Mrs Sakina Shabbir Dossaji of Tanga, Tanzania

Tasneem Hasanali, The Citizen (Tanzania), 28th February 2017

For Sakina Shabbir Dossaji, poetry is a reflection of life, experiences and teachings. Born and brought up in Mombasa, the 39-year old now resides in Tanzanian coastal town of Tanga and is a mother of three teenage kids, who are ‘the light of her life’. Her husband of 19 years has always been supportive of her work.

She has had a broad career as a teacher and strongly believes that a teacher holds a very special and important part in every child’s life and says that a teacher holds a very special and important part in every child’s life and says that a teacher brings about a positive change academically, morally and psychologically. Whether it’s parenting nurturing or writing, Mrs Dossaji lives by the motto ‘teaching with love’.

Though, teaching has been the highlight of her life with eleven years of passion and innovative methods used in both nursery and primary school, she is well-known for her poems and visualization within the community and beyond. In an interview with Success, Mrs Dossaji tells us about her journey

In an interview with Success, Mrs Dossaji tells us about her journey into poetry writing and how she evolved as a poetess.

What inspired you to start writing poems? My father, Mustafa A. Kapacee, was a wonderful poet, song-writer, essayist and created his own crossword puzzles, which were published in the newspapers in 1970s. He has been my greatest inspiration, a tireless father who spent hours guiding me with essay writing, debates, plays and report writing. His love for literature intrigued me. I remember getting a third prize in an inter-school poetry competition and my poem on ‘drugs’ was published in the Daily Nation Newspaper in Kenya.

When did you pen your first poem? I discovered my poetic talent in class seven at Aga Khan Primary School, Mombasa. I was 13-years old. I scribbled some lines on ‘Happiness’, in one of the class writing exercises. Upon submitting, my teacher smiled and said, ‘very good’. Six more papers were put on my desk by excited friends who wanted to see what I would write for them, after my first poem. I could not refuse and I chose topics like ‘garden’, ‘graceful swans’, ‘friends’ and so on. Seven poems at a go; that memory still makes me smile.

Is there a particular poet you are fond of who might have influenced your love for poems? I have grown up reading and loving my father’s poems. His poems were full of beautiful things and morals to learn from. I am highly inspired by nature. Back then in 1991, we did not have access to search engines like Google or poetry books per se. But the poems taught in high school literature classes truly inspired me; written by African poets. Later on as I grew up, I fell in love with Shakespeare and Rumi.

For how many years have you been practicing poetry writing? Counting from the time I wrote my first poem at the age of 13, this is my 27th year of penning with love. Although I am sure, subconsciously, the poet in me has been there all along in the admiration for crimson sunsets and pearly dawns, mesmerized by beautiful rainbows and overjoyed by the mere sight of rain.

How many poems have you written? I must have penned 2000 poems and more. I also get orders from photographers or brides and grooms for occasions such as Valentine’s, birthdays, graduation, weddings, anniversaries and so on.

Where do you post your poems and what has been the feedback? I began by giving hand-outs to parents and friends. Then I used to post it on community notice-boards at mosque. As technology advanced, I posted them on social media like Facebook and WhatsApp by the name, ‘Sakina’s Poetry Petals’, to my timeline and in a group called Superwomen of East Africa. I recite them on different occasions, such as school programs and have also had the privilege of reciting before our spiritual leader, His Holiness Dr Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin TUS in Tanga, two years ago. It is with his blessings that I have reached here and the feedback has been very motivating.

Have you published any poetry books so far? I have a collection of poems but I’ve not yet compiled it into a book to be published. I am working towards more creativity so that not a single book gathers dust on the shelf when I first put it out on sale. I have also started writing a novel titled ‘Love Storm’, which I hope to publish soon.

How has poetry evolved over time, according to you? From single to group reading, listening to verse, Greek poetry to Provencal literature with leaders like Rumi, gifted with spiritualization of passion, imagery and secret love. The great poets wrote with a gift of rhythm, rhyme and meter, paving way to introduction of 14-line sonnet structure, broken into an octet and sestet, which stands to this day. Thereafter, it flowed to Elizabethan and Shakespearean eras, to metaphysical poets and romantic poets. Today, have become less theatrical but nevertheless, they are still used in expressing feelings to one another. For some, poetry is music to the ears.

What kind of readers do you target with your poems? I used to create poems for pupils when I used to teach, based on field trips such as ‘market farm’. Currently my message is for adults. My poems talk about life and how to treasure it.