Kasala: The Poetry of Placement

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Kasala Poetry 2024 Edits-0853

Written by Loic Ekinga & Elijah Bwojji

Seven poets gathered to explore the Kasala poetic form in a three-week workshop with the Goethe Zentrum Kampala/Ugandan German Cultural Society. The workshop aimed to explore a traditional genre of oral praise poetry originating from the Congo region. The Kasala as it is known in the Luba tribe of Congo is rich in imagery, rhythm, and metaphors, and expresses the identity, values, and aspirations of the poet and their community. For a long time, many poets, more so the young poets have struggled to understand poetry from the English point of view because that is how poetry is taught in institutes of learning, but also the dominant language of expression when it comes to poetry in Uganda.  If Africa is to be the future, it’s time to explore traditional forms of expression in writing, starting with poetry. Led by Congolese poet and author Loic Ekinga, alongside curator and poet Elijah Bwojji, the workshop aimed to bring praise closer to the contemporary poet, reimagining its meaning, formerly reserved for kings and dignitaries. Ten poems were produced from the workshop, with four poems in three native languages Runyankole, Acholi and Luganda, of Uganda, to showcase Ekinga and Bwojji’s commitment to promoting African languages in the contemporary poetry space.

L-R: Loic Ekinga, workshop facilitator & Achelam, one of the poets from the Kasala Poetry workshop.

The workshop had three sessions, spread out over four weeks. The first two sessions were about the understanding and also writing of the individual Kasala poems, and the last session was a recording of each poem being performed. The recorded footage will be preserved for future generations of poets and poetry enthusiasts to appreciate. The project concluded with the Kasala Poetry Watch Party on Thursday 25th April 2024 at the GZK Basement, where more than 30 people watched a recorded performance (now available on the GZK/UGCS YouTube channel) which was followed by a panel of four poets Jedidiah Mugarura, Kerry Bradshaw, Achelam and Joel Lutimba Lumala who took part in the workshop, moderated by Loic Ekinga where they delved further into the importance of language and the many ways the individual can place themselves within their body, environment and the world.

Jedidiah Mugarura , one of the poets from the workshop speaking about his experience during the Kasala Poetry workshop.

Kerry Bradshaw, one of the poets from the workshop on the panel speaking about her experience during the Kasala Poetry workshop.

Image courtesy: Kasala Team