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A Fantastic Find

I just wanted to take a moment to share something pretty spectacular. I came across this site after reading a review of Isis Magazine from blogger Moderne Maid. First off, it led me to this site Isis Empire: Talents – Vocals where I found this young talent. I ordered the first issue of Isis Magazine from Moderne Maid’s review. I didn’t even want to finish her review because I was just so excited about the magazine I thought it was too good to be true and I wanted to see it for myself so I ordered it. It’s from the UK and the magazine itself wasn’t expensive but the shipping brought the total up. Not even worried, it will be well worth it.

Anyway! I found this artist ‘George the Poet’ and I had to share some of his work. He’s a 20/21 year old guy from NorthWest London and he does spoken word poetry. How do I describe his talent? His work, his voice, is clear and yet you want to listen to the same piece several times because each time you hear it you probably hear another layer or understand a little deeper. What struck me was how much I could relate to his words, especially in one of his videos.

This was the first piece I had heard from George the Poet and it got me right away.

Mother Tongue
‘Here are my people, talking my language, it’s like smiling from prison. It’s funny when you miss what you know you never had. My bilingualism’ George the Poet. Exactly!! I can imagine myself, sitting at a table with my parents and my family from Zambia, eating traditional food which I’m familiar with, shima and kasumbi (chicken), hearing these words float around the room, over my head, unreachable. I can imagine smiling, nodding, but I’m not there. I’m not a part of this conversation. I’m sure I would have things to say if I was but there’s a wall. Something I can’t hurdle, or climb over in a day. Something that wasn’t given to me, shared with me.

I’m not going to blame my parents and say it’s their fault. I can’t imagine coming to Canada as a widow with a 3-year-old and a 16-month old baby like my mom did. Arriving in Canada in December to cold and snow and rain. Being that far away from everything you’ve ever known. You’re going to want to adapt. And you’re going to want your children to adapt. It’s survival. You want to survive and succeed. I can’t imagine with her Zambian English– her Zambian accent, being corrected when speaking or needing to repeat what you’ve said to be understood. You’re going to want to ensure you know this language. You’re going to want to ensure your children know this language. At 3 years old my brother would have been beginning to speak his mothers’ language. He developed a stutter. Adorable, yet I’m sure frustrating. Was it the transition? From his mothers’ tongue to this new one? Maybe.

We’ve got the basics down. ‘Be quiet’ ‘did you wash your face’ and the names of the Zambian foods we eat because there’s no words in English for that. But we missed the ability to share our thoughts with our family in their language. We’ve missed the humour, the cadence, the banter.

I was at my grad yesterday and my parents were so overjoyed to see another family from Zambia. A girl had graduated with her Bachelor’s in Science. We spoke and were surprised that we had never run into each other on campus. She said she had asked student information if there had been any other Zambians on campus. I was sad when I thought to myself, realized, and said out loud: I guess I wouldn’t have said I was Zambian, I would have said I was Canadian. I wasn’t an international student yet I had an international background. I felt sad.

Her dad came up to me and shook my hand, greeting me in Bemba. I replied.. as best I could in one of the very few words I knew.. he looked at me ‘eh-eh!’ in the Zambian way and looked to my dad, “Bemba? Or…” thinking he had perhaps used the wrong dialect. I was sad… I could only stand back and watch their exchange. My parents laughing with them. They were from my province. My mom went to college in the town they were from. We were the same countrymen. But I was separated. My brother and I were separated from that.

George the Poet summarized my experience. That feeling of disconnect, the ability to smile and gesture but not speak.

Here’s some more of his work.

My City 



2 thoughts on “A Fantastic Find

  1. Awesome post. I’ve had moments where I’ve felt the same way about my language (Haitian). I relearned it as a teen but I sill don’t get the jokes or the different ways of saying the same thing but with a slightly different meaning.

    • Yes! That’s amazing you had the opportunity to relearn Haitian. And still even then there are things missing. I’m sure if I learned my language now (Chokwe or Bemba from Zambia) I would have a pronounced Canadian accent that would make my cousins laugh. It’s a simple thing language, but it opens up entire worlds. And unless you have someone to converse with in that language, for some people, the ability to speak it slips away. I’m still willing to learn! 🙂

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