Poetry is language at its most distilled and powerful
One of the most sobering and positive things to happen in Kenya in 2008, soon after the post-election violence, was “Cut Off My Tongue”. At a time of great tension and uncertainty, this dramatized poetry show ranted, provoked, inspired and broke into song and dance as it explored the truths that shape us as Kenyans: our beliefs, the way we behave and why.
Cut off My Tongue deals with interrelated stories about life in Kenya grouped around tribe and ethnicity, political critique, identity, tradition and genealogy. Although the main focus of the show is Kenya, the themes addressed cut across post-colonial Africa and the continent’s struggle to deal with the question of “Nation-State”. It was performed by a multi-racial cast to sold-out audiences in Kenya, Uganda and the UK (Hampstead Theatre, London and the Hay Festival 2009). It is moving, entertaining, brave and frighteningly honest. It is politics – and love – that bites as it teases. If you are African in mind, body or spirit, you must see “Cut Off My Tongue”!
Also in July 2015 , Cut off My Tongue by Sitawa Namwalie was performed at the Ubumuntu Arts Festival in Rwanda in memory of the 1994 genocide.[embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SkHztyj8R4I[/embed]
The 114 paged book by Njeri Wangarĩ – Wanjohi, a multi talented Kenyan poet and performer,, contains over 40 poems that explore themes on Urban Blues, Love, Identity, Traditions, Cultural changes, Exploitation and Politics among others. Though most of the poems are in English, there are a few in Kiswahili, Sheng and in Gĩkũyũ.
Nectar is the second collection of poetry and prose by Malawian storyteller Upile Chisala. In this book, Upile guides through a beautiful process of blooming starting with some poems on self love then words on our roots followed by acknowledging all the fruit of these experiences. The storyteller’s hope is that these poems on growth encourage the reader to sow and to make changes in the lives of others. Born in 1994 and raised in Zomba, Upile’s hope is to tell stories from the margins and through her work help others and herself come to terms with pasts, celebrate presents and confidently dream beautiful futures.
The artistry of QUESTIONS FOR ADA defies words, embodying the pain, the passion, and the power of love rising from the depths of our souls. Ijeoma Umebinyuo’s poetry is a flower that will blossom in the spirit of every reader as she shares her heart with raw candor. From lyrical lushness to smoky sensuality to raw truths, this tome of transforming verse is the book every woman wants to write but can’t until the broken mirrors of their lives have healed. In this gifted author’s own words—“I am too full of life to be half-loved.” A bold celebration of womanhood.
‘soft magic.’ is the debut collection of prose and poetry by Malawian writer, Upile Chisala. This book explores the self, joy, blackness, gender, matters of the heart, the experience of Diaspora, spirituality and most of all, how we survive. ‘soft magic.’ is a shared healing journey.
What elevates ‘teaching my mother how to give birth’, what gives the poems their disturbing brilliance, is Warsan Shire’s ability to give simple, beautiful eloquence to the veiled world where sensuality lives in the dominant narrative of Islam; reclaiming the more nuanced truths of earlier times – as in Tayeb Salih’s work – and translating to the realm of lyric the work of the likes of Nawal El Saadawi. As Rumi said, “Love will find its way through all languages on its own”; in ‘teaching my mother how to give birth’, Warsan’s debut pamphlet, we witness the unearthing of a poet who finds her way through all preconceptions to strike the heart directly.
‘Poetry, always foremost of the arts in traditional Africa, has continued to compete for primacy against the newer forms of prose fiction and theatre drama.’ This wonderfully comprehensive anthology of African poetry has been expanded to include ninety-nine poets from twenty-seven countries, thirty-one of whom appear for the first time. Equally wide-ranging is the content of the poetry itself: war songs and political protests jostle with poems about human love, African nature and the surprises that life offers; all are represented in these rich and colourful pages.
Ndanu Mungala, in her winning poem, Breaking through, and other poets, raise the issue of man not being allowed to express tender feelings or to cry. Mboga Patroba rejects violence as a definition in society and instead advocates for self sacrifice, service and respect. Poesiopoa Njeri dissects the disease that allows us to laugh at defilement, rape and abuse in her haunting piece Facing Jeevanjee Gardens. Samuel Munene and Ng’ang’a Mbugua pen excellent parodies of every day notions of societies and relationships.
Touring My Mind by Eric Onyango Otieno is a 187 page collection that entails an array of conceptualized statements that open us up into the mind of the poet, giving us opportunity to travel into and through his words in this ebook assembly. Eric says these are his thoughts on the day to day experiences that have shaped the way he sees the world.