INTERVIEW: NJABULO NKAMBULE, KING OF CHICKEN AND POETIC FORM
SPOKEN WORD ARTIST AND ENTREPRENUER NJABULO NKAMBULE TALKS POETRY SPARKED BY XENOPHOBIC ATTACKS ON MIGRANTS IN SOUTH AFRICA AND RAISING CHICKENS IN HIS NEW BUSINESS, UNIVERSAL POULTRY.
Credit: Njabulo Nkambule | IG: dablue_kiddie | Spoken Word Poet and Universal Poultry Founder Njabulo Nkambule
Affirm Noire| June 11, 2021
The xenophobic attacks made me want to convey my feelings on paper. The pain of seeing Black people butchering each other like that made me want to be the eye of the blind and the voice of the voiceless.
Chicken and poetry might seem like they go hand and hand only if you're attending a poetry slam at a nightclub in Atlanta, Georgia. Indeed, this food and form have become a family dinner favorite and the basis of music for various cultures. For Njabulo Nkambule, spoken word artist and Chief Executive Officer of Universal Poultry, they have become crucial in securing his livelihood and path to becoming one of Africa's finest writers.
A native of Eswatini (officially known as the Kingdom of Eswatini and formerly known as Swaziland), Nkambule first discovered his adroitness for poetry in 2019 after experiencing emotional distress from xenophobic attacks on migrants in his neighboring country, South Africa.
"The xenophobic attacks made me want to convey my feelings on paper. The pain of seeing Black people butchering each other like that made me want to be the eye of the blind and the voice of the voiceless," Nkambule said in an interview we conducted with him. "I decided to write a poem, which I titled, WHERE AM I? I shared it with my WhatsApp contacts and Facebook friends. The feedback I got from my peers and readers was positive. They convinced me to do a lot of writing--mainly because it's something I am able to do and something they can relate to because of what is happening around them and in their lives. They loved it and wished to read more of my poetry. They believed I was sort of the chosen one to advocate for the truth."
The killing of African foreign nationals by South Africans has peaked several times over the past twenty years including in 2008, 2015, and 2019, with economic insecurity at the helm. The South Africans involved in looting businesses, property destruction, and killings of migrants accuse them of taking jobs. Most migrants killed in these attacks are from neighboring Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Lesotho, Malawi, UK, Namibia, Eswatini, India, and other countries.
Beginning as a rapper in 2013, Nkambule has since developed his craft into one that includes many poetic forms. He writes poetry across genres in the form of limericks, elegies, soliloquies, and pastorals, to name a few. In fact, Nkambule has been featured in Refresh Magazine (UK), Bloom Magazine (UK), knack Magazine (USA), Eswatini Observer (ESW), Swazi Viral News (ESW), The Sensational Paper (ZIM) and Oke Iroegbu's blog (NGR), within the span of 12 months.
His poem, Planted Flowers, pays homage to Thabani Nkomonye, a former law student believed to have been murdered by Eswatini police after peculiar details emerged regarding Nkomonye's disappearance. When Nkomonye failed to show for a pre-determined meeting with his brother, his family contacted the police. Nkomonye's body was discovered only after his family led their own search.
"Flowers are beautiful to many. So is my land of Eswatini. The flowers of hope are planted to restore what's lost on the civilians since they no longer trust or have respect for the police. The planted flowers of hope have to give birth to the flowers of solidarity and unity amongst the citizens to achieve the goal of oneness after being triumphant in defeating police brutality within [the] borders of this country. With that being said, confidence, endurance, and anticipation are more ideal in achieving such a goal. I hope that one day we will overcome this thing of police brutality on these lands and be one as a nation," he said in reference to what inspired the poem.
Planted Flowers by Njabulo Nkambule
Photo Credit: Snenkhosi Msomi
I planted flowers of hope,
I see empty and heavy hearts,
Broken souls and injured eyes,
Songs sang and words uttered but deaf ears,
Smoke clouding the sky,
Like that produced by non-serviced cars.
Planted flowers of hope,
Flowers of unity and solidarity amongst the residents,
In order to help us cope.
Blisters on the humankind as if they inhaled vesicants,
People living in fear like they are hung on a rope.
Imagine going to Supreme Court precedents,
Till you lose focus as government execute an elope,
Since it is too hesitant,
Like it consists of people who are dope.
I planted flowers of confidence,
People joined forces,
The mighty regiments,
The unemployed, workers and students,
Seeking justice for late victims,
As a result of police brutality and harassment.
Not forgetting where our strength lies,
Without our memories getting obliterated,
Not backing out but going forward ever,
Not forgetting our gladdening solidarity.
I planted flowers of anticipation,
Flowers that keep blooming in every season,
We won't ruin the garden of love,
By thinking about the unfriendly thorns.
To all the cops who kill us,
Hope our quarrels come to retire,
Unlock our hearts chained by hatred and anger,
Till our cries and complaints are heard,
Till the sounds of freedom,
Sing and shouts on our ears that we have won,
And no tyranny or monarchy is left.
I planted flowers of hope and endurance,
To handle the grief and remorse,
To heal broken souls and hearts,
To provide our inner souls with some relief,
To escape such ill treatment and police brutality,
To feel safe and loved in our own lands,
To feel like the real natives of these grounds.
I planted flowers of hope in Eswatini,
That all injustices be corrected,
That law doesn't choose people,
That justice be served accordingly,
We unite, become one as of the solidarity,
We heal from the invisible wounds they caused us,
That we never come to peace with police brutality.
However, what Nkambule celebrates as a victory doesn't entirely offset the reality of life in his hometown. "[I realized] that a degree isn't everything for one to survive after noticing that in my country the rate of unemployment is on the rise. Graduates aren't getting jobs. That alone was enough to motivate me to start a business in order to drive in some income," he said in terms of some of the socioeconomic issues he and his community face.
Nkambule began raising boiler chickens and launched Universal Poultry to make money in an environment where many are struggling financially. "The name of my business is Universal Poultry mainly because I want to break boundaries. I don't want to be stuck and focused in one place," he said. He has started a Facebook page for the business and has began networking and learning marketing skills to take it abroad. He wishes to raise more than just chickens eventually. Creating more job opportunities for the unemployed in his community to eradicate poverty is one of his objectives as the head of his business.
Multipassionate, as is the case for many Creatives, Nkambule is managing his new business with a blooming lifestyle as an artist. "I do a lot of writing and interacting with other artists, especially those who are into art drawing and designing portraits. I do that to keep my networking strong enough [so] that when I communicate a certain message, it can reach everyone without encountering problems. I believe that the people you associate yourself with are the ones that help you grow. They [help you] better yourself in a way," he said.
As for where Nkambule sees his writing taking him-- "My only wish is for my writing to reach a wider audience. I want people to feel they can relate to it. My poems restore hope. They mend broken hearts and souls, and they advocate for truth. My vision is seeing my anthologies published and getting the recognition I deserve. I want to become one of the bestsellers in my country and [within] Africa at large." he said.
Part A of Nkambule's first anthology, DEEP-ROOTED-WORDS will be published before the year is over.
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