s, 90s, and the present. Through the civil war, told stories of love lost and gained, gave us narratives of what it meant to study abroad as at that time. As he did all these, he made us cry, reflect and laugh. I shook, and as I fixed the phone on him, taking pictures, making videos and quoting him for social media, I knew my dedication and loyalty was stamped.
Perhaps these are the first things I learned from Dike, how to be utterly committed because the joy in your heart leaves you full. Over the years, whenever I was free from school, I would readily volunteer to be part of any show that held at that period be it in Abuja, Enugu or Lagos. If my physical presence was not possible, I would offer my resources offline, sharing, posting and spreading the word because I believe in Dike, I believe every Nigerian should experience him more than once.
From the show, I would learn how important it is to tell our stories, not necessarily the big ones that make it to the history books but the small ones too; about a mothers love, a boys dream, a fathers nature or a girls passion. I would learn that every story mattered and that no one person had the monopoly of experience; we are all connected. That is why you would shake your head or snap your fingers as you listen because something has just hit home.
Through Dike, I would learn values, that goodness in heart and spirit is the most important of all. Because positive ideal and love are sufficient enough to hold us, that meritocracy is what we should all gun for not nepotism, tribalism or godfatherism.
It would constantly resound that to see the change you want to happen; you have to become it. A clear example of this, is the fact that Dike has never subscribed to the norm “African time,” his four is precise, never earlier or later and if there is just one person seated, in his words, “I give my 100 percent to that one person.”
The entire organization is proof that consistency helps you build sustainability. How one meeting after another, held no matter what can create a well-knit community of the most reliable and trustworthy persons. Evidently as a creative in Nigeria, finding a community is essential. Noncreatives included, it is always special to be with people who hear your language, listen to your thoughts and help you project your crazy ideas. Simply Poetry is one of such communities.
The whole process uplifts my spirit, makes me understand that things can be better because I know 15-20 people who are all ripple effects trying to be better. And when each show ends, when we are all climaxed and overwhelmed, it is time to press repeat and do it over again.
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