Interviews on “poetry & refugees” – 7 – Fiston Mwanza Mujila
Fiston Mwanza Mujila was born in Congo in 1981 and moved to Austria without the need to flee his country. He gives us his view on living and writing in exile.
Lyrikline Blog (LB): Where do you come from and why did you leave your country of origin?
Fiston Mwanza Mujila (FM): I was born in Lubumbashi, in Democratic Republic of Congo. I left my country for curiosity reasons. I always wanted to discover the world, to learn new languages, to expand my knowledge…
LB: What impact on society or politics can a poem have? Do oppressive regimes have to fear poetry?
FM: All dictatorships hate the truth. The truth is like a mirror. And dictatorships see in truth their own death. A poem conveys a vision of the world or any truth can frighten a totalitarian regime…
LB: In your view, is it the task of a poet also to be a chronicler or witness of his/her time?
FM: „My mouth will be the mouth of the misfortunes that have no mouth, my voice, freedom of those sagging in the dungeon of despair“ wrote Aimé Césaire in his magnificent book of a return to the homeland. In my view the poet can’t be insensible to the suffering of others…
LB: Your poem „Solitude 37“ is about longing for people and places. Where does longing for your country of origin or homesickness play the biggest role for you – in your everyday life, in your dreams and thoughts or in your writing?
FM: Exile is a curse. We can also use this curse to write. Writing, all writing is born out of pain … Poetry is an excellent language to translate this tear, this “soudade”, this “Einsamkeit”… My poetry, specifically in my book Le Fleuve dans le Ventre / Der Fluß im Bauch tries to translate the exile or the curse of exile.
LB: Is it possible to find or create a new kind of home or shelter in texts or in a new language?
FM: It’s very romantic to think that the language or text can replace a country. The country remains a country. The country is also the sun, the beer, the heat, the noise, the family… To live in exile or far from home is a wound, like a form of castration, an amputation … and we try, we must try to live with it.
LB: Do you feel a part of the literary scene of your new country? How’s your relation the the writers of your „guest country“?
FM: I am present in the Austrian literary scene. I publish in local literary journals such as Lichtungen … My theatre plays are also performed in Austria. I work with artistic structures such UniT …, I take part in Austrian festivals with others writers of Styria… I am in regular contact with the authors of my generation: Christoph Szalay, Clemens J. Setz or Ferdinand Schmalz…
LB: What’s your view on the poetic tradition of your country of origin?
FM: African traditional poetry is based on orality … In traditional African society, every important event (marriage, death, enthronement of a new king …) was always accompanied by a speech, more or less literary. Today, with modernism, the traditional poetry gave way to written poetry … But the traditional poetry continues to exist in other forms including revivalist churches, popular songs …
LB: What would you wish for future generations (of poets) in your country of origin?
FM: I’m not God. I think every poet is master of his destiny.