Soil Dances of Kaokoland, Badagry, and Amhara The rhythm becomes a trance that turns men into slaves.

Komwara is a Himba queen—painted the colour regal by her ageless copper and clay face.
She is maned by thick strands of matted hair that dangle at her breast.
Her hands make bread, butter, and a beat.
Her heart makes meals, music—a form of magic.
She executes the Outjina dance with disciplined steps that appear to recognise the royal bloodline of the ground she walks on.

Igunnuko is a spirit—indelicate jolts of an elevated dancing masquerade make a dangerously staggering sight—commanding both awe and dizziness.
They are a celestial thing—made of every colour under the sky and some from above it.
Wearing a skirt that sweeps our gaze from ground to crown.
Only the masquerade is unafraid, meandering where there are no mirrors—far above the crowd leaving in the sand of Badagry only ripples of its dance.

Negus is a man—his shoulders shiver under a sturdy face unmoved by the ruckus below it.
His dust-coloured skin is soiled by sweat.
The rhythm becomes a trance that turns men into slaves to the dance—
permitted only to become lost in the abyss of the beat.
Movements of the Esketa dance are so precise and quick that he almost appears to be still.
But everything is moving.

Even you are moving
in sync with his shoulders’ song.

Vivian Tjijandjeua Ojo is a Namibian-Nigerian poet who has spent most of her life in Namibia; she has lived and worked in several other African countries. While she’s worked primarily in international development, she writes, performs, and publishes her poetry. She has performed original works and recited famous poetic pieces for events such as the Martin Luther King Day Celebration in the Kennedy Centre in Washington DC in 2014, the Oxford University Public Policy Winter Soiree in 2016, and, most recently the Africans for Biden event in 2021, to name a few. Vivian has some academic publications in journals like the Harvard Africa Policy Journal. She is passionate about capturing and sharing the stories of Africans to give voice to its history and power to its future through poetry. She has an undergraduate degree from Georgetown University where she was a Lannan Fellow for Poetics and Social Justice and holds a master’s degree in Public Policy from the University of Oxford. Her latest work is a collection of poems about the connection between stories and the soil.

Cover Image: Avel Chuklanov on Unsplash.