Underground performance poet speaks on art form

One of Zimbabwe’s most innovative underground performance poets Innocent Fungurani aka Answer and formerly known as Police State, who recently gave a scintillating performance at The Mannenberg jazz club in Harare, has revealed that poetry is an art of emotions.

The talented poet said that despite the apparent sidelining of poetry in Zimbabwe, poets were born out of an emotional reaction to the cultural change that the country is currently experiencing.

“All generations of poets come from an emotional reaction to a cultural change, whether the cause is political, economic or social. Poetry is a spiritual reaction to cultural stimulus. Performance poetry gives the eye food for thought,” said Fungurani, who is the mastermind of the monthly “Jungle Griots” performance poetry events staged at The Mannenberg.
Fungurani is already a regular performer at the Book Café’s House of Hunger poetry slam held every first Saturday of the month.

Besides doing performance poetry, Fungurani also practices fine art and surrealist photography.

Since May 2009, he initiated dialogue at the US Public Affairs Section’s Food for Thought Programme titled “Spoken Word Chimurenga”.

In November 2009, he held the first “Radio Aktive Live Cypher Session” at the Alliance Française in Harare.

“Our oral tradition serves to address issues of illiteracy; it’s a tradition of social struggles that are born of economic slavery to the system. We are concerned with, numeracy, visual literacy and knowledge of language, that drives this generation of poets,” said Fungurani, who is also a co-founder of an arts organisation called Kreative Aktivists Over-turning Society.

He said what was saddening is that poetry is regarded as a cultural underdog despite its potential to significantly influence social dialogue.

“Poetry is the underground drag queen who births prophets that are discarded as soon as their prophecies are fulfilled. Our poets are meant to be either quintessential African intellectuals far from the masses or hermetic mystics in the order of secrecy. This is a filthy lie which breeds illiteracy and ignorance. The poet strives to communicate; it’s his intrinsic desire to connect. He is found among the crowds of commoners and among the women on the market.

“The only reason why poets are unknown is because our generation is deaf and is being led by mute men who use force to communicate. Beyond that, the human being is wired to effortlessly create and adore poetic expression. After all, all we need is thoughts and language and these cannot be bought,” he added.

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