Thursday, 20 May 2010

k!9 - 'the story that tells the tale' - Philani Nyoni

This month's poet is Philani Nyoni, a young Zimabwean law student studying in South Africa. Born in 1989 in Bulawayo, he won his first literary competition in 2007 and began his career as a performance poet with Zimbabwe Poets For Human Rights in 2008. His love of the Greek classics and epic poetry is evident not only in his chosen stage name, The Poet Pan, but also in the style and themes of his work. In this he differs from many of his contemporaries and contrasts sharply with the work of such poets as his fellow countryman Mbizo Chirasha (k!8) - contrasts, but also compliments. Where Mbizo bites like hunger and packs a bullet into his punch Philani's pen is gentler, seeming at first glance to be concerned with a world far removed in both time and place, but ultimately no less relevant to the modern African or world stage and no less profound. He is working on a novel and on his first anthology. It is a genuine pleasure to publish this whimsically titled example of his work.


His torso was the envy of Apollo,
Where he walked no man could follow.
His chest was a breastplate of amour,
Smithed by the gods, and he found humour
In other men’s attempts at glory. A warrior fierce,
A man rejected by nature, a man without tears,
A breed of warrior unseen before
Whose every step echoed "hero."
But now where art thou oh Achilles? Where do you stand?
Do you not lie restless among those men who you would send
To Hades with your brandished steel?
Where art thou oh warrior? In the grave still
Or in the torment of shades? Where are you Achilles,
Oh son of the gods? You who like a syphilis
Of a kind infested the loins of Troy while Hector
Brave prince, tried to scratch away the new factor
In Trojan underwear brought about by Paris whoredom. You slew
The greatest warrior in the world. Who knew
That “valour’s minion” could fall to one man’s sword?
‘Twas great honour to those who could afford
To watch your amour gleaming as you carved
Your way through flesh. The only thing you loved
More than glory was obstinacy, so you fought
For ten years on foreign soil. You thought
You had gone to conquer, for glory, yet death
Found you a long way from home. No mirth
For you, no smile. You sold your life for
Glory yet, like all warriors, your victory
Was recorded as the king’s and the story
That tells the tale is sometimes distorted
To paint you as some kind of a retarded
Individual while the horror of it all
Is the knowledge that, when men fall,
Great or not, when man dances with fate
He leaves all he is and ever was at the gate.

This Poem Copyright of Philani Nyoni 2010

kushinda! looks forward to your comments and submissions. Enquiries are welcome, please write to artskushinda at gmail.com

Philani's poem, and work by Mbizo Chirasha, will feature alongside readings by Dumi Senda at Kushinda!Live events in North Wales during June 2010

Friday, 9 April 2010

k!8 ~ 'I have eaten my poetry' ~ Mbizo Chirasha

It has been a full three months since k!7 but worth the wait to have the privilege of publishing these new works by Zimbabwe's Mbizo Chirasha. A performance poet and writer of international acclaim, Mbizo's achievements include Guest Poet of the Namibia - Haiti Fundraising Project and Poet in Residence at the International Conference of African Culture and Development 2009. He has also founded or been centrally involved in many creative and young writers' projects and his work has appeared in print many times in Africa and elsewhere. You can read more of his work at his African Poetry Chatroom blog.


this poem reshuffled cabinet
the rhythm resigned the president
its metaphors adjourned parliament

my daughter
awaken sleeping patriots eating peanut in slogan darkness
rise dozing voters in the warmth of political acid
awaken struggle heroes in graves tired of wrong epitaphs and fake eulogies
awaken fat cats puffing zanunised propaganda burgers in slumber

rise green horns drinking much talked herbal tea of change
grandfathers of patriotism to bring back
truth drowning in potholes of grief
god fathers of change to bring back my vote choked in drums of new renewed

bring red hot charcoal to roast political bedbugs sucking our blood in daylight
bring a word scientist to burn the justified injustice in poetic sulphuric acid

my daughter
this poem reshuffled cabinet
the rhythm resigned the president
the metaphors adjourned parliament.


