Words from the Congo

“"Poetry is about freedom of articulation and affirming the truth of our experiences. I think of my writing as joining a long line of women’s resistance poetry that exposes the social and political conditions of women’s existences.” — Sarah Lubala

Today we bring you some words and sounds from the Congo. Sarah Lubala is a Congolese-born poet, currently based in South Africa. Her family fled the Democratic Republic of Congo two decades ago amidst political unrest as militant factions tried to overthrow the dictator Mobutu Sese Seko. Her family relocated first to Cape Town, South Africa, then Abidjan—the capital of Côte d’Ivoire—before returning to South Africa and settling in Johannesburg. 

She has since spent her life in various parts of Africa, Asia and Europe and believes herself to be from here, there, everywhere and nowhere. Sarah has been twice shortlisted for the Gerald Kraak Award, and once for The Brittle Paper Poetry Award as well as longlisted for the Sol Plaatje EU Poetry Award. She is also the winner of the Castello Di Duino XIV prize.

6 Errant Thoughts on Being a Refugee

1

on the worst of my days
this body is a gimcrack-vessel
no more than two lungs and
a tremor
nailed to salvaged wood

2

grief travelled with me
across the Ubangi River

i prayed love
and all her cognates
on the passage over:
libet (to please)
lips (to be needed)
lyp (to beg)

i arrived with
bruised knees
wet hair
a mouth-full of salted fish

3

i am so
hungry
hungry
hungry
for holiness
for communion
for a God you can sink
your teeth into

4

i was raised
on the Congolese-gospel
i can teach you how to forget
where you are from

to worship the wide road before you
hands open
like this:
make each palm
a letter
to the sky

5

Beni is a town
with one police station
airport
market
many graves

I should go back
my people are weeping

6

‘home’
is a narrow bed

References

‘Congolese Poet Sarah Lubala’s A History of Disappearance Centers Women’s Resistance,’ Brittle Paper, Alesia Alexander, 20 April 2022. Read here.

A History of Disappearance, Sarah Lubala.

Sarah Lubala’s website: https://www.sarahlubala.com/ 

Music

Tune in to our playlist for this week: Sounds of the Congo (only on Spotify, for now).

Discover more music on Boomplay, a music streaming platform that focuses on African local and urban music.  

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