Tuesday, August 14, 2018

GEORGE GUMIKIRIZA FROM UGANDA: #BABISHAI2018


GEORGE GUMIKIRIZA EMERGED THIRD IN THE #BABISHAI2018 POETRY PRIZE: INTRODUCING...
George Gumikiriza Obyaga is my name.
Alias: Sir_Wootridge
George and Remi at Sipi Falls: #Babishai2018 Festival


I'm a 21 year old Ugandan currently in my 3rd year at Makerere University doing a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering with a great passion for art and creativity. I like photography but I bleed poetry for it's therapy to the mind.
I started doing poetry around mid 2016 when I joined a group of poets that were organizing a show to fundraise for the cancer patients called "Poetry for Cancer.
If I remember well none of my poems was selected for the show because they weren't good enough. And if you asked me, I would say this was the time I started writing poetry and gave time to every piece I wrote till I was obsessed with it. 
I hardly performed but kept sharing short poems on my Instagram (@sir_wootridge.writes) and sharing them in different WhatsApp groups. Day after day, people kept liking and commenting positively and this gave me the motivation to take it further.
I remember for about a month or two, people kept asking me where I got sir_wootridge's pieces from since they had googled and found nothing about him, till I told them it was me.

2. Process of writing the poem, Hymns of a Broken Symphony.
It took me about a fortnight to place ink on paper since I had been asked by a friend to write about their orphaned friend who was going through a tough time so I had to wait till the mise was ripe. So I kept thinking about my parents and imagined how I would feel if I lost them. 

3. Poetry to me
Poetry is life to me. I literally bleed, think and breathe it. Every time I see something, I'm always thinking on the half empty side of the bottle. Generally I derive depth from small things.

4. 5 year goals
First and foremost I would like to have released a book and create my own poetry firm to mainly help the fellow young writers and mainly the deep poets. Because I've realized most "would be" deep poets end up doing spoken word which they actually aren't good at.
So mainly I want to make a difference, become a certified poet and able to perform all over the world.
And mainly I would like to have a standing writes company to help writers all over Easy Africa and keep growing.

5. African Poets I Read:-
Chinua Achebe
Jayson Ntaro

6. Challenges I face:
The fact that I can't survive on poetry alone but need a certain job to cater for my bills. Which means I have to divide my time to cater for the two which I feel is cheating my talent.
Plus not many Ugandan actually understand the art so it's kind of a hard time explaining from scratch.

7. Advice to Literature Teachers:
Literature teachers should get their students more involved in the art, do more original writings than dwelling on the assigned books for a year or term. It's a very big thing what I have in mind for this and my fingers could get tired typing

Monday, August 6, 2018

CELEBRATING MARIAL AWENDIT: #BABISHAI2018 WINNER


Marial Awendit, from South Sudan, was declared the winner of the #Babishai2018 Poetry Prize, on Sunday 5 August at Starlight Hotel, Mbale. The winning poem 38 Photographs of Depression, was selected amongst thousands of submissions. The Chief Judge, Prof Rem Raj, also a Babishai board member, acknowledged, on behalf of the Judging team (Alfred Msadala from Malawi and Rehema Nanfuka from Uganda), that his poem was potent, highly imaginative and brimming with originality. The #Babishai2018 award-giving ceremony was held at Starlight Hotel in Mbale, owned by renowned poet and author, Professor Timothy Wangusa.
The winner receives $700 and publication of a chapbook poetry collection.



Marial Awendit, on receiving the news of his win.

In second place was Grace Sharra from Malawi. Unable to attend, she delivered her acceptance speech on phone and said she was still dazed.

Grace Sharra

In third place, from Uganda, was George Gumikiriza. A young poet studying for his degree in Mechanical Engineering at Makerere University, with a passion for art and creativity.



Award-giving ceremony


Guests at Starlight Hotel, Mbale.

The #Babishai2018 Poetry Festival took place from 3-6 August in Kapchorwa, Sipi Falls and Mbale. Organised by the teams of the Babishai Niwe Poetry Foundation and Rhythm City Mbale, Babishai Founder, Beverley Nambozo Nsengiyunva, says that the Babishai Poetry Foundation has grown in extraordinary measures; especially by reaching out to  young poets from Africa, who would possibly have never been discovered or published. This year, the festival drew guests from Botswana, Nigeria, The United States, Rwanda and Uganda.


