Archive for the ‘writing’ Category



The city had chewed on this old man for long enough. He was done with it. He didn’t want to walk these streets anymore. From today he would stay home on the balcony, with the laundry.

He was done skipping over pools of murky water. Done passing rancid gutters and dipping in and out of cracks in tarmac. Done dodging merciless taxis, and done crossing demented roundabouts.

The sun had used him up. So he was done with that too. There was not one patch in the sky lately, not one patch passing over to give momentary relief. The relentless shine was as merciless as the taxis, and he was glad to retire to the balcony.

Excerpt from ‘Done’ by Diana Nyakyi
Drawing: India Street flats near Haidery Plaza

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Over time, the city absorbs you, drawing you into its humidity; salt air, mosquitoes and human richness flowing around and seeping into the ready-to-drop plaster of its buildings. As if somewhere, deep inside of me the song sheet of my life has found in this place, in these streets and buildings, the orchestra to play its tune. Here now, it seems the most natural thing in the world to say I have become part of this city.

Excerpt from Haven of Peace by James Maroney, included in the second edition of Street Level

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posta newsPosters and billboards, new and old, Zain, Zantel, Vodacom, Tigo, crowd the wall competing for space with the frayed faces of politicians from the recent 2010 elections, leaving no empty spot. Drenched and torn, the posters were meant to be taken down many months ago, but stay on…

A newspaper seller sits waiting for a customer to choose from a whole selection of newspapers – Nipashe, Majira, Championi, This Day, Daily News, The Guardian, Msema Kweli, Mwanajamii Tanzania – seemingly indifferent as the customers walk past. Too humid for graciousness, the seller shuts his eyes, takes a nap and visits a cooler place – a haven of peace – in his dreams. Grrrrrr, brrrrrrr, the noisy, droning hums of the portable generators, lined up all along, do not disturb his sleep.

excerpt from D’aroma by Nahida Esmail


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rattexIt is a strange irony, how I, the poet of provision, the builder of beauty, am deemed unworthy of my own creation. They run me out of town, and I go: what is a mere artist to do in the face of brutality?

excerpt two from ‘I am machinga’ by Hafiz Juma, soon to be published in Street Level the elusive book…watch this space (well, glance at it occasionally in the next few weeks for more information)

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i am machinga

traffic towelsThe sweet, sticky heat makes my clothes stick to my skin. I am damp to the touch, dripping with the unavoidable refuse of my art. Yes, I am an artist my friend, although you may not think so. How else can you explain what I do? I walk the town like a vagabond of the vanguard, a viscous fluid in the arteries of Bongo streets, providing for your every need.

All it takes is a single look, you know the one, while you inch along in the snaking foleni hoping for some form of respite, and you pleadingly glance out your half-rolled down window, I see the yearning in your eyes. Before you even know what it is that you desire, I will be there, with karanga na maji and perhaps a cigarette or two. I will provide. You take what I offer with subtle contempt, annoyed that I know you better than yourself, but alas, what is an artist to do?

Excerpt from ‘I am machinga’ by Hafiz Juma

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sweeperBefore the sun rises, she walks, walks to get there because a free ride is never going to come, and bus fare is at home buying lunch for the kids. Her broken slippers obeying every step, her tired limbs lifting, one after another, she gets there.

Time to get going! It is a windy morning, sand blowing off the road, straight into her uncovered face, but she has to work. She checks her purse to make sure her lunch coins are there. Pushes the purse into her loose bra, ties her khanga tighter so she doesn’t have to worry about it once in action. She picks up her broom, and the office is officially open. Her workplace is a simple landscape; the most expensive item is a wheel burrow. 

Excerpt from ‘And she Sweeps’ by Amabilis Batamula

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mkokoteni snoozeIt was ordinary for Gibson to nap in front of the world, especially after an acid morning carting coconuts to his top customers’ eateries. That day, he reckoned he had spent enough time scrapping for lane space and losing momentum in potholes. So he wheeled his mkokoteni over to the dusty rubbly edge of the construction site he went to on Tuesdays. Gibson liked being near Development, and even though iron sheets kept its broad legs out of view, the sound of it welding and pounding lulled him to sleep. 

Excerpt from a piece by Diana Nyaki

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What tragedy alights the flame of pittance in the beggar’s heart?
Is it the unnerving hole-ridden road to prosperity?
Or merely the worn-ragged story of possibility?
Indeed, if hollow promises made heavy debts then
the rich would beg on their knees.
Sadly only the sorry live with sorrow,
craving and raving about the unlikely prospects of tomorrow.

When the whispers of false decency tread on the still nakedness of beggared flesh,
twinkles of generosity seep from the corrupt breath of power.

how charity strikes the chord,
how it breaks open the sealed disgust hidden within wealthy pockets.
Pockets filled to the brim; filled so high that the weight of them drags down the heart.

Perhaps it is destiny, that voluptuous specter who leads all of man to shameful ends, playing with means out of sheer amusement.

Who will curb the power of the corrupt?

The corruption of power.  

An almost instantaneous poem by Hafiz Juma, inspired by this drawing.

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This morning, 
I woke to find an American flag 
hoisted above the fisher camp on Msasani bay.
Sometime during the night 
the stars and stripes were erected 
and now proclaim that the
corrugated iron sheets, 
the plastic bottles, 
the sun-bleached washing hanging on a line, 
The graffiti saying mysteriously – Naz –
are all somehow Yankee property. 

Later I will go down and ask what it is all about,
But just now, I wonder who put it there and how
And whether on this little coastal strip 
– between the dhows and the Baobabs trees –
Someone slipped in in the night to claim
Dominion over the rocks, and seaweed and sand.  

An excerpt from ‘The Invasion’ by Louise Hoole

sangara sign

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Sidewalks swarm with women wrapped in black, men draped in white, and a rainbow of harmony in between.
This Dar embraces.

A luminous moon pulls swollen tides onto rocky shores while residents revel in weekend freedom.
This Dar celebrates.

A briny perfume lingers in the air like the inherited memory of ancient ship holds.
This Dar remembers.

Excerpt from ‘This Dar’ by Amy Gautam

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