Slam Poetry and Protest Poetry still going strong in Zimbabwe

I spent my Thursday evening in Bulawayo at Let’s Go Natural Restaurant where some greatly gifted poets had come together for a session dubbed ‘ for a world without walls”

When some people think of poetry, the first thing that pops into mind is probably the poetry anthology book you had to read in high school or not reading those poems for homework or how those things made you hate poetry.

But what was on show at the Let’s Go Natural Restaurant was what I would call Slam poetry this type of poetry takes all those preconceptions of poetry and strips them away. Also known as spoken word or performance poetry, slam poetry is meant to be performed, not read. It focuses on rhythm, voice inflection, and can utilize storytelling.

Poetry is an impressive and beautiful type of literary work. Indeed, Bulawayo has great poets talented and gifted. The line up at Let’s Go Natural Restaurant did disappoint hosted by Poet Asa, the line up included special guest Hector Kunene from South Africa whose performance oozed with finesse. Kunene, showcased his mastery of the art of slam poetry throughout all the pieces he performed on the night.

Another act that caught my attention was Joe Jokonia his performance was excellent. The Golgotha Poet took it to another level with a very intelligent piece titled craze 8, it suffices to say one has to hear this to appreciate it, it was exquisite.

Musician Thamie Khumalo made the evening even better with guitar in hand he strummed his instrument and wowed the audience with his poetic lyrics.

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I turned to another poet Godswill Muzarabani who also put on a stellar performance with very clever poems he is what I would term a protest poet. His poetry touched on the heart of the social ills and corruption that bedevil zimbabwe.

Speaking to him after the show he narrated the struggles that poets particularly those in Zimbabwe faced during the height of repression as all alternative voices were muzzled.

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Zimbabwean politicians past and present particularly those in ZANU-PF don’t accept criticism. In fact, whether from friend or foe, even mild criticism is viewed as an existential threat prompting government officials to unleash a torrent of abuse in an effort to silence and/or punish critics.
Muzarabani spoke of Owen Maseko’s exhibition on Gukurahundi which the security authorities deemed offensive and stopped. This effort to silence critics is endangering free speech and the search for peace.

This worrisome tendency was on display in recent weeks when comedians from Bus Stop TV where arrested in connection with a skit that they had performed.

Lets be clear at the outset: for the most part, the generations of Zimbabwean poets writing today have experienced a lot of political strife beyond what we have gleaned from the proliferate media.

Poets have and are still enduring a lot in Zimbabwe today. Nonetheless poetry is still and will always be important in society.

William Wordsworth called it the “spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings” and Emily Dickinson said it made her feel as if the top of her head had been taken off. However you prefer to think of poetry, it’s something worth celebrating.

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