By Ishmael Mzwandile Soqaga
When it comes to African poetry as an integral part of literature one can reminisce about the nostalgic past of African society. Poetry in Africa has flourished for many decades now. It is not a foreign idea that was emulated from or somewhere else outside Africa.
As iconic O Bolaji explicitly elucidates in the introduction of the book “A Voice from Mangaung” written by the vibrant Lebohang Thaisi that: “Poetry has always been part of African Folklore, although because they were originally couched in the proliferating indigenous languages, they were not given anything like the publicity they deserved.” Colonial poems in Africa were more concerned about the freedom of the Africans and also they were used to express expostulation against colonial administration.
For instance in my mind I can recall black leader from abroad such as Marcus Garvey who wrote the poem “Say! Africa for the Africans (April 22, 1922),”moreover, Patrice Lumumba wrote another resistance poem called “May our People Triumph.” Africa has well indomitable and fully fledged poets whose poetry is world class and popularly recognized. From the revered Senghor, Wole Soyinka, Lenrie Peters, Gabriel Okara, Dennis Brutus, Zakes Mda, Mongane Wally Serote, Jack Mapanje, Ken Saro Wiwa, Gomolemo Mokae etc.
Here I shall concentrate on the following three African bards and their respective books; Lebohang Thaisi (A Voice from Mangaung), O. Bolaji (Poems from Mauritius) and T Job Mzamo (Pride of my Heart).
A Voice from Mangaung
With much anticipation, Lebohang Thaisi has proven that he has the potential to write outstanding poems that are willing to educate and express different situation that affects life and the society. His poems are very beguiling and magnificent to the point that they reveal what actually transpired in our society today. The first poem “Africa” is greatly delightful as it shows that the poet is an African who is concerned about Mother Africa. In fact the poem is straightforward to the point and unwittingly to impress with unnecessary balderdash meaningless words.
When I look at you Africa
my eyes feel heavy with tears
you look so sad mother Africa, why?
I wonder; cause it pains me also
A voice from Mangaung contains poems that are fascinating. They are enjoyable, easy to read and understand. As is always the case! Today we see many poems that have no meaning at all and are designed for fashionable impression that eschew from reality. But the poems of Mr. Thaisi are realistic and unashamedly speaking about authentic things that affect our daily life. A reader of the poems will see that the poems are intended to provide lessons and challenge the perception of the people in our society. Poems such as Abandoned, I and Refugee – touch on sad realities that are conspicuously visible and usually veritable in our societies.
They are abandoned
thrown to the street
corners of big cities
Two blocks is all I have to walk
to hear a brother calling our brother;
“these girigambas, la makwerekwere
they bring disease without mercy
calling him a refugee
Poems from Mauritius
Better known as the creator of the exquisite “Tebogo” mystery series, Bolaji has also been praised and critiqued on many occasions. To others it may be a surprising thing to find him interested in poetry however, the truth is O Bolaji is multi talented. He is familiar with literary genre and by understanding him surely; you can’t experience any difficulties in his writing. Poems from Mauritius are known as personal poems of Bolaji. But contrary they show a prolific African writer apparently astonished by the magnificent beauty of one of the Island of Africa (Mauritius). Definitely, he can adapt in any literary situation and simultaneously he can provide gigantic literary piece of writing. In reading his poems - a reader will notice that the bard was greatly relished by the profound beauty of the Island, that’s why the creation of the poems from Mauritius.
Paradise on Earth
Yes welcome to Paradise on Earth
An Island redolent with teeming
Bienvenu pour Mauritius
Island of tantalizing hordes and
Come hither if you desire tranquility
And transcendental courtesy from the
Pride of My Heart
This is another fine literary piece of poems, which are designed to serve the ‘masses’ with strong realities of life. Significantly, they have some certain similarities with the “Voice from Mangaung” but albeit they are uniquely fashionable and pleasant to read. Mr. T Job Mzamo (pictured above) is known for his intellectual grassroots flair that is exceptionally good. His energy and enthusiasm to write and recite his own poems in public is profoundly incredible. It is quite motivating to see a poet of his stature pragmatically demonstrating his poems with great verve.
It is commonly assumed that those who can excel in poetry or pertinent literature they have to be accustomed with formal education. This assumption is emanated from ignorant and misconception that can be corrected by Job Mzamo because he himself never attained a complete formal education; however, he writes and performs his super-duper poems with great ecstasy. Moreover, his gargantuan interest in poetry is marvelous. Pride of my heart the collection of his poems exalts him greatly - a God fearing bard and a staunch Christian. In the introduction of the same book he states that: “Poetry was (originally) never my kettle of fish, except of course recitations at school; and my all time favourite was “all things bright and beautiful.” But today I am a poet and have been writing poetry since 1997.
It is quite amazing to read such tremendous poems from someone who acknowledges the fact that he never completed his formal education. And this is what he has to say on the conclusion of his introduction:
“Now, my advice to would- be- writers is to get educated. Education is like rain in a land hit by severe draught, it is the key to open all doors.
Grow up, wise up a bit
And don the most important
Crown of all, education!
Patently, his poems are educative and emphasize the most important things that affect our lives. Poems such as Rape: Brutal, Do not sleep Around, The Truth, Youth and personality, Child abuse I and II are greatly superlative.
“We are the children” is another blow-minding poem that has a very strong message about the wellbeing of the children.
We are the Children
Warning: to all adults
We are the children
We need love,
We need care
Specifically, I really relished reading the poems of the three remarkable bards with lot of excitement. They are quite interesting and they are intended to furnish imperative insights into our society. The way Thaisi expresses his poem concerning the silly name calling among the people of the continent of Africa is exhilarating. It is good to see Africans writers unequivocally raising this serious continental issues in their writings, is necessary because it suffuses awareness about the demon of Xenophobia. In reading Abandon I you will understand how the condition of African children are. African children are homeless, living in the deleterious and obnoxious squalor situation and are always begging for food to survive. Bolaji is personally enamoured with the imperturbability of the Island but you could feel that Mauritius is an Island where tranquility of mind and serenity is untrammeled.
Job Mzamo the bard of the people can illustrate his poems with excellent diction and by reading his poems one will be greatly enthralled. Think about the poem “Undemocratic Republic of Congo”. The bard laments exceedingly the terror and the tyranny of the erstwhile leader of Congo President Kabila that he inflicts on his people. Honestly, this is what we expect to hear from the writers. Writers are actually the voice of the people; they need to speak when they see something wrong. This is literary criticism of sorts but many African writers have suffered severely from their government when they raised such unpleasant things that their leaders do to their people.
It will be injudicious for me to avoid mentioning that Thaisi and Mzamo in their poems they also pay great tributes to the now late world icon Nelson Mandela. I strongly believe that the time for our African people at grassroots’ level to familiarize themselves with literature is imminent. They need to see the importance of reading literature created from local writers, this will inspire them and will necessary give them the eagerness to know better about local literature. In particular for the youth it will be a great thing to see young people showing keen interest in local literature, visiting local libraries in numbers as this will boost their erudition, vocabulary, creative thinking, and creative writing.