Sibanda’s poetry awakens conscience to Africa’s climate woes

Ndaba Sibanda

When Wealth Dissipated Like Morning Dew is an upcoming poetry anthology that focuses on  themes centred on the African diaspora, and addresses several negative impacts of climate change in Africa, including the scourges of food and water security, influenced by changing rainfall patterns that affect agriculture.

The book contains 220 poems penned by internationally acclaimed author Ndaba Sibanda.

It is an Afrocentric, holistic, and carefully curated work of poetry that explores and tackles critical themes such as climate change, conservation, culture, trade and debt, corruption, technology and innovation, food security, and justice, among other related and relevant topics and concerns such as racial discrimination, which is a hugely prevalent issue in the United Kingdom.

While the collection bemoans bigotry, bungling, greed, corruption, injustices, woes and wars that continue to haunt and hurt the development of Africa, it also pays tribute to a number of gallant and perceptive monarchal stars of yesteryear like Makeda, the Queen of Sheba, Queen Lozikeyi, Queen Njinga Mbandi, Queen Hatshepsut, Queen Amina, Empress Kandake, Empress Taytu Betul and Queen Aminatu.  It also features modern-day African icons and beacons in different fields, namely music icon Yvonne Chaka Chaka, Kenyan long distance runner Elluid Kipchoga, top Zimbabwean lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa, footballers Sadio Mane and Mario Balotelli as well as teen sensation Andrea the Vocalist, who are all immortalised within the book’s 224 pages.

Sibanda teaches in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

He told Standard Style in an exclusive interview that several reports indicate that climate change is a security threat in Africa.

“Environmentalists have expressed fears that ecological degradation and demographic pressures will result in the displacement of several African inhabitants and generate a social, political, and economic commotion,” he said.

“Think of health challenges by virtue of air pollution and extreme heat, pressures on mental health, poor nutrition, increased hunger, and forced displacement,” he stated.

In “When Wealth Dissipated Like Morning Dew,” Sibanda also argues that Africa is clearly climate-vulnerable and that the evidence of a climate crisis is all around us since its impact falls disproportionately on the world’s most underprivileged countries and communities.

“Africa is no exception. Climate change poses a critical and existential threat to Africa’s economic growth, peace, ecosystems, and animal and plant species as evidenced by a series of droughts, famine, floods, destruction of infrastructure, deforestation, soil erosion, and increased pest infestations and illnesses,” Sibanda said.

The book also features a poem titled "Grandfather's Tripartite Resolutions And Suggestions," where the author asserts that human exploitation is the greatest challenge humanity faces. An excerpt from the piece reads:

“Grandpa, what are the solutions to the problems facing the world today?

“Grandson, you`re skipping a crucial step: the identification of those snags”

“Grandpa, I`m talking of climate change, poverty, inequality and conflicts”

“Grandson, the greatest challenge facing humanity is human exploitation”

On factors that have influenced his literary activism, the author said he does not only consider poetry as a figurative language but also as the completest possible language and highest form of literature. “It is full, meaningful, and more than just a sweet-sounding language because it is a language of truth, pedagogy, performance, precision, action, revelation, and perception,” he said.

As a practicing and passionate poet, Sibanda uses the power and precision of poetry to highlight grave issues that affect Africa, be it the scourges of corruption, greed, prejudice, and injustice. His poems have appeared in Standard Style's poetry section as well as NewsDay Weekender's Intanga poetry corner.

“My poetry seeks to show humans that they can only ignore the climate change crisis at their own risk. After all, comparatively speaking, they are not only culpable but are also capable of becoming regenerative agents rather than degenerative ones,” he said.

The poet also suggests that eco-denialism, which exhibits itself through denials that there is a climate change crisis, has to be exposed and dismantled for posterity and prosperity. “The advocates for action against climate change are not climate doomsday claimants and alarmists but are caring and conscious realists. I am just a peace-loving, vigorous, and literary advocate of a noble cause that is close to my heart—that of seeking to protect the planet and its peoples and posterity”.

Sibanda’s literary activism is also aimed at wealthy countries and individuals whom he says need to walk their talk and compensate and capacitate African countries. “Otherwise, their global climate change goals will remain an unnecessary, unfair, and harsh mirage and joke,” he said, adding that the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) which include the elimination of extreme poverty and hunger, reduction of child mortality, achievement of global primary education, promotion of maternal health, fighting malaria, HIV/AIDS and other diseases, ‘could all linger as a celebrated fantasy if the affluent countries do not accept their moral and historical obligation to help developing nations recover from the effects of climate change’.

The 28th United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC COP28) is scheduled to take place in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE), from November 30 to December 12. Poetry, in particular, plays an important role in emphasizing the importance of environmental action.   

The book will be released on July 31 by the Scottish publishing house Arkbound. It takes Ndaba's total number of published books to twenty-nine. The award-winning author has co-written more than 100 published books as well as several peer-reviewed articles.

Sibanda a member of local poetry initiative Gourd of Consciousness Poetry, has been nominated for several awards, including the National Arts Merit Awards (Nama), the Mary Ballard Poetry Chapbook Prize, the Best of the Net Prose and the Pushcart Prize.

His book Notes, Themes, Things And Other Things: Confronting Controversies, Contradictions And Indoctrinations was considered for the Restless Book Prize for New Immigrant Writing in Nonfiction (2019). Another of his books titled Cabinet Meetings: Of Big And Small Preys was considered for The Graywolf Press Africa Prize (2018).

The poet, novelist, and nonfiction writer from Bulawayo is also a three-time Pushcart nominee.

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