Jumess Dananga is a local artist who writes performance speeches that she shares in the hope of giving a voice to the voiceless. She was also a part of the project Congress and one of Wyndham Cultural Centre’s Ghost Light artists.

Who is Jumess? Tell us a little bit about yourself and your work as an artist 

I aspire to be the best public speaker and spoken word person in the near future. I believe that many people have a voice but only some can speak. Therefore, I speak for the voiceless. My speeches and poems are mostly about justice for others, motivational, inspiring and encouraging. I love when people relate to what I create, because it makes me feel like I’ve given them some sort of liberty in a corrupted society. I speak not only for myself but for this generation and the ones coming after us.

You come from a background of dance. How did you get into writing and performance speeches?  

I was a dancer for about 6 years! I really enjoyed it but I wanted to do something more and expand my mind in other artistic areas in my life. And I realised that I had a huge passion for anything in the area of spoken performance.

You were involved in the project Congress by All the Queens Men at Wyndham City Council. Congress is a Citizens Assembly that gives voices to the often unheard. What was your involvement in Congress?

I was found and given an opportunity from Congress because I was involved in a cultural program that I created back in 2018-2019 for African youths to reconnect with their roots and to express themselves through art. The program started because of the negative misconsumptions of African youths on the media and I felt it was important for us to have a safe place where we can all gather and connect with ourselves. So when I spoke at Congress, I first started with a poem about my personal experience of disconnecting myself from my culture due to the misconceptions. Then I spoke about multiculturalism, racism, acceptance and change and then spoke on what I was doing individually in order to achieve what my speech was about.

You have said that your works gives a voice to the voiceless. Can you give us an idea of the voices you are trying to amplify? 

I am amplifying the voices of minorities. As I’m a minority myself, I only speak on issues that I’ve experienced first hand or that I’ve seen minorities experience. I want people to see themselves through me when I speak about these issues. I do not speak on issues that I don’t know about or that I am not educated on. Because when I speak, my main goal is to have people relate to what I say and feel like I have stood up and represented them.

How has the current COVID-19 situation, if at all, affected your work? What are your fears and hopes throughout this time? 

The COVID 19 situation has not affected my work because before COVID 19 I started this journey of oral performance. But I would say that it has discouraged me a little bit and made me feel stuck. However, there’s still heaps of opportunities during this time for oral performers such as ghost light though a lot of these opportunities won’t have a physical audience. However, people still watch and listen from behind screens and we must remember that art will never expire.

To be honest I don’t have fears throughout this time because we can’t control what is happening it’s not up to us! And I believe that right now we shouldn’t be focusing on fears but on hopes.

My hopes throughout this time is to see a more united society. This situation has helped a lot of people educate and open their minds about issues around the world, it has helped many of us to start caring for not only our selves but also for others, it has helped us to stay vigilant at all times and I hope that this positive behaviour that our society has embarked will continue on after this unfortunate season.