Activism, Activities, Articles, Diarie



I fill my mouth with it. Never mind that I am lactose intolerant and in a few hours my stomach will be gripping and bloated. I will release gases and hope I am not in the company of others. If I am, I will attempt to hold it in or release it without making a sound. Impossible.

Every other person in Kampala has ulcers. It is a national epidemic that is not on the radar of the World Health Organisation (WHO). It’s all HIV, Ebola and now the Zika Virus. We are under attack from new strains of bacteria which are now resistant to treatment because of the antibiotics our doctors prescribe like sweets. One of the unfortunate side effects of antibiotics is that they are not selective in choosing which bacteria to kill. All the good bacterial colonies in the gut die along with the bad. Doctors give you the pills in small envelopes with the name of the tablet (sometimes) and the numbers 1×1 or 3×1 written on them, to determine when and how many of these you should take. There are no instructions other than that. Maybe if the drug is particularly harsh on the stomach they would suggest taking them with food or liquids.

When I go to the clinic in Kampala I am not physically examined or asked about my previous health history. You tell the doctor your symptoms and he or she prescribes you antibiotic pills. We have this tradition of respect for  elders in Africa, so when we go to the clinic, because the person sitting at the desk calls themselves a doctor we are afraid to question or even ask for clarity on what is being prescribed and what the effects could be.

I believe this is what is leading to the problems with our stomachs. Bacteria that are either beneficial or at least not causing diseases are being destroyed, along with the bad bacteria, thus leaving us more vulnerable to viral and bacterial infections that are becoming more expensive to treat. (Currently the American government, under the guise of copyright law, is attempting to stop African nations from purchasing generic pharmaceuticals which are often sold at a lower price).

The stomach, the site of intuitive knowing (trust your gut), is under attack.

In our gut there is something called the enteric nervous system. It is a sophisticated network of neurons, neurotransmitters, and support cells like those found in the brain. This network permeates the digestive tract from the esophagus to the colon, and “enables it to act independently, learn, remember, and as the saying goes, produce “gut feelings.” Think butterflies in your stomach or cramps or when you are nervous or upset.

We have two brains, and one of them is in our belly. They are connected like Siamese twins, and when one gets upset the other will too. The gut contains 100 million neurons — more than the spinal cord has. This means it is sensitive. Symptoms of ulcers include abdominal pain, anemia, bad breathe, constipation, diarrhea, anxiety, depression, fatigue or low energy, headaches or migraines, skin problems, premenstrual stress, sinus problems, sleep problems, weight problems (gain or loss).

It’s a debilitating condition which is caused by a bacterial infection (Helicobacter pylori) but also by a diet that is too acidic. While studying with Dr Llaila O Afrika, the well-known naturopath, I was taught that most of the foods ingested by Africans were acidic. We fry most of our food, combine carbohydrates with proteins, drink as we eat, eat a lot of refined flour and sugar, and take insufficient water, preferring instead to take soda or alcohol. No longer is our food our medicine. The belief is that if you are eating raw food, then there is something wrong with you. We are now medicating ourselves in order to numb our bodies. In order to be strong or appear strong we repress our anxiety, our depression and eat. It is common knowledge that women are experts at this one, and along with retail therapy we find creative ways to alleviate our stress.

I’m looking at a Ugandan population which is increasingly unwell. We are not exercising (the ritual of going to the garden to dig is what ‘villagers’ do). We eat large portions of food very late at night so that in the morning we wouldn’t feel so hungry.

As a woman living in Uganda I’ve been told I’m not authentically African and that I should learn to keep silent and observe more. To ‘hold water in my mouth’, to keep my opinions to myself and not share them with others because I will make people feel uncomfortable, even if I disagree or am curious to know more. My role is not to question but to blindly accept what is handed to me, because it’s rude not to. As African women we are meant to make people feel welcome, to give our time to everyone, but not invest in ourselves because that would be selfish. I believe those suffering with ulcers have a problem with anger and the inability to say no. We ingest the demands, protocols, and opinions of others but ignore our personal needs in order to keep the peace. This peace is the stereotypical image and behaviour of what makes ‘a good woman’. Meanwhile on the inside we are holding the tension of resentment because our words and emotions are trapped in our bellies.

The fear of violence, shame or guilt which traditionally would have ‘kept me in my place’ is contributing to the epidemic of ulcers. I don’t believe people suffering with ulcers are any different. Something is being repressed. Our second brain is reacting to eating habits that are resulting from our feelings of powerlessness. We are afraid to speak our truth.