i have eaten my poetry
i stuffed my metaphors for lunch
imagination my cool drink
empty bag of my stomach blowing tornado,
a gunshot passed through my chest
another frustration


greasy propaganda apples for peasants
bourgeoisie for sweating corruption omelet
villagers for cassava and diet coke
streets for hip hop and toy guns
school uniform for PhD studies and bible for my daughter
wreath for saint valentine
roses for saint Paul

revolutions changed and revolutions unchanged
canister for fat breakfast
bullet for big supper
i am fasting the supper and breakfast

sun born with Vaseline on its forehead
moonrise with cancer on its breasts
tender skin of stars split by ghetto politics
kindas blowing condoms with lung wind
elders blowing balloons with broken hearts

another revolution
another liberation

another slice of politics
another rumble of hunger
another for the priest.

sweat drops, raindrops, tear drops
raindrops, teardrops, sweat drops
the breath of my pen stinks

Poems and Photo ⒸMbizoChirasa2010

Thursday, 17 December 2009

k!7 The Hope in Her Child's Dreams ~ Poems and Pictures from South Africa

The Hope in Her Child's Dreams ~ Poems and Pictures from South Africa

Welcome to k!7, where kushinda! introduces Tsepo Gumbi, a young poet and artist from Sharpeville, one of the most historically significant places in South Africa. He is in his own words 'a shy ordinary fellow who prefers his own space and enjoys the world of creative arts.' He is currently working towards completing his first anthology of poems, which he has also illustrated. Below I have chosen two of Tsepo's poems with their accompanying illustrations. I am struck first by the love in his words and the great empathy for women, then by the powerful resolve to live in joy and hope - might 'Rock Strong' and 'The Hope In Her Child's Dreams' be metaphors for South Africa ? I don't know, I have yet to visit Tsepo's homeland, I will let you decide, but I can not think of better wishes than joy, hope and love to you all this Christmas.

the hope in her child’s dreams

she sinks deep into emotions of despair

her fainting hope fading with invisible air

her heart grieves as she perceives

she bleeds her tears into an empty bowl

she cries her prayers to an open sky

a deaf god

her pleasure is soaked in a river of pain

her eyes, her shame

covered with sympathetic blankets of public pity

she weaves her comfort fabric with fantasy threads

she hangs her child’s dreams on a thin swing string

yet she hopes for a good life for this child

she takes refuge under a refuse bag

poverty greets her good morning with yellow teeth smile

each day she has to survive

hunger and starvation

but when the sun declines his light

the night rises and falls on the same poverty plight

and when tomorrow dawns

with yellow teeth smile

she has drowned even deeper into a misery tank

she cries her prayers to the open sky of a deaf god

for grace, but again the widow weeps in vain

the window of heaven’s door is closed

she is slowly swallowed by a swarm of gloom clouds

but she never ever abandons the hope in her child's dreams

she never did abandon the child and his crazy dreams

am her child

and the words of this poem are the dreams of my hope

the hope in her child’s dreams

the burden she never abandoned

i am the hope in her eyes’ dreams

rock strong

women are rock strong

you strike a woman

you knock a hard rock

rocks never feel pain

rocks cannot cry

rocks wont die

women are rocks!

their brittle bodies are unbreakable

when love hurts

your heart hates

when your heart operates on anger

you can easily murder

when you love someone

you wont let them hurt you

if love can make you weep

what can stop it to make you bleed

victim of romantic violence

domestic silence destroys you

bruises don’t make a lady look pretty

break loose!

a woman’s bruised face is like

a butterfly with broken wings

a beautiful rose planted in mud

a bee with rotten honey

Poetry and pictures copyright of Tsepo Gumbi 2009


Friday, 7 August 2009

k!6 ~ "Art also brings to light" ~ Overcoming Societal Divisions in Kisumu, Kenya

Willis Otieno lives and works in Kisumu, Kenya's third largest city, a port on the shores of Lake Victoria on the main road to the Ugandan border. His Takataka Treasures (Trash Treasures) are created with crushed egg shells on black cloth stretched over board. Along with other artists in Kisumu he is involved in developing arts and enterprise initiatives and children's arts projects. Innovation and resourcefulness are two of his essential qualities. Below he shares some of his knowledgeable insights into the day-to-day realities of art and society in Kenya.

