Archives for posts with tag: Africa

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A Chat with Mahogany
by Bonface Isaboke Nyamweya

This buzz and hum
of voices
And the growl
of traffic
Blend into a solid mutter of sound
That taps my mind only partly
My mind is lost
In the pustule of rage
Ripening deep down in me
From yesterday’s chat I had with my friend:
The mahogany to the right of my land
Fenced with rock plants, flowers, cacti, and ornamental trees
I had gone there for circumspection
“You established me here forty years ago.”
He bubbled flapping the leaves
“But I’m alone. My children, you’ve sure murdered for cents…”
“How do you know that?”
“I have been watching you for long
The power-saw sliced them for charcoal
And some succumbed to your axe for firewood
And today you’ve come, to see how much I’ve fattened for splitting
You have demolished our generation
And by so doing, you’ve demolished your generation.”
A gentle breeze whistled and died
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“We the trees are your ecological neighbours.
When you efface us that way, who can purify the air you inhale?”
“We shall create artificial trees.”
“What will be the cost of doing that?”
“Don’t mind.”
“But we the trees feed you too. Will the artificial trees bear fruits?
Will they give you herbs?
Will they host the birds?”
I had no word to say
Tears tore themselves down my cheeks
I apologized to my friend Mahogany
I have started a mission
Of a seedbed of trees
With a spade and hoe at hand
Join me we plant the trees
For my efforts of care, yet more your efforts of care
Shall keep our vegetation thriving
And soothe our wounded nature.

PHOTO: Mahogany Tree by Rafał Próchniak.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: When I was writing this poem, I remembered how we planted trees in Jinja at the Philosophical Centre of Jinja while pursuing my BA in Philosophy, Environmental Ethics unit. Seeing trees as our ecological neighbours is something vital in order to respect vegetation as part of our ecosystem, hence not as simply objects for our gratification. This is crucial in the healing process of our mother earth. This is the gist of my poem “A Chat with Mahogany.”

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Born in 1997, Bonface Isaboke Nyamweya is a Kenyan poet, novelist, and young Pan Africanist. His short story “Whose Title Died” was published by the Pan African Writers Association in their anthology, Voices that Sing Behind the Veil (2021). Peeling the Cobwebs (2020) is his first novel and it treats the theme of tribalism in an imaginary African country called Ricafa. Her Question Pills (2020) treats feminism and African womanism. He is currently winding up his Masters in Philosophy at the Catholic University of Eastern Africa. Find him on Facebook and on Amazon

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by Hana Njau-Okolo

You are
I am

Those patterns etched into your face
Are tears carved under my eyes
Draining through the mask.

A glacial screen
The landscape of my life
Frozen into the familiar.

Washing away
As men in their folly
Plunder the spoils of the earth.
Face-to-face you say
Do not weep for me
Weep for yourself
And for your children.
For the Sahara
And its spreading.

For your soul
Marooned on an
Island of dreams

PHOTO: Mount Kilimanjaro at sunset, view from savanna landscape in Amboseli, Kenya, Africa. Photo by Michal Bednarek, used by permission.


NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This poem was inspired after my visit to the home of my late grandparents after two decades of living in the U.S.  I was saddened by the lack of snow on Kilimanjaro, and the lack of acknowledgement of global warming. I also pondered on what I had accomplished in my years of living away from home.

PHOTO: The author at the Nairobi National Museum next to a statue of Dr. Louis Leakey, a British paleoanthropologist and archaeologist whose work was important in demonstrating that humans evolved in Africa.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:  Hana Njau-Okolo is a Kenyan-Tanzanian born writer who lives with her husband in Atlanta, Georgia. The mother of three adult children, she is a writer of short stories who blogs at Her short story “The Shady Taxi Driver” was published in the 2012 African Roar anthology series out of South Africa.