The creative work that I do to empower youth and young women using the arts is essential to sensitizing us to the need for identifying and expressing our emotions in a healthy and productive way. To find the balance between self-care and the care of others is important. Repression of emotions leads to greater feelings of discomfort and disease in our communities. We need to provide spaces where we can express ourselves and stop seeking to control the reactions of others. Something is going on with our stomachs and we need to start listening, because the body has its wisdom.


Ife Piankhi is a poet, singer and creative facilitator currently based in Kampala, Uganda. She is an active participant in the creative industry of East Africa. Her works are available at

All photos courtesy: Sunoj D.

Source: the foregarmagazine

Activism, music

I Look Away

I’m sitting in front of the computer trying to recollect all what I have achieved this year. It’s hard without my notebook. I have such a poor memory sometimes, so I tend to write things down. As a result I have many past notebooks collected in a box which I take out from time to time to reflect on my life’s journey. It’s surprising sometimes to see my aspirations and goals written down and to realize that some of them I have achieved. Others have not yet manifested but that I am on the way. I feel proud of myself. Especially when it seems that Life is just not going to plan. I encourage all of us to write our dreams down because otherwise It’s hard to see how far we have come.

I’m in a reflective mood, especially as this morning a friend of mine showed me a video of a beheading in some Islamic state somewhere. The crowd was gathered, blood from the previous beheaded people can be seen on the ground. The axeman takes aim and begins his wing, I look away. This isn’t a movie, this is real and I can’t stand to watch, to remember the image, for it to remain in my memory. I know this is the reality of many people who have been caught in conflicts. War is traumatising, it wounds and scares.

Even though I can be forgetful, I know I will be able to recall this. I look away. I’m confused by our inhumanity towards each other. How we can so easily murder and bring pain. And I wonder what is our future? If I was an extra-terrestial what would I think about our behaviour? Maybe it wasn’t such a good thing that God gave us free will, because look what we do with it.

It’ true I’m feeling morose. I don’t know why it happens around this time of the year when people seem to be so happy. Anticipating family gatherings and laughter. In my mind,  I’m thinking how come we can’t show this goodwill all year round? Why do we have to wait for Christmas in order to become more humane, generous and loving?

I’m in a reflective mood. After spending 3 intense days with ‘Barundikazi’, Burundian women who come together to discuss and formulate their opinions and actions regarding the events in Burundi, I keep wondering why these conflicts and traumas continue to happen in our beautiful continent and planet. Are we sick as a species? Will we eventually just destroy each other and leave the planet to evolve without us? I worry about us. Our continued march towards destruction. Are we indeed living in the last days? Who will be saved and who will be destroyed?

There are so many layers of reality, the political, the spiritual, the ecological, the scientific, the philosophical, the social, the mental, the emotional, the religious. If we were a patient what would be our prognosis? What is the percentage of the population who are behaving in a way that is anti life and love?

I know there are good stories out there, the world is full of stories of hope and inspiration but why don’t we hear or see them? I’m asking these questions because i want to know and understand the nature of humanity and how we can change the most destructive elements of our behaviour in order for us to live in peace and love.

Or is it a case of we can’t have one without the other, but like I say in one of my songs ‘there has to be a better way’. And I hope that more of us will make a commitment to finding it and transforming our society. It’s time to break out and try something new.



The Life of the Creative


This month I will be a panellist at the Bayimba Music Festival Kampala, invited by the Lantern Meet of Poets a group of young Ugandans who come together to critic and perform each others poetry. I feel honoured to be a sounding board for them as they strive to make poetry more accessible and appreciated.

But I’m frustrated, the discussion will be about the challenges to ones creativity especially when it comes to making a living. I’m talking about getting paid for ones art. It seems that organisers and venues want creativity but don’t want to pay for it, or they pay some artists and not others.

I attend meetings, talks and performances. I have to cater to my needs whether that’s transport, food and time spent, but if I worked in the corporate sector those things would have to be paid for by the client who has invited me to talk. Why is creativity so different? Why do people feel that they can have us for nothing, even though we have put in countless hours and energy in refining our art which is why they invite us their events, we have skills, we are competent and bring an energy to the event.

Why are artists struggling?

The life of the creative is not an easy one. There is never enough money to pay us but we are in demand. Every year the Lantern Meet puts on a recital and the theatre is packed so it seems we are appreciated by our audiences who pay to see us. So where does the fault lie?