Poets at Sipi Falls: #Babishai2018 Poetry Festival.

In 2019, Babishai will celebrate ten years of promoting poetry through the annual award, publications and annual festivals. Follow us on Twitter @BNPoetryAward and on Instagram at babishai.

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Tuesday, July 31, 2018

YAKEEB: #BABISHAI2018 SHORTLIST



 Yakeeb is a writer resident in Lagos, Nigeria. His work has appeared and is forthcoming in a number of literary journals including Ynaija, Arts & Africa and others, and he collaborates with other creatives on various projects across genres. He is currently looking to publish his completed chapbook manuscript. 
Courtesy photo



 Q:        What was the process of writing your particular poem, Unholy Sermon Notes?
 A:        It is one of those poems that drops on you like bird poop, maybe in this case, it was a gift from God. The poem was written during a Sunday service that I felt very disconnected from.

Q:         What does poetry mean to you?
A:            Poetry for me is a portal to alternate universes, you can be in yours or get lost in someone else's. That encapsulates it all for me. To dig deeper is to examine the process and the emotions, I'll leave that to the academics.

Q:    What are your five year goals with your poetry?
 A:            Mastery of the art form, enough to teach it. A chapbook and a full-length collection that is special to nearly everyone who comes across them. Also, I intend to travel more so I'm able to write from a wider range of perspectives.

Q:         Which African poets are you keen on reading?
A:            I'm playing catch up at the moment in regards to poetry written by Africans, but I've spent some time reading Dami Ajayi & Efe Paul's poetry and I really like the themes they explore. I recently came across poems by Niyi Osundare, Gbenga Adesina, Bernard Binlin DadiĆ© and Jonathan Kariara. I intend to gradually delve deeper and I'm excited about what I'm yet to discover.

Q:    What are some of the challenges you face with poetry?
A:            As a reader, there are times when I wrestle with the patience of taking it all in. There's also the issue of insight, you want to be sure you're in tune with what was expressed by the writer of the poem. As a writer, sometimes, the words that come to mind while writing or attempting to write do not genuinely describe what I feel. Also, navigating the layers of vulnerability can be tedious.

Q:         Is there anything of importance you would like to share with literature teachers, who are reading this?
A:         From a general point of view, passion is enticing. I think you're very likely to bring the best out of students when you teach with love. I recommend watching Dead Poets Society, a 1989 movie directed by Peter Weir.

Q: Any parting remark?
A: I'm thankful to The Babishai Niwe Poetry Foundation for providing a platform that promotes literature in Africa. I'm honoured to be on this list alongside these wonderful poets.

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You may read the shortlisted poems here:
#BABISHAI2018 SHORTLIST

The #Babishai2018 poetry festival details are here:
#BABISHAI2018 POETRY FESTIVAL


Monday, July 30, 2018

#BABISHAI2018 SHORTLIST: STEPHEN OGUNFOWORIN

Courtesy photo

 Stephen Ogunfoworin is a fourth year Law student in University of Ibadan. His poem, "The Women", won the 2017 Okigbo Inter-university Poetry Prize. When he is not reading or writing poetry, he does public speaking and journalism. He lives in Lagos, Nigeria.



Q:  What was the process of writing your particular poem, On Sons Who 
Hate Their Fathers?

Growing up, I had a bit of an apprehensive relationship with my father, who was the embodiment of the typical Yoruba father: strict, uncompromising, and hardly ever reluctant to use the cane. None of that mattered very much back then though, he was my hero. But in my senior years in secondary school, our relationship became a strained one, and I was hardly ever comfortable around him. During this same period, I found out from listening to some of my close friends in boarding school that I wasn't the only young man who didn't know how to act or what to say around his father. I wasn't the only one who could not stay ten minutes in a room with his father without inventing a reason to leave. About three years later, I was in my first year in university and my relationship with my father was completely in the doghouse. I was angry with him. I was very angry. So I barely talked to him, and saw him even less. Some of my anger with him seeped into a few of my other relationships, now that I think about it. And right in the middle of this phase, I started to notice some things that I did almost exactly the same way he did them. I began to catch myself doing some of the things I didn't like that he did. This bothered me a lot. I didn't want to imagine a world where I had a son who would one day be as angry with his father as I was with mine. So, "On Sons Who Hate Their Fathers" was written. It was a bit difficult to write, because I was trying to write a deeply personal poem while trying my hardest to use as little of my own story as possible. I should add that my father and I are now on very good terms.

