Raising a Sun explores change as it looks at the vices of society. It reminds us of the essence of humanity and the importance of the girl child. The anthology is a brutally honest and gentle musical in presentation.
Renowned African writer Ken Saro Wiwa penned a short story ‘Africa Kills her Sun’ over three decades ago. Written in the form of a letter, the story decried the trepidation of the masses and how their voices are muffled by assassinations and government sanctioned death penalty. The events in the book are still rife in Africa, with every day recording the death of a sun.
However, over a month ago, Kenyan poet Mufasa (Ken Kibet) launched his maiden anthology “Raising a Sun.” The anthology is a new hope for the beautiful African continent characterized with drought, floods, disease, poverty and ignorance. The title looks at a new dawn of Africa, a hopeful Africa with her youthful population steering the way, But in retrospect, things are not that easy as it were.
Born in Kenya, Mufasa has come across the sweet and the bitter of his motherland’s socio-political scene. A scene bathed with the blood of the innocent including the very young and the youthful. A country that today announces a revolution but in a few hours of tomorrow, the status quo remains. He has seen change dress in new clothes but still with the same awful odor. However, despite all this, he believes that Kenya and Africa can rise up from the murk.
“Raising a Sun is not optimistic as I paint it to be, for like his predecessors in poetry, Mufasa paints a grim picture of independent Africa through his personal experiences. The book, divided in four parts, walks us through family, society and governance. He speaks about the tenderness of a family; ‘As a kid I didn’t know at what point dad was giving his all, and at what point he was all he could give,’ and the brutality of life; ‘your daughter is not supposed to be blamed for dying the way she died.’
The book indeed has parallels, it has the happy and the sad, the angry and the sublime among other things. These emotions drive the point home: that we all need to rise up against bad leadership and initiate change. As the poet likes saying, “Change won’t come when our leaders change, change will come when we change.”
The driving force for this paradigm shift, the anthology proclaims comes from within the family. In the first chapter of the book, ‘A Son is Born, a Man is made” Mufasa points at the building blocks of humanity. These blocks are ingrained within the family and how one turns out in adulthood is contingent on how they pick upon the virtues of the family. Using the first person to speak, the poet embodies himself as the persona and uses his life experiences and musings to body a body of work that is creative, deeply philosophical and at the same time engaging.
His genius is seen in the use of metaphors, similes and pun to weave crafty and witty spoken word pieces. If you have ever come across Mufasa perform, you would undoubtedly see his voice come alive in the pieces spread on the white piece of paper. In the compilation, Mufasa engaged the services of Elvis Owuor an incredible artist who used his genius to create these amazing deeply thoughtful caricatures. Whether the pieces complement or amplify the poetry, it is left to the readers imagination. However, the pieces set the stage and mood for every piece.
The best thing about ‘Raising a Sun’ is that the poet has written his poems in the form of ‘drunken rants.’ In one piece, you will read a lot of sense but others come off as irrelevant anecdotes. Nevertheless, this should not be taken so, they are deeply well thought out pieces that require a certain amount of deep-mind. This style of writing and presentation is among the things that make Mufasa an incredible poet.
Born in Eldoret, a town in Western Kenya, Mufasa grew up under the wings of his mother of whom he fondly speaks. The poet’s mother has featured prominently in his performances. She espouses the tough love of typical African mother who adopted toughness as opposed to tender love. “When my mother calls at 9pm, she doesn’t start with hello, she asks where I am. And if I’m not in the house she raises her tone. Kibet Kwani uko wapi? Unafanya nini town sahi?” (“Kibet where are you? What takes you to town at these hours?”) In this way, his mother is depicted as one who cares and loves.
Other significant figures that feature prominently in this collection are the grandmother, sister, brother and father. Also he speaks passionately about future wife “For my Future Wife” the ex-girlfriend “My Girlfriend Got Married” and future daughter in “Before my Daughter is Born”
Women have indeed featured prominently in this anthology. “The City Woman”, “Tea Leaves”, “A Girl I Like, and The Girl I Don’t Know” are among the pieces that condemn brutality on women. “Nairobi needs more city clocks for women, for mothers, and for girls being just girls.” This pieces together with that dedicated to the parents of Mercy Keino- a university student who was murdered in Nairobi in 2011 explore the place of a woman in the society and how she continues to suffer. In some respect, though the poems also uplift the woman into her rightful position.
This poetry collection shows that Mufasa has come of age as a poet and a theorist. He is at home with emerging and traditional issues and understands what ought to be done to change the deplorable situation. The pieces therein, are optimistic regardless of the situations at hand which seem hopeless at the present. The book can make a wonderful read for anyone with pedestrian understanding of poetry and literature.