4 March 2018

Zimbabwe: Chigama's Anthology Examines Effects of Brain Drain in Zim

Spoken word artiste Batsirai Chigama launched her first poetry anthology titled Gather the Children on Friday at Alliance Francaise in Harare.

The captivating collection details themes about the slipperiness of truth and the weight of forgetting, among others, rooted in the brain drain era the country has faced over the years.

The body of work examines the conditions that led to masses of young Zimbabweans leaving the country over the last 15 years, for those who stayed and migrated as well as the effects of the movement on remaining communities and families.

Chigama said putting on paper of the work created over a decade came after realisation of how well many could relate to it.

"That I could be a poet or wanted to be a poet was a gradual realisation. Writing has always been cathartic for me and the more I found people could relate to what I wrote and sometimes performed, the more I wrote and found the confidence to share my work," she said.

Chigama has performed on many stages locally and beyond, starting with the House of Hunger poetry slams held at the Book Café in 2004, as well as the Sistaz Open Mic events that followed.

"Sharing the stage with poets I have always read in books such as Lebo Mashile, Barolong Sebone, Mutabaruka, the late Chiwoniso Maraire [a prolific musician] was my most memorable performance. I remember I was shaking so hard when I went on stage and shaking after the performance. Another highlight is a tour of Danish schools in 2014," she said.

"It was the beginning of the current programme I do in local schools. I came out of that tour richer and empowered to start doing workshops and mentoring young poets."

Her work, which has been featured in over 15 anthologies, quizzes the socio-political situation and women's issues across the board.

In 2014, she came second in the digital slam organised by Stanza Poetry Festival (Scotland) ahead of eight other contestants shortlisted from all over the world.

Meanwhile, the launch of the anthology will feature acoustic performances by talented mbira player and singer Hope Masike and well-known drummer Mangoma.

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