Spotlighting Pan-African Poetry

Biography

She of ashes and flames

Enlarge poem

Sitting at the hearth
watching the embers die down
she was
tired and angry
Loving them
she resented
them
for she had lost
so much
that was HER
the fire of her soul
had burnt low
and there were ashes
in her mouth

Once she wanted
to rise
to soar
a flame leaping into the sky

she knew she would
But somehow…
it all seemed
so
far
away
and
out of reach
and the cold crept in.

Sitting there
she saw
one ember
still glowed
beneath the ash

she
blew on it
slow and steady
and as the flame grew
her soul crackled and popped
like wood ready for the fire
And then
she resented them
no more
for she had rekindled
the blaze of HERself

Philippa Namutebi Kabali-Kagwa

Featured Poem:

Velvet Skies

Enlarge poem

11 years old
and afraid we have lost
my father
forever.
3 days ago
he was taken
from his office
to Naguru.
Nsubuga came home
driving like a maniac.
He told mummy.
Now the house is full of people
that we keep serving tea.
Are they mourning him?
Are they praying?
Are they planning
ways to bring him back?
My heart is heavy.
Many others have been taken
and never returned
I retreat to the only place
I can be alone –
the bathroom.
As I run the water
I remember mummy saying calmly,
on the first day,
‘Your father has been taken,
but don’t worry, we will be alright.’
I believe her.
She was later allowed to visit him
And when she returned she said,
‘Your father said he loves you. He said
no matter what happens you must
walk tall, with your head held up high.
He has done nothing wrong.’
Tears roll down my face
the comforting warmth of the water.
enfolds me.
I stare at the velvety skies
through the frosted glass window…
Light blue … deeper blue … purply blue…
It is dusk.
God made this time specially
‘God,’ I speak
in our special time alone.
‘Let Daddy come home today. .’
I am praying for all of us –
Mummy, Maliza, Estella,
Fay, Chris and me.
Finished I look up.
The sky is now black
and my fingers old and wrinkled.
I put on my pyjamas.
Walking down the stairs
headlights sweep into the driveway.
I hear the pounding in my chest
as I peer through the french windows.
A white Datsun with UVS number plates
stops in front of the door.
The doors open
and out he comes…
‘DADDY!’ I scream
and start opening the door.
Behind him a dark man follows.
‘Ssh,’ say the adults, as they push me away.
I do not know their fear –
Many have been returned
only to be taken again
or killed at the door.
‘Daddy,’ I say,
squeezing past them
hugging him.
we are wrapped in velvety skies.
The man in the shadows looks on
‘You are happy to see your daddy?’
He asks
Silently
We walk into the house
And lock the doors.
Daddy is back.
Black turns to velvet

How does this featured poem make you feel?

  • Amazement (0)
  • Pride (0)
  • Optimism (0)
  • Anger (1)
  • Delight (1)
  • Inspiration (0)
  • Reflection (0)
  • Captivation (2)
  • Peace (1)
  • Amusement (1)
  • Sorrow (2)
  • Vigour (0)
  • Hope (0)
  • Sadness (4)
  • Fear (0)
  • Jubilation (0)

Comments

  1. This poem moved me deeply because of the sense it conveyed of how things can never be the same even when they return to what they were. How much pain we have come through …

    Jeanne Hromnik

Your email address will not be published.

Biography

Philippa Namutebi Kabali-Kagwa is a Ugandan South African poet, storyteller, coach and facilitator. She is the youngest daughter of Ugandan poet and civil servant, the late Henry Barlow. Both her parents loved literature – her father the writer, her mother the teacher, researcher and narrator. While she most commonly called Philippa, she always signs Namutebi at the end of her poems. “Namutebi is the creative side of me. She is the one who writes.”

She sees her poems more as stories – portraits of moments in her life. Her poems draw images of growing up in Uganda in the 60s and 70s and in the later years as an immigrant in various parts of Africa – touching on both the personal and political as it impacted her. Having lived in Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia, Namibia and South Africa, she often wrestles with the question of identity and belonging. She also explores her triumphs and struggles as a woman.

Namutebi also has a passion for folktales and myths – the wisdom of centuries, the tried and tested imagery, the archetypal characters that give new perspective to the perennial questions that we struggle with. She says, “When a story gets my heart beating faster, or an image in a story stirs something inside me, I know that that story has come to teach me at this moment in my life! I believe this is true for everyone.”

Namutebi lives in Cape Town with her husband, Victor, and 3 children – Faye, Senteza and Chris.

Philippa Namutebi Kabali-Kagwa

Biography

Philippa Namutebi Kabali-Kagwa is a Ugandan South African poet, storyteller, coach and facilitator. She is the youngest daughter of Ugandan poet and civil servant, the late Henry Barlow. Both her parents loved literature – her father the writer, her mother the teacher, researcher and narrator. While she most commonly called Philippa, she always signs Namutebi at the end of her poems. “Namutebi is the creative side of me. She is the one who writes.”

