Friday, 1 December 2017

Of things that hurt | Poetry from Kenya

La Macchina Sognante, the literary magazine directed by poet Pina Piccolo, has now an English version: The Dreaming Machine
I'm glad that in the first issue of the magazine Kevin Mwachiro and Seise Bagbo's poems found a home. 
Here a taste of them:


Your Wind

My radio is silent and the TV faceless
Yet your voice forever tuned-in and your memory glued.
Your stature earthed, but your roots your legacy
Your smile dimmed, but your radiance glows
Your wind – how strong it still blows!


Of the things that hurt,
Of all the things that i cried for but didn’t get,
Of the fresh wounds that bleed but won’t be nursed,
Of the stories that dried up in our throats,
Of our hearts that hang on fences,
Unloved and unloving,
Of all the men and women who broke our hearts,
We still see you in the reflections of our brokenness,
Of the betrayal and loyalty,
The knives are still stuck at the places you stabbed,
Of us all who survived,
The scars are a show that we are still alive,
That we fought and got here,
Our names stuck with the stars,
Of you who fought by us,
We die by the sword,
Of all the moments,
Of pleasure and pain,
Of kings and paupers,
Of queens and chamber maids,
Of us all.
We lived, we loved

Monday, 28 August 2017

Thursday, 17 August 2017

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Creative Encounters #3

Creative Encounters #3 just ended and it was a great day. The platform is growing, this time we had about 80 people attending the event.
As Kobo Trust recently hosted the exhibition Arts to End Slavery, organized by Haart Kenya, we wanted to dedicate also this event to the topic of human trafficking.
Though it is outlawed everywhere, human trafficking exists globally.  According to latest global index, 46 millions of people today live as slaves. The report indicates 167 countries where slavery still happens. Modern slavery is a multi-billion-dollar industry with estimates of up to $ 150 billion generated annually, I guess this statistic is not updated but it gives a sense of the impact in our societies. 
When words fail us in front of these dreadful statistics, Art is the only tool we have to raise awareness and address social change. Creative Encounters is a platform that gathers together artists from different art fields to inspire one another and offer the possibility to create new forms of artistic partnerships and collaboration.
Through this platform we are also committed in addressing, through art, social issues and social change making impact. We use art to enlighten, educate and discuss subjects that are of great weight and concern in the society such as gender equality, youth empowerment, human trafficking, migration, homophobia, racism, inequality, gender based violence.

The artists who were on stage were:
Mufasa Poet | Ijakaa Imo | Mamboleo | Tarcisse Kana | Valentina Mmaka | Naitiemu Nyanjom | Dikson Kaloki | Florin Mmaka | Ian Msanii | RoyRoyboy | Stacey Ravvero | Peter Ngila | Clara Castells

Mufasa Poet | Dikson Kaloki | I | Peter Ngila

Clara Castells
Ian Msanii
Naitiemu Nyanjom
Stacey Ravvero

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Arts to End Slavery

The 3rd of July marked the inauguration of the exhibition Arts to end Slavery organized by HAART Kenya and hosted by Kobo Trust.
The Artist exposing their work were:Paul Otieno Abwao, Rehema Baya, Lia Beharne, Samuel Githui, Immaculate Juma, Abdul Kipruto, Leevans Linyerera, Cephas Mutua, Lincoln Mwangi, Peterus Ndunde, Naitiemu Nyanjom, Brian Omolo, Joan Otieno, Nicole Riziki, Lemek Tompoika, Gemini Vaghela.
Spoken word poets Seise Bagbo and Roy Royboy along with guitarist Cusamusique performed during the event.

The 4th it was a closed VIP event where I had the wonderful opportunity to perform an excerpt of my play I...Immigrant... Woman... to want to say to write (staged in Europe and Africa and sill used in multicultural school programs) and met with interesting people all committed in different ways in fighting human trafficking.

The United Nations define Human Trafficking as the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring, or receipt of persons by improper means (such as force, abduction, fraud, or coercion) for an improper purpose including forced labor or sexual exploitation.  Part of the human trafficking activities there's: forced migration, early marriage, sexual exploitation, traffic of organs, forced labor, bonded labor, domestic servitude, child soldiers.
Though it is outlawed everywhere, it exists globally.  According to latest global index 46 millions of people today live as slaves. The report indicates 167 countries where slavery still happens. Modern slavery is a multi-billion-dollar industry with estimates of up to $35 billion generated annually, I guess this statistic is not updated but it gives a sense of the impact in our societies. 

