Watson Mushimbei is one of Our Moon’s alumni – class of 2019. He is currently studying at Columbia University in New York.
Watson loves poetry. He loves writing it and he loves listening to the songs of some of the greatest lyricists of all time: Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan among many others. Last year, he set up a Facebook page called Scripted Silence Poetry and started publishing his own poetry. It has given him an outlet to express his emotions and observations on the world around him.
During lockdown in New York, Watson decided to run a poetry competition where contestants were to write a poem with the theme, idea or title, “What does it mean to be Zambian?” He offered a small cash prize to the winners – which he funded from his stipend – and recruited 23 independent judges, currently living in nine different countries. Watson received 95 poems, from which he produced a short list of 15 poems for the judges to review. To make sure the competition was fair, he removed the names of the contestants. Each judge gave a score on each poem which were totalled up to reveal the winners. The top three are featured below.
In addition to the prize money, Our Moon agreed to publish their poems on our website and share them on social media. The standard was very high and the poems really thought provoking. I hope you enjoy reading them and learning a little about what it means to be Zambian.
BITTERSWEET by Chabota Sibuku
Two flavors mingle in a summer lemonade:
a ripe dainty tang stitched in with a sour sap
scraped off the bark of a beautiful dying tree.
This is the feeling of being Zambian.
First, is pure euphoria that soaks a
Zambian’s chest like the
squirt that surges from Mwinilunga
into the outskirts of Livingstone—
a mere metaphor for a waterfall with a
Eyes feasting on its wonderful burst marvel.
Delight does not dodge a heart while
seeing it roar.
Then the other taste leaps in:
That which oozes a stream down one’s
about how the economy bites.
A little, then much; pockets hold holes
as they lie against rough thighs and
To be Zambian is to know ambivalence.
Like having a brother of blue blood,
sweetness never leaves
so does bitterness sit on the taste bud.
By some stores of Soweto market,
bare sky canopies the heads of street kids
as they munch on yesterday’s trash.
Their sly palms have mastered the art of
Then there is a set of a classical bunch
so sweet on the class system.
They are clean of worries.
In place of hands, they’ve got sharp arrows
and their smiles like hissing serpents;
so this stanza must pause adrift this dance
like a stiff cripple.
But a poem is just a poem,
like this one, muttering on and on off
bittersweet tales of a vast piece of land.
About how being Zambian means having
expertise in the craft of curdling with mud.
To clutch it in hopes of inviting smiles
on the cheeks and a penny in the
Being Zambian is to voyage
searching for translucent fabrics of joy to be
sewn together with hope held high.
I AM ZED by Raphael Banda
I was born a landlocked child, my melanin tells an African tale
Zambia is my body and the Zambezi river runs in my veins
My bloodlines are descent to the luba lunda
Patriotism and my cultural heritage are made manifest in every heartbeat
My routes lay beneath the underbelly of the equator
Over the years I have mastered the linguistic art
And a collection of several tribes reside in my mouth
I’m the voice of 72+ languages and my mother tongue is black
English is nothing but a refugee I have given a home
Otherwise I’m fu-fu-vo-vo, fa-fa-ve-ve a mutating tongue in this weldi.
Body language speaking love.
I’m a nsima warrior.
Five finger soldier sourcing energy from maize.
I grow my skin to survive the harsh economic crises
though Zesco* has made me see darker days
my faith lies in the light at the end of the tunnel
I’m an artist A chameleon
Learning the art of camouflage, adapting to changing environment
In a country where the dollar keeps appreciating
Survival colours matter the most
I plant my dreams on fertile land,with hope to reap a better tomorrow
Once upon a time identity crises called me chambian.
I am product reciprocating gone wrong abibas knows better.
I’m jovial with an obsession for memes
Stuck in between bally and adada
I’m politically dramatic
Some of us consider alcohol family
Though my brothers and sisters include peace and harmony.
In most cases I owe loyalty to trade kings for improving my life
And praise to the mercy of GOD.
I believe loafing is not a good game for bread winners to play
With the copper belt holding my waist
I am striving to find other means to hold my pants up and tight
Investing in agriculture, education and etc.
