The 10th November marks 20 years since the execution of writer, poet and environmental activist Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight other Ogoni leaders for their protests against Shell oil destroying their land.
To mark the occasion Platform have shipped the Battle Bus (the Living Memorial to the Ogoni 9 designed by Sokari Douglas Camp), over to Nigeria in an act of solidarity with the Ogoni people.
At present the bus is still impounded by Nigerian customs – the head of which was on the tribunal that decided the fate of the Ogoni 9 back in 1995. Keep in touch with updates and solidarity with the Ogoni who have threatened to mobilize and cripple the economy unless the bus is released via #bus4ogoni9 and #Freethebus hashtags.
This poem was commissioned by Platform and forms part of a leaflet designed by graphic artist Jon Daniel and also featuring artwork from Alfreedo Jaar.
You can read a blog on the poem over on Platform’s website here.
After attending TippingPoints’ Weatherfronts conference in September several commissions were made available to write about the issues. Myself, Zena Edwards and Selina Nwulu applied to write a series of kwansaba poems developing on from conversations we began at the conference with Dorothea Smartt and other attendees.
I chose to focus my commissioned poem on several dates throughout the last month in which issues of race have raised the global temperature. The connected through-line of fire and heat a questioning of how we use, measure and connect to our climate.
Spring in November
Bonfire Night. A man hanged, drawn, quartrd.
Yet beyond council fences, flames flicker still.
This desire. This fire. Within. It burns.
Treason trumps torture. Famous anon. take streets
A million White masks. Black face unity.
Can we turn? Hunt out witches’ wisdom?
Seek council with shaman? Lest we forget
From Guy’s London torture Tower blood flows
Colours Israeli Red Sea, clots the Atlntic.
Nine eleven. Not Pnochet, not Opium wars,
Great War. Heroic death. Brave butchry. Sacred.
Pin Vctoria to chests and sing victory.
Are these Afghan poppies? Made in China?
Or is this drug a British export?
Black death spawns a White saviour virus
Locusts take air, buzz over brown mouths
A bread basket is branded basket case
Feed the world with helplss needy Africns
Do They know it’s thirty-four shoppng days
until Xmas? Give Us your fcking money
How much a pith helmet Space suit?
Flying above our planet you may pause
How fragile. Where are the borders? Walls?
Shudder. Someone has left the gas on.
Are those candles for the Ogoni nine?
An eternal smogged flame for Saro-Wiwa?
Bonfire fury night and day where maps
are drawn. Protest hung. And village quartrd.
Back to earth for student sun rise
Black history strides strong from October
This term, we face race, qstion ugenics
Reject their choice cuts, favour ital diets.
High pressure sweeps in from the south
to reduce recycle replant our server farms.
Cold front here to stay. Kettles boil.
Steam release across Ocean. Sgrgatd city burns.
Nothing to see here in post racial society.
Black Out this bleak Friday. Buy nothing
Mammon clutches mama’s throat. Hands up. Off.
Thick smoke revrses the choke hold. Cough.
Tears stream. Levees break. In these storms
a chance to remembr who we are.