- Gareth K Vile
- 20 May 2019
Uneven yet intriguing autobiographical solo show
Kema Sikazwe's monologue with songs follows the early years of the writer, rapper and actor: a story about 'self-belief and acceptance', it traces his journey from Zambia to Newcastle, exposing the intersections of racism, mental health challenges, family and school pressures. Sikazwe structures his autobiography to reveal how the confluence of these pressures gradually undermined his sense of identity, before concluding on a positive message of resilience and poetic ambition.
Sikazwe has an important message – to accentuate the positive – and his biography reveals much about the way that racism impacts on the already heavy load of the migrant. Despite an irrepressible optimism and a nuanced appreciation of how ignorance is often a product of oppression and low ambitions, Sikazwe identifies how his personality was warped by the refusal of his fellow students to accept him. It is in his battle with himself however – precipitated by the death of his mother – that Sikazwe ultimately finds a path, into music, and rapping, and performance.
While the beats are strong, Sikazwe sometimes struggles to lend emotional power to his vocal, and the plot tends towards a synopsis rather than a detailed analysis. Sikazwe creates a tangible poignancy in the episodes which discuss his mother, while his own descent into anti-social behaviour is brief and glossed, ensuring that the emphasis remains on redemption and positivity.