Interviewing a humble and simple mind makes the conversation flow like undisturbed waters. Olumide Holloway is not just intelligent, he also has an immeasurable amount of emotional quotient. His easy relationship with people, his choice of words and flow, takes his personality a step further. He is one of those who have consistently sought to garner support to encourage and promote spoken word poetry, despite the severe dearth of it in many parts of Nigeria.
In this exclusive with EB, ‘King Olulu‘ as he is fondly called, reveals challenges encountered with mainstreaming spoken word poetry in Nigeria, efforts and prospects for Spoken Word poetry come 2017. He also tells us of how he intends to commit suicide on stage.
Read complete interview after the cut…
EB: Tell us everything we need to know about you. Everybody knows ‘King Olulu’, and some don’t know Olumide Holloway… Tell us who you are.
OLULU: Olumide Holloway is an Accounting Graduate from Lagos State University and an Associate member of ICAN. He is passionate about Spoken Word Poetry with a vision to develop a vibrant Spoken Word Poetry Industry that is intriguing to the audience and poets alike; thus allowing creative individuals to earn a decent living from their poetic talents and skills.
He is an event manager, poetry performer, writer, speaker, dreamer, doer, teacher and Poetprenuer. Since the year 2010 he has been heavily involved in poetry performances, discovering, grooming, teaching and mentoring of poets, as well as, organizing and promoting poetry events.
He is married with children. He is reserved and an introvert, except in areas that concerns his passion which invariably transforms him to King Olulu J.
EB: You’ve been identified as a promoter of poetry in Nigeria. How did it begin and why?
OLULU: I have been writing for over 25 years now, age 11, 12 or 13, I think but I came across Spoken Word poetry after NYSC in 2005 while job-hunting and watching movies. I got to see live performances of the art in 2010 and subsequently I started performing late 2010. After a year of performing at the few open mic poetry events , I yearned for something bigger, self-sustaining and profitable. Basically, the vision to create/ develop an industry from this art form started to make me restless and sleepless. So I started doing research on the art form and I also got talking to some of my friends who have similar passion for poetry. In 2011, we decided to start our own show with all the paparazzi of a “big show”. We envisioned a show that should be largely about Spoken Word Poetry with a sprinkling of soul music. Thus, in August 2012, we started our flagship event, Word Up (a spoken word poetry and soul music event)
EB: What are the achievements you’ve made so far in the venture of promoting poetry in Nigeria?
OLULU: Hmmm, not sure I can quantify them because we are not where we want to be yet, but we have progressed significantly from where we started. But if I must state an achievement, I would limit it to the present rapid growth of the art form coupled with better appreciation by folks who hitherto never considered it a craft to reckon with.
EB: What are the challenges you’ve faced and how (are you planning to) /did you surmount them?
OLULU: The key challenges would have to be, Number one, limited awareness about Spoken Word Poetry. Despite the appreciable mileage gained by Spoken Word in recent years, a lot still needs to be done regarding awareness. Number 2 is lack of finance and financial support for poetry shows/ activities.
We are still working on surmounting them. It is not a day’s job but that is what makes life worth living, the conquering of challenges that were once thought impossible. Basically, awareness of the art form will bring the needed finance for spoken word poetry. Likewise, getting finance for spoken word poetry will provide funds to create more awareness. So we can even limit the challenges to one, and that is finance. Thus, we have developed a Business Plan showing the viability of spoken word poetry as a business/ industry, and this we are pitching to investors.
EB: You are poet. How has your writing and performance evolved over time? What are the major themes your expressions capture?
OLULU: I like to think I have gotten better, lol. But nowadays I tend to write more than perform because of the activities of managing/ updating our Poetry sites, organizing/ promoting events, generating poetry content for TV/ Radio and pitching to potential investors on the need to invest in spoken word poetry.
Major themes tend to be about life, social issues, love and sometimes, politics.
EB: Budding poets and writers appear every now and then. How can we really identify bona fide ones? Can skill and talent independently work, or do they require each other?
