logo Kasala

From poetry to action


Kasàlà is orginally a word from the Cilubà (DRC). It refers to a literary genre, which consists of praising a person or a thing. Kasàlà is generally poetic in form, making extensive use of proper nouns accompanied by epithets, often metaphorical and hyperbolic. It is sung or recited. In other words, it is entirely oral.

In our practice, we use this word to designate any form of poetry of praise in sub-Saharan Africa or elsewhere, which consists of celebrating life through the living in all its forms.

Contemporary or modern kasàlà is a form of kasàlà characterised by, among other things, the use of writing, poetry as a vehicle for ubuntu, openness to other cultures, and the invitation to move from poetry to action, in other words, to contribute to the transformation of the individual and of society.

In an introductory kasàlà session, we refrain from using technical terms such as poetry, metaphor, figures of speech! We simply invite the participants to create rather short sentences, to use images, to identify with animals, plants, natural phenomena, etc., with the utmost audacity. Participants are also invited to use special proper names, to play with words, etc.

Moreover, in contemporary kasàlà, oral expression is not the only option! One can perfectly well make one’s kasàlà from drawings, images cut out from a magazine, or created oneself, as well as through dancing, singing, etc. I was able to run kasàlà workshops with deaf-mutes in Kinshasa, where gestures were the only means of communication and creation!

Anyone can practice kasàlà without any restrictions, as it is first and foremost an art. Moreover, the participants quickly understand that they are already carriers of this poetry and they are only waiting for the permission to express themselves, to reveal themselves.

This question amounts to saying: What is the difference between the kasàlà of the other and the kasàlà of oneself, which in technical terms is called autopanegyric?

When I started to run writing workshops in the early years, around 1992-1995, I chose self-esteem as a theme and I based my work on my doctoral thesis, which dealt with autopanegyrics in African oral literature. In this approach, autopanegyrics or, in common parlance, self-praise, proved from the outset to be able to serve self-esteem. I have thus proposed the terms self-praise or self-love to designate my practice. However, as I pointed out in my book: “Self-praise, praise of the other” (Peter Lang 2001), autopanegyric is only one aspect of panegyric, a wider genre, practised in all African oral literature and known under a variety of names depending on the language.

Self-glorification yes! Self-praise, in the sense of “kasàlà of the self” or celebration of life in itself, no! Such a question would be tantamount to asking whether kasàlà is exclusive to Africa.

It should be noted that such questions arise when concepts typical of one language are translated into others by necessarily approximate equivalents. When an African term such as kasàlà, izibongo, ibyîvugo, etc. is used, this type of question becomes irrelevant!

What is meant by kasàlà, in the generic sense, and which should not be reduced to mere praise, is something quite different from self-glorification or boasting. It is, above all, a poetry with its own particular ingredients and structure (abundance of toponyms and especially anthroponyms accompanied by epithets, rhythm, inscription in lineage and territory…). Moreover, while illustrious figures often benefit from the services of poets, ordinary people are also praised in a variety of circumstances.

The main trainings of EKAR consist of 5 levels, which are announced on the website:

  • Introduction to contemporary kasàlà (IKC, 16 h)
  • Basic facilitation training (FAB, 42 h)
  • Facilitation training intermediate level (FAI, 28 h)
  • Facilitation training advanced level (FAA, 31 h)
  • Training of Trainers (FFF, 42 h