How do I begin reviewing such a collection when I’m still enthralled and captivated by the many stories told in Siana Bangura’s debut poetry collection ‘Elephant’?
Separated into ten chapters, Siana gently walks the reader through a number of personal experiences which have shaped the woman that she is today, not only speaking for herself but also sharing stories from various perspectives, mainly those of her fellow sisters. Chapter one begins with an introduction to the writer as she strips her layers and offers an insight into the background of her very existence – learning more about her heritage and identity we are taken on a journey of self-discovery and self-love through vivid and emotive poems such as ‘The Stranger’, ‘Passport’ and ‘Coconut’.
‘Elephant’ seeks to explore subjects which are often left undiscussed but nevertheless still continuously affect our communities – with a heavy undertone of frustration, honesty and emotional cleansing, Siana highlights her seemingly most prominent experiences of growing up as a black girl in South London. Although I did not grow up as a black girl in South London, Siana’s ability to govern the reader’s emotional state acts as an invitation to relive these experiences with her, allowing the reader to gain a greater level of understanding of her as a person representing an often overlooked and unheard section of our community.
Many mixed emotions surfaced when reading ‘Elephant’ because Bangura unapologetically shares what life can be like for the ‘Other’. This book is an important piece of literature for our time as it highlights the hidden experiences of black women in our society but also gives us an opportunity to reflect and understand the long-lasting effects of this world’s atrocities. I could continue to discuss my favourite poems but I’ll leave it to my fellow readers to identify their own favourites from this collection – no matter what walk of life you’re coming from I believe there is an opportunity to be educated and exposed to an unfamiliar truth. Simply put , ‘Elephant’ is the food which fills up your soul when you didn’t even know you were yearning for some food for thought. Provocative. Honest. Captivating. And unapologetic.
Review by Anthony Olanipekun (Poetry and Positive Vibes Show).