Photo by Sebastian Vassof
Ian Keteku—poet, musician, filmmaker–is national slam champion and the 2010 World Poetry Slam champion. He defines his work as “critical oratory”, inspiring messages of peace, action and wayward thought. He has written for numerous news and poetry publications. His latest album Love and Lumumba is an exploration of the quiet blaze which makes us human.
Ahead of his May 10 visit to Brockton Writers Series, the many-talented Ian shared some of his multi-disciplinary artwork with us. Enjoy!
The Language of Poetry
Trying to convince students that poetry exists everywhere, that we engage it all the time, is not always easy. It helps to think of poetry not just as a literary form of expression, but the effect it has on human beings. I believe there is poetry in everything. However, not everything is in poetry.
It is a language which speaks to certain aspects of our existence. Our brains, hearts, bodies react differently to other artistic genres, as they do with all art. A ballad of heartache tastes different than one expressed in a painting, both poetic. A dance of rage feels different than a wall of graffiti expressing the same emotion, both poetic.
I have become fascinated with the inherent poetry in film, animation, music and dance. Over the years, I have experimented with integrating art forms. Here are some of these experiments. A melange of artistic languages communicating with each other and with those experiencing it.
This photo was taken a few years ago. The young lady is much taller now. I take pictures once it a while, it is more of a fun pastime than anything. When I first started taking photos I would just point and shoot. I did not think much about framing, context, colour, subject, symmetry. In every photo I think there are a number of poetic goose eggs. Small treasures which complement the narrative and natural metaphor of the scene.
2. Proxima Centauri
Poetry has this wonderful way of telling the truth through beautiful lies. Sometimes imagining a fantastical existence is the most real something can be.
3. For You
Recently I have exclusively been taking photos with film cameras. I know, a very hipster thing to do. It is my belief, however, that there is something poetic about having to wait to see the fruits of a vision. There is a heavy tactility, a depth in pictures produced in film. Not better or worse than digital, just a different language. Sometimes nothing comes of it, sometimes a moment can tell a story where words cannot. This very hipster photo was taken in New York.
Doodling for me is meditative, quiet and soothing. Perhaps something in the repetition of the fingers, the creation of curves. I am far from a doodling savant but it is also a language I find poetry in hearing.
6. Right Side Up
Animation is one of those art forms which requires a great deal of repetition – with slight variation to tell a story. Animation is one of those art forms in which characters are able to have and transform in ways incongruous with our reality. Right Side Up was a project where music, voice, text and animation undid themselves simultaneously.
As artists we come across stories by the boat load. Anything can be written about or be the muse for the artist’s next dream. But the sadness of the world is in need of respite. By feeling the pain, swimming around it we are learning more about it. By acknowledging it is there and investigating its demeanor we can hopefully find peace or soft lament in the process. In searching the languages of expression in pain, the result can be both lethargic and beckoning.
8. Bolo Episode 3
Artists coming from minority groups can have waves of intent knocking against their vision. Must they acknowledge their body politic? Must their work be in defence or promotion of it? Can it also be creative? What if it does not concern me? I have only the answers I have conjured for myself.
The poem and video speaks to our particular use of language, its affects and ramifications. It is the third episode of a five-part animated series. Bolo The Dictator’s Son explores the life of Bolo, a 10-year-old boy and son of an African leader. A fish out of water, Bolo must navigate the nuances of living in North America after he is forced to leave the comfort of the African country where he once lived.
The series explores issues of race, politics and cultural identity. Animated by British based artist James White.
9. The Door
Companies, NGOs and the advertisement business are noticing the benefit of producing work which integrates the various languages of art. Adding poetry to complement visuals can add a layer of direction towards an intended message. I am always down for a collaboration when the message is of hope and change.
It is one thing to be fascinated by the amalgamation of artistic expressions, it is another to use it towards a purpose. When various art forms are speaking with, over and under each other, the result can be a catalyst towards actual change.
10. Global Citizen
Ian Keteku visits Brockton Writers Series on Wednesday, May 10, 2017, in our new home, Glad Day Bookshop, 499 Church St., Toronto, at 6:30pm (PWYC) alongside Ayesha Chatterjee, Mary Lou Dickinson, Catherine Hernandez and a special guest talk, “From Tarot to Creativity”, by Hoa Nguyen!