~Overcoming Societal Divisions through Art ~

Kisumu residents suffered some of the post-2008 election violence, artists like Willis are using art to begin to heal their community.

"Art is basically one of the components for world peace. Within our set-up this may take a while to believe! People are just beginning to appreciate art and to see that, through art, we are able to highlight effective conflict resolution and peace building techniques, and that these can build bridges of cultural understanding and mutual respect for diversity within our own community.

Art also brings to light people's courage and greatness by calling them into positive action, creating an avenue through which all people have a voice and can experience being heard. This can be achieved by artistic creativity in both performing and visual forms of expression. The local economic trends tend to be one of our major undoings. The governments we've so far had have widened the gap between the haves and the have-nots. This trend could be altered through the creation of inter-communal Art and Cultural Exchange programs. Through these, people will get to know what is right and not allow manipulation of the community by the political leadership. They can make friends and accept each other as a family and not see each other as enemies.

At Tong Nyang Artists (a registered Artists' Group in Kisumu) where I am the secretary, we focus on the nurturing of latent art talent in children with an aim of inculcating a sense of peaceful co-existence at a tender age. We engage the children in thematic art activities where they create images exploring their own understanding and perception of peace and other themes. The work they produce is subjected to a guided critique where they are given the opportunity to explain their art, it's inspiration and motivation, with inputs to the discussion encouraged from the other children."

That task, and the task of earning a living, is made more difficult by the broader social, economic, and political landscape, as Willis ably explains.

"Due to socio-economic trends, the local artists' social circles are among the lower economic classes which the more affluent within our Kenyan society rarely frequent. This means that their art products are not accessed by those with the capacity to buy. The few locals that appreciate art are usually economically hard hit, so much so that art to them is a luxury they can't afford. But when an artist thinks of venturing into markets that are patronized by the better-off, the high cost and charges for the available amenities scare them off. From the petty earnings of an artist, he or she can not afford to pay the exorbitant charges for the exhibition halls visited by the wealthy.

Most overseas visitors, on the other hand, tend to appreciate art and would always wish to carry an art piece home as a souvenir. They also tend to be more ready to buy at a more reasonable rate than the locals. But the population of foreign clients in Kisumu is so minimal in comparison to the number of local artists and art dealers, and largely seasonal too. This makes relying on the foreign market a challenge and creates very stiff competition within art business circles. It is also a reason for the great tendency for replication of artworks and the flooding of curio shops with the same types of products, killing creativity in the process! Occasionally, due to various reasons, there are travel advisories from overseas countries against visiting. Then the visitors come in even more limited numbers, further frustrating those artists who rely on them."

So there are vicious circles in play for artists, as for others in Kisumu and elsewhere, where hardship has led to conflict which in turn drives away trade. Willis and his compatriots are amongst those using and sharing their artistic and creative skills to effect positive change. kushinda! applauds both their methods and their aims, and also the artistic talent and innovation that is exemplified here by Willis's own Takataka Treasures.

Quoted text by Willis Otieno
Eggshell collages ~ Takataka Treasure by Willis Otieno


Sunday, 7 June 2009

k!5 Muli's Great Day - A short story by Kingwa Kamencu

At last - and with apologies for the delay - k!5 is here! I have been busy visiting Africa and am pleased to say that I made the proper acquaintance of everyone so far featured in k!, made many virtual friendships real, and met yet more talented kushinda!minded people. As a result kushinda.org has new artists' galleries and our new kushinda! site kushinda.net has more to offer - but we still need more! You?
But first - read k!5! Kingwa Kamencu is an upcoming young Kenyan writer, 1st prize winner in the youth fiction category of the Jomo Kenyatta Prize for Literature 2007 amongst other accolades. Kushinda! is honoured to be the first to present her latest short story, Muli's Great Day.


Onesmus Muli, a second year student at the Great University was in a good mood. His story had been published in the newspaper! Already he had received some congratulatory phone calls and text messages. He lay back in bed beaming. Wow, I’m famous, he thought, stretching languorously before floating out into the washrooms. Today he did not notice the overflowing hallway garbage can near his door, the blocked bathroom drainage or the icy spray of water from the shower. No, life was too beautiful. He could make out birds chirping somewhere above him. The scent of blossoming flowers from a tree nearby only added to his general state of bliss.

