African poets for Africa

Badilisha is rare: an African project funded by a mix of government and private art donors, facilitating media access to African poets.

Badilisha Poetry X-Change (via Wiki Commons).

Back in 2011, Badilisha Poetry X-Change was previously featured on this platform with a spotlight on its podcast, Badilisha Poetry Radio. But, there is a lot more to Badilisha than just the podcast. This is a digital poetry archive, preserving African poetry in both its written and oral forms. This dynamic archive is managed by Linda Kaoma (a poet in her own right) and is a product of the Cape Town-based Africa Centre, a pan-Africanist collective that aims to use culture as a means for social change (some other projects from Africa Centre that you might have come across include the Infecting the City festival and WikiAfrica).

Badilisha is rare, in a sense, because it is completely funded by South African donors, including the National Lottery, the National Arts Council of South Africa, and Spier Wine Farm. If you look back through most of the Digital Archive posts, the majority of African digital projects are either based in the U.S/Europe or funded by backers from these regions. But, this is an African project, aiming to broaden the access to African poets for Africans in particular who, without a forum such as this, have limited ability to be “inspired and influenced by their own writers and poets – negatively impacting their personal growth, identity, development and sense of place.” The initiative is also intended to bring African authors’ work to a wider audience, which it most certainly does.

Though this is a South African-based project, it’s content certainly isn’t limited to South Africa.  Content comes from around the world, from the United Kingdom to Senegal to Sri Lanka to Zimbabwe. You can also search for poets by language, with poems in major European languages (like English, French, German, and Portuguese) as well as African languages (like Xhosa, Zulu, Pedi, Venda, and Swahili, to name a few). You can also navigate the nearly work of the over 350 poets by theme and emotion. I lost myself in the History-themed poems for quite a while, especially “Things Fall Apart” by Hector Kunene.

Follow Badilisha on Facebook and Twitter. Explore this awesome collection and let us know what you think in the comments below. As always, feel free to send me suggestions in the comments or via Twitter of sites you might like to see covered in future editions of the series.

Further Reading

A city divided

Ethnic enclaves are not unusual in many cities and towns across Sudan, but in Port Sudan, this polarized structure instigated and facilitated communal violence.

The imperial forest

Gregg Mitman’s ‘Empire of Rubber’ is less a historical reading of Liberia than a history of America and racial capitalism through the lens of a US corporate giant.

Africa’s next great war

The international community’s limited attention span is laser-focused on jihadism in the Sahel and the imploding Horn of Africa. But interstate war is potentially brewing in the eastern DRC.

The Cape Colony

The campaign to separate South Africa’s Western Cape from the rest of the country is not only a symptom of white privilege, but also of the myth that the province is better run.

Between East Africa and the Gulf

Political encounters between the Arab Gulf and Africa span centuries. Mahmud Traouri’s novel ‘Maymuna’ demonstrates the significant role of a woman’s journey from East Africa to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Āfrīqāyī

It’s not common knowledge that there is Iran in Africa and there is Africa in Iran. But there are commonplace signs of this connection.

It could happen to us

Climate negotiations have repeatedly floundered on the unwillingness of rich countries, but let’s hope their own increasing vulnerability instills greater solidarity.