Voice to Voice: Mariama, poet and advocate with Djénéba

Voice to Voice is a series of questions and answers between Mariama, a poet and women’s rights advocate and Djénéba, founder of Sɛbɛnni Ni Taama. It is a conversation between two creatives willing to flourish and most importantly to learn from each other journeys.

It strives to foster a sense of community, to openly discuss our authentic concerns, to inspire each other to take the necessary steps to thrive in our own lives. A necessary process in order to expand our imagination, to explore different possibilities. But most of all to remind ourselves of our inherent strengths and successes to keep going through the journey.

Mariama writes poetry in French and English, she describes herself as a “an extraordinary nobody who writes ordinary wonders” you can discover her work throughout this post as well as some of her entire poems at the end.  Check out her new instagram to discover more La Chenille Râleuse.

Mariama’s answer – Djénéba’s question

What are your best coping mechanisms to deal with anxiety and loneliness especially when your reality does not match your expectations?

Regarding the feeling of loneliness, it may sound melodramatic but it has become a part of me so I am used to it. I have solid coping mechanisms in place now, to the point where they are more like habits. So what I do daily to ease my loneliness is to listen to music that resonates with me, and escape in fiction with tv series, books, movies etc… I also try to walk often and for a long amount of time. Lately however, I have been trying to learn how to embrace this loneliness as a part of who I am, and as something that is not necessarily negative.

As for anxiety, I experience it when reality does not match my expectations, or  more accurately when reality becomes too overwhelming for me. In this case, the things that significantly help me to calm down are:

  •       Reciting a self-esteem and comforting mantra to myself
  •       Reading my favorite poems and/or quotes from figures that inspire me
  •       Writing 

Djénéba’s answer – Mariama’s question

What is your creative process? Are you more driven by inspiration, when it comes, or do you choose a topic and plan from there? A little mix of both? Or maybe something else entirely different?

My creative process completely stems from inspiration. I never look for a topic, it comes from my heart.  It is something I don’t wish to force either, I believe it would make the process not only more difficult and lengthier but also take part of the authenticity away.

A voice, a speech, a smell, a touch, a sight, an hearing, it is triggered when one of my sense is, when an emotion, an encounter or a past or present circumstance gather the deepest part of me that it leaves me no other choice but, to create, to share, to let it breath and bloom.

It is therefore highly personal, not only it reflects my experiences, my approach to life but also my surroundings’, the people I meet, the people I have met, and I have yet to meet. I have a passion for storytelling, I love listening to people’s stories, getting to know them on a higher level.

I ask a lot of questions when meeting someone new and I am always interested in more than what people seems to be. I could listen to some people speak for hours. What have you done? Why are doing that? What are your motives? What is your story? How about your childhood, your parents? Those stories nourish me on a spiritual level and can benefit many individuals as well. It is what I intend to do through Sɛbɛnni Ni Taama empower one and another trough storytelling.

Mariama’s answer – Djénéba’s question

Can you share your favorite piece of art which enable you to elevate mentally?

Unsurprisingly, my favorite pieces of art are also the same things that I use as a coping mechanism for when I deal with anxiety. Here are a few of them, but the list is not exhaustive:

The Sun and her Flowers by Rupi Kaur

A nos humanités révoltés by Kiyémis

Maya Angelou ‘s poem Anthology

Teaching my mother how to give birth by Warsan Shire

Kiffe ta Race (podcast by Rokhaya Diallo and Grace Lee)

Quoi de Meuf (podcast by Clémentine Gallot, Kiyémis, Anne-Laure Pineau and Kaoutar Harchi)

My favorite songs from Nina Simone, Janelle Monae, IU, Jonghyun, Day6, Fatouma Diawara, Mayra Andrade (these are from the top of my head and the most recurring artists, but there are many others)


Mariama’s words

Halaa – Denngal

Je ne sais plus écrire dans ma langue maternelle

La cadence et le rythme de sa musique m’échappe de jour en jour

Les jeux de mots et les phrases de style éludent mon esprit

Seule l’ironie et la frustration de cette mascarade lyrique refusent de me quitter

Et au milieu de ces tristes compagnes de galère, je commence à me questionner

Cette belle langue de Molière est-elle réellement ma langue maternelle ?

Ces sonorités sont-elles celles qui ont bercé mes premières nuits ?

Est-ce la richesse de son vocabulaire qui a allaité mes criantes faims ?

Le doute vient à son tour prendre place à mes côtés et je commence à m’interroger

Suis-je devenue sourde à la symphonie francophone de mon quotidien par rancœur ?

D’avoir été éloignée de la mélodie de ma première langue maternelle

De n’avoir pas su me la réapproprier assez tôt pour qu’elle me redevienne naturelle

Mais cette rancœur n’a fait que remplacer le flux d’un idiome par un autre, puis un autre, puis un autre

Et dans ces courants polyglottes, mi alma está lost in translation 것 같아요 

Lost Crown

No one ever took your throne away from you

You are the one who abandoned it on your own accord

When you got scared of proving their misconceptions right

When you started to believe you were not worthy

The world never had to tame you

You are the one who crawled voluntarily inside a silver cage

When you got afraid of being hurt by their judgement

When you started to think that you didn’t belong

Now that you can properly see you again

Apologize to yourself and comfort yourself

Then stand up with your head held up high and straighten your back

Before stepping out of the cage

And then reclaim your rightful place on your throne

Promise Road

I won’t walk on your flower road

On this already traced path, blooming from seeds I never sew

I will break from the tracks and forge my own way

I will stumble on unturned rocks

I will get cuts from untamed brambles

But eventually a path will be made

And unknown but vibrant plants will flourish on it

And among them I will see myself standing tall

And I will walk, slowly picking up the pace

I will run, getting ready to jump

I will fly, purposefully aiming for the stars


Picture © Djénéba Diallo