One man’s poetry representing the voices of many
Story by Lily Kerley
Young poet wāni Le Frere was born in the Congo, raised in New Zealand and now lives in Melbourne. At just 28, he has produced shows, won awards and performed in multiple venues with his poetry, exploring confronting issues such as racism, toxic masculinity, rape and youth.
wāni focuses on the honesty of his experiences and cultures, resulting in very tender and moving performances.
“One thing I pride myself on isn’t necessarily having the best language, or knowing how to use metaphors, but it’s about being reflective and introspective,” he said.
It’s my truth that is relevant to me and this means my poetry has to incorporate everything that makes me who I am.
“That includes my Congolese background, that includes my heritage, that includes my experiences, that includes everything that kind of makes me who I am.”
Despite facing some cultural adjustments when he moved to Australia, wāni has still managed to establish a solid foundation in the Melbourne arts scene.
“A positive thing I’ve found, culturally, is the community here is real tight and the poetry community is real supportive,” he said.
“Especially being someone that’s moved a lot, just finding community, and being able to move through different communities as well and still feel welcome, I think that’s been a cultural shift that has been quite beautiful.”
When wāni started writing, his reasons were rather humble. However, his undeniable talent and honesty of experience quickly led to many more opportunities.
“When I started poetry, it’s not like I had a mission or anything,” he explained.
“I just wanted to say what I had in my heart, and then doors opened up, and one of them was an opportunity to do a show at Arts House in Melbourne.
It’s cool that my story, that I thought was unique to me, can hit different parts of different people. It just shows me how open we are when we actually open ourselves up to be receptive, and respective of our differences.
wāni continues to work towards social equality and consistently addresses racism in his art.
“Being a visible black person, it’s something we have to deal with constantly, so it’s definitely going to be in my work,” he said.
He is also committed to improving intersectionality, accessibility and also the criminal justice system, especially regarding youth incarceration. These issues are often addressed in wāni’s poetry, as he continues to work towards social equality.
Follow wāni’s journey on Facebook HERE.