The Bayimba International Festival has made its stamp on the arts sector in Uganda. Whether one is searching for a dance mix with DJs, a visual art and contemporary dance experience or a poetic sit down with the best word players across the country, Bayimba is the place.
And indeed, the 9th edition brought poetry to the pack. Locked up in the big hut, covered with black cloth and called the Poetry Shrine, a section of poets from the Lantern Meet gathered to play with words. They spoke thoughts on various subject matter and dissected contemporary Uganda with words.
“All the poems in the lantern meet have been fun like Mama Boss was very hilarious, Like Dat was very interesting and there was Vengence…” said Agnes Kibone who was attending Bayimba for the first time. “This is awesome, poetry is part of me, it is a way of life and letting loose,” she said.
Manzi’s heart break poem was a mild treatise of the pain that heart breaks generate. Yet the message was as strong and piercingly ticked with humor and emotional outrage. Jason Ntaro closed day one with his poem, Pessimist, about social media and how humanity has become so absorbed in taking selfies that we neglect the world, how we have turned so vain, and its implications.
Other poems that stood out include Ntaro’s Who is to Blame, which realistically paints a picture of decaying morals in an already decaying society. He posed the question of who is to blame, a message that might have been heard before yet sounded new.
“Mama Boss by Remmy and Pessimist by Jason, were really outstanding but most of them were beautiful, even Vengence by Achela,” said Clare Asiimwe. Vengence had a way of creating imagery of what one would want to do to an individual that hurt them or the wrath one wishes upon a foe.
Most of the poetry was performed with African drum sounds to accompany the rhythmic flow of the poets. It gave an original feel to performance, something traceably Ugandan, African.
For Keziah Elena Okurut who performed one of her eclectic pieces, I do not come to love you- I bring death, the performances were engaging. “There were different various topics, I was very entertained,” she said.
The Lantern Meet returned to the Poetry circles earlier this year after taking a break, and they have been making rounds, performing at Bayimba only weeks after their showcase at the Babishainiwe Poetry Festival. “With the lantern meet I love the art of writing, It is not just word, but something in the way they are arranged and the emotions they carry,” noted Okurut.
Relevance at Bayimba
Fusing poetry into the mass of art forms at Bayimba is a brilliant idea. “It is a relevant form of art that existed even before we could read and write. It has just been passed on through different forms. Our education system has made it look like it is a thing for the elite, and something that you have to study, yet that’s not the reality, it has been in existence as old as mankind,” Okurut said.
Poetry can be turned into different forms, it be a visual art piece, a skit, a song, or it’s words can become a sermon. However, day two at Bayimba proved difficult for the group of poets in Poetry in Session. The Big Hut was instead booked for the Feminist Utopia and poets were thrown out into the competition space with louder conflicting sounds from other stages.
“It was brutal,” said Gloria Kiconco of the experience. “It is important that we as poets take ourselves as professionals, but we need organisers to also consider us professionally. We put in our time rehearsing; that’s commitment-so we need commitment to be met on their part as well.”