Anena bows to her boobs with poetry

The poet Harriet Anena during the performance last Tuesday at Uganda National Cultural Center. She believes that people are more likely to engage in erotic discussions. PHOTO BY MICHEAL KAKUMILIZI

What you need to know:

Political erotica. In a performance that left the audience impressed, Harriet Anena addressed different political issues using sexual undertones.

Harriet is not your average Stella Nyanzi. She chooses her words carefully and tailors them with artistic grace, whose strength hits harder than a bare chested woman. While she strutted the National Theatre stage, performing her own collection of poetry “I Bow For My Boobs,” Anena proved an all-round artist. She is the writer who used theatrical performance to bring poetry to life.
She effortlessly merged politics and eroticism in a way not even undressing publically could measure up to. “Politics is a subject most people don’t want to be associated with and they don’t want to speak publicly about the erotica –albeit the enjoyment,” she said.

Marrying interesting topics
But people also enjoy politics, so she decided neither to concentrate on one but marry the two. As she seductively strutted the stage, in a shorts- thigh up- and black vest, she teasingly knotted her hair, lusciously wore a yellow stretch of beads around her neck...and as she made a quick dress change, before our very eyes, topping a red shirt to cover her nearly bare back, the black top underneath became a mini shirt.
“I’m wearing Black Yellow Red” she burst out in word, “Not for the damness of the moment but for the thickness of memory” as though she were reminding the audience of the colours that make Uganda distinct. She utilised chatters of laughter that resonated with her audience as she teased them momentarily, on one incident, nearly throwing her undergarments at them.

The central poem
While the performance was a collection of several pieces, the title of the show “I Bow To My Boobs” is from a title of the poem in Acholi. She performed it in Acholi to maintain the power of language which might be lost in translation but also because it is “a very personal poem and the only way I would get into it and bring it on stage- it wouldn’t work in English,” she said.
It centres on a drunkard husband who returns home, his trousers wet with urine. His bitter wife wonders what to do with him that she decides to pray to her breast to turn into stone. “It’s really about power and powerlessness and how the two interchange. I look at relationships between a couple and how the woman relates to the man and how each of them tries to curve out their space,” Anena noted.
During the dialogue with the audience she revealed that she writes in Acholi first and translates to English because there’s richness in local language.

The performance
There was a file of sexual undertones that she otherwise covered with euphemism in action. She admitted to there being a thin line between the moral and immoral in political erotica, so she chose dancing some of the poems. Her tone kept drifting and one could draw her emotional digest in the words even as she rubbed her hands all over her thighs and chest.
The contrast in the subject and action was the strength of these pieces that while we might separate eroticism from politics, these two have close likeness. However, the poet hopes the audience appreciated diversity in culture, diversity in relationships, and diversity in how people use their bodies and minds to curve out a political space to them.
Afro Man Spice’s Sandy Soul credited Anena for having embraced all the characters there are in her poems and transforming into a different person on stage.

Poetry shrine
The poetry shrine founded by Peter Kagayi has creating these one man-one woman shows, and while Anena’s performance is now slated for the Babishainiwe poetry festival later in June with plans for an all Acholi performance underway, the next one man poetry show (next month) is by Hip Hop sensation Ruyonga.