The editorial team at Praxis Magazine Online is honoured to be able to bring you the newest offering in our digital chapbook series, twenty of Kanyinsola Olorunnisola’s brilliant, powerful, and terribly necessary poems, edited by JK Anowe.
by Laura M Kaminski (Halima Ayuba)
Identity. Who is that person? That one, right there, whose heritage has been severed from him by centuries of colonization, conquest, and slavery? That one, right there, who has been severed from his native language and culture? That one, born into a body with black skin, into a cradle of global racism, fed and clothed in imported culture? That one, the one whose first available language remains steeped in allusions and epithets that leave little means for describing the self without evoking racist prejudices against skin-color and cultural origin? That one, who searches in the global market to find some identity that fits, and the only identities on offer are those provided ready-to-wear by former slave-masters and colonizers? That one…in the film, in the song, in the news, in the mirror?
Identity. Kanyinsola’s twenty poems examine identity, heritage, language, culture, dignity. Personal history cannot be separated from global history. In a world where racism still thrives, and the language in the mouth is adopted from cultural invaders rather than inherited down through bloodlines, the impact of slavery and colonization on personal identity cannot be seen as past tense – it is present. Present in language. Present in music. Present in politics. Present in relationships. Present in culture. Present in names used for self-reference. Present in media, news and entertainment.
Identity. Can a new one be forged? How? Where? What language can be used to construct it? Can it be forged in “the adopted tongue forced / into my mouth by capitalist boats of conquest”?
and we walk the earth as embodiments of conflicts // children of two cities – one borrowed, one deserted
Identity. Once begun, is colonization ever over, or do the attacks continue, another theft of identity and dignity and culture always imminently impending, perpetually “at the mercy of those who only know my people as savages”? Can any new identity forged be trusted? “Are we a new chapter or mere plot-fillers in this story / of the white man’s quest…”? Can we rebirth ourselves, or do we merely “have the solace of gleefully living out stereotypes”?
Kaninsola’s poems cast the blazing light of an uncompromising interrogator…into his own personal experience and history, onto global experience and history as it is still being written by oppression, delusion, and denial. These poems demand answers, and the questions they ask are insistent, perceptive, and piercing:
how come only things foreign to my body make it beautiful?
Laura M Kaminski (Halima Ayuba)