The Return
by Anne Namatsi Lutomia

In Ghana also once known as The Gold Coast
Exist twelve forts now world heritage sites
Built by the Portuguese, Dutch, British and an Ashanti King
Elmina Castle aka St. George of the mine castle was my point of return

Full of fear and curiosity, I visited Elmina Castle in Cape Coast
Leaving behind the hustle and bustle of the coastal town
Spying waves of the Atlantic Ocean smashing the black stones on the      beach
Was welcomed into a sad, empty, dirty whitewashed fort with brown roof      tiles

Now descendants return to see, smell, touch and pay homage to their      ancestors
Entering various doors in the castle
Doors where people and goods stolen, snatched, taken away were      exchanged
At the door of no return, people now slaves left for good

I entered the rooms at Elmina, rooms of a lived contradiction
Of a normalized life by the slave master
Rooms where life was enjoyed to the fullest
Rooms where misery was felt to the fullest

Above a church, kitchen, bedrooms and dining room
Rooms where deals were made
Rooms where rape took place
Rooms where the master lived

At the bottom dungeons and slave rooms
The female dungeon where I felt their spirits and smelled them
The solitary confinement where the guide shut me in – I screamed
And the door of no return where I saw the Atlantic Ocean and the boats

As I left the castle, I read the Elmina Castle plaque
A promise for similar injustice never occur
A memory of those who had died
An invitation to those who return

PHOTO: “Elmina Castle, 2016” by Anne Namatsi Lutomia.

licensed Nancy Haggarty

EDITOR’S NOTE: Elmina Castle was erected by the Portuguese in 1482 in a location known in the present day as Elmina, Ghana. The site was the first trading post built on the Gulf of Guinea, and the oldest European building in existence south of the Sahara Desert. First established as a trade settlement, the castle later became a stop on the route of the Atlantic slave trade. Captives, both men and women, were imprisoned at the castle, and later branded, placed on a ship, and sent to a foreign land, where they were auctioned off, then sent to work for their owners. The Dutch seized the fort from the Portuguese in 1637. The slave trade continued under the Dutch until 1814. In 1872, the Dutch Gold Coast, including the fort, became a possession of Great Britain. The Gold Coast, which is now Ghana, gained its independence in 1957 from Britain, and assumed control of the castle. Elmina Castle is recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.  (Source: Wikipedia)

PHOTO: Skull and crossbones mark the door to the dungeon at Elmina Castle for male slaves slated to be transported on ships and sold at auction. Credit: Nancy Haggarty, used by permission.

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NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This poem was inspired by a trip that I took to Ghana in 2016. Although I am not a descendant of slaves, I visited the castle to learn and to pay homage to those who had undergone this dehumanizing experience. My visit stayed with me and gave me greater understanding regarding African Americans and others whose ancestors were enslaved.

PHOTOS: Elmina Castle, Ghana, on Atlantic Ocean, by Sergey Mayorov, used by permission. Sign at Elmina Castle by Anne Namatsi Lutomia (2016).

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Anne Namatsi Lutomia is a budding poet and a member of Champaign Urbana (Illinois) poetry group. She enjoys writing poems about her lived experience and nature. She writes poems in Swahili on Twitter in malumbano style, where poets respond to each other through their poems. She has published poems with BUWA and recently published a poem in the Silver Birch Press Wearing a Mask Series.

Victoria Falls on Zambezi River
I have spread my dreams under your feet
                                        —William Butler Yeats
by Susana H. Case

In the early light, a line of curio sellers
crosses Victoria Bridge
from Zambia, their trinkets
wrapped in sacks draped over bicycles.
They push up the hill,
past the hut
where tourists are tied in harnesses to free fall
through mist over the Zambezi.

The bungee jumpers scream in terror,
stopped just short of the rapids,
just short of the crocodiles.

The zealot imperialist, Cecil Rhodes,
envisioned the bridge as part of a train route,
Cairo to the Cape,
died without realizing his dream.
His remains buried in the Matopos Hills,
anti-colonialists threaten to dig him up,
send him finally back to Hertfordshire.

The peddlers dream of enough to eat
as they unwrap a carved wooden elephant,
lion, leopard, buffalo, rhino. From their pockets,
they pull out freshly pressed devalued
hundred-trillion Zimbabwean dollars,
try not to catch the eye of the police.
If a foreigner stops to look,
more hawkers run over, flash
more wooden animals, more souvenir money.

