Spoken word artist Rachel Stephanie Akinyi aka Spontaneous on mission to drive change
Words have energy and power. They have ability to inspire, educate, entertain and even bring change.
Racheal Stephanie Akinyi aka Spontaneous, a floet who fuses both poetry and music in her performances knows this too well.
With her mastery in written word and her powerful voice, she has performed at numerous events and won awards and nominations.
Her aunt Nancy Atieno Onyango, an editor at All Africa Magazine and a project coordinator at Mashariki Summit shares how Racheal turned to poetry after losing her mother.
“When her mum passed on in 1998, she turned to poetry as an avenue to pour her heart out and communicate what she felt,” she says.
Nancy describes her niece as an amazing child who was playful, experimental, funny and outgoing when she was young.
“For Racheal, poetry is a means of loosening up and being vulnerable. Her vision is to use art to spur positive change in the society. It’s also been an outlet, a chance to be part of activism,” she says.
Racheal who pursued Bachelor of Science in applied statistics and computing at University of Eldoret, however started active stage performance when she joined Eldoret Poets Association and there has been no turning back.
She has performed in numerous events including One-Night Stand in Eldoret in 2013, Fatuma’s Voice, Hisia Zangu, Slam Africa, Anika Forum, Street Poetry, Poetry after Lunch (PAL), This is Africa, Nairobi Fashion Week, Somali Heritage staged at Kenya National Theatre “She used to be Enigma Kreative’s backup singer before they parted ways after campus,” her aunt reveals.
The year 2015 became a defining moment for her as she came to Nairobi for the first time where doors opened for her.
“Here, she met a lot of mentors who gave her a helping hand such as Joan Kwamboka whom she interacted with during Hisia Zangu poetry.
She also met other artists such as Namatsi Lukoye and Ritchie Maccs. Kevin Orato and Ritchie walked with her through her writing growth.
Joan later introduced her to Rixpoet and Teardrops who invited her to do a show at Slam Africa,” Nancy shares.
As years went by, Racheal found herself performing at great events and concerts. In 2015, she co-founded Anika, an initiative that works towards changing the world, art at a time.
Through this, she hosted events under the Anika Initiative such as, Gaining Grip Experience and even launched her album in 2018.
It was during this year that she also launched her career as a social media strategist and advocate working towards prevention of human trafficking.
“Working at Anika Initiative, especially for the two and half years as CEO has influenced her growth as an all rounded creative, from performances to project conceptualisation to social media strategy and networking,” says her aunt.
“I started working with Racheal in 2016 when my organisation was looking for an artist to spice up our launch.
I thought of engaging her, because I knew her strength in poetry. Also, she was a budding artist, so the platform was a great way for her to start out,” says her aunt.
In November this year Anika Initiative will be having their fourth edition of Gaining Grip Experience whose primary goal is to reaffirm the importance of human rights in re-building the world we want.
“It began as an annual one-off event in 2017 that later gravitated into Anika’s 16 days of activism campaign as of 2019.
Its implementation caters for art as an advocacy tool and deep-seated integral conversations geared towards addressing vulnerabilities that shake our livelihoods,” says Rachael.
A voice of reason
Rachael also heads Sex Trafficking Prevention docket in Kwale County and works at Peace Tree Network since 2017 as creative and programme assistant.
She is also studying courses such as Creative Entrepreneurship at the Go Down Art Centre. CopyrightX, a Harvard Online Courses has also enriched her skills as a creative.
Currently, Racheal speaks on pertinent social issues in platforms such as, Action aid, Global Platform Uganda, Kenya Community Radio Network, Wibena Impact Rwanda, Women of the World Act Thailand, Forum Civ, Global Initiative Against Transnational organised Crime, Beyond Skin, North Ireland among others.
Nancy has been Rachael’s support system and encourages her to be committed and stay focused on her craft.
Having been an arts manager, she understands how important it is for artists to take their art as a business, not as a side hustle.
And Rachael has not disappointed as she has been a nominee for Cafe Ngoma Awards and Xtreem Awards in 2019 as well as an award winner at Mistari Bank Awards in the year 2020.
“Winning feels good. I think it’s important for her to get out there and benchmark with what’s happening across the globe and also get to see what other artists are doing.
Awards too, get you to be recognised and give you the platform to showcase your excellence. Awards demonstrate her success and her achievements,” says Nancy.
Some of the challenges she has faced in the industry include lack of finances. Additionally, as a female artist in a male dominated industry, she has to prove herself in the crowded world of art.
Her future ambitions includes building an umbrella that unites the Kenyan spoken word artists not only to influence social change but also push for the affairs and wellbeing of arists without fear.
“Through this movement, she desires to be able to have a credible voice towards influencing the creative arts policies not only within the country, but globally,” Nancy says.