Philo Ikonya has published a new collection of poems, Splintering Silence, and is due to publish a new novel this autumn, called Invincible Nubia: Adios Lampedusa!.
Says Ikonya of Splintering Silence (Langaa Publishers, 2014):
“Out of the wells of our minds and hearts and souls that run deeper than skin, I tried to touch what goes beyond our usual borders in the making of Literature. I went beyond countries, nationalities and into myself. This is always the biggest frontier to cross. We go far to the planets to seek to find what is so near. Ourselves and our names. I wondered without fear and took with me a song. We are so limited that we always need something material to refer to. It was best for me to takethe Sound of Silence, a song I love, and ask questions. It resonated well with me for it is sung in the wake of the assassination of J.F. Kennedy in 1963. There is this poetic deep loneliness, mix of nostalgia, anguish of melancholy… in the absence of a person who promised much and gave some faith, John F Kennedy, and in the face of brutality that hits cruelly. This song also speaks to a darkness that is often feared rather than confronted; Hello Darkness My Old Friend!
In this poetry I continue my search and try to confront my own desires, expectations and longings. I do not say fears. I express my observations in a new land, in Oslo, Norway. I am always wondering whether those of us who are soul travelers make sense to those that are writers always at home. Are they inspired by us or not? Do we form a substantial part of their writing or are we monsoons that come and go. I am never within and without a place. I write what I see. Wake Oslo up again is published here. What I would do or say to a Pharaoh regarding genitalia cutting too.
This poetry book has been described as a book from a woman who knows power. How can that be? Is it not a contradiction? All I have is a pen, dreams and the longing to get home in a little canoe”.
Splintering Silence is published by Langaa Publishers, and is available from the African Books Collective, among other sites.
Ikonya gives this account of how Invincible Nubia: Adios Lampedusa! (to be published in Autumn 2014) came to be:
“This rigorous work both philosophically and practically is dedicated to a young man who was known as Benjamin Hermansen, and many others who die because of who they are genetically. At the time of writing, the author had no idea that Michael Jackson had also dedicated his song Invincible to Benjamin Hermansen. I just found out that today 2014, 21st August.
A flight takes off from Heathrow after a long week of grounded flights due to excessive snow. Soon after the craft is gently riding on water and it becomes a strange fish.
There is undersea life and activity. The Voice guides two people who, for having more melanin, were seen as strangers by the others on the flight. Where are all the others? They are coming and so is Iria. Who is she and what is the meaning of her name? Why has she seen so many bodies under the sea? Are they dead or down there giving testimony and learning? Testimonies about such a divided world? If they are, what for and to whom?
In the Pot of the Child, which is what we call the womb, there are many questions. Were all the continents at one time Pots of the Child where all should have lived? Is there any hope for that? Iria can swing from planet to planet and down to earth.
Invincible Nubia: Adios Lampedusa! is a long and strong story which moves from the basic to the sublime in a matter of lines. It reveals the author’s versatility. The swing of the imagination in this work is a stroke of genius.
This book was written before Mh 370 went down and was inspired and started in England where the author was held up for a week as all flights were grounded in Dec 2010 due to snow storms”.
Ikonya published her novel Still Sings the Nightbird on Langaa Publishers in 2013. Some excerpts from the book, and the author’s thoughts, are shared here:
“"The sun travels fast like an untouchable bride. She grabs her golden yellow robe at her waist, parts of it dash behind the hemline. She moves undeterred. She cleans the sky……In the horizon the moon rises gently. First she gleams her soft rays. When her powerful beams strike the ground, rings of hope rise into the air. The moon is now fully visible. She too grabs her apparel. Hers is a silver and white skirt pressed around her waist as with a magnet. Silently starts take their places. The noon beast soft colors around and beyond her. She rills the earth. The planet loves her. She pauses and watches the terrestrial. On the terrain below, people move around. It is evening, Neither the sun nor the moon reign." Valley, Pg. 5
"Seen from above, the rim of the Great Rift Valley in Kenya looks like long green and borwn legs, very long. Tonight, these limbs sleep alone on the brows of the high edges of the burning rift. They lie broken and thin and are spread out painfully. " Valley pg. 14.
There is hope in the song of the nightbird. It is heard in many places. It does not skip a beat. There are men in the book but we meet the first two characters. The relationship between mother and daughter, Wakabi and Kabi is here so tight and yet threatened by outside forces they can still dream:
"Mother and daughter are caught in the dream of the soft rings of power and light that the moon throws down to the earth. A call comes from they moon and they surrender their pain. Extreme exhaustion is sculpted in their bodies" Pg. 29
Kabi has to daily go home fast from school fast to breastfeed while village boys can go for mobile movie shows. She and her mother do not know films. Yet the novel will go from Kenya to Canada and many parts of the earth and the song of the bird:
"Oh it is so cold, oh it is so cold where shall I sleep?" be translated into many languages of the earth. For there is suffering no matter the comfort mothers can give. There is more than one crucifixion here and songs are essential as are rituals.
"It is a silver night. It is both dark and bright. A think blanket of gray clouds covers the sky." pg. 35
Mother and daughter have between them the bird that kisses young Kabi´s forehead one late evening as they go home from tiring work. In some way the Mother, Wakabi is her name, Kabi and the bird are a trinity.
This book does slice into the history of practical aspects of Catholicism in the life of some Kenyans as well as in the country. It unveils the local Pietas of Mothers and their children but does not protect the abuse that some encounter. Nature tries to make up.
It is a first in fiction that does not generalize on Christianity but goes to the practical aspects of Catholic possibilities. Sr. Mirella and her colleague, studies in Rome and meaning in the life of Will who eventually marries Kabi.
"One foot after the other, long legs joined in the crotch, became like parallel railway lines. The women cannot sit to rest. They are like wagons. The parallel legs carry them and the burdens on their backs further on each second with a promise of homecoming…" pg. 35
Yet Kenya´s history and what I describe as defilement by the British is here in the real rape that Kabi endures and which rules her Mother´s sentiments and life. What difference can these two make? Can a people overcome political, spiritual and cultural domination?
"Girls spend many hours making stiff skirts from twigs. They wear them to resemble the Queen of England whose name they wrote in minor letters: kwini ithabethi.
But practical problems are here. All the women have to come together to raise Baby Jugus, whom Kabi keeps from this abuse so that she can continue with her education. This book is studded with historical gems as known by the characters including some political details that the author does not shy away from naming.
I started writing this book in 1991 in my escapades up in the trees where the wind blew and height provided me with a level I badly needed to get away from a subtle occupation of my mind which was taking away the poetry of life as I know it”.
Still sings the Nightbird will be available in Norwegian in 2015.