Melissa Kiguwa is a poet and a radical feminist. Her work is rooted in acknowledging and giving praise to diverse afro-experiences. Her work focuses on imperialism, migration, sexuality, spirituality, and trauma. In her work she re-imagines liberation, new horizons, and inter-generational legacy building. She is currently working on her postgraduate studies at the London School of Economics and Political Science. She is also a 2015 mentor to a young African writer through the Writivism programme. Her debut poetry collection, Reveries of Longing, was launched in June 2014, and was recently selected as one of This is Africa’s 100 best books in fiction, poetry, memoir and non-fiction, published between 2010 and 2014.
Melissa describes poetry as “the affirmation of life,” a practice of “pulling apart the fabric of what we think we know, and looking at it, describing it’s texture, describing it’s smell, how it sounds when we put our fingers against the grain.” For her, poetry is a conscious and deliberate daily ritual of survival, through which she learned to navigate her “woman, queer, Black, and African” identities in the context of necessary geographical migrations and constantly shifting environments. The solace that she creates through her craft anchors her self-awareness and empathy for fellow travelers on life’s paths.
One of the treasures in this interview is Melissa’s reading of As if the God’s were Playing, a poignant literary vignette that splices one simultaneous moment in the otherwise disparate lives of human beings of different faiths and ethnicities in deceptively distant parts of the world. Our conversation is as much a reflection on the meaning and purpose of reveries in the context of yearning, as an affirmation of a vibrant, untidy, consciously decolonizing, hopeful, thriving Africa. It is as much a celebration of African feminist pedagogical praxis, as a reflection of our mothers, their wisdom, their choices, their journeys, their faiths, and our spiritual legacies as their daughters.
In addition to reflecting on her craft as a jewelry maker, Melissa shares a second poem, Butch Queens at a Funeral, and concludes with a sultry vocal offering from her musical repertoire.
To purchase copies of Reveries of Longing, please visit: http://www.melissakiguwa.com/poetry/
Kagendo Murungi is a Kenyan writer, video producer and activist with a background in international sexual and gender rights advocacy. Her writing has been featured in the Queer African Reader (2013), Kwani? 07 (2012), United Nations Days of Vesak/International Association of Buddhist Universities Conference Journal (2012), Yellow Medicine Review (2011/2010) Sing Whisper Shout Pray: Feminist Visions for A Just World (2002), Role Call: A Generational Anthology of Social & Political Black Literature & Art (2002) and a range of other publications and multimedia productions.