Melissa Kiguwa: “I center the woman. I center the feminine.”

Kagendo Murungi gave us permission to transcribe her interview with Ugandan feminist and poet Melissa Kiguwa. We are not going to transcribe all of it- not just because there is almost an hour of it, but also because we want you to listen to it.

This transcribed quote, in which we completely love Kiguwa, starts from around 31:44 and ends at 36:00

Kiguwa: So I think that your question is really great because it forces one to say what are you promoting, what are you putting out there, and you know, who are you to do it? Which I think is the question we need to be asking people who have the audacity to say that they have a message. So that’s one.

Two. I will let you know, where I am coming from is very simple. I used to love a quote. I am gonna read it. By Arundhati Roy, whose mind I absolutely love. I think she’s pretty brilliant. But she… I always used to quote her. She says, “Our strategy should be not only to confront empire but to lay siege to it. To deprive it of oxygen. To shame it. To mock it. With our art, our music, our literature, our stubbornness, our joy, our brilliance, our sheer relentlessness- and our ability to tell our own stories. Stories that are different from the ones we’re being brainwashed to believe.” That used to kind of be the mantra of my life.

Kagendo: “I love that quote!”

Kiguwa: Yeah! It’s powerful. But then, you know, in really just reflecting over. I said, but you know, am I really going to give all of that to empire? It already takes so much from me, un-consensually. Like I didn’t consent to um, you know, a capitalist work model and yet I have to live within it. I didn’t consent to a colonialist education and yet, I am in it. I didn’t consent to learning English as my first language, but that was what I was given. And so, there are so many things that empire has already inflicted upon me- consistently bombarded me with every day. I said that, you know what, I don’t want my energies to be directed there. And I think that’s my one, you know… I think in the next few years, it’s my grappling with Reveries of Longing. ‘Cause if you know, to publish a book, you’ve had the poems for a while. So these poems are yeaaars old. And they don’t really reflect where I am now. A lot of these poems are migration, and a lot of these poems address empire. And now, where I am art, I wouldn’t write a book addressing empire. I wouldn’t write a book talking to empire. Because I don’t wanna channel my energy there. So again, who am I? What’s the work that I am doing?

I am someone who loves black Afro people. Whether you’re in the Caribbean. Whether you’re on the continent of Africa. Whether you’re in Europe. Whether you’re in North America. Whether you’re in Australia. Whether you’re Aboriginal, indigenous; whatever your label of blackness is, I love it. I love you.  I want to celebrate it. I especially wanna celebrate the woman, in all the forms that she comes. Whether she comes with a vagina or a penis. Whether she chooses to have children or not have children. Whether she chooses to run for office or whether she chooses to stay at home. I love the black woman. I want to celebrate her.

Because that’s what feel right to me.

And you know, I don’t purport ideas anymore that I don’t know if I will believe in the next five years. So I could talk about an education system, but you know, things come and they go. I have things that I am working on, but I won’t rock heavy and tell people they need to roll with me. What feels right, and what has felt right, to me, – and consistently feels right and motivating, – is the love of Afro people. Is the love of black women. Celebrating it. Choosing to center it, in my stories. In my livelihoods. In the ways that I look at the world.

I center the woman. I center the feminine. It’s the knowledge I use. I go into what I call “the feminine knowledge.” It’s the chaotic. It’s everything that is reprimanded, in a masculine phallic patriarchal world. So to me, I center the feminine. I love it. And that is where I come from when I do my work.
That is the world that I envision.

They talked about moving with her mother (migration as survival), poetry, religion, ex-gay movement, and the cover of Reveries of Longing. Give a listen. Melissa reads some poetry! It’s on SoundCloud.

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