By- Aruna Rashed Toma Bangura
One of Sierra Leone’s finest and most outstanding female Poet, Mrs. Elizabeth Lucy Alberta Kamara’s poem, tittled ‘The New Tongue’ has been selected to be studied for students writing the West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE) for the 2026 to 2030 academic season. Pupils in senior secondary school level one (SSS1) will start studying the poem next academic year, September 2023.
Grew up in the east end of Freetown, Sierra Leone, Mrs. Kamara attended the Holy Trinity Primary School, Annie Walsh Memorial School and Fourah Bay College. She was the former Head of English Unit, Department of Language Studies at Fourah Bay College, University of Sierra Leone and a lecturer of Literature in English in the above mentioned department. As she continues to excel among the rank and garb of other female African poets, Mrs. Kamara has already published three anthologies of poems namely: Distilled, To Cross for a Daughter and Stolen Laughter. She has contributed enormously to both national and international anthologies and some of her poems have been translated into Spanish and Greek. Her recent achievement was the award she received as the Lecturer of the Year at Fourah Bay College for the 2021 to 2022 academic year and she is the Treasurer of the Academic Staff Association, FBC. Kamara’s hobbies are reading, writing, cooking, dancing and singing and she is married with two lovely sons and her family, is her joy.
How do you feel that your poem was selected to be studied at WASSCE Level?
I felt elated and excited about my poem ‘The New Tongue’ has been selected to be studied at WASSCE level, “this is huge and to God be the glory. God has raised me up and as the song writer says ‘So I can stand on mountains,’ “she intimated to this medium. She disclosed that she was a closet poet but said that her poem will now be studied by WASSCE students in Anglophone, West Africa.
“And I am proud to say that I am the second Sierra Leonean woman whose work has captured the coveted space,” she said, adding that it is a demonstration that if you keep doing your thing, good breaks will surely come your way. And according to the female poet, they as poets write to inspire and do not discern the value of their works while she asked what they will bear or where it will take them? “So, this is a big deal for me and I am honored and humbled,” she said.
What is the theme of the Poem?
The key theme of the poem is cultural alienation as the poem examines that the youths have abandoned the culture and traditions of their people in their quest to embrace western civilization. The youths are so obsessed with the things of the new that they see no value in the culture of their people. The youths do not care about the things their people hold dear as if they have an inscription on them that says ‘LOST’ and in losing their culture, they lose so much more.
Mind you, I am not saying that everything is good about our culture and traditions, however as educated individuals, we should continue to embrace all that is worthy in our culture instead of ditching them because we want to embrace the new.
What is your advice to the students who will read your poem for WASSCE?
To students who will read this poem, I want to first of all encourage you to imbibe the culture of reading and to read with an open mind. Read all the works on your reading list. With reference to poetry, I know that some poems are demanding. Do not sentence my poem to life imprisonment before reading it to know what it has to say. Students should read the poem and pay attention to meaning, language and imagery because it will help them understand the poem more. Students should not only read the poem to pass the WASSCE exam but to also learn life lessons from it. I always tell my students that literature is a living art and that the works on their reading lists are studied because they are germane to our lives. There will be lots of materials on the internet on her poem to re-read the poem for better understanding.
How do you feel to be among other African Poets?
I am thrilled and a blessing and privilege to be counted amongst other African poets, God has done a new thing in my life, I never thought that my poem will be selected to be studied in West Africa, she disclosed. When I started writing poetry, I used to hide my poems, but the selection of my poem is very huge and I feel good to stand up and be counted among other African poets.
What’s next for you in terms of poetry or writing in general and what has been your key success and challenge?
I am currently working on my fourth anthology of poems and I am collaborating with other poets on editing one or two anthologies of poetry. The challenges are many for a writer especially in this part of the world where writers grapples with many things.
I am a wife, a mother, lecturer and writer amongst other things and all of these are vying for my attention. Sometimes I see myself as a juggler or the female version of ‘Bra spider’ wanting to be in different place at the same time. Another challenge is that after spending a longtime writing, revising and spending money on publishing, our people hardly buy our books.
Sierra Leoneans should cultivate the habit of buying and reading books, if our countrymen and women do not buy our books, who will?
One of my biggest successes is that I have been able to publish three collections of poems and my crowning accomplishment is having my poems selected for WASSCE and BECE, I am elated 2023 is a year made in heaven for me.
Do you have any last word?
Oh yes I do. I hope that the selection of my poem will inspire others, especially other female writers, my mentees and would-be-writers to keep writing because they will never know when God will work things in their favour. I come from a humble background, and if today I am visible, it means there is space enough for others to come onboard. So keep reading, writing and revising your works. Don’t forget to plant your dreams where you can water them. Your sex, background, age or status cannot prevent God from doing new things in your life. To all those who have journeyed with me thus far, may God bless