Q:
    What does poetry mean to you?

I started writing poetry in 2015, after my mother died. It was purely a coping mechanism for me, and almost everything I wrote back then was about grief. Now, I think I may have come some distance from that time. Poetry to me is the purest way for a person to share their emotions, exactly how those emotions are felt. With poetry, you can use your words to share your thoughts in the most accurate ways, and make your reader feel very close to what you're feeling. I don't think there could possibly be a more authentic mode of communication. It is also a vital tool in talking about important issues in the society, and I think every poet has a duty to use this function of poetry. If your work has an audience, you have to use it, at least a little bit, to talk about issues that some of your audience may not be paying enough attention to. It's good to write poetry about love, loss, grief, beauty, and pain. But it's also important to write about inequality, child abuse, drug abuse, and poverty. Lastly, poetry, other than making it easy to share your thoughts with others, makes it even easier to listen to theirs. I think good poets have to be attentive. I think I'm a lot more interested in people, their stories, their emotions, and their actions, because of my poetry.

Q: What are your five year goals with your poetry?

My five year goals. I want my poetry to keep getting recognition. I want to write more, and keep getting better. In five years, I intend to have gotten a postgraduate degree in Creative Writing, I intend have a full-length collection of poems, or two. I hope that in five years, I will have become something of a household name in African Poetry. Honestly, in five years, I just want to have several absolutely beautiful poems I can be proud of.

Q:  African poets are you keen on reading?

Ah. African poets. Definitely Warsan Shire. Sometimes, my friend Chinedu Arinze (who is also a brilliant poet) and I spend hours on the phone, talking about her poems. I think she's brilliant. I don't think there's anything written by Yrsa Daley-Ward that I'm not absolutely in love with. Ijeoma Umebinyuo's poetry is fierce and beautiful. I used Niyi Osundare's poetry collection for a course I took two years ago, and he's a genius. And I find Nayyirah Waheed's poetry soothing. Jane Dennis, my friend, writes beautiful poetry too. 

Q:    What are some of the challenges you face with poetry?

I'm not sure if this is the situation for other African poets, but where I come from, a lot of people still do not take poetry seriously. There are people who think a man has no business writing poetry, and there are people who think poetry is usually just a few fancy words strung together, with no real meaning. Someone I love once told me that they thought it was odd that I wrote poetry, which in their opinion, was a complete waste of my time. I struggled with my poetry for several months afterwards. Personally, I have two challenges with my own poetry: I never think anything I write is any good, ever. I am always editing my poems. And I don't spend as much time as I wish I could on my poetry. I'm working on the latter these days.

Q:     Is there anything of importance you would like to share with 

literature teachers, who are reading this?


I think that it is important for people, literature teachers and learners alike, to understand that literature is dynamic. I have had discussions with a few people who are thoroughly convinced that poetry must be in some exact form, to qualify as poetry. To these people, if your poetry does not follow some rules, then you are not really a poet. I disagree strongly with this line of thinking. My friend, Chimdinma Onwukwe, who has helped me improve my poetry over the years, once told me that the only thing a poem needs to be a poem is that the poet calls it a poem. I think it's okay to let many of the rules that guided poetry in the past change, to let the art form evolve. So, as far as poetry is concerned, I think all anyone should need is that the poet calls their work a poem. That's what makes it a poem. I want literature teachers to know this. 