He pulled on jeans and a tee shirt and sat down to enjoy a cup of hot cocoa. On an afterthought he sent a classmate going to the tuck shop to buy him milk, a chapatti and a samosa. The usual black tea and half loaf of bread would not suffice. “Keep the change bro, we’re on a roll!” he cheerily told his classmate. The other boy smiled lightly at the measly five bob.

Later, as Muli walked down the stairs of Hall 9, he imagined everybody staring at him, fascinated. They’d probably seen his story in the paper. A few boys greeted him in what Muli could only construe as tones of admiration and awe. He entered the custodian’s office where the 900 boys read the daily from. Leafing through it with about 10 others, he pointed at his story, proudly telling them, “Yeah, that’s me!” He remained there for an hour, pointing out the story to all incoming readers till he was sure he’d left a fair number to tell others on his behalf.

At midday he sauntered to town to buy his own paper. He stopped at the first newspaper vendors. “Two copies of the Un-standard please,” he ordered. “My stories are in it today...” he added for good measure. Unfortunately, the newspaper wasn’t there. Sold out, the vendor told him. Muli moved on to the next stall. Three hours later he was still without a paper. Apparently they had all sold out. Muli stood exasperated. “What’s happening today,” he asked, “why are they sold out everywhere?” The woman selling shrugged. “Hasn’t happened in a long time. Only happens when they carry very serious stories.” Muli stopped short, transfixed at her words. “Say no more!” he beamed and set back for school.

Was his story that good that the papers had sold out? “Can’t be,” he tried to convince himself unsuccessfully. “I shall not tell this to any one though” he vowed “or else they’ll say that I’m bragging like they always do.” And so tight-lipped and with the expression of a pained martyr, he returned to campus. Let them hear of the awards I will win for themselves. I will not be the one to tell them, he thought, referring to his literature classmates. He spent the remainder of the day huddled in his room, fantasizing about his next great story. This one would change the world for sure…

Fortunately, he missed the evening news. The news anchor was reporting on repression of media freedom. The top news for the day was: ‘Government buys out all Un-standard papers and sets them ablaze and raids media house’. Apparently the front pages contained an expose of grand corruption by top government officials. Police had bought up all newspapers in town that day and raided the media house to prevent them printing the next day’s paper which was equally ‘seditious’. Upstairs, Muli scribbled down more profound thoughts.


Thursday, 9 April 2009

The Intrinsic Beauty In Our Ordinary Lives ~ k!4 ~ Art in Uganda ~ A Perspective

Welcome to k!4, presenting work by Sanaa Gateja alongside Sanaa's thoughts on art, artists, and their role in contemporary African culture.

Sanaa runs the Kwetu Africa art gallery and studio in Lubowa, Kampala, an Appropriate Technology Center for the Arts, where he works, teaches, and promotes the use of traditional techniques and recycled materials. He works on locally produced barkcloth which he stitches together to make his canvasses, often incorporating found materials and natural pigments into his work. He also crafts soft furnishings and jewelry with the same artistic integrity and vision which characterises his paintings.
the intrinsic beauty in our ordinary lives

"There is an inherent respect and admiration of artists in Africa as a whole for what they are able to do, even without understanding what they do in these modern times of Western domination of materials, production and market. For the African Artist's place has shifted greatly in the last 100 years, as African art itself has experienced an identity shift from a people's art with indigenous patronage to one which belongs to a world of universal expression and appeal - this is the inevitable result of schools and interaction with other cultures of the world. This has left the African people isolated from their art and their artists because of the very dramatic transition the continent has gone through."

"Artists have the ability to somersault into the new world with ease
even though they have the same heavy demands on their lives as everyone else. Creative talent has not been valued enough in our societies and not used for development . A very unique political and economical situation has evolved where the artist is seen as a magician and a visionary, or as a trickster and a liar. Schools are not teaching Art the way it should be taught. This year's best student at our national University was announced to tremendous applause by the Vice Chancellor to an audience of about 1000 parents and graduates. However, when it was announced that this student belonged to the Faculty of Arts and Industrial Design a whole three quarters of the audience booed and deflated the whole experience. I wanted to scream. The African Artist therefore, and in our Ugandan society in particular, is alone and isolated."

