Moyosola Olowokure is an 18-year-old artiste from Osun State, Nigeria, who expresses herself through writing, poem performance (spoken word), modelling, dancing, and voiceover production. Of all her creative skills, Moyosola is prominent for writing and performing poems, and she has been featured on several big platforms, including the 2022 Ake Arts and Book Festival.
On today’s episode of The Big Showcase, we cover Moyo’s entry into the creative arts industry, her peculiar skills, challenges, successes, and future endeavours.
On Starting Young
“I started writing when I was about six or seven years old. I remember writing poems for my dad’s birthday because I thought it was a special way of showing my affection for him. I also wrote poems for other loved ones on their birthdays and anniversaries.”
Moyosola Olowokure’s creative background is similar to many other creative people who exhibit creativity at a young age. It used to be rare to have a family that encourages the pursuit of creativity, but thankfully, she was born when families started to embrace creative careers as good choices.
Apart from using poetry to appreciate her loved ones, Moyosola Olowokure discovered early on that poetry is a creative tool for expressing different emotions. She found solace in this writing form while going through adolescence.
“When I entered puberty, poetry provided an escape and a way to express my emotions. As teenagers, we sometimes feel like we don’t really have a safe space to express thoughts that aren’t pretty or lighthearted. So, at thirteen or fourteen, I mostly wrote when I was sad.”
The beautiful yet funny thing about life is that with different seasons come different expressions and methods of dealing with changes. As she approached young adulthood, the tone and subject matter surrounding Moyo’s poems also evolved.
“Evolving into young adulthood has been quite a major shift, especially after entering and winning ‘My Rainbow Books’, a writing competition organised by Isang Awah. Ms Renee, my writing teacher, supervised my winning submission. This competition shifted my attention from just writing as a form of self-expression or emotional release to writing as a form of communication and ministering to others. ”
On Improving Her Craft
Moyosola Olowokure added performance to her artistic repertoire when she discovered ‘Purple Silver’, an art-based community located at the time in her hometown in Kaduna.
“Purple Silver hosted an open mic on Sundays, and on one of those Sundays, I read one of my poems, and it felt good even though it wasn’t ‘that’ good. It felt nice to read my words aloud, and that was when the seed for spoken poetry was sown.”
From late 2020 to early 2021, Moyo took her performance skill further by starting a poetry series she performed on camera without consulting a book or notepad.
“Interacting with a camera and learning to read my poems by heart made it easy to transition from written poems to spoken words. One of the most significant experiences that marked this transition was my first spoken word poetry slam in Lagos in 2021. Even though I didn’t win, it was a defining moment for me, and I knew this was something I wanted to continue doing.”
2022, The Year Moyosola Olowokure Shined The Brightest
There’s always that season that announces and spotlights a creative; 2022 was that year for Moyosola Olowokure. Speaking on gaining relevance and being noticed by top art platforms and influential art-infused events in 2022, she expressed awe at how remarkably well and fast she’s grown.
“Relatively speaking, I’ll say that my growth this year has been exponential because, in just a few months, I have gained access to and rubbed shoulders with people I’ve always considered sources of inspiration. This growth in followership and relevance can be traced to how good I am in what I do, yet it still amazes me when influential people enter my DM to invite me to perform at their events.”
From being invited by UNICEF to perform a poem in commemoration of the International Day of the Girl-Child, where she met with renowned artists such as Anendlessocean, and top MTV on-air personalities, to performing ‘Let’s Be Light’, one of her most-raved-about poems, at Ake Festival, a foremost literary festival that draws literary icons from all over Africa and the world, Moyosola Olowokure has been on a successful roll since she made the wise decision to become a spoken word artist.
“Ake Festival was the highlight of 2022 and such a satisfying experience because, as a teenager and student of Zamani College, Kaduna State, I read Nnedi Okorafor, Wole Soyinka, and Lola Shoneyin. Being in the same space and getting hugged and commended by these iconic people was surreal.”
We can trace Moyo’s rise to stardom to how she has been consistent with performing her poems on social media. She affirms this fact below:
“The most recent big deal I had was performing a poem for the latest and first female Vice Chancellor of the University of Lagos (UNILAG) at her inauguration. Someone who saw me at the Ake Festival recommended me for the event. It was like a chain reaction; you show yourself incredibly and consistently in a space, and people will notice you.”
Poetry has created so much relevance for Moyosola Olowokure that she describes the growth she has experienced and the acknowledgement she has received so far as ‘crazy and wild’.
She has evolved into a brilliant poet so much that she gets accolades after each performance from big names across different industries. Entering the limelight isn’t easy for everyone, but Moyo admits that she’s getting used to being commended by these influential people.
Source of Inspiration and Creative Process
No man is an island, and even the most talented creatives draw inspiration from different people and entities. For Moyosola Olowokure, God and Bible passages are vital sources of inspiration. Other creative muses that inspire her poems and writeups are life experiences, places, and loved ones.
