This site opens a window on something that will be new to most people, namely, the vast amount of superb poetry hidden away in the 3000 different languages spoken in Africa.
Of course, these poems are not hidden from the speakers of those languages, and most Africans — even those without access to formal education — are expert linguists, speaking two or three or more languages fluently. Even so, they can experience only a fraction of their continent’s poetic diversity.
Meanwhile, the rest of us, living as we do in the Americas, Asia, Australasia or Europe, have yet to discover how Africa’s oral poets, in a variety of different forms, have brought to bear on the shifting panorama of African, and human experience, a stream of comment — thoughtful, angry, humorous, celebratory — whose range and sophistication are evident, even in the most literal of translations.
As we add new content to the site our aim is to include audio recordings of songs being performed, along with vernacular texts, as well as essays providing background for some of the material.
African Poems contains poems and songs which comment upon the whole range of human experience: poems of praise and celebration, poems to amuse and entertain; poems of love and of loss; work songs and protest songs. Here are poems which above all will be enjoyed.
I’m Martin Kondwani White, the curator of this site. I was born in Freetown, Sierra Leone and have passed through Zambia, Mozambique, Malawi, Zimbabwe & Swaziland on my travels. I currently live in Portugal.