OLULU: The identification of Bona fide ones is not a day’s job. People evolve, update and change overtime whether for the better or for the worse. So I prefer giving equal opportunities to both the bona fide and the mediocre, riding on the parable of letting the weed grow alongside budding crops. If you try to pull out the weed too soon, you might also pull out some of the budding crops. So allow both set of poets grow up and with time (i.e. maturity), without your intervention, the chaff will be separated from the wheat. That way, it becomes easy to tell the contenders apart from the pretenders. This is how we have regularly discovered and groomed new poets over the years thereby, helping to grow and develop the industry. We have consistently achieved this through our robust and engaging slam poetry competition, War Of Words.
As per, skill and talent, they both require each other. Talent is the raw form of a skill. Talent is the potential ability to do something excellently, while Skill is the “developed talent” that has the assurance, confidence, technical know-how and the experience to do something excellently. So Talent is supposed to evolve into skill over time.
EB: Tell us about the War of Words.
OLULU: War of Words is basically a slam poetry competition that is aimed at discovering, grooming, teaching and mentoring unknown and exciting poets. It involves different poets from different places in Nigeria coming together to compete for a prize (usually N100,000) and a chance to perform at our flagship event, Word Up. The concept of the competition has now evolved into having it as a Reality TV Slam Poetry competition tagged, War Of Word Africa, which would involve poets from all over Africa.
EB: King Olulu hasn’t released any anthologies? Spoken word albums? Ebooks? If yes, let’s hear about them and how to get them. If no, let’s hear the why and know the plan.
OLULU: No anthologies, albums or Ebooks yet. But these are in the works. However, I have some of my videos and articles online on our websites (www.wordup411ng.com, and www.wordupnaija.tv), on Youtube (i2X Media Channel) and on my Linkedin page.
Focus is key for me, so I would want to achieve the successful organisation of the first War Of Words Africa, before I can consider doing anthologies, albums or Ebooks. So that there would be more experiences to draw from and talk about. Right now, I am still a learner J.
EB: What’s your plan for 2017? I mean for King Olulu first, and then for the promotion of poetry.
OLULU: My personal mission is to inspire, motivate and make people happy, and basically Spoken Word Poetry is the primary tool for achieving this. So I plan to continue to read, study, learn, write, perform, give talks/ lectures, advise, train, groom and mentor. I want to reach more people than I currently do.
For the promotion of poetry, the plan is to organize a successful War Of Words Africa; that is the principal objective for 2017. Second to it would be getting our own 1,000-seater acoustic hall (alongside other related facilities) on the Mainland in Lagos State, Nigeria. This would help in starting a training school for Spoken Word Poets.
In addition to the above, we will continue to intensify efforts to improve on our already existing activities and events, as well as, collaborating, partnering and supporting other poetry platforms, events and groups.
EB: If you ever were to commit suicide, how would you go about it? This requires you to write a 10-line poem here titled “If i were to commit suicide “.
If I were to commit suicide
I will read up all the books on suicide
Watch videos on suicide
Go to locations suitable for suicide
Visit the people that attempted suicide
Come up with a plan to commit suicide on stage
By performing a poem on suicide
With all my heart and soul
Hoping the words will leave me, you
…empty, drained and angry enough,
not to commit suicide
EB: Who are the few or the many people who do what you do in Nigeria? Have you considered lifelong partnerships? Who are your role models?
OLULU: I like to think myself as being different and unique. We have people who organize events, we have people who perform, we have people who write, we have people who manage poetry websites, we have people that develop poetry content but we have “very very few” people that are trying to develop this art form as a business/ industry. I actually do a combination of all the above and that is because I am a Poetprenuer, and for now, I am yet to come across the very few people who do same.
Lifelong partnerships are usually based on the value both parties bring to the table. It can’t be forced or rushed, it is cultivated because it is based on relationship and/ or value add. So yes I have considered it and I believe it is in the works.
Hmm, not sure I have role models. With all humility, I truly have no one I want to be like. I just want to be me.
But as regards people that inspire/ motivate me, them plenty and most of them are not poets. They include (but not limited to) Richard Branson, the late Myles Munroe, Ali Baba, Audu Maikori, Oprah, Banky W, Mo Abudu, Ibukun Awosika, Sam Adeyemi, Kunle Soriyan, Don Jazzy etc.
EB: Feel free to drop any comment here…
OLULU: Well, my dreams won’t leave me till I live them, so I intend to live life before life leaves me.
EB: Thank you so much, Olumide.
OLULU: Thank you too