Book: My Gambian and Other Poems
Author: Obinna Chilekezi
Publisher: Libretto Publishers
Year of publication: 2021
ISBN: 978- 978 – 994 – 270 - 1
Pages: 53
Reviewer: John Chizoba Vincent

My Gambian and Other Poems book cover.

We know of songs from the other side of Africa, too. We know of birds that sing these songs. We know of Nigerian birds singing from Kaduna to Calabar and from Abia to Lagos. We know of Kenyan birds weaving their songs from Eldoret to Mombasa, from Mombasa to Meru, to Thika and Kakamega and Machakos. We know of the melodious Tanzanian birds, the harmonious Ghanaian birds whistling from Akrofu kingdom to Anyanui, to Anum Boso and Awukugua kingdom and Apeatse and the Gambian birds humming their tunes from Tanji to Jajanbureh to Mansa Konko and to Banjul, homes dotted a green, clothed by tress / and swans of birds’ swing / up and down the day with joy … {Banjul. pg. 3} we were told about these birds too.

But here in my Gambian and other poems, Obinna Chilekezi’s Gambian birds are spirits and shadows. They go everywhere with you. They are joy to the poet with their tweets. It is the rhythms in their voice that prompted the poet to go on a journey as profound as this. In this journey his excitement is visible. It is seen all over his lines and verses. The passion in his voice is telling. They are passion to a home. A home metaphorically used to elevate the soul, educates the mind and channel nature’s creativity into absenteeism to his own home in Nigeria. It is right to say that birds are incarnates of timeless hope and melodious faith. When you watch at sunset, you will have to listen closely to whatever they sing and in this song which they sing is a hope that could get your day going. In this collection. We could observe that Obinna becomes obsessed with his Gambian experiences. He relives in these experiences in a manner borne out of perfectionism of nature.

In the first part of the book which is my Gambian poems. The dominant imaginaries are birds and their tweets. The poems are nearer like they are faraway. They are like going back to the beginning of a completed task and start it all over again. Like holding a child who has offended his father and watch him beg to be forgiven or like looking down from a mountain top; it is so appealing to the eyes especially when it has taken you a long-time planning and discarding your plans on how to get to the top of the mountain all by yourself. It feels surreal and power as an adventure.

The poems are pungent and beautiful. In their simplicity and rooted spicy appearance, one can easily relate more on the serenity of the country, Gambia and the hospitality of her people: let me to where your people sell food: / it is Abdul speaking / and my brothers he indeed too me / there and there I spoke my Igbo.../. Just like a ship ferry on the surface of the sea conveying its passengers from one continent to another, Obinna ferry us into the heart of Gambia through the laughter of birds sounding this break of dawn/ warn and delighting / the laughter of birds/coming out in great tweets / and love in flight and perch. He possess a kind of confidence in his journey in the rain over the Gambia bridge and we the witnesses take the pleasure of coconut trees for shelter / the gathering cloud of storms / storm clouds and calls for rain around / the sun’s grilling heat as well the witnesses watch for porch. In this journey, he looks forward to see his Igbo brothers too. He is convinced that they are everywhere and he compared them to the birds when he sees them in the market. My Igbory has even given me up / even here. My Igbo are like the birds / flying and perching in all / corners of the globe. He’s happier to realized that even Sir Warrior, the eastern highlife singer, was once in Gambia in the same sand he walks on: in the exit door / of the Serekonda airport / the song filters out / …to this familiar listening of living voice of this great highlife maestro / Sir Warrior /…taking back home and years gone /

The poet’s excitement like songs fading into one another. He wants us testing the waters and winds in a faraway country of Gambia through his words. He takes a breath of fresh air of the Gambian considerably when he is currently on it and wants us to feel it also in his verses. Here, It doesn’t matter how you position yourself while reading his lines. You could be standing, sitting, leaning on something; you would get every bit of the wholeness his Gambian experiences staring right into you.

