Poetry keeps hope alive in Zimbabwe

April 2009 -

"The revolution is right here, the revolution is right now," as Outspoken, one of Zimbabwe's spoken word craftsmen chants in one of his best known poems. Spoken word has sparked creative excitement in the belly of Zimbabwean youth's imagination and the flame is spreading. The young poets meet once every first Saturday of each month at the Book Café in Harare for the House of Hunger Poetry Slam named after Dambudzo Marechera's famous novel. They make the venue a home where they exercise their freedom of speech and self expression.

Spoken word has been a catalyst in spreading hope and perseverance. Poetry has infectiously passed on optimism to different people in different parts of Zimbabwe. Two organizations have taken it one step further. Magamba is a cultural activists network that conducts poetry sessions and workshops with young people in communities surrounding Harare. The Poets for Human Rights collective has introduced poetry into the streets of Harare lobbying for issues with human rights implications. House of Hunger Poetry slam has outreach poetry programs in Bulawayo, Masvingo, Chinhoyi and other cities.

The political turmoil that has been going on in Zimbabwe has been the muse for poets and writers who have used it in their creative work. Poetry has become a tool in spitting and uttering protest statements in the struggle that Zimbabweans have been facing. Most of these poets put their lives at risk in saying out the truth in public.

Despite the challenges Zimbabwean people have had to endure, poetry has claimed its space and conveyed a message of hope. Spoken word has been the communal spirit uniting a broken nation and with it bringing possibilities for parole. "We are a nation of unsung survivors and heroes," Batsirai Chigama concludes in one of her poems.

Born in 1985, Linda Gabriel started performance poetry in high school around 2001. She writes her poetry in English and Shona. She performs with a band, mainly in Zimbabwe and South Africa, combining her poetry with mbira and acoustic guitar. Currently she studies photography. 

Edition 17 of Zimbabwe in Pictures, published 9 March 2009, covers the rise of protest poetry in Zimbabwe.

House of Hunger Poetry Slam is supported by Hivos.