Natasha Muhoza is a passionate writer, poet and currently, law student. Through her creative arts, she seeks to hugely impact many lives. Sharon Kantengwa had a chat with the 23-year-old on her experience and thoughts on poetry.
How did you get into spoken word?
I got into spoken word in 2013 when I was studying in the USA. My first audience was at an international students’ dinner at my school where I randomly wrote a short piece that took me 10 minutes and when I presented it right after, everyone couldn’t believe how long it had taken me.
Shortly after, a good friend strongly encouraged me to perform more and went ahead to put me in touch with the Rwandan Embassy in Washington DC, who were very supportive and immediately connected me to Angel Uwamahoro and Ines Giramata, lining us up to perform at the Kwibuka20 commemoration event in DC. It was then that I fell in love with spoken word and have been performing since.
When did you realise the poet in you?
That was when I was 14, during my second year of secondary school.
What themes are common with your poetry?
Pan Africanism, nationalism, education, empowerment, love, daily life, among others.
Which of your poems is your favourite?
Just like a child, each one is uniquely special to me. It’s tough to pick a favourite.
Poets tend to look up to others; can you suggest someone readers might enjoy?
Maya Angelou is my biggest inspiration, but I’m all about variety too. I love a range of poets like Edgar Allan Poe all the way to the many talented ones in the ‘Button Poetry’ community (YouTube) as well as brilliant African poets I discover every other day.
What do most well spoken poets have in common?
Well, I’d say depth. We have in common an ability to observe life and take from experiences both internal and external to us, and then somehow transform that into word.
What kind of creative patterns, routines or rituals do you have?
My creative process is very introspective. There’s really no formula; one million thoughts go through my head at any given time, and I observe almost all events and people around me at a deep level. In the process of philosophising, fantasising, questioning, or making conclusions, sometimes a few lines are born, sometimes pages.
How do you want your poetry to impact people?
I want my poetry to stick in society’s memory. I want them to be empowered, entertained, to have conversations over themes I express, or just laugh and share. Eventually I want to be part of a movement to train and nurture young emerging writers or poets in Africa.
How do you balance poetry with studies?
I don’t know actually, (laughs). I just make sure it works since both are priorities. I make the time and sometimes it’s tougher than others to balance.
If you could leave your audience with a phrase, what would it be?
“I hope you never lose your sense of wonder.” This is the first line of my favourite song of all time by Lee Ann Womack, I Hope You Dance. But every line that follows is a beautiful string of poetic insights for life that I believe we should all internalise.
What is it like to perform in different settings, such as festivals and YouTube?
It’s both super exciting and scary. Each time feels like the first and so I do my best to focus on the moment while it lasts and enjoy it as thoroughly as possible. About the YouTube videos, the process behind the scenes always reminds me of the power of team work and improvisation.
How do you find different audiences?
I keep on the lookout for platforms on which to perform, but it’s especially through people who believe in me enough to connect me to that opportunity.
What has been the highlight of your career so far?
My highlight has been meeting and learning from several very gifted artists, sharing stages with some, as well as presenting my poetry before world leaders like our own President and First Lady and other dignitaries at several big events and also recently, the Governor of the US state of South Carolina at my current school.
Has your idea of poetry changed you since you began writing poems?
My idea of poetry has not changed per se, but it has grown a lot. I’ve had eye-opening moments in every aspect of my writing starting from aesthetic use and function of language, all the way to the degree of depth or simplicity required for different pieces.
What advice do you have for aspiring spoken word poets?
A good poet friend of mine from Botswana, Drea Chuma, described it right, “poetry is a condition.” So, get a blank notebook or journal and start putting those feelings or thoughts on paper. Train your mind to listen keenly to the world around you; your hands to feel what your heart feels and just don’t stop writing. Most importantly, when the opportunity comes to share, stand before that audience despite feeling inadequate. If poetry is truly a part of you, the dots will all connect.