Best of Young Kenyan Poetry
During the past decade Nairobi has grown to become the literature capital of East Africa. These days Kwani Trust is celebrating its 10th anniversary, the 6th edition of the Storymoja Hay Festival took place a few months ago, and African literary heavyweights such as Teju Cole, Nuruddin Farah and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie have all given lectures and talks in Nairobi this year. More important though, is the explosion that has happened on Nairobi’s poetry and spoken word scene in the past few years which has resulted in the breakthrough of a new generation of talented Kenyan poets. We wanted to celebrate this excellent breed of new poets and therefore asked James Wamathai, the founder of the online Kenyan poetry magazine Wamathai, to name his 5 favourite young Kenyan poets. See who he came up with and read and hear excerpts of their work below.
1. Euticus Mola: A poet, computer science student and event organiser, Euticus also runs the africanplato.com blog that hopes to inspire young African poets and writers into creating new content and promoting a positive image for the continent. ‘I hate your tribe’ is one of his finest works:
I hate your tribe
for like the ancient kipande, you wear it as the symbol of your identity
not as a source of pride but a factor of discrimination
causing a rift to divide this nation
use it as reason to wage a war you don’t even believe in
drive your neighbor out of his home
steal his land and make it your own
spew hate on social media without thinking
fuel a cause not yours but for your tribal Kingpin.
© Euticus Mola. Continue reading ‘I hate your tribe’ here.
2. El Poet: A old spoken word artist born and living in Kenya but of Somali origin. Follow him on elpoetic.tumblr.com and see his performance of The School Bells Ring below:
3. Raya Wambui: An entrepreneur, writer, blogger and performance poet, Raya recently won the 1st prize in the Goethe-Institut’s ‘The Spoken Word Project’ with ‘Define and Conquer’. See her performance of ‘Define and Conquer’ below and follow her on rayawambui.wordpress.com.
To be Kenyan, is to smell the scent of the dust that’s jumping up,
to meet the rain, that’s coming.
To be Kenyan, is to celebrate the clouds,
knowing behind them, the sun is rising,
and, with their marriage comes the promise of milk, of honey.
Because, to be Kenyan, is not to survive.
To be Kenyan, is to surprise.
© Raya Wambui. Continue reading ‘Define and Conquer’ here.
4. Mwende Ngao: A performing artist, writer, filmmaker and actress, Mwende Ngao’s mwendengao.com blog is not to be missed. Dig into the film adaptation of her poem ‘Freedom Speech’ here:
5. Alvin Kathembe: We do not know much about Alvin (let us know if you do) but check out his ‘My people are being finished’ poem below and look out for more of his work on wamathai.com.
My people are being sidelined
My people are overlooked
We are like that distant relative –
That obscure, forgotten cousin
Seated somewhere, far in the back
Gatecrashing your birthday party
Hoping for some crumbs
Of the national cake –
My people are being finished
© Alvin Kathembe. Continue reading ‘My people are being finished’ here.
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