Published 28 July 2012 – The Mirror, Ghana
“I am not a love person”, says Black. “I’m not into love poems. I don’t know how to write a love poem.”
As the co-ordinator of Elhalakasa, Quaye Kojo Benedict (or ‘Black’ as he is known on stage) lives and breathes poetry. But he gets frustrated when people assume poetry can only be about love.
Poems can be about anything from clothes to black power, a traumatic event, politics, or anything from our everyday lives, he says. It’s all just about expressing whatever pops into your head.
He is so passionate about it that he founded a regular spoken word night where you can do just that. Its name is Elhalakasa.
“Elhalakasa is a straight talk, straight philosophy, poetry and music,” he says. Every last Sunday of the month, a group of writers, poets, musicians and lovers of words come together to perform, listen and enjoy other people’s work.
The name is made up of three local words put together – ‘Eha’ comes from the Ewe word for ‘song’, ‘La’ is Ga for ‘to sing’, and Kasa means ‘talk’ in Twi.
“Elhalakasa is performance art – if you want to do spoken word, want to sing, want to act, say proverbs or whatever, you do it creatively.” he says. “Poetry has a new name in Ghana and it is Elhalakasa.”
The event is open to any one to perform – new writers and first time poets share the stage with more established artists. It’s all just a chance to practice and have your work heard.
When you think about poetry, you usually think of reading silently to yourself from a book. But Elhalakasa gives writers the chance to speak their work, and receive instant feedback from the audience.
“A lot of the guys who started coming were not sure if they could get up on stage to perform… All they know is that they can write poems and that’s it.” says Black. “We have guys who have grown into real cool performers, just because they’ve seen other people do it.”
It’s also a chance to celebrate poetry and create greater awareness of the artform. Ghana has a long history of spoken word, but many do not realise it is still valuable. “We have really great men and women in this country who are doing good with poetry but they are only known internationally. In their own country they are not very recognized.” Elhalakasa creates a place for young up and coming poets to practise and grow their art.
If you’d like to find out more, Elhalakasa is on this Sunday night (and the last Sunday of every month) at the Nubuke Foundation in East Legon, or the Pan African Writers Association organizes an event on the first Sunday of the month in Roman Ridge.