Are we not valuing ourselves enough as artists? There is no way that a doctor or engineer would work for free after studying for many years. The time spent on refining our skills and practice is meant to mean something. This is why our parents are always pushing us into professions because we can get paid well.  The life of the creative is not taken seriously. Its just a hobby!

I’m not looking for an easy life, I’ve made personal sacrifices because I believe in the power of art to transform people and I understand how people drop out of creativity because they can’t make a living, but I want to change this format.

This is where creativity comes back into focus, not all remuneration has to be in cold cash, what other things can be offered? I suppose I’m advocating for some barter trade as money seems to be the issue, this would be the beginning of something different.

This is my profession, my divine gift, my purpose and I know I make useful contributions to whatever environment I’m placed in.

I don’t live in a fantasy world, I live in the real world of money, rent, school fees but I’m struggling to find the middle ground, beyond exploitation and good wishes. There are countless great initiatives worthy of support but I’m beginning to feel like if you don’t have the budget to at least give me transport, don’t call me. Its a risk because out of sight is out of mind and there is a need for multiple streams of income as a self employed person but damn I think I may have to change my name from Ife the poet who sings to Ife the ‘poetic engineer’ maybe then people will realise they have to budget for my words, time and energy.





Babylon is all around me

concrete and steel,

right before my eyes.

Babylon is all around me

Confusion, I cannot see.

Extract from Babylon

by Ife Piankhi

I wonder how the freedom fighters; Nelson Mandela, Patrice Lumumba, Walter Rodney, Toussaint L’Overture, Nanny of the Maroons, Paul Bogle, Yaa Asantewa, Nyabingi felt, when they realized they had to break the law in order to liberate their people?

We’re taught to be obedient. It’s a desirable thing. Instilled in us is a respect for authority, hierachy and all things Western.

Rastafari speaks about Babylon but what exactly is it?

In Biblical times Babylon was referred to as the table of nations as it traces the descendants of Noah’s three sons. In the genealogy of Ham, “Cush was the father of Nimrod, who grew to be a mighty warrior on the earth” (Genesis 10:8). Nimrod founded a kingdom that included a place called “Babylon” in Shinar (Genesis 10:10).

In English it is easy enough to make the connection between “Babel” and “Babylon,” but in Hebrew it is the same word. This chapter cements Babylon’s reputation as a city of rebellion against God. From then on, the biblical writers consistently use Babylon as a symbol of evil and defiance.

For me Babylon is not just a place but a mindset which is based on the exploitation of people and resources.

This mindset uses fiscal structures, trade agreements, polices, politricks, business and media to dictate the destiny of the majority of the global population.

According to Noam Chomsky in Profit over People-Neoliberalism and Global Order, Haiti was one of the worlds richest colonial prizes along with Bengal and the source of a good part of France’s wealth. Haiti was the first colony in the Caribbean to gain its independence from colonial rule.

In the 18th century, Saint Dominigue, as Haiti was then known, became France’s wealthiest overseas colony, largely because of its production of sugar, coffee, indigo, and cotton generated by an enslaved labor force.  When the French Revolution broke out in 1789 there were five distinct sets of interest groups in the colony. There were white planters—who owned the plantations and the slaves—and petit blancs, who were artisans, shop keepers and teachers.  Some of them also owned a few slaves.  Together they numbered 40,000 of the colony’s residents.  Many of the whites on Saint Dominigue began to support an independence movement that began when France imposed steep tariffs on the items imported into the colony.  The planters were extremely disenchanted with France because they were forbidden to trade with any other nation.  Furthermore, the white population of Saint-Dominique did not have any representation in France.  Despite their calls for independence, both the planters and petit blancs remained committed to the institution of slavery. The three remaining groups were of African descent: those who were free, those who were slaves, and those who had run away. There were about 30,000 free black people in 1789.  Half of them were mulatto and often they were wealthier than the petit blancs. The slave population was close to 500,000. The runaway slaves were called maroons; they had retreated deep into the mountains of Saint Dominigue and lived off subsistence farming.  Haiti had a history of slave rebellions; the slaves were never willing to submit to their status and with their strength in numbers (10 to 1) colonial officials and planters did all that was possible to control them. Despite the harshness and cruelty of Saint Dominigue slavery, there were slave rebellions before 1791.

