The Ofi Press Magazine

International Poetry and Literature from Mexico City

The Spoken Word Movement in Ghana

 EhaLaKasa

By Crystal Tettey, Ghana (Published in Issue 20)

My first encounter with the Spoken word, a.k.a performance poetry, was in 2004. For the first time in my young adult life, there was news of a poetry slam in Accra, Ghana dubbed The Poetry Slam Jam and held at the Coconut Groove Regency hotel. Hitherto, I had only written, and never performed my poetry pieces. I spent hours in front of the mirror to perfect my facial expressions and overall delivery skills. At this event, I met some of the veterans of the art in Ghana such as Nii Lantei and Sir Black who shared my passion for transforming lives positively through the Arts.

Those were the early days of Spoken word in Ghana. From then on, the frequency of such events has been on the ascendancy, as have been its practitioners and advocates. Spoken word has introduced the youth of Ghana to a performance art that offers them musicality, poetry and critical information through the lenses of their contemporaries in the Arts.

A driving force of the Spoken word in Ghana is EhaLaKasa (a group of Spoken word artists who use their platform to inspire positive social change). The word EhaLaKasa is a composite of 3 words drawn from Ghanaian languages: Eha means song in Ewe, La means sing in Ga and Kasa means Speak in Twi: – collectively they relay the very essence of the Spoken word.

EhaLaKasa is the foremost poetry movement in Ghana, and has in recent times given birth to other Spoken word groupings. The women and men of EhaLaKasa are actively engaged in community development through school outreach programmes, participation in a weekly radio show known as the Writers’ Project (the brainchild of the Writers’ Project of Ghana-WPG) and many other activities that ensure that the youth remain informed and involved. We, in 2011, published a poetry anthology that included the works of students from some of the schools within our outreach; EhaLaKasa Poetry Volume 1(Woeli Publishing services, 2011). Our annual poetry festival dubbed EhaLaKasa Megafest is in its fifth year and we are glad to say that each year it attracts on average an audience of 1,000 from all over the country. Last year’s event was held at Alliance Francaise d’Accra. This year, we shall include in the line-up of performing artists - poets from Japan, the US, and Kenya.

Ghana boasts of many prolific Spoken word artists including myself Crystal Tettey, Sir Black, Poetra Ama Asantewa, Nana Nyarko Boateng, D.K Osei-Yaw, Nii Lantei, Chieff Moomen, MutombodaPoet. This list is by no means exhaustive as the Spoken word family grows from strength to strength each day.

Overall the Spoken word scene offers the youth of Ghana an alternative to the increasingly over-commercialised pop culture, while encouraging them to assess their socio-politico cultural environment and think up creative ways of contributing to its betterment.

For more information on poetry in Ghana: http://poetryfoundationghana.org/