Saturday 10th of November saw the return of the long awaited Paza Sauti Youth Poetry Day. Paza Sauti is the brainchild of a collective of young, ambitious poets led by Loyce Gayo. The goal of Paza Sauti is to create a free and safe space for young people in Dar to express, confront and explore real world concerns through poetry. There were workshops led by established voices such as Carol Anande and younger poets such as Pepita Mwanga, and Mumbi–who had joined us all the way from Kenya.
The day was divided into two sections, with youth workshops due to begin in the morning and performances in the afternoon and by 9am all the teachers were ready and workshop spaces set, ready for the arrival of the students.
Three schools were involved: Azania, Tambaza and Mzizima. They arrived by bus and took part in a warm up led by one of their teachers before they were divided into the two workshops that were to begin the day. One of them, led by Mumbi, was called Where I Come From and encouraged students to discuss and explore the meanings and lessons within their overall surroundings.
The second, Perform Your Story, was led by Carol Anande and taught students to overcome the obstacles to truth and speak up for the things they feel and believe in. Both sessions ended in a breakout led by Pepita in which the students of one class shared what they learned to the other and vice versa. There were questions asked on both sides on what they had heard and both teams took great care and pride to share what they learned—a process that yielded interesting questions and revealing conclusions. With lunch a touch delayed, the students then offered up a preview of the fun to come with a few impromptu performances that ranged from heartbreaking to humorous.
After lunch it was time for Pepita to host her workshop, Unsolicited Advice, in which she encouraged students to explore their life stories through the advice they had been given. She began with a ‘once upon a time’ activity, where students where encouraged to build a story collectively. There followed period of reflection where students shared the advice they had been given and together linked these to bigger themes in their lives. The workshop gave everyone ample inspiration for the performance portion of the day.
With Joe Legendary as host as the section was opened up by Mariamu Ismail Mponda and Twaha Mohamed Lukongo two older, Swahili poets whose verve quickly won over the students and gave them confidence for their own performances; they followed, one after the other, closed out the day with stories flecked with everything they had learned—self assurance, detail, truth, fearlessness and a unique sense of sun best exhibited by Mumbi whose witty, poignant poem, Matatu, was perhaps the evening’s highlight.
A special event, filled with humility, passion and strains of artists heeding the first calls of craft,