Story Week 2020: Mel Ree and Kween G celebrate identity and culture in ‘Answer Story’
Performance poet Mel Ree and hip-hop artist Kween G Kibone take to the stage for online event Answer Story, hosted by Story Week 2020.
We spoke to these talented performers about their work and this upcoming event.
Papua New Guinean, Mel Ree, says that performance poetry was introduced to her by chance.
After attending a poetry night held by theatre collective ‘Black Birds’, Mel saw that she could channel her formal training in drama and dance into something new and exciting.
“It happened organically,” Mel recalls, “poetry just kind of happened to me.”
Mel was encouraged and mentored by the late Candy Royalle, a “fierce and incredible” performer who inspired Mel to express her cultural identity through spoken word.
“[We’re] brought up with the sense of not belonging, displacement… always being made to feel an Other,” Mel says.
“Unfortunately, in this country, your skin is a flag that you wave, so [cultural identity in my performance poetry] is everything.”
Trained theatrically, Mel wants to diversify her performance poetry with other styles of performance art.
“Performance as an art is really just about connecting to the most authentic parts of yourself,” Mel says, “[and] using that as a basis for creative expression”
She says, “being trained to be in your body is so important. It opens you up more and creates a better vehicle for storytelling.”
Story Week by Word Travels gives access to performance poets wanting to express themselves and tell their story.
“The thing I love about it is it’s directly from the people,” Mel says.
“[It’s for] anybody who is passionate about something, has something they care about or anyone who has something to say.”
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Ugandan hip-hop artist Kween G is also familiar with performing diversity and identity.
Raised in Australia, Kween G struggled to find a way to stay connected to her Ugandan culture and history.
“Where we grew up, we were the only African family,” Kween G recalls, “we didn’t have much representation, and hip-hop music was where we found it most.”
Photo of Kween G courtesy of triple j Unearthed
“For me hip-hop is what I belong to,” she says.
“It brought me back to being proud to be African and to understanding where I am and why I’ve come here.”
Kween G believes that programs like Story Week are essential to empowering communities and people who are largely absent from the mainstream.
“It gives us space and gives us connection,” she says.
“[It helps us to share] words from the mouth that remain in the mind and the spirit, and then are shared again.”
Photo of Kween G courtesy of Bandsintown
Proceeds from ‘Answer Story’ will go towards empowerment, advocacy and support ideas run by featured artist Aunty Lizzy Jarrett. Kween G says this is an important aspect of the event.
“[We asked] how do we ensure we hold truth and integrity in what we’re saying,” she says.
“We are part of the generation that is really making a shift and hopefully our children and future generations don’t have to continue saying the things that we are saying now.”
Pictured: featured artist Aunty Lizzy Jarrett
‘Answer Story’ will feature in Story Week 2020 on November 13th. It will star Mel Ree, Kween G, Aunty Lizzy Jarrett and Kiki House of Silky.
“I think everyone will connect to ‘Answer Story’,” Kween G says, “it’s something that any kind of woman can relate to”
“This is a show that I am so unbelievably proud of,” says Mel Ree, “so everyone should come!”