Interview: The Art of African Poetry

The key is in starting and remaining consistent, take it one day at a time and at least achieve the goal of the day.

KAREN, Kenya, March 25, 2020/-- As the world embraces uncertainity of natural phenomena and in particular the current COVID-19 Pandemic. We need to go back to ourselves and embrace the inherent love and pain within us. Today we welcome Oganga Mangiti a poet extraodinaire.

Let Kikao begin...

[Question 1] Welcome to Kikao. Who’s Oganga Mangiti?

Well, where do I start? In a shortened version of who Oganga Mangiti is, I would  say, I'm an individual who has submitted to a search; as much as poetry is self expression, I tend to think, that it is also a search, and with every piece, every thought process that goes into the art, is a contribution to this search, and as long as I write, I will never cease that search. My full names are Benjamin Mangiti Oganga in that order, but when I started actively writing, I dropped Benjamin for the purpose of fully identifying with my African heritage; I always felt as an individual, I was African first, and for me, it has always been important to identify with that side to me.

I have been writing since 2010, and that means that I will be celebrating 10 years of writing this year, and the journey has been nothing short of beautiful. I started mainly writing to express my own emotions, but that has evolved to become what it is now, with a poetry anthology behind me, that is; "Love & Pain," that focuses mainly on the themes and emotions of love, pain and growth in the process. Of all the things I am most grateful for, is being in a position to share my work online through my Instagram page @Oganga_Mangiti, as well as the book, which is a culmination of what is important to me.

[Question 2] What does it mean to be a black creative?

Well, I tend not to like this type of question because it in a way tends to profile black creatives as a different breed of creative compared to different cultures and out of it, especially being a black creative in Africa, those who do not come from here expect us to write their version of Africa and only tell stories of what they think this land is, and whenever we do not fit this description, they want to label us failed creatives. However, I think being a creative simply means speaking and telling your truths as well as your version of how you see the world, and constantly furthering that contribution. Regardless, to answer your question, I think being a black creative, in a contemporary sense means having the liberty to be true to you and your culture and telling stories that resonate with your core, especially with the additional pressure of telling your story about being black.

[Question 3] You get into engaging topics; how do you pick one?

My creative process is very interesting and I think the more I engage with the search, the more interesting it becomes, at least from my perspective. I initially only used to write based on my emotional disposition at the time of writing, however, as time progresses, it has become more of a back and forth process. My creative process right now revolves around writing about my own emotions based on my own experiences as well as drawing inspiration from literally everything around me, I could be walking down the street and hear a key word or see a phrase or be talking to someone, or even listening to music, and my experience from that experience will help me see a certain situation from a different perspective, and more often than not, that experience will go into the art. I tend to think poetry is best written after all the emotions have been felt, so I could still be writing about the same experience, but from a different perspective, hence explaining the back and forth in my writing.

[Question 4] Your branding is lanes above the “normal” African poet. Give us some tips.

To effectively answer this, I will have to share my perspective on branding, and that revolves around creating an identity, which mainly focuses on consistency and uniqueness. The main concept behind my version of branding of Oganga Mangiti the poet is based also on my own personal biases as well as things I like, as well as wanting to constantly engage people that read my work. I want people to always be able to identify my works despite the changing flow in my poetry, and I guess that is my principal in terms of branding. Moreover, I still feel like I could be doing more, and in regard to this, I am constantly reading books on business and branding to help me push the identity I want out, I can't say I have everything figured out, hence it is a constant learning process.

[Question 5] Reading seems to be one of your pillars. How does one develop into a voracious reader?

I think the key is in starting and remaining consistent. A lot of people I know, undervalue the importance of consistency, if you constantly make that decision to be consistent, overlooking the desired goal, because it often seems so far fetched, you one day wake up and realize you have been doing something for lets say 20 years and achieved something incredible. The key is in starting and remaining consistent, take it one day at a time and at least achieve the goal of the day.

[Question 6] 180 Days Challenge: 180 Poems in 180 Days. 90 Days of Pain: 90 Days of Love. Enlighten us.

For starters, the contemporary Kenyan barely reads poetry, and the purpose of the challenge was to always push us and challenge us to engage and read poetry regularly and consistently for 180 days. Moreover, the book, "Love & Pain," is divided into the "The Book of Pain," which comes first, and "The Book of Love," which follows, with each section having 90 poems bringing the entire collection to a total of 180 poems with the limited edition having a total of 200 poems, with each section having an additional 10 poems that were written after the initial publication in 2019. The 180 Day Challenge, also in a way, was a way to get people to engage with my work consistently for 180 Days so that we can further make reading poetry something that is ingrained into us.Furthermore, on my Instagram page, I have highlights that catalog the entire process for those who are reading my work, and those that will read my work after the 180 days are done; at the time of doing this interview, we are currently on day 149 and well into "The Book of Love," with the poem today being "Going Back Home." "Going Back Home," is a poem about getting lost and losing yourself and hence leaving "home" or rather familiar space, to go find yourself, and find things that ring true to you, and hence after that experience, and having found the things that matter to you and rebuilding your core, you are finally ready to go back home. It is a representation of many different concepts merged into one short poem that can be interpreted in many different ways. Here is the poem:


I've been away for a while,

Chasing things that I loved,

And that once mattered;

I've been  on a journey,

That took me to the edge of the world,

And taught me to find peace within my soul;

I once had to leave,

But now I'm ready,

Ready to come back home.

[Question 7] It’s a Friday afternoon. What’s Mangiti planning?

Well, hahaha, my Fridays tend to be different in every sense of that word.. I'm either meeting up with friends to recap the week, or seated at home watching the sun set with coffee on my side and writing, or probably rushing home and stuck in the unending traffic that is Nairobi... hahaha... or maybe preparing to go for a creative show that are often on Fridays.

Wish you all nothing but Love & Light, and you can definitely find out how to get a copy of "Love & Pain," through my Instagram page @Oganga_Mangiti.

The written interview was compiled by Phineahs Munene – Co-founder of Wazo Moja for Oganga Mangiti – of Love & Pain

Distributed by Wazo Moja on behalf of Love & Pain


Love & Pain