Young poet finds her place with words
Margaret Wangui aka Qui Qarre’s work has taken her to the international arena, sharing stage with great personalities and representing Kenya at the same time. But her journey is one full of commitment and hard work as her partner, Stom Wabuko, reveals.
Harriet James @sparkleMine
The first time Stom Wabuko met Margaret Wangui in 2016, she was going home from a spoken word event at Memorial Park where she had been invited to perform.
She didn’t have money in cash and though she had it on M-Pesa, she didn’t have an Identity Card required for the transaction as she had left it at home.
“I found her stranded at an M-Pesa shop and bailed her out,” says Stom.
That marked the beginning of their friendship. There was one thing they loved to do most; spoken word.
Since then, they have performed in events together, travelled, wrote books and also done business as well as life together.
Above all, Stom has supported Wangui, fondly known as Qui Qarre, who is one of the leading spoken word women poets in the country, navigate the tough journey of being an artist.
“Though I’ve never thought of how pivotal my role is in her life, I am her editor, partner, advisor as well as her manager. I’m proud of how far Qui has come with her career,” he says.
Born and raised in Dagoretti, the first born in a family of two grew up writing poetry, particularly in her teenage years. The 23-year-old has a brother who is 10 years younger.
Due to this huge age gap, Qui spent years as the only child amidst adults, making her mature fast.
She would read, watch movies and write poetry to cure loneliness. It sharpened her creativity and the way she viewed the world.
“One time in 2013, she watched a show called Genetics in a local TV station and was blown away by the poetry. She finally knew what she desired to do in life—poetry.
While she was already writing poems, she just didn’t have an idea on how she could perform and the show inspired her,” he narrates.
She went to World Hope Academy Primary School, Nairobi under scholarship, and this was one of the best things that happened in her life.
The school gave her an opportunity to study and work on her art as she became a model and was Miss World Hope.
“The World Hope community was supportive of dreams, talents and gifts. That boosted her confidence. The school supports her to this date,” Stom reveals.
At Ngiriambu High School, which she joined in 2012, she was more into athletics than art.
However, Qui did find time to write poems and took advantage of music lessons— she chose music as a subject, to work on her art.
In 2015, soon after her secondary education, she stuck to being a professional poet performing in various platforms, rising to the level of meeting the who is who in the society and touring the world.
“She went to a slam Cypher, a street poetry event and performed for the first time. The reception was great and she loved it. The stage became her home,” Stom says.
In December 2016, she attended Slam Africa Contest at the Alliance Francaise in Nairobi.
She was contesting for the Women of Africa Poetry Slam championships. She was fresh into the scene since that was her first ever slam.
Even though the competition was tough, she won. As a winner, she was to represent Kenya in the Women of the World Poetry Slam in Dallas, Texas in 2017 March. She was ranked number 26 out of 96.
In November 2017 she was invited to represent Kenya again at the “Women of the Bayou City Poetry Slam in Houston, Texas” and hit a 27.5/30 in her overall performance.
“Qui has toured USA twice and gone to states such as Houston, Austin, Dallas and New Orleans.
She also went to Stone Town in Tanzania in 2017. She feels we, as a country, are doing well when it comes to spoken word.
Though we need to improve on a few things such as being diverse and having more spaces where we can perform poetry.
Our audience also needs to learn how to support and appreciate poetry,” he adds.
Qui also observed that the industry requires diversity particularly when it comes to topics of discussions such as politics, religion and even sex.
To sharpen her game, Qui listens, watches YouTube as well as puts in extra effort such as rehearsing, performing and writing more with Stom as her cheerleader.
However, being an artist also comes with challenges, particularly as a woman.
“Some people, especially older men like taking advantage of young talented women. Some will lure you with money,” explains Qui.
Financial constraint too is something that she has faced being that the industry is young and Kenyans are still learning to appreciate spoken word.
Nevertheless, even with the difficulties, looking at others who have made it through hardwork makes Qui not give up in her journey.
Qui is also a published author of two books; Tears of The Pen published in 2018 and the new one dubbed Broken Vase, which will be released this December.
“She gets her inspiration from life events; hers and the lives of those around her.
Though she didn’t have any challenges writing, publishing is something new that she is still learning the game,” he says
During Covid-19, which has made many artists stay at home and think of innovative ways of making money, Qui has set up a YouTube channel where she narrates the stories that have shaped her in life.
In addition, she is virtually mentoring upcoming young artists, particularly young women.
“If we create enough or more spaces to share our art, then more girls or women will follow.
Though it’s a tough journey, nothing good comes easy, I believe. It takes time, patience and work. Money too,” Stom says.