She sees her poems more as stories – portraits of moments in her life. Her poems draw images of growing up in Uganda in the 60s and 70s and in the later years as an immigrant in various parts of Africa – touching on both the personal and political as it impacted her. Having lived in Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia, Namibia and South Africa, she often wrestles with the question of identity and belonging. She also explores her triumphs and struggles as a woman.

Namutebi also has a passion for folktales and myths – the wisdom of centuries, the tried and tested imagery, the archetypal characters that give new perspective to the perennial questions that we struggle with. She says, “When a story gets my heart beating faster, or an image in a story stirs something inside me, I know that that story has come to teach me at this moment in my life! I believe this is true for everyone.”

Namutebi lives in Cape Town with her husband, Victor, and 3 children – Faye, Senteza and Chris.

She of ashes and flames

Enlarge poem

Sitting at the hearth
watching the embers die down
she was
tired and angry
Loving them
she resented
them
for she had lost
so much
that was HER
the fire of her soul
had burnt low
and there were ashes
in her mouth

Once she wanted
to rise
to soar
a flame leaping into the sky

she knew she would
But somehow…
it all seemed
so
far
away
and
out of reach
and the cold crept in.

Sitting there
she saw
one ember
still glowed
beneath the ash

she
blew on it
slow and steady
and as the flame grew
her soul crackled and popped
like wood ready for the fire
And then
she resented them
no more
for she had rekindled
the blaze of HERself

Featured Poem:

Velvet Skies

Enlarge poem

11 years old
and afraid we have lost
my father
forever.
3 days ago
he was taken
from his office
to Naguru.
Nsubuga came home
driving like a maniac.
He told mummy.
Now the house is full of people
that we keep serving tea.
Are they mourning him?
Are they praying?
Are they planning
ways to bring him back?
My heart is heavy.
Many others have been taken
and never returned
I retreat to the only place
I can be alone –
the bathroom.
As I run the water
I remember mummy saying calmly,
on the first day,
‘Your father has been taken,
but don’t worry, we will be alright.’
I believe her.
She was later allowed to visit him
And when she returned she said,
‘Your father said he loves you. He said
no matter what happens you must
walk tall, with your head held up high.
He has done nothing wrong.’
Tears roll down my face
the comforting warmth of the water.
enfolds me.
I stare at the velvety skies
through the frosted glass window…
Light blue … deeper blue … purply blue…
It is dusk.
God made this time specially
‘God,’ I speak
in our special time alone.
‘Let Daddy come home today. .’
I am praying for all of us –
Mummy, Maliza, Estella,
Fay, Chris and me.
Finished I look up.
The sky is now black
and my fingers old and wrinkled.
I put on my pyjamas.
Walking down the stairs
headlights sweep into the driveway.
I hear the pounding in my chest
as I peer through the french windows.
A white Datsun with UVS number plates
stops in front of the door.
The doors open
and out he comes…
‘DADDY!’ I scream
and start opening the door.
Behind him a dark man follows.
‘Ssh,’ say the adults, as they push me away.
I do not know their fear –
Many have been returned
only to be taken again
or killed at the door.
‘Daddy,’ I say,
squeezing past them
hugging him.
we are wrapped in velvety skies.
The man in the shadows looks on
‘You are happy to see your daddy?’
He asks
Silently
We walk into the house
And lock the doors.
Daddy is back.
Black turns to velvet

How does this featured poem make you feel?

  • Amazement (0)
  • Pride (0)
  • Optimism (0)
  • Anger (1)
  • Delight (1)
  • Inspiration (0)
  • Reflection (0)
  • Captivation (2)
  • Peace (1)
  • Amusement (1)
  • Sorrow (2)
  • Vigour (0)
  • Hope (0)
  • Sadness (4)
  • Fear (0)
  • Jubilation (0)

She of ashes and flames

Enlarge poem

Sitting at the hearth
watching the embers die down
she was
tired and angry
Loving them
she resented
them
for she had lost
so much
that was HER
the fire of her soul
had burnt low
and there were ashes
in her mouth

Once she wanted
to rise
to soar
a flame leaping into the sky

she knew she would
But somehow…
it all seemed
so
far
away
and
out of reach
and the cold crept in.

Sitting there
she saw
one ember
still glowed
beneath the ash

she
blew on it
slow and steady
and as the flame grew
her soul crackled and popped
like wood ready for the fire
And then
she resented them
no more
for she had rekindled
the blaze of HERself

Comments

  1. This poem moved me deeply because of the sense it conveyed of how things can never be the same even when they return to what they were. How much pain we have come through …

    Jeanne Hromnik

Your email address will not be published.