Speak up or sell out. The hip-hop flavoured poet turning verse into action
Words will change the world. For Iain ‘Ewok’ Robinson, they’re the method to his genius. A graffiti artist and hip-hop maverick, Robinson is most prominently known as a spoken word activist. Through this medium, he tackles subjects such as racial politics, oppression, and the climate crisis. With carefully positioned inflections, Robinson seeks to provoke our perceptions of social issues. His work is grounded in a profound philosophy: creativity is powerful enough to stir humanity.
“Art has a responsibility to both show the world as it is and participate in changing it,” Robinson says. The poet has built his repertoire observing global challenges and weaving words that bolster his beliefs. Raised in a socially conscious family, Robinson learnt to be aware of what others face. A graffiti artist since the age of 15, he realised that he needed to speak up too. Hip-hop and rap provided a means of expression. But after attending a spoken word performance by artist Jonzi D, Robinson committed to taking his use of language to the next level.
Since then, he’s been writing and reciting verses for close to 20 years, performing everywhere from Makhanda to Uppsala and Berlin. His wit is immortalised in two anthologies, WORD: Customized Hype and Pimp My Poetry. Through bold ideas, cool intonations and catchy phrases, he imparts stimulating concepts of identity – whiteness and privilege are often acknowledged in his compositions. Robinson is blazing a trail of critical awareness in South Africa. Transforming society begins with empowering the individual, and art is our most poignant tool.
Footage from Amehlo Productions was used in the creation of this film