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Lady speaks the blues

Published: 
Friday, August 31, 2018
Arielle John tells a story to the audience as she performs in Bout Blues.

Spoken word poet and artiste Arielle John’s first solo concert, Bout Blue, was a breathtaking mixture of elements which came together to examine the poet’s relationship with the colour blue. The show was the first of the Atlantic Future Series, a collaboration between the Little Carib Theatre and the 2 Cents Movement.

With pre-show performances by Arianna Herbert, Majeed Karim, Javaughn Forde and Deneka Thomas, with MC Derron Sandy, the show was a prime expression of the growth the Spoken Word genre continues to experience in T&T.

John’s one-woman show incorporated drums, dance, movement, music and voiceovers. Her pieces included odes to the ancestors, an exploration of her name and her relationship with her parents, elements of culture and religion including stickfighting, Kambule, blue devils, Kali, Yemanja and the Virgin Mary.

The moods engendered in the audience ranged from sombre when she spoke about the loss of a child to laughter when she appealed to the Virgin Mary to speak to her son about lifting the curse of Eve. John said her experience of a 3Canal concert at age 15 introduced her to a consciousness of resistance, describing being dumbfounded at seeing the Prime Minister’s wife applauding a performance of Salt. The work was heartfelt and left the audience feeling touched.

In her artiste’s talk immediately following the show, John saluted her parents, as she said “they always get all kinds of questions because I’m the child who’s putting their business out in the road, but my father is also a really lovely preacher who also uses my name for exemplary things when he’s preaching.”

John said her father had been diagnosed with cancer while she was studying abroad and while she wasn’t around to help her family deal with it, “it has taught me how to value life and to take life a little more seriously and to make the best use of my time that I have, when I am able-bodied, when I am in full health, etc. In terms of my personality, it has given me a greater appreciation for life, time and physical ability and in terms of spirituality, it took me up a level to learn how to trust more and to have bigger faith.”

The talented artiste said it can be dangerous for a Spoken Word artiste to be vulnerable on stage if they have not worked through the necessary emotional hurdles or done a certain level of healing work. “If you throw that up on a stage, it doesn’t really help you. I think it pushes the trauma a little deeper and a little further, it just becomes a shared trauma.

“But for me, in terms of making choices around the stories that I choose to tell, these would have been things that I would have worked through. I would have processed, and then I ask who are the people that have had similar experiences in my space who can benefit from my story, whether it’s one of resilience or looks at healing or looks at how we can move out from a place of trauma?”

John said studying abroad was critical in developing her drive to do more spoken word theatre and also facilitating younger people to develop this type of work. She said independent shows such are these are important in the evolution of Spoken Word here in T&T, where currently the Slam form is predominant. She said: “That’s for me one of the motives behind the Atlantic Future Series idea.

“Slam poetry has its place in T&T culturally; we’ve found a real incubator space for it but there are also other different types of poetry that exist and there are other ways of storytelling within the same art form that I think we could make use of and develop further, just as the Slam scene has developed.”

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