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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.

Otosirieze is deputy editor of Brittle Paper. He is a judge for the 2018/19 Gerald Kraak Prize. He is an editor at 14, Nigeria’s first queer art collective, which has published volumes including We Are Flowers (2017) and The Inward Gaze (2018). He is the curator of the Art Naija Series, a sequence of e-anthologies of writing and visual art focusing on different aspects of Nigerianness, including Enter Naija: The Book of Places (2016), which explores cities, and Work Naija: The Book of Vocations (2017), which explores professions. His fiction has appeared in The Threepenny Review and Transition. He has completed a collection of short stories, You Sing of a Longing, is working on a novel, and is represented by David Godwin Associates literary agency. He combined English and History at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, is completing a postgraduate degree in African Studies, and taught English at Godfrey Okoye University, Enugu. Find him at otosirieze.com, where he accepts writing and editing offers, or on Instagram or Twitter: @otosirieze. When bored, he Googles Rihanna.

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