Led by former slave Toussaint l’Overture, the enslaved would act first, rebelling against the planters on August 21, 1791. By 1792 they controlled a third of the island.  Despite reinforcements from France, the area of the colony held by the rebels grew as did the violence on both sides.  Before the fighting ended 100,000 of the 500,000 blacks and 24,000 of the 40,000 whites were killed.  Nonetheless the former slaves managed to stave off both the French forces and the British who arrived in 1793 to conquer the colony, and who withdrew in 1798 after a series of defeats by l’Overture’s forces.  By 1801 l’Overture expanded the revolution beyond Haiti, conquering the neighboring Spanish colony of Santo Domingo (present-day Dominican Republic).  He abolished slavery in the Spanish-speaking colony and declared himself Governor-General for life over the entire island of Hispaniola.

Aerial view of La Citadelle Laferriere

It recent times Haiti has been largely under US control and tutelage since Wilson’s marines invaded 80 years ago.

By now the country is in such a catastrophic state that it may uninhabitable in the not too distant future. What was once rich has now been stripped. The people of Haiti live in abject poverty as the natural resources of their country have been taken by private business in collusion with government, under the guise of ‘free trade’ and Globalisation. Most of these workers are women who suffer under a regime which cannot invest in social objectives because it has received loans which prescribe the minimization of services such as employee rights, health and education.

differences in haiti landscape with graphics haiti

Now I know this is not Uganda. The Pearl is lush but steadily we are cutting down our trees to feed an urban population and who knows what is happening behind closed doors and under the table.


Babylon now uses a fiscal system instituted over 100 years ago to monopolize the resources of the planet, which has been sliced, diced and defined by geo-political borders and so called democracy.

I believe in power for the people by the people but what we have now is wealth creation for a Silent Minority.

Babylon chooses profit over people. It doesn’t matter how much blood is shed and how many people are lost to disease, war, malnutrition as long as shareholders get their dividends. Our minds will continue to be filled with propaganda. There is no good news on Aljazeera, it would seem the whole world is at war.

What is going on in our country exactly? I know the electioneering has began in the slums, loud speakers blast partisan messages, people are gathering in local meetings to listen to politicians advocating for themselves.

Democracy is now beyond the people. The real power resides in the IMF, World Bank, UN and corporations.

Do our votes even mean anything? or are they just engineered to make us believe we have a say?

Humans like to feel like they have a choice, this is why God gave us free will.

But most of us are not free. Not mentally anyway.

‘Its a diplomatic procedure. Because see, my songs is hard stuff which politicians don’t want on them radio station because they still want people to live in ignorancy. While all people especially black people are divided, the world will keep on functioning in fantasy and bullshit’. Peter Tosh 1978




Is Africa being invaded?


When a child questions how soldiers can help reduce the spread of Ebola, its something to think about. Conspiracy theories are numerous. Where did this disease come from and how has it managed to spread so fast? Kofi Anan is quoted as saying in the East African that the fight against Ebola wasn’t a high priority because it effects only Africans. In the same paper there are articles about scientist tracking the origins of the disease in order to determine its future mutations. The CDC has a patent on Ebola right now. All this sounds like the weapons of mass destruction to me.

Last night I was out with the hip hop fraternity of The End of the Week, a hip hop event which challenges MC’s to spit over a variety of beats with themes given randomly. This means the MC has to freestyle and flow in the moment, a creative ability only few have developed here in Uganda.

However I hope their event happening on Saturday 25th at Open House will challenge MC’s to speak on the issues that are happening here in UG and the rest of the continent.  Young people in Uganda have been engaging in Hip Hop culture through organisations like Breakdance Project Uganda and the Babaluku Foundation to name but two.

Young people have embraced Hip Hop as a way of being seen and heard within society. With the rise of internet usage and the availability of information I would hope they can put their insight to use and say something about events on the continent.

But in order to do that they have to be interested in their fellow Africans, read, and be able to critically assess what is happening. Their lyrics should inform and motivate the youth to think about things in a deeper way, and this is where the battle lies because the creative industry is more concerned with superafical stardom and bling.

Last night I watched a film, I won’t elaborate but the main character, a university lecturer had this to say

‘Control, its all about control. Every dictatorship has one obsession and that’s it. So in ancient Rome they gave the people bread and circuses. They kept the populace busy with entertainment, but other dictatorships use other strategies to control ideas, the knowledge. How do they do that? Lower education, they limit culture, sensor information. They sensor any means of individual expression. It’s important to remember this. That this is a pattern that repeats itself throughout history’.

