On 9th and 10th November, The National Theatre is the place you should have been for the 6th Lantern Meet Recital. Coinciding with their five years in existence, the Lantern Meet of Poets organized a Uganda at 50 celebration dedication on the theme ‘Broken Voices of the Revolution’.
The ambiance was calm as everyone seemed to know everyone so they kept each other occupied with small talk and popcorn as they waited for the kickoff. The performance started at around 7:40 in the dark with an eruption of 15 scattered voices in the audience reciting different three line stanzas of the poem Knowledge is the Revolution all ending with “They think we don’t know…” One particular stanza that sent the audience in chuckles was;
Africa is the futures do not be deceived/ Yet coca cola wants to give us reasons to believe/ They think we don’t know…
This was then followed by the drumroll that saw the lights back on and curtains rising for the stage performances that went on for like 40 minutes before a 10 minutes break.
The stage performance was impeccable, as the case has been in previous recitals, most of the poets recited each other’s poems, but they did it so flawlessly memorizing all the lines word for word. This, coupled with the hilarious theatrics from some of the poets, brought the poems to life. And for the very first time, an anthology of the poems that were recited was availed at a nominal cost of 10,000 Shs. This made it further easier to follow along during the recital and for the individual’s reading pleasure even after the recital.
It so happens that the majority of these poets were born after 1986 into the only regime that they’ve known all their lives; a regime that was alluded to in Peter Kageyi’s A Country You Would Rather Not Know About as one of leaders who worship the wounds of war, a regime that contends that the beautiful ones are not yet born and will not be born—presumably because the beautiful ones are the dead.
Broken Voices of the Revolution was themed on this regime, tarnished dreams and trampled hopes of youth who read scandalous daily headlines of who has whisked off with how many billions scot free, of escalating unemployment rates and the plight of the youth being vastly disregarded.
The same concept was also reflected in the poster for the anthology which depicts what appears to be a crowd of disgruntled youths charging for a riot with their weapons clenched tight in the fists they punch in the air. However, this is not your ordinary guns and machetes kind of riot; it’s a literary one, where quills, paint brushes, graffiti spray cans and placards are their preferred weapons of warfare.
Another poem by Peter Kagayi that stressed the role of literature in this struggle was Thought-Structure which was recited by Jason Ntaro;
“As poets, we like to think of ourselves as a few of those who like to think/ But to think takes a lot of thinking thoughts that the audience should resonate with/…The audience must think that same way so that whatever we stand to project, or protect, to perceive and to protest / They must be the same things that society wants to project, or protect, to perceive and to protect /Thus when we speak of things that annoy us and the state decides to silence us / It is not silencing the poets but silencing the audience that likes to think that it thinks.”
At the end of the presentation, the whole Lantern Meet crew was introduced to the audience in the order f the poems they wrote and who recited them. And by 9:20, the show was done and Sean Paul fans got on their way.
Below is a mashup of stanzas (I put together) from seven of the poems that were performed. Get yourself a copy of the anthology for the complete poems.
The grounds now speak a red tongue
The skies now bleed for the dead!
Building walls bullet washed,
House the hearts of prisoned souls!
The time has come to make change,
Wage war against the status quo,
Master of cage meets mistress of the cage
Give bone-deep slashes for each sin,
The time is now;
To rage against the cage.
In my spirit, frail and battered as it is,
Topsy-turvy is a sweet death-wish,
Tattooed to foreheads and forearms,
My demons hug me and I welcome
The cold embrace of their clumsy clammy chests,
My lips kiss their ice cold necks
But I will not feel anything,
The fatalities of your vanities and your struggles to strangle me,
For in caution,
My neck I have stuffed with tree trunk chunks of mahogany.
For even after twenty six times,
Twenty-six times of puffing and huffing
That staining stench of cloudy smoke from your fresh fleshy Cuban cigars
I gasp for breath and can scarce find air to breathe
But not anymore,
For I have found a piece of my soul deep in rage of these high tides.
I have given, given my all.
Karma, come dance your dance.
So step aside all you emaciated and shriveled,
All you tinkerers and stumblers,
Pre-cum and half sperm,
Syrup-spined and water-kneed, step aside!
Wavering and uncertain children stay in line;
It’s time to talk courage and we are men!