Zimbabwe Poet Dumi Senda: On Poetry And Activism


Who is Dumi Senda?

Dumi Senda is a handwork of God’s creation. It is God’s plan that there be a Dumi Senda in the world. God made each and every individual special and unique. It is my hope and conviction that my existence must be about fulfilling the purpose for which I was created. I am blessed with a very special gift of word artistry and ability to inspire people from all walks of life and backgrounds.

My blessing has led me to believe that my purpose of creation is to teach, inspire and lead. Therefore Dumi Senda is a poet, children’s book author and self-confessed servant of the people.

What is the role of Poetry in Zimbabwe your home country?

Poetry has always been an integral part of Zimbabwean life and culture. It is embedded in our music, dance, theater, folklore, story telling and verse. Our people have followed poetry as poetry has followed our people during all the defining times of our history. Poetry gave hope to “magamba ehondo” during the war of liberation and it allowed “zvimbwido nana mujibha” to communicate and relay information from villages to the bush about the positions of the enemy.

Today there is a palpable renaissance not only in poetry but art in general in Zimbabwe. The political challenges our people have faced in the past decade are no secret but neither is the resilience of the people to find hope in self-expression and articulation of their circumstances as well as hopes.

We have seen an emergence of “protest poets” and “praise poets” inspiring the nation and painting a picture both of current despair and future hope. In that sense the role of poetry in Zimbabwe is to educate, inform, inspire, provoke, entertain… the list goes on!

Who are the poets from your country that inspire you?

I am inspired by well known Zimbabwean poets as well as up-coming ones. I have shared the stage with legends such as Albert Nyathi and have also presented alongside budding poets who inspire me just as profoundly. The poetry and arts scene in Zimbabwe is so rich that we could be here for a while if I set out to name them individually. Which can only be a positive indicator for our arts, culture and heritage.

What led you into the world of poetry?

Life, is the short answer. From a very young age I was keen on words and the colorful world words paint. Then my writing always ended up under my bed and was never shared outside my immediate circles.

Things took a turn when I, out of a moment of madness, requested an opportunity to perform at a Zimbabwean business conference held in Coventry UK. I think I was more surprised that I was invited to do the reading more than anything else, whichprobably makes the person who invited me… without naming names (Hillary Chindondo) more mad than I am lol. I was meant to be a side-dish if you like, just a little bit of entertainment on the day.

My biggest worry was that I would end up being the entertainment and not my poetry. But after reading the two poems I had prepared “Zimbabweans are singing again” and “I am an African” I was surprised by the response I received from the audience. One particular response stands out, a lady old enough to be my grandmother, came and said to me “mwanangu wandifungidza Martin Luther King” (Son, you remind me of Martin Luther King).

Her words were the shot of adrenaline that has carried me from my debut reading to being a world figure today. Martin Luther King Jnr is a personal hero of mine. The way he was able to be one with millions of people Through words inspires me greatly.

But life has also taught me that we do not create our destiny, or no matter how profound your words are people still have to open their hearts and be willing to receive your message. In that sense LIFE led me into the world of poetry and THE PEOPLE kept me there!

How has the reception been so far of your work in the U.K and the diasporan community?

Simply amazing. I think people have accepted me as a poet first and foremost – who happens to be African – who happens to have been born in Zimbabwe. If I could indulge myself for the briefest of moments I would say about myself I am “the people’s poet”. Yet haste to add that it is not my genius but something beyond my Control, beyond my words even, I can only call that God – which conspires with the universe to place us in the right places at the right times before the right people. Our duty is to have the courage to accept the challenge when our time has come.

My work has received recognition from people of all colors, cultures and geographical locations. I have been invited to perform at small community events as well as at some of the biggest platforms on the global stage.

Recently I was honored to represent African communities in the UK as a guest speaker at the Houses of Parliament and as we speak I have been invited to do a reading at the UN Geneva and to debut a children’s book “The day the Sun promised to smile FOREVER” which I have donated in full to a UNESCO foundation for abused children.

I heard that you are also a performance poet…what do you do to prepare yourself before going on stage to perform?

I try to keep things very spontaneous. I am that kind of person. I guess if I were not I would not be a poet. But I work very hard and prepare thoroughly for every opportunity. I think it is important to that level of respect and commitment for people who have put faith in you and invited you to perform at their events or to do a reading or give a talk. It also shows respect for your audiences. I, however approach every event with a very open mind.

I go there prepared to change the script entirely. Everything has to feel right. The message has to sit well with the “kind” of audiences before you. As a poet or artist you have to have the depth from which to draw so that you are able to deliver the right message to the right people.

Any plans to get all your poems together in a book?

Plans are already underway. Over the years my supporters have been asking for a book. I have been published in several anthologies, magazines and journals but this will be a book from me to them! Lets just say it’s very near now. I hope it will be worth the long wait for my wonderful supporters

What inspires your writing? Is there a particular time of the day that you write?

I have one rule of thumb, i.e, I never choose to write or a time to write. I have to be compelled to write. The feeling has to be so strong that even in the depth of my sleep I will sleepwalk to a pen and note pad and write. This way I often feel like the poems do not come from me. I am like a passenger in the process. This thing I cannot describe which grabs hold of me and lights a fire in the pit of my stomach dictates the words. I just oblige and scribble them down.

Beyond Poetry, you are recognized as a humanitarian and activist, globally, we hear stories of poets who get involved in humanitarian endeavors often getting the short end of the stick from their home or diasporan government. Have you faced any form of persecution as a result?

People have called me brave for speaking out and writing about the political situation in my country. I do not accept that I am brave at all. I am a poet. f I stopped writing about what life presence before me then I may as well be anything but. I have always been very clear about not seeking to write for the purpose of being a people-pleaser. I have to write honestly and candidly. How people recieve the message or perceive the words is not my business. I am however not unaware of the dangers being an activist can pose.

I am all too aware of fellow poets who have been imprisoned and some have paid the ultimate price. It is because I am aware that I must press on honestly and candidly. I have a gift of bringing people together for positive causes. I do not wait for things to go wrong so that I can complain about them. It is because of this approach that I consider myself a pro-activist. If there is a problem I always think there is a solution waiting to be found. Often solutions come from within the communities experiencing the problem. Our duty as humanitarians is to show people not our strength to deliver change but their potential to change and find their own strength!

What is your favorite poem?

Still I rise by Maya Angelou.

What inspires you?

People inspire me. Life inspires me. Good experiences and bad ones too!

Tell us something that will surprise us about you?

You will be shocked!

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