Art in Malawi

Interview with Phindu Zaie Banda – Poet in Malawi

Interview with Phindu Zaie Banda

Phindu Zaie Banda – Poet

Age 24
Current City Lilongwe, Malawi
Instagram @pinduzaie

Notable Poem


I’ve been seeing rainbows
more and more
everywhere I go
Brilliant reds and yellows,
bathed in radiant light,
touching everything in sight,
threatening to make you go blind

I’ve been seeing beauty,
imperfection, grace,
reflections of myself,
in swirls of orange and blue;
I’ve been seeing glitter in every hue

Where once I was a dull brown
in a black-and-white tableau;
floating in space and time
trying to be more than my shadow;
I have finally become the full picture,
I am finally awake, alive, fully here,
I am coloured outside the margins, too.

I’ve been seeing rainbows, dancing in both rain and sunshine,
I, myself, have kissed the sunrise
There is a glorious peace in being seen,
looking at the world and seeing yourself
When your life, your existence is valid;
when you realise you are the pot of gold.


Interview Date: February, 2022

“As much as possible forget the audience and focus on expressing yourself the way you want.”

How/when did you start writing?

I have always been a writer. “Always”, because as far as my mind remembers I’ve written stories, poems, diary entries and little notes that expressed how I felt.

I started to identify as a “proper” writer when I was 14, searching for my place in the order of the world.

Who are your favourite poets?

I can honestly say, for the first time on record, that I am my favourite poet.

I have been greatly influenced by Q Malewezi, Vangile Gantsho, Sarah Kay and many other poets.

In what ways does living in Malawi impact your writing?

My writing is through and through based on my lived experiences and those of the people around me.

I write about this country and its people and myself in all the ways we are connected: the joys, the sufferings, the hopes and the dreams.

I would not be truthful to myself or serve anyone if I tried to remove my work from Malawi.

I wouldn’t even know where to begin telling those stories.

You have performed at some major stages in Malawi including Lake of Stars, do you have a dream stage that you’d want to perform at?

I want to first acknowledge that my journey as a poet has been nothing less than a dream come true, far beyond what I was even dreaming of.

The stages I’ve stood on and audiences I have shared my work with have been big.

I look forward to putting on showcases of my own and being able to say, “This whole crowd came just to hear me speak.”

After that, I’d like to perform at more international festivals.

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

If you ask anyone about spoken word poets in Malawi they will list the same people they would have listed 5 years ago.

I think that goes to show that while we witnessed this burst of talent and set up collaborative spaces to nurture said talent, we’ve done little to grow beyond ourselves.

We have a lot of work to do to ensure that there are more voices being heard and more platforms through which they can be heard.

I am hopeful for the future: to see more individuals on the scene with their own styles and unique stories.

A lot of your poems contain themes of black womanhood, what is the inspiration for this?

I think of myself as a woman first and as black second; then as an individual first and a human being second.

I write in accordance with these identities.

First, wanting to tell my story as a way of simply expressing myself and then wanting to tell my story as a way of simply expressing myself and then wanting to tell the collective story as a way of ensuring that there is an authentic account out there that does note blur what it like to live in these bodies.

I borrow a lot of the stories I tell from the women around me and endeavour to make them feel seen where oftentimes they have been forgotten or misrepresented.

How long does it take you to write poem?

I’ll typically spend about a week thinking about and turning a concept/story in my head and on paper, then a couple of hours writing the first draft, then I’ll return to it a day later to see if it makes sense and feels right.

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

I am in fact overwhelmed by how people respond to my poetry.

I always say how this was not planned.

I never had “the big dream” or a trajectory for my poetry.

So every single person that’s ever liked, shared, related to or been inspired by my work has been a pleasant surprise for me.

I am blessed with this big gift and am simply happy to be able to share it with the world and have audiences that are grateful for it.

How do you deal with writer’s block?

Unless I absolutely have to produce work for some commitment, I just sit with myself and wait until I’m ready to write again.

I have been through weeks and even months of dry spells but when there is a poem I need to get out of me, it forces its way out.

That’s for certain.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Write for yourself first.

As much as possible, forget the audience and focus on expressing yourself the way you want.

You will not write for everyone and you should not try to.

There is a place for your figurative voice in much the same way as there is for your literal one.

Find it. Nurture it. Be at peace with it.

And when you find yourself losing your voice, take life’s metaphorical lemons, add hot water and ginger, and take time to heal.

Interview Date: February, 2022