The maker of ‘I’m the Mood to Monkey’ Zewande BK Bhengu gives us an insight on what inspired him to create this poem, the message in it and a word to his fans! Check it out…
1. What sort of investment/effort, emotionally and physically, went into this body of work?
‘In The Mood To Monkey’ was written in light of Penny Sparrow’s comments about Black people at the beach being monkeys. It got me thinking of my own personal history with the ocean as a Black man who grew up in a rural areas. The ocean has always been a communal space to which we would travel by taxis and buses with our relatives and neighbours to celebrate the coming of the new year and to cleanse ourselves. Sikhupha is’khwakhwalala. We would take the ocean and its sand with us back home in bottles at times.
I had to tap into all those great memories. But with that, I had to look further into Black people’s history with the ocean and that relationship between a whole race of people and an ocean and then relate back and reflect on it as a Black man living in the modern time. I think our genes also hold the memory of our genealogy and our subconscious summons us to the beach to reintroduce ourselves to our ancestors every year.
The effort was really tapping into my personal history with the ocean and of course, understanding it in relation to collective Black history with the ocean.
2. What message does your poem carry? And what sort of feedback do you usually receive from your audience in regards to this poem?
My initial thoughts in writing the poem were: “Middle finger Penny Sparrow and anyone that thinks like her. We will not apologise for being Black, for loving the ocean and being loved by it. We will continue to take to the seas in great number despite their aggressive, regressive and devilish commentary”. I think it is only fair though to allow people to find the message themselves and not lock that opportunity for them.
I don’t generally receive “feedback” as feedback is, but what I do note is how fired people get after the performance. I think this is largely because the poem speaks to a relatable reality/ past of most black people, the idea of going to the ocean in great number of more than just immediate family. The poem is also quite short, punchy and filled with energy.
3. What is your secret to longevity in the poetry industry?
I don’t think I have been in the industry long enough for me to have any secrets of longevity in it. I think that is a question for anyone who has been writing and performing for over 10 years. I am a toddler in the business.
4. what keeps you writing and performing?
It’s my everyday experiences of life. There is always something that catches my attention and almost demands I unpack it in a poem. It’s moments with people, things and myself that I explore in poetry.
5. If you win the Perfect Poem award, what would that mean to you?
Well, it will be a great motivator to keep writing. It’s just another way the poetry audience let’s you know that they love your work.
6. Any words to your fans on why they should vote for you?
Please vote for me because every nominee sucks but I suck the least.
Zewande has already walked away with a Word N Sound Perfect Poem Award back in 2014. Is it time for another? If you believe it is, he needs your votes to win.
Voting closes at 20:00 on Sun 5 Feb. You can vote once every hour. The 5th Word N Sound Awards will take place on Sat 11 Feb at the Market Theatre Lab in Newtown. Get all your event info here.