TOP performance poet, Linda Gabriel, recently left the country for an art residence in Germany where she will tour three cities, teaching and performing poetry in schools and colleges.
One of Gabriel’s most enduring images was when she appeared on national television in October 2003 alongside Oscar Gwiriri doing a tribute poem for Vice President Simon Muzenda shortly after his death.
Although Gabriel said she could no longer recall where the notebook in which she had written the poem is, she still remembers a few words from the poem.
“We thought why not do a duet to console the nation on losing a poetry lover? So, that’s how it came about. So in consoling other people who also love poetry it became consoling the nation,” Gabriel said.
Gabriel fondly remembers how she assumed Poetic Angel as her stage name: “On the way to Pockets Hill, Oscar was saying, ‘are you going to use your real name? You need a stage name’. And then we looked at my name. Linda means beauty in Portuguese and Gabriel my surname related to the biblical angel Gabriel so, we thought, how about Poetic Angel?”
Her powerful performance earned her an invitation to the Dambudzo Marechera commemoration in August 2004, where she met with Cde Fatso, Victor Mavedzenge and Flora Veit Wild.
She was armed with the poem Who is to Blame which questions the hatred and the carnage that is going on in different countries afflicted by tribal wars.
The poem was later in August 2005 recorded on a Budding Writers’ Association of Zimbabwe poetry project titled Budding Echoes featuring other poets who first underwent a rigorous training by Albert Nyathi who selected poems for the recording.
In 2006 Gabriel was already making 40km trips from Norton where she was born to Harare every first Saturday of each month to attend House of Hunger Poetry Slam at the Book Café.
In January 2007, Gabriel also forced herself into the British Council’s Power in the Voice held in Bulawayo where she underwent a five-day creative writing process under the facilitation of United Kingdom writer, Charlie Dark, who later became her mentor.
“Officially I wasn’t part of Power in the Voice programme. I forced my way in. When Power in the Voice was launched, it was for poets in Matabeleland. I met Ignatius Mabasa. So I heard news that the guys from Harare were going to Bulawayo to make these things happen. I said if you guys don’t have bus fare, I would rather be in your boot. Mabasa said, but the programme is already designed and the budget has been made. I was like, there is no way you guys cannot carry one person from Harare. Ignatius allowed me to go. That’s how I became part of the programme. I am happy that Ignatius opened the door for me,” she recalled.
From Bulawayo, Gabriel earned another unofficial entry into Power in the Voice Zambia. She remembers how the week she spent in Zambia impacted her life.
“It was then that Ignatius Mabasa said he needed some new poems from me for a change. I was spending a week with Charlie Dark. He said you sound very protestant, but I think there are more stories that need to be told by you that you are not telling,” she said.
And she was challenged to write a new poem and she remembers the effect.
“I went into the room and wrote a new poem to be performed the following day. And, in that moment while writing that poem, I broke down and cried because it was painful to put the words on paper,” she said.
Fresh from completing her sixth form, Gabriel became the first coordinator of SISTAZ Open Mic run by Pamberi Trust.
“When the first SISTAZ Open Mic was organised by Victor Mavedzenge, they asked from the audience if somebody would like to volunteer as an MC. I did. During the second month, I helped organise it and in the third month they knew they wanted me on board. So I got hired,” she said.
Before the end of 2007 Gabriel left Pamberi Trust and joined Wits University for studies. Whilst there, she joined African Synergy Book Café Jozi, the sister organisation to Pamberi Trust which was running in Johannesburg.
Gabriel said House of Hunger Jozi Poetry slam stopped after running for six years due to lack of funds, but other people she started the slam with had gone into their communities opening other poetry slams.
Linda’s star continues shining with 2016 opening with a residence in Germany from February 1 received from AfrivaAvenier.