Words & Strings is a poetic community and platform in Qatar where people can perform poetry, spoken word and music.
It was established in March 2015 by five young Qatar-based Sudanese men and women, Amin Isaac, Arwa Elsanosi, Ahmed Elfadel, Ahmed Haydar and Elmoiz Elshiekh, who share a passion for the arts, specifically spoken word, a performing art that is written on a page, but performed for an audience. It relies on a heavy use of rhythm, improvisation, rhymes and word play.
Founder Amin Isaac, who is an aspiring poet himself, found inspiration in Words & Strings while attending Nas With Notepads, a spoken word and poetry sharing community platform founded in Sudan in 2011. ‘I saw they had so much energy and talent. They had events done with minimum resources so the event was just plastic chairs in the backyard of a gallery or something. It was so good and enjoyable. I could relate so much with what the people were saying. I thought if something like this was being done with such minimum resources, why isn’t there something like that here in Doha? There’s an abundance of resources but there’s nothing like that happening. So I started thinking about doing a similar event. At that point, I still didn’t know I would call it Words & Strings,’ Isaac explained.
Prior to Words & Strings, the group came together to organise a poetry event as part of an international poetry event, 100 Thousand Poets for Change (100TPC), held annually in September. I just wanted to know how would people receive such an event. I remember having minimal expectations…We had auditions. We wanted to know what kind of performers would show up. On the auditions day, that’s when I knew that there’s something to do here. There is talent and such a wide range of performers,’ said Isaac, adding that the event brought together a diverse group of approximately 200 people to watch 24 individuals present various forms of the performing arts. ‘We were completely stunned by the huge turnout for the event and the big buzz that was created around it…It was a big deal so we felt like this is something we need to keep going and not just have a one-off event and call the end of it. Isaac and Elsanosi decided to come up with the idea of the platform, Words & Strings,’ added Elfadel. Soon after, Words & Strings was formed, hosting their first event in March 2015 with approximately 20 performers and 40 people in the audience.
Hosting an event every two months, Words & Strings attempts to fill the gap between the existence of talent and the lack of a consistent platform to share it, with the aim to create an open space for artists and art lovers to come together and comfortably share their talents on the only platform for spoken word art in Qatar.
However, at times, consistency is a challenge. ‘The biggest challenge is finding a consistent venue for our events. We’ve had multiple venues but the biggest cause of us discontinuing being there is due most likely to structural, staff and personal changes as well as places shutting down,’ said co-founder and host Elfadel. ‘To have a venue to accommodate 150-100, which is what we aim for every event, is hard. You can rent a space but given that we’re a non-profit organisation and we do this as a side activity, it’s not our main jobs so we can’t offer to pay for it. It’s kind of like having a partner that fits our mission so we can work together,’ he added. ‘We want to make it every month but the venue and preparation is an issue. We can’t actually begin preparing and planning for the event unless we have confirmation for the venue. That’s always been a struggle,’ added Isaac. Words & Strings have held their events at Fifi’s Attique, Katara Art Centre, College of North Atlantic – Qatar (CNA-Q) and Education City.
Supporting the arts
Words & Strings aims to create an open space for spoken word artists, poets and musicians as well as art lovers to come together and comfortably share their talents. ‘It’s the sensation that you have a voice, that you’re heard out there and there are people actually listening to you. You can communicate your feelings and thoughts about different things that you think generally people wouldn’t care for but in this platform, that most mundane of things will get the greatest appraisal or rejection,’ said Elfadel. ‘I don’t think there’s something as bad or good poetry. It’s something that you express and it’s relative,’ Isaac added.
The first spoken word society in Qatar is a bilingual platform. ‘You have spoken word, poetry, Arabic poetry, musical performances so we tried to encapsulate all that into one title. Sometimes the simplest answer is the best answer Words & Strings so speak words and play strings,’ said Elfadel. ‘We register the performers a week before the event. Then we send them a confirmation email that has all instructions, like keep in mind that the event time is an hour so you have to keep your performance between from three to five minutes. There will be families at event with their kids so we just say be respectful. A point that I try to emphasise even to my team sometimes is that we don’t want to censor people. I don’t want to make them send their work first so I can see if it’s appropriate or not. Be respectful and mostly, they comply,’ explained Isaac.
Through their events, Words & Strings hopes to promote and cultivate a love for creative writing and the literary arts in Qatar, as well as drop the spotlight on the local spoken and literary art scene. Words & Strings promotes Qatar’s significant support of arts and talent not only locally, but in the international poetry and spoken word community. ‘I just wanted to create a stage where people can feel accepted for who they are. They can feel by showcasing their talent, they can connect with people who have similar interests, talents, ideas. I wanted to create that space,’ said Isaac. ‘The amount of people that came to me even after the very first event, I can never forget, complete strangers come to me and tell me, ‘thank you for making this event. It’s such a unique experience. I feel like I’m connected to so many people. I feel like we needed such an event here.’
Enriching the local art scene, Words & Strings provides a place for people who love poetry, spoken word and music to be heard and to express themselves. ‘Most of the people who come and perform at the event, keep coming back again and again. It kind of builds a family sensation around the whole crowd because you’re familiar with most of the faces that go up on stage and they’re familiar with you as well,’ said Elfadel.
