Linda Gabriel is one of the most exciting female poets from southern Africa. The Zimbabwe-based artist bravely raises her voice to bear testimony for the women who would not be heard otherwise. She breaks taboos, openly speaks of forbidden love, revenge, AIDS and undying hope. Her poems reflect what moves and frustrates Zimbabwe’s youth.
She belongs to the so-called “born free” generation, who still knows of the euphoria of the newly won independence, but has since mostly witnessed political repression and economic crises which they process artistically. Linda is sceptical of the „new“ Zimbabwe – which has been joyfully proclaimed in the streets after Robert Mugabe‘s long-awaited resignation last year – since it’s the same people close to the former ruler who now rule the country themselves. „Change is coming, but it’s coming slowly”, says the poet. “And for women who sell vegetables by day and their bodies by night, it’s probably coming even more slowly.”
InterKontinental now brings Linda Gabriel back to Germany. From April to May 2018 the performer will be on stage in several German cities, among others at “Writing in Migration”, Berlin’s first African Book Festival. Her one-woman-show You Think You Know Me? deals with sex as a commodity and a young woman who is willing to sacrifice everything for her children. The criminalisation and resulting stigmatisation of sex workers has inspired the play. „Offering sex as a commodity is like going to war. Sacrifices are being made to possibly fulfil a longing or hope“, Linda says and confronts her audience with a clear cut question: The women in the streets and brothels – are they looking for their personal fulfilment? How much do we know about sex as a commodity? Can we judge someone without knowing her personal motives?
Poetry and theatre play an important role against Zimbabwe‘s political backdrop. How did one live for decades and until recently under the rule of a 94-year-old dictator and how do especially women survive and live in this country wrecked by men. Linda Gabriel depicts day-to-day business from a female perspective and addresses universal issues in her play: sexual health, children’s poverty, unemployment, corruption, migration.
The play written in 2015, gives Netsy – a single mother of five – a chance to speak. While a child speaks in Linda’s most popular poem Sins of our Mothers, the play tells its mother’s captivating story. Here femininity is portrayed in all its complexities and challenges. The interactive play is directed by young director Zaza Muchemwa who is well known in Zimbabwe. “Linda commits herself to controversial topics, which are ignored and kept in silence by society. However, nobody grows up thinking, “I want to be a sex worker when I grow up”, she says.
Therefore, sex workers – like no other profession – are a symbol of a politically and economically impotent society. HIV/AIDS is an important subject for the women who Linda portrays and works with. Those in need of antiviral drugs often don’t dare to go to local clinics due to fear of discrimination. Currently, the power of the spoken word is the only weapon against the silence cast on the issue.
An art scene is virtually non-existent in Zimbabwe and a few men dominate the poor structures, which exist. This frustrates Linda Gabriel. She is upset that there is so little importance attached to female poets, she says. There is no art industry. Art generally is perceived as a fruitless hobby and not as an important vehicle for societal change. Art is not well respected and promoted. Therefore she is looking forward to performing in Germany again. Last time, Linda was in Berlin for a residency, where she served as an ambassador in the school network School Without Racism.
Linda Gabriel has the rare talent to address sensitive issues with an ambitious authenticity while paying respect to the people whose reality she portrays. She celebrates womanhood and takes her audience to a country that has disappeared from the international map of political importance many years ago but now finds itself facing a monumental new beginning.
More Informationen on Linda Gabriel here
You Think You Know Me? – A Play
Written and performed by Linda Gabriel
Directed by Zaza Muchemwa
Date: Saturday, 04/28/2018
Time: 6:30 – 7:30 p.m.
Admission: 10,- €