I was told yesterday that the UK has banned Jamaican music, giving it little or no airtime and here on the continent you only get admitted into the middle classes if you have attended school and university which is a major financial challenge for most parents. Students graduate but can’t find employment because they lack experience.  America is monitoring people on the net and the entertainment industry is filled with images of people living in opulence. So is it any wonder that young people see the industry as a way out of poverty?

The mantra for them is ‘Its about me one, I’m getting mine, I’m not getting left behind’. Ife Piankhi

What I’m saying is: its important to ‘say something’ with your artistic, creative expression. That ‘something’ should inform, agitate, inspire, stimulate debate and push the boundaries.

Tabu Flow an innovative dance group from Uganda are doing just that. Hip Hoppers who have taken aspects of Ugandan Culture and fused it with Hip Hop, creating contemporary dance pieces that challenge and inform the audience about their life experiences.

I’d like to see more of this in the Hip Hop movements of Uganda. Artists who ‘say something’ and who inform the growth of conciousness in the youthful population of Uganda and the world.


Go back to your country

philips projection map

We are African people, whether you accept it or not. You don’t have to go to Africa to be an African. If a cow is born in a pig pen, he is still a cow. The cow will always say “Moo” even though he is amongst pigs.” – Mutabaruka

Yesterday I was told to go back to my country. I was saddened and angered by the statement because I know my origins are on the continent of Africa. Before the imposition of geo-political borders we were a race who had many names but shared commonalities. How we related to each other was our highest axiological reference. The just treatment of people was an essential component of our humanity. As ancient Africans we were never afraid of difference, we embraced it as a reflection of nature and the creator.

Now, Africa has descended into tribalism which is used to discriminate and exploit difference. We pay more attention to the status and position of a person, than the quality of their works within society. Our value is defined by the amount of money we make not by the content of our characters. How far we have fallen, as we continue to co opt an alien culture in the guise of development.  We have lost our integrity, we corrupt and are corruptable.

In the current system, your country is where you were born. I remember when I first started to define myself as an African people would get confused and ask ‘so were you born in Africa’? I came to recognise the passport I carry is my citizenship but not my identity and it definately does not reflect my culture or values.

This is a part of the disconnect created by slavery, colonalism and neo-colonalism. The fracture was created so fellow Africans don’t recognise each other because of the way we speak or look. This process of separation is the tool used to keep people of African descent divided. It allows the continued exploitation of people and resources.

Yesterday was a difficult day for a lot of people, in a way I take heart that I am not alone in the challenges I am facing. I continue to read and analyse the movements that liberated the African mind. I seek to understand the processes which are keeping us divided. Many before me have written in response to the repression of African peoples, not only by external forces but internally from our own leaders. Marcus Garvey, Kwame Nkrumah, Nyerere, Walter Rodney, Patrice Lumumba, Franz Fanon, Huey P Newton all spoke about the need for African self determinism not based on Imperialist Capitalist Ideals. I believe there is a better way for us to live, not just as Africans but as the inhabitants of planet Earth.

As I say in one of my poems:

‘the race is not for the swift but for those who can endure,

Stay strong,

let your back be bent but never broken.



What is Creative Facilitation?


Creative Facilitation is what I do. I deliver learning using creative mediums -music, visual art, drama, creative writing, movement. Whatever the topic, learning can be delivered using creative tools.

People talk about creativity a lot these days. Some express that they are not creative because they don’t sing or dance but creative thinking is a skill which can be taught. However its a highly undervalued skill which is often overlooked.

What is creativity and why is it important?

Creativity is defined as using the imagination to create something. This may sound simple enough but these days with the influence of mass media, many young people no longer engage the imagination (creating images in ones mind) because they receive stimulus from watching images on screen.  Thus the ability to see things that don’t already exist has been stunted.  I am a creative person because as a youth I read a lot, listened to a variety of music and danced.  I also spent many hours in the garden with my mum as she planted food and herbs.  I believe this gave me an appreciation of processes which is also essential component of creativity.

The components I include in my facilitation are Emotion (energy in motion), Word Sound (the ears are more sensitive than the eyes, can’t be closed and respond to positivity), Movement because the body also has intelligence and Sankofa (reflection).

Repetition is the mother of skill so the more we are creative the easier it will become.

