•The South-North Griots Summit (SNGS) in Toronto, May 28-31, 2015, is an international event that will bring together spoken word artists and presenters of African Canadian and Caribbean heritage from across the Americas –including artists of Latin American, Indigenous, and Francophone heritage – and will complement the Pan Am/Parapan Am Games to be held in the city in July-August 2015.
•The group organizing the Summit is the Northern Griots Network (NGN), a collective of African Canadian spoken word artists and presenters. The NGN is collaborating with the Nia Centre for the Arts and the Harbourfront Centre, and the Summit is a TO2015 IGNITE community partner for cultural initiatives associated with the Games.
What does ‘South-North Griots’ mean?
•North tends to symbolize a way of orienting yourself, and has, in recent times, been associated geographically with Europe and North America, and has also an associated with privilege, power, and superiority. Conversely, the South has been associated with opposed meanings. Flows of migration have generally followed a pattern of southern hemisphere to northern hemisphere, largely for economic reasons, and this displacement has resulted in changes in cultures and traditions.
•On top of this more recent immigration pattern, for people of African heritage, the North Atlantic Slave Trade constituted an immense and traumatic dispersal of people to western and north western locations in the Americas, i.e. South America, Central America, the Caribbean, the United States, and Canada. The griot tradition was one of the most significant cultural elements that traveled with people of African heritage throughout this dispersal, as it is central to memory and sense of identity.
It must be stated that what is known as 'Egyptian Civilization' began in the south… and that the Egyptians thought of the South as being the North, due to the flow of the Nile river.http://thesankoregriot.wordpress.com/2010/04/28/kemetic-civilization-began-in-the-south
•A griot (gree’-oh) is a storyteller in traditional West African Culture who preserves the oral history of her/his village. Griots are revered orators who memorize important events in a village’s history including births, deaths, marriages and battles, and embody the collective memory of the village. A griot ensures that the community has the perspective of the past as well as the news of today upon which to base its decisions. A griot can speak and/or sing their stories, often to musical accompaniment, and entertain while drawing upon a history passed from generation to generation, from griot to griot.
•We are the memories of mankind; by the spoken word, we bring to life the deeds and exploits of kings for the younger generations…. for the world is old, but the future springs from the past. Djeli Mamadou Kouyate in Sundiata: an Epic of Old Mali
•How did the griot tradition change in its westward and northern journey, and how does it continue to evolve? What distinguishes the practice of artists of African heritage, due to the influence of the griot tradition? What are its implications of this tradition for the continuing social and economic challenges faced by people of African descent in the Americas and elsewhere? What is the relationship of the griot tradition to the evolving artistic practice of spoken word? These are some of the key questions the Summit seeks to explore.
•The South-North Griots Summit stands for a distinct approach - 'inverted' to see from a south to north point of view, in concert with an Indigenous American perspective - in gathering some of the leading figures in our field to look at these questions, and combining dialogue, performance, and practical support for African Canadian spoken word artists/presenters.
Who is organizing the Summit?
The Summit is organized by the Northern Griots Network (NGN), a collective of Canadian spoken word artists, founded in 2003, which functions as a network of culturally diverse spoken word poets and poetry presenters. One of our main priorities is to assist African Canadian spoken word poets in accessing resources and information that can help develop their skills and careers.
The NGN is partnering, in presenting the Summit, with the Nia Centre for the Arts. The Nia Centre is a multidisciplinary arts Charity that supports, showcases and promotes an appreciation of arts from across the African Diaspora. Nia Centre fundamentally believes in showcasing art for the purpose of human development, and that art is a powerful tool to encourage growth and progress. Nia Centre for the Arts is delighted to retrofit 524 Oakwood Avenue (south of Vaughan Road), to bring a fully accessible 200 seat performance facility into a designated arts community, the Oakwood Village. Nia Centre will create exhibition gallery space, a digital arts incubator and a multi-use space to house programs in Music, Literature, Dance, Photography, Film and Theatre. For more information, visit www.niacentre.org.
How did the South-North Griots Summit begin?
•In 2003, a group of African Canadian spoken word poets and presenters met in Ottawa to form the NGN as a strategic means of linking African Canadian poets and presenters through a two-day national-level meetings and dialogue, coupled with feature performances. They followed up by planning and delivering a series of tours, the NGN Xchange, with financial support for artists to visit and perform in different cities across Canada.
•In 2013, the Voices Of Canadian Artists cross Latitudes (VOCAL), a touring group of NGN artists/presenters, extended the reach of the NGN vision to an international level by supporting collaborative development of spoken word with Trinidad and Tobago artists and presenters.
•Through dialogue with T&T and Canadian artists/presenters, in the spirit of exchange and mutual development, the South-North Griots Summit was envisioned: a visit to Canada by Caribbean and Canadian artists/presenters, with Toronto and late May 2015 strategically chosen as the location and date due to the heightened interest in cultural activities associated with the Pan American Parapan Games.
•Copies of the concept were sent to NGN contributors for input, applications were submitted and partnerships formed throughout 2013-14 for in-kind and funding support to design and deliver the Summit, and planning sessions began in March 2014.
Who are the partners and supporters of the Summit?
•Funders and supporters of the South-North Griots Summit include the Ontario Arts Council, the Canada Council for the Arts, Ontario Ignite, Toronto2015, and Toronto Arts Council.
•The Harbourfront Centre, a hub of artistic and cultural events located on Toronto’s lovely waterfront, and the Nia Centre for the Arts, a youth arts organization that fosters the development of African Canadian artists, are key partners in presenting the Summit.
•As well, the views and advice of NGN members from across Canada have been invaluable in providing a broad base of ideas and knowledge to enrich planning and delivery of the Summit.
•The Coordinating Committee for the Summit is composed of four experienced spoken word activists: Dwayne Morgan, Eddy DaOriginalOne, nth digri, and Motion.