A new wave of contemporary poets is enjoying critical acclaim in Zimbabwe. Vokal Da Poet is part of this wave and has won the hearts of many. His poetry speaks about democracy, children’s rights, gender equality, love and peace. He has taken to many stages winning several accolades of late. Harare News met with him to find out about the man behind the lyrics.
Who is Vokal?
Vokal Da Poet was born Christopher Chiwanza and grew up all over the country: Bulawayo, Chimanimani, Chipinge, Harare. My mother was a prison warden so transfers were quite common. My dad on the other hand was permanently based in Chimanimani. I am soon to be married.
How did you get into poetry?
I have always been artistically inclined; more as a writer than anything. I wrote a lot of poetry and prose during my high school years; more often from form two going upwards but my first brush with performance poetry was in 2000/2001, during our MWAPO Arts era with Hector Mugani. I eventually became a full time poet in 2011.
Describe your journey up till now.
It has been far from easy. It took a lot of hard decisions and sacrifices, but at the end of the day, I say it was all worth it. It is a journey that can either make you or break you. It has made me.
What has been you biggest challenge?
The biggest challenge I can point to is the preying on talent by event organisers who call in poets under the disguise of giving them exposure. This ruse has been well used and it is sad. At some point I just decided that seeing as I had bills and other needs for money, exposure could go hang. This is a full time career and not a hobby.
What’s your greatest achievement?
I do not know what point I can finger as my greatest achievement because my career has been a series of small milestones that coalesced into a reputable brand. For instance, there was the winning of multiple slam titles in the year 2012, the appearance at major festivals, the winning of the Poetry International Contest, invites to perform at high profile events, and so on. All have been milestones. But I guess on a personal level, I can point to being able to effectively communicate with audiences as my greatest achievement.
Are there any sensitive issues you are afraid or not comfortable to talk about while on stage?
I do not have any sacred cows. We are the praise singers, we are the court jesters. As a poet I handle all manner of subjects as is befitting with my career.
What’s your biggest dream as far as poetry and being an artist is concerned?
My biggest dream is that the genre, the industry will continue to grow to beyond its current stature. We are in the process of laying a foundation for the next generation of poets. Ultimately I envision a time when poetry is easily accessible to everyone the same way music is, and people stop assuming that it is an elitist art form.