The Caterpillars: Executive Director Tarsha Semakula on creating a documentary about contemporary female Ghanaian writers, poets, and performers

There is an exciting women’s spoken word scene in Ghana, and it is growing by the day.

In 2004, In Ghana, The Gender and Child Policy was launched to address the issue of gender inequality, women’s empowerment and problems and challenges affecting children… Over a decade has passed since this policy was introduced.

So how do Ghanaian women fare today, particularly in terms of their creative freedom of expression?

Meet Tarsha Semakula, whose goal is to answer this question. She’s creating a new documentary film called The Caterpillars, which will celebrate female spoken word poets in Ghana.

“Hopefully,” says Semakula, “this documentary will bring to light the current lives of contemporary female creatives in Ghana. As well as expound on issues of empowerment; in comparison to their creative counters in the US. The Caterpillars will in part focus on the contributions of contemporary female Ghanaian writers, poets, and performers; as well their impact on the changing roles of women in Ghanaian society.”

Here’s a sneak peek at The Caterpillars, featuring female Ghanaian spoken word artists:

 

 

Says Semakula;

“These women are guardians and vehicles of African identity, they have their “feet in tradition and their mind in modernity” (in the words of Felix Houphouet Biogny, first president of the Ivory Coast). They make life. They give direction and they see into the future-they are human but are called women. The essence of life is found in them. They are art themselves by definition and by design; but what they create is the focus of life.”

Semakula works to highlight the talent and impact of spoken word artists from Ghana, such as a young spoken word artist named Poetra (who is featured in the documentary and trailer.)

TTR: Why are you interested in Women’s Spoken Word Poetry? In Ghana?

Tarsha Semakula: Well, on a personal note; I started out as a writer, and poet; and I am still a part of the Spoken Word Scene (currently in in NYC). I currently have a book out (The Food Stamp Bandit); that is filled with essays about my life as a writer and poet; you can find it on Amazon. I also believe that this form of creative expression is a productive avenue; when it comes to empowerment and personal development for women.

As far as the Ghana connection… I started an online friendship with an artist from Ghana, and via our friendship, I was taught, a little, about the language and the culture. I became intrigued with learning more about the creative culture of Ghana, and I was looking for ways to connect that with the work that I was doing here; as it related to empowering women with my nonprofit, The Buttafly Center.

It didn’t take long to make that connection, via spoken word, as we utilize Spoken Word, as an avenue for personal development, with our annual #SheReads Campaign, that promotes literacy for women and families. #SheReads has developed into a huge spoken word event that is held in NYC @ Nama Harlem. The roster is sold out with female poets, performers, and community change agents. We are currently preparing for #SheReads2017.

The online friendship led me to Ghanaian Spoken Word artist, Poetra, who is a prominent visual and spoken word artist. Via my interview with her, I was able to bring up comparisons, as it related to female artists there in Ghana and those here in the US. Keep in mind, the interview was also an opportunity for us to connect as women and as “sisters of the diaspora.”

 

According to Poetra Asantewa, the Spoken Word Scene is steadily growing in Ghana. I took notice of this, as well, as I watched her local TV interviews and viewed her posted performances online. There is also an annual arts festival in Accra, Ghana called Chale Wote, that incorporates Spoken Word performances into its festival activities.

As far as pursuing their dreams of being a spoken word artist, the path seems to mirror that of an American artist. They have to frequent local open mics, connect themselves with the spoken word community, and connect with a local writing group or collective; to assist with honing their skills. For example, Poetra has put together her own events, and has uploaded her work on Sound Cloud and her own YouTube Channel.

Besides the amazing cultural journey that I feel will educate and empower women and families on both sides of the ocean; there will also be the benefit of the proceeds of this documentary; which will go to support The Buttafly School, an initiative of The Buttafly Center, which provides educational and homeschooling services and programs to school aged children, families, and community agencies.

 

Funding for The Caterpillars is being raised through a variety of platforms, including an Indiegogo campaign.

For further info; click on http://thecaterpillarmovement.eventbrite.com

Or, connect with The Buttafly Center @ Facebook.com/buttaflycenter.

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