Discovering my creativity

Tanaka Makoni grew up in Zimbabwe before moving to Leyton aged eight
Tanaka Makoni grew up in Zimbabwe before moving to Leyton aged eight

Leyton poet and singer-songwriter Tanaka Makoni describes the inspiration behind her work

All excited at just eight years old in 2004, I embarked on my migration journey from Zimbabwe to England.

I hardly spoke a word of English and did not realise how difficult it would be to adjust and cope because of the language barrier. Communication with others my age was kept to a minimum; I felt marginalised, unable to express my personality.

In response, I locked myself in my bedroom. It was like opening a new door; I discovered I had a creative side, began to explore my emotions, write poetry and sing. I also listened to Zimbabwean artists such as Oliver Mtukudzi, Chowinso Mararire and Andy Brown, which made the environment around me feel like home. Their work gave me a safe escape, a haven where l felt liberated.

Zimbabwean writer Dambudzo Marechera introduced me to the power of poetry and ambiguity, how to speak your truth in multiple layers. I immediately fell in love with the chaotic fluidity of his writing. One passage from his book The House of Hunger perfectly described my transitioning from one culture to another: “One’s mind became the grimy rooms, the dusty cobwebs in which the minute skeletons of one’s childhood were forever in the spidery grip that stretched out to include not only the very stones upon which one walked but also the stars which glittered vaguely upon the stench of our lives.”

Writing poetry and singing helped me to maintain the balance between two worlds I craved. I challenged myself to write a poetry book, Metamorphosis, that encompassed all my experiences; my main aim was to talk about human interaction, the effect your surroundings can have on your communication, your sense of self and your perception of other people. I love using metaphors, so I used the animal kingdom as a metaphor for human interaction. It seems animals have more freedom to express themselves without sanctions.

I also began singing, recording and performing my music. My recent project is with music producer and sound designer Lister Rossel; a five-track album titled Alba.

Metamorphosis by Tanaka Makoni is available to buy via Amazon. For more information about her work:
Visit facebook.com/tanakam95