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Interviews — September 9

Interview: Sharifa and Joumana on GriffinSpeak

By Esme Foong

One of the lovely things about the scene is how every event holds such a different feeling, philosophy, and intention. It’s my favourite thing to attend an event for the first time and soak in the vibe.

When Sharifa Tartoussi approached me about featuring at a new event with a focus on diversity and acceptance, I felt honoured and lucky. She had blown me away with her performance at the Melbourne Spoken Word prize. But in preparing, I obviously couldn’t attend one before the inaugural event. So I decided to interview Sharifa and her partner in crime, the inimitable Joumana Soueid about Griffinspeak.

Their official blurb on the event website states:

A special spoken-word event showcasing all that is diverse and wonderful in the Melbourne spoken word scene. Based on the idea of the Griffin: a mythological creature made up of power and majesty of the kings of both land and sky, GriffinSpeak is a celebration of artists of diverse backgrounds and styles with a focus on creating space for their stories as they would have them told.

Here is the backstory.

1. How did Griffinspeak come about?

Griffinspeak was born of a need – after joining the Melbourne poetry scene, we realised that the amount of venues that were truly diverse and open for all was not as many as we wanted. Rather than wait for somebody else to do it, we decided that we would create a space that was safe, open and deeply diverse and beautiful.

Joumana had wanted an event that showcased diversity and Sharifa wanted something that nurtured up and coming poets.

The event was born during an internet conversation, where we discussed starting an event that showcases both new and well-seasoned poets from diverse backgrounds who might not get enough space on the scene. One that is accessible to as many people as possible. Sharifa jumped the gun and contacted our features, Joumana used her mad tech skills to get sponsors and create poster