Konya Shamsrumi: What is the process of writing a poem like for you? Is it a lot of hard work or easy?
Jaliya the Bird: It usually begins with a phrase, sentence, word, image and as I sit with it, I see the (whole) poem and what it feels like, what it´s supposed to do. The next step is then an exercise in putting into words what I saw in my head or heart about the poem. Every poem humbles me! Some flow effortlessly while others require deeper care and more time but it´s never easy, even if natural. This makes crafting sweet and completing a poem is ever fulfilling, something that fills, restores all that was spent in the process of imagining, forging, releasing the poem.
Konya Shamsrumi: Please describe your sense of identity in this or any possible world in imagery or metaphor?
Jaliya the Bird: Jaliya is a celebration of storytelling and oral tradition, a custodian of stories, think of me as a moment around the fire. My people (Bakongo) are known to be the witches and wizards of Angola, the jokes make me smile, I´m from a lineage of people who deal with the spirit. And it makes me glad because Jaliya is a celebration of spirit and magic. Jaliya is a celebration of healing and heart, a physician in the garments of a wordsmith.
Konya Shamsrumi: If any of your poems could literarily save a person’s life, which poem would it be and can you describe the person whose life you think it would have saved?
Jaliya the Bird: My writing seeks to minister to the broken-hearted and the worn-out in spirit. Carrying life is not something I was initially intentional about or aware of, it´s just something my words did, a path they chose for themselves. If any of my poems could literarily save a person’s life, which poem would it be? Any poem. My words choose this path, they are received as medicine, refuge and life.
This year, I thoroughly enjoyed recording a video with a talented jazz musician, Carlos Praia. We did one of my favourite renditions of my poem Phoenix. Phoenix is a story about triumph, a word of encouragement, it’s a reminder to keep on living from our hearts even when we find them and our ourselves broken. A dare to live even when faced with the twists and turns that change everything we thought we knew about our lives, selves.
“Don´t let this life rob you from living Live from your heart even when it´s broken”.
Konya Shamsrumi: What does Africa mean to you, as potential or reality?
Jaliya the Bird: This continent and the context of its present and history shapes, influences how I engage with the world, dictates the kind of living that´s possible for me, and it informs how the world engages back with me. As a child, I picked up that there was something wrong with being from this continent, I learned shame. As an adult, I´m no longer ashamed, just burdened. This is the place of the unheard, the living dead. I wrote Rituals of Power—
“The machinery is oiled with blood Our bones, souls are the sacrifice presented as feast unto the god of terror To be from the Global South is to be born seated on skulls In the aftermath of massacre Our tongues bear witness to what happened here Our lives are evidence of what happens here”
Konya Shamsrumi: Could you share with us one poem you’ve been most impressed or fascinated by? Tell us why and share favourite lines from it.
Jaliya the Bird: Still I Rise by Maya Angelou. I love what was said at Keorapetse Kgositsile´s memorial service “We are all Bra Willie’s people”. I see community in this, ubuntu—how we are extensions of each other and I believe that we find our way within paths many have walked on and as they trod, they paved the way for us. They made us possible and in the same way, by virtue of our existence and finding our way we make others possible. When we encounter poems and poets from our lineage, we are drawn. Still I Rise is full of thoughts I like to explore and deal with in my own work. I now have the language to describe what I write about and why but when I was a child and encountered this poem I didn´t, yet it spoke to me. I´ve come to realize that it´s because I´m Maya´s people.
“Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.”
Jaliya The Bird is a writer, poet, performer from Angola who is passionate about freedom and authenticity, living life from the core of who we are as we respond to the causes that move us.
The artist creates within the concept of [Inter]Sessions: UnSpoken Words. [Inter]Sessions is about provoking, celebrating, releasing emotion and thought through storytelling, writing, poetry, and performance art. Primarily, it explores Womanhood, Blackness, Africanness and how these factors individually or collectively shape how one experiences the world. [Inter]Sessions aims to be intimate and challenging. You can read her words on her website HERE