This USask student has held an exhibit at Remai Modern and works to inspire other people’s creative journeys through interdisciplinary poetry.
Poetry, as an artform, is one that I feel is often overlooked and overly critiqued. Too often when poetry comes up in conversation do I find people saying something along the lines of: “it’s boring”, “it’s too into itself”, “it’s snooty”, or simply that they “just don’t like it.” Being honest, I too am guilty of deriding poetry as unengaging or frivolous at times; however over the years, as I’ve been subjected to more poetry, my opinion has changed from uncaring to appreciative. Peace Akintade, a Saskatoon-based poet and artist, is hoping to entertain a similar change in others as she introduces soulful poetry to the masses through workshops, exhibits and interactive art-pieces.
Akintade, a USask anthropology student, has been involved in Saskatoon’s poetry scene for eight years, initially getting involved through the Open Door Society after immigrating to Canada from Nigeria.
“I started with doing poetry workshops with the Open Door Society. They would help immigrants coming into Canada and they thought it would be great if they introduced us to different communities,” she said. “We’d have dance, and music, and EDM, beatbox[ing]; all those kinds of things.”
She explained to me that the Open Door Society, and another spoken word poetry collective, Write Out Loud, became outlets to express herself, as well as work through some of the turmoil caused by the process of immigration.
“I was an angry immigrant coming to Canada,” she said. “I came here feeling like I was taking two steps forward and then five steps back when it came to my culture.” She explained to me that poetry open mics helped her feel “validated”, “heard”, and “allowed [her] to be angry.” She spoke about how thankful she was to the Open Door Society and poetry community, “because if they weren’t there, I would definitely still be very angry.”
While the poetry workshops and open mics provided personal calm, and revelations that grounded Akintade’s love for literature, she found the other aforementioned arts inspired her to toy with interdisciplinary work, and explore the possibilities of what poetry can be: “I champion poetry by thinking of it as putting poetry in different [mediums] and seeing how it flourishes,” she said.
This interdisciplinary approach to poetry, weaving dance, hip-hop, contemporary art, videography and photography, has allowed Akintade the opportunity to facilitate poetry workshops at Saskatoon’s Remai Modern art museum. As an artist-in-residence she had the opportunity to introduce everyone from experienced poets to new writers, whether young or old, to the creative process. “Each month since January, me and the applied participants, we go through series’ [sic] of interdisciplinary poetry work[s] in the gallery space,” she explained. “[We work on] creating ‘good poems or going around the space and recording soundscapes with poetry, or learning about beat poetry, or working with drums or [doing] performance arts.”
While perhaps daunting to uninitiated poets, Akintade assures that a lot of effort is put into ensuring that her workshops are positive, inviting spaces for scribes of all skill levels. “My job as the facilitator is to curate a space that makes [participants] feel comfortable in exploring,” she said. “I’ve been decorating the space that we use with African fabrics, so it will cover the metal … cover all the white [walls],” she explained.“People have said that it makes them feel warmer and made them feel like they can stay in [the space].” She said that decorating the space in this manner created an atmosphere where people felt as though they could fail without judgment. This, Akintade said, was “an integral part [to aid in] learning poetry and being able to want to learn poetry.”
If full-blown, grandiose poetic workshops are out of your comfort zone, Akintade has, as of late, focused on “mix[ing] poetry with visual art” in order to engage contemporary art-fans with poetry.
One interdisciplinary exhibit of Akintade’s that was on display at Persephone Theater’s Pomegranate Gallery was, Do I Intimidate? Said The Voodoo Daughter. The exhibit was a combination of two projects spanning from 2020 to 2023. The first half of the exhibit, Do I Intimidate?, combined poetry, photography, drawings, fabrics and cardboard to explore the colonialism of clothing as it pertains to “intersectional narrative of the modern immigrant”. The second half of the exhibit, Said the Voodoo Daughter, used similar mediums to highlight Akintade’s personal journey in “releasing pain, finding strength in your voice, finding comfort in the beginning, and allowing yourself to roam.”
While her exhibit at the Pomegranate Gallery has closed, those interested in checking out Akintade’s work can find new pieces for viewing, and for sale, at The Drop Spot Studio located in the Drinkle Mall at 117 3 Ave S.
Between her workshops and interdisciplinary art-piece showcases Akintade has also spent the last year working on a four part poetry chapbook titled Earth Skin. Akintade describes it as a practice on “exploring the simpleness of relating to people.”
Broken into four chapters of: I am Who I Am, Ubuntu Circle, I am Who I Love and Ori, Ara Emi (meaning my head, my body, my soul, in Yoruba) the book explores perceptions of self, shared relations and experiences, traumas and grief, love and romance, and how we, and the world, all intertwine and connect into a collective “oneself”.
Akintade said the book is “not explainable by only [her]” as it was community and this expansive feeling of “relatedness” that comprises the book and brought it into existence. “We are collective humans, community humans, group-mental humans. I am who I am, we are who we are. We are “Earth Skin” in motion.” she said.
Earth Skin releases November 30, 2023. Tying in with her time as an artist-in-residence the book launch will be held at the Remai Modern. Despite the long journey of her life, the emotionally heavy themes, existentialism, and the sometimes uneasy visuals of her work, Akintade maintains herself a “black joy activist” who is focused on facilitating joy in the creation, and sharing, of poetry and art. “There is so much focus on the subjugation and suffering of Black, Indigenous, and people of colour’s (BIPOC) identity,” she said. “I want my work to be almost a manifesto to those who are not seen and loved; any BIPOC – any people, really.”
While poetry is definitely not the easiest artform to engage with, it is deeply effective in building bonds between people. What one person writes or performs may speak to your soul and inspire you to create something that does the same for another person. Even if poetry may seem “too into itself” for the uninterested, I think Akintade’s work proves that there is an entry point into the literary world for everyone. Moreover, she showed me that poetry is not just for the poet, but for the reader and all other audiences it might be shared with.