Protest poet emerges

Itai Mushekwe

EMERGING protest poet, Samm Farai Monro, better known as Comrade Fatso, has taken the artistic scene by storm and is poised for greater heights as his poetic sphere of influence continues to soar after successfully touring Europe.
 
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#8217;s poetry, dubbed “toyi-toyi” is rooted in the concept of rebellion and live performances, while it makes an indirect attack on the status quo.

In an interview with Independent Xtra this week, Monro (25) said although Zimbabweans have endured more than five years of political and economic recession, they must not lose hope for prosperity.

“I’m not about political parties, neither am I neutral. What we’re going through in Zimbabwe is a temporary phase,” said Monro. “Struggles teach us many things, and if the struggles besetting us don’t kill us they’ll make us stronger. Yes many have died already but as Zimbabweans we can emerge from the ashes stronger. Ghanaian author, Ayi Kwei Armah says ‘On top of the dung and decay they’ll always be a new flowering’ and that’s what I see in Zimbabwe. So much can emerge from where we are. Nothing lasts forever.”

The poet added that artists should not allow themselves to be used as puppets by the political elite as they have a mandate to serve society and act as its role models because their work is a reflection of society and can be used as a window to look into the future.

In his acclaimed poem, The Streets, a direct attack on the political elite against exploitation of the poor, the combative poet says: “They live in comfort because of our sweat. They live in credit because of our debt. They drive Pajeros and live in luxury, thanks to the povo, thanks to the misery. Asi inzwaka shamwari (listen friend) They’re few, we are many, vari madhara (they’re old), tiri mayouth (we are youths). The rot can never stop the truth.”

Monro bemoaned the fate that has befallen most artists of going to bed with the powerful and opulent who continue to exploit the masses for personal gain. He also fired a broadside at his peers in the industry who are failing to use the influence which the arts contain by deciding to be passive and centre their work on escapism, which he contends “is not the path to freedom”.

The poet argues that his work fights for social justice and is a voice for marginalised members of society.

Monro’s philosophy in life is simple: “I believe in possibilities and dreams. I believe in alternatives to the way things are today.

 I’m inspired by believing in alternative means of survival and power being in the hands of the artist. Looking at the Zimbabwe situation, I believe my poetry is very important. It’s not submissive, it doesn’t ask for permission, it demands, it dreams and acts. That is what other artists should aim at achieving. We all have a part to play in making our country a better place regardless of how daunting the task might appear to be.”

The critical poet was born in 1980 in the United Kingdom to Zimbabwean parents. He got his Shona name “Farai” at St George’s College because of his love and company of black friends. The last few years have seen his career blossoming. He has performed at the Harare International Festival of the Arts, Brighton and London in the UK. His major achievement to date was his participation at the 2004 National Poetry Slam in Lilles, France. Monro is also set to release an album this year, taken from seven of his finest poems with the help of jazz outfit, Too Open.