From Guinea, West Africa, Ibé Kaba currently resides on an “Atlantic rock” in the middle of the ocean. When asked about this poetic metaphor for where he lives, he reveals, “It’s my home. I am from Africa and I live in America, so I exist on an Atlantic Rock…I grew up in the Middle of the Atlantic. That is the story; the beginning, the end, and the middle.” What an interesting way to describe the rock that represents the place in between two continents and cultures. This idea is similar to the mental space where W.E.B. Dubois termed “double-consciousness,” where one is always reminded that their current state is a result of a hybrid of cultures.
So how did Ibé become a poet on this rock? We’ll, quite naturally, he does not exist on this Atlantic rock alone. “My inspiration is African people, especially African women. Particularly, African women in America. They work hard and sometimes are barely acknowledged.” Ibé dedicates his book to African women, as he realizes that there are many Africans in America who share the joys and pains from trying to preserve their culture, while being separated from it. “I want to educate the world about us, and us about us.” Thus, the natural thing for Ibé to do was to write down his experience.
“I just wanted to write for as far back as I can remember.” Ibé began his writing journey in high school and when he was in college at St. Cloud State University, he began to travel to the Twin Cities to see spoken word performances. “I started writing poetry first and then I found out about open mics…by the third one I got on stage.” He also watched HBO’s Def Poetry Jam and it fueled him to share his poetic short stories with audiences across the Twin Cities.
His long awaited first book of poetry titled, “Bridge Across Atlantic,” features a collection of poetry that speaks to the African experience in America. Poems such as When Night Fell, Africa 101 and Orphan, tell the stories of survival, knowledge, and missing home. Similarly, in the poem African in America Ibé reveals:
“The African in America
I live in the middle of the Atlantic…
Standing in the middle of sacred waters
Eyes on America
Hands lifting Africa high and mighty
I’m the face of 2 worlds…
Somewhere between rockets to the moon
Camels across deserts
Where extreme poverty meets excessive indulgence.
One foot in the past The other in the future
I am The present that will forever remain an enigma comprehensible to few.”
He also provides the reader with variety, from love poems to spiritual poems that reveal his sincerity in his life and art. A familiar name in many Twin Cities artistic circles, Ibé has filled many napkins and notebooks with his words so now, “If people want to take me home, they can do that,” he stated.
From Ibé’s website, www.atlanticrock.com it states, “This is not just a bunch of poems put together…Like the title implies, this is an Africa to America story. The big story here is my story, it’s our (Africans in America) story…I always write for my people, Africans in America. These are our stories. But I think others will benefit highly from it too. It’s a small world out there, and I truly believe we should all do our best to see through our neighbor’s eyes. So yeah, though I think Africans in America will get it the most, I believe any and everyone should read it and try to understand it. At the very least it might give them the right questions to ask.”
Winner of the SASE Verve Grant for spoken word, Ibé’s current book tells poetic stories that will familiarize readers with a common experience that they can learn from. “I want Africans to say whoa, I’m not the only one living this…I also want you to learn something you didn’t already know.” Ibé Kaba’s book release party will be Saturday August 9th, 2008 at Selam Coffee Shop, 3860 Minnehaha Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55417. The event starts at 4pm. You can also catch Ibé hosting Souls on Display Open Mic every Saturday (especially this one) at Selam Coffee Shop at 8pm.