Interview With Cameroonian Poet Glory Mafor

Glory Mafor’s captivating smile welcomes you into a bright daylight. In her world, days are radiant and peaceful. Young and beautiful, the poet has resolved to walk the world spreading her love hidden within the bubbly young individual and share her craft. Among her itinerary last year, was Kenya and Nigeria. We had a sit down where she opens up about who she is and her works in the field of arts.

Musungu: Let’s begin with the obvious, who is Glory Mafor?

Glory: I am a 21 year old Cameroonian writer, poet and lover of anything that has to do with creative expressions. I always call myself a creativity activist or ‘creativist’ for short.

Musungu: When did you begin writing and performing poetry?

I started writing very early. My father is a writer and my mum taught high school Literature and English language so by the time I was seven years old, they both were giving me creative writing lessons, editing my poems and stories. I was literally born into their love for words. I only started performing early 2017. The first time I performed I was only doing it for a friend who would not take no for an answer. Now, almost two years later, I can say without a doubt, that performance poetry is one of the things I was born to do.

Musungu: What has been the reception of your pieces in Africa?

Glory: In my performance journey I have seen myself go from people telling me ‘that was okay…’ to them saying ‘You were truly inspiring!’ A good number of people have expressed how much they related to the stories I was telling in my performances and how I connected with and inspired them on a deep level. Having gotten such feedback in Kenya too, I would say that Africa has received my pieces quite well.

Musungu: Which poets do you look up to for inspiration?

Glory: Wow, this is going to be a very long list. It might be hard to pick which names to leave out. But starting from out of Africa, there’s Ezekiel Ezeonu, Joseph Solomon, Jackie Hill Perry, Janette…ikz, Jon Jorgenson, Sarah Kay, Shane Koyczan and Atang Agwe. Then in the continent, there’s Poetra Asantewa and Dzyadzorm both from Ghana, Siphokazi Jonas from South Africa, Poet Mufasa and Mumbi Macharia from Kenya. And from my beloved Cameroon, there’s Tchassa Kamga, friend and mentor.  I have left out a lot of other names! I have probably listened to every published poem from each of these poets and they are the sources of my inspiration and growth as a performing poet.

Musungu: Tell us about the Cameroonian poetry scene?

Glory: Poetry in Cameroon is still written more than it is performed. I think for a greater part of the population, it has been and still is that boring part of literature classes with old English that students would rather not attend. Performance poetry is still being discovered by a lot of us who have been writing poems for years so it’s considered a new, not much explored form of art and entertainment. However, the spoken word community is really fast growing and in several major cities, you would surely find people meeting weekly or monthly for solely spoken word events. It’s even becoming a regular item on agendas for events like weddings.

Musungu: Where do you see the country’s poetry scene in five years?

Glory: I believe that in five years, poetry and especially spoken word, would be the primary go-to for literary entertainment in Cameroon. It is my dream that young people would even aspire to make a career out of writing and performing poetry just like they aspire to be doctors and bankers and that they would discover how powerful a tool it is in sparking conversation that changes their community one audience at a time.

Musungu: What has been your contribution to the growth of poetry in Cameroon?

Glory: I have to say that for all the while I have been writing and performing, my focus had been on how I could be better at what I do and so it’s only recently, having joined a poetry troupe and been part of organizing poetry events and workshops around the country that I started to intentionally think about adding to the growth and appreciation of poetry in the country. I’m currently working with some friends and poet colleagues on projects to promote creative writing and spoken word in our communities and even for secondary and high school students.  However, I always do my best to share all my knowledge and experience in the field with other budding poets.

Musungu: Now, apart from poetry, what else does Mafor do?

Glory: I’m also a worship leader, songwriter, copy editor and I work in Communication and Public Relations for a couple of organizations in Cameroon… basically my life revolves around words and sound.

Musungu: Tell us about your other hobbies and skills, how do they contribute to your growth as a person and a poet?

Glory: I love singing and I play the piano and bass guitar. I love watching movies and have dabbled in screenwriting too. I read A LOT. I would say these hobbies and skills have literally shaped my character and personality. I am a very curious person and that comes to me naturally as a writer. Also, I strongly believe that my penchant for structure and organization everywhere I find myself is mainly a result of musical intelligence, especially because I learnt more classical and organized music early on in life. My hobbies have equally greatly enhanced my poetry. I sing in almost all of my performances these days and even when I don’t, I always try to include a form of music.

Musungu: You were in Kenya in June and performed during the Dorphanage show. Were you coming exclusively for the show? How do you compare the Kenyan poetry scene to Cameroon? 

