“My Utopia looks like the ocean. It feels like inner peace. It sounds like a melody from a kora (music instrument of West Africa). It smells like wet soil after the rain.” Ibrahima Amadou Niang (@IbrahimaANiang) is the Head of the Guinea Country Office at Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA) and participated in C4AA’s 2016 School for Creative Activism in New York City. The following year (2017) he performed at two major literary festivals: Festival Voix Vives de Méditerranée en Méditerranée (Sètes, France) and Festival Paroles Indigo (Arles, France). Originally from Senegal, Ibou works on social justice issues through his work as an NGO activist and through his writing. These are some of his words on creative activism.
This verses is from my poem ‘Just Simply’ projected on a banner in a street of Setes, Southern France, during a 2017 international literary festival that I performed at.
When I was a child I was very shy. I used to write letters to my dad using the identity of his best friend to ask him to take my siblings, cousins and me to the beach. The process through which I used to influence my dad made me realize the power of words in moving people from awareness to action. As I was growing up I was deeply moved by the eloquence of the call to action by Negritude poets such as Senghor and Cesaire. I started using poetry as a means of self-exploration for a new Africa. My experience with C4AA helped me take my artistic activism to the next level. The creative activism course provided me with experiences which made my utopia borderless and I have since been able to connect with both inner and outsides places that seemed to be beyond my reach. The land of imagination is borderless and the foundation on which I build my creative work is stronger.
For about five years I attempted several times to write a novel or a short story but I always failed to find the inspiration. Turning a poem into a fable seemed to be impossible for me a year ago. The power of imagination and the brilliant ideas from great discussions with some friends have been making it possible over the last months. It was only in late 2017 that I was finally able to make significant progress on my creative writing project. Writing now reconciles me with my inner soul and with the outside world. The main lesson that I have learnt from this experience is that before you engage in creative writing you need to be aware of things that are very meaningful to you and that can help you make connections with others both visually and verbally.
Make a connection between your artistic practice and social issues you really care about. Think of ways you can use creativity to deeply move people from awareness to action.
This photo is me reading my poem ‘The Old Pelican’ at the closing performance during the 2017 Festival Voix Vives de Mediterranee en Mediterranee in France.
I have been using elements of popular culture to craft messages for peace, justice and respect of human rights. I am currently working on a fable about a boy and a pelican who are on a quest for social justice. The narrator, Nawett, is a female baobab tree. In this story I chose to combine elements of popular culture (Senegalese popular songs) with dialogues between the different characters of the story. The political messages emanate from the wisdom suggested by Senegalese popular songs and the conversations between the boy, the pelican and the other protagonists they meet throughout their journey. The creative experience at the C4AA workshop made it possible for me to connect one of my poems ‘The Old Pelican’ with Senegalese popular songs that I learnt during youth camps in order to come up with this new imaginary world where poem and song characters interact to send social justice messages.
The way we connect is important. If people are able to connect and use the concept and symbolism to promote their own ideas and thoughts then we move from ‘I’ to ‘We’. If we can say that we have been successful and that we all own the idea then I can say ‘I have made a contribution.’
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