‘A literal safe haven coming from a person who gets crippled with anxiety, performing or even just being there is actual therapy. No judgement, nothing but love, warmth and comfort, surrounded by the most supportive accepting people ever,’ said 19-year-old Sudanese Malaz Salaheldien Ali. ‘Best part is I get to experience and live the raw unique talents of different people and enjoy their stories or share their pain or joy. Words & Strings, without exaggeration, is the family I’ve never had. I’m genuinely forever thankful.’
‘They allowed me to share my emotions with an audience and bring them into the world of my innermost sentiments by letting me share my love of words on issues of global significance and those matters that hold importance within the chambers of my heart,’ said frequent perfomer Soaidah. ‘Words & Strings put a pen back in my hand and gently reminded me how the universe has blessed us with poetry and how there is always a time to give back through words — there are heartstrings that need pulling, empathy that needs surfacing and love that needs dispersing.
‘It’s home. It’s like taking a ticket to comfort and joy. When I attend the event, I feel like the performers are the shapes of my complex thoughts as they finally found the medium to make sense of words. Words & Strings is my family, the joy of a neglected kid, where they accept you as who you are. They don’t even need you to talk, your attendance is appreciated,’ said 19-year-old Sudanese Ahmed Hashim Hassan.
‘It’s an amazing positive community that always pushes people to go speak up. It’s a safe place where sharing your personal and private thoughts with a bunch of strangers feels so right, yet at the end of each event, no one feels like a stranger to me,’ said 18-year-old Sudanese Mozafar Badri.
‘Great platform. Thankful for the experiences and opportunities that I’ve had,’ said frequent performer, 19-year-old Indian Manan Bhavnani, adding that as a non-Arab, he would like to see more diversity in Words & Strings.
Words & Strings is open to anyone living or visiting Qatar. To know more about the community and their upcoming events, follow them on social media or visit wordsandstrings.xyz.
Elixir of Life
By Arij Ben Mansour
A couple of daisies
A shot of fresh-brewed coffee
And a deep conversation in the open space
That’s how I decorate pain
I add some shimmering glitter to a life that was so plain
That’s how I wash off the stains of my tattered soul
That’s how I plead my mind to not get wrapped in a black shroud
I am an artist, the tiniest gigantic version of a world
My poems are my sorrow’s mould
Because pain was always poetic
And art was always therapeutic
Art was always rehabilitative
Art is a blessing
And I am always appreciative
Here’s to all the artists all over the world
Thanks for topping life with a hint of gold
Artists are born from the womb of pain
Artists are those who didn’t settle for the last lane
Just like the writer who types through tears
Who spends nights of gloomy murkiness
Trying to put his agony into words
Like the musician who put his poignant feeling into chords
Just like the painter who paint the canvas of life with the hazy colours of his soul
This poem is a tribute to all the poets, writers, musicians, actors and playwrights
Thank God, you all exist
You form the supreme definition of exquisite
Art is an identity
Art is the remedy, art is the grace
Art is my dopamine booster
And the elixir that keeps me alive
Art taught me to make of my tears a crystal masterpiece
Art has resurrected my broken mosaics
Art turned awful into mesmeric
by Muhja Mohammed
It goes in one ear and right out of the other
Maybe even more destructive
They tend to hear what they want to hear
And heed red flags
Until I have to pull out my white one
I try to remember that most everything is temporary
And that this feeling will pass
And another one
Splendid or terrible
Will soon become our past
Screaming, the things that one grows tired of
Screaming, equality and I’ll be free
Screaming, almighty set us free
Screaming, I am the mother of the mankind, so how am I a slave to be?
Teach your kids that we were brought
Teach your kids that we were bought
To perform menial and domestic labour
Back in the neighbourhood working for
What’s so called the saviour
When kept close to their homes
Because of the ease of escape
We were often sold and transported to a more distant place
By lorries, waves, which sometimes led to graves
You must travel where the osnaburg are worn
Till our day
Lay dead by the side of the road
In Dinka, Nuer, and Nuba tribes
Libya, North and South Africa
Are still not humanised
You must see how this could be you
How we too are someone
Who journeyed through the night
Who didn’t have to wonder
Why the caged bird sings
Or if thats its only way to let freedom ring
You might have written me down with your bitter, twisted lies
Said I was a creature with a low price
You might have trod me in the very dirt
But still, like the sun, I’ll rise
I speak of Africa and golden joy
Because of her, I take the long way to my building now
Wearing my braids
Holding tighter than a glow stick at a rave
Because of her, whenever I hand her my aux cord she makes sure to play back all the times she told me I am a queen
A queen whose beauty is never in between
All the times she reminded me that nothing’s more beautiful than the
The melanin in my skin
The curves of my lips
The honey of my eyes
The span of my hips
She has opened doors to new worlds
Beneath new suns which know no settings
She is, the spirit of a new beginning
She writes from the bottoms of our hearts
She writes from the tips of our wings
She writes straight from the skies
Africa has always been a blessing
Author: Ola Diab
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