Friday, 29 June 2012

On Harare's House of Hunger Poetry Slam...

Xapa, the winner, walking offstage 
pic by KonWomyn (copyleft)


Many, many, many, Saturdays ago (i.e. 2/06/12), I went to the House of Hunger Poetry Slam at the Gallery Delta on Livingstone and 9th Avenue. Between 26-28 people took part, mostly men, but I was pleasantly surprised to see two boys under 12 step up to the mic. The year's poetry slam was won by the lovely, etherial Xapa (pronounced Sha-pa), the only female poet to make through all three rounds and with full marks! Since I boycotted last month's over-priced Hifa Festival, this was my first poetry event in Harare and I was impressed. Performing spoken word in Shona, using deep words, takes serious skill, and to see young and old lay it down in Shona, was incredible. It left me feeling re-assured that, Shona as an ora-literary language is not going to die, even if traditional poetry is slowly dying out, Shona performance poetry will survive in alternative spaces like these.

My favorite performers were So Profound, guest poet Flex (he's a genius!), Xapa, Uncle and Matrix - some beautiful poems mostly in English. On the downside, was the amount of homophobic content in the poetry. Several poets expressed some very strong anti-gay views to an approving crowd. Zimbabwe is no-gay country and because our President has achieved global fame for his views, it's really quite okay to say how much you dislike homosexuals in church sermons, political rallies or poetry sessions... Of course, these poets are entitled to their opinions and sure, it took me a long while before I could care less about one's sexual orientation, but I draw the line of "understanding homophobia" somewhere. I don't understand why what two consenting adults do with another in private should be the subject of an under 12's poem. Whatever happened to wizards and Star Wars? 

It was very disturbing to watch a little boy reach up to the mic and recite a poem called "Culture" lamenting the destruction of African culture by "foreign cultures" "where a man sleeps with a man." Is this what parents and churches are teaching kids these days? He had some very questionable about sexuality in 'authentic African culture', (whatever that homogenous, static, easily defineable African culture is. And God knows which pre-colonial years he referred to coz it was at least a good 700 years before the White man set foot in present-day Zimbabwe, after the Mberi people settled here.) and I can only guess where it came from. Kids don't need to learn to hate. They really don't.

Apart from these few uncomfortable moments, I enjoyed Poetry Slam. The next event is on 7th of July 2012, I hope I can make it.

If you're in Harare, please try to attend.