Moments that stood out for me at the BROKEN VOICES Ladu Poetry Event .

First, that the poetrynuer Mark Gordon Musinguzi has kept Ladu going for this long without changing its brand. This is a breath of fresh air. Not since he founded the famed Open Mic Uganda over 10 years ago (before it ‘Steve Jobbed‘ him) had he birthed a poetry platform in this town that would bearly survive beyond a year. But now Ladu Poetry Slam is almost 5 years. The man deserves his flowers for keeping this baby alive. 

Second, the title of the event, BROKEN VOICES: Mark Gordon who dabbled as the night‘s emcee shared a brief history of this title. It came from a poetry recital we both were part of 11 years ago as members of the Lantern Meet of Poets. It was fulfilling to see Mark G carry forward a legacy of a time and memory that sowed in us a poetic energy we are still feeding on up to today. 

Third was the concept of the night: poetry, comedy and conversation. I’ve always wondered why on most occasions poets are invited to recite and not converse. It was refreshing to hear poets and comedians talk about mental health and civic engagement in Uganda today. It was good to see Timothy Nyanzi in his stage element. Probably the most matured act of his I have seen so far. Destiny Gladys from the Echo Minds poets used the opportunity of her space to introduce to us a poet from South Sudan (who walked onto the stage and greeted us with the warm “Hello Pearl of Africa“). Beautiful moment.

Fourth; the event had a sponsor on board, KQ. It’s good to see civil society pique interest in supporting poetry platforms. In the past,  financial stress and poetry organisations were bedfellows. But with this support, it was little surprise that Mark Gordon had a spring in his step, a light in his eye and tinkle in his laughter all night. 

Fifth, and perhaps the one that takes my cap, was the last part of the night: poets in the audience were given a chance to market their products. Three people announced dates for 3 upcoming poetry events; 2 poets marketed their most recent poetry collections (one has released 2 books at once, the other a book in Luganda); 2 poets talked about their audio albums; 2 young musicians announced their works in the pipeline; we were also told to have in prayer the Ugandan poets representing us at the East African poetry contest THE EAST AFRICAN POETRY BATTLE HOUR which kicks off today. Looking at the list we are well represented. 

Bambi this generation of passionate poets has held on. It has persisted to be alive on this journey. And people like Mark Gordon, Nunu Umuringa (who was one of the panelists) Farouq Begumisa, Davis the Poet, Lus the Poet (who all were in attendance); the poets who have built platforms for other poets to prosper ought to be celebrated. Their victories are our victories.

Point of Note: the conspicuous absence of the Poets Association of Uganda from particular poetry events in Kampala is really worrying. PAU needs to rise above the squabble of power and be humble enough to reach out to all poets. That’s their job, or at least it should be. Rather than look like just another poetry organisation looking to compete for influence in our very small poetry space,  its leaders need to see the opportunity in reaching out to unite and heal us all. The power in our togetherness shall positively change our poetry fraternity for ages to come. 

As of the moment, their attitudes are diversionary. That needs to change. We all need healing.

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Written by Kagayi Ngobi (1)

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