"The answer in my view as an African, and Ugandan for that matter, lies in bridging the gap between the Artist and community. We need to rediscover the materials used by our own masters of the past, the techniques used, the tools and the close observation of aesthetics, especially the intrinsic beauty in our ordinary lives. Recycling has a large place in art of Africa and teaching of appropriate technology will stimulate innovation that much further in our ordinary lives. A new language exists in mixed media art. I am very interested when I teach in exposing the world of adventure and experimentation to the students. It is the way to originality. The magic in art will be demystified to our societies on a broader scale. "

Words in quotation by Sanaa Gateja for kushinda!
Paintings by Sanaa Gateja

View more work by Sanaa Gateja online at kushinda!'s new website

Art is the Heart of Culture, Creativity the Power of Progress
when arts rise...

A note about links in kushinda! : I try to find informative and relevant pages to link to, sometimes these are straightforward dictionary definitions, sometimes encyclopedic, sometimes I come across journals, blogsites, organisations, and academic papers that seem particularly appropriate to the context in which kushinda! or its contributors use the word or phrase concerned. My intention is always to inform and to stimulate debate and communication. Suggestions for links are always welcome, as are your comments and submitted contributions to kushinda!

Monday, 23 February 2009


Welcome to k!3, where Kenyan writer Richard K responds to his experience of an IDP camp in Gulu, Uganda, in prose and poetry, and Louisa M.J. in Wales responds to his words using digital and acrylic media . Coming up in the next issue : Traditional artist Sanaa Gateja paints on barkcloth, his pupil Kateeba Anthony prefers a more modern approach - kushinda! explores their techniques, motives and inspirations. Past Issues : k!2 Matt Bish on Ugandan films k!1 music, art, theatre


The Children of the Camps and the Angels of Mercy
by Richard K

The bright sun moves down the cloudless sky yet another day

Over the desperate eye of an expecting soul,

Its ominous heat burning the earth to red ash

And the whirls gathering the ash into dust.

The wind has not won the fight

To drive the red dust away,

Neither has the rain come trickling down

To cool the boiling souls to hope.

The expecting eye wanders away

To seek the face of an approaching visitor,

The heart runs but the lips remain tight.

And oh, the silence!

The hardly covered bodies,

Their beginning-to-bulge bellies,

The scarcely-haired scalps,

The parentless kids,

The kidless parents,

The innumerable beads of mud shacks,

The numerable grains on infected floors,

The spectacle of searing hope under the Gulu sun!

Is it not a sad story?

The children are sick of the disdain,

The children wish to laugh again

And play and run home to warmth again,

But who has called their mercies forth,

And shaken their hands free,

To cradle the children to their breast

When they come running to them?

We are clamped up in an
old van, about nineteen of us including the driver. The journey to the camps seems endless. I cannot estimate how long it took us to arrive there for I had completely lost the sense of time on arriving in Gulu. Keeping a watchless wrist to me is a habit that dies hard since I sometime fail to see the logic of dividing up the river of time or attaching numbers to it. However, the about thirteen kilometres road down to the nearest camp is rough and dusty, and seems to start right where the tarmac connecting it to Gulu town ends. One has to climb down a small depression that stands as a mystical demarcation between rustic and urban, galore and dearth, hope and despair. I deeply sympathise with those that have taken the road to the camps without the hope of return.

The van moves at a very slow speed on taking the dusty road as if afraid of venturing further down and, led by Dennis Kimambo in the words of some Alma mater lyrics that he sung to his high school bus driver, and in chanting some Kenyan matatu, hyped up whimsical we encourage the driver to keep pressing the accelerator ever harder. I am sandwiched between two beautiful Ugandan ladies and listening to one Joanita Nambi on my right who relates to me the challenges she is encountering trying to sell the ABC ideals of Roll Back AIDS , but I am not fated to concentrate entirely since the van keeps sucking in dust that has now almost suffocated us. The creaking sound of the old loose metalwork scares me and I am afraid that the chassis will give in under the pressure of our load as the van keeps coming down hard upon the bumpy road. My fears are almost consummated when Christina's car, in the dexterous hands of our friend George, fires fast past us leaving behind it a monstrous cloud of red dust that swallows us, obscuring almost everything, but luckily the van does not veer off to hell as I was fearing.

