Friday, December 4, 2020

Mwana: A Collection of Poems

Mwana is a collection of poems by Jackline Waziri, a budding UK based Tanzanian poet. She happens to be a great granddaughter of Shaaban Robert, the most famous Swahili writer.

Away from her ancestral homeland, Jackline brings up images of village life as well as some references to cities, notably Tanga and Dar es Salaam. The serenity of the village comes through, though in realistic rather than idyllic terms.

The earth is a recurring theme as the ultimate anchor of human identity and being--authentic being. Humans gain from staying connected with it. This notion comes out clearly in the poem titled "Children of the Village," which describes village children 

as they wandered, bare feet
     leaving no footprints,
        they touched earth.

Normally, we think of bare feet as signifying a lack, but Jackline sees how bare feet touch the earth. They thereby make the desired, natural connection between the human being and the earth. By implication, shoes are a barrier, representing our alienation from the earth. 

Certain parts of Mwana touched me in a particular way, such as this description of a woman in the poem "Tanga,"

                          It was that mama,
                              with her scarf
                     folded round and round,
                              laid on her head
and the bowl of fruits sitting peacefully on top of it.
                      And her bundle of joy,
                             sweetly wrapped
                          under the colourful 
                          kanga on her back.

The language is simple, and the description vivid, like a painting, if I may refer to the notion of painting with words, which I learned from the great poet Derek Walcott.

Mwana takes us across a landscape of memories and reflections about identity, the idea of home and belonging, tinged with nostalgia. Jackline is a promising poet with a great future. 

3 comments:

Freddy Macha said...

Lovely review,Prof Mbele. Short & crisp & detailed. Book deserves this.

Mbele said...

Thanks, Freddy Macha. Indeed, "Mwana" deserves a review congruent with its delicate economy of words.

Joyce Materego said...

Love this! Amazing review for an equally amazing poet… I have enjoyed reading both!