May Ayim und der Blues

Ela Gezen


May Ayim is one of the best-known representatives of both the Black German movement and Black German literature. Her individual and collaborative works helped to shape collective modes of Black German identity, making visible and affirming ties to the Black diaspora. This paper examines the intersections of music—specifically, the blues—and literature in Ayim’s poetry, focusing in particular on blues in schwarz weiss (1995). Here Ayim references the African oral tradition not only through her inclusion of Adinkra symbols, but also through a blues aesthetic that manifests itself in scat-like interjections, rhythmic breaks and patterns, and repetitions. In addition to these formal aspects, her blues aesthetic also relies on the West African tradition of “Nommo”—the naming process. Ayim’s poetry follows this tradition by incorporating her personal experiences, addressing pressing socio-political issues, and by constructing and presenting a self-determined Black German subject as member of a larger community, within and beyond Germany. Her essayistic and poetic works stand in dialogical relationship with each other, and serve as a forum to publicly discuss discrimination and marginalization as universal problems. As with the Blues, this essay argues, Ayim’s poetry presents socio-political problems as resolvable by formulating a “we” capable of action. (EG; in German)

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