You mean nothing to us,
a curio seller says if they refuse
to buy another lion or elephant.

PHOTO: Victoria Falls (Mosi-oa-Tunya, the Smoke that Thunders) waterfall in southern Africa on the Zambezi River at the border of Zambia and Zimbabwe (taken from Zambian side of falls) by Steven Heap, used by permission.


NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This poem was written after a visit to Zimbabwe to see Victoria Falls. Though the falls are beautiful, there is a disjuncture between the lives of the local people and the tourists, who come to see the falls or bungee jump off the Victoria Falls Bridge, that is jarring and difficult to forget, as the poverty is so extreme. And then there are the colonial implications of the bridge, brainchild of the grand imperialist Cecil Rhodes.

PHOTO: The author with Victoria Bridge and mist from Victoria Falls in the background, from the Zimbabwe side, 2015.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Susana H. Case is the author of seven books of poetry, most recently Dead Shark on the N Train in 2020 from Broadstone Books. Drugstore Blue (Five Oaks Press) won an IPPY Award in 2019. She is also the author of five chapbooks, two of which won poetry prizes. Her first collection, The Scottish Café, from Slapering Hol Press, was rereleased in a dual-language English-Polish version, Kawiarnia Szkocka by Opole University Press. Her poems have appeared in Calyx, Catamaran, The Cortland Review, Portland Review, Potomac Review, Rattle, RHINO, and many other journals. She is a Professor and Program Coordinator at the New York Institute of Technology in New York City. Visit her at

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The Question Is: To Mask Or To Unmask?
by Ndaba Sibanda

In the difficult times
of the COVID-19 pandemic
it is advisable for one not only to observe
self-distancing guidelines and good hygiene
but also to wear a face mask when one goes out

It is common to see surgeons wearing their masks,
it is unfortunate to hear that doctors have run out
of masks in the middle of a pandemic like the COVID-19,
such exposés shoot out a thin mask of laxity and bungling

It is unfortunate that one dodger got away with defaulting
because he was wearing a mask when suddenly he bumped
into his guarantor and creditor who couldn’t recognize his face,
even his speedy staggering gait failed to unmask him on the spot!

PHOTO: Kgalalelo Moyo, a poet from Zimbabwe’s second largest city — Bulawayo.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Nominated for A Pushcart Prize and for Best of the Net, Ndaba Sibanda is the author of Notes, Themes, Things And Other Things, The Gushungo Way, Sleeping Rivers, Love O’clock, The Dead Must Be Sobbing, Football of Fools, Cutting-edge Cache, Of the Saliva and the Tongue, When Inspiration Sings In Silence, The Way Forward, The Ndaba Jamela, and Collections and Poetry Pharmacy .


by Clive Collins

I lost our car key somewhere on the sand at Governor’s Beach, or if not there, then coming or going along the forest track that led it.

Governor’s Beach was one of the most beautiful beaches along the Freetown Peninsula, a long white curve with a winding, shifting river that emptied out of the mangroves into the Atlantic Ocean. There was seldom anyone on the beach, and so it was a favourite, but we had been stopped and robbed before on our way to it, and so it had become our routine to leave everything locked in our Renault 12 and go down to the beach in our swimming clothes. The single key to the car stayed in the pocket of my shorts.

Except that afternoon, it did not.

It was our fifth year in Africa, and our last year there as a couple. We had quarreled that morning and during the afternoon at the beach, scarcely exchanged a word. Late in the day, thirsty, tired, hungry and each of us still nursing our own private grievances, we got back to the car and I found I no longer had the key. We looked everywhere there was to look: it was pointless.

Finally, my soon-to-be-ex-wife in her bikini and me in my shorts, we walked up to the paved road to try to thumb a lift back to our house. We felt exposed, and we were. The light was gathering. Night would soon fall. Afraid, for the first time in a long time, we held hands.

Someone or something blessed us. A car came. The people in it were our close neighbours.

