We are really excited to be hosting a book club at Africa Utopia later this month looking at how Poetry Meets Pan-Africanism on Sunday 22 July at 12pm. We will be exploring pieces of poetry that have not received the acclaim they deserve or that have simply been forgotten from living memory. We will be focusing on women’s poetic contributions to the Pan-African movement, so join us for this discussion and find out about some amazing poetry written by African women you may not have come across before!
When we think of Pan-Africanism, the history behind the movement, we largely focus on male figures like Nkrumah, Touré, Sankara and Garvey for instance, who all contributed to its development and advancement. When we think of the Négritude movement and its poets, again we lean to the words of Diop, Senghor and Césaire. What about the African women who were also behind such pivotal movements that shaped ideologies on African identity, culture, politics and unity? In this book club, Afrikult. will explore the poetry of Nontsizi Mgqwetho (1900s, South Africa, Xhosa), Noémia de Sousa (1940s-60s, Mozambique, Portuguese), Annette M’Baye d’Erneville (1960s-2000s, Senegal, French) and Nayyirah Waheed (2010s, America, English) to consider the poetic ideas and responses women had to Pan-Africanism and Négritude in their own words.
Here’s more about the poets:
Nontsizi Mgqwetho (1900s, South Africa, Xhosa)
Nontsizi Mgqwetho was a South African poet who is widely regarded as “the first and only female poet to have written a substantial body of poetry in isiXhosa”. She is well known for her poetry which was published in Umteteli wa Bantu, a multilingual weekly Johannesburg newspaper, from 23 October 1920 until 5 January 1929. The poet’s body of work from this period has cemented her place as one of the greatest literary artists ever to write in isiXhosa. Her poetry has been described as swaggering, urgent, confrontational and said to reveal more about the identity and struggles of an urban Christian black woman from the 19th century than other texts of that era.
Noémia de Sousa (1940s-60s, Mozambique, Portuguese)
Born in Mozambique, poet and newspaper editor Noémia de Sousa was educated in Brazil. Jailed briefly in Mozambique for her political activism, she later lived in Lisbon and France. She edited the women’s pages of the newspaper O Brado Africano from 1949 to 1951, and her poems were circulated in the mimeographed collection Sangue Negro (ca. 1951). One of the first African women poets to gain a wide literary audience, she often published under the pseudonym Vera Micaia.
Annette M’Baye d’Erneville (1960s-2000s, Senegal, French)
Annette Mbaye d’Erneville was born in 1926. She was educated at both primary and secondary school level by the religious order of nuns of Saint-Joseph de Cluny, in Saint-Louis. From 1942 to 1945 she went to the Ecole Normale in Rufisque where she was influenced by the avant-garde ideas of Madame Le Goff, head of that establishment. Annette Mbaye d’Erneville continued her studies in Paris where she obtained a diploma in journalism and radio. In 1957 she returned to Senegal and launched a new journal with some friends, entitled “Femmes de Soleil”. However, it was not until 1963 that this review, later renamed “Awa”, became successful. For many years, she worked as a programme director at the broadcasting studio in Senegal.
Nayyirah Waheed (2010s, America, English)
Nayyirah Waheed is a US based poet who has published two books of poetry titled salt. (2013) and Nejma (2015). Her poetry revolves around the themes of love, identity, race, and feminism, and are categorised by her use of punctuation, lowercase letters, and the brevity of her words.
The poems will be provided at the book club, and we will be looking at the English translations. Spaces are limited and will be on a first come, first serve basis.