In 2003, the Northern Griots Network (NGN) organized an Xchange tour, a series of poetry events across Canada which supported poets from matched cities to travel and perform. The performances took place from September 2003 to February 2004 in cities across Canada. We were assisted by the Canada Council for the Arts, and by the efforts of our members, in the spirit of unity and collective development . The Northern Griots Network (NGN) gathering in Ottawa in July 2003 was a strategic meeting, accompanied by featured performances, of an emerging generation of African Canadian spoken word artists; particularly in terms of the resulting NGN Exchange that saw poets from cities across Canada– including Vancouver, Toronto, Halifax, Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa – travel to perform to new audiences.
The fact that the NGN core membership were not only strong spoken word artists but skilled organizers and promoters helped drive the inception of the Canadian Festival of Spoken Word (CFSW) in 2004. NGN founders who produced series such as the Golden Star Lounge (Ottawa), Up from the Roots (Toronto), and Word Iz Bond (Halifax) played leading roles in hosting the first several iterations of the Festival (2004, 2006, and 2007, respectively). The CFSW was built largely from the linkages forged through the NGN Exchange. Other initiatives that would follow years later, such as the development of the anthology of African Canadian Poetry, The Great Black North, were rooted in the NGN Exchange, as acknowledged by Kevan Anthony Cameron in the book.
Golden Star Lounge, Ottawa (September 26, 2003)
Featuring, from Toronto, Unblind and nah-ee-lah
Coco Café, Montreal (October 26, 2003)
Featuring, from Halifax, iZrEAL and Shauntay Grant
Word Iz Bond, Halifax (November 14, 2003)
Jason “Steel” Joseph and Tatum “Buttaphly” Isles from the Coco Café series in Montreal went to Halifax to perform at the Word Iz Bond series. These two were joined by Karen Richards, poet and organizer of the La Parole series in Toronto. The poets also visited the Black communities in Nova Scotia with Word Iz Bond organizer Shauntay Grant.
La Parole, Toronto (January 16, 2004)
Featuring, from Vancouver, Kelly “Mahatma Slim” Graham
When Sisters Speak, Toronto (January 17, 2004)
Featuring, from Vancouver, Tanya Evanson
Tales of Ordinary Madness, Vancouver, (February 3, 2004)
Featuring, from Toronto, Dwayne Morgan and from Ottawa Eddy DaOriginalOne
To view some of the flyers from the Xchange, see the Archives.
VOICES OF CANADIAN ARTISTS across LATITUDES (VOCAL)
From 2004 to 2013, the NGN continued to serve as a vehicle for artist and presenter networking through information shared between host series and event producers in several cities. NGN members have continued to organize festivals, series, and community arts initiatives through funding from both the private sector (e.g. Black Artist Network Dialogue in conjunction with the TD Then and Now Black History Month Series) and the public sector (e.g. Ontario Arts Council, and the Canada Council for the Arts).
In 2013, a group of five Canadian spoken word poets and NGN founding members, under the collective banner of Voices of Canadian Artists across Latitudes (VOCAL), traveled to Trinidad & Tobago to take part in the Cascadoo Festival of Caribbean Spoken Word in Port-of-Spain. The group performed, delivered showcases, networked and shared their expertise as organizers and artists. VOCAL reached new audiences with work that shared similarities of style and language, given the Caribbean origins of group members, and learned from the unique talents and forms in the T&T spoken word community (for instance, participating in a steel pan and poetry fusion performance).
In discussions with their Caribbean counterparts, the VOCAL team – Dwayne Morgan, Motion, nth digri, Eddy DaOriginalOne, Manchilde – forged a commitment to see Caribbean artists travel to perform in Canada in the same spirit of exchange so key in delivering the NGN Exchange series. Through its members and supported across Canada and around the globe, the NGN is currently developing an international spoken word poetry initiative. Further news will be posted on this site.
Our vision is to forward culturally diverse spoken word in Canada and abroad.
RITES OF PASSAGE – AS STORYTELLERS
As you become a storyteller you become holder of a rich collection of oral literature that includes myths, legends, folktales, riddles, and proverbs you are gifted with honoring those that have gone before you by passing down your acquired wisdom That will manifests it selves in poetry, melody and song used for the good of the community by you sharing and in turn bearing a new generation of STORYTELLERS.
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.
"Speak softly and carry a big stick; you will go far."
~ West African proverb