Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Mosquito Rules

I've been on the wonderful Poetry Africa tour for over a week now, and one of the things I keep getting requests for is the poem 'Mosquito Rules' (the words, not the poem as a pill or anything like that). Given the fact that the poem appears in an eBook and the limited access on the continent to amazon purchases and online payments, I've decided the best thing to do is share the text for free. So, for your enjoyment - via Issuu - Mosquito Rules!

what i'm reading/listening to
The Happy Blues by Gene Ammons

Scandalize my Name by Yusef Komunyakaa

Saturday, May 05, 2012

Ishyo Arts Centre: 5th Anniversary with a knife at its neck

I was at the 5th anniversary celebration of the Ishyo Arts Centre in Kigali tonight, where I saw a brilliant piece of improvised theatre about its closure. Its closure? I hear you ask. Yes, its closure. Essentially  the Rwandan Social Security Board has decided to sell the land on which the theatre stands. Originally given until May 10, 2012 to move out, the arts centre (which also houses the Goethe Institute) got a 4-month reprieve after a social media campaign and must now leave by September 30, 2012. What's happening at the centre mirrors much of what is going on in the UK at the moment with funding cuts - as well as the attempts to sell the Africa Centre. What's most troubling about the situation is that Rwanda has no National theatre, so the Ishyo has become a de facto National theatre where international stars such as Nneka have performed.

Ishyo Arts Centre is otherwise a fantastic story; it came out the efforts of a cultural activist group founded by 8 Rwandese women in 2005, and the space has been active for 5 years. If I'm honest, I don't think even Ghana, with its National theatre can claim to have done much more than this small space that has nurtured so much talent and cultivated a whole generation of ARTS enthusiasts.

So, before I go to bed on this mosquito-melodied night in Kigali, I urge you to tell someone about the Ishyo Arts Centre, let its fame spread, add your voice to the cries against its closure, tweet it, G+ it, record a message of support and put it on youtube, if you work in the media do a story on it. (I can put you in touch with the groups working at the theatre, including the wonderful Carole Karemera (you may have seen her as lead actress in the film Sometimes in April alongside Idris Elba a few years ago).

Thank you and good night.

what i'm reading/listening to
Shazam Doowah - Amiri Baraka (track)

Commonwealth Prize entries

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Nina Simone Tribute: Renee Neufville w/ Re:Freshed Orchestra - Plain Gold Ring (Live in Rotte...

Those of you who know me know how much I love Nina Simone, so a combination of Nina-Simone-tribute and the musicianship of Renee Neufville (although she doesn't play on this recording, Renee is a very fine pianist too - I would have her play Nina Simone in a heartbeat if I produced a film) was irresistible. I had to share..


what i'm reading/listening to
is what you're watching

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

Sunday, January 22, 2012

writers unlimited festival (the Hague)

Had a great time at the writers unlimited festival in Den Haag, reconnecting with old writer friends Asis Aynan, Helon Habila, Chika Unigwe and, of course, Willemijn Lamp, who invited me in the first place. Apart from the diverse programme of music and literature (the kora of Zoumana Diarra collaborating with Basile Maneka at the end was sublime!), I now have a whole new set of satellites in my galaxy of writer families - Rodaan Al Ghalidi, Leila Chudori, Dinaw Mengestu, Bernice Chauly, Kopano Matlwa, Edney Silvestre. I was honoured to read English translations for Bajan Matur who I shared a ride with to the airport where I'm sitting writing this short blog, along with Miguel Conde of flip festival http://www.flip.org.br/ . The writers meeting at the beginning was genius - but I'm happy to be heading home to the family - my family!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012


Pops - circa 1990
I'm sharing this poem because in 5 days it will be 18 years since my father died and this was written for him - my first reader/listener. (It's taken from my collection The Makings of You, published by the fantastic Peepal Tree Press in late 2010). Last week I felt a sudden urge to buy a whole bag of limes and I've been going through them fast. I rationalised it by telling myself I was forestalling any colds that may come, but today it suddenly struck me why; my internal clock was telling me to remember Pops - funny how the littlest things can bring one solace!


His pen moves as fast as darkness scatters.
Three fleshy creases mark his forehead
as he leans pensively forward
like a question mark filled with life.

The cocks have crowed; in the streets
brooms raise dust. I rise early

I want to be the first to see him
smile, see his small, white teeth
expose themselves without inhibition
like nudists on a beach of gums.

Pigeons gather… the sun summons
its light. I head outside.

I can see him before I see him;
yesterday’s paper to his left,
a pen in his right hand
and sheaves of paper awaiting stains

The dew rises like fleeting
possibilities in the new heat.

He’s waiting. I like the song he hums;
the tenor harmony of a Jimmy Smith solo.
Silent, he passes his clean mug to me.
We’ll talk between hot sips of tea.

The kettle boils; loaded
bubbles of speech waiting to burst.

I make two cups: black, no sugar
with half-a-lime squeezed in each.
His mouth forms a vaginal shape as he sips
the heat, the promise of a new day.

Something warm passes from father to son.
Silence becomes an enduring memory.

And this week, I buy seven perfect limes. One
for every new day. I will slice them in two
each morning, squeeze one half for me, and one
half into an empty cup. For the memories.

what i'm reading/listening to
Miles Davis - Kind of Blue

Mongo Beti