Back at the house, I burgled my own home. We were quiet that night, but also sad. Perhaps we understood that more than a key was lost.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: Me, somewhere in Sierra Leone, 1978.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I found this a challenging prompt because, it seems to me, the things we possess and then lose are never simply what they are, but all the myriad associations that we as possessors invest them with either over a long period of time, or at the moment they are lost or found, or even after that moment.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Born in Leicester, England, Clive Collins has spent the greater part of his life working as a teacher in Ireland, Sierra Leone, and Japan. He is the author of two novels, The Foreign Husband (Marion Boyars) and Sachiko’s Wedding (Marion Boyars/ Penguin Books). Misunderstandings, a collection of short stories, was joint-winner of the Macmillan Silver PEN Award in 1994. More recently his work has appeared in online journals such as Penny, Cecile’s Writers, The Story Shack, and He was a short-listed finalist in the 2009 Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction. A chapbook of his short stories is to be published by Red Bird Chapbooks in 2017.


Into Africa
by Clive Collins

We were young and only two years wed, but had already moved three times and now, after a year in Edinburgh, were to go to Freetown, Sierra Leone, on the West Coast of Africa. Flurried weeks of visas, medicals, inoculations that conjured our upper arms into painful party balloons, notice given to landlord and employers, goodbyes begun, and then the movers came.

Burly men with quiet voices, they arrived one morning, cleared a space in our sitting room and told us to put everything we wanted packed in the middle of it. They would return in the afternoon. So much had already been discarded — the sentimental detritus of life — that our pile, when it was done, was not a large one: kitchenware, crockery, a kettle, two teapots, bed linen, books, record albums, our cheap hi-fi, and two table lamps. Set out on our landlord’s red carpet, it did not seem much. Packed into boxes after the movers were done, it seemed less.

We flew to Africa from London one warm late September afternoon, read Journey Without Maps and The Heart of the Matter on the plane, and landed at Lunghi Airport, where there was no one to meet us. We took a bus, rode a ferry across a wide brown river, and, finally, went by taxi up a high hill known locally as a mountain. That night, we clung together on a damp bed inside a tiny house the walls of which mould had coloured an extravagant shade of green. Outside lightning bolts burst in the surrounding forest and floodwater rose up to the windowsills. Weeks passed. We were given a better house. Our boxes came. We unpacked and in the lamp-lit evening felt at home, which, until we moved again six years later, we were.

IMAGE: At home in Freetown, Sierra Leone, West Africa.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: In 1974, I accepted a lectureship at Fourah Bay College in Freetown, Sierra Leone. This piece attempts to compress the sense of hectic dislodgement and gradual resettlement that I experienced at that time.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Clive Collins is the author of two novels, The Foreign Husband (Marion Boyars) and Sachiko’s Wedding (Marion Boyars/Penguin Books). Misunderstandings, a collection of short stories, was joint-winner of the Macmillan Silver PEN Award in 1994. He was a short-listed finalist in the 2009 Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction. More recently his work has appeared online and in print in magazines such as Penny, Local Nomad, The Story Shack, and

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Honeymoon at Voy (Tsavo East, Kenya)
by Lin Whitehouse

The day began before sunup with an early morning bush walk, legs covered to protect from ticks and being careful not to startle a wounded hippopotamus; in the afternoon heat a jeep safari tracking elephant, lion, giraffe, and more. After a hot shower, an evening meal of ADT (any damn thing) accompanied by wine. Later, alongside a lake where hippos splashed and cranes and storks fished for supper, a party of strangers sat on logs around a campfire, nightcaps in hands, recounting interesting stories while wildlife roamed in the darkness. Finally our camp-beds didn’t seem uncomfortable as we embraced sleep.

