There’s something that sets Word Up apart from any other serial event in Seychelles. It might be the ambient lanterns strewn up around the stage like floating orbs. It could also be the light, friendly banter shared between audience members as they await for the next performance. Nevertheless, the Word Up experience brings out a side of Seychelles that is seldom seen.
By sundown, the show is nearly commencing. Near the canteen, sitting among friends and fellow poets is Alexandria, the founder and mastermind behind the movement, along with the Word Up Team, Velma, Colin and Loni. It’s usually around her spot where the bold dare to throw their names into the ring. To newcomers this is can be rather intimidating, and I know that for a fact; because my first time was. It all seems trivial from an outside lens, but the moment your name is entered, is the moment you’re close to dominating the crowd and all eyes are on you.
Confident footsteps strut onto stage and his can be no one other than Loni, the MC/poet. In one hand he’s holding the mic, spouting charisma and wit that hypes the crowd for the show. However, the other hand holds the dreaded dipping bowl. Before Loni announces who’s going to go on stage first, there’s a brief moment of tension and anxiety shared amongst most artists. Pre-show jitters. The air gets thick.
He rummages in the container and alas he picks out a name. I remember thinking what poor soul was going to go first, and to my luck, that poor soul was me. I gulped the lunch that was climbing up my throat and glided into the spotlight. After my introduction, courtesy of Loni of course, I swiped my phone on and began reading my poem.
Nothing can parallel the feeling of being in that spotlight. The heaviness that was residing in my chest finally dissipated and it felt like I was finally submerging from the sea. A tremendous, soothing breath of air rushed in my lung. The funny thing is that I barely recall reciting my poem. Instead, I was completely consumed in the force of emotion that leapt from my phone screen. Every syllable had its own power and every line triggered a memory. There I was, confiding my inner most thoughts to strangers who came to listen, and somehow I felt less alone. You can get so caught up in how the performance goes, that you forget you’re sharing your personal stories to empathetic eyes and ears.
Reaching the end of your performance is a crescendo peaking and peaking until it reaches an epic climax. After a short silence, the audience erupts in a ripple of finger snaps, and appreciative nods. A relieved sigh escapes from your now loose chest, and the lingering adrenaline leaps you off the stage into a giddy resolve.
The show would follow a similar cycle until all names have been picked out, and each person has gotten the chance to appear on stage. In the meanwhile, a tiny queue is paved along the outskirts of the Callinoz’s food truck and its customers are indulging in curry wraps with their close companions. Throughout the night, the spotlight is shared by eloquently spoken characters; unsuspecting strangers you’d usually walk past during the day. With the help of the Word Up, taboo issues are open for conversation and even new bonds are made. It’s quite refreshing to see other Seychellois people from so many different backgrounds in this new light. The amount of open minded people allows for less talks about politics or drama and draws more focus to topics that shouldn’t be swept under the rug. It’s people finally demonstrating what it’s like to be a voice, not an echo.