HAART Kenya is the only organization in Kenya working to end modern slavery. 
According to HAART:  Kenya has the highest rate of human trafficking in both Central and East Africa. As a source, transit, and destination country, Kenyan urban centers such as Nairobi and Mombasa provide both the supply and demand required to grow the industry. Often victims are trafficked either to or through Kenya from neighboring countries such as South Sudan, Somalia, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi.
Forced labor is the main form of human trafficking in Kenya, with 41.3% of Kenyan children ages 10-14 years of age being exploited for cheap labor within the country. Once taken, these children are put to work in industries such as agriculture, fishing, cattle herding, street vending and begging. Kenyans are also frequently lured to the Middle East and Europe with the promise of well paid employment. After their arrival, their passports and identification documents are often confiscated and their wages withheld, leaving them at the mercy of their employers.

It was indeed an exceptional event addressing this global and very important issue using art. As someone said: When artists give form to revelation, their art can advance, deepen and potentially transform the consciousness of their community.  Each artist of the exhibition had the responsibility to raise awareness on human trafficking because it is through art that reflection, identification, resilience overcome prejudices, stereotypes, judgement. It is through art that we build bridges and destroy walls for a world without borders, without barriers. In art we find a powerful tool that makes impact in our societies and through which is possible to resist  and fight back injustice in a revolutionary and constructive way.

Sophie Otiende and I

Seise Bagbo and Cusamusique
Sophie and Clara Castells
Seise Bagbo, I and Roy Royboy
Rehearsals time

Thursday, 29 June 2017

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Arusha Poetry Club

Charles Bukowski was right when he said that Poetry is what happens when nothing else can.  I shall add that being with poets things just happen, things that wouldn't otherwise. When I'm with poets, no matter where,  I always get to experience a kind of exclusive feeling of belonging which otherwise I couldn't as I try to be detached from this feeling as much as I can, at least in regard to places. The only place I can really belong to is my writing and Art, in a more extensive way. 
I've spent a wonderful overwhelming week end in Arusha. I couldn't think of a better way to learn and share and I have to thank three special people: Charlotte O'Neal (aka Mama C), Edmond Azaza and Clara Castells who made possible my participation at the Arusha Poetry Club.
Whenever I go to new places I never go with expectations, I prefer to be overwhelmed in negative and in positive by the place itself... the surprise element is essential for creative minds and sensitive souls. Arusha struck me the first hour I set foot on its soil. I felt a good energy and positive thoughts and this even before brother Edmond (thank you for confirming what I felt) informed me about the spiritual nature of Mount Meru, just north of the city of Arusha, which corresponds to the geographic center of the Earth. Amazing how places speaks to our souls, and how they are all connected: Italo Calvino siad that all places communicate instantly with all other places and it cannot be more than true. 
Group Photo
With dada Mama Charlotte O ' Neal 
dada Charleen
with Edmond Azaza
Arusha Poetry Club
Edmond Azaza
Edmond Azaza and Tim Titere

Vicky Azaza

Monday, 19 June 2017

Sunday, 18 June 2017

Creative Encounters #2

Creative Encounters #2

Creative Encounters #2

Creative Encounters #2

Roy RoyBoy
Creative Encounters #2 just happened on Friday 16th at The Kobo Trust, Kobo is known for promoting mainly visual art from East Africa, but now committed in hosting artists from different art's expressions to enlarge perspectives and share ideas.
It was a lovely evening with awesome artists from Kenya and the rest of the world.
Friend Hamid Barole Abdu was our special guest all the way from Eritrea, Italy, Kampala. Hamid is a poet and writer currently based in Kampala.
It was his first time at Creative Encounters for songwriter and singer Tetu Shani who made the audience sing and dance overwhelmed by his vibes and energy.
Part of our team of artists were musician Fadhilee Itulya, spoken word poet Roy Royboy, visual artist and poet Naitiemu Nyanjom, visual artist based at Kobo Trust Lemek Tompoika, the duo M-Tafsiri formed by Reagan Oduor and Amalie Asmild, contemporary dancer Moses Steel  and we had The African Band.

As our host, The Kobo Trust, will be soon inaugurating (July 2017) the  exhibition  Arts to end Slavery, we thought of starting a conversation with the theme of the exhibition so all artists addressed issues like identity, forced migration, human trafficking, sexual exploitation.
We all believe that art has the unique power to address social issues making impact and creating a platform for social transformation.

Creative Encounters aims not just to provide nice and original performances for the audience but mostly to build a platform for different artists to meet and share their work. It is immensely important and necessary for the Kenyan socio cultural context that different art's expression link to each other to inspire each other and set new ideas and new forms of collaborations.

Stay tuned for Creative Encounters #3 on July.

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

I am not a failed dream

My conversation with spoken word artist and social activist Valentine Onyeka Ogunaka, aka Brainbox, on Pambazuka.
Valentine's poetry is a touching portrait of his life as an artist and of his society which he is committed to change through the powerful tool of imagination.