There are three modern buildings on the one side of the narrow pathway that deviates a short distance off the main road into the camp. One of the buildings is a pavilion with the resemblance of a mystical shrine while the other two hold the offices for charity and other welfare services. In one of the rooms an adult education class is in progress and I am worried lest we be mistaken for tormentors when we rush in interrupting, but George, swiftly as always, intercedes for the entire group in a translated explanation not only of who we are but our mission here as well. Outside a group of half-naked children - most of whom bear two shiny stripes stretching between nose and mouth, a trademark of an ailing infant population – mills around the building like disheveled scavengers milling around a feasting pride of wild cats. I want to sit for a photo with them but when I beckon to them to congregate some tall boys, (from whence they appear is a puzzle to me), with forbidding countenances warn them against what I conjecture as mixing with or bothering the visitors. Nevertheless I remain adamant until at last the children submit to my persuasion and Paul, Madi and I in turns seat ourselves for photos with the children, who cling to our trousers like they shall never let go. The children's eyes remain glued to the empty mineral water bottle that I am holding, luckily I manage to quickly dispose of it without their noticing.

Across the other side of the pathway, when we turn to look, the actual camp stands - a regrettable vista of a multitude of tiny thatch and mud huts that seems to extend ad infinitum . Charity and I are in front leading the group into the camp but we are halted to give room for George's vanguard. Meanwhile, Charity and I challenge each other to discover the purpose of an unroofed hut, much smaller than the rest, that stands on the camp threshold like a ghost some ten metres or so away from the next hut. I am utterly disturbed on tugging at the gaping door, not by the appalling stench that suddenly screams into my nostrils but by the mound that has formed through accumulation of continual defecations and the some-inches-deep footprints upon it that make it look like a large ghostly face, mockingly staring,that seems to have stifled the stench until the moment we peer through the door. The other huts are about the size of a soccer pitch center circle or smaller and each is just a few centimetres away from the other as if one would not stand up alone . There is however enough room for paths about the camp but the striking closeness of the huts has a rather profound meaning: the extent to which the magnetism of common social predicament has pulled the compact of the people of the camps tightly together. As we walk about the camp I note that much of it is deserted save for a few people, most of whom are old folks. These, like the children, are poorly dressed and look rather emaciated. One cannot help but notice their scantiness accentuated by the amount of grains (enough to feed a single hen for two days), predominantly maize and sorghum, drying on the floors. Outside another hut I notice a heap of cones of some local fruit (is it wild or not?) but I do not comprehend whence the cones come or what they are for until we nearby encounter some men - I am not sure if youthful or otherwise - who are gradually soaking in some intoxicating local flavour and when those behind us salute them the men mockingly intonate in some bad Kiswahili.

It does not takes us long to emerge on the other side of the camp where we find the shopping centre comprised of, as the rest of the camp, fabricated buildings of mud. The children, those who attend, are returning home from school and Njoki and Brenda lead the rest of the group in singing some songs. Sweets are bought for the children and some kind words are exchanged. I am finding the urge to have another puff irresistible and so I cross to the other side of the road, lest I set the grass thatched camp ablaze,to light my cigarette . Thinking about accidental fire attracts me to the consideration that I can almost hear the scarcely green grass cracking under the immense heat. I also re-examine my need to smoke while those children have hardly enough for dinner, but I succeed in consoling myself that it makes little difference if I, after all, puff out my stick now or not.

Much calmer than when we came we ride back in almost muted silence. I go straight to the lady who had fueled the desire to visit the camps and I find courage to express my most sincere gratitude to Christina and the LiA Centre on the one hand and the Charity for Peace on the other for the wonderful work they have done, and continue to do, for the children and the impoverished people. It is my hope that many more people will be touched by the spectacle of wretchedness evident in the camps and will be inspired to do something to improve lives there.

Words : Richard K, Kenya

Pictures : Digital and acrylic montages by Louisa M.J, Wales

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