An Ink Overflow alumni performer, Glady Mwende is a performing spoken word artist based in Nairobi. She began her poetry career at 18-years-old, her debut performance was at Poetry At The Park. Her poetry projects include working on the WTF series by Creative’s Garage, participating in festivals such as Sondeka festival, Storymoja festival, and events such as Fatuma’s voice, Kwani Open Mic, Slam Africa. And we are lucky to have her perform this Saturday at Art and Poetry. We had a chat with Mwende about her journey and thoughts about the theme Beauty.
Ink Overflow: When did you decide you wanted to be a poet?
Gladys Mwende: I Don’t remember deciding to be a poet at any point of my life. Poetry found me. It’s more like a happening. I was in form two, writing articles for our journalist club then after my literature teacher read it. She was like, ‘You should do poetry.’ So I wrote more. After clearing high school, I meet Juma Wafula founder of ‘poetry at the park’ now renamed to ’Ndimi Zetu’, he reads my work and tells me I should perform. In my head, I was to remain a writer, not a performing poet but I did and I liked it. I grew into it.
IO: How do you structure your days?
GM: No structure whatsoever. I write when a thought strikes, or when I see something that sparks my creative process. It’s not a specific scheduled thing. It happens. Randomness.
IO: What would you have done differently if you knew then what you know now?
GM: I guess every day that passes by is a learning opportunity. You evolve as artists and what you were is not what you are now. A few things I have learned through performance and writing are evolutionary.
IO: What’s the best advice you ever received?
GM: Write from your heart. Give your story a soul. Let it be a living process. This is what I live by till today.
IO: What is still your biggest challenge?
GM: My biggest challenge is self-doubt. There are times you feel that you can achieve a lot as an artist but then, a lot of “what if’s” pop up in your head, it becomes yourself made demon. It shrinks you until you learn to silence that though
IO: Is poetry full time for you?
IO: Love is a recurring theme in your work is there a reason for that?
GM: Love is a very interesting thing to me. Since my childhood being told God is love, then God creating both the good and the bad. So the love is in the good and the bad. It’s a topic that still unfolds, still something I try to understand and the more I write about it, the more I see its many perspectives. It’s beauty to me.
IO: Art is not taken too seriously in Kenya, what are some of the negative things you have been told about your art?
GM: The major topic that is brought up was, do you trust art to pay your bills.
IO: How did you respond?
GM: Yes, I trust art to pay my bills, yes I believe in art this much. You just need to package yourself. It’s work like any other.
IO: What does beauty mean to you?
GM: Beauty is being human, being human is being flawed, vulnerable and weak. Being all this is finding that confidence to tell stories the way they are and the way you want to tell them. Beauty to me is allowing yourself to be born again in each phase of life you find yourself in.
IO: What advice do you have for other poets?
GM: Stay in love with your art. You will have moments. They are inevitable but remember why you do it and what keeps you at it …then stay.