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Memorable Events

I attended and participated at the XX International Poetry Festival in Medellin, Colombia, from 8th to 17th of July 2010.

The poets who participated with me were as follows: Vladimir Marku (Albania), Teresa Colom (Andorra), Althea Romeo-Mark (Antigua), Esteban Moore (Argentina), Lola Koundakjian (Armenia), Quito Nicolaas (Aruba), Udo Kawasser (Austria), Obediah Michael Smith (Bahamas), Quamruzzaman (Bangladesh), Claudio Willer (Brazil), Homero Carvalho (Bolivia), U Sam Oeur (Cambodia), Paul Dakeyó (Cameroon), Alberto Vélez, Andrea Cote, Ángela García, Argemiro Menco, Berenice Pineda, Claudia Trujillo, Consuelo Hernández, Darío Jaramillo, Eduardo Peláez, Fernando Rendón, Gabriel Arturo Castro, Gabriel Jaime Franco, Gustavo Garcés, Héctor Fagot, Jairo Guzmán, José Libardo Porras, Jotamario Arbeláez, Juan Diego Tamayo, Juan Diego Velásquez, León Gil, Marco Mejía, Pedro Arturo Estrada, Piedad Bonnett, Rafael Patiño, Raúl Henao, Sarah Beatriz Posada, Tarsicio Valencia, Tatiana Mejía, Umberto Senegal, Walther Espinal (Colombia), Vito Apshana (Nación Wayuu, Colombia), Guillermo Sáenz Patterson (Costa Rica), Domingo Alfonso, Oscar Cruz (Cuba), Verónica Zondek, Javier Campos (Chile), Mette Moestrup (Denmark), Rei Berroa (Dominican Republic), Lucila Lema (Kichua Nation, Ecuador), Amin Hadad, Arif Khudairi (Egypt), Lauri García Dueñas (El Salvador), Jean Clarence Lambert, Alice Caron Lambert, Julien Delmaire (France), Alhaji Papa Susso (Gambia), Uwe Kolbe (Germany), Carolina Escobar Sarti (Guatemala), Koumanthio Zeinab Diallo (Guinea), John Agard, Grace Nichols (Guyana), Imtiaz Dharker (India/UK), Luigi Cinque (Italy), Christopher Okemwa Oira (Kenya), Patricia Jabbeh Wesley (Liberia), Homero Aridjis (Mexico), Juan Gregorio Regino (Mazateca, Mexico), Hadaa Sendoo (Mongolia), Howard A. Fergus (Monserrat), Mohammed Bennis (Morocco), Luis Carlos Patraquim (Mozambique), James Norcliffe (New Zealand), Niyi Osundare (Nigeria), Erling Kittelsen (Norway), Nathalie Handal (Plaestine), Aiban Wagua (Kuna Nation, Panamá), Carlos Villagra Marsal (Paraguay), Gemino H. Abad (Philippines), Renato Sandoval (Peru), Yevgeny Yevtushenko (Russia), Milena Ercolani (San Marino), Cecil "Blazer" Williams (San Vicente y Granadinas), Braño Hochel (Slovaquia), Indran Amirthanayagam (Sri Lanka/ United States), Jenny Tunedal, Lasse Söderberg (Sweden), Fabiano Alborghetti (Switzerland), Hala Mohammad (Syria), Jules Deelder (The Netherlands), Jean Jacques Sewanou-Dabla (Togo), Ak Welsapar (Turkmenistan), Vasyl Makhno (Ukrania), Caroline Bird (United Kingdom), Bob Holman, Ken McCullough (United States), Gustavo Pereira, Ophir Alviarez (Venezuela).

My PERFORMANCES

On 9th July 2010, at 11.00 am I performed my poetry at Alianza Francesa, Parque de San Antonio, together with Juan Diego velasquez of Colombia, Hala Mohammad of Siria and Vasyl Makhno of Ukrain.

On the 10th of July 2010, at 4.30 pm, I read and performed my poetry at Municipio de Ciudad Bolivar, Camara de Comercio, with friend poets--- Pedro Arturo Estrada of Colombia, Arif Khudairi of Egypt and Erling kittelsen of Norway.  During the event I met one great artist called Lina Isabel Jaramillo. She interviewed me for the television before the audience. After the event we travelled back to Medellin city. On the way it started to rain. It increased and the driving became difficult. As we drove on we were stopped by trees that had fallen across the road. With the help of Erling Kittelsen, the strong poet among us, we tried to remove them, but to no avail. We had to return and spent a night in a small market centre somewhere in Colombia. We left for Medellin the following day. What an experience to remember!

On Sunday 11th July 2010 I performed at Museo El Castillo, Loma Los Balsos at 6.00pm. I was together with Ken McCullough of Estados Unidos, Jotamario Arbelaez of Colombia and Jean Clarence Lambert of France and John Agard of Guyana.

