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Cluster of Excellence EXC 2052 - "Africa Multiple: reconfiguring African Studies"

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Richard Ntiru – insights into everyday life


Richard Ntiru is a seasoned African poet who was born in Uganda in 1946. He studied in Makerere in the 1960/70s and was editor of the university journal, Penpoint as well as the manager of the University’s travelling theatre. Ntiru’s poetry is a rich merge and mesh of memorable imagery, pithy analogies and incisive diction that depict the African society in transformation but also in degeneration. His poetry captures the complexity of everyday life as well as the dynamics of exclusion that relegate members of the society to the sidelines. Some of his most unforgettable poems include “The Pauper”, “Miniskirt”, “If it is True”, “Rhythm of the Pestle”, “To the living”. In his poetry he does not only grant insight into the struggles, joys and tragedy of everyday life, but equally engages with grave spiritual and existentialist questions of the modern (African) being.

Rhythm of the Pestle

Listen – Listen

Listen to the palpable rhythm

Of the periodic pestle

Plunging in proud perfection

Into the cordial cavity

Of maternal mortar

At each succeeding stroke

The grain darts, glad to be scattered

By the hard glint

Of the pestle’s passion.

During the aerial suspension

of the pendant pestle

the twice asked, twice-disappointed girl

thinks of the suitor that didn't come,

of her who dragged her name through ashes...

of her bridal bed

that vanished with the ephemeral dream,

of her twin firstlings

that will never be born

and her weltering hands

grip, grip, rivet hard

and downright down

comes the vengeance of the pestle.

"I very much like this poem for it represents a practice that is very common amongst African and afro-diasporic communities, the act of pounding (cassava, maize, beans, yams, etc) using the mortar and pestle. It underlines the role of the woman in sustaining the entire family. It is a daily reality, especially of the womenfolk to which Ntiru affixes a very existentialist situations of hopes, hopelessness, conceptions of a good life, imagination of the future, creating a synchrony between the frequency and rhythm of the pestle with dreams beheld, deferred or pounded."

Dr. Gilbert Shang Ndi, Postdoctoral Researcher and Member of the Research Section “Arts & Aesthetics” at the Africa Multiple Cluster of Excellence

Webmaster: Dr. Doris Löhr

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