“Izwi” is a word that means voice in Shona. Izwi poetry jam is a movement that strives to give upcoming poets a stage to nurture and showcase their poetic talent through hosting spoken word shows. Izwi poetry jam was founded in June of 2017 by Leonard Takudzwa Mukwenga, who, at the time, had just launched his career as a spoken word artist. One of the things he noticed was that getting platforms to perform at was difficult. This sparked in him a fire to create a platform that upcoming artists in a similar situation could use, which led to the birth of Izwi poetry jam.
Pursuing a career in the arts has always been difficult for young people in Zimbabwe due to the negative connotations that are attached to the arts. Also, in a country where platforms for artistic expression especially those that cater for poets are rather few, inconsistent and not as friendly for young people. Izwi strives to change perceptions and provide a platform that is friendly for young people to utilize and nurture their talent.
When Leonard launched Izwi poetry jam, he used to finance the shows entirely from his own personal savings. As the poetry jam has gained traction, it has managed to generate some revenue ensuring its continued survival. Leonard did point out that Izwi poetry jam has faced some challenges. Some of the major issues include finding a place that Izwi poetry jam can permanently call home and equipment to use when hosting their poetry jams. Leonard alluded to plans being in place to purchase equipment that will be used when they host shows. They have also managed to secure a venue that will host them temporarily for the better part of 2019.
Leonard pointed out how the Izwi poetry jam movement has been looking for sponsors to compensate Izwi poetry jam poets. He hopes to have stable sponsorship that will help in taking the movement to the next level. Leonard noted how in the future they want to grow Izwi poetry jam into an academy that teaches poetry, and also establish a recording label for spoken word artists. All this will be done to empower the artists by way of commercializing their art and generating a source of revenue for them from their artistic abilities. To those who want to start similar initiatives in their respective communities. Leonard echoed the need for them to be truly passionate about what they want to start as being key, because he believes that it is not easy especially when you are starting out, thus resilience is always key.
Find Izwi Poetry Jam in social media (Facebook, Youtube, Instagram) as 1zwipoetryjam.