Monday, 10 October 2016

Akala at The NewBridge Project as part of Hidden Civil War

On Saturday I was fortunate enough to listen to Akala speak at The NewBridge Project as part of the Hidden Civil War programme.

I must admit that a few weeks ago, the name Akala meant nothing to me. I apologise now!

"This fiercely independent artist has performed in over 30 countries, released 6 albums, two books, presented the seminal Life of Rhyme for Channel 4, founded The Hip-Hop Shakespeare Company and has been a tireless voice for education and social justice in the UK and all over the world.

Akala is a MOBO Award Winning artist, an outspoken rapper, spoken word artist and writer. In 2008 Akala founded the Hip-Hop Shakespeare Company (Ian McKellen is a patron), a touring troupe performing Akala’s adaptations of Shakespeare’s work. His aim was to underline the similarity between the plays and the poetry of the best rappers, or, as he put it, “the lyricism that transcends all the revenge-tragedy, Tarantino violence”.

The ‘Doublethink’ diaries is a collection of dystopian poetry, the lyrics taken from the Doublethink album and selected other writings from one of the most interesting, informed and challenging voices to emerge from the British music scene in recent years. ‘The Ruins Of Empires’ — an epic poem and graphic novel features illustrations by Tokio Aoyama and follows ‘The Knowledge Seeker’ through the course of human history, via astral travel and multiple re-incarnations, in an attempt to discover the causes of the rise and fall of empires."

The event was sold out, additional tickets were released and there were people on the day coming into the gallery hoping that they would be able to get to see Akala in action.

For me, one of the best things about the Hidden Civil War programme is that it is attracting people who would not normally be contemporary art gallery visitors. I often go to art events and look in the room to see the same faces and wonder whether as artists we are just talking to other artists. But as I scanned the project space on Saturday, I was delighted to see many new faces I did not recognise from the art scene, and talk to a bunch of people who were new to NewBridge, but genuinely wanted to come back after this, their first experience. Surely that alone is an achievement in itself.

As for Akala, he spoke with passion, intelligence, wit, and responded to questions in a thoughtful and open manner. Politicians sure could learn some things from him!

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