In the later part of the book which is ‘other poems’ and ‘Haiku’ comprise of thirty poems. In these thirty poems, we have diverse emotions which variably contains contradictory feelings and sentiments, memories, Youthfulness, hope, governance and fear compared to his beautiful experiences in the Gambia. The poems in this part dwell mostly on the issue of Ebola which was once a deadly virus in the African continent in recent years. Then he talks about our world in it shape like the bubble gum. It could be pricky or burst at any time. We succeed in dreams/ perfectly humans/exchanging sufferings / for not ever knowing sufferings… / and we walk out at dawn… / …this world, not much worse / than wrapped bubble gums. And the issue of Boko Haram insurgency which has been ravaging Nigeria for years is not exempted – just like the bed bug/ it sucks away the blood of peace in the body / so on and on the fight to keep off its suck of peace in the body / then will we a restful night to bring back home and memories of old days when we look at things from different perceptions but poetry sparks the lightning, hard! Hark! The breathing space after will come out poetry, the reality of creative interpretation of man.

However, in this collection, we see Chilekezi who mixes the turbulent situations in his country home, Nigeria to the quiet and serenity he witnessed and experienced in the Gambia. In this regard, he prays and sought for the same environment for his people in Nigeria. And this supplication, he hopes it would be actualized in the nearest future.

This is not the kind of book that get NO often. Rather it is a book that leaves memories that become legends and these legends wait to meet in every memory which usually are transient from one age to another. The birds are not the beginners neither are they the beginners or curator of every song that stay but the wind.

I have not been to the Gambia but I have known or seen what the Gambia will feel or look like while reading from this collection of poetry of travelogue. It’s sincere, exact, transparent and as open as the sky. it has given me a firsthand glance of what I should expect when I eventually visit the Gambia in years to come.


John Chizoba Vincent is a Nigeria filmmaker, Music Video Director, Cinematographer, and Video Producer. Born and raised in Aba, Abia state, Nigeria. He had his education in Aba and Lagos, respectively. He has thrice been shortlisted {2017, 2018 and 2019} by EGC as one of the Poets who rock Nigeria. Also, in 2018, BN Blogs nominated him as one of the top five young Nigerian Poets to watch out from Nigeria. In July 2019, his poem was shortlisted on the top 10 finalist for Brigitte Poirson poetry Contest. His short film DISTRACTED was selected in a film festival in Sao Paulo, Brazil in 2022.

In 2020, two spoken Word videos he directed: To the girl I love by Seventy-eighth Psalmist and Iyami Osoronga by Gemini Aremo Balogun - won the PoetGist videos of the year in first and second position respectively.

Same year, he was among the top 10 filmmakers and top five video directors in 2021 and 2022 alongside Meji Alabi, NayaEffect, TG Omori, Director K and others on the BlackPride magazine award.

John Chizoba Vincent is the chief Editor of Boys Are Not Stones Initiative. An organization whose major aim is to advocate for the rights of the BoyChild. He is the founder of Philmant Universal Inc which houses Philm Republic Pictures, a sister Company, Philmax Books, Road House Review, and Zeal_30. He is also the photography editor for Libretto Magazine.

His writings have appeared in Libretto Magazine, Word Rhythm and Rhymes, MyAceWorld, Inner child Press, Kalahari Review, Tush stories, Tuck magazine, PoemifyPublishers, AfricanWriters, OpinionNigeria, PoetrySoup, Poemhunter, Voicenet, HelloPoetry, BoardSpeck, NgigaReview, Nanty Green and many others.

His poems, fictions and non-fictions have appeared in anthologies home and abroad including 84 Delicious Bottles of Wine for Wole Soyinka at 84 edited by Onyeka Nwelue and Odega Shawa, Wreaths for a Wayfarer for Pius Adesanmi edited by Nduka Otiono and Uche Umerurike, Kofi Annan Tributes for Kofi Annan and Arrow of Words – a tribute for Chinua Achebe edited by Izunna Okafor for Young Nigerian Writers Society.

He is the Author of Hard Times, Good Mama, Letter from Home, and For Boys of Tomorrow. John Chizoba Vincent lives in Lagos.

John Chizoba Vincent is a film maker, Cinematographer, Video Producer and writer who resides in Lagos, Nigeria.

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