Ronnie Dean Harris left Maple Ridge to become a hip hop artist.
The Albion native moved to Vancouver after Grade 8 to follow his dream.
“Hip hop is the one thing I always really, really loved to do. Being able to put words together in rhyme form and create those ideas. There’s something about it I’m still trying to identify, really. It really activated me at a young age,” said the 38-year-old artist.
Now, under the name Ostwelve, the Sto:lo, St’át’imc, Nlaka’pamux multi-media artist has performed around the world, from South Africa to Australia, France, across the United States and Canada. He has opend up for artists like Guru, K’naan, Abstract Rude and Snoop Dog and was also a part of the red diva projects ensemble project, called The Road Forward, at the 2014 PuSh Festival in Vancouver.
A couple of years ago, Harris discovered the art of spoken word.
“Spoken word is just a little more relaxed than hip hop music is,” said Harris.
He likes that spoken word can be done anywhere.
In one of his videos posted on YouTube, Harris recites one of his spoken word pieces called Diamonds Wait in front of the Parliament buildings in Ottawa on a windy, sunny day.
“You are worth more than your weight in diamonds/Just look how far they have to climb in/to the earth just to find them/but they destroy more than what ends up shining/And so everybody’s hurting because tomorrow’s not for certain/So with death we’re always flirting just hiding behind a curtain,” the political piece begins, becoming personal soon after.
“If it’s spoken word I think a lot about what I am going to say,” said the artist.
“I’ve been trying to connect a lot of my writing to land, time and space. I really like sitting in spaces and writing. I’ve actually been hanging out in Maple Ridge to check it out sometimes,” said Harris, who now lives in Langley.
Coming back to Maple Ridge to perform is going to be special for him.
The house that he once lived in is long gone, but Harris is going to draw from his youthful memories as a child in Maple Ridge to bring new work to a new audience.
“Nature has taken back that space. The only thing that represents home, resembles home when I was a kid are some certain spaces in Maple Ridge, so I am sure I am going to try to write something about that,” he said.
“I like to bring something new to audiences and use poetry and use words in a way that I can weave something together and create a performance that can bring people around something and gather around something together.”
Harris believes the art of self-expression is truely important in today’s world and is impressed with the arts scene in Maple Ridge.
“I think expressing ourselves in any way is important,” said Harris.
It’s the simplicity of spoken word that Harris enjoys the most. It’s a way he can tell stories that isn’t so straight forward, where he can go outside the lines a little bit, to draw his audience into time and space and what’s happening at that moment.
Harris has been featured in the National Film Board musical documentary The Road Forward, directed by Marie Clements.
He will be performing at 2 p.m. on Sept. 30 for Culture Days at The ACT Arts Centre, 11944 Haney Place in Maple Ridge.
He will be showcasing a combination of spoken word poetry, storytelling and live hip-hop dance based on his experiences as an Indigenous artist growing up in Maple Ridge and spiralling out into the world.
Culture Days, a national celebration and annual movement to raise awareness, accessibility, participation and engagement in culture and the arts takes place from Sept. 29 until Oct. 1.
Activities are family friendly and free.
Schedule of events:
• 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Modern Legends Exhibition at The ACT Art Gallery featuring contemporary First Nations artists Sonny Assu, Corey Moraes, Carrielynn Victor and Brandon Gabriel.
• 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. River Songs and Stories at 23740 Fern Crescent and Cross’ Cabins Park, adjacent to Davidson’s Pool, where artists-in-residence Kat Wahamaa and Robi Smith will host a magiccal evening of songs, stories and spoken word that celebrate the waterways.
• 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Summer Market and Heritage Walking Tour.
The Downtown Maple Ridge Business Improvement Association will be hosting the last summer market of the season alongside the Haney Farmer’s Market in Memorial Peace Park, downtown Maple Ridge. There will be unique vendors, live music, food, cultural activities and entertainment.
The Downtown Maple Ridge heritage walking tour will take participants around the downtown area educating them on the rich and diverses history of Maple Ridge and showcasing pieces of public art, including murals and mosaics.
The tour will depart from the DTMRBIA booth at the market at noon and will take one hour ending with tea, coffee and a treat. Participants must pre-register.
• 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Culture Day featuring activities will be taking place at The ACT Arts Centre.
• 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Coast Salish artist Rick Harry, Xwalacktun, will be showing examples of his carving and doing demonstrations at The ACT Arts Centre.
• 1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. Métis artist Lisa Shepard display of traditional beadwork and hands-on art activity at The ACT Arts Centre.
• 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Modern Legends Exhibition at The ACT Art Gallery.
• 2 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. Spoken Word with Ronnie Dean Harris at The ACT Arts Centre.
• 2:30 p.m. to 3 p.m. Raven Spirit Dance, a solo piece called Frost Exploding Trees ,performed by Michelle Olson and choreographed by Floyd Favel and Olson at The ACT Arts Centre.
• 10:15 to 3:30 p.m. Culture Day at the Maple Ridge Public Library, 22470 Dewdney Trunk Rd., will feature story and craft time (10:15 a.m. to 10:45 a.m.), artists at the library (11 a.m. to 3 p.m.), CreAtrium Collaborative Art Project, where you can contribute a craft to the atrium art installation (11 a.m. to 3 p.m.), and Let’s Tell a Story: Relaunch of the Reminisce Kits multi-generational storytelling (1 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.)
• 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. the Modern Legends Exhibit at The ACT Art Gallery.
• 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. The Golden Ears Writers and Readers Festival at The ACT Arts Centre.
• 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Toys and Childhood Exhibition at the Maple Ridge Museum and Community Archives, 22520 116 Ave.