I stood against the bar with a tumbler of wine, one of many people in a crowd, to watch a Poetry Slam at At the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival earlier this month. I sipped my wine as poets delivered their prose with a mix of nervousness and conviction, their words highlighting social issues, politics and personal stories. They were entertaining, sometimes cringe-worthy, at other times impressive. Then a forceful presence took the stage, the mood changed, and the whole night turned for me.
Spoken-word poet, Abraham ‘Abe’ Nouk, stood behind the microphone, a dark tower of strength with a powerful voice and an imposing physique. I put down my wine glass and focused on his face, listening to the eloquent words rolling over his lips. He spoke with pace, passion, and professionalism, about empowerment, about world voices that are silenced. When he finished I clapped my hands hard. I clapped until my palms hurt. For his inspiring thoughts. For his command of words. For his ability to deliver a faultless performance. For making me feel humble. But the most inspirational moment was when the MC replaced Abe on stage and told the audience about the poet’s background.
Abe has only been speaking English for a few years. Sudanese-born, he arrived in Australia as an illiterate refugee. In his words, “the best thing you can do for yourself is to feed your mind.”
So, for those of you who have never heard of Abraham Nouk, do yourselves a favour and look him up. Let his words inspire you. When my daughter next tells me, “I can’t do it”, I will tell her about a man called Abe. When a friend loses focus and tells me something is “too hard”, I will tell her about a man named Abe. It’s amazing what one can achieve with a bit of optimism and hard work. As Abe Tweeted, “Life doesn’t change… You have to change.”