Interview With Kenyan Poet Jaaziyah Shiraz

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Jaaziyah Shiraz speaks about her perspective on life, mental health, studies and poetry.

Jaaziyah Shiraz, mental illness awareness advocate, is among artists scheduled to perform at the Ink Overflow: Art and Poetry showcase, with focus on Mental Health on September 16, at the Michael Joseph Center in Nairobi. Afroway caught up with the enthusiastic artist….

Afroway: Now, What makes up for a good day for Jaaziyah?

Jaaziyah: Coffee. What is a day with no coffee?

Afroway: What is your earliest memory in performance poetry?

Jaaziyah: I was 14 and performing at an inter-school verse competition

Afroway: Who inspired you into the performance art?

Jaaziyah: My English Literature teachers and my mother.

Afroway: How do you juggle between your studies at Strathmore Law School and poetry performance?

Jaaziyah: With my difficulty and many tears

Afroway: As a poet, last year was a Slam poetry year for you. You had a lot of appearance with stunning performances. Tell us about your experiences.

Jaaziyah: Slam was my first real platform in terms of performing. I had never performed in front of so many people before. My work is very personal and it left me feeling very, very vulnerable. Slam came at a time where I was really struggling with my overall identity. I think I really needed to be around the energy it brought.

Afroway: Do you hope to continue being a poet for a lifetime or is it a transition to better things?

Jaaziyah: Wherever the universe wills me to go I will go. I usually have a saying “I don’t know what I’m eating for dinner, let alone what my future looks like”

Afroway: Are you working on any poetry projects lately, if yes, which are they?

Jaaziyah: Quite a few! I co-organize events with my partner, Mumbi Macharia. We have one series, Mindful, that’s more of our “bigger” project (it’s a poetry showcase). Another project I personally work on is a photography-poetry series on my Instagram – I collaborate with photographers on different concepts then write poems for those pictures.

Afroway: Tell us about Art and Poetry: Mental Health; the upcoming event at the Michael Joseph Centre Nairobi

Jaaziyah: Well, for starters I’m very excited and honored to be a part of the project. I’m a big mental illness awareness advocate so the platform is perfect to do just that. It’s really forward such that we, as the Kenyan youth, can finally have spaces to discuss such topics freely.

Afroway: Tell us about your most exciting experience on stage as a performing artist.

Jaaziyah: The one time I had an impromptu performance at “The Thrift Social” right before Taio’s set.

Afroway: What does Jaaziyah do in her free time?

Jaaziyah: Netflix and eat.

Afroway: What is your favorite music Genre? Favorite artist?

Jaaziyah: To narrow them down to just one is impossible.

Afroway: Your favorite Movie and actor?

Jaaziyah: Same as above…

Afroway: Your favorite entertainment spot in Nairobi?

Jaaziyah: The alchemist!

Afroway: According to you, the best place to have a nice quiet dinner in Nairobi is?

Jaaziyah: 360 degrees at ABC place. The ambiance, staff, food and music are incredible.

Afroway: As a resident of Nairobi, what is the most annoying habit many ‘Nairobians’ display?

Jaaziyah: No road courtesy by motorists

Afroway: Do you have any regrets in life?

Jaaziyah: Everyone does. But I regret regretting things too much

Afroway: Any last parting words for fans who would wish to see you at the Art and Poetry event at Michael Joseph Centre?

Jaaziyah: Not to miss it. We’ve spent too long pretending that mental health isn’t a concern. It’s about time we recognize that art goes hand in hand with controversy. This event will be one for the books. The performers are amazing. The venue fits the theme perfectly and the organizers have put in way too much effort for it to go underappreciated.

Afroway: Finally, what is your Afroway thing about being African?

Jaaziyah: Black girl magic is everything.


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