Saturday, March 7, 2015

5 Questions for Poet/Writer Christian Koumtog

I brought 5 questions to the poet/writer from Chad who now lives in New York City. Here are his unedited answers.

1) What got you interested in poetry?

So before I answer what, allow me to mention who. Léopold Sédar Senghor (9 October 1906 – 20 December 2001) He was a Senegalese poet, politician, and cultural theorist who for two decades served as the first president of Senegal (1960–1980). Senghor was the first African elected as a member of the Académie française. (Wikipedia)
He is the number one reason why I got started. 
The second person who got me interested is MC Solaar. According to Wikipedia: Claude M'Barali better known by his stage name MC Solaar (French pronunciation: [ɛm si sɔˈlaʁ] (born March 5, 1969) is a Francophone hip hop and rap artist. He is one of France's most internationally popular and influential hip hop artists. Claude M'Barali was born in DakarSenegal to parents from Chad. When he was six months old, due to the political troubles in Senegal, his parents emigrated to France where they settled in the Parisian suburbs. He is my number 3 hero and third most influential Inspiration when it comes to my writing.
Being able to share my unique experience got me interested in Poetry; I am a thinker and that is one thing we all do willingly or unwillingly- think. We do it for the common good or {sometimes} for the bad.
What else got me interested in poetry is the hip hop industry. I was wondering why all these rappers and [most] artists are giving such a platform and their messages are so detrimental to our well-being and society.
I strongly believe that my message - whenever I write- aims at uplifting the youth and inspiring everyone but also recalling History; ours has been distorted. Africa has a better historical Painting than what is being portray on the daily by the media. 
2) How do your African origins affect your poetry?

Speaking of unique experience, being from Chad where our culture is so different, I always try to recall my childhood when I can. I also get that African rhythm inflicted in my writing. I do not want my writing to be dull nor boring so this is where my sense of uniqueness comes in. This is what sets me apart.

It isn't conspicuous but the music I listen to can be felt through most of my verses. The musical scene is so vibrant in Africa that I cannot help it but find a way to incorporate it in my writing.
3) Now that you live and work in the U.S., has your perspective about Africa's relationship to the U.S. changed?

My views have Not really changed, help has been provided when needed and Africans and African nations have the ability to help each other. We saw this when my own Chadian government along with Cameroon launched a military offensive against Boko Haram. Nigeria should have taken that initiative a long time ago but did not.

As of today, Boko Haram is slowly but surely being pushed back from all the lands they seized throughout Nigeria. Speaking of inter-continental help, African nations can do a lot more when it comes to changing our diplomatic relations with each other. They are to facilitate traveling from one country to another; hence fortifying our relations (overall) with each other.
Economically, instead of funding France or the UK, African Presidents have to reassess their responsibilities as Public servants and take care of us, Africans.

4) What is the biggest challenge facing Africa today?

Being the richest continent on Earth, Africa is being attacked from the North to the South, from the East to the West by China, the USA, Europe and that is through civil wars and internal (regional) conflicts.
Allow me to specific: In Congo, the current President (of the DR Congo) is trying to alter the Constitution in order to run for another term and he is definitely not allowed to run again. He allowed the shutting down of the country's Internet system when students, locally, were protesting. He did so in order to prevent them from using social media and spread the word about their mistreatment.
There are bloody conflicts ravaging Congolese people because only two countries in the world have this resource Congo has and the Democratic Republic of Congo is one of them. It is the Coltan (short for columbite–tantalite and known industrially as tantalite); it is a dull black metallic ore from which the elements niobium and tantalum are extracted (Wikipedia). It is used in the buildup of most cell phones hence a highly prized mineral. It is written that Coltan is made into a component for many digital products such as cell phones. The digital age has caused issues regarding power relations and violence between individuals from the Congo and the rest of the world. An example of uneven power relations was in late 2000, when there was a great demand for the PlayStation 2. This demand caused the price of coltan to increase very quickly and after [a] demand for the gaming system fell, so did the price of coltan.[20] The price hike of coltan had made the violence in eastern Congo a lot worse, as the violence was being directed at everyday "social production".[20] Since there is a growing need for new technologies, the demand for coltan is growing substantially.

Having such an emerging economy, Africa is being entered and invaded by China as industries are being created. The only issue is that those Chinese companies bring their people from China (Chinese workers) for all the jobs being created in Africa. That’s the case in Kenya currently. Read here:

Ebola is still a problem in Liberia and Sierra Leone. It is an epidemic that is still impacting those respective countries. Clean water is still not available to most Africans and drought is very common; hence most Africans still suffer from malnutrition. Education is at its lowest in all 55 nations of Africa. Those nations that have natural resources have to deal with corruption because the money being provided by World Bank is not being used as underlined. Aids is still an issue.

5) How can poetry create change?

By creating awareness. That is one; being that I have been writing for over 10 years, I have started somewhere different than where I am now and seen my writing change and how it has improved.
I had to adapt to the major events and reflect them through poetry; being influenced as well by positive experiences, I try to convey what others would want to express. And by being exposed to other writers and poets,
I try to master the law of subconscious positive influence. I understand how untraditional our subconscious being is and truly believe that once that is positively inspired, wonders are possible.

By creating a personal conviction in the reader and aligning myself with him or her yet holding strong to my position. For instance, let's say that you came across this verse from my latest poem (For The Hungry) and read this:
Starving and homeless, in need of food and
clean water — know that you are not forgotten.

Your respective governments may have forgotten
About your basic needs, but we have not!
Here is a shelter for your soul, etc.

I strongly believe that you would definitely be moved, especially if you were hungry as you read this. Your feelings of being forsaken may have been validated but you would realize that, at least, someone -the poet who wrote that piece- is thinking about you and others and creating awareness.

I actually sent that poem (in its entire form) to so many people I was so overwhelmed by the positive responses I did not know that so many people were affected one way or another by my thoughts. I was even given a link to a charitable organization in order take action.

At a recent conference, that actually took place at NYU last week, I asked to further have an impact, "what are the concrete ways to turn awareness into actual positive actions?" The answer is realization. I love this word and love it more in French: Prise de Conscience.
Once the women who have been victims of domestic violence realized their greater worth then they will be able to break loose and say no to the men and husbands or individual who has been inflicting that pain.

I, definitely through this Art, am able to create change by creating a personal conviction in the reader hence creating awareness founded on strong convictions. And as long as my message is sound and positive,

Conclusively, I would like to share a thought from my blog [courtesy of] CKOUMTOG.WORDPRESS.COM:

To be or be Too? This question raises one thing- an Identity crisis.
We have forgotten our Integrity and now have to deal with Isis.
Lost because of our Lust, rooted in the love of money that is {...}
The People We [All] are were given a second chance, our Metamorphosis.
That is the Renewing of our Minds and Souls and Spirits;
Love as the lust of the flesh ought to die, change ought not to cease.

When will my people finally realize that Your Mindset will dictate your Future? Fundamentals changes to please.


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  2. Impressive answers. Where other artists would take this opportunity to capitalize on his or her accomplishments: self-actualized individual like Koumtog does the opposite. He instead informs and shed light on the many issues facing the poor: well done!