I am African

New Generation of African Poets

Poetry has a long history in Africa, dating back to pre-historic times when poetry was part of the hunting ritual and when it was used to eulogise kings, queens and chiefs. Storytelling, poetry and music have always been intricately intertwined, and still are to this day. It’s part of the oral tradition, from peasants, to highly respected storytellers to high priests and writers, poetry is part of life.

At school ceremonies, community events, women’s groups, naming ceremonies and or as women pounded rice, in twos with the pestle bouncing between them, I’ve recognised the lyricism of the poems even if, at times, I didn’t understand the words. Poetry has also been a powerful tool for decrying the deep injustices of colonisation and slavery, for asserting identity, reshaping culture and opposing oppressive rule.

Puno Selesho from South Africa is one of five young new African poets featured in this article, each unique in their voice and power. After hearing her poem, I invite you to listen to her interview that follows or maybe listen to her Ted Talk.

I was stunned by the long list of African poets that Wikipedia yielded. Not stunned by their existence; poetry is often on people’s tongues wherever I have wandered in Africa. The surprise was that Wikipedia had listed so many. At every turn of the Khonsu journey I find myself frustrated by the way global websites and resources fail to include or seem to diminish the African voice and experience. If you are keen to wander more into the world of African poetry, I recommend the Penguin Book of Modern African Poems.

Feel free to share an African poem, or an African proverb…

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