Poetry’s roots in Africa as an oral tradition date back thousands of years, and, to this day, it continues to provide a space for expression and healing.
In South Africa, praise poets are cultural icons who use the art form to entertain and conserve social consciousness. West African troubadour-historians, whose significant societal roles include preserving genealogies and historical narratives, use praise songs in their repertoire. In a literary sense, rhythmic poetic devices capture intuitive nuances that ordinary language can constrain. And it is perhaps through combining those tools with cultural references that make works by contemporary African poets so powerful.
The intimacy of experiencing poetry is partly what makes great poets unforgettable. In the way writing the words is a cathartic release for them, audiences get drawn in by their ability to articulate a range of emotions with clarity. Storytelling that accounts for emotion, with the same intensity that it does detail, creates a boundless human connection that has a resonance not hinged on familiarity. That is how poetry can remind us that our human experiences are connected even when our narratives differ.
In conversation with Maverick Life, poet Johann de Lange, editor-in-chief of the AVBOB Poetry Project, noted that…