When I arrived in Kuwait about 6 months ago, my ultimate mission was to find the writers; to gain inspiration from like-minded, creative souls who would completely understand my deep love for words. The results of my search were inconclusive… until now. Freedom of expression is not an openly accepted theory here, which explains why most of the local talent remains undiscovered. However, Word of Mouth Kuwait (WOM) is seeking to impact the cultural arts scene by creating a spoken word only event for poets and artists to express themselves, freely.
WOM was founded by three different, yet compatible individuals with the same evolutionary goal in mind — Mamuna Sarwar, an Educator and Writer from Canada with a deep passion for teaching and molding children who prides herself on a belief in using knowledge as a tool for success; Fatima Al Hamad, a trained Architect who combines music, art, poetry, and design elements on her storyboard Instagram profile; and Abdullah Khulaifah, a Banker and Musician/Lyricist who has always been fond of the arts and giving back to his community. Despite the overwhelming challenges associated with planning and organizing, Mamuna, Fatima and Abdullah are now prepared to officially present their unique concept.
The Word of Mouth Kuwait kick-off event will take place at Masaha 13 in Shuwaikh on May 27, 2015 at 7pm. There is no entry fee and it is open to the general public. Learn more about how this actual idea was brought to life and be sure to follow @wordofmouthkw on Facebook and Instragram for updates.
How exactly did the Word of Mouth Kuwait founders come together?
Mamuna: Word of Mouth was actually a passing thought I did not think would actually culminate into something as big as this. I remember being on a plane, flying to Kuwait from Toronto, about a month ago, and thinking about all my experiences in Kuwait as an educator. To be honest, I was very much fed up with the education system here, and how it is almost impossible to make a dent in the system. Then a thought crossed my mind; I thought rather than being frustrated and complaining about Kuwait, what could I do to positively contribute towards bettering this country? At the time, I had been following @FasWords (Fatima) on Instagram and seeing her numerous poetry posts. I have always loved reading poetry and following poets’ works, and I very much enjoy writing. I also remember watching Def Jam poets perform on stage on television, and being in awe of them and their work. I had wondered if such a platform existed in Kuwait or could be created. So I contacted Fatima, and together we decided that we would create a group for local and international poets to display and spread their work. Fatima, being from Kuwait, and having more knowledge of the cultural scene here, added that we should make it a multilingual group, where poets of all nationalities could perform in various languages. This is what sets us apart from other poetry groups, and would add to our appeal. We later contacted Abdullah to complete our group, as we realized that we needed a musician, who is also very business savvy, and can add an additional component to our concept, as spoken word poetry incorporates all art forms, including but not limited to music. Together, I as an Educator and amateur Sketcher/Artist, Fatima as an Architect and Poet, and Abdullah as a talented musician and detail-oriented businessman, came together, complementing each other to help Word of Mouth Kuwait blossom.
How did the name and concept for Word of Mouth Kuwait develop?
WOM Founders: The idea was conceptualized when we thought about spoken word poetry as words coming out from the mouth, thus “word of mouth”. Also, because the poetic scene is underground and at times spreads through people sharing ideas through word of mouth, Fatima thought it would be a perfect name.
What is the overall goal for Word of Mouth Kuwait? What are you aiming to achieve?
Mamuna: The goal of WOM is to establish a creative hub for up-and-coming artists, but also a space where the general population can come in and enjoy local talents. We want to create a place where poets can share ideas and thoughts, and would like to use WOM as a vessel for poets to showcase and spread their work. We would love to have this artistic space as sort of a foundation for helping amateur poets further their careers, and as a jumpstart to better opportunities.
Fatima: Our first aim is to create a platform for spoken word poetry in Kuwait. There are many writers out there who write poetry that would love to share their work. I was one of them, and sought out places in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. So when the idea to create a platform in Kuwait was brought forward, I immediately encouraged the idea and thought it would be a great start to establishing our own event here.
Abdullah: WOM’s aim is to give awareness to the hidden talents of Kuwait, and to bring them out of their shells to showcase their creativity. Many artistic talents in Kuwait are afraid of showing their work, due to the limitations that our culture provides. Talents, such as writing and poetry, are overlooked, as well as not respected, as it does not make enough money for people to live by; therefore, it is practiced as a hobby behind closed doors. WOM will create the awareness those talents need, in order to encourage others to do the same, by showcasing their work, and earning the respect that they deserve.
Who will be performing at the first event?
WOM Founders: We have a range of artists who will be performing, from amateurs to well-known poets, as well as musicians. The list includes: Liltera R. Williams, Jassim Al Nashmi, Fabrice Mareau, Hawra Khalfan, Yousef Nayef, Maryam Fathil, Afra, Faswords (Fatima Al Hamad), Lucy Moore, Mamuna Sarwar, Frederico Melo, Tarek Kabbani, and Qoustic (Abdullah Al-Khulaifah).
What was the process for selecting each performer?
Mamuna: The process of selecting performers is not too lengthy, but entails us either contacting a poet we have heard of directly, or a poet contacting us, showing interest. We then read through their works, and if the writing seems of quality, and matches what our audience would enjoy, we take that poet into account. We then contact those poets, and ask them to write a piece or two specifically for our show, but they can also recycle old poems to read, if they wish to do so. Although we accept all types of writing, poets are carefully selected so that our audience can get the best possible experience at our events. We also select individuals who have a love for the art of writing, and eagerly display that passion.
Fatima: The most important thing for us is to produce a high-quality event, but also make it comfortable for the audience and performers. At the end of the day, this is poetry and it is an emotional scene, so we need to make it as comfortable as possible. Anyone can apply to Word of Mouth Kuwait by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Some of the poets were approached by us because of their writings and reputation in the poetic scene. Some sent us their writings and were selected accordingly. We have been surprised by the amount of writers in Kuwait. We already have some performers set for the next event. It’s been good feedback so far.
What can audience members expect to see at the introductory showcase?
Audience members can expect a showcase of talented writers, poets, and gifted musicians all collaborating in the name of poetry, in a unique way, adding an appealing twist to the art form.
Will WOM be a monthly, bi-monthly, or annual event?
Initially, we plan on making WOM a monthly event, but then later evolving into a bi-weekly affair. In the future, we would love to have our very own space where we can conduct WOM poetry events. Our aim for now is to see how our first event turns out, and if successful, we will base our decisions on the feedback.
How do you think WOM and spoken word poetry will contribute to Kuwait’s cultural arts scene?
Mamuna: Kuwait is a country that is rich with culture, but it is very hidden. WOM hopes that through spoken work poetry we can bring all types of like-minded, artistic individuals together under one roof, who can share and spread their love of the arts. By creating such a gathering, we hope it will entice people on the outside to want to participate, as they will see people of all artistic backgrounds interacting, whose occupations range widely from musicians, to sketchers, to graphic designers, dancers, actors, bloggers, and rappers. We think that WOM will allow Kuwait to grow as a country that is no longer viewed as uneventful, and lacking when it comes to activities, but as a place full of interesting individuals who have so much to offer, and with a cultural scene that is slowly developing and growing.
Fatima: I think it’s a great way to bring artists together. Mainly, because the poetic scene here is dying, we need to bring out some hidden talent and introduce Kuwait to writing and speaking your mind through poetry. Poetry is a beautiful way to express yourself; a subtle way to say what you want to say without hurting or offending anyone.