By virtue of birth, black is strong and that is my strength.
So, not because I was born in Zambia
But because Zambia was born in me
That is what makes me
ZEALOUS, AMBITIOUS, MAGNANIMOUS, BRAVE, INDESTRUCTIBLE, AND NOTABLE
*Zesco is the Zambian National Electricity Company
ONE ZAMBIA, ONE NATION by Edison Chabinga
"One Zambia, one nation"
We quote this saying to represent our unity
In a land of peace, we let love lead our community
A prospering generation
We're Christian by heart
Letting our different hues mix
Creating an authentic piece of art
By the hand of God, our land is carved and dressed
A divine land that's truly blessed
A divine land prosperous and profound
Our bodies are driven by the African Rhythm
We dance to nature's sound
As well as the beat of the drum
In mother Africa is where we abound
And to our anthem we harmoniously hum
But what does it mean to liberally live in this blessed land?
With a people so proud and unique
A people gifted and kind
"What does it mean to be Zambian?"
To be ZAMBIAN means to be FREE
The freedom found and forged by our forefathers
The freedom to express our ways executing with great exception
The freedom to grow
To steadily stand strong before our foe
And release from the depths of our soul
Our mighty Zambian roar
Shaking the very winds
In which our eagle swiftly soars
Honouring those who by sheer might
Bravely broke down the ignorant slavery walls
Gathering together, neglecting gender
As one people, they greatly fought our wars
Their names ring in our hearts and their works we will forever recall
Their blood, a constant reminder of their courage
As we put our hands on our chests and stand tall
One Zambia, one nation
One heart, one conversation
We are free spirits
With ferocious flames burning deep within
Clapping to the tune that the national colours sing
And the soothing sounds the mighty Victoria falls brings
Each man moved by faith to live out his
Free to enjoy our own trends and even those from the western seas
Free to say zindagwa, shosholiment and in the weldi
Free to speak our own languages
Even in the finest establishments
For we are unashamed
Of our culture that the Caucasians tried so hard to tame
It's in the hope of the workers
Working the same job every day
Hoping they'll acquire just enough to live in much better ways
From the miners,
The farmers and preachers
To the lady by the corner selling chickens that are yet to be born
The young aspiring entrepreneur selling scones
And the street kids that unite and form a pack so they do not feel alone
That even with division in the parties
There's still a goal that links our societies
That what we need is a leader who will build our locality
With blocks of honour and transparency
Building our economy that is as fluctuating as a woman’s mood
Putting our best feet forward
To plan for a better Zambia, just as we should
One Zambia, one nation
One voice, one generation
Our holy land is a canvas
That we paint with our colourful characters
Zambitous, ambitious, it’s where the inspired inspire
The youths aspire
Their bubbling filled goals and dreams that are yet to be released
And a currency that represents a brighter day
Saying "Kwacha",it's a new dawn, let’s find a better way
Being Zambian is being free
Free to honour Christ who was hung and nailed for us on a tree
Artistically armed and aiming at the world
Changing hearts and minds along the road
Bringing our afrocentric swagger
Shouting "this is who we are!”
Genuine, and not a copy of another
It's inexplicably inexplicable
Something purely unexplainable
Being Zambian is complex
Cannot be defined in context
It's by far beyond unique
Our minds we are unafraid to speak
From the North to the South
Provinces in the East and West
There’s a smile on every mouth
Every citizens heart seeking rest
From the wealthy man living in the city
To the young man hustling in the hood
We are always looking forward to better ways
Fighting fire, focusing and praying for better days
Standing in faith that they will be greater
Never losing hope, hand in hand, holding onto one another
Being Zambian is being at peace
Living life and living it with ease
Even when the storm hits and rocks our boat
We still stand strong and stay afloat
Even when mother nature takes her best swings
We still rise and sore the serene skies with our mighty wings
Because that is who we are
We hope and never despair
Zambian is in the people
It's not the land or the minerals
With the virtue of aging with time
We've been grown, natured and preserved to be like the finest of wine
Adding onto the wages of life, we can only say without a doubt that
To be Zambian is simply to be Zambian