 

When I Die

When I die, my fair kin

Don’t burn my body

Don’t bury it either

Leave it to rot on the ground

 

Only put a little flower on it

But not the fragrant rose

For I might smell it and be happy

And wish to live again

 

When I breathe no more

My kind siblings

Sing me a song from the hymnal

But don’t choose number thirteen

 

For it might chant my ears

And warm my cold heart

Be reminiscent of joyful days

Making me wish to live again

 

When I kick the bucket

And stark becomes my body

Read me a little line from the bible

But don’t read the psalms

 

For you know I am a sinner

And have done little to mankind

And would want to do something for charities

Therefore wishing to live again

 

When I die, my fair world

Don’t cremate my body

Don’t, with hoes, inter me either

Leave it to waste on the ground

 

©Christopher Okemwa

 

Valentine’s Day

Having missed you on Valentine’s Day

I went back home, wan and grey

With nothing much for me to say

 

The little rose with a bright hue

Is now sullen, drooping

Seemingly mourning the absence of you

 

Don’t wait till all leaves drop, dear

And the stem remain empty and bare

It will be to make love glare with fear

 

Come on and water it, this symbol of love

Being part of it, oh sweetest dear

You know better how to retrieve the withering life.

 

©Christopher Okemwa

 

 Let Me Know

 If I ever offended you

Discuss it with me, dear love

Don’t keep it in the heart for too long

Let me know of the mistake

I have made, dear love

That makes you pale, mute

If I once shouted at you

And you were flustered, dear love

It is because I cared, or so I thought

Let us talk with open minds

Of the flaws, the pitfalls

And mend the broken fences

Bring to an end this silence

And hear your voice again, dear love

As it always came to me.

 

©Christopher Okemwa

 

An Old Retired School Teacher

 I met an old retired schoolteacher

His coat was faded, his shirt tattered

Wrinkles and crevices filled his forehead

Upon his chin was pasted a grey tuft

Of soil-caked, fluff-filled beard

He tottered along on an empty road

His lips moving, muttering to himself

 

I stopped to ask him his troubles

Why he was lonely and talking to himself

He said he had seen good old days

And enjoyed every hour of his life

He had taught so many great people

Some of whom held big positions in government

The society as it stood then, he said

Owed it all to his hard work as a teacher

But he shook his head and regretted

That his head carried half the world’s problems

And darkness was engulfing his twilight years.

 

He said he had retired a year ago

And TSC hadn’t released his pension

His third wife was at Pumwani giving birth

He had not paid dowry for his fifth wife

And to add injury to salt

Neither of his sons-in-law had paid their pride-price

 

The old man looked at me again

With red eyes that were heavy with sleep

“Son,” he said, “how I long for youth hood!”

He curled his nose and moved his lower lip

Turned and tottered away, muttering to himself.

 

©Christopher Okemwa

 

On Tuesday13TH July 2010 I performed my poems at Universidad EAFIT, auditorio Fundadores  at 11.ooam. I was with Hector Fagot of Colombia, Udo Kawasser of Austria, Teresa Colom of Andorra and Howard A. Fergus of Monserrat. Teachers and students from the area came to listen to us. The audience was so excited and bubbled with anxiety. After the poetry reading everyone wanted us to autograph the poetry books they had bought from us.

On Wednesday 14th July 2010, I performed at Adida, Teatro Luis Felipe Velez, Poetas Africanos. I performed alongside four poets, who were all from Africa. These were Paul Dekayo from Cameroon, Jean Jacques Sewanou Dabla from Togo and Koumanthio Zeinabou from Guinea.

On Friday16th July 2010, I performed at Parque Obrero del Municipio de Itagui. The poets with whom I performed were ClaudiaTrujillo of Colombia, Erling Kittelsen of Norway, Javier Campos of Chile and Nathalie Handel of Palestine.

On the last day, Saturday 17th July 2010, I was chosen to perform early in the morning before the closing ceremony began in the afternoon. The place where I performed was called Biblioteca del Corregimiento de Palmitas. I was impressed at the small enthusiastic audience in a small village. They asked me to perform an African poem which I did and it was all claps and cheers.

Christopher Okemwa being introduced by the festival organizers before performing his poems at Biblioteca del Corregimiento de Palmitas on Saturday the 17th July 2010

In the evening I attended the closing ceremony where we read a poem each. Thousands of people had gathered. The rain fell but could not scatter the enthusiastic audience. I was amazed at the number of people—young girls and boys, students and old people—who sat, wrapped in plastic rain clothes and who defied the rains. One poet after another was called to read their poems. Finally I heard my name. I took the podium and, with a rose flower on one hand, read my one poem “Valentine’s Day.”

Memorable Events

Top Awards

Year 2015

Burt Award (KENYA) for African Literature


Year 2006

Changamoto Arts Fund award.


Year 2002

Editor’s Choice Award for Outstanding Achievement in Poetry.

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Christopher Okemwa
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About Okemwa

Christopher Okemwa is a poet, actor, dancer, playwright, story-teller, short-story and children’s writer. He has won several awards in poetry. Learn More.