A Spoken & Written Art Form: Artists Across West Africa

By Joburg Post

Poetry is literary work in which the expression of feelings and ideas is given intensity by the use of distinctive style and rhythm; poems collectively or as a genre of literature, is a form of art that is given life and sound. In 1986 Nigeria’s Wole Soyinka won the Nobel Prize for literature, his reign has continued to produce amazing poets to date. Here are some of the contemporary West African poets and spoken word artists that you should know. 

Titilope Sonuga

Titilope Sonuga is an award-winning Nigerian poet, actress and writer based in Lagos, Nigeria. She is renowned in Africa and around the world for her evocative spoken word poetry which has won her a deeply engaged audience that is invested in her creative works. 

One of her most well known poems - ‘This is how we disappear”,  narrates the story of the missing Chibok girls who were kidnapped in the school in Nigeria. The poem explores the physical and psychological disappearance of the women and girls.In May 2015, Titilope became the first poet to perform at a Nigerian presidential inauguration ceremony, where she rendered her spoken word poem, ‘We Are Ready’ for President- elect Muhammadu Buhari.

Ijeoma Umebinyuo

Ijeoma Umebinyuo is a contemporary poet from Nigeria. She began writing poetry at the age of 10, the same period she fell in love with books and writing.

She expresses that she writes for  those who often aren’t represented in literature, specifically expressing that she is

"the narrator for African girls and boys. For black girls. For women of color. For immigrants. For those who feel alone. For mental health. For everyone and anyone who believes that healing is needed, that narratives like mine are not only important but very necessary. Ultimately, I am writing because of the human experience.”

Caleb Femi

Caleb Femi is a Nigerian-born poet from south London who infuses his passion for film, photography and music in his poetry whether on paper, in performance or on digital mediums. He was also awarded as the Young People’s Laureate for London between 2016-2018, working with young people on a national and global scale.

He fell in love with books while in hospital after a near death experience at 17 years old, which then steered him to a love of poetry and to study English at university, later on becoming a teacher.


Dylema, whose first name is actually Dianah, is a Nigerian-British poet, multidisciplinary artist and head of Dylema collective, a ‘spoken soul’ poetry-music band. The collective infuses their love for neo-soul, contemporary jazz and R&B, mixed with spoken word poetry and harmonies to mesmerize their audience and leave them in a state of elation. 

Her poem what if a black girl knew reflects on black girl magic and acceptance. It tells the story of black girl appreciating themselves beyond popular beliefs and accepting that which they are and not try and conform. 


Article Tags


    Most Read