AUTHOR’S NOTE ON THE PHOTOGRAPH: ‘Maisha’ (means Life in Swahili) – my new husband and I (Kenya, 1992).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Having just celebrated 23 years of marriage I thought it was apt to write about my honeymoon! We actually got married outside Baden Powell’s house, ‘Paxtu’ in Nyeri, Central Kenya, having spent the night before at Treetops. My poem relates to a luxury tented safari we took in Tsavo East at Voy on land belonging to Kenyatta. I don’t do camping, luxury or not, and despite there being no plug socket for my hairdryer, it was the most wonderful holiday.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Lin Whitehouse lives in an idyllic East Yorkshire Village in the United Kingdom and writes as often as her day job and family life give her time for. Scripts are her favourite writing genre and she has had several short plays performed in theatres around the North of England.

by Lourdes A. Gautier

Like something out of Lawrence of Arabia we traveled across sand      dunes, Jeeps jostled
No roads, just mountains of sand.
The driver slipped in a CD of appropriate music so we were in a desert      movie of our own making.
If I had dreamed this up, it couldn’t be more perfect.
Lost in the Sahara I found the genesis of my existence.

Like something out of the English Patient we settled in tents where we      would sleep for the night.
But first there would be drinking, eating and dancing in the communal      tent.
As we stepped outside to see the fire pit and looked up at a sky lit
with millions of stars so close, we reached up to touch them
and thought that thousands have licked the icy coolness of star dust      from their fingers.

Like something out of my imagination of what North Africa would be
Drums beating in the still desert night
Flames stretched up to the inky star-studded sky.
Men in turbans and djellabas forgot that we are not Muslim women and      men,
as we all danced to the primal beat of the drums.

Like something in a Monet painting dawn brought colors
A million shades of pink, blue, orange and yellow hovering over the pale      sand
While I sat on a dune waiting for the sun to appear
Two men wrapped in the cloths of Berber semi-nomads
Kept me safe while the quiet drama of the sunrise unfolded before me.

PHOTOGRAPH: The author with Hisham, a Berber guide, in Morocco (ca. 2005).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Of all the places I’ve visited, the most transformative trip was to Morocco. Camping in the Sahara in a tent was a gift to my soul. It was at once a magical experience as nothing beats staring at the stars in the desert and also humbling to be welcomed by people who had so little in the way of material wealth but were so rich in the intangibles that really matter. What an honor to visit such a beautiful country and meet some of the warmest people I’ve ever met while traveling!


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Lourdes A. Gautier is a poet and writer of short fiction and non-fiction. Born in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic and raised in New York City she earned a Masters degree in Theatre and post graduate credits in a doctoral program at the City University of New York (CUNY) focusing on Latin American Theatre. Taught courses in acting and theatre history and criticism at CUNY, Drew University, and Jersey City State University. Most recently published a short story, “1952,” in the May issue of Acentos Review. Her poem “Alien” appeared in the Silver Birch Press All About My Name series in July 2015. Currently an administrator at Columbia University, she is working on a collection of poems and stories.

For me it was the trees
by Michael Mark

The ones stripped to their sap
by rhinos needing to scratch an itch,
dismembered by elephants
marking their existence,
left leafless by the insane baboons.

Broken and more beautiful,
they stood in defiance of death,
undeniably dead.

Even more than the too-close nightly roars
that shook our tent and made me leak pee,
then worry until light
that whatever predators were out there
would pick up the scent
and track it to us,

beyond the three giraffes
in a solemn row,
watching the jackals, hyenas and
cloud of vultures eating
the remains of their fallen elder,

it was the trees
that impressed me most
on our summer vacation.

Monuments to nothing I can name.
Were they even trees anymore?

From the crowded plane home,
I saw the skeleton sculptures
waving their tangled arms, frail,
skinless fingers clawing at the vastness
and me, not to forget.

In my bed, haunted.

I should have gotten out of the jeep.
I should have walked over to one of them
and sat down like Buddha.

© Michael Mark

AUTHOR’S NOTE ON THE PHOTOGRAPH: This is a photo of my wife, Lois, and myself and one of the trees I wrote about on our photo-only safari in South Africa. Lois has a blog and has written about her travels, this trip included, at

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This poem was begun on the flight back home from our trip to Botswana, South Africa, and Zimbabwe.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Michael Mark is a hospice volunteer and long-distance walker. His poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Gargoyle Magazine, Lost Coast Review, Rattle, Ray’s Road Review, Spillway, Tar River Poetry, Sugar House Review, and other nice places. His poetry has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize.