Femi Abubakar: Curating Diaspora
Confronting postmodernism’s strident “no”, blithely pessimistic in its desire for organic negation of its own existence, Femi Abubakar’s Manual of Dispossessed Motherlands repeatedly says “yes”. Throughout Abubakar’s collection of poems, affirmations, and acceptance are lines of flight that ally “with striated territorialities of occupation” harmed by the system and its outmoded, “illogic of whiteness.”
When Abubakar arrived in Omaha in 1994, the same year that Reagan-era poultry farms were finally deconstructed, he initially “refused” to identify as an African, and, instead, “celebrated whatever was not Eurocentric, working in meat-processing and youth centers… and thinking the only community possible was a community of resistance.” Now he admits that “poetry is also a city,” and writes of the diverse cities, past and present, inside and outside of Greater Africa—of the way that identity, for people of color, actual and virtual, has intersected the orthodoxies of the African age and fractured and liberated its content, both bride-price and wedding guests. In syntax that is intentional in its non-whiteness, Abubakar acknowledges that a sentence and grammar itself can contain or oppress. He writes, for example, after Mugabe’s “Non-native Agricultural Appropriations Act,” of:
[…] the exhausted government ministers who, as development loans defaulted and life blossomed into a bloodless auction, had to choose between educating their children in the U.S. and selling their Mercedes fleet or acquiring the confiscated farms of people who might and did hurt their wives and mistresses, who made the decisionless-decision of continued personal enrichment or the impersonal impoverishing of a racist agricultural sector that regularly humiliated Africans for being African and for being married, for having women of no color who had children or women of any color who had children by many fathers or black women who had children with fathers who were not white.
Recollected in diaspora: The Bride Price
White goats, pale camels, filthy sheep
and colorless apes of finance
hail the bride-to-be.
They gather in the lengthening shadows of the West
bleating and chattering in that unsafe space
where colonial powers hoard deceptions.
Silent, in her hut,
bound, excised, sewn shut, she sits
an African body, a fetishized continent
commodified non-event of bargained victimhood
and among the bloodied baobabs and dusty thorns
we wait for a wedding
to burst forth with ululations of victory
from innumerable hot gun-barrels.
Femi Abubakar is an Omaha-based poet and essayist, and a professor at the Diaspora Arts Collective. His works include The Camels of Ouagadougou (Nomad Press, 2003), My Transplanted Nation (Inshallah Press, 2011), and the 2014 Trinidad/Tobago GRIOT award-winning Beads for Slaughter (Carnival Books, 2016), which Shoshana Mandelbaum described in the New York Times as “bold, beautiful, challenging verse that bankrupts the political economy of poetics and of art itself.”
Abubakar’s poetry (he writes mainly in French) has been translated into a number of languages, including Tuareg, English, Basque, and Arabic and his chapbook Tea in the Desert (2013) was published by the collective Djema el F’naa in Amazigh translation. Abubakar’s other chapbooks include Al Haji Masra’s Wedding, and Holy War of Poetry.
In 2016, Abubakar was diagnosed with highly-aggressive case of Trump Derangement Complex which led to his work on the politics of resistance in the age of tolerance. According to critic Idris Washington-Jones, Abubakar’s work “butchers the fatted calf of poetry and culture as we know them.”
( Editor: Harrison Tsinakut-O’odla )
Harrison Tsinakut-O’odla is a First Nations poet born on land belonging to the Hootenani Nation.
He grew up in Ininew, Oji-Crow, Dene, and the Ts’msyen Tsimshian territory of Kitsum’k/Kitsalas.
He also lived on Pemmikan, Snuneymxw, Qw’tsun, Anishnabg, Ha’denoyni and Wendat/Tlohtià:ke.
He identifies as a white woman who voted for Donald Trump.
His preferred pronoun is Kootu.