Q: Any parting remark?
I am immensely grateful to the Babishai Niwe Poetry Foundation for this opportunity, and the judges for validating my poetry. I did not think that this poem would make the longlist, and I certainly did not think that it would make the shortlist, but I am elated that the judges deemed it worthy both times. I do not take this for granted. Thank you. And to the other poets on the shortlist, I have read your poems, I have even stalked some of you a little on social media, and I cannot stop gawking at the sheer talent in your work. I wish you all success in your journey through poetry, and I hope you never tire of writing the beautiful things that you write. 


The #Babishai2018 shortlisted poems can be read here:

Details about our #Babishai2018 poetry festival are here:


Sunday, July 29, 2018

#BABISHAI2018 SHORTLIST: MARIAL AWENDIT (SOUTH SUDAN)



Marial Awendit is a poet, satirist, fine artist and a songwriter, from South Sudan.



 His poems have been published in the Brittle Paper, Kalahari Review, African writer, Praxis Magazine Online, Best New African Poets 2016 Anthology and elsewhere. He won the 2016 South Sudan Talent Youth award for Best Poet. He writes from his hometown, Yerul, Eastern Lakes State, where he works with Caritas-D.o.R -a humanitarian aid organization.


Q: What was the process of writing your particular poem, 38 Photographs of Depression?
A: I had fallen in deep grief after my brother was killed by a kinsman on 28th March, 2014 and the resultant death of my father on 4th November, 2014. I could not at all see anything worthwhile in a world that I will have to walk through for the rest of my life. My body had dimmed against my will. I was depressed, I was told. In 2015, I had this thought of wanting to purge myself of the night inside me, through poetry, but didn’t. I actualized that on 28th March of 2017, explaining what I feel while being honest to myself and the Universe, but it was then just 28 Photographs of Depression. I kept it intact in my case until I made it to 38 Photographs of Depression one good afternoon in September of 2017.
Q: What does poetry mean to you?
A: (Giggles). I am in deep gratitude for poetry. I am not sure now if what I breathe in is poetry or oxygen. Poetry is the boat that ferries this half-dead body housing a living soul through the world. My hammer for crafting and finding pleasure. I get resurrected in a poem when dead in the world.
Q: What are your five year goals with your poetry?
A: I am devotedly aiming at having 3 poetry collections and 2 chapbooks out before the end of 2021, Inshallah. All aimed at achieving complete beauty.

Q:        Which African poets are you keen on reading?
A: I believe Africa is blessed with beautiful poets. I find peace in reading J.K. Anowe (my favorite), Warsan Shire, Leila Chatti, Sahro Ali, Romeo Oriogun and Safia Elhillo.

Q: What are some of the challenges you face with poetry?
A: I lack a writing space and time. Where I live, I have to balance writing and a tight job. Sometimes in writing from my unique social context as mine, I feel alienated by the literary world, depicting poetry to me as unappreciative of certain contexts. I also have a very hard time keeping my works safe. On 17th May, 2016, I lost 150 poems to a close conspirator. Hitherto, I have either recovered or restructured only a hundred poems.
Q: Is there anything of importance you would share with the literature teachers, who are reading this?
A: Teachers of literature ought to identify a talent in writing and nurture that talent. Poetry taught should be a curative form of expression so it can be a tool for social change. I have experienced that effective. Look, the poem on this shortlist was intended to cure me. You can easily explain now how much I got cured making it to the Babishai Niwe Poetry Award shortlist with a poem that was meant to only heal me.
Q:        Any parting remarks?
A:        Gawd! The works on that shortlist are fireworks but I probably would not have seen them if the Babishai Niwe Poetry Foundation never thought of a poetry prize, just like I would have not been here. Poetry is creation, BNPA is creation! Thank you Babishai Niwe! Thank you Africa!

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The #Babishai2018 shortlist can be read here:


Saturday, July 28, 2018

#BABISHAI2018 SHORTLIST: GRACE SHARRA (MALAWI)



 Grace Athauye Sharra, 31, hails from Ntcheu District in Malawi. She holds a Diploma in Education and teaches languages at Mitundu Secondary School in Lilongwe, Malawi.

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She is a poet and short story writer. Her works have appeared in many local and international publications. Her poem, We Wear The Mask, features in a book titled Malawi a Place Apart by former Norwegian ambassador to Malawi Asbjorn Eidhammer published in 2017.

