Raya wrote her first poem when she was only five years old, and has been writing consistently for fifteen years. She began performing her poetry five years ago, and fell completely in love with the opportunity it provided to interact directly with the audience. Her content is passionate, expressive and emotive, strongly influenced and inspired by local imagery, current affairs and the idea that hoping and working towards a brighter tomorrow is our best bet at achieving a brighter future.
She is a Slam Africa Queen (Nairobi’s longest running poetry slam competition) and a laureate of the Nairobi edition of The Spoken Word Project. She has organised and performed at numerous poetry events in Nairobi and continues to do so. She wants to be remembered as someone who inspired hope and encouraged positive change. She has been sharing her poetry and other writing on her blog since March 2012. Her poetry tends to fall under revolutionary poetry, but is not exclusively in that genre.
Ijeoma, our regular contributor on the blog, reached out to Raya Wambui for this feature which was supposed to be on our BM’s Sepoetember Feature but with a lot of events happening in Nairobi wasn’t available but we are so excited to have her as our feature to crown off October. We asked her a couple of questions that bothered on poetry which for her ‘is a means of expression and communication that encompasses the viewpoints and experiences of people who have never met, to bring meaning to life experiences, commonalities and differences through words’ among others. Enjoy.
I think I tend to define things widely. What I understand by African Poetry is poetry written for, about and/or by Africans. It would go back in history to fireside chants, and lead right up to the future poems that will stem from the continent.
- Which writer would you most like to have a drink with, and why?
Michaela Wrong. She strikes me as boundlessly honest, with a history of access to secrets. I think it would be interesting to hear her take on the world.
- What’s the worst advice you hear authors give writers?
I think that would be telling Sheng poets to write in proper English or Kiswahili. I think it is often forgotten that language is dynamic, it changes.
That whatever ‘proper language’ the critic is speaking in, was not the same five or ten years ago.
Claiming a common language is the necessity of the multicultural urban explosions we have going on all around the world. Whatever language the youth feel comfortable expressing themselves best in, is the perfect language for them to do that. Though every language has standards, and so needs language critics, to police language, is to police expression.
Especially when there is a vast audience who would understand the writer.
- What scares you the most?
Gosh, to be honest, quite a lot of things scare me, but the top of the list would probably be war.
- What do you see as the role of humor in poetry?
Sometimes we need to be relaxed to receive a message. I believe humor is a means to relax the audience, in happy way. To make them comfortable enough to laugh. I am always very grateful when I manage to make an audience laugh. It doesn’t come as naturally as expressing sad or happy (but not funny) feelings.
- What does ‘being creative’ mean to you?
Any making process in which originality is a value.
- What’s the best advice you ever had about how to be more creative?
“Use your imagination.” I think it might have been my Mum who said it to me. I’m not sure because it’s a very early memory.
- What do you want the world to know about you? Make it juicy ….
I’m not sure I want the world to know anything about me in particular. The things I’ve said on stage, sometimes I’m not sure I even have secrets, lol. Maybe if art wasn’t about sharing personal truths, I would want the world to know things about me. I do often feel I wish the world knew just how endangered our wildlife is. Just how endangered so many people are, all over the world. So many causes that make me wish the world knew, or cared.
- What are you working on?
Brainstorming on a poetic play celebrating Kenyan diversity. Should be showing early next year. Still working on details.
- When did you discover poetry?
It is possibly my earliest memory. Did a post on Facebook about it the other day. It was the last line of The Lorax by Dr Seuss. It was a short animation of the book, I think I was around two years old. It goes; Unless someone like you, cares a whole awful lot, nothing’s going to get better, it’s not.
11. Thank you for your time.
Photo credit: Facebook/ Raya Wambui, bereamail.com, badilishapoetry.com, youtube.com