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  • On: April 5, 2017

The second day of the Rwanda leg of the festival saw us climbing the long winding roads to Musanze in the north of the country. We were going to meet a group of students who had formed the Shakespeare Poetry Club at the Institute of Applies Sciences (INES). There we were welcome by Rev. Fr. Dr. Fabien Hagenimana, the director of the institute which predominantly provides education and training in STEM subjects, along with some courses in English and French.

The group of 30 are Burundian refugees who were granted scholarships to study at INES, and who formed the poetry club started around a year ago with the facilitation of Dr Andrea Grieder of Transpoesis. For this day-long session, she was joined by Jalada Africa poets Richard Oduor Oduku and Richard Ali for a workshop exploring the dreams, aspirations, and memories of the students. The facilitators and participants drew inspiration in form and images from ‘Where are the songs?” by Micere Githae Mugo, ‘Rhythm of the pestle’ by Richard Ntiru, and ‘Song for Rwanda’ by Ben Okri.

Drawing out some parallels of experience from the other side of the continent, Richard Ali spoke about the background of division and conflict that besieged his home city of Jos in Nigeria, and formed the basis of his book City of Memories. He also read some moving poetry exploring these themes, by Ahmed Maiwada and Amu Nnadi.

Some pictures of the day below (images by Ian Kithinji)

The resultant work will be included in selection of poems for a special anthology by Burundian writers, produced as part of the partnership between Jalada Africa, Africa Writes and Huza Press. There is also an open call for this collection (see details below), which will be launched as part of the Jalada Africa showcase at Africa Writes festival.

As we travelled back to Kigali, Richard Ali reflected…

Met with a group of Burundian exile and refugee poets, students in Rwanda yesterday. We tried to create a poem on the theme “A Song for Burundi” after Ben Okri’s 1995 “A Song for Rwanda”.

They were passionate young people and they shifted my reality. There are exiles in today’s world, people who have lost their families and homelands, who cannot go back. When in Nigeria we indulge in hate speech, make Others of fellow citizens for ethnic or other reasons, we must remember what happens after.

The certainties we have in the states we live in are priceless, best we expand opportunity within these than bringing on instability. No one wins when we do this. No one. Except vultures.

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