Art in Malawi

Interview with Angali Chagwamnjira – Poet in Malawi

Interview with Angali Chagwamnjira

Angali Chagwamnjira – Poet

Age 29
Current City Blantyre, Malawi
Instagram @omg_itscupid

Notable Poem

Name of Poem: Sometimes You Gotta Do, What You Gotta Do

I made a deal
Others will say with the devil
All I know is, I made a deal
I exchanged my pain and suffering
With others pain and suffering
See he feeds off pain
He thrives on suffering
And he enjoys everything in between
And so I made a deal
An exchange of sorts
Them for me
I lure them in
Crush their souls
Break their spirits
And he feeds off their pain and suffering
I made a deal
With the devil some say
But it’s the only way I feel whole again


Interview Date: February, 2022

“The first time time I went on stage, I cried.

How/when did you start writing?

I started writing when I was in primary school.

At that time, I didn’t consider it poetry because I had learned that poetry needs to rhyme.

Initially, I wanted to be a rapper and join my bother’s rap group but then rap also needed you to rhyme apparently so I was like well I just write things.

Then eventually I learned that poetry didn’t always have to rhyme and then my sister saw my work and encouraged me to be able to call myself a poet and accept that I write poetry.

Who are your favourite poets?

My favourite poets are Maya Angelou, Amanda Lovelace, Atticus, DarkShadow, Robert Chiwamba and William Shumba.

In what ways does living in Malawi impact your writing?

Malawi is in a league of its own.

The way we do things, the way we respond to things and even the way we think and process things is different.

We are a hybrid country which has made my writing hybrid.

A mixture of Western ideologies on certain things such as love and Malawian values on the same subject matter differ and when it comes to my writing you can be able to experience both sides of the same coin.

What do you think about the rise of spoken word poetry in Malawi?

I am happy there has been a rise in spoken word poetry in Malawi.

There was a time when the only poetry that was accepted was that  of the Kamuzu era and every poem was judged on the basis of the cryptic writings of those days.

With the introduction of social media, more artists have been able to share their work.

Hence, narrow-minded thinking has been changed as artists have been able to push their work thus pushing the Malawian poetry scene far.

But like anything that social media affects, it has dwindled the standards of poetry as anyone can now write and share their work regardless of the quality.

So as much as it is a great thing, it is still bittersweet as we are yet to have a standard of work that can be put out there and actually call poetry.

You have a lot of poetry on black femininity and trauma. What inspired you to incorporate these themes?

Well, I am a woman and as a human and a woman I too have experienced some trauma.

As such it hits home when you hear some of the experiences that others have gone through.

The more you hear the more you want to say something about it so what better way than to turn to what I know.

Furthermore, I am a gender activist so discussions regarding feminism and trauma are ones I am all too familiar with.

How do you deal with writer’s block?

Oh when I figure it out I’ll share.

For now I just let it run its course or seek inspiration from works by others or my own work. Sometimes it works other times it doesn’t but I’m yet to find a working formula.

How long does it take you to write poem?

It depends.

It can take me less than a minute or several days depending on the inspiration.

The thing is, I don’t always write my poetry the same.

There are times when I can be minding my own business then all of a sudden inspiration hits and I have to stop what I’m doing to write otherwise that piece will be gone forever.

There are other times when I start writing a poem and a whole new poem will form in my head so I have to stop the one I’m writing then return to the first piece which can be very hectic.

And there are times when I have to sit down and actually come up with something and it’s usually those times when a piece takes longer to write.

As I write this there are some pieces from more than a year ago that are yet to be finished but might eventually be finished once I read them and they spark creativity.

So I guess all in all it depends on how creative I’m feeling.

Are you satisfied with the way your poetry has been received?

I am actually surprised with the way my poetry has been received.

For example when I realised my Ep Hair, there were people coming up to me to tell me about how they really like a certain poem and I was shocked.

Or when I have a performance and I have people come up to tell me how great my performance is.

I still get surprised because it took me a long time to be able to share my poetry.

I remember the first time I shared my work at Chancelor Collage in the writer’s workshop, I had to look away from the audience so I didn’t feel their eyes because I couldn’t believe they were about to hear my thoughts.

The first time I went on stage I cried.

So I am very surprised and extremely grateful for the way my poetry has been received by people.

My favourite part of poetry especially performing is how engrossed everyone becomes during recital.

It feels like they are on the journey with me and I have to bring them back to reality whenever I’m done.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Write for yourself.

Before you write for others, write for yourself.

Interview Date: February, 2022