MayaSpoken performs at the event

Nov. 8, 2022

By Olivia Barrett

 Co-founders Shery Alexander Heinis and Sridaya Srivatsan of In Our Tongues” welcomed “one of the best audiences” they’ve had at the organization’s Season Four launch on November 8, 2022. The hybrid event held at SAW Gallery in Ottawa showcased local BIPOC talent at the reading and arts series

With only their second in-person event since the COVID-19 pandemic, “In Our Tongues” launched Season Four of their reading and art series with a hybrid event, full of local BIPOC talent.

The event opened with the poetic stylings of Maya Basudde, better known by her stage name MayaSpoken. She is an Ottawa-based artist whose poetry deals with topics unique to the Black community. Some poems she performed included the first ever poem she wrote in grade 12 called “Pretty for a Black girl.”

Many of the poems she performed were from “Warriors in Broad Daylight”, Basudde’s debut poetry book. Her performance welcomed cheering and support from the audience, as her poems talked about themes from beauty and courage to resilience and grief to heartbreak and love.

Basudde closed with what she called a “hug poem.” “I feel like all of Ottawa had heard this poem,” she said before beginning her final poem of the night with a poem about resilience.

Grief and love were common themes throughout the event, as the performances of both Natalie Hanna and Tawahum Bige touched on these topics.

Hanna, a queer, disabled lawyer of Middle Eastern descent performed several pieces from her chapbooks which were accompanied by Liam Burke playing the guitar. Her poems touched on topics related to current issues, such as a piece she wrote for the women of Iran, and reminiscing about her home. These pieces flowed seamlessly between languages, often having an echo effect from Burke, and connected larger events back to her own life. Hanna has a new chapbook coming out in November 2022.

While Bige was not able to perform in person, they sent in a pre-recorded video of their poems. Within their poems, Bige embedded Indigenous traditions and special moments which made their performance expressive and resonated with the audience.

They used humour in conjunction with their experiences and the history of Indigenous people in Canada to tackle topics like the COVID-19 pandemic to the opioid crisis, to being a “poet in time of war.”

After their piece “Inner city owl” which was based on an owl roaming around Vancouver, Bige offered advice to anyone struggling to write: “if you need any help, write about real things.”

Before the final feature performance of the night, the stage welcomed audience members for an open mic. Courageous artists performed poems and songs.

 “I just did that, wow,” said Mars, the second performer in the open-mic portion, after singing a new piece in public for the first time in a while. 

Yanaminah, the last performer in the open mic, said spoken word helped her “[grapple] with what productivity means to me… and my purpose,” as she gets back into writing and performing.

As the open mic portion came to a close, the stage began to fill with a soft fog in preparation for its next performer, Kar33m. Before beginning his performance, Kar33m asked the audience for a name.

The response: Khadija.

In between his songs, Kar33m told a short story with a main character named Khadija. This story engaged the audience as the use of the name personalized it for the crowd.

Kar33m’s performance was the most engaging of the night, as he invited everyone to stand up and get close to the stage and asked them to sing along. Like many of the other artists, he shared why he wrote one of his pieces.

“She was searching for a certain feeling… Some may call it freedom. This is what freedom feels like to me,” Kar33m said before singing his final song of the night.

During their closing remarks, Srivatsan urged the audience to “continue to support local racialized talent.”

In Our Tongue’s next event will be in February 2023 at the SAW Gallery as part of the Black History Month celebrations.

Olivia Barrett

Olivia Barrett is a Bachelors of Journalism and Humanities student at Carleton University. Her interests include photography and poetry which she uses to explore social justice issues and other intriguing fields. She also loves learning about history and ancient religions.  Olivia writes on social issues, well-being, and out of curiosity.