As far as what poetry holds, the Kenyan creative scene is an example of exemplary talent found in the great continent that is Africa. The lively audience, illustrious echoing voices and the poets whose whole package bears various unique forms. Tales of struggle, resistance, freedom, a call to revolution, light to dark moments, strength of a woman, a stern rebuke of evil to the glorifying of humanity; this would be the realization that Africa is ‘us’ and the youth are its vessel.
My wanders in the great city of Nairobi had me settled among a gathering of poetry enthusiasts whose desires would be revealed by the expressions on their faces in reaction to the beautiful, nice and bitter-ugly words that filled the air, sometime I would feel lost; the kind of moments that would leave you levitated, a competition it was, yet a radiance of poetry and creativity.
The venue that is one of the great art ‘centers’ in Nairobi hosted a group of gifted poets for the inaugural Poetry Slam Africa Festival, the monologues from performers to wild interactions by the audience. The show held from December 9 to 10 highlighted the life and times of the capital city, painted a stark picture of the country, and poetry that brandished conscious and articulate art contrary to what is carried in popular lyrics in Kenya’s steep musical culture.
The event organized by a group of youngsters under the banner Crea8ive Spills also held free workshops which sought to educate artists on how to maximize on art as an income generating activity, the dynamics of publishing art works and marketing of the artworks.
Qui Qarre, Mumbi Macharia, Tess Aura, Natasha Muhoza, Sally Wesh, Ndichu Mercy, Jaaziya Shiraz, Rozet (Wanjiru Njeri), and Juniellah Chepng’etich would face off in a two round competition each of them seeking to outdo each other with an intention of representing Kenya in the 2017 Women of the World Slam poetry (WOWPS) scheduled for Dallas, USA.
The poets expressively spoke about atrocities in society while addressing the various issues that bring out societal imbalance but despite the charged audience having their own choice, the judges’ verdict would elevate Qui Qarre with a 92.25% into the top position.
Qui is a remarkable poet, musician and designer, who loves to get ideas from the constant interactions she has with people. The free thinker’s two poems of the night, which sounded revolutionary like Nelson Mandela’s Rivonia Statement touched on the apparent killing of petty thieves on the streets, she told of a young father who was killed by the mob for stealing a packet of flour and diapers, a first-time thief who stole from the unknowing father-in-law. Her second piece chastised the plastic smiles that come with too much make up and the disregard of the women who remain natural and true to their beliefs.
As the sunny afternoon wore off, the competition saw the crowning of the Grand Slam winners for the group category, the brilliant group Shingai and Mumbi would oust Romeo and Juliet into their fateful romance with an 80.6% over 61.5%. While on the children’s category, children’s group Maji Mazuri would ride home on the Kings stallion unopposed due to lack of a viable competitor.
The key event, the Grand Slam Championship attracted 9 poets Roger, Tess Aura (Socratess), Mumbi Macharia, Rozet, Jaaziya, MC Elfra, Becky Wairimu, Shingai and Peter K. Saisi. The three round saw the only two men dropped out on the first round of the oratory clash. Becky Wairimu, Socratess and Mumbi were the definite judge favorite. In the ensuing battle of wits, Becky would be crowned the 61st slam queen. Becky a passionate and emotional poet had her poems delve into the inner soul and stimulate silent meditation. Her poems inundated the now rising call for feminism and girl power. She used her work to speak for the pride that comes with independence that women achieve.
During the night, Tanzanian protest musician Vitali Maembe performed a number from his collection. Other musicians included Swahili Ali. Also poets like Raya Wambui, Teardrops, Mufasa, Dorphan, and Murathe graced the well-attended festival.