Story-Fest: Performing Writers Festival has crowned Congolese-Australian poet wāni La Frere from Melbourne, Victoria as Champion of the Australian Poetry Slam, after he performed his powerful manifesto on racial prejudice to a packed-out room at the Sydney Opera House last night. Coming in second place was Andi Stewart from Hobart, Tasmania with third place going to Jason John from Bellingen, New South Wales.
In his first round performance, wāni gave a moving performance traversing themes of family: from his unwavering love for his mother, to his grappling with overcoming the complex shame of childhood abuse at the hands of someone he trusted.
The final round saw wāni deliver a devastatingly powerful spoken word showstopper about black identity, and reclaiming the power to speak about black issues in spite of societal stigma, and constantly being asked “boy, why are you so mad?”
“I’m so grateful and humbled to be able to showcase my poetry to the world,” said wāni. “I would like to honour my ancestors and my family, and my country of birth – the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and my hometown Bukavu – and especially storytellers whose voices can’t be heard on the stage tonight. I want to honour ex-detainees, refugees, and those in detention centres.”
“I’m really looking forward to finding new ways of telling stories, especially stories from communities like mine that are often underrepresented in performance spaces like this,” he said.
wāni was born in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, raised in New Zealand and is a Wyndham-based poet who uses his artistic abilities to tell untold stories. As the Australian Poetry Slam Champion, wāni will now join the International Writers’ Festival tour to Ubud Writers & Readers Festival, Singapore Writers Festival and Hong Kong International Literary Festival in 2020.
“I’m looking forward to working with wāni, over the next 12 months. His writing is intricate and full of rich metaphors. His performances are just raw passion.” Miles Merrill, Creative Director of Word Travels. “We’re super excited to share his work wit audiences at some of the world’s most renowned writer’ festivals throughout the year.”
Andi Stewart, a fixture in the local Hobart scene, took out second place with a powerful piece on gender identity which deconstructed experiences of misogyny, ending with a proclamation to be “better than one of the boys”. In third Place, Bellingen’s Jason John delivered a captivating reflection on a life-changing near-death experience.
The evening also featured special performances from multilingual powerhouse Canadian-Mètis poet Moe Clark, and 2018 Australian Slam Champion Melanie Mununggurr-Williams, who showcased their incomparable prowess to a spellbound audience.
Last night’s National Final wrapped up six action-packed days of poetry slams, talks, and live literary mayhem, which ran from Tuesday 15 – Sunday 20 October across Sydney.