Nottingham Poetry Festival 2018: All We Need Is The Art of Love

Words: Chloe Rose Whitmore
Friday 27 April 2018
reading time: min, words

We've been looking forward to this one: “super sibilant sisters” Panya Banjoko and Abii spent their evening exploring their heritage through vibrant verse and music at the stellar Soetry event. We sent our Chloe Rose Whitmore down to hear what they had to say. 


Holed up in the cosy Nottingham Writer’s Studio, Abii and Panya took to the stage. Panya took the main role as a spoken word poet, creating an anthropomorphic story about a toad and a snake who formulate a plan to clip a hummingbird’s wings. In this nod towards toxic human relationships, Panya uses vibrant descriptions of “jam tart-sweet nectar” and “coral bells” to set the scene of an unusual animal party.

When things heat up and the snake cuts the hummingbird’s wings, Abii comes into her own, playing violent chords on her guitar to heighten the drama. Abii then slips into song, with a striking voice and melancholic lyrics. The duo continue in this way, switching from poetry to song and back again, keeping the audience alert and entranced.

At some moments, Abii sings on top of Panya’s verse, their voices layering in a sort of vibrant chaos before drifting back to Abii’s long, lonely notes. In the middle of their set, Abii breaks into a haunting solo without her guitar. Her voice carries such a huge amount of weight and intensity that the instrument isn’t needed, which is a testament to her raw talent. Following this, the pair take a moment to remember the lives of black men and women who have been unfairly killed, such as Stephen Lawrence and Michael Brown. This list of names is broken up with the lyrics “you can tell your lies; the truth will always out”.

Slipping back into spoken word poetry, the two sisters end the night on a positive, discussing the strength of friendships and family: “that’s all we need – the art of love”.

With Panya’s evocative poetry laced with Abii’s powerful voice, Soetry is a literary duo that shouldn’t be missed. You can find out about their upcoming poetic adventures on their Facebook page.

To find out more about Panya and Abii's future collaborations, check them out on Facebook at

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