Inua Ellams – an evening with an immigrant.

We went to hear this 33 year-old Nigerian read his poetry and tell us of his life in Nigeria, until he was 12 when the growth of Boko Haram forced his family to flee Nigeria (his father is Muslim and his mother Christian). Then to England where thieving lawyers ‘lost’ all the family’s documentation (sold it on more likely) leaving them in a worse situation.

In 2011 he went to meet the Queen at Buckingham Palace, as one of a group of young people in the performing arts.  And still had no legal status here. Now they have ‘discretionary leave to remain’ which has to be renewed every 2 or 3 years, when they also have to be ready to leave the country should renewal be refused.

His poetry is very moving, funny and sad.  An excellent evening, making me pleased and angry at the same time.  Next day sent a subscription off to Amnesty.

As a young boy he was always the artist, drawing portraits in sand to entertain his friends, but in England money was in short supply.  He could not afford paint, but could steal a pen from Argos, so he became a poet.  Talking of the muse, or whatever it is that inspires the creative urge, he says at the close of one of his poems:

some trap it with tongues or a double bass

strummed, some turn its incline to sculpted

forms, a boy once enticed it with sand and

a stick or now, as I do, with a pad and a Bic.

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