Poetry is when an emotion has found its thought and the thought has found words.
Sitting in a hall with white walls and frames of distinct works of art, was Nigerian poet and writer, Wana Udobang, surrounded by 20 young writers, seated quietly and listening all so carefully. Udobang gave off the air of someone who knew what her journey in life was all about and was not afraid to share with her listeners. “My poetry works are mostly about experiences and making the right kind of socio-economic impact,” she stated. Wana Udobang has written several poems which any poetry lover can relate with and many of her pieces revolve around women’s rights and deep emotional struggles, such as trauma.
In 1999, when UNESCO first declared March 21 as World Poetry Day, it is certain many did not see the need for a special occasion, except, of course, to celebrate the likes of Maya Angelou who have made significant differences in the world with their prose. Isn’t that what real art entails? Pablo Picasso once said “the purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls” and, like all art, poetry is indescribably human and its delivery has the ability to tear apart or put together as well as be a beacon of light to many.
Here in Africa, only a very few people are able to truly appreciate poetry. Perhaps, if more people were aware of how much it affects their lives daily, they would be more willing to pay attention it. How about we explore the political advantages of poetry for just a bit? For strong issues like feminism, colonialism, government, gender bias as well as religious and ethnic bias, poetry is not only making a strong impact but it also serves as an outlet for a sort of deux au machina, something poetry lovers will tell you is real. “As a Nigerian poet, I would say our prevalent economic and political issues have given me material I need to call people’s attention to societal ills using sarcasm and verses,” says JB Mairubutu, whose pieces usually revolve around major political and social events.
Addressing the relationship between poetry and politics as well as the economy, poet and artist, Roli Maye Afinotan, advocates for spoken word, saying it is the tool employed by poets to address issues. However, “in politics and economy, poets act as either a voice of the people, talking about issues that cause marginalization or a voice calling people to action, whichever way, we are the voice of the people.”
The last time Afinotan performed her poem, Irony of Days, was at the 2015 Ake Festival in Abeokuta, Ogun state, where she juxtaposed her childhood days with adult years. “It was kind of a girl vs. woman kind of appraisal, further strengthening my point of view as a feminist.”
“My mama didn’t tell me that there will be days when
I would think growing up the coolest thing where
I won’t have to take orders to constrain my freedom”
An excerpt from Irony of days.
“What it taught me is that there is really no clear cut definition to being a woman, so we need to learn and unlearn all we have learned in understanding the roles of a woman in society,” she stated.