Melbourne Festival and MPavilion present

Spoken Word Sessions

As part of Igniting Imagination, a partnership between Multiculural Arts Victoria and Melbourne Festival, Spoken Word Sessions offers audiences to hear from a range of spoken word poets from diverse backgrounds.


Sean Whelan

“Surrealism fails for me when the atmosphere becomes so alien that there’s nowhere to place your own emotions into. If I offer a surrealistic moment in a poem it’s just another chapter in the everyday. I always start from a point of solid rock reality and then let the flowers of another world grow from that place. That way the reader (and myself) always has somewhere to trace back to, like leaving a trail of breadcrumbs in the poem. I’ve never wanted to write about ‘strange’ people and places, it’s not strange, weird or surreal to me because they live in my head and I’d hate to be a stranger to my own imagination.” - Sean Whelan.

Grace Vanilau

There has never been a time when Grace cannot remember singing.

A singer of power and soul, she grew up travelling extensively throughout New Zealand with her family, performing at gospel rallies. After graduating from Puawai - Polynesian Performing Arts School, Christchurch in 1990. She began performing and recording with various artists and bands – Caribbean Soul, Pacific Underground, Soul Sisters, Jacawa, and more recently ‘Sunga’.

She performed with ‘Herbs’ sensation Willy Hona and highly acclaimed NZ Soul artist Lole Usoalii on their recent Australian Tours. Grace also worked and performed with Pacific Arts group Pacific Underground for many years before moving to Melbourne. Co-founder and events coordinator for Creative Arts Group ‘Brown Roots’ – she continues to work with the Pacific Island community, in Australia.

Her experience spans many different genres from classical to gospel, jazz to hip-hop, Reggae, Rock, African and Polynesian.

Farkhonda Akbar

Hazara poet and cultural activist Farkhonda Akbar writes abstract text writing inspired by her historical wounds and dark experiences as a young Hazara girl. Having completed an undergrad and postgrad in International Relations and undertaking two internships at the UN Headquarters in NY, Farkhonda is dedicated to representing Hazara people worldwide and ensuring peace in her homeland Afghanistan. She is passionate about ensuring the Hazara Diaspora in Melbourne reconnect with culture in their new homelands, and recently ran three months of Hazaragi poetry workshops with young people and women in the community. Farkhonda is collaborating with producer, soundscape creator and spoken word DJ Lapkat as part of Visible 2015. Lapkat (Lisa Greenway) hosts La Danza Poetica on international radio station Groovalization and is actively working to extend the reach of the recorded story and bring the essential spoken word art to a greater global audience.


Ebony Moncrief

Ebony Moncrief, raised in Birmingham, Alabama, has been writing since she was eleven but has only recently graced the spoken word scene debuting in Melbourne in July 2013. Since then she has featured her work all over Victoria, competed against the top poets at the Australian National Poetry Slam Finals held at the Sydney Opera House and has recently made her stage debut in Poetic License a collaborative theater production inspired by the ancient Greek play The Frogs.

Her writing style mainly falls under the category of confessional poetry where she uses the art form as a way to share a vulnerable and intimate look into her experiences, her beliefs and to initiate change from within. She believes this type of vulnerability is one of the essential keys to personal growth. Her vibrant storytelling style engages, entertains and provides audiences with an honest look at the person behind the words.

Abdul Hammoud

Abdul Hammoud is a spoken word artist based in Melbourne by way of Lebanon, a country that he is still captivates by and connects to. Recently finding his feet in the spoken word scene, Abdul has performed alongside poetic giants like Luka Lesson, Ken Arkind, Anis Mojgani, Sarah Kay, Taylor Mali and Shihan. His art has taken him as close as New Zealand and as far as the United States.

Most of his work revolves around current issues including the constant state of war in the Middle East, cultural division, as well as the portrayal of masculinity. He is also a full time student and an avid purveyor of starting books but not finishing them.

Abe Nouk

Abraham ‘Abe’ Nouk is the founder and director at Creative Rebellion Youth. Spoken-word poet, hip-hop fanatic, MC and an author whose craft developed from a realisation of the freedom of speech, Sudanese-born Abe was illiterate when he and his family arrived in Australia in 2004, as UN High Commission designated refugees. Since realising his illiteracy, he began reading and writing to improve his lyrical content for hip-hop music when it became apparent to him that ‘the best thing you can do for yourself is to feed your mind.’ Abe went on to become third in the Australian National Poetry Slam and self-published HUMBLE, his first collection in 2013.