“Many of my poems are inspired by biblical scriptures. Others are from life experiences because my poems usually reflect my current state. For example, I’m currently on a trip, and you’ll notice that during this period, most of my poems on IG will be about the sky, the mountains, and basically nature. The people I love and anything that makes me ‘feel’ also inspire me to create.”
Music and dance are major parts of Moyo’s poetic performances, and you’ll often find that most of her recent IG posts include carousels of her beautiful self, her concise yet thought-provoking poems, and visuals of her swaying to equally beautiful songs playing in the background.
Moyo admits that people have constantly told her that her genre of poetry is unique as they haven’t seen anyone who merges the art forms she integrates into her spoken word.
“It will be a bit premature to self-proclaim that I have a different genre of poetry, but I agree with people who have declared that my work and style of delivery are rare. While I have been inspired by talented poets like Titilope Sonuga and Deborah Johnson, nobody can be me because I’m so true to myself by creating what resonates with me.”
For Moyosola Olowokure, writing can take a short or long time depending on inspiration, the gap between the topic assigned and the expected time of delivery, mental preparedness or other factors.
“Some poems take two days to be ready, like the Ake Festival poem, while some can take two weeks or months. Sometimes, I even say no to some gigs if I’m not in the right mental space, especially If the event is drawing close, and they want me to write a new piece for it.”
Concerning Challenges and Overcoming Them
Hope, strength, and love are some of the main subject matters that you’ll find in Moyo’s poems. However, it is easy for people to twist these themes into clichés, which makes it challenging for her to create poems that touch deep subject matters without sounding like the ‘acquire to maguire’ jokes on the streets of social media.
Through it all, how does Moyosola Olowokure not get overwhelmed by the need to create evergreen pieces?
“Sometimes, it’s hard not to feel like a hypocrite because I create powerful hopeful pieces that touch people beyond my years and experiences. Sometimes, students in my school (UNILAG) will walk up to me for advice and tips on writing and life experiences. In those times, only God helped me not to get overwhelmed or shrink my brilliance because I’m only 18 and still figuring out my life. Still, I’m grateful that I have such a gift to share with the world.”
If you ask most performing creatives about stage presence and fright, they’ll admit that their confidence doesn’t always come automatically. While some artists use stimulants to bolster their courage on stage, cautious performers like Moyosola Olowokure adopt more ingenious and improvised methods to hide their stage fright.
“For me, stage fright comes with shaky hands and rushed speech, but I just try to incorporate them into my act, like it’s the concept of my spoken word performance.”
You can also overcome stage fright by listening to others who experienced and crushed it. Moyo had the privilege of learning a few tricks for public performance from one of her mentors.
“Ms Wana Udobang, also known as Ms Wanawana, told me that, at events, there’ll be different types of audiences; those who will listen, those who will be making noise, and those who will ignore you. She recommended that to avoid more distractions contributing to stage fright, I should focus on one person in the audience who is actively listening and connect solely with the attentive listener. The performance becomes more than a presentation, but a communication between me and my audience.”
On Building Lasting Values
To go far in your career, you should maintain a good work ethic and have core values that guide your output or delivery. Moyo acknowledges excellence and hope as the core values that guide her work processes and ethics.
“I hold excellence dearly because I believe people who invite me to write new pieces for them judged my previous pieces and performances to be excellent, so it only makes sense to deliver excellence. Sometimes I procrastinate too much and get tempted to just write anything; then, I remind myself that having a standard of excellence is important to me and my career. Also, life can seem hard and unchanging. But I’ve learned to incubate hope and tell myself that things can get better with the dawn of each new day.”
In life, we all need an anchor to overcome each phase. That anchor could be a song, quote, or even a line from a movie. For Moyosola Olowokure, focus and priority are vital parts of her favourite quote.
“My favourite quote is “what is in front of you is the most important”. For me, that means what I’m presently focusing on is my whole world. This quote helps me to regulate my attention because attention is a limited resource, and I try to focus on my purpose and where I am going.”
Everyone, especially creatives, should take a cue from this quote and what it means to Moyo because attention is an expensive currency. The direction you distribute this resource will either fast-track or slow down your career.
This principle has also influenced the way Moyosola balances schooling and performing as she’s managed to leverage rare opportunities that some people waste to prepare herself for difficult times.
“Sometimes, I manage to balance my school and career, but other times it can be really tough. However, during the ASUU (Academic Staff Union of Universities) strike, I studied for 2-3 consecutive months. I think this really helped when school resumed because instead of starting all over, the exam period was like a revision period for me.”
Three words to describe Moyosola are Soft, Light, and Colourful. Her soft yet powerful voice speaking light and love has been a balm to many hearts.
Her ambitions are colourful because she intends to complete her first degree in Psychology, a course she loves, and hopes to get a graduate degree in literary studies or attend relevant poetry and literary fellowships/workshops. Due to the connection between psychology and poetry, she also intends to merge both skills to continue inspiring the world.
We are confident that, like Maya Angelou, Amanda Gorman, and other great poets before her, Moyo will continue to hone her craft and channel her abilities to change the world in her unique way.