Abigail Arunga is a Kenyan poet who will one day write and make so much money that she’ll retire young and happy. She is the author of two extremely vivid and creative poetry collection namely; Akello (2014) and a side of raunch (2016). Abigail wonders why people still won’t talk about sex and we’re proud to host her at the #Babishai2016 Poetry Festival.
Abigail, which people are those who have refused to talk about sex and why do you think that is?
EVERYONE. Our parents. Our friends. Our teachers. Our publishers. Our newspapers. Our politicians, unless it is to insult each others’ genitals, which honestly, doesn’t count. Why don’t they talk about it…because everyone has this obsession with looking holy. And everyone wants to look holy because sex, even a hint of it, is considered taboo, or only to be talked about by married people, and even then, only on the first night after asking hurried permission for entry.
In your session entitled, The place of sensuality in Contemporary Poetry, and why people still won’t talk about sex, would you consider it successful if more people included sex in their writing?
Well. Successful is not the word I would use. Maybe more, truthful. Because truthfully, or at least as Kenyans, sex is on our minds a lot. Sex sells. People buy it. People want it. People think about it, whether they are having it or not. And not in a pervy leery or rapey way for a large part, just in a healthy, we-are-humans-and-have-needs way.
Akello's books will be on sale at the Babishai Festival
You want to grow your dreadlocks as long as Maxi Priest’s. After that, what next for your hair?
I go around with dread envy for people whose dreads sashay all the way down to the swell of their arses. I love it. I am looking forward to mine being envied. And turning grey. And sashaying.
You will be part of a panel discussion on African feminism in poetry. A few African feminist poet who come to mind are Alice Walker (African American), Warsan Shire, Harriet Anena amongst others. What importance does African feminism play in your own poetry?
Simply because African feminism needs to be touted louder; my poetry, I think, offers a voice to that tone of sensuality that either has been stifled, or hasn’t been told, or hasn’t been said loudly and proudly, a lot of the time. People think some of my stuff is raunchy, and I am like…but you people, you give blowjobs, no? Just because I say it, doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen. Don’t act like it doesn’t, hehe.
When you hear of Ugandan poetry, what comes to mind?
Harriet Anena, of course, and Peter Kagayi’s lastest collection, The Headline This Morning. And also a hidden sexuality that I haven’t yet seen broadcasted. Stereotypical though it may be (and stereotypes aren’t a bad thing sometimes, they happen because they have been proven a few times), I think Ugandans are a very sexually exciting people.
How important do you think it is to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Song of Lawino, by Okot ‘Bitek? (May he rest in peace)
It is important to celebrate what came before, what is here now, and what is coming. No pun intended.
How different were the writing processes for your two collections, Akello and A side of raunch?
A side of raunch took a much shorter time, and not just because it is shorter. Akello was younger and more unbridled. A side of raunch was scarier for me to announce. I am still hiding it from most of my relatives.
What do you expect at the #Babishai2016 Poetry Festival?
To enjoy myself; to have rousing literary discussions; to drink a bit; to love it.