African poets share ‘vulnerable’ poem in time of Covid-19

Thirteen poets from across the continent have been recording themselves reading lines from The Passage, a 1962 poem from Nigerian writer Christopher Okigbo, to try and bring the work to a wider audience during coronavirus lockdowns.

The round-robin reading has now been edited together into one video:

The poem begins with the lines:

BEFORE YOU, my mother Idoto,

Naked I stand;

Before your weary presence,

A prodigal

Nigerian writer and poet Lola Shoneyin, who organised the project, is on a mission to “introduce young readers and writers to some of the amazing poets that this continent has produced”.

She told the BBC that she chose the poem “because of the sense of vulnerability it evokes”.

“A lot of people are feeling vulnerable because Covid-19 is so indiscriminate. People are feeling sober and humble.

“I think the supplication in Okigbo’s work, captures the moment perfectly.

“I’d love to see more young people reading Okigbo. They will find hope there too.”

The poets who took part in the projects were Wana Udobang, Logan February, Lebo Mashile, Titi Sonuga, Lemn Sisay, TJ Dema, Nii Ayikwei Parkes, Clifton Gachagua, Nick Makoha, Efe Paul Azino, Kayo Chigonyi, Kola Tubosun and Natalia Molebatsi.