Facilitation is not about spoon feeding students with answers and getting them to memorise. Its about encouraging them to discover the answers for themselves. Sometimes they get it wrong but in facilitation that is a part of the process of learning. Its Ok to try and fail, then fail to try. People need to feel secure in order to take risks, thus with creative facilitation we create ‘safe space’.  Laughter, play and group sharing are key to the process of learning.



Whenever I train people I speak of developing the ‘toolkit’ these are the games, exercises and challenges that we acquire over time which assist us in reaching the desired outcomes of a workshop or training session. This also encourages us as facilitators to be engaged in ‘lifelong learning’ because there is always something new to learn and apply to ones practice.

being creative

When I attended the Eco Villages Course at the Findhorn Foundation (Scotland) one of the statements that stayed with me was “if its not fun its not sustainable”. One of the challenges I set for myself as a facilitator is to see how enjoyable I can make a session no matter what the subject matter.  This opens my mind to the infinite possibilities of delivering learning.

I question, so my mind can go on a journey of discovery. This develops the elasticity of my brain and expands my thinking. It enables me to think ‘outside of the box’ but also to appreciate what is ‘inside the box’ in order to use my unique talents and abilities to achieve the goal. This is the process I employ within my workshops and this is what I define as Creative Facilitation.

The challenges of our time are unlike any other time in history. This means we have to try new things and have the courage to boldly go where no one has gone before and in order to do that we have to be creative. The current system of education has to be reconfigured in order to give future generations the ability to not just survive, but live well in a rapidly changing global environment.




The Gratitude Challenge

Today my friend Abundance of Creation challenged me to participate in the gratitude challenge. I had seen her post earlier but didn’t read it due to limited time. So when my night time bundle became active I read her post on Facebook. I was surprised to see my name at the end of the paragraph after reading the following:

I nominate Ife Piankhi and Birikiti Pegram to do the GRATITUDE CHALLENGE listing 3 things daily for 7 days that you are thankful for and nominating 2 people each day to do the Challenge.

Wow what a challenge! I wanted to start tomorrow but then I thought what else am I doing? why not invest some time reflecting on my weekend in Gulu.

1. I’m grateful for the opportunity to have meet and have conversations with students from Gulu,  Kitgum & Lira who were participating in the Annual Youth Climate Change Competition. They were tasked with creating presentations using Visual Art, Drama, Music and Dance, Science to speak about Climate Change and how it affects them. The presentations were diverse and entertaining.

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There were stories of village women being sensitized to the impact of climate change by their cutting down of trees to make charcoal. A painting depicting a depleted earth took 20 minutes to paint during a Live Art Challenge led by Gulu artist Ivan (18), who also provided the back drop paintings. We played games and had conversations on the ways forward for them as young people and future leaders of Uganda. I even challenged them to create a solar panel using recycled material.  What I enjoyed the most however was the young women in the audience eventually coming forward to speak their minds because usually its the boys who have the courage and confidence to speak up.

2. I am grateful to United Youth Entertainment (UYE) who provided judges for the competition and logistical support.  Winners of best student film ‘A Cry for Help’ at this years Uganda Film Festival. Their feedback to the competitors was constructive and optimistic.

3. I am grateful to my children for their consistent support and love. I enjoy coming home to them.

However it must be said even though this is a gratitude post, the Global North needs to reduce its massive carbon emissions which is the major driver for the exceleration of climate change. The impact on the Global South’s weather patterns is immense. Lets start putting reduction of carbon emissions, into strategies for food security. Rather than the introduction of Agri -business and GMO seeds. I would also be thankful to the Global North for more support of renewable sources of energy rather than the building of dams and burning of fossil fuels in Africa. We only have one earth, lets preserve it.

Crazy Days: composition by Ife Piankhi produced by DJ Nesta featuring Blessed Son. Speaking on a tree less planet.


To be a New African


Indentity changes based on time and situations. I am one thing to someone and something totally different to another.

But I question myself sometimes about who I really am, or maybe the question should be who do I want to be?

When I moved to Africa I relished the fact that I was unknown, I could present pretty much what I wanted people to see.

I wanted to explore my true face or the face I wanted to create for myself.

Like Marimba Ani I believe Africa is in my DNA. Its a way of being for me that seems to be steadily disappearing as Africa rushes forward to modernity and development but maybe that is just in the urban centres, in the villages it could be different. That’s why my next episode will be to live in rural Uganda.

