The Last Word Festival 2022: Diaspora Dialogues Celebrate Culture and Heritage

Diaspora Dialogues is an ongoing series presented by singer, writer and sonic poet DemiMa Mseleku at Roundhouse. The evenings consist of panel discussions, where the audience enjoy food and sounds, and listen to guests chatting about their diaspora heritages. With DemiMa’s graceful host, the fourth session that took place on the 12th of June, as part of the Last Word Festival, heard poet Deanna Rodger and rapper Eerf Evil talk about their personal journeys, from their process of art creation to discovery of cultural identity.

Image credit: Dong Liu

The experience of growing up in South London is one of the salient identities that Deanna and Eerf share. Accompanying the dialogue was India Arie’s warm song, ‘Strength, Courage, and Wisdom’ selected by Deanna, and Page’s candid track, ‘Race Against Time’ selected by Eerf. Running through the music was the theme of authenticity, where one seeks to be real and not glamorise any experience.


As the conversations flowed, Deanna and Eerf’s words gave a glimpse of the lives of mixed-race kids, from the external microaggressions to the internal struggle of feeling seen. Albeit so, Deanna elegantly gave her first-hand account about one way of overcoming these challenges: humour and self-awareness. Most inspiring was her recognition that ‘being full’ could be ‘never being full of anything.’ It requires a kind of peace, where race is not picked apart and one embraces their own skin.


Continuing on, the audience watched and listened to more tracks handpicked by Deanna and Eerf, including Wanlov The Kubolor’s ‘Sole Rebel’ and United Vibrations’ ‘Grow’. These songs stood out to me as they radiated the spirit of freedom and unity. For the former, Wanlov The Kubolor was a role model. As the guests added, the anecdote of him walking barefoot through South London was another revelation of how one can connect to their roots. The latter saw a keen discussion about the music video and the director, Taz

Thomas’ impressive skills to compile

clips of cultural communities and networks across the world. As Deanna said, ‘we are all of those images and more.’ What particularly resonated with me though, was the intention of ‘holding space for ideas to come through.’ While each one of us faces distinct challenges, what we could do is acknowledge each other’s starting points.


Image credit: Dong Liu

As the dialogue progressed, the audience listened to the guests’ own work: Eerf’s song ‘Young Brother’ and Deanna’s poem ‘If’, both splendidly potent. The evening ended with Benin City’s beautiful track, ‘This Is London Pt. 2’. The conversations have exactly showcased the versatility of music, as one can use it—to use Eerf’s words—to vibe, to get away, and to learn. From topics like community and heritage to the quest for oneself, this session of Diaspora Dialogues was an unravelling of UK conversations—those that take place within families, as well as those that need to be brought to the forefront.


 

Edited by Maisie Allen, Literature Editor

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