From 2007 when Titilope first stepped to the microphone at a local open mic, to gracing stages from Lagos to Cape Town, New York to California, Edmonton to Toronto and places in between, her goal has been to remind us that the ties that bind us transcend all of the borders we have created. She will tell you that no poem is brand new. In the telling and re-telling we are reminded that someone has walked this path before.
Titilope was born in Lagos, Nigeria on the morning of her grandmother’s birthday, as if even then she was destined to have one foot in the past and the other in the future. It is clear that she has not forgotten the streets that raised her as she channels the sights and sounds of a bustling City to create the backdrop of her stories. At the core of her style of orature is a rhythm she borrows from her first home, a country that boasts some of the worlds best story tellers.
At 13 she left Nigeria behind and found a new home over 6,000 miles away in Edmonton, Alberta. It was in Canada that she was transformed a young girl into a woman who is assured in who she is and who she wants to be. Her stories have been told on stages across Canada, fusing the elements of her African upbringing with her Canadian experiences, tackling joy and sadness, fear and courage, heartbreak and ultimately love.
At the forefront of the transition to Canada was the quest to gain a sound education. Titilope obtained a Bachelor of Science degree in Civil Engineering and began work on several roadway construction projects in Edmonton. She found a new sense of community serving on boards for the Edmonton Poetry Festival, Spoken Word Canada (SpoCan), The Unveiling Africa Foundation and the Canadian Authors Association Membership Committee. Recognizing a thirst for creative space in her community, she created Rouge Poetry, a weekly spoken word night in the heart of the City. The Breath In Poetry Collective was formed as an organic by-product of the night that united poets and poetry lovers to continue to promote spoken word to the masses with live performances, public school workshops and community outreach. Rouge Poetry became home to Edmonton’s first poetry slam and ultimately to a championship win on the national stage.
In 2010, Titilope curated a series of her poems in a self-published book titled Down To Earth, which went on to win the Canadian Authors Association, Emerging Writer Award. A year later she spent the summer in Cape Town, South Africa under the mentorship of acclaimed dub-poet D’bi Young. On the shores of the continent that raised her she began to refine her voice as woman, performing in both Cape Town and Lagos in what she calls her spoken word homecoming. She would later be invited to perform at the first poetry showcase at the 2011 Achebe Colloquium on Africa, which included performances, by Sonia Sanchez, Jayne Cortez, Yusef Komunyakaa, Obiora Odechukwu, Bassey Ikpi, Twin Poets, Offiong Bassey and Chinua Achebe himself.
Even with the soil of continents beneath her feet, the stories that are more sure with each passing year, more memories than a little girl running barefoot on the streets of Lagos could have imagined, she has not forgotten where it all began. She will tell you it is simple; when your heart is cracked open and a multitude of words begin to leak from your chest, before you stain everything you dare to touch, put it in a poem.