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u'Design by Jordan Andersen/AS Publicity Center'

Shawna Leader/The AS Review

Two years ago, spoken word artists Alixa and Naima, collectively known as Climbing Poetree, performed at Western. This week, the duo will return with a performance and an art as activism workshop. Their message? “Art is our weapon, our medicine, our voice, our vision.”

The workshop will take place at 5 p.m. on May 4 in AW 203. The event is free, although attendees are required to RSVP by sending an e-mail to the AS Social Issues Resource Center (SIRC) at as.rop.sirc@wwu.edu.

The spoken word performance is at 7 p.m. on May 5 in the Old Main Theater. Tickets are $2 for students with a Western ID and $4 for guests.

Both events are cosponsored by the SIRC and the AS Women’s Center.

“They are queer women of color who are spoken word artists and they are also musicians. They make visual art, they make clothing, they do community projects with murals,” Anna Boenish, coordinator of the SIRC, said. “I think they have an incredible way of engaging people in pertinent issues.”

During the art as activism workshop, Alixa and Naima will introduce some of their activism projects as well as show students how to be activists through art, Devin Majkut, Women’s Center coordinator, said.

“They’ll also be addressing how students can take their inspirations and their ideas, their things that they want to make change on in the world, and really bring those into action using artistic and creative methods,” Majkut said.

Attendees do not need to know anything about spoken word poetry to attend the workshop, Boenish said.

For Alixa and Naima, art is a way of life, Majkut said. Bringing such powerful activists to campus can be an inspiration to the student body, she said.

“As far as art-centered activism goes, these two women are the best I’ve ever seen,” Majkut said.

At the performance, Alixa and Naima will perform a selection from their Hurricane Season Tour, “a two-womyn show about unnatural disaster and a great shift in universal consciousness,” according to the Climbing Poetree website.
The performance will incorporate multimedia images and video from the show and the duo will perform their spoken word pieces, Majkut said.

“They will be talking about issues of race and class with Hurricane Katrina,” Boenish said.

Rather than take turns performing, Alixa and Naima perform their pieces together, Majkut said.

“They work together as a team. … It’s just really powerful to see people working together like that,” Majkut said.

Topics of class, sexuality and gender are addressed within the spoken word pieces, nearly all of which focus on social issues, Majkut said.

“They use a lot of personal narrative and story and identity to talk about those issues. … They honor themselves in the work they do, but also tell stories of whole communities as well,” Majkut said.

The performance isn’t like a lecture, Boenish said. Listening to Alixa and Naima allows people to come away with a deeper understanding of topics such as violence against women, globalization, environmental issues and queer identities, Boenish said.

“They always have conversations about how communities and people can be working together to be bringing about change,” Boenish said. “So you learn a lot but aren’t left feeling disempowered, but like you can learn more and do something.”

Alixa and Naima are based in New York City and have connections to Haiti and Columbia as well, according to the Climbing Poetree website. They have performed around the world and with various other artists, such as Nikki Giovanni and the Dead Prez.

The duo made their debut in 2003 with a dance and poetry performance that toured for four months and addressed the effects of the American war on drugs in the United States and Columbia, according to their website.

Since then, Alixa and Naima have, among other things, toured, recorded an album, conducted workshops for children with incarcerated parents, opened a sweatshop-free clothing line and performed Hurricane Season.

After seeing the Hurricane Season show, Majkut knew she wanted to bring their spoken word as well as visual performance to campus, she said.

“I hope that people leave feeling inspired to create their own art … and do activism and art in their own communities,” Majkut said.