Understanding An Artist’s Purpose With Ivan Irakoze

written by Shingai N. Kangunda

“So go on, dream big and let those dreams scare you.

Let them seem unattainable and let people tell you they’re impossible.

Then chase those same dreams till they become your reality

And everyone you knew tells you they always had faith in you.

Because a life lived in the pursuit of what you wish to achieve

Is the only kind of life worth waking up to.” Ivan Irakoze

Shingai Kangunda: When did you start writing poetry? Why?

Ivan Irakoze: I started writing at the age of eleven. I wrote because I felt the need to express myself and was encouraged to do so by my father. I found poetry to be a beautiful form of self-expression and I’d find it in music or written down so it made sense to write. My love for Hip Hop music cannot be understated and it’s a great influence.

SK: What has writing done for you?

II: It has helped me in every way I can think of. It has helped me express myself to others better and really get to know myself. There’s something about putting your thoughts and feelings down on paper that teaches you a lot about yourself. So I’d say it’s led to self-discovery more than anything.

SK: Your writing is probably the only part of you that will outlive you. What do you want to leave behind in it?

II: Myself. That’s why most of what I write is based on personal experiences. I believe that every artist no matter the art for)puts a bit of themselves in every creation. I want to be remembered, I want to have done something meaningful with my life through art, and – as I put it in one of my pieces about this very topic – I don’t want the universe to regret me.

SK: Have you questioned systems, forms, beliefs, and structures with your writing? If so, which ones?

II: I believe I have a few times. When I have questioned the society and systems we live in, it’s mostly been about why most of us give up on the lives we envisaged for ourselves because of how the world we live in is set up in a way that makes it incredibly hard to actually chase our own dreams. I thought about this recently and I realized that most of my poems and performances revolve around four main topics: life, death, love, and dreams.

SK: Did you find answers to the questions?

II: I’ve tried to but I couldn’t tell you for sure if I’ve found definitive answers to the things I’ve questioned. I’d say I’ve found answers to who I am and how I can cope with these issues personally but I can’t say I’ve found solutions to the issues I face. Which is funny because when I was younger I felt like I had answers to everything, but the more I grow, the more I ‘adult’, the harder I find it to solve everything.

SK: What drove you to start Ink Overflow?

II: My love for performance poetry and my belief that self-expression is so important in order to change things in our society. I’ve always wanted to be involved in the Arts and do more than be a performing artist. Ink Overflow to me is a way to help grow the Arts and Entertainment scene by creating platforms and opportunities. The name ‘Ink Overflow’ is actually the original name of one of the blogs I used to post my poetry on. I’ve removed all of my poems on that blog and moved most of them onto my current, active blog (www.museedivan.wordpress.com).

SK: What is your ultimate purpose for it?

II: They say you should keep your cards close to your chest so I won’t divulge the ultimate end goal here. All I will say is that I want it to play its part in ensuring that the current Arts and Entertainment scene grows into an actual industry that benefits all of the talented and deserving artists as it should, and that we manage to change lives and society in general.

Notes From Later No. 6

A post shared by Ivan Irakoze (@ivanirakoze) on

SK: What has been your biggest challenge as an artist?

II: Self-doubt. Self-doubt can hurt an artist and halt any progress more than anything else can. I’ve had a hard time with that in the past. There have been times I’ve felt like I shouldn’t pick up a pen again. Not long ago I thought I’d never be able to write anything decent again and I was very critical of everything I’d ever written. I deal with it better now than I used to. Consistency in writing plays a big part in that because self-doubt tends to surface when one hasn’t practiced their art in a while.

SK: What do you think art has the potential to do in our society (if anything)?

II: Art has the potential to change lives and save them. I know it’s saved my life on a few occasions. Art portrays society as it truly is and art has the power to change society. I’ve always believed that art is the greatest form of self-expression and the more people learn to express themselves, the more they learn about themselves and the world around them, the more they voice their ideas out and stand for what they believe in, and finally the greater the chances are to change outdated societal norms.

SK: Why tackle beauty?

II: Because it’s all around us. Because we need to notice it more in our lives in all its forms. Because life can get pretty ugly. Because beauty makes this thing called life worth living.

SK: What do you consider as home?

II: I consider people home more than I do any specific location or form of shelter. They say home is where the heart is and I tend to put mine in the hands of the people I learn to love, appreciate and care about/for. I miss people more than I miss places when I think of where home is if that makes sense.

SK: Is poetry the only writing you ever want to do?

II: No, I want to write more than poetry. I want to write scripts, novels, short stories, you name it. I’m still trying to master one at a time and poetry happens to be the form of writing I’ve started with.

Ivan Irakoze is a Burundian Hip Hop Head dedicated to art in all its forms and founder of Ink Overflow. He is a spoken word poet based in Kenya, 58th poetry Slam King (but humble about it). Ivan is just trying t bring poetry to East Africa and well eventually alll of Africa. 

Shingai is a person who just started The Twenties. I am constantly learning and unlearning. My university English Literature with a passion for African studies. I want to speak for those who have been taught to let their words get trapped between their hearts and their tongues. Give me a snickers chocolate bar, a cup of frozen yogurt with toppings, or a thought through breakfast at dinner time meal any day and I will marry you. I’m very easy to impress.

Both will be performing at Art and Poetry this Saturday (Advance tickets on sale here)

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