Zimbabwe poet finds inspiration in Seattle’s youth arts scene

Slam poet Michael Mabwe is back in Seattle, and looking to harness the energy of local youth arts organization to drive political change in Zimbabwe.

Mabwe’s visit this week, like his first back in 2008, is part of the The International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP), a professional exchange program organized by the State Department.

Mabwe’s activism began when he was a college student. Today he’s part of Zimbabwe Poets for Human Rights, which unites 130 artists from all parts of his country on a mission to “actively use the arts as an effective media in addressing human rights and governance issues.”

Michael Mabwe (Photo via US State Dept.)
Michael Mabwe (Photo via US State Dept.)

“Organizations that were working on human rights were difficult to understand. [They] talked to people rather than talked with people about human rights,” Mabwe says. “Therefore, we decided to use art and expression, my focus is poetry, to make these issues more accessible. Our focus is to see, hear, enjoy.”

Mabwe’s particular focus is on increasing youth participation in the political process and creating informed citizens. So it’s no coincidence he came back to Seattle; our city that has one of the highest rate of youth voting in the US.

He’s visiting local organizations like the VERA Project and Adobe Youth Voices in hopes of learning how they involve youth in governance through the arts. He plans to take these ideas and implement, replicate, readjust them to work for the local situation in Zimbabwe.

The timing is good as well: Zimbabwe is voting on a new constitution in a month and there will be countrywide elections in July. Mabwe wants to make certain that the youth voice is represented in these votes, which will decide the future for a struggling country that has been ruled by 88-year-old President Robert Mugabe for over three decades.

Michael Mabwe will be performing his poetry and sharing his work on human right’s issues in Zimbabwe tonight at An Evening with Zimbabwean Slam Poetry Artist, Michael Mabwe, hosted World Affairs Council and the Young International Professional Network (YPIN) at 6:30pm at Arabica Lounge (1550 E Olive Way, Seattle, WA 98102).