Cane, Corn & Gully

Safiya Kamaria Kinshasa

The Judges said:

It’s a surprise to find the joy in defiance, the dance of liberation through the history of enslavement. The body and the mind, it seems, tell the story here, making it new again, bold as anything.

Safiya Kamaria Kinshasa’s debut poetry collection uses dance to unearth the narratives of enslaved women in Barbados and their descendants. Cane, Corn & Gully embodies a unique discourse through movement and poetics to explore themes which have permeated the lives of Barbadian women from the 1600s to the present. The collection features reconstructed dance scores of enslaved people using a technique Safiya developed transforming choreography into poetry and vice versa.

In Cane, Corn & Gully Barbados itself becomes a guest choreographer to challenge the original colonial and racist documentation of Black West-Indian women.

Published by Out-Spoken Press

Buy here

Safiya Kamaria Kinshasa is a British born Barbadian raised poet, dancer and choreographer. Her interdisciplinary art braids dance and poetry on the page and stage. A PhD student in Cultural Studies at the University of Leeds, she is also an Obsidian Foundation fellow and an Apples & Snakes/ Jerwood Arts Poetry in Performance recipient. Her notable commissions include writing for English Heritage, BBC Bitesize and The Wailers. Her work has appeared in many journals including Poetry Review and Wasafiri; she is also an international spoken word champion.


Five Questions for Safiya Kamaria Kinshasa

At what age did you know you wanted to become a writer?

I first started writing my own stories at 7 years old and when I looked at the bookshelves in my mother’s house I wanted to be up there too. However, I faced a lot of adversity as I was bullied by some schoolteachers, and I was told I would never be a writer. It became a secret desire.

Which is your favourite book of recent years?

‘Voyage of the Sable Venus’ by Robin Coste Lewis. I will always champion this book as proof Black women have always existed.

What is your ‘if you don’t like this, you can’t be my friend’ book?

‘neckbone’ by Avery R. Young

Who or what have been your most important influences?

I think an obvious answer would be my grandparents, mother and mentors, but I would also like to pay homage to the everyday people of Barbados who wake up as soon as the cock crows and are absolute masters of their craft. I learned about perseverance from them and of course this is a trait that many of us inherited, which I hope I make clear in my book.

If you weren’t a writer, what would you be doing?  

I would have probably trained to be a pilot… I always get so excited being up in the air. Sometimes the journey is as wonderful as the destination.