Glory: Oh, no I didn’t come solely for the Dorphanage show. I had already been planning the trip for a while and in the course I found out about the poetry competition organised by Cre8ive Spills and eventually Dorphanage and I reached out.

The poetry scene in Kenya is quite advanced. The simple fact that the attendance at a spoken word event in Kenya can rival that at a pop music concert in Cameroon already says a lot about how much influence poetry has in Kenya as a form of art and entertainment and how much it’s becoming a part of the culture. To see the Kenyan government, through the cultural center, supporting and promoting spoken word to the point of doing events nationwide… now that’s something we still hope for in Cameroon.

Musungu: I understand that you visited some parts of Kenya during your visit, how did you find Kenya?

Glory: Yes, apart from Nairobi, I was also in Syokimau and Kitale for a few days each. Kenya is a very beautiful country and I felt so welcome! It was a little awkward at first with everyone speaking to me in Swahili and having to switch to English when they noticed my blank expression, but I got used to it and actually learnt some Swahili too. I absolutely loved the new meals I ate and I probably ate chapattis that will last me lifetime. But I still think Cameroon has the best meals in all of Africa, haha.

Musungu: Apart from Kenya, what other countries have you visited and how was the experience?

Glory: I recently visited Nigeria and it was everything I imagined it to be especially since the Nigerian movies also helped my imagination. My experience there was just amazing. It was beautiful to see how much value the people have for their customs and traditions especially with respect to dressing. I was equally warmly welcomed there.

Musungu: What is your favourite music Genre?

Glory: I don’t have a definite favorite genre; my preference usually depends on the purpose. When it comes to worship and worship leading, I love rock music. Whereas with my poetry, I am drawn more to soul music. I love classical music because it’s very organised and gets my brain working; so you could say I use it for inspiration.

Musungu: Favourite artist?

Glory: Again, this is a long list. My top four would be Tasha Cobbs, Travis Greene, India Arie, and William McDowell in any order.

Musungu: As a creative, what do you think is the role of African poets in reshaping the continent’s culture and entertainment industry?

Glory: I think African poets have to be intentional about starting conversations that can bring about a shift in mindsets and ideologies that have passed down without question for years. Our role is to question the status quo in every sphere of our society and shed light on the areas that we feel need to change for the better. Our role is equally to speak the truth in a way that can still make people laugh or cry depending on whichever we want to evoke at the time.

Musungu: The Internet, and specifically social media has contributed to the rapid growth and expansion of African craft. Nowadays, it is easier to know what is cool and hot in any part of the continent at the click of the button. However, when ‘Western civilization’ on our backs, do you think the African can maintain his/her identity?

Glory: Yes, I believe we can. We need to always remind ourselves that our identity is not rooted in what social media and the internet say we are. It is founded in the values and convictions that we as Africans have always been raised with; we are a proud, fearless, resilient people and a lot more. And how do we remind ourselves? By intentionally displaying that pride and fearlessness in every aspect of our art and craft, no matter where we Africans find ourselves in the world. So then we’re not only reminding ourselves, but also reshaping the other continents’ narratives about us.

Musungu: What is Mito Mito Poetry?

Glory: Mito Mito Poetry is a poetry troupe, a group of poets passionate about developing and showcasing the art of telling African stories from a completely African perspective. We started in December of 2017 in Buea, a town in the South West Region of Cameroon and ‘Mito Mito’ actually means ‘Story, Story’ in Bakweri, one of the native languages in the region.

The objective of this group has been and still is to source, harness and develop the talent and skill of storytelling and performance poetry in young Africans, starting with Cameroon. We started a weekly open mic evening in Buea and have collaborated with a couple of other cultural or art centered events to display what we love so that others can fall in love with it too and desire to pursue the art. We equally want to take advantage of social media and digital technology to spread what we do even farther.

Musungu: I understand that you are a religious person, how do you mix Evangelism and radical thoughts espoused in your poetry?

Glory: Well, I don’t ‘mix’ them. I don’t even think about my writing like that, as evangelism or expressing radical thoughts. I just express who Glory is and what she stands for. So naturally, my love and honor for God spills out, as do my thoughts and opinions about my experiences and society. I would never even have used the word ‘radical’ to describe me, haha.

Musungu: And finally, what is your advice to young people and Creatives out there?

Glory: The society and education system have stealthily put a lot of patterns and structures in place to make us ‘unlearn’ our creativity and become ‘rule followers’. My advice is for young people and creatives to notice these structures and then break out of them. Don’t just think outside the box; break it! Shatter it not just for you, but especially so that the generation after us grows up to a world where they can be limitless.

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