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‘A Poetic Call to Action’: A Review of ‘Elephant’ by Siana Bangura

In her collection, Elephant, Siana Bangura explores race and gender politics with a critical eye, putting together a series of pieces which gradually morph into a poetic call to action.

In Elephant, Bangura seems fundamentally concerned with fashioning her own strong sense of black sisterhood and empowerment, nodding to past historical figures such as Maya Angelou and Sojourner Truth in the process. However, this text is also jam-packed with a plethora of other social and political discussions. For example, many of her poems act as anthems against police brutality, listing victims of institutional violence and referencing the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement. Bangura also shrewdly dissects family dynamics, looking closely at motherhood and fatherlessness. Furthermore, Bangura confronts questions concerning race and immigration, passionately evaluating issues such as stereotyping, cultural assimilation, cultural appropriation, institutional bias, religion, colonialism and gentrification. Finally, Bangura delves into personal relationships, exploring love, loss, grief, infidelity, and, lastly, the importance of establishing supportive male allies in the fight for equality.

Photo by: @vitalwritersblog.

This text demands attention and insists on a listener. Bangura repeatedly encourages an open dialogue across various social sectors, often criticising the privileged for their inability and/or unwillingness to listen to black women. Indeed, her final poem, ‘Elephant’, for which the collection is named, depicts a conversation between herself and a racist stranger. Tired of being ignored, Bangura ultimately constructs a powerful text that refuses to fall on deaf ears.

Bangura will be chairing a panel on Saturday the 6th of July as part of the Africa Writes literature festival. This panel, entitled ‘Stepping Into Our Own’, will discuss identity politics and will be comprised of: Koleka Putuma, Okechukwu Nzelu, Olumide Popoola and Chelle O.T. Tickets are available: here.

Africa Writes 2019 Programme Brochure

Africa Writes 2019 Programme Brochure

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