Before Them, We: new poetry anthology digs deep into African family histories

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A fascinating new poetry anthology celebrating intergenerational African family histories will be published next month. Poets such as Inua Ellams, Nick Makoha, Yomi Sode and many more are included in the anthology, which will explore the lives of grandparents and elders before the families they went on to establish. The anthology features 24 poets, including both commissioned writers and poets who responded to a call-out: writers such as multi-disciplinary artist, poet and playwright Dzifa Benson; Nigerian-born award-winning poet, playwright and performer Inua Ellams; Zimbabwean literary and sound artist Belinda Zhawi; queer non-binary Nigerian/Togolese writer and performer Michelle Tiwo; Ghanaian-British producer and writer Nii Ayikwei Parkes, who has won acclaim as a children's author, poet, broadcaster and novelist; Hodan Yusuf, a writer, actress, multimedia journalist and trainer in conflict resolution; digital Somali cultural archivist and independent researcher Ibrahim Hirsi; and Ola Elhassan, a Sudanese poet and electrical engineer.

Before Them, We is edited by flipped eye’s senior poetry editor Jacob Sam-La Rose and curated by Ruth Sutoyé, and is part of a larger multidisciplinary project, which included a photography exhibition in summer 2021 and a series of events including a documentary photography workshop, an oral history workshop, and a poetry film screening.

Ruth Sutoyé said: “Before Them, We is an offering to memory and preservation of African diaspora familial histories. An offering to my late grandmother who serves as the project's inspiration, the many lives she lived and shared with me. It's an ode to grief and to the life stories of our elders that were/are lesser known.

“It has been a great joy to give to this body of work through photography, but even more bringing together an incredible range of poets and storytellers of African descent who have contributed and engaged collectively in this form of family archiving. Contributing to the Black, African, Diasporic canon and honouring our elders' narratives permanently was one of the larger objectives.

“One hope for readers is that they find stories they are drawn to and relate with shared from the poets, but potentially more importantly, the greater hope is that this collection inspires urgency within readers to document their grandparents and elders' life stories whilst they are still alive to tell them or to be intentional in the pursuit of documenting even if they are no longer here.”

The anthology will be published by flipped eye on 27 January, 2022.

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