Gaamangwe Mogami, editor of Africa in Dialogue, has curated interviews with the ten poets shortlisted for the 2017 Brunel International African Poetry Prize.

The interviews with Sahro Ali (Somalia), Leila Chatti (Tunisia), Kayo Chingonyi (Zambia), Saddiq Dzukogi (Nigeria), Yalie Kamara (Sierra Leone), Kechi Nomu (Nigeria), Richard Oduor Oduku (Kenya), eventual winner Romeo Oriogun (Nigeria), Rasaq Malik (Nigeria), and Nick Makoha (Uganda) are collected in an e-book titled Conversations with Brunel Poetry Prize Shortlist.

Gaamangwe Joy Mogami.

Gaamangwe Joy Mogami, who is a Motswana, is a poet, playwright and screenwriter, and is one of the continent’s foremost human rights and gender activists. We published her poetry early this year. Here is her Introduction to the e-book.

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The idea to interview the 2017 Brunel International African Poetry Prize shortlist, and to package the interviews in one collective ebook came from an instinctual interest in rendering new expansive spaces and understanding to the shortlisted poems, and the poets who created them. I wanted to highlight the power of poetry, in the way that it explores and illuminates narratives, experiences and worlds that exists within the poets as much as the reader. I wanted to engage the poets and possibly discover; who is speaking? who is living here? what hurts here? and what heals here?

In a span of seven days, I interviewed the ten shortlisted poets, wherein we discussed various topics: Richard’s endless reinvention, psychogeography  and the power of African languages; Saddiq’s defiance to African stories gatekeepers, family tales and the insurmountable power of love; Yalie’s reclamation of her Sierra-Leone heritage, unbecoming invincible and the potentiality  of sincerity to change the world; Nick’s take on Idi Amin’s regime and its impact on Uganda, the disregard to Black death and the importance of writing our African stories as Africans; Kechi’s reclamation to memory, nationalistic forced amnesia, and the road to understanding; Romeo’s violent and dark realities of Queer men in Nigeria, navigating religion and hatred, and the beauty of water; Leila’s perpetual longing, life as an Arab, Muslim woman post 9/11 and post Trump and love as a gift;  Rasaq’s relentlessness, documentation of Boko Haram’s occurrences in North Nigeria, and the activating powers of awareness; Sahro’s power of crude language, navigating her sexuality in a homophobic environment and twenty seconds of bravery; Kayo’s writing beyond language, the lack of assimilation of immigrants and the multi-layers of selfhood.

Here, we learn that the poets are the custodians of our realities and histories. That there is a lot of ourselves in each other. That we live in many worlds; in poetry, in silences, and in each other. And the more initiatives like the Brunel International  African Poetry Prize exists, the more Africa can  speak and unspeak, occupy and unoccupy, learn and unlearn, remember and unremember, heal and heal herself.

– Gaamangwe Joy Mogami, Founding  Editor,  Africa in Dialogue.

The e-book can be downloaded HERE.

About Otosirieze Obi-Young

View all posts by Otosirieze Obi-Young
Otosirieze Obi-Young was shortlisted for the 2016 Miles Morland Writing Scholarship. His short story, "You Sing of a Longing," was shortlisted for the 2016 Gerald Kraak Award. His first published story, “A Tenderer Blessing,” appears in Transition magazine and was nominated for a 2015 Pushcart Prize. His second story, "Mulumba," appears in The Threepenny Review and has been translated into the German. His essays appear in Interdisciplinary Academic Essays and Brittle Paper where he is Submissions Editor. He is the editor of the Art Naija series, a sequence of anthologies of writing and visual art which document aspects of Nigerian life. The first anthology, Enter Naija: The Book of Places, explores cities and marked Nigeria's 56th Independence anniversary. The second anthology, Work Naija: The Book of Vocations, explores professions and is forthcoming in June 2017. Otosirieze teaches English at Godfrey Okoye University, Enugu. When bored, he blogs popular culture at naijakulture.blogspot.com or just Googles Rihanna.

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I hold a doctorate in English from Duke University and recently joined the Marquette University English faculty as an Assistant Professor. I love teaching African fiction and contemporary British novels. Brittle Paper is the virtual space/station where I play and experiment with ideas on how to reinvent African fiction and literary culture.

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