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Poetry from Burundi

Posted in Adams Sinarinzi, Autoren / poets, country portrait, Länderporträt, our network partners by Heiko Strunk on 20. April 2016

Presenting poetry from Burundi is not an easy task. T.S. Eliot seemed to think true poetry is hardly translated, and one needs to truly sense where those words are from. Until the emergence of the modern, there was no need of presentingpoetry, for poetry was part of life.

….do you feel her drive?
Look at his eyes,
Do you read his verse? 
[1]

But the unity of life, some will say, was lost with the last myth and cosmic societies, that Burundi belonged to until a century ago. Dissolved by the increasing requirements of the modern world, several separate and independent spheres were born. One of them, the arts and culture, has grown (often unwillingly) to acquire the function of precisely representing the lost unity.

Beyond their powers to express the various contradictions and sensitivities, the world literature offers us symbolic levers for an understanding and appropriation of our lives. The young contemporary Burundian literature is best understood in this context, which is of an attempt to understand its environment and express its sensibility to the world.

In his academic book La Littérature de langue française au Burundi, [2] Professor J. Ngorwanubusa of the University of Burundi regrets however the few avenues for the literature of Burundi. There is barely any publishing house; a few reviews had been existing in the 1960s and 1970s but never survived except a few Christian reviews run by a few members of the Burundi Catholic Church.

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But the interested literary person won’t miss the corners behind the central market where the old (often stolen!) books are sold, the oldest book storeLibrairie St Paul, or the French cultural center (whose interesting café hosts the unfortunately more and more penniless intellectuals in the city!) and of course the newly opened Lire Africa in Gallerie Alexander, specializing in fiction from Africa. A blog by the poet Thierry Manirambona (“la plume burundaise”) lists an impressive archeology of Burundian books old and new, and a few poets do publish their poetry  directly on the internet as the acclaimed Ketty Nivyabandi.

Poetry in print might be hard to find in the country, but if you are insisting you will discover the underground intellectual and literary scene of the marvelous Café literaire Samandari that meets every Thursday evening at the Burundi Palace right in the middle of the city center. But one should say they met there, for since a year now these meetings are no longer held. (more…)