In The Familiar Stranger and Other Stories: An Anthology For Junior Secondary School, Grace has a poem titled Sacred Vows and a short story, The Anointed One published by CLAIM Mabuku Malawi in 2013 and is now the textbook for English Literature. Her short story Guilty appears in The Grafted Tree And Other Short stories edited by Sambalikagwa Mvona. It is also in Call It Fate and Other Stories edited by N. Mwangupili and T. Mgunda published by Bookland Malawi.

Tomorrow Will Come, features in War Drums Are Beating, by Alfred Msadala published by Acin. Other poems and a short story are in Poetry For Senior Secondary School and Mphamvu Ya Kondaine Ndi Nkhani Zina (nthano) by Chancellor College Publication in 2013.She has also published in local newspapers and magazines.

Q:     What was the process of writing your particular poem, My Letter To 
You?
A:  It is a product of a lot of events that inspired me to write that verse. I put all my bewilderment, confusion, experiences and protests. Nothing is sacred anymore in our societies. We are no longer our brother's keeper and are ready to betray and sell our souls for almost nothing. 

Q:     What does poetry mean to you?
A: Poetry is sacred. It means everything. It is my first and truest love. It allows me to express myself in the most satisfying and therapeutical manner. You may say it sanctifies me.

Q:     What are your five year goals with your poetry?
A: To publish my book, perform at international events and reach out to as many people as I can with my work while inspiring the budding writers.

Q:     Which African poets are you keen on reading?
A: Denis Brutus, Frank Chipasula, Lindiwe Mabuza, Susan Kiguli, Gcina Mhlophe and Jack Mapanje

Q:     What are some of the challenges you face with poetry?
        I.            The perception that people have based on what one writes. They always associate the persona in the poem with the author which can be frustrating to say the least.
      II.            It is hard to publish poems in Malawi.
    III     Many people do not appreciate poems, let alone poets


Q:    Any parting remark?
A: Poets are winged souls, they should never sell their voice. A poet who sells his or her voice is a sacrilegious being.
Poetry is a powerful tool that we can use to fight all evils in our society.
I am so excited for being shortlisted for the Babishai poetry competition. It has given me wings and I don't intend to fly an ordinary pitch.
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The #Babishai2018 shortlisted poems may be read here:

Friday, July 27, 2018

#BABISHAI2018 SHORTLIST:SALAWU OLAJIDE



Salawu Olajide currently lives in Ife. This is the second time he has been shortlisted for the Babishai Poetry Award. His poems have appeared in Transition,  Saraba, New Orleans Review, Soul-Lit,  Poetry City, Paragrammer and so on. 

Courtesy photo

Q:     What was the process of writing your particular poem, The Music
Man Thinks about Dapchi?

A: The poem stayed in my head for a day after the Dapchi saga. History was repeating itself. You remember Chibok? Anyways, after a day I tried to capture the agony of mother losing their daughters in a country with a loose soul. 

Q:     What does poetry mean to you?
A: Poetry is a life wrapped up in the economy of words.  In its units of metaphors, imagery and linguistic aesthetics, human experiences are locked there in.  

Q:   What are your five year goals with your poetry?
A: All my goals are embedded in one. And that is humanity. And it is a religion we should all embrace which gives me the ability to impact my immediate society and other spaces where my feet have not reached through my writing. This, I seek every day.  And this I will continue to seek. 

Q:.    Which African poets are you keen on reading?
A: Dami Ajayi, Gbenga Adesina, Warsan Shire, Clifton, Ladan Osman,  Shittu Fowora, D. M. Aderibigbe, Adedayo Agarau, Rasaq Malik,  Sadiq Dzukogi... My God, the list is endless. Africa is blessed.

Q: What are some of the challenges you face with poetry?
A: When poems stay too long in my head, I hate it. 

Q:   Is there anything of importance you would like to share with

literature teachers, who are reading this?
A: There is a need to look outside the window and teach new poets who are doing great stuff.
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The #Babishai2018 shortlisted poems can be found here:
We’ll be announcing the winner at the #Babishai2018 poetry festival on 5 August in Mbale.