Poetry as Preservation: Exploring East African Narratives

We have titled this series of workshops Poetry as Preservation as we aim to explore local heritage whilst focusing on language and the impact of borders have on how individuals choose to identify. We look forward to working with young Tanzanian writers who are interested in continuing this conversation and adding to the collective history of the region.

Our workshops are grounded in Swahili and Sudanese poetry alongside diasporic East African voices, highlighting the linguistic and stylistic diversity of the region’s poetics. The forms we will explore will range from ushairi poetry (derived fromthe Arabic shi’ir) to utenzi and colloquial verse. From Shabaan bin Robert (often called the father of Swahili poetry) -to Taban Lo Liyong Mahjoub Sharif and Al-Saddiq Al-Raddi, we will use poets to celebrate East African poetics as both a set of traditions and a window into questions of national identity and belonging. Diasporic poets such as Safia Elhillo, Nick Makoha, Dalia El Hassan and Warsan Shire will interrogate how the diaspora, the dispersed, respond to these questions. Some of the poems we will be workshopping include:

  • Mwana Kupona binti Msham – Utendi/The advice
  • Sayyid Adballah – The Inkishaf
  • Al Saddiq Al-Raddi – Poem of the Nile
  • Mahjoub Sharif – A Homesick Sparrow
  • Safia Elhillo – Interview for the position of abdel halim hafez’s girl,
  • Nick Makoha – Stone
  • Warsan Shire – Ugly

Dates: Wednesday 3rd July 2019 Times: 10am – 5:00pm
Cost: FREE
Age: 18-35


What will I get from taking part?

  • Submit this writing into Sawti’s Poetry Prize and Zine submissions to be published in the UK.
  • Exercise exploring and navigating your local identity through writing
  • Meet and network with other young writers from a similar cultural background
  • Add to the collective history of the region by interacting with what already exists
  • The opportunity to share, develop and receive feedback on your own workWho will be facilitating the project?Led by London based Dutch/Danish-Somali Writers Sumia Jaama and Amaal Said alongside local- guest poet to be names shortly.I have additional needs. Can I still take part?We have places available on all our workshops for individuals with additional needs. Get in touch so that we can discuss your requirements and do our best in supporting you.


Sumia Jaama/Juxun is Dutch-born Somali poet, educator and coder. Co-founder of SAWTI and winner of FourHubs’ 2018 Poetry Prize, she is a Barbican Young Poet Alumni and a recent graduate of the Creative Writing and Education MA at Goldsmith, University of London. She often writes about movement, the process of leaving and what is captured when we listen to silence. She has been published in Filigree: Contemporary Black British Poetry, Khidr Zine Issue Two: Shifaa, Your name is a boat amongst others. Commissioned poems by Royal Academy of Arts and Keats House Museum. Sumia has run creative writing and coding workshops in multiple spaces and programmes including Keats House’s Creative writing Summer School, The American School, Queen Mary University and Roundhouse.

Amaal Said is a Danish-born Somali photographer, and poet, based in London. Her photographs have been featured in VogueThe Guardian and The New York Times. She is concerned with storytelling and how best she can connect with people to document their stories. She won Wasafiri Magazine’s New Writing Prize for poetry in 2015. In 2017, she was exhibited in Los Angeles, California. In 2018, her photography was featured in the fourth volume of African Lens and was exhibited in Accra, Ghana. She is a member of Octavia, poetry collective for womxn of colour, and is a former Barbican Young Poet.



Sawti, derived from the Arabic and Kiswahili for ‘my voice’, seeks to connect East African poets to their counterparts in the diaspora through conversation and collaboration. We provide a platform for a multitude of voices that represent what it means to be East African and writing today. The project will explore the linguistic and cultural diversities evident across East Africa by bridging artistic dialogue between the young people local to these regions and East African diaspora within the UK. The work created by writers will investigate what it means to be East African locally, whilst considering the multi-lingual heritage that remains evident within the shifts across national and cultural borders. The project will be publishing the work created and inspired by the workshops in a zine (through submissions basis) that will be run in Libraries, cultural centres, galleries, Universities, art and literature festivals and local book shops. The creation of art within these spaces is fundamental to supporting authentic dialogue of young people. It is these very spaces that nurture the linguistic and artistic craft of these artists, and in so running workshops within these spaces, we both pay homage to, and support the local communities of these artists. This work will be published in a multi-lingual zine to be available (both digitally and physically) Autumn 2019.

Some of our confirmed partners and collaborates include: Glasgow Women’s Library, Nafasi Art Space, Roundhouse, Dar es Salaam Architectural Heritage, Dhow Countries of Music Academy, SOMA Book Café, Zanzibar Film Festival amongst others.


Sawti is supported by the ‘British Council’s East Africa Arts’ Programme. Under the programmes, New Art, New Audiences grant an open call for 18-35 year old artists, art organisations and art collectives from cities within England, Ethiopia, Kenya, Northern Ireland, Rwanda, Scotland, South Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda and Wales.