Africa Cup of Slam Poetry

The first edition of the Africa Cup of Slam Poetry (ACSP), or CASP (Coupe d’Afrique de Slam Poesie) in French, brought together slam and spoken word artists and representatives of over 20 African countries during a five-day event from 5 to 10 November 2018 in N’djamena, the capital of Chad.

The semi-final of the Africa Cup of Slam Poetry on Saturday 10 November saw four contestants battling each other on stage at the Ballet National of N’djamena in front of a diverse audience of hundreds who had come out just to witness the ACSP finals: Togo against South Africa, and Gabon against Senegal. South Africa and Senegal emerged as winners from these pools. After a brief intermezzo, during which other participants and slam ambassadors from around the continent entertained the crowd, the finalists took to the stage. The jury admitted to having a hard time to appoint a winner, as the poetry and performance of all participants during the night was of the highest level. Finally it was Senegal that took home the award and a cheque worth 500,000 CFA.

An essential ingredient of slam – which distinguishes it from spoken word – is competition, and ACSP is the apex of a series of national slam competitions around the African continent. The festival itself is wider in scope than just the slam competitions, with concerts, debates, workshops, graffiti, recording sessions and film screenings taking place every day.

While the ACSP initiative is owned by a group of artists and cultural entrepreneurs from a.o. Chad, Togo, Cameroon, Ivory Coast and Angola, the 2018 edition was organised by Chadian association Chad+ who are behind the N’Djam s’enflamme en slam events. Chad doesn’t have a lot of cultural events with an international focus, and its infrastructure is challenging (the use of social media such as Whatsapp is restricted, to name an example). Apart from the performances by foreign guests, it has a solid program of local slam and hip hop artists, including N2A who just got released from prison after having been arrested over the supposedly inflammatory content of his lyrics, specifically the title of his album ‘popoulasson gay kor’, which means ‘the population cries’. Despite the apparent limitation to freedom of speech in Chad, the first edition of the Africa Cup of Slam Poetry enjoyed the support of the Chadian local Ministry of Culture.

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