I have found that our definitions of who we are have become so limited as Africans.  The other day a woman called my son a thief because he has locks, she doesn’t know my son but its an assumption she made based on his appearance. Just like theifs speak Swahili.  Its a shame really but these are the stereotypes we hold onto about people.

The other day I was at Interpol and they asked me where I was from. ‘I’m an African’, I responded. I smiled and joked awhile with the enquirer in order for him to be receptive to my story.  However I realise that many of us are confined to the geo political borders created for separation of Africans.

The teacher Malachi Z York, spoke often of DNA explosions, these were changes in our genes that made us more receptive to new information we may have neglected before. I mention this because I think my love of African was stimulated by one of these.  I didn’t have African friends, knew nothing really of the continent, but from a very young I had felt like I did not belong in the UK.  Then at 18 I started gravitating to literature on Africa.  Marimba Ani was one of the authors I read, alongside people such as Ivan Van Sertima, Chancellor Williams, Naim Akhbar, Josef Ben Jochanan and Chiek Anta Diop. Later on I would read Dr Llaila O Africa, JA Rogers, Marimba Ani, Hunter Adams, George G Jackson, Jewel Pookroom and Dr Phil Valentine.  This exploration was also stimulated by a mentor of mine called Viv Ahmun.  I would attend workshops and listen to him speak about Melanin, ancestoral memory and Identity.  Then in 2000 I invited Muata Ashby and his wife Karen to the UK. This scholar had written over 30 books on the legacy of Kemet, commonly known as Egypt. It was a quiet visit but a milestone in my journey to understanding and practicing African culture as a descendent living in the diaspora.

I started wearing African attire, locksing my hair, changing my diet, exploring African spiritual systems. I conducted and participated in rituals, rites of passage, healing ceremonies for cleansing and restoration of my ancient memories.  I moved through different groups such as the Nation of Islam, Hebrew Israelites, Ausar Auset, Nuwaupian Nation of Moors, in order to gain greater insight of Africa of the past.

The Africa I read about was pre-historical. The empires of Kush, Songhay, Kemet, Ta Seti,  Nubia, Sumeria and Ethiopia became the thoughts of my dreams and waking hours. I wrote poems and lamented on the loss of our identity and culture through Maafa (great disaster commonly known as the Trans Atlantic Slave Trade).

What is interesting is that because I was rediscovering who I was, I could decide on what elements of the African legacy I wanted to imbibe.  This is liberating because what I have learnt is that many of us feel restricted by our cultures here on the continent. So in a sense I am a New African and I haven’t finished formulating and constructing myself. I’m excited by my journey because I’m always learning.  I don’t limit myself with titles I am that I am, isnt that what the creator says, and i think I want to be a creator.


Activism 0 comments on Documenting our African Experience

Documenting our African Experience

ifesheronwashindaI had the pleasure to see my good friend Sheron Wray after 4 years of separation. It made me realise for the first time all that I have left behind in terms of friendships and connections. I suppose it was necessary for me to let go as I embarked on a new life on the continent, otherwise you pine for those left behind and fail to move ahead. I didn’t think  what I was doing was such a big risk (moving back to Africa). I just knew I had to do something different. I had just emerged from one of the lowest points in my life and I thought well I have nothing more to loose, so let me try something new. My journey continues to be filled with challenges and opportunities as I seek to re-establish myself as a citizen of the continent of Africa.

One of my biggest challenges has been in other peoples need to identify me by tribe/nation as deterimined by geo political borders defined by a passport. I see Africa pushing towards ‘development’ which in my eyes is the destruction of the natural world for the erection of concrete edifices. I dream of a continent united as one, removing the borders established by the colonial masters. This system of separation not only applies to Africa but all inhabitants on this beautiful planet of ours. I know there are others like me out there who hope that sometime in the near future humanity will realise that we only have this planet and that she is the one who provides for all our needs. Like Shumacher says ‘small is beautiful’.ife@IM Like the Sankofa bird of the Adinkra we have to have our feet pointing forward but our neck and head facing back. What I mean by this is a return to the simple things, what some would call the primitive I would call the sustainable.

Black Gold is being discovered all over the continent now and governments and corporation continue to exploit it like it is something created by man to own and exploit, at great cost to the environment and its people.

For me, (this is why i miss Wangari Mathai so much) the biggest challenge for us in Africa is the preservation of our environment. No one seems to have it on their political agenda apart from civil society. I would love to hear from groups who are championing the rights of nature, women and children as these issues are at the core of my work as a poet and creative facilitator