To follow his work

Watch his Documentary
I'm not a failed dream

Support him by following these guidelines:

- Gather with friends and family watch the documentary, take a picture of you watching it
- Post the picture on Facebook using the hashtag #iamnotafaileddream
- Write a message on a cardboard saying how did the documentary spoke to you and post it using the same hashtag.

Valentine Onyeka Ogunaka visits schools and share his art with children, youth, parents and teachers empowering communities.

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

The Igniting Power of Imagination. Education through the Arts

By envisioning the school of the future, I sense that the traditional educational system might not be enough to prepare the youth to handle the future, if it doesn’t contemplate the Arts as an integrated part of the school curriculum. The reason is simple: the more the world progresses, diversified, well technologically connected and fast, the more education needs to respond to the need of creating community and re-define identities. A quality we all have and that needs to be revalued is imagination. It was Italian writer Italo Calvino that said ‘Imagination is like communicating with the soul of the world’.
Why imagination? Being a writer and an avid reader as well as being raised in a single-parent environment where I didn’t have many friends, where I was the only child, imagination has been my daily companion. It is deeply rooted within ourselves and it’s not difficult to consider it as the engine of our being human. It has its foundation in two words: What if.  It was William Shakespeare, in his comedy ‘As You Like It’, that underlined the importance of the word IF through the tirelessly inquisitive fool Touchstone, who keeps on questioning ‘what if?’. It is Touchstone himself who foresees what poet Adrienne Rich defined as a ‘revolutionary question, the virtue to uphold’.IF is important, not because of how things are, but how they could be. The free exercise of imagination shapes the world in which we live, it creates many possibilities and realities.
The ‘spiritus phantasticus’, as Giordano Bruno defined it, that spurs from a creative mind, helps the exploration of new territories of the human sensibility and also allows to one to leave their comfort zone, enabling them to explore different ways of self-expression.
I have been using art as a tool for social change, working with marginalized communities in different countries and it has always succeeded to help create community, to break boundaries, even linguistic ones, to overcome stressful and difficult times, to find a language that could be inclusive and representative to all. Art in education plays a significant role, as it helps students to empower themselves. They can not only enter different cultures and mindsets, but also learn to identify themselves. Art can be a ‘window and a mirror’, to quote Rudine Sims Bishop, as it allows young people to shape the world that they inhabit; any also others so that everyone is able to identify him/herself, and also to explore new territories.
In some social contexts, being an immigrant or belonging to a marginalized group requires a lot of strength. I’ve been addressing issues like female genital mutilation, diversity, gender equality, and identity, through spoken word, theatre, creative writing and visual art. This connects different communities that wouldn’t have the chance to know each other otherwise. They’ve been able, by expressing their imagination, to envision a future with a more sensitive eye on what a sustainable, inclusive, empathetic society should look like.
When young people confront themselves with the obstacles of the societies they live in, often feeling misrepresented, judged, or marginalized, the Arts come to offer them a safe, non-judgmental space with which they can express their true self. They can freely rely on their imagination and creativity to solve conflicts and misunderstandings. There’s an inner quality about the Arts that brings to light our intimate consciousness and its exploration reminds us that awareness is the first stage from which we can start overcoming stereotypes, prejudices and discrimination.
On a more academic level, art contributes in cognitive activity, reading skills and critical thinking. It improves motivation, teamwork, concentration, and self-confidence. Art connects the youth to the world, and opens them to new ways of seeing the world around them, creating the foundation to forge social bonds and community cohesion. It encourages young people to find and express their abilities while learning. It is often believed that the Arts is a field exclusively for artists, but that’s not true.  Art is an important tool through which learning becomes a rewarding experience whatever ability one has. The Arts help them to feel a sense of ownership for what they learn and allows them to embrace their personal experiences through sharing stories, ideas, dreams, hopes, and becoming change makers, paving an innovative, multidisciplinary path.
In the 19th century, American writer George Eliot said: ‘It is a narrow mind which cannot look at a subject from various point of view’.  She had made a statement not only as a woman creative writer in a male dominant literary scene, but because she herself had a curious mind. Her curiosity led her to learn a multitude of subjects, from science to foreign languages, and acquire a vast base of knowledge. Eliot did this with the eyes of an imaginative mind, which allowed her to create a world that could not have been seen otherwise, in the narrowed minded society she lived in.
Eliot’s idea applies to the concept of how we should envision youth education today: an education based on exploring possibilities and different perspectives, promoting inclusiveness, equal opportunities, diversity and multiplicity.

The article was